A typical day includes me walking around Truman’s campus, my bespectacled eyes with darkened circles underneath, my lanky body flowing like spaghetti noodles from class to class, adorned in a pun t-shirt, jeans, a pair of dusty and faded Converse, and a headband with a floral aesthetic I have attempted to make match my shirt and shoes. At college I’m often sleep deprived. I’m often stressed. I’m often busy. My mind is often in a thousand different places. But I’m also usually happily trudging through life anyway, because that’s what I do. As my dad has said before, I am “Fechter tough,” which basically means I keep smiling, I keep laughing, I keep punning, even when I’m in my darkest of hours. That’s all I can do sometimes.
For many of those who know me, puns come to mind as a defining characteristic of mine. I always mange to sprinkle them into everyday conversation, much to the chagrin of those friends and family members constantly around me.
A typical meal may consist of me picking up a slice of pizza and asking “who wants a pizza me?” A typical trip back home usually includes me telling my cats how much I “pawsitively love them.” A typical day consists of someone complaining that they are tired and me saying,“Hi tired, I’m Rachel!”
The puns that come out of my mouth are constant and omnipresent. But puns have not always been such a big part of my life though.
My love for puns started in high school.
High school was when I silently and secretively battled my worst enemy; myself. During my sophomore year I began to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety that I often suppressed, denied, and ignored. I told myself this didn’t happen to happy people. I told myself I was happy.
These feelings went on for almost two years before I told anyone. My friends at school had no idea this was happening. My family didn’t know until much later. The feelings I had would come and go. Creep in at odd times. Suffocate my mind for hours then tease me with liberation.
I’d hold in these feelings all day at school and at home then late at night when I knew everyone was asleep, let tears silently trickle out of my eyes onto my pillow. I’d often turn to the internet to take my mind off these terrible thoughts on these terrible nights. Somewhere along the road I found puns, maybe in an article I read, or on a Facebook post, or carefully crafted inside a meme.
Though the rest of high school these negative thoughts plagued my mind, but I smiled through the pain and kept telling puns to myself and others. Making myself and other people laugh didn’t heal the problems I was dealing with, but they made the dark moments a little bit lighter, at least for a moment or two.
At my worst, when the anxiety and depression began to pick up and I had to ask my mom for help, I was still punning away.
While pulling my third all nighter in a row on a school night, battling my anxiety induced insomnia, I was able to take my mind off of how tired and panicked I felt the next day by make my friend Katie laugh with a pun. I said “Oh, whale” encouraging her to brush off a bad situation and holding up a picture of a whale. To this day, the whale pun is favorite of hers. You’re whalecome, Katie.
When some girls in my neighborhood decided to follow me, harass me, and make fun of the clothes I was wearing, I decided to take to my angsty poetry google drive folder and wrote something along the lines of “even though my Goodwill t-shirt was baggy and blue, I’m more sad and blue for you.”
When I wasn’t eating because food felt like a pointless chore in the mess of all my horrible thoughts, the next day I made a pun in the PE class I was forced to take while running laps during the dreaded Pacer Test thinking “exercise more like what-the-heck-cercise” chuckling to myself.
One day while I was at home sick because the new antidepressant I was taking made me feel like throwing up, I watched Shrek while bed ridden and typed “It’s not ogre until its ogre,” into my Twitter drafts, intending to post it later for all my friends to see.
After I was driving home from school one day in rush hour traffic and pondered how easy it would be to swerve into the oncoming lane, I came home and thought about how Manchester Road, sometimes harder to sift through than the Wal-Mart five dollar DVD bin, “drives me crazy” and relaxed my mouth into a small smile before the terrible thoughts of hating myself and hating life came back.
But I never swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic. I kept driving all the way home. I kept going. I kept punning.
During my senior year of high school I was getting help. I was taking anti-depressants that didn’t make me feel sick. I was seeing a counselor. I was talking to my mom more when I felt down. I had a greater appreciation for the little moments, like the times at school where my friends and I sat in a circle on the dirty tile floor during lunch and talked about our days. I was sleeping better and sometimes not even having to take Melatonin to knock myself out for the night. I was eating like a human being again. The constant tension in my muscles occasionally relaxed. I felt okay.
Four years later, I’m still telling puns all the time. When my fellow Truman Media Network coworkers and I are sleep deprived and stressed on a Tuesday night at 4 a.m. putting the newspaper out for press, I’m usually the one to make a snarky comment about how we have a lot of “issues.” When a friend gets out of a tough exam I ask if they’re feeling “testy” to make them smile. In a tense argument between friends when drama ensues I’ll be the one to awkwardly interject “Why is everyone so salty?” pointing to the nearest spice rack to lighten the mood.
Now when the negative thoughts creep into my head, telling me I’m a worthless waste of space, I remind myself how many smiles I’ve put on people’s faces, strangers and loved ones alike, by telling, writing, and wearing puns. I think about this and I feel a little more alive, a little more grateful, a little more hopeful, and a little more happy. If I’m able to take something as simple as a play on words and brighten someone’s day with it, maybe someone who is plagued by the same terrible thoughts and feelings that captivated me for so long, I will keep punning.