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How a near heart attack made me notice the multitude of different uses for the word “jawn” in a science experiment

How often do you catch yourself in a mindless action?  I remember learning about highway hypnosis, that period of time when a person is driving for an extended period of time, and becomes basically hypnotized by those passing white lines.  The person still drives safely and controllability through their routine, but has no recollection of driving from one place to another.  This concept, at 16, completely bewildered me.  How could you drive and not remember the journey to your destination?  Although I have never experienced highway hypnosis, knowingly at least, I was thinking about how often we cruise through our lives, and ignoring the events, the people, and the types of things along the way.

 Over the past 24 hours I have realized, I have actually experienced a different type of hypnosis.  This realization all started with a phone call….  Last night, we got a phone call from my boyfriend’s sister brought me to think about how often we get caught up in the monotony of everyday life.  The call was in reference to their grandmother, she had been feeling nauseous and ill most of the day, experienced rapid, irregular heartbeats and severe blood pressure fluctuations.  All three of us came to the same conclusion; she could have had a heart attack and NEEDS to get to an ER ASAP.

 My boyfriend and I ate dinner and anxiously waited for the response from his mom about the situation.  I have a brief recollection of finishing up cooking and eating while we waited for the text or call.  Once we got the update, that an EKG was taken and they were sent to the waiting room, and we were able to breathe a cautious sigh of relief.  We knew as long as she wasn’t emergent and taken right in for a procedure that she was ok.  I think that waiting period felt like two hours, but we were just relieved that she was okay, and I went back to working up my statistical analysis.

 I went to bed early and made sure to reach out to his sister, since we would be up at ridiculous hours in the early morning for work.  I drove to the train and then texted her, waiting for any more information that I may have missed while I was sleeping.  Thankfully, their grandmother had unremarkable blood tests and would be going to her cardiologist later in the day.  And then, recalling my morning as I write this now, I completely zoned out for the majority of the ride to the city.  I didn’t even realize that I zoned out until I got a call from a labmate asking for a cup of coffee before our science outreach at a high school.  I lost about 45 minutes zoning out on my trip in, hypnotized by my daily routine of going to work.

 Thinking about today, and the realization that I am hypnotized by my daily tasks made me realize how uneventful and unappreciative I am of the simple things in my day.  I remember a gentleman sitting next to me, seemed friendly enough and wanted to talk about the poor planning and shortage of cars for the train, but I kindly acknowledged him and continued to listen to my music.  He probably had an interesting story to tell, whether it was just talking about public transportation or having some other type of kind discussion, even if it was just about the weather.

 Although I realize that this may completely fall into the cliché “stop and smell the roses” it really was one of those moments that make you reevaluate how you live your every day life.  I spend almost two hours commuting to work, and those are two hours that I may not be paying attention to the interesting things around me.  Although usually most of my commute is spent sharing my day with family via texts or calls, I thought about how often we forget about living life and noticing those things around us that make our lives unique.

At our community outreach today, I paid extra attention to the students I was teaching science experiments to.  I wasn’t just going through the motions of explaining it, but tried to notice something that made each student I spoke to unique, whether it was their use of the word “jawn” (for those non-Philly people its just a slang term for thing and it typically is used when you can’t remember what something is called, like for instance a student today couldn’t think of the word pipe cleaner in trying to describe the reaction that was occuring), or how they used their hands in explaining what they thought was happening in the experiments.

 It is both sad but enlightening that a near heart attack regrounded me, but I am strangely thankful for this, and I hope that this story serves as a reminder in your life.  Whether it is paying attention to the way the wind blows your hair as you walk outside, or really appreciating that quick hug you get when you say “see you later” to a family member or friend you were visiting.  These little occurrences differ from person to person, and these things that you notice will vary, but they make your life, well, YOUR life.

Enjoy it, even the overly friendly commuter when you take public transportation, because everyone has something to share, and who knows, you could be the little thing in a stranger’s mind that re-grounds them from the hypnosis of daily life.

Taryn Anthony

Taryn is a 27 year-old Physical Chemistry PhD. Candidate at Temple University. She loves watching and playing sports, advocating and educating people about Crohn's disease (Crohnie for life since 2008), hanging out with her family and friends, and most importantly talking to new people about anything and everything! Her attitude about how to look forward and stay positive was really fostered at the University of Scranton, where she actually met HKP. Taryn absolutely believes a strong community can help you through anything.

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