When my Freshman year was drawing to a close, my brother and I took part in a couple studies at Stanford University. Well, I should say we attempted to take part in a couple studies. Neither of us ended up completeting them, but that is where this story comes in.
I have three main memories of my experience at Stanford, but the one that stands out the most is the MRI simulator. The study required me to have an MRI scan so they could look at my brain to see how it reacted to certain things. I was put in the simulator (it was just an outdated MRI that didn't work) for what I think was half an hour, but for what felt like forever. I don't consider myself to be claustrophobic, but that is the closest I've ever come to feeling that way. When asked how they could make the simulator experience easier, the only thing I requested was that my mom always be present in the room with me. About halfway through, I thought I heard her leave, and instantly I could feel the panic set in. My time in the simulator felt both oddly short and excruciatingly long, if that makes any sense, but either way I was relieved when it was over.
For some reason, I still agreed to continue with the study, and a short time later I found myself in the car on the drive back to Stanford. On the drive over, I was worried and anxious about what would happen. It wasn't the MRI that worried me, it was the fact that I would be answering questions and taking tests ("playing games") while inside. Another memory I have of the experience is the IQ test I had to take the first day, and that left me in tears thinking that I was stupid and somehow I had lost all ability to learn new information. Because of this, the anxiety over answering questions in a way I still didn't fully understand while in a confined space was hard to wrap my head around.
Once I got to where I needed to be, my mom and I were greeted by three people who had taken time out of their Friday to go through the whole thing with me. There was some issue with getting into the building, and while the three people went looking for a key or for someone else to let them in, I told my mom that I wasn't sure I wanted to go through with the MRI after all. This conversation continued in hushed whispers all the way to the room where I could see the MRI scanner through a glass window. It felt as though my stomach had switched places with my heart, and I could feel myself growing more anxious by the second. I was handed the scrubs I had to change into (this, by the way, was enough to make me nervous enough without the MRI), and I looked at my mom. I was then led out of the room and told that if I didn't want to go through it, I had to tell them myself because they had taken time out of their day for me and it wasn't fair if I didn't follow through. I knew this, but I also knew that I wasn't emotionally ready for what was required. For some reason, though, telling the three people behind the door next to me that I didn't want to continue was just as difficult.
If I remember correctly, it took me a good few minutes before I finally walked back in and said I was very sorry, but I didn't think I was going to be able to continue. Everyone was very kind and said they understood. I could feel myself beginning to cry, but was able to choke back the tears (as you know, I detest crying it public). This is when the woman who had been there when I went into the MRI simulator took a box from the desk by the wall and held it out to me. Inside were many small toys like the ones you would find at a dentist's office, and she motioned for me to take one. I picked up one of those wind up toys that hops when you let go. It was a blushing bumble bee that despite not being pink, always looks pink in my memory and I'm not sure why. After I had picked it up, the woman looked at me and said it was to remind me of a time when I had been brave enough to say what I needed.
I'm not sure how much she knew about me or my life, but with those few words she changed how I have thought about the entire experience. I could look at it as a failure because I wasn't able to go through with something, but instead, every time I look at the not-pink-bumble bee that still sits on my desk, I look at it as a time when I was able to be brave enough to say what I needed. With those words, she also cut right through to some of the deepest parts of me. The part of myself that is too afraid to say anything for fear that it will disrupt someone else. The part of me that doesn't want to cause trouble or conflict. The part of me that isn't brave.
This whole experience happened almost two years ago now, but like I've said, the not-pink-bumble bee still sits on my desk, right beside paper clips and post-it notes. Those parts of myself that are afraid of conflict are definitely still there, but I still have this strange toy as an odd symbol of courage. A reminder of a time when I wasn't afraid to say what I needed even though it disrupted things. A reminder of bravery.