Personal Essay #3: Katherine Whelchel

         The Forest Inside

I have heard it called ‘butterflies,’ but to me it feels like a sudden gust of wind disturbing the forest of trees in my stomach, causing them to bend, twist, and relentlessly scrape against my insides. This is the first sign of the coming storm. This disturbance indicates what’s occurring in my emotions before my mind has had time to catch up. Once it does though, the gears begin to turn, and my thoughts go into hyper drive. I have a tendency to over think and over analyze over everything. My mind doesn’t just catch up with my emotions, it shoots past, chasing hard after understanding, becoming more unrealistic with every step. This triggers a contagious heat, as if the trees have suddenly been set on fire. Soon, the heat is rising and resonating in my chest. By this time, my mind is trying to throw solution after solution on the fire, not realizing that its own speed and vigor is what’s causing it.

I feel personally acquainted with worry. Not because it’s my friend, but because it’s a weakness that comes from my personality, one that I constantly have to shake, stomp on, and scream “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.' However, I’m not sorrowful. The leadership and teaching abilities I was created with are honed as God teaches me to trust him. I’m being renewed, with every disturbed tree, every forest fire. God’s work is incredible.

A distinct season within my life, only two weeks really, brought great breakthrough in this area of my life. I was in a foreign country with my closest friend and her family, finding myself constantly where I never expected to be. Each time, I was presented with the opportunity to work on putting out the fire and making the trees still. Each time it became easier, as I chose to listen and believe the faithful voice speaking peace over me.

Standing in the church foyer expecting an afternoon of only my own company while a whole city was waiting to be explored, triggered the beginning gusts of wind. Disappointment crept in as well, with its black fingers wrapping around my hope for adventure in beautiful New Zealand. Attempting to grab the trees and make them stop swaying, I put on a hat of fearlessness and approached a random couple to ask if they wanted to hang out with me.

I didn’t know these people; the girl was tall, about twenty, with brown hair and a smile that made you think everything she saw was exciting. Her boyfriend, a lanky, dark skinned Maori, could have played the villain in a super hero movie. I don’t usually ask strangers to voluntarily spend time with me, but they liked me. My hope for adventure was fulfilled as they took me exploring through the city of Christchurch with their incredible group of friends that soon became my own. As we sat at a sweet coffee shop with Instagramable lattes in front of us, an entirely different wave blew through my forest.

In the looming forest, with a huge overshadowing of branches, the sun had hit its golden hour. The rays were peeking through the limbs of the trees and creating a light show of the forest floor, streaking my face. I could feel a breeze but not the wind that signaled a storm. Running to the nearest moss patch and laying down, I focused directly on a small section of branch drooping from its own weight, to spot any motion. Nothing. Everything was completely still and beautiful. Maybe I’d won; maybe the wind could no longer tell a myriad of lies to my mind, creating a chain of chaos and havoc.

                   But it came again. Whenever I was alone at the campsite we were staying at, I would feel so trapped by the limitations of my own understanding that the storm would soon take hold. Was I where I needed to be? I knew that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. At the time, I would have taken anything else over standing solitary by a fence studying the shape of the grazing sheep and trying to get them to look at me by “baaing' really loud. It was a different case, a different circumstance yet the same effect. I doubted whether God was in control, but recognizing how out of control I was caused the worry in the first place, didn’t it?

Something clicked in that moment. Standing in front of the field, my view partly mirroring the forest within me, I put on my music, and I danced. Frantically and heavily with a passion that made my body shake, I spun and jumped and danced my heart out for the sheep and for Jesus. I decided to tell my weakness to shut up. I would cherish this moment and take pictures of it with my eyes to embed it in my mind. I’d never forget that those sheep, that field, and my dance was more than just a moment. It was a gift.

Worry has a weird way of making you do something, anything really, even if it’s completely irrelevant and empty. It can make a sloth catch up with a cheetah. The trick is that if we slowed down our bodies and minds and emotions, we would realize that we’re going crazy focusing on the unknown, a fruitless effort. Worry collapses when we become still, when we are honest with our humanity and surrender to the only One who can actually do something. “I trust You, Jesus.'

The last and most furious storm came when I ended up outside the dance studio in an empty parking lot. Realizing that my phone was dead and my ride was gone, I had to make a choice similar to the one in the field. I had to choose to be still and trust. After I had spent a good deal of time freaking out, a young Kiwi boy, maybe about 13, came running up to me. His hair was gelled to the side in a style that seemed too mature for him, and his face was easily becoming very handsome. Staring straight at me he said,

“Your dad and family are at my house. My dad’s here to pick me up, and we’re leaving right now. Want to come?'

How he knew who I was, I had no clue. Why he thought that I was related to my friend’s family, was actually understandable. We all looked really Swedish. Everything my mom had taught me about not following strangers or getting in their cars, was ignored as I followed him. With one quick sweep over my inner self, I commanded the trees to be still and settle down. I wanted to live like I was in the field, surrendered and free, letting go of all worry. The neon green, squat truck I was led to didn’t faze me. The large man with curly grey hair, a swirled tie-dye shirt, and cargo shorts standing by the opened truck door didn’t faze me either. Not a leaf rustled. All was still, and suddenly, I was squished into the middle seat of the truck between the boy and a couple of paint buckets.

If only I could have bottled that moment up to keep with me forever. It was all a bit overwhelming. This father and son team were so weird yet extremely kind. Engaging, communicating, and seeking to know me in a sincere way, they talked the entire time. The same smile lit up both of their faces. Deep streams of pure, raw kindness seemed to flow through their beings, and it dripped off their every word. To top it all off, I soon found myself sitting on their couch with a puppy under each arm. Is this what happens when you let go and trust?

What then, of all those people who trust for not, who think they know people and end up betrayed, stabbed in the back, and retreating to lives of permanent worry? I knew that the coincidences were not the point; they weren’t even coincidences. Each breath I take is planned out before me. I will never be the driver, because I fail dreadfully at driving the car that is my life. What does the wind do, and what does the fire do other than destroy and fill me with pain?    I realized that it’s not about walking with a hand over my eyes, blindly hoping everything works out. I see now that it is about following the path put before me by my Creator, whatever it may be.

This season in my life brought tranquility to the forest inside me. Birds can actually land and make their nests, caterpillars can trust the stillness of the trees and hang their cocoons. As sweet peace flows through, flowers spring up, and a garden is created. Whenever a ferocious wind threatens to blow, I can remember the field where I made a choice and danced before the heavens. Worry is not my friend; I try not to hang out with him much.

15 thoughts on “Personal Essay #3: Katherine Whelchel

  1. Andrew Lange


    I very much enjoyed reading your piece. The metaphors and similies make what would otherwise be taken by many people as a sob story with a happy ending so much more; it is real, it is personal, and it is something most people (if not everyone) can relate to with ease.

    The only revision or change I would suggest making would be to introduce the backstory more thoroughly: What string of events led to you finding yourself in New Zealand standing in a dance studio parking lot with a dead cell phone battery and missed ride long since departed? Were you an international exchange student? Were you simply visiting the area on a vacation? Why were you there?

    I’m admittedly also a little bit curious about what I am operationalizing from your vivid descriptions to be the anxiety attacks caused by unfamiliar situations or people. Is this something you struggle with on a regular basis to a severe extent, or are you just shy and naturally more of an introverted personality? While not to to pry into your personal life if you feel uncomfortable about sharing such details, I feel as though it might endow the reader with a more sound foundational understanding of the perspective you are writing from; this is a common issue that people from all walks of life find themselves in, but it affects everyone in a unique way, yourself included.

    After reading your piece, I can say that your descriptions are incredibly spot-on. I myself struggle with small anxiety episodes when certain situations present themselves, though it’s not anxiety of unfamiliar situations or strangers for me. It’s an unpleasant feeling that can quickly spiral out of control, as you operationalize extremely well with your descriptions; the body’s immediate mental response may be long over, but the hormone changes and elevated heart rate persist for an uncomfortably long time.

    I myself at one time had believed I was starting to have none other than panic attacks. I’ll spare the whole backstory of what the specific thing which would “trigger” these experience was, and have since learned to manage it and deal with it, but for awhile even just the thought of or mention of the specific thing it was would frankly cause my blood pressure to go up! I remember one night Googling “Panic attack symptoms” in a moment of despair, laying in bed, heart pounding as I scrolled through WebMD on a glowing iPhone screen in my darkened college dorm room, relieved to know I probably wasn’t experiencing anxiety attacks proper. They’re incredibly unpleasant and can happen at the most embarrassing and inopportune times, even the parking lot at Walmart.

    Finally, I enjoyed your ending, where you connected with some individuals who knew where you were. I myself have had a number of interesting encounters with total strangers who later became close friends. I’m generally fairly socially outgoing and will talk to anyone, so my experiences are a little different than yours in that regard, but thanks to talking to total strangers I’ve even had some of the funniest “Small-world” coincidences you could imagine. It doesn’t always seem like this is the case, but often people are more caring and compassionate than we might initially guess!

  2. Aubri Stogsdill

    Hey Kassie,
    I greatly enjoyed your essay! There were so many wonderful descriptions that pulled me in! I loved that you jumped back and forth between your internal forest and the world around you. Of your descriptions, I think these were the most impactful to me..

    “…it feels like a sudden gust of wind disturbing the forest of trees in my stomach, causing them to bend, twist, and relentlessly scrape against my insides…”
    “This triggers a contagious heat as if the trees have suddenly been set on fire. Soon, the heat is rising and resonating in my chest”
    “Disappointment crept in as well, with its black fingers wrapping around my hope…”

    I love that you took something so abstract and made it concrete. Your descriptions explain what anxiety FEELS like, and that is so relatable.

    A few sentences that I felt could use a bit of attention:

    “I’d never forget that those sheep, that field, and my dance was more than just a moment. It was a gift.” Here I think it would be good to change “it” to “they” since you are talking about three separate things.

    “The neon green, squat truck I was led to didn’t faze me. The large man with curly grey hair, a swirled tie-dye shirt, and cargo shorts standing by the opened truck door didn’t faze me either.” I feel like using a different word rather than using ‘faze’ twice would be great here. Perhaps use ‘frightened’. Just a thought.

    “What then, of all those people who trust for not,” The end of this sentence was confusing to me. Perhaps this is simply a wording I’ve not heard, but saying ‘all those people who don’t trust’ or “ all of those people who have nothing to trust it..” would help this sentence make more sense.

    “..but because it’s a weakness that comes from my personality..” I think that this isn’t a weakness that ‘comes’ from your personality, rather it is one that is associated with it. Perhaps changing that word would improve your sentence a bit.

    I do agree with Andrew… a bit more description about why you were in New Zealand and what you were doing there would have helped the reader understand a bit more. Not that there should be lots of information in this area, but a little bit more backstory, maybe a paragraph or so, would be great!

    Overall, your essay was wonderful to read. It was easy to understand and to relate to. I’m glad that you’ve come to a place in your life where you can trust the Lord in the midst of difficult and unknown situations. Great job! (:

  3. Katherine Whelchel

    Hi Aundrea!
    I wanted to start out by saying that your piece seems to have a golden hue running throughout it. As I read, it felt like I could feel sun rays peeking through; as if I was the one thinking back to a significant childhood memory. You captured the heart of a child very well and weaved a true nostalgia into each detail. Starting the story off with a moment of dialogue was very wise, and it hooked me into your story right away! I have never experienced raising an animal for a time and then having to let it go, but after reading your story, I feel like I can deeply relate to the loss you felt. I loved how you built us up by sharing your history with the ducks, how you raised them and giving bits of details about your connections with them.
    There were not many individual things within your story that I would change. However, I feel that the overall theme probably should have been tweaked a bit. Rather than writing about a story and including the emotions you feel, the emotions and how your experiences impacted you should lead the story. In this case, spending more time delving into your internal processes and the ups and downs your young self went through, would automatically lead into details about the experiences.
    I really enjoyed your piece and the way you wrote it, I simply think that the desired style wasn’t completely hit. I hope that makes sense. A re-organization of the story with a greater focus on your internal state would seem to meet the criteria perfectly. I think that in depth description of how the outward circumstances affected you would really carry the piece. Almost as if you are trying to explain what you were feeling to someone from Mars. It creates a deep bond with the reader and makes you express your life in unique ways.
    When talking about the heartbreak you felt from sending the ducks away, I really felt that desired connection with your true heart as a child. Almost as if I was standing in your place. This seems to be the main theme that runs through many great writers stories. They are able to communicate enough details to make you think that you are the one in the story, experiencing the situations, and feeling the emotions. You did this well; I think that you could have even used this talent in more ways in your piece.
    Overall, I thought that the content of your story was rich and held a deep nurturing character. As I said before, it seemed to glow with childhood wonder. I hope that my feedback was clear!

  4. Monica Gallagher

    This story was epic and exotic! Loved it! The way that you describe your anxiety is huge and very well played. The internal struggle was shown beautifully in the forest. The transition between internal description and dialogue and external reality is seamless. The climactic trip to New Zealand, stepping out of your comfort zone, definitely fit into the underlying theme of the story. I almost wish it was slightly more climatic, but that’s not the way life goes sometimes. If you were writing a fiction version, I would doctor up that trip a bit and make something a little more cutting edge for your stepping out. Just the amount of majestic detail happening in the first part of the story and again at the end, left the middle portion of the event feeling a little left out. It seemed a little unbalanced in that and just wish the middle matched the same sort of eloquent and landscaped detail of the rest of the story.
    I experienced this in awe and was soaking up every word. I think because the start and finish were like this, is the only reason I even think the middle is lacking. As I was reading, I kind of wanted something semi creepy to possibly happen. Maybe, more detail in put into the possibility of the drive being creepy, even if it wasn’t. For instance, “We started driving down this long dirt road, that wasn’t familiar to me”, they could’ve been taking a different way back home, but you didn’t know and that caused extra strife or anxiety that could add detail and more climax to the middle. I’m not sure anything like those events happened and maybe they didn’t, which was why it could be resolved if you were doing a fiction version. I’m sort of pulling at strings here because the overall composition of this personal essay was fabulous.
    I very much appreciated your reference to God and Jesus in the story. It really opens you up and shows your courageousness in yet another light, separate from the anxiety. Letting the story explain the resolve of some of your worry through faith in a very subtle and delicate way is so smart. I hope that it all just flowed out of you organically and that it was just in there waiting to come out. The part where you dance it off, is sort of what I imagine your brain doing as you were writing this. Great piece, and an effortless depiction of anxiety, faith, life and taking chances. I enjoyed reading your personal essay and am kind of bummed that you weren’t on the workshop for poetry. I would be very interested in reading some of that. I would read more of whatever you do and if I ever have anytime in the world to be a part of a writing group, I’d pick you to be in it!
    I think this hit me in a grand way because I can relate to you completely with almost everything in this, besides the New Zealand trip. I also try not to hang out with worry too much. High five friend!

  5. Naimy Schommer

    “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” –J.M. Rumi

    Kassie, you give a great description of nervous anxiety and clearly illustrate how Jesus is using your own shortcomings to grow you and reflect his character. I love the descriptions surrounding the trees in your stomach. That is such a great way to show the turbulence going on inside you!

    “This triggers a contagious heat, as if the trees have suddenly been set on fire. Soon, the heat is rising and resonating in my chest. By this time, my mind is trying to throw solution after solution on the fire, not realizing that its own speed and vigor is what’s causing it.” This is SO GOOD. “contagious heat” just makes me shudder because I GET IT. This is very real and poignant and moving.

    The image of you dancing for Jesus among the sheep on a farm in New Zealand brings such joy to my heart. That is such a Kassie move. What a precious image that so clearly shows the comfort and freedom that comes with “just trusting” in Jesus. I love that.

    It reminds me of Psalm 30:11-12 – “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
    This story is such a good example of that. You clearly show the power we have over our own thoughts; that we’re not subjected to our whims and passing fancies and can actively choose to be joyful under great stress or trials. We can be “content whatever the circumstances” (Phillipians 4:11). This story exemplifies the way that we as humans have the ability to communicate joy and look past our trials to see the good things that come from our stress.

    I think this narrative could have benefited from a few cohesive transitional sentences between the “dancing with the sheep” story and the “not having a ride” story just to smooth the reader’s thought process when transitioning. Both stories serve your purpose of illustrating points, thought and they are both beautiful stories. Also, I think the Christian mindset of “just trust” could be a little confusing for a non-Christian reader. It might be worth while to explain why that’s an important part of Christian faith and why you’re having such a hard time submitting to that particular call.

    Other than that, I think this piece is wonderful and VERY Kassie. 🙂

  6. Aundrea Pierce

    God has blessed you with “a way with words!” Very nice description of the forest in your stomach. I began to wonder before I got to the second paragraph, “does she suffer from anxiety too!?” Great job at hooking the reader in.

    “Disappointment crept in as well, with its black fingers wrapping around my hope for adventure in beautiful New Zealand. Attempting to grab the trees and make them stop swaying[..]”

    Yes! I love how you described the feeling of disappointment and then placing its part in your forest to create imagery for the reader. I love how you were able to describe your walk with Christ in words (I admit, I’m jealous). You write in such an exhilarating tone, and I enjoyed going through the motions of your piece with you as I read. While reading, I just keep thinking how blessed you are and I’m truly happy for you. You sound so sure and so free that I felt peace. I guarantee you I will be thinking of your story tomorrow and the next day when I’m feeling my anxiety!

    Because I was so interested in your story, I did want to know a little more about why you were in New Zealand. You mentioned a “dance studio,” where are you dancing there? Why?

    “This father and son team were so weird yet extremely kind.” My nosey side wanted to know what made them weird? It’s a good description, and in the end, I was convinced they were kind, but a part of me felt there was a mystery left (the weird). I’m probably too picky, and other readers might just take it as, okay they were weird. However, I was very hooked on your scenario and craved every juicy detail.

    “What then, of all those people who trust for not[…]” Maybe it’s my lack of intelligence, but I wasn’t able to decode what this meant although I was intrigued by the biblical feel from the wording.

    I really don’t have anything else to address aside from expressing sincere adoration for your story. My New Years resolution last year was to strengthen my walk with God, and I feel I have achieved this. Therefore, when I read your heartfelt story, it touched me and rang true. Reaching the point of letting go and dancing for the Lord indeed is easier said than done, but when you do it’s an incredible feeling; as you have successfully written in words. Keep writing Katherine!

  7. Caitlyn Williams

    Hi Katherine!

    Your descriptive introduction intrigued me to keep reading, it was such a great hook. I’ve never thought of that feeling as a forest, it captured my attention for sure! Your second paragraph shows an understanding of your emotions; it also shows the faith you have in God’s work. Understanding your emotions and transforming them into the metaphor of a forest shows great originality! We all struggle with intense emotions, and the way you handled it by “putting the fire out” speaks volumes. We could let the fire take control, or we could calm down and have trust blow the fire out. Trust resembles blowing to me because when one has trust, it’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s the calm after the storm. Your creative metaphors make the adventure sound more powerful than it would without them. I really liked the way you worded your essay; meeting those people must have been a highlight in your trip. Making friends with people in different countries takes bravery and the hat of fearlessness.
    When you described hanging out at the field with the sheep, and danced to the heavens made me happy! There’s nothing like letting your guard down and dancing! It shows your trust in the Lord, and it’s a beautiful thing to dance with yourself and accept the present. It must’ve felt liberating; I am glad you included this in your essay because it made me see you for you!
    Another thing I really liked was the voice in your essay! The wording was brilliant and captivating. The metaphor you used really made it easier to understand how you were feeling; it’s pretty amazing that we can understand the way someone is feeling by the way they describe things.
    I feel that your essay was relatable, and that makes it easier to connect with. I appreciated that you chose to include and explain your belief of God’s trust, and that no, it wasn’t a coincidence when the little boy saw you and knew where you were staying. When you explained that now gardens bloom, and caterpillars loom, it brightened my mood.
    I used to be more involved in my religion (Moravian), and your essay influenced me to go back to my roots and trust more in the Lord. I’ve been struggling a lot, and my forest feels scorched. Reading your essay has given me some motivation to stop the fire, and start regrowing my harvest.

  8. Jessica Honebein

    Katherine! I think that you have a very detailed piece that is full of strong word choice. It was interesting that you decided to write that piece solely on how your stomach is a forest of trees, and then explaining further as you go. I think that you had very descriptive imagery of how each event you described played a role in the way you felt. I think that having such a deep description helped me to picture your experiences, and maybe even feel the emotions myself as I read. This piece definitely showed intel in who you are and what your values are as a person. I think that it was interesting to be able to step into your word and share your beliefs as I read the essay myself. It helped me clue back into my beliefs and walk with you throughout the story. I think that because you included such a strong belief in your paper it helped to enhance feelings when reading the paper.
    I think that your essay was strong, however I think that if it was structured a little differently it could be stronger. I had a hard time following all the stories you had and meshing them together. At one point you were in New Zealand, then you were in a car with strangers. I think that you had a lot of good description however I almost get lost in it all. I am not sure rather it would be better to keep the structure the way it is and just explain a little more on why you are reporting a certain event to the reader or if it would be better to restructer it and leave the essay full of juicy word choice. I think that if I could follow the piece a little bit more smoothly, so maybe adding in the backstory of why you were in New Zealand, or just summarizing at the end what point or points you want the reader to pick up on.
    Throughout the story I felt myself going through a whirlwind of emotions. I think that the amazing detail helped me picture what was going on and what you were feeling. I did find myself relating to this because you hit on a portion of what it feels like to have anxiety and you expressed how you coped with it. I think that I also went on a journey through my past as you brought up God being with you, and I thought of all the times he has been there for me. I think that your essay helped me remind myself that he is always there if I need him and I liked how you expressed your strength in him. I think that the way that you use Him to help cope with your anxiety or problems was very relatable. I like how at the end it was almost like you finally decided to trust and give your worries away. Essentially making you less anxious and giving you an outlet if you needed one.

  9. Michelle Cordova


    First and foremost, I love your style of writing! You definitely have a way with words that makes reading your story exciting and full of anticipation!

    I understood your story to be about anxiety; however, it may be beneficial to those who have never experienced it, to make it a little more obvious. I must admit, though, that your word choices are incredible as you describe the sudden gust of wind disturbing the forest of trees in your stomach, which helps me to get a small glimpse into the life of someone who deals with this on a daily basis. You did a fantastic job at clearly describing the different scenes and people throughout your journey as well, from the random couple you befriended to the calming of your soul and putting out the fire that constantly attempted to thrust you back into “hyper drive.”

    I also appreciate your honesty in the way you recount that day outside of the dance studio, standing alone in an empty parking lot. I felt as if I watched you speak with the boy and hop into a car with strangers, all while fully trusting that you were where you were meant to be in that moment. In reading that part, I felt nervous for you even as you explained their smiles and raw kindness, as I am a bit of a skeptic! Then, you continued on about betrayal and worry, which assured me that you were doing what YOU thought was right all while breaking out of your comfort zone. It truly was powerful to read!

    I love the way you incorporate your faith in God into your story as this can be a difficult topic to approach, not knowing your audience. I believe it really speaks to who you are, unashamed, while helping the reader understand the things that are important in your life, that help you cope. Although I do not suffer from anxiety, you made it easy to relate to as we all have dark times and turn to different things for comfort.

    Overall, I found your story inspiring and pure, as well as extremely difficult to critique! I felt that you put a lot of heart and thought into the way you wanted to tell it, and it is obvious that you proofread and took the assignment seriously! I hope to have the opportunity to read more of your work in the future, and more importantly, hope that you continue to kick anxiety in the boot! Good luck!

  10. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    I do not have anything I would fix with your narrative. I absolutely loved it. I felt what you were describing the entire time, it was amazing. From the very beginning, I was hooked. The way you described you butterfly feeling was powerful. And I can relate to it. Sometimes my worries feel like butterflies, other times it feels like the powerful forest you described in your story. I relate to unexpected anxiety attacks because I struggle with them as well. It’s hard to deal with and I feel as though you did an amazing job of describing them to the reader. For those who have never experienced an anxiety attack will have a good idea of what they feel like after they read this narrative.

    I loved the different scenarios that you experienced and how you entwined them into your story. I feel like it added depth. There was never a dull moment while reading this. My mind was constantly asking for more as I was reading ad you did give more. I admire your writing style, it’s very smooth and simple, yet full of description and detail to keep the reader hooked.

    I would have to say my favorite part would have to be when you asked the random couple if they wanted to spend time with you. I can’t imagine ever doing something like that in my life, I envy your confidence and curiosity for adventure. I felt like I was living the story with you while I was reading it. When you were in the field dancing with the sheep I felt as though I was sitting in the grass with you witnessing the beauty of it all. I can’t describe how I feel after reading this story, I feel that your story is a great representation of a personal essay, you did an amazing job while writing this.

    The ending I think was done very well. I did not feel like I was missing anything from your story, it had all been laid out for the readers. I believe that everything with this narrative was very well done. I can’t wait to read the rest of your stories, your writing style was honestly the best to follow along with, I had zero troubles

  11. Leah Rego

    Wow. Your descriptions were wonderful, thought provoking, and very on point. Your tale is powerful, with great verbal demonstrations of your key focus. It was a very easy to read and compelling tale. Your determination, and faith come through your story clearly; as does your internal struggle in the fight between the feelings anxiety, and the knowledge and trust you have in your faith. Well done.

  12. Corbin Knapp

    I really enjoyed your essay! Your unique way of describing your feelings as a forest made the essay interesting and a joy to read. I agree with Andrew that maybe you should add how and why you went to New Zealand into your essay. It would add some background to your story, and make the story have another piece in the plot besides your struggle with anxiety and the joy you had when you got rid of it and found yourself.

    I can relate with your essay, because I feel the “winds blowing through my forest” as well. Sometimes after I talk with someone, I will worry that I said the wrong thing and I have offended them. Then I will worry that after I talk to someone they will never want to talk to me again. You could say that I am acquainted with worry as well. In fact as I am writing this I am worrying that you will find this essay offensive or annoying. The way you describe worry as a wind that whistles through the forests of your mind and causes a feeling of heat like a fire is an amazing idea. It helps the connect the reader to your story no matter what. Your vivid metaphors that describe your anxiety and worry captures the feeling perfectly and spices up the story wonderfully.

    Were the sheep metaphorical or did they really exist? I thought it was awesome that you decided to just dance and brush your worries away for that moment. It is really amazing when you just approach some random strangers and you hit it off and become friends with them. One of your best comments that I really liked is “Attempting to grab the trees and make them stop swaying, I put on a hat of fearlessness and approach a random, couple to ask if they wanted to hang out with me.”That is how I met some of my best friends, just walking up and talking with them.

    The metaphor “hat of fearlessness” is so true! I think that everybody can relate to a time when they have had to grit their teeth and “put on the hat.” Another sentence that is well constructed and makes the story stand out is,“ I feel personally acquainted with worry. Not because it’s my friend, but because it’s a weakness that comes from my personality, one that I constantly have to stomp on, and scream ‘I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.” This is a powerful sentence and makes anxiety and worry almost feel like a physical enemy.

    The paragraph where you describe being in the parking lot with your cell phone dead and your ride gone would have worried anybody, yikes! I agree with Aubri that you should maybe use a different word for fazed instead of using the same word again. Besides a few places that could be expanded on, I thought your essay was great. Your use of metaphors is a unique and fun take on personal essays and makes the piece very engaging. It is a relatable tale, and makes anxiety seem more like a physical enemy instead of just a negative emotion. It is also inspiring to me personally to try to get rid of my worries. Keep up the good work!

  13. Ben Knapp

    Your writing was interesting and enjoyable to read. I liked your use of metaphor, as well as the good flow of your essay. Your theme of overcoming worry connects with the reader, as well as providing some inspiration by showing that it can be beaten. All these different aspects worked together to create an appealing essay.

    I also enjoyed your downright impressive application of symbolism. I liked how throughout the essay you include extensive use of metaphors, such as “The Forest Inside”, or “Disappointment crept in as well, its black fingers wrapping around my hope”. These metaphors are clever and make reading your essay amusing, as well as connecting with the reader.

    Your theme was also enjoyable. I think we all worry a little sometimes, and overcoming worry is something that you can really connect with the reader on. Not only this, it also provides encouragement by showing how you overcame your worry. Your metaphors help you convey this theme more easily towards the reader, and further help it bond with the reader.

    As I mentioned before, the metaphor use in your essay also helps to improve the flow of your work. It allows you to take the reader wherever your mind wanders, rather than use the simple “I did this. Then I did this.” approach. However, it could be possible that the reader might find your essay confusing if you do not include detail to back up your metaphors. It might be better to talk a little more about the setting for your story to help the reader better understand what you are talking about.

    Because of your use of metaphor, the reader could find your essay to be unclear at places. For instance, a little more background to your essay might have added to your writing. It is unclear whether or not you are in New Zealand, or simply planning to visit there. What is the source of your anxiety? Are you worried that you will not be able to visit New Zealand, or are you worried that your visit in New Zealand will not go well? Including detail like this might have added to the effect of your metaphors by providing some setting to help the reader further connect with you.

    Throughout the essay you talk about worry. What is it that you are worried about? Is it simply the aforementioned anxiety about your trip to New Zealand, or something else, or a combination of the two? It could be possible for the reader to find the essay a little difficult to follow without a more in-depth explanation for the main theme of the essay.

    Despite a couple areas that the reader could find confusing, your essay was an overall enjoyable read. The flow of your essay helped to make reading your writing more pleasant, your metaphor use was definitely a plus, and your theme of overcoming worry helped to connect with the reader. I hope you find this useful, and look forward to seeing more of your work!

  14. Cassidy Kramer

    I need to be completely honest with you. I LOVED this story! The way you kept bringing up the forest kept me drawn in. The introduction, the detail, the way I related, and the story of how you overcame caused me to love this piece you have written. I honestly do not have a lot to say about it critically, so I will tell you how it relates to me personally.
    In the first paragraph, you brought in a feeling that everyone feels. You brought up how your actions and your mind respond to this feeling. A way that most people end up dealing with it, which kind of just lets the worry win and grow stronger. I am also a believer, so when you brought up your faith and your trust in God I was thinking “yes!”. God’s work is incredible, and it usually takes a hard lesson for people to realize this. A big lesson that I had to learn in my life was humility. I grew up being very athletic, and it is hard to not put yourself on a pedestal when you are constantly succeeding in something. My main sport is volleyball, and throughout my first two years of high school I was always getting things like all-tourney awards at tournaments, and being better than the players older than me. I was constantly getting told I was a good player, and not having the firmest relationship with God, it built me up in a negative way. It wasn’t until my junior year when someone else started to get the all-tourney awards. I was extremely disappointed with myself. At every tournament after that, I would play my hardest, but it was never good enough. It was not until about half way into the season that my mom asked me about how my relationship is with God. She helped me realize that I am not playing for the right reason. I was playing for my own personal gain, to be better than everyone, instead of purely playing for God. I felt so bad. From then on, I do everything for God. Whether it is school, sports, or anything else, it is all for Him because He has given me the ability. Anyways, that is my story of something that I could only overcome through Jesus.
    The descriptive detail in your story really drew me in. My favorite part would probably have to be the part where you are in your forest. You give us knowledge that it is not just something that is inside of you, but you are also engulfed in it, which explains why you have struggled with it so much. The pure joy and freedom that God can give is so amazing. Which is what I thought during the part when you were dancing for the sheep. I thought it was humorous when you added that you had an “instagramable lattes”, it is also another relatable aspect in this modern day where I can picture an instagramable latte perfectly. It does not relate to the story, but I do wonder why you moved to New Zealand, and how old you were. I feel that it would give the reader more detail about how to picture you and relate to your thoughts if they knew how old you were. Again, I LOVED your story, and I hope you enjoyed the little story of how God calmed my worldly feelings, and put trust in Him.

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