Concerts at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater are usually great for Uber drivers. Prices tend to surge as the shows let out and big crowds of people who have had too many twelve-dollar beers are looking for rides home. Recently, the Dixie Chicks were in town on a pleasantly warm summer night.
It was about an hour before the show was scheduled to end when I got a ping for a pickup.
Emily was easy to find. She was the only one waiting for a ride in the pick-up lane. She sat up front.
“You’re leaving pretty early,” I said. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I just have to be at work early tomorrow. The show started really late and I just couldn’t stay. I don’t want to be hungover in the morning.”
“Well, that’s very responsible of you.”
She smiled. “I guess so.”
Emily was self-conscious about being a little intoxicated, but she was open and easy to talk to. I liked her right away.
I noticed an intricate black and gray design on the inside of her right arm.
“I like your tattoo. It’s pretty. What kind of flower is that?
“Thanks. It’s a tree-like euphorbia.”
“Interesting. I’ve never heard of that. Why did you choose that plant in particular?”
“I don’t know. It made me smile. I have three tattoos and they are all plant-based. This one on my left arm is my favorite. It’s called a donkey’s tail.”
She showed me.
“That’s nice too. Why the plant theme?”
She shrugged. “I like plants. And gardening. It’s therapeutic for me. I’m not typically a happy person.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that, Emily. And I’m sorry to hear it.”
“I don’t believe in medication. I think there are lots of better, natural alternatives, like exercise. I do yoga and gardening. Gardening takes me away from my sadness.
“The first time I went to see my psychologist, he said, ‘Maybe we should try medication.’
“And I said, ‘Maybe that shouldn’t be the first thing you offer me.'”
She said she’s not opposed to using medication generally if it can help someone, but that doctors should see it as a last resort, not their first go-to.
“Do you have what they call clinical depression?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. But maybe I just refuse to believe it. I’m a psychology major, but I’m only a junior.”
“How long has sadness been an issue for you?”
“Since fifth grade. I’m a twin. My sister is my best friend (She’s still back there at the concert). We’ve always been close–like most twins. When we were in fifth grade, our little brother was born. I remember being so upset that this baby was going to be competing for my parents’ love and attention. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I sort of realized then that I couldn’t control anything.”
That’s a long time to be struggling with depression, I thought, but she seemed to be fighting it well, and is surrounded by people who care about her. Still, she was such a bright, likable young lady. Her battle with sadness made me sad.
We talked about her future. She wants to help people with similar struggles and mental illness–somehow. She’s just not sure which direction to take.
“I’m twenty years old and I don’t understand how I’m supposed to know what to do next.”
“You don’t have to know now,” I said.
“I know I don’t have to know, but I still feel the pressure.”
“We’re almost at your house, Emily, and I want you to know that I think you’re pretty awesome. And that I really want you to be happy.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that a lot.”