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Recovery from any physical or mental trauma takes many forms. Sometimes, the road to recovery can surprise you. Mine was in the form of 100 steps.

The Hill, located on UT Knoxville’s campus, is a place of legend and mystery. Haunted by the ghosts of Civil War soldiers, and possibly a wolf, the Hill stands as the oldest part of the university. Walking up the Hill, from any side, was a veritable hike up a mountain. If you were unfortunate enough to have classes on The Hill, as many engineering/science/psychology majors do, then you were whipped into shape, and quick.
On the far side of The Hill, looking towards downtown Knoxville, you had a perfect view of the giant golden phallus, or as it is properly named, the Sunsphere. I was privy to this view several times a week for one or two semesters. I also had the best ass of my life, from climbing the 100 steps that rose up that side of The Hill.
For two semesters, I rented an apartment right on the river, close to downtown. This meant I had to walk down the main street towards campus; The Hill is the first building you come to from that side. Once you got to that side, you either had to bite the bullet and climb the steps, or you had to walk several blocks further and walk up another easier set of steps.
Steps are steps, right? Not in this case. The steps that faced the Student Center on the other side of The Hill were wide, with rails, and large landings between flights, so students carrying their weight in books could rest.
The steps on the downtown-facing side of The Hill were small, narrow steps, with few landings. They were steeper steps, inclining at an angle that was nearly straight up. By the time I reached the top of this flight, I was panting hard and my heart was beating nearly out of my small ribcage. But I did it every day and, with practice, and the help of two home-made cinnamon rolls from the Student Center bakery, I finally was able to climb those steps with ease. This was much more important than just climbing a mountain, this was saving my life.
How did the 100 steps save my life? Here’s how: exercise increases appetite, which forces one to eat more, which causes one to gain weight. And I needed to gain weight.
When I moved to Knoxville (for the second time) in 1998, I weighed in at 75 pounds. When I left in May of 1999, I had gained up to 95 pounds. And I owe it to two things: persistence of will, and that Hill.
I had an 8 o’clock class at least three days per week, and I would walk from my apartment to the Student Center most mornings, if I had time, and get two large cinnamon rolls. Then I would gather my courage and my books and walk up that Hill. I had to stop for breaks often, but I never quit. I even tried to drive to classes on the Hill on occasion, but there is a small circle of parking and with nearly 30,000 students on campus, chances of getting a space on the Hill were slim, almost nil. So I sucked it up and walked up the Hill.
On mornings when I didn’t go to get breakfast first, I had to walk up the less traveled back side of the Hill, the narrow steps. I met other students occasionally, but there was much less traffic. And when I left classes, I would catch a view of downtown and the Sunsphere, as I made my way back down the Hill.
During Christmas break, I came back to Nashville to visit with my family. They were so shocked to see how much weight I had gained that they took pictures. An aunt or cousin actually took a photo of my ass. I still have that photo, a happy reminder of what I had overcome. A happy reminder that even if you are down, you can pick yourself back up again. You can conquer whatever it is that has attacked your mind and body. You can do anything you set your mind to. Anything.

I’m eternally grateful for that Hill, though I cursed it during those long treks up. When I was finally able to go and purchase new jeans, I was thrilled with the muscles in my legs, and in my butt. I was proud. I had reason to be. I had gained twenty pounds, and it was because I had the courage to walk up that Hill every single day.


Last night, I fell asleep while watching the new “Red Riding Hood.”  I woke up a third into the movie screaming my head off and crying “it’s over here, it’s over here!”  Yeah, I don’t remember any of this, but the boyfriend says it happened.

In case you’re wondering, “Red Riding Hood” isn’t all that scary; I have no idea what I dreamt about last night, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve wolves.  Or at least not the literal type.

I’ve been hunting jobs since last May, and have a year’s worth of resumes (hundreds) and interviews (few) to show for it.  It’s disheartening to a person who has lots of (overrated and expensive) education plus tons of (relative) experience that she cannot find a fulfilling, full-time benefitted job.  I don’t need horror or fairy tales to scare the pants off me:  life is right fucking scary enough these days.

This rant also comes on the heels of an (outrageous) electric bill, which was fattened up by a leaky water heater.   Our apartment is a scant 600 square feet; the electric company is gouging me for over $200 this month.  Robbery is the word you are looking for.

Before class today, I went to the student lounge to get a package of M&M’s.  There was only one student in the lounge; he was sitting at a table directly in front of the vending machine, which afforded him a perfect view of what happened next.  I put my money in, punched the numbers, and the metal coil turned once and froze.  And there sat my bag of candy, suspended.

The student at the nearby table let out a huge (and unappreciated) guffaw.  I had a few words stuck in my mouth, but, since I teach at this school and there was a student nearby, held my tongue.  I dug around in my bag for more change; what else could I do?  I refused to walk away without something.

As I dug around looking for more spare change, I heard the sound of the bag drop on its own.  I let out a triumphant “Ha!”  but no one was listening.

As I walked to class, I thought of the word patience.  I keep repeating it to myself, like a chant.  Patience, patience.  Patience.

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