2018 Senior Reflections: State of Emergency

Ayushi Agarwal, Photo Editor

State of Emergency

By Emily Sullivan

My most visceral five to 10 minutes at Emory consisted of me trying to vomit in a bathroom stall outside the Wheel offices. It was Nov. 8, 2016. Just before 4 p.m. that afternoon, I had eaten some raw vegetables, hummus and dry cereal, called it dinner and drove to campus to edit news stories. It’s likely I brought a small protein bar, but it’s just as likely I didn’t eat it. I preferred feeling hungry, existing in what New York Times contributor Sandra Aamodt calls the “starvation state of emergency.” It was one of the few things I could invariably control.

Around 1 a.m., I sent two texts to my mom. In the first, I asked if she thought it would be reasonable for me to go home early, even though votes were still coming in and Hillary Clinton hadn’t yet called Donald Trump to concede the election. The second text was more to the point: “I’m in so much pain.” It wasn’t a pain I could describe well. Something was stabbing my chest and something else was clenching my stomach.

It’s funny how stress manifests physically, especially in someone who’s malnourished. I didn’t come to terms with this fact until that night, the remainder of which I spent keeled over my black leather steering wheel while my mom waited on the other end of my phone call. She suggested I U-turn myself to the emergency room, but I didn’t have the energy to respond, and I didn’t have anything to say. I felt if I made any sudden movement, no matter how negligible, my gut would detonate into the air like a small bomb.

The next morning at 5:33 a.m. I texted my editor to apologize for leaving early. I felt badly for leaving him and all the other editors who stayed up so late that I imagine their faces puffy and lifeless, the whites of their eyes barely visible. My editor blindsided me when he told me everything was OK.

His response seemed bizarre. For months, I blamed a good portion of my nutritional demise on what I perceived to be his apathy. In reality, I had become comfortable making excuses and diverting attention from the fact that I let go of my health. Just like everyone, I had a limit. I’m lucky I didn’t go too far past it.

This is my brief tell-all for everyone at Emory who “forgets” to eat because they think it’s less important than meeting that deadline or appeasing that person. But as Aamodt writes, “There is a better way to eat.” That’s what Emory culture should be about: helping each individual find his or her “better way” to live, learn, eat, meet deadlines, handle stress and enjoy company.

My experiences with The Emory Wheel were some of the most formative of my last four years and solidified my confidence in the press, pre- and post-2016 election, and my astonishment with the mental strength of journalists. I’ve worked with writers and thinkers who’ve pushed me, and I’ve profiled some fascinating subjects: John Herbers (49C), a spearheading civil rights reporter; Anne Chumbow (19PH), a student from Cameroon who fought to stay in the U.S. to study global health; Tom Hilchey (16Ox), a soccer buff who was supposed to graduate with me.

I first began reflecting on all this during a yoga class a few weeks ago. About 30 minutes into the class, the instructor said, “Everything’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.” She was talking us through side planks. But her words apply on a broader level: Emory life is hard. Generally, things will get done and the quality will be more than all right.

To me, this yoga instructor embodies confidence, peace and acceptance. She does what infuses her with passion, which once led her to legitimately consider living in a school bus. Maybe she’s got the right idea.

Emily Sullivan is from Blue Bell, Pa., and served as the Wheel’s 2016-2017 news editor. She will be reporting at The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla., after graduation.