Life & Other Drugs

ESP & Me

February 22, 2017

Like many Brown students, I was a ravenous reader as a child.

Unlike many Brown students, I was so ravenous a reader as a child that one day, I stumbled into Dewey Decimal class 103—Parapsychology and Occultism—at my school library, and over the course of the next several weeks checked out so many books on this topic that I was eventually banned from that shelf.

Yes, as a child I was a little obsessed with the paranormal. Specifically, with ESP (extrasensory perception). I didn’t begin my research into Dewey Decimal 103 thinking that I had a sixth sense—in fact, I, the young skeptic, assumed most instances of the paranormal to be coincidence or straight up deception. But it only took one chapter of “Paranormal Events Scientists Can’t Explain” in A Beginner’s Guide to ESP for my malleable prepubescent mind to change.

You see, during my research, I learned that ESP could take many forms, and at some of them, I was pretty adept. For instance, about 20% of the time, I could guess the right card picked randomly out of a deck of five. Pretty impressive, right?

The more I read, the more convinced I was that I was some kind of clairvoyant, and the more haunted by my power I became. I would have Ravenesque “visions” on the playground of horrible car accidents, and would plead with the subject of my premonition that they avoid standing in the middle of a highway at night wearing all black—for the spirits had foretold that if they did so, they would meet their doom.

I was always right. People who took my advice never died. I developed a small following of true believers. My career as a psychic was booming. But like many young artists, my dreams were summarily crushed by none other than my own mother.

It was a school night, and I was giving my spectacular and mystical brain a well-deserved rest. I fell asleep quicker than usual, partially because this was one of my first nights in a bedroom of my very own (a few days before this, I had, through what I assumed was a mild form of mind control, convinced my older sister to give up her place in the solo room for the chance to share a room with my younger sister).

I don’t know what it was—maybe my state of solitude-induced hyper-relaxation, or my most recent ESP research, or the fact that I had just watched Armageddon at a Girl Scout sleepover. But something caused me to have a terrible dream—a dream I knew could only be a premonition.

After my vision startled me awake, I sprinted out of my room and into my parents’. It was empty—a bad sign—so I took the stairs two at a time heading down to the kitchen, my head pulsing with anxiety and paranormal energy. I finally skidded into the dining room, locked eyes with my surprised-looking mother, grabbed her hands and pulled her towards me, shouting:


She stared at me in stunned silence. I cleared my throat and clarified. “I know, because I have ESP.”

After this incident, school librarian Mrs. Z placed the library ban against me to prevent further outbursts. To make things worse, my mom moved me back into my old room with my little sister because I was having “nightmares.” This was the thanks I got for trying to save her life.

My sixth sense faded without the books to sustain me, but glimmers of it still reappear. For instance, I bet right now, you’re wondering if I’m really about to end this article with nothing more than a terrible pun.

And to that I say, well… E-yes-P.

Image via.

Life & Other Drugs

Stress Balls, Motivational Posters, and Other Completely Goddamn Useless Things in My Room

February 3, 2017

I’m a high-strung person. I like the word high-strung to describe myself, largely because of its visual acuity. I feel it proffers the mental image that I am tangled up in a high wire above the streets of a bustling city, screaming for my life and unable to get down. Yes. This is how I like to describe my personality.

Now, I make no attempt to hide my anxious personality from others. (Mostly because I would fail miserably if I tried. I’ve been known to let out a blood-curdling shriek when brushed against, tapped on the shoulder, or presented with an innocent breakfast pastry.) Because of this, at any given birthday or holiday, any number of well-meaning friends and relatives are bound to gift me with objects that not-so-subtly say: “Bitch, you absolutely need to calm the fuck down.” I’m talking mini zen gardens; I’m talking self-help books; I’m talking an actual, literal gift certificate for a free therapy session.

Many of these items I merely ignore or give away. (Free massage coupon? No thank you. I can’t imagine anything more stressful than sitting in a dark, perfumed room being rubbed by a complete stranger, and anyone who feels relaxed by it clearly never developed a healthy sense of stranger danger in preschool.) However, some of them have stuck with me through the years—either because they’re aesthetically pleasing, or because I’m holding on to some vague, false hope that some day, it may actually help me calm the fuck down, even a little bit. They never calm me down. In fact, most of these items just make me ten thousand times more stressed. Allow me to explain, with a virtual tour of my room.

Take this Buddha Board.


For those of you who have never been to a distinctly terrible generic gift shop, a Buddha Board is a special canvas on which you can paint with water. The water then evaporates, and the canvas is blank again. So you can paint with water. Again. It’s supposed to be a lesson in letting go and being zen and channeling your inner Buddha and all that other yikesy, culturally-appropriative stuff that tends to come with distinctly terrible generic gift shop merchandise. I’ve had it for a while now, and I have still not learned this lesson. Because SOMETIMES, I’m sitting at my desk, innocently googling pictures of Scarlett Johanssen’s forearms, and I dip that little Buddha brush into water, and I start to trace a little water dragon onto my board. But shocker! The little water dragon ends up being super cute! And then I don’t want it to disappear! But if I take a picture on my phone then I’m disrespecting the central tenet of the Buddha board! So I just watch as my new little dragon friend slowly evaporates into nothingness. There it is. I killed him. And then I burst into tears, and then I paint a new dragon with my tears, and the vicious cycle starts all over again until my tear ducts have crusted up from overuse!

Do you see now?! Do you see the stress it brings me?!

Another example: this adult coloring book.

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Completely unused, because guess what? The only thing more stressful than being rubbed by a complete stranger is sitting hunched over at your desk, coloring in one of ten thousand tiny little scales comprising a giant fish and trying desperately not to making any sudden moves that force your flimsy colored pencil outside the lines! The first and last time I tried to color in a page from this book, I finished one perfect corner of the mandala, panicked about the possibility of not coloring the rest of it nearly as well, and ripped it out of the coloring book as is. Seriously, the half-done drawing is still on my fridge.

The only stress-reducing item that has ever offered me any semblance of solace is this little bucket of Play-Doh.

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It’s squishy. It smells nice. It hasn’t hardened, because I’m so meticulous about giving it some well deserved R&R in its container after a long day of being repeatedly smashed in frustration against my desk. But. Deep inside my perfect little purple ball of Play-Doh, there is a disgusting, menacing secret—a secret that, hard as I try, I can’t help but remember every time I squish that dough through my fingers. A secret that eats me alive, and just stresses me out more.


Yes. An orange blemish, from when I once let my precious Play-Doh mingle with its friend from a neighboring can. A contamination of the pure purple that I will absolutely never let go.

And then we have this book.


I don’t think I need to say much more about it. So what’s wrong with it? Well, take a look at this excerpt:


This occurs in the acknowledgements. I mean, dude, I get that you’re trying to teach me that shit like this isn’t a big deal, but can you at least wait to screw up until like, Chapter 8, when I’ve learned to accept it?

Hot damn. I just can’t catch a break.

Images via Ali MacLeod and via.

Life & Other Drugs, On "The Hill"

Sober at SW

April 27, 2016


I was sober at Spring Weekend this year. Shocking? Maybe. Apparently, not everyone at this prestigious institution is a perfect golden child like I am. (Shout-out to Mom and Dad, who raised me to be both drug-free AND humble.) Anyways, horn tooting aside, I was sober… but my friends were not. My friends are also varied and creative, and they all chose different methods to get high/drunk/lit/turnt/generally impaired that weekend. This is a list of the texts they sent me, based on their vice of choice.

Continue Reading…

Life & Other Drugs

Hi Mom, It’s Me, Your Garbage Daughter

April 7, 2016

by Ali MacLeod


I’m sorry, Mom.

You’ve always been a good mother to me and my sisters. You did everything right. You showered us with love, but were never afraid to discipline us if we erred. With your help, you had every right to expect that we would grow into well-adjusted, wonderful daughters.

I really don’t know why I’m defective. But I know it’s not your fault. Maybe it was all the Sour Patch Kids I ate in high school?

Anyway, again, I apologize. You don’t deserve what’s coming. I tried to wait a couple weeks, in the hopes that it would make writing this article–and reading it, on your end–less painful, but I think I just prolonged the inevitable.

All right. Here goes. Continue Reading…

Life & Other Drugs, On "The Hill"

Mentor Seeks Mentee

March 24, 2016

by Ali MacLeod


Wise sophomore seeks first-year mentee

Providence, RI area

Listen. At this point, I’ve been on this campus for a while. I know how Brown University works, all right, and you can too if you agree to my companionship. Wouldn’t you like to hear all about…

  • The best combination of muffins and drinks to get exactly to a credit in the Blue Room
  • The location of all the outlets in the Ratty
  • How to get back up the hill when you’re really too lazy to walk. (Hint: Use your Brown ID to get free entrance to the RISD museum from the storefront at the bottom of the hill. Then, take the museum elevator up to the top floor. Exit at the top of the hill. Yes, I’ve done this. No, I’m not ashamed.)*

And, not to toot my own horn, but I feel like I know a decent amount about the world off of The Hill as well. I’ve got a lot of wisdom to share, and no one to share it with! I can tell you…

  • The perfect combination of polite and firm to use in an angry email
  • Whether that fit-and-flare dress looks good on you (Hint: Yes, it looks good on everybody)
  • Whether those high-waist overalls look good on you (Hint: No, they look good on nobody)
  • What a bird is
  • And much more!

Future Mentee, you and I will have so much fun together! I really could use the friendship of a younger person. In high school, all of my friends were from the grade above or the grade below me, because I tend to be shunned by my most direct peers. I’ll never shun you, my new friend. We can wear matching outfits and gossip together and paint our nails (well, you can paint my nails. I’ve never learned how to do it). We’ll go out to eat all the time (but not to any seafood places because I can never figure out how to eat shellfish by myself). We’ll walk through the park (but you’ll have to go in front of me, to ward off butterflies and other terrifying insects). Maybe we’ll go to the VDub for #CFF! Wait, it’s 4:45. Does that mean it’s closed? Or open? Shit.


Confused sophomore seeks upperclassman mentor

Providence, RI area

Help me. I have no idea what I’m doing. Where is Metcalf? Are you allowed to sit on the statue on the Main Green, or do people just do it anyway? What do you call a cheeseburger from Jo’s? Is it a “burger with?” What? Help?


*Ed. Note: Ali, you’re a genius.

Image via.

Life & Other Drugs, Love & Romance, On "The Hill"

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Social incompetence.

March 10, 2016

by Ali MacLeod


Not twenty minutes ago, I was in one of the single-occupant restrooms in Andrews. Doing what, you ask?


Oh, you know, just powdering my nose.

I was thoroughly in my own personal bubble when someone knocked sharply on the door. Not a timid, “my-worst-fear-is-walking-in-on-someone-pooping-so-I-knock-every-time” knock. A hardy rapping of knuckles. Needless to say, I was startled. After all, my concentration was, at the moment, entirely devoted to a different, very important task.


Although I was fairly certain I had locked the door, I felt I owed the mysterious stranger some kind of response to let them know the bathroom was occupied. Unfortunately, I was so surprised by the unexpected turn of events that THIS eloquent phrase is what I came up with:

“Excuse me! Sorry! Hi! I’m in here…yeah.”

…let’s unpack that, shall we?

Continue Reading…

Life & Other Drugs, Love & Romance, On "The Hill"

The Banana: There and Back Again

March 8, 2016

by Ali MacLeod


Loss. We’ve all felt it, to varying degrees, and frankly, it’s never easy to get over. There’s something especially tragic about missing something that’s no longer there. And it’s even sadder that, in most cases, nothing can heal the wound except time, positivity, and the company of good friends.

That’s why I was so upset when I lost my banana last week. Continue Reading…