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The Best Medicine (But Not for a Cough)

Everyone knows that moderation and balance are super important — right? A little coffee will wake you up, too much will mess up your sleep schedule. Socializing is great, but it’s also good to fit in some alone time. Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or *cough* blogging, sometimes that break goes on for far too long.

But what about laughter? Isn’t it the best medicine? How can you have too much laughter? Well, today I nearly died laughing. Twice. Okay, well, not quite literally, but still.

I’m off at my gap year program, away from home for the first time, having the time of my life and all that. Earlier, I was sitting in a class, minding my own business, drinking some tea to (hopefully) soothe my cough/sore throat.

One of my friends raised her hand and made a funny contribution to the (relaxed) class, most people giggled, I took a sip of tea. Then I started laughing. The tea made its way down the wrong tube and a whole choking, coughing, laughing situation ensued.

Being a small class, the discussion was put on pause so that everyone could gape at me and make sure I was okay. This just made matters worse, and elevated my hysteria — it’s awkward enough to have a coughing fit and freak out that you can’t breathe without everyone in the room watching you do so. And I’m a nervous giggler (by which I mean I giggle in  awkward situations, not giggling makes me nervous), so by this point I was laughing too hard to even try to start breathing again or even catch my breath.

So that was a nice way to break the ice with a roomful of people I met five days ago.


Later, there was a bug in my room. It made my roommate very nervous, but, while I didn’t mind its presence, I wasn’t about to get my hands dirty catching it.

So our friend in the next room came in to deal with it. While my roommate was hiding in the hall, our friend from the next room was trying to coax the bug down from the ceiling, asking it to demonstrate how well it can fly and begging it not to smell up the room (it was a stink bug). Meanwhile, I was watching from my bed, barely controlling yet another outbreak of laughter. I was paying more attention to the laptop I was holding and the bug-catching expedition than to how close I was to the edge of my bed.

I bet you can imagine what happened next — good thing my bed isn’t too high off the ground!

Sitting Around on the Couch 101


You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side? They’re wrong. It isn’t always greener — just most of the time. Like, sometimes your neighbours go away for two weeks, so they aren’t watering their grass and there happens to be a heat wave. Then, chances are, their grass is looking pretty brown and however ungreen your grass is, it’s probably still greener than theirs.

I think the reason this idea has become so overused and clichéd is because we’re always comparing ourselves to others, whether the green grass is on their side of the lawn or ours. Good and Bad, Wealth and Poverty, and Green and Ungreen are all pretty relative terms and ideas, so we tend to look at others when we measure ourselves.

For what seems like every other person in the entire world, it’s the first week of school. Yesterday was the first day for both of my younger siblings, who go to the high school where I spent the past four years. And a bunch of my friends are starting at university today. I’m doing a gap year programme this year, and the place I’m going doesn’t start until mid-October. So yesterday, while everyone else spent the day either at school or making last-minute preparations for it, I sat around in my pyjamas until four, watching old episodes of Community on Netflix.

It’s funny how I’ve had the exact same level of freedom for the past three months, but now that everyone else is back to school, I feel a shift. Technically, for me, yesterday was exactly the same as the day before and I was no more free to sit around on the couch yesterday than I was the previous day, and yet it feels different. My freedom feels more free when compared to my friends’ and siblings’ imprisonment in classrooms.

Because everyone else’s grass is on the brown side, my grass is looking pretty green. But, because I’m human, and especially because I’m me, their brown grass looks kind of nice right about now — mostly because it’s on the other side of the fence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a completely normal person (well, sometimes I am) and I hate school just as much as the next teenager. Especially high school and especially the “elite” (i.e. “phony”) private school I went to — it kind of reminds me of Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye. I probably hate my (former) high school much more than other kids who go/went there. But, while I do hate school in principle — the waking up early, studying for tests, interacting with morons — I tend to enjoy learning and I tend to be an “overachiever” type. Not a good overachiever, who never procrastinates and is super organized and actually wins awards for participating in/leading school activities and getting good grades. But an overachiever to the extent that I don’t count my three consecutive 90% Honour Roll certificates as actual awards (and yes, that was an explainabrag right there).

I love Community.

And this over-achieving isn’t really because I define my life based on school and think that my grades are a judgment on who I am as a person (well, not anymore…), it’s because I tend to be a weirdo who genuinely enjoys learning. I do well in school because, in subjects that I care about, I want to do my best and I want to actually learn something. I’ve never liked back-to-school time in principle because it signifies the end of summer and therefore the end of freedom and sleeping in late. But, once I can get past the fact that summer’s ending, I kind of like going back to school. September’s exciting. You see certain friends you haven’t seen all summer, you have a new schedule with new courses and new teachers, and hopefully some of the old teachers who you loved so much last year. I kind of miss that. The beauty of going back to school is that there’s often a very comfortable mix between new and old.

I’m so over high school and would not want to be going back to that retched place, but it’s kind of weird not to be going somewhere. And then, the overachiever in me feels like such a slacker for not going back to school while everyone else is. Sure, I’m heading off to my gap year programme in a month, where I’ll learn for the sake of learning and really grow, and then I’ll be off to University the year after, but still. 

My brother came home from school yesterday with some friends and needed me to drive them somewhere immediately. It was three in the afternoon and I was still in my pyjamas. And then one of his friends whom I had never met asked me if I’m in university, to which I responded “no, not yet, just sitting around watching TV all day, ’cause I don’t start school until October.” While to most kids this may sound like a dream come true, to my ears I sounded like an incompetent loser, who is doing nothing with her life. Pardon my melodrama.

I know, I know. I probably sound ridiculous complaining about how much time off from school I have and how much leisure I have to just sit around watching TV. It’s great, it really is. I think (thought?) this extra time off would be incredibly beneficial because I really don’t feel ready to move away from home yet and start with the next stage of school/life.

I think (thought?) this nice, long summer break would be a nice, comfy transition between the end of high school and moving away to start the rest of my life. It’s just weird not to be going back to school in September like I always do and like everyone else is. And I think I might be getting what Holden Caulfield might call a “goddam inferiority complex”. Of course, it could just be that your neighbour’s grass really does always look greener, even though from their point of view it’s looking kind of brown. And maybe instead of complaining about how ungreen my lawn is, I could stop comparing it to my metaphorical neighbours’ and see what happens if I actually try watering it.

Dissecting Pigs VS Dissecting Poems

Back in when I was in grade 11, I was under the false impression that taking Biology was a good idea. It wasn’t. Towards the end of the year, we had to dissect fetal pigs. I, of course, was the kid who didn’t even bother putting on rubber gloves. Because I was the kid who spent the period curled up on a chair, cowering in the corner, breathing (as little as possible) through my mouth, with my face towards the wall. Needless to say, I do not intend on pursuing a career in medicine.

Then some moron (read: teenage boy) thought it would be a good idea to cut off his pig’s nose and flail it around in front of me. He was very much encroaching on my personal space and I was terrified that he’d touch me with that disgusting, smelly, drippy thing, which was in very close proximity to my face. So I reacted as maturely (read: femininely) as I knew how. I kicked him in the stomach (I was high up on a lab chair, so his stomach just happened to be what was in kicking distance — he’s just lucky he wasn’t a little bit taller). It certainly made him go away. He even apologized and the next class he assured me that he wouldn’t do anything like that again. I obviously made quite an impression.

I have photographic evidence of this experience, but I don’t want to look at those pictures again and I assume you don’t either. Photo credit:

The reason for this outpouring of  a (clearly traumatic) experience which occurred a year ago, is that today I’d like to explore some of the differences between dissecting a fetal pig and dissecting a poem. I like to think of it as a highly analytic and empirical study in contrast, if you will.

Dissecting Pigs

Dissecting Poems

The fetal pig was killed/never even given the chance to be born, so that you could learn from it.

The poem was written, therefore given life, so you could learn from it

Learning from the fetal pig means desecrating and butchering it, especially if your partners are stupid teenage boys. Once a fetal pig has been (sometimes literally) torn to shreds, there is nothing you can do to save it.

Learning from a poem means taking it to a higher level and giving it new life. Even once stupid teenage boys have ruined a good poem, it is not dead. There’s nothing a good English teacher can’t revive.

Once a group of kids have learned by dissecting a pig, no one else can learn from that pig.

There is no limit to the number of people who can learn from the same poem.

Pigs die when people learn from them.

Poems die when people don’t learn from them.

Two more thoughts that are unrelated to the previous train of thought:

Pigs smell like formaldehyde and dead pig.

Poems smell like paper, which is a good thing. Or like the books they’re located in, which is a super good thing. Or, in the best circumstances, they (psychologically) smell like the lilacs or forests or freshly cut grass they’re describing.

All pigs are more or less the same. Everyone learns the same thing from every pig.

Every (good) poem (ideally) has a new, fresh, original message, or at least expresses an old message in new, fresh, original ways. And everyone can perceive and understand each different poem in their own way.


In conclusion:

Dissecting poetry is better (and more awesome) than dissecting pigs. The End.

(Note: This is mostly tongue in cheek. I see the value of learning science and I am totally not  one of those weirdos who refuse to eat meat. If you are one of the weirdos, that’s totally cool, I am just not one of you. My qualm is not so much that animals die to be dissected, it’s that most of the kids in my class were very “disrespectful” to these animals and I think that the exercise (and  the pigs lives) are potentially wasted on high school students who don’t know how to behave themselves.)

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