On the Importance of Self-Awareness

So I got on the bus in St. Louis to go home, settled in with my new copy of the biography of the Brontë family, and all of a sudden experienced a bout of gut-wrenching, intolerable depression. It felt like everything just went dark and it took all I had not to start screaming and rolling on the floor in pain right there on the bus. This was one of the most horrible experiences I’ve ever had in my life and it was all the more painful because there didn’t seem to be any reason for it.

When I thought I was going to collapse for sure, my sister called me on the phone (we have a connection, so she was bound to call). We talked, and that helped me to get home in one piece. After the fog cleared a little, I started to analyze what could have happened. As I remembered how my day had gone, it became clear what caused the depression.

I’d had the entire day planned out but almost everything I’d envisioned got derailed. One store I wanted to visit was closed because it was Monday, another one was undergoing repairs. I wanted to take a cab but there were none. I took a bus instead, but it was the wrong one. In the meanwhile, I was receiving endless calls from work because people who were supposed to proctor my final exams kept getting confused. I went to Macy’s and discovered it had closed down.

These were all little, insignificant things. Of course, I normally don’t fall apart because I didn’t get to shop, I’m not that insane. But this feeling of planning something enjoyable, looking forward to it, and then seeing all of it collapse around me reminded of a similar yet much greater undoing of all my plans when Eric died.

When I realized what was happening, the pain started to recede.

The reason why I’m writing all this is that it helps me to put things down in writing. However, there is also a lesson we can derive from what I experienced because, depressed or not, I’m still a teacher. All of this blabber about depression being a result of genes, chemical imbalances, hormones, etc. is garbage. There is always a reason. When our psyche tries to tell us something, we should listen. If we disregard its message, there will be hell to pay later on. All week long, I had been stifling my feelings about Eric because it was the last week of the semester, there was a ton of work to do, and I didn’t want to face pain.

“I’ll think about it later,” I kept telling myself.

I’m not an idiot, so I kept wondering whether this avoidance strategy might not be dangerous but I still continued avoiding. And today I got to realize what a mistake this had been.

And now I’m going to sit in Eric’s room and cry until I get it all out. For now.


So it turns out that I snoozed through a really sad event: Downtown Macy’s in St Louis closed several months ago. It is sad that one can’t even go shopping in the city any longer. Everything is moving to the suburban malls.

This was the best Macy’s ever. Now I don’t even know where to shop for clothes any longer. This was one of very few reasons to move to St Louis, and now that reason is eliminated.


One quality I hate in people is cheapness and penny-pinching. And I’m not talking here about people who are in dire financial straits but, rather, about those who are comfortable yet begrudge tips to workers of the service industry.

I remember how embarrassed I was once when I had to share a cab with a professor who gave the driver a 20-cent tip while mumbling how ridiculous the custom of tipping was. Mind you, this was a person who had just received a multi-million dollar grant and had spent the entire ride sharing the difficulty of spending all this money. It isn’t like we need to maintain expensive labs and buy equipment in Humanities, so the grant paid for the prof’s traveling and expensive dining out.

English in Ukraine

The stat counter shows that 12 people from Ukraine visited my blog today. I really hope that the turn towards Europe will involve learning foreign languages and more Ukrainians will come by the blog.

The way languages are taught in the FSU countries is horrible and really ineffective. One of my professors in Ukraine shared with us that his trip to the UK had become a nightmare. He couldn’t even go to a corner store and buy a pack of cigarettes because he had no idea how to formulate his request in English. He was a professor of English, in case you are wondering.


Irrespective of how happy an immigrant might be with the decision to emigrate, she or he will miss a food or a drink that s/he grew up with and cannot find in the new country.

My Argentinean friend Mafalda missed many things: dulce de leche (a yucky dessert that sticks to my teeth), Fernet (a type of alcohol that smells and tastes like cough syrup), Argentinean meat, and, most of all, something called Sooepis.

“Oh, how I miss Sooepis!” she would sigh. “It’s my most favorite drink in the world. So tasty and refreshing! I’ve asked in every store I’ve been to here in Canada but nobody carries it.”

Once, Mafalda and I were on a long flight to Spain. The talkative Mafalda was yet again waxing nostalgic about her favorite beverage.

“I’m afraid of flying, it stresses me out,” she shared. “Now would be a perfect time to have some gin and Sooepis. Oh, I haven’t had Soeepis in forever, and gin doesn’t taste right without it.”

At this point, I knew I needed to do something to avoid hearing Mafalda’s recitation of Sooepis-related memories for the entire 8 hours the flight was going to last. I got up from my seat and went to talk with the flight attendant. Two minutes later, I came back and handed Mafalda a can.

“Is this what you wanted?” I asked.

Mafalda’s face lit up.

“Oh, Sooepis! Oh, I haven’t seen it in so long! This is a miracle! How did you manage to find it?” she exclaimed, clutching a can of Schweppes.