11 Ways To Earn Your Freshman Fifteen

fatface

Many of you have heard me reference the Freshman Fifteen (hashtag: been there, done that).

For those who might not know, the Freshman Fifteen is the roughly 15-ish pounds any new college student will gain upon being suddenly thrown into the least conducive environment found possibly anywhere in the First World to one’s health. It should not be confused with the Sophomore Ten, which is really just a compilation of bad decisions and having too many friends who can afford to feed you pizza.

I am an overcomer (and I don’t use this term lightly. It took me three years to lose the twenty pounds I gained in college. And if you’re not keeping track, with my two years for Associate studies, that averages out to gaining about five pounds per a semester or roughly two pizzas a week).

As one who has walked this walk (and eaten this eat), I would like to bestow some god-motherly advice upon those who may be beginning the start of a lot of self-hate, unused gym memberships and a first-name-basis relationship with the cafeteria lady on campus.

Call them warning signs. Call them beacons of guiding light.

I call them…

11 WAYS TO EARN YOUR FRESHMAN FIFTEEN

  1. Eat on campus – Campus food is horrible. It’s packed with sodium and salt and salty-like carbohydrated sugars and like … you know, stuff. Also it’s bad for you. AND THE SALADS ARE EXPENSIVE. Don’t even try to kid yourself that the OJ will compensate for the tub of lard they cooked your breakfast potatoes in. It won’t. It’s laughing at the very thought – a hard, cruel, high-pitched cackle that only orange juice can truly pull off.
  2. Eat off campus – First of all, money. But beyond the slimming of your wallet, might I remind you that off-campus food tends to come in mammothly American-sized portions that could feed an entire family. The prime example of this would be the Chipotle burrito which is basically the most expensive non-Mexican burrito you will ever buy and not finish. And you won’t finish it. Because it’s huge. *That’s why they charge you ten dollars for it.
  3. Snack – Okay, if you are part of the 2 percent of humans who will actually bring raisins and celery sticks to school, you can get away with snacking. All I know is that if the bookstore hadn’t stopped carrying cheese puffs and candied peanuts, I’d be about four pounds heavier than I was eight weeks ago at the start of term.
  4. Don’t sleep – It’s a largely known fact that there is some correlation between sleeping and weight gain. I don’t know what it is, I just know that whenever I find myself drooling through my 7 a.m. class, it reflects on the scale. My amatuer opinion is that lack of sleep makes one grumpy and stressed. Stress makes one eat. And eating is DEFINITELY related to weight gain (though again, I’m a little iffy on the details).
  5. Wear sweatpants / leggings / yoga pants on the reg – You’d be amazed at how far you can let yourself go when you don’t put real pants on every day.
  6. Accept pity food – It’s hard for one starving college student to recognize that another starving college student may not actually be starving just because they don’t have food in front of them. And it is one of the greatest acts of generosity for former said college student to offer latter said college student some of former said student’s precious food reserves (this includes but is not limited to french fries, candy, granola bars, uncooked mac ‘n cheese and essentially anything in a take-out box). However, it would be wise for aforementioned latter college student to know his or her own boundaries and learn how to say, “Naw, thanks bruh.”
  7. Skip the workout to study – “Studying,” also known as “Netflix,” is one of the primary causes of college weight-gain. The time spent in a sedentary position (and the teeeeears wept over Mary Crawley’s run of tragic luck in love) is not good on the body. Be aware
  8. Indulge in late-night nibbles – Whatever you’re reaching for will not write your paper for you. Inspiration does not come out of an ice-cream carton. Put it back.
  9. Get daily servings of the four food groups – Candy, cane canes, candy corn, and syrup. Thank you, Elf.
  10. Throw portion control to the proverbial winds – If someone brings in a lot of left-over Marie Callendar’s pie, why stop at one piece? There are four kinds. Why not try all four? Why not retry that second one with the oreo crust? Why not then get pizza for lunch because someone else is paying? Or eat an entire bag of Doritos because you found it in your parents’ pantry and it was looking at you kinda funny? You’ll show those Doritos.
  11. Stop caring – Forget about the fact that you only have one body and that your health is important. Assume that “surviving college” is the highest possible standard of living in your early twenties and don’t bother shooting for anything that would require to you get up early to exercise, pace yourself throughout the day or be intentional with your eating habits. Leave that till you’re more of an “adult” because it’ll be so, so much easier to begin creating important habits when you’re older. Afterall, what is your body other than a vital, irreplaceable instrument of your precious heart and mind? Who needs to take care of that old thing. Hashtag: cheese puffs.

*Some of those Chipotle facts may be less facty than other facts. Please don’t not eat Chipotle because of this post. I some friends who work there and they’re nice people and they like customers. Just saying.

Advertisements

Six Stages of Reverse Culture Shock

The very idea of reverse culture shock sounds laughable. Frankly, it sounds a little like something a traveling yuppie would make up as an excuse for not having their life together when they return home from wandering abroad. I may have read a total of two articles about the topic before coming back to San Diego after two years in Prague. I don’t think a journal-full would have prepared me for the arduous process of taking the person you’ve become and assimilating them back into the place belonging to the person you once were.

But I’m getting there and, more importantly, others have gotten there already, which gives me hope. It took me the whole summer and several weeks into a new semester, with multiple trips around the USA, to figure this all out. Honestly, my Kimmy Schmidt-esque stories of rediscovering a culture I left for 24 months could fill several blog posts, but I’ve gotten lazy so we’re condensing this into six basic stages of reverse culture shock.

Here goes.

1. HAZE

IMG_3723
a plane home.

Jet-lagged, weary and inexplicably hungry (if you’re me, you’re always hungry), you stumble out of the airport in a blur of vaguely familiar sights and sounds. Some things stick out like finely stenciled pictures – the palm trees you never noticed, the size of the masts looming out of the shipyard, the feel of the new seat covers in the family car. Others play out before you like a foggy, black-and-white film. The bend in the road you’ve driven over a million times or the creak of the back gate leading into a softly lit patio. Home.

People and faces, voices, sounds and space all take on a new life and in your travel-tired stupor, they seem like strangers.

I remember the first night back in my own bed. It didn’t feel like mine. It was uncomfortable and unfamiliar and I missed my bed tucked away beneath a slanted wood roof somewhere in Prague. Homecoming is not what you expect it to be.

2. LOSS

Life in Zbraslav 2013
a walk through a Czech forest.

If going to sleep on a strange bed in your old home is hard, waking up to your childhood room is heart-wrenching. Immediately, two kinds of loss sink deeply into the conscious layer of your beating heart: what you missed and what you’ve left behind. It’s not like you expected life to stand still while you were away, but you hadn’t really intended for it to take off without you either. It did. And instead of being able to take comfort in the things around your room, suddenly you feel out of place. Your thoughts will drift to safe spots in your other ‘place’ and you will think of what you’ve just left behind. Forest paths to your home in the village, friends to drink coffee with, quilted blankets and familiar sunrises.

As the haze begins to disappear and the days turn into weeks, you’ll feel more acutely the loss of the world you left behind and catch glimpses and shadows of the life you missed.

That first morning, staring at the blue walls covered in papers and posters my youngest sister had put up in my absence, I swear I felt my heart ripping in two pieces as it tried desperately to be wholly in Prague and wholly here, at home. And, of course, it couldn’t.

3. DISCOVERY

IMG_3648
a skyscraper in New York City with a very good friend.

Expect to be surprised every day by something completely ordinary. Expect to have a thousand questions about things that have changed in the months or years since you’ve been gone. What is Uber? Who the heck is Ariana Grande? Exactly how long have fleeked up eyebrows been a thing, and what does “fleek” mean anyway?

Some of this will be rediscovery. Yes, water is free in restaurants. No, you don’t have to take your shoes off every time you walk inside. Being able to drive yourself places will be liberating, having to buy your own gas again will feel like a death sentence. Pandora? Netflix? Hulu? Little Caesars? Real Mexican food? Heaven.  

The radio hasn’t lost its magic yet. I’ve been home for four months and every song on the radio still sounds new to me. I’ve been getting down to Uptown Funk like nobody’s business. It’s a brave new world.

4. INDIGNATION

IMG_3711
a sunset in Dallas with my long-lost brother.

As the shimmery layer of sparkle wears off your newly rediscovered home, you begin to see things you hadn’t noticed before. Things like the entitled attitude your friends or neighbors have about things like owning cars or getting an education. The narrow views and set ways of family members regarding political issues will drive you up a wall. And when you walk past your fourth unused drinking fountain in a day, covered in spider webs and gunk, you want to shout out, “you have to pay for this stuff in Europe! Free, clean drinking water right here, folks! They’ll walk all day to find water in Africa and here it comes out of a spout!”

But no one will listen, because no one has been where you’ve been or seen what you’ve seen. You’ll be lumped in with every other traveling yuppie who has ever come home and said, “they do it better over there.”

Two weeks after I got home, I was people watching at the food court in the mall and it struck me how confidently Americans take their seats. They walk and talk and sit and stand like they own whatever ground they’re touching. And while they occupy that plastic chair, it is their throne. Europeans do not come close to exuding this air of confidence and control. I think that’s when I realized how hard it would be to ‘come home’ all the way because I no longer identified with my own people. Folks were going to think I was nuts. Who would ever understand the mental battle I was fighting every day just to make sense of the home I used to know? Just to keep things together.

5. ISOLATION

IMG_4696
a piece of my heart in San Francisco.

This may be the worst part, and honestly, it may not come in this order. You may feel alone the day you arrive home or a month later when you finally realize why things aren’t clicking the way they used to. But eventually, the frustration you feel at your own culture for their blindness to their faults and the welling sense of loss toward wherever it is you’ve left will isolate you. It’s like a breakdown in communication. Because people around you can look at the same situation and not see it the way you now do. You will feel disconnected and alone.

It’s discouraging to be back around family and friends who should know you better than anyone, but suddenly they can’t seem to grasp why you feel strongly about water fountains or why you sometimes have to stop in the middle of what you’re doing to process a painful memory.

I came home right before our family reunion. I got to hold my nephew for the first time ever. I went out for a night on the town with my brother. I got ice-cream with an assortment of siblings in an illegal takeover of an abandoned baseball field. But the people who made me feel most at home were the random friends who would come up to me out of the blue and ask, “how is it being back? What can I do? Want to get coffee and talk about it?” They were the ones who’ve been there and back. They’ve all had a ‘place’ and left it to come home again. They knew. And they reached out with human connection and empathy, and it helped me move on to Stage Six.

6. ADJUSTMENT

a new friend.
a new friend.

At some point, you have to accept that life is moving quickly and you need to jump on the train or get left behind again. Working back into crazy American eating patterns (so much grease, so much store-bought food, sooooo late at night) or re-learning how to drive a car (which I was never very good at to begin with) will come with time. Eventually, you’ll stop waking up every morning wondering what the weather is like in your ‘place’ and the hole left by the friends you miss so dearly will begin to fill with new people.

And the scariest part about the adjustment phase is the thought of losing your experience. So let me be clear. Moving on does not mean forgetting the past. It does not mean abandoning your friendships, erasing your memories or sinking back into old ways you’ve grown out of. It just means adopting this new person you’ve become and making a space for her in your old world. Both you and it have changed and the fit may not be perfect yet. But that’s how you’ll continue to grow. You’ll be challenged. You’ll be tested. You may be lost for a little while. But, believe it or not, that’s the road we’re all on, culture shock or not.

Congratulations. You’ve caught up to the rest of us. Now, onward and upward.

Star-gazing and Zombies

“Come back here!” cooed Hosanna in the most aggressively affectionate tone I’ve literally ever heard.

“No,” spat back Sophia with a laugh. “I’m taking these to the car.”

She didn’t get far. Her cheery face and black hair disappeared behind Hosanna’s sweater as the big sister devoured the younger one in an octopus hug. There was a struggle.

My own sister and I watched the tousle a safe, respectful distance from the tangled wrestlers and from each other.

“I feel like we should hug or something,” I said making tentative eye-contact with her.

“No,” said Sarah flatly.

Sisters were part of the reason I came home. Both the ones I’m related to by blood and the ones who’ve adopted me over the course of many, many years. They’re part of what made coming home worthwhile. Even the unaffectionate ones.

Life at home 2015-2016

“Shotgun!” I called, dragging blankets and thermoses of tea out to the truck. Sophia and Sarah piled into the back, begrudgingly giving me command of the iPod as Hosanna took the wheel.

Sarah and Sophia are a lot alike. Very stable. Very practical. Very capable. Very void of touch-feely.

Hosanna and I are a lot alike. Adventuresome, soul-searching sojourners who need a little Practical in our lives from time to time.

And that’s what this evening was. The sister reunion, the reconnection of yin and yang, the defragmenting session we all needed.

Nine o’clock hung over us like a cape, flapping in the wind, driving us onward into the far side of San Diego County. The sticks. The boondocks. Pine Valley.

The drive was about forty-five minutes, but between the power struggle over the song selection and my solo performance of Hakuna Matata, it went quickly.

“I think that’s it,” Sophia said, several minutes after passing the last house-light in the valley and crossing over a cow gate. She pointed to a spit of dirt just off the road and Hosanna followed her finger, steering the big, black truck into the narrow space.

We tumbled out of the car, taking our blankets, tea and a box of animal crackers with us. In the dark, we arranged everything neatly in the bed of the truck before piling in on top of the cushy mess.

“We didn’t pick a great night for star-gazing,” I said, noting the full moon smiling above us.

“Yeah, but at least it’s not freezing cold like last time,” quipped Sarah.

Our last trip was a mid-December disaster in which we spent twenty minutes shivering in the back of the truck before heading home to sleep in warm beds. This time we brought blankets.

“That was a terrifying experience,” said Hosanna, patting down the folds of a silky sleeping bag. “I don’t think I could do this again in pitch darkness like that.”

“I think you should all just be grateful that I got us out here at all,” said Sophia with insistence, cashing in on her initiative in organizing the night. “You’re welcome.”

“Thank you, Sophia,” we all chimed in, various levels of obligation flaring up in our pitch.

Life at home 2015-20162

We spent a lot of time tossing and turning. Shift weight or stretch, we all ended up uncomfortable for most of the evening.

“Next time we’re bringing pillows,” I said as Hosanna distributed the tea. “And more snacks.”

“We have animal crackers and carrots,” said Sarah with a distinct crunch. “What more could you need?”

“Yeah, whenever you feel bad about the animal crackers, just eat a carrot,” said Hosanna. “It’s a balanced diet.”

“What’s the ratio?” I asked. “One carrot to every two crackers?”

“It’s whatever your conscience tells you,” Sarah affirmed, giving the cracker box a motherly pat.

Our voices lowered and the steady munching joined the chorus of the universe above us – a universe which, on this particular night, in this particular part of the world, consisted of about four stars and a very visible moon.

“At least we have that helicopter,” said Sophia, snapping a lion cracker in half with her front teeth.

I hugged my camera to make sure it was still there and then settled deep into the folds of a sleeping bag as Sarah began questioning Hosanna about her summer.

Hosanna left for Europe a few weeks before I came home from it. I needed her here this summer. I needed her positivity and encouragement. Mostly I just needed to know she was there, that I had someone to come home to. But I also knew she needed this trip. Just like I’ve needed mine. We are wanderers.

Hosanna’s face lit up, making the moon look modest and unassuming in comparison. I had heard most of her adventures before, but Hosanna knows how to string a yarn and I found myself thoroughly roped in and we followed the sound of her voice across the farmlands of France, through the streets of Berlin and into the heart of the Netherlands.

It’s been a long time since the four of us were all together. Eightteen months, give or take. However long ago the wedding was, when the four of us were standing in the hotel lounge. Sarah and Hosanna were halfway into several glasses of wine they had found abandoned at a table and Sophia and I were wringing the water out of our dresses by the fire, having led the charge into the hotel pool, post-reception.

Eightteen months is a long time. To me, it seems like another lifetime ago. But being in the back of this truck was helping me readjust again.

Life at home 2015-20161

Conversation and jest flitted from one topic to the next and I noticed that it in no way resembled our muddled, giggly gatherings from high school. For starters, the hypothetical questions have decreased substantially. We also just seem to care more about what’s happening with everyone else.

The one thing I will say for age – the longer you live, the more struggles you will face. The more your struggles, the more you approach people with empathy. And empathy makes better listeners of us all.

Eleven o’clock inched closer and the truck had quieted down to a mere ripple of conversation. For a while, and I’m not sure how long, I slept.

I woke up to the hushed and hurried whispers of the girls as they slid out of view of the road beneath the lip of the truck. They buried their faces into the blankets, shushing each other and dimming the lights from their phones.

Without moving, I listened to the grumbling of gravel come closer. Headlights swept over us and the girls shushed each other again.

“What would we even have done if someone had stopped to check the truck?” Sophia whispered when the lights were gone.

“They wouldn’t have checked,” said Hosanna with an air of insider info.

“Are you kidding?” said Sarah, still reeling from the close-call but beginning to peep her head above the lip of the truck. “We could be dead bodies back here for all they know. I totally would have checked!”

At that moment, the headlights reappeared, this time coming from the road behind us. The girls dove once more and I felt someone’s elbow dig into my leg.

“Sarah,” Hosanna whispered over the gravely approach, “No one is going to check the back of a truck that’s pulled up along a dirt road. Haven’t you ever listened to country songs?”

As realization washed over Sarah, the headlights washed over us before disappearing one last time down the road.

We waited in silence for a moment and then the girls straightened back up to their sitting positions. Sarah was the only one brave enough to allow her head to peek out over the edge of the truck bed (“Someone has to keep a look out!”).

“What was it we were so scared of last time?” asked Hosanna, checking her watch. We had far outdone our last trip’s record. “Remember we were out here for a little while and then we went straight home?”

“Mountain lions,” said Sophia.

“Indecent gentlemen?” I suggested.

“Zombies,” Sarah said. “It was definitely zombies. And guys, if they come, I’m still the only one keeping watch!”

“Forget it, Sarah,” Hosanna said from her nest of blankets in the corner of the trunk. “I’m nice and warm here. I’m not moving.”

“Neither am I,” I muttered from my half-comatose state.

“Well, you are all going to die when they do come.”

“I wouldn’t last the zombie apocalypse very long anyway,” I said sadly.

“We need to stop talking about zombies,” said Sophia. “It’s making me nervous.”

She and I giggled mostly to disguise how certain we actually were that the night might end in bloodshed and I clutched my camera. If the zombies do come, I’m definitely getting it on film.

“Wait,” said Hosanna, sucking in her breath, ears pricking up and eyes flashing. “Do you hear gr-”

Sarah, Sophia and I jumped up – “WHAT?”

“Gravel?” she said again.

We relaxed.

“Am I the only one who thought she said ‘growling’?” asked Sophia. “Like, seriously?”

“Yeah, I did too,” I said.

“Maybe it’s time to head home before we scare ourselves out of ever coming back,” said Hosanna.

We all know that will never happen. The scare is half the fun. I think it’s the scare we’ve been waiting for before heading home again. And when we’re ready for another one, we’ll troop back out.

IMG_3356

The girls pulled the blankets out of the back and stuffed them into the spaces between our seats. I reached for my camera. Might as well get some of these stars. We don’t have many, but gosh darn it, why not? They are ours, after all.

On the most sensitive settings, I was surprised to find, many more stars appear in the sky than we can see with just our eyes. I jiggled around a bit with the ISO and the aperture, getting different results. The girls eventually knocked on the windows and I got inside the truck.

The ride home was quiet. No one complained when I played “Geronimo” twice in a row. These songs that are old news to everyone else are all new to me still.

Sarah and I helped the girls bring our gear back into the house before saying our ‘goodbyes.’ At some point, and for reasons unknown, Hosanna tackled Sofia in another person-enveloping hug.

“Don’t even think about it,” Sarah told me with a smirk.

She loves me.

I’m still adjusting to life back home. I’m still discovering people who’ve changed and it reminds me how much I’ve changed. I suppose that will be true for the rest of life. Our little spot on the side of the road may still be there, but we won’t be the same people we were the last time we visited.

And at some point, that call for adventure or purpose or a good scare will beckon me away from my sisters out onto a path lit only by the knowledge that God made it mine.

But even in this transition from girl to slightly-older girl to whatever-comes-next, animal crackers are still good, zombies are still scary and there’s no one I’d rather star-gaze with than you.

An Interview with Superheroes

LUZ

“You’re writing an article about being nerds?” says Luz, tentatively taking a seat in the second office swivel chair. I occupy the first. “I like your hair.”

Under the teaming white lights of my fall harvest decorations, I have been conducting a series of interviews with my fellow student journalists in the photo office of our newsroom.

“So who’s you’re favorite comic book hero?” I ask as she straightens up in her chair, bright-eyed, curly hair bouncing with usual zest.

“Ironman,” she says.

“Any particular reason why?”

“I guess I love how RDJ portrays him in the movie,” she says. “He’s very sarcastic and he’s mean so I guess my evil side relates to him.” She clears her throat with a giggle and clarifies that she doesn’t have that much of an evil side. “It’s very well-tamed.”

I ask why she likes the movies and she giggles again before giving me a business-like answer.

“I like to see how separate heroes interact with each other,” she says. “Because they’re all these very authoritative figures and then they get into conflict with each other and you see different sides to them.”

She pauses a moment before likening the Avengers to our newsroom staff, each of us with our own special powers.

“So then,” I ask, “I would definitely be Captain America of the newsroom, right?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Luz doesn’t give up a lot of ground. She may be small and doe-eyed, but she is fierce.

There was actually quite a bit of debate among the staff as to what animal Luz would be if she were not in fact a human. Although 'Doe' won out with a wide majority, 'Lemur' was close behind. And the multimedia editor thought it was important to note that deer are a little more ditzy than our Luz. "They're like, oh my gosh, there's like totally a car in the road... What should we like do?"
There was actually quite a bit of debate among the staff as to what animal Luz would be if she were not in fact a human. Although ‘Doe’ won out with a wide majority, ‘Lemur’ was close behind. And the multimedia editor thought it was important to note that deer are a little more ditzy than our Luz. “They’re like, oh my gosh, there’s like totally a car in the road… What should we like do?”

“I’d probably be like a mix between Black Widow and the girl with the mind-control,” she says, thoughtfully, admitting that, unfortunately, those are the only two females currently on the Avengers’ super-team. “I get into your brain and that’s how I know where to harass you.”

This is true. Luz knows how to harass.

“But I would love to fly,” she says a little wistfully.

We sit and watch each other for a moment before I ask her the final question of our make-shift interview.

If you could leave a legacy…

“Being able to inspire people,” she says, a thousand years of hopes and dreams burning behind her eyes, some of which I have been privileged enough to witness form on her tongue as she incarnates her plans with spoken word. “I think that’s the best form of leadership.”

MARTY

Marty takes a seat a little reluctantly.

“Is this going to take a lot of time?” he asks. “Because I have a homework project I have to finish up.”

“None at all,” I assure him. “I just need to know who your favorite comic book character is.”

“Oh,” he says, looking visibly relieved. “It’s a tie between Swamp Thing and the Hulk…because they’re both green.”

I know who the Hulk is because I don’t live under a rock, but Swamp Thing is new to me. I clear my throat.

“So, tell me about Swamp Thing,” I say in my best attempt to not sound ignorant.

I didn’t understand half of what followed, but basically, you get chosen to be Swamp Thing. There are like four different colors involved and an ecologist and apparently the comic has really cool artwork (it does – I looked this up afterwards).

“What got you started in comics?” I ask.

“I read comics that family friends would let me read,” Marty says, dipping back into his childhood and giving his bearded chin an absentminded rub. “Not really like cape hero stuff. More like really independant stuff.”

He admits that maybe he was a little too young to read a lot of these comics because they’re “ultra violent.”

“I stopped for a while,” he says folding his hands over his green shirt. “But I got into it again a couple years ago reading Thanos.”

“Oh, I know this!” I say, perhaps a little too excitedly. “He’s from the Thor universe, right? He’s the red guy!”

“No, he’s the purple guy,” says Marty, shaking his head.

“Well, okay then. If you could have a power or an infinity stone, which would you rather?”

He doesn’t even pause.

“An infinity gemstone comes with a lot of power,” he explains to me. “I’d rather have one gem than being born with one power that I didn’t have any control over.”

I thank him for his time, though he seems to have forgotten about homework. But before he leaves he says, “If I did have a superpower I’d want it to be turning into animals or shape-shifting so I could experience things humans can’t.”

Then he leaves.

MARIAH

“Harley Quinn,” says Mariah before she even makes it to the chair. Mariah isn’t feeling well today, but you’d never guess it. This girl is all energy and ‘go.’

“I just like how she’s crazy,” says Mariah. She pulls one leg up under her as she sits like a perky little puppy. “Like, during the day she’s the Joker’s girlfriend. He would never say it, but she is.”

Mariah knows a lot more about comics than I do and spends the next several minutes explaining to me who Quinn is. She was a therapist for the Joker before they both kinda went cray-cray, or that’s how I understood it.

She makes a point of saying that Quinn doesn’t technically have superpowers but that she’s pretty baller anyway. She even beat Batman at one point which made the Joker super jealous.

“How do you think you relate to her?” I ask as Mariah settles her head against a raised knee and smiles. We’re all trying to forgive her for continuing to wear her Raiders beanie to the newsroom.

“The crazy in love part,” she says. Granted, she admits, she wouldn’t kill anyone for love. “I have a conscience.”

She’s starting to look tired. The excitement of our interview project has worn off and her need for some R&R is showing. I wrap up.

What’s your superpower?

“I would have a super boyfriend,” she says with that same sweet, crazy grin. “A super, crazy boyfriend.”

DAN

“Do I have to sit while I’m being interviewed?” asks Dan, rolling around on his shoe-skates.

I don’t bother fighting him on this point because who am I to judge the creative process.

raccoon

“Okay,” he begins as he rolls back and forth in my office like it’s some kind of skating rink, which it isn’t. I have a whiteboard and everything. “In 2014 on Tumblr…”

That’s where I got lost. Oh, I have Tumblr. I just have no idea how it works. But Dan is “pretty active” on it and apparently the Tumblreans were celebrating the 75 anniversary of Dick Grayson (original Robin), who is described by writers as the heart and soul of the DCU (“DC Universe. Keep up with me, Mary.” Dan explains that Grayson was a major personal role model and that for the anniversary, he and other Tumblreans made a book about him.

“It’s a collection of scholarly essays by fans,” he says, “analyzing Grayson’s place in history, his transition to Nightwing, and his effect on other characters.”

He stops rolling.

“Why are you laughing, Mary? You’re the one wearing glasses. You’re more of a nerd than me.”

I regain composure and he continues skating.

“Mine was more on the pathos side of it all,” he says. His skating has slowed to a glide. “It focused on the positive effect of having a character like that. A character that isn’t made just for the white-male dominated culture we live in where power and dominance and sexualized characters are used to bolster the confidence of one specific people group.”

He stops skating now and leans against the door, arms crossed, eyes sincere.

“One of the beautiful things about being a geek or nerd is that you’re able to find a sense of community with a ragtag group of people who might otherwise feel like outcasts,” he says.

Stepping out of his rakish reputation for a moment, Dan says that Grayson was a character who greatly influenced his life and decisions at an age and time when he needed someone to influence his life and decisions.

“He does good for the sake of doing good,” he said. “He’s well assimilated and very emotionally open and honest. And that’s the thing about superheroes. They inspire people to do good and to make people better.”

We pull up pictures of Grayson, both as Robin and then as the superhero he became, Nightwing.

“He fulfilled the role of the sidekick beautifully,” says Dan as we scroll through countless hours of labor and love that has been spilled onto paper through pencils, telling a story, making a hero, changing a life. “But then grew up and realized, maybe that’s not who I am.”

I think I can relate to that.

“When you’re dealing with the bat family, most of the people are orphans,” Dan reminds me (as if I even knew there were more than just Batman and Robin). “Lots of emotional issues. But he doesn’t let that consume him. At the end of the day you only have so many shots to say what’s on your mind or tell someone you care or to do good.”

Dan leans back in the swivel chair, his be-wheeled feet dangling over the edge. I’m reeling with the new information about extra Robins and Batgirls and somebody super cool called “Oracle.” Shots at life and chances to change. Doing good.

He looks at me contentedly.

“I just have a lot of feelings about superheroes,” he says.