DON’T. FEAR. THE. VENOM.

The first time I was stung by a bee was probably seventeen years ago in a corridor of my high school. How the bee got inside, I’ll never know.

I was chatting it up with a friend, laughing and carrying on, when I felt something land in my hair. I very casually reached for it and the sting was so jarring that I screamed. I’ve always been dramatic, but high school Erika was on a different level. 

My friend panicked and started giving me all kinds of wacky advice while rushing me into the girl’s restroom. 

“I think you need to suck the venom out.”

“Maybe you should pee on it.”

I didn’t have to pee. Would it be weird if she peed on it instead? Could it be a stranger’s pee? 

“Do you have a credit card? You need to use that to scrape the stinger out.” 

I didn’t see a stinger anywhere. There was only a welt at the site of the sting. Phew, I guess. 

She continued. 

“Good news is that the bee is dead. They die when they sting you.”

That might be a myth. I’ve heard since that only some bees die.

“Are you allergic? That would suck.” 

The panic set in when I started thinking about what an allergic reaction might look like for me. Thomas J from My Girl came to mind. “He can’t see without his glasses!” IYKYK. 

It was the end of the school day and my Nokia was blowing up with calls from my grandpa, who was not-so-patiently waiting for me to hurry up and come out. He was a doctor. He’d know what to do. 

“I’ll be right out. I got stung by a bee.” Click. 

I thought to give him the heads up so he could start mapping out the routes to all the nearby hospitals, obviously. This was 20 minutes after the sting and I was doing just fine, but it’s still teenaged me we’re talking about. I expected him to fling the passenger door open, swoop me up, and gun it for the nearest ER. He was so chill. He was reading his paper as I walked up. Maybe he didn’t hear me.

“Dad! (I called my grandpa dad) I don’t think you heard me. I got stung by a bee.”

“No. I heard you. That’s ok. You look ok.” 

I was ok, but sheesh! Feign concern, guy! 

I shared the news with anyone who would listen. I held out my finger to our mailman. 

“It doesn’t look like much, but I asked Jeeves and he said that a reaction can take up to four hours, so I’m not in the clear just yet.” Four hours later, I was still alive. Ne’er did I succumb to death by a bee sting.

Cut to yesterday. 

I joined a writer’s group in an attempt to get my ass in gear and start building some confidence in my writing. I’ve never been a part of a writer’s group before. I had no idea what to expect. 

It was a great group. We dove right into deep conversations about boundaries, being kinder to ourselves, and dealing with the scrutiny that comes with choosing a creative path that doesn’t, at all,  resemble a 9-5. 

Everything was going splendidly. We took the conversation to the balcony on the second floor, which got me really pumped because nothing gets my creative juices flowing like being outside. 

We took five minutes to jot down some tidbits about ourselves that we’d eventually share and I heard a faint buzzing around my left ear. It’s all good, I thought. I’ve paid my dues. I guess I’ve always imagined that bee stings are like chickenpox. One and done. This bee had to know that I’d been stung before. The smell must still be there after all these years. 

It seemed to calm down, so I figured the scan of my previous stings was complete. Good to go. 

Not so. 

The intros commenced. I was trying really hard to listen, but this son of a bitch would not let up. What is the deal? I thought we went over this! I’ve been stung before, damn it! I whipped my hair from one side to the other. The buzzing grew louder. And louder.

The group started getting distracted by my sudden movements. I covered my head with my notebook, I stood up, I sat back down, I swatted the air – all while someone was talking about character development and I cursed this fucking bee under my breath. “Go away, bitch!” 

It did not go away. This bee was out for blood. It made its way into my hair and I made my way into the center of the circle – flailing and making an ass of myself.

 It sounded like it was in my ear at one point. The buzzing was louder than all the concerned voices around me and then pain. The same pain from seventeen years prior – right around my collar bone this time. “It stung me!” 

Someone may have swatted it away. The next few moments were a blur. I felt the stinger dancing around in my neck. I thought back to my friend in the girl’s bathroom, the peeing, the credit card, Thomas J, and the potential allergic reaction. I found my way to a mirror and the host, who was so sweet and wonderful, scrambled to get me an ice pack and some first aid. 

The stinger was in there and I remembered Jeeves talking about potentially releasing venom if you’re not careful how you pull it out and I didn’t give a single heck. I needed that thing out of there STAT. Somebody grab a crash cart and push one of epi. (Where are my Grey’s Anatomy folks?) 

Got it out. I returned to the discussion with an ice pack, a bruised ego, and dark thoughts of having an allergic reaction in mixed company. I wondered if I should go home and I remembered my grandpa. 

“That’s ok. You look ok.” 

It will be impossible for me to forget a day like the one I’m describing. The experience has been branded into my memory banks. 

I was okay. And everyone was kind. The great conversations continued and, at one point, someone said “you can’t rush creativity.” Someone else said, “whenever I can’t figure out what to write – I just go back to what’s fun.” 

So with Monday morning fast approaching and no blog post at the ready, I thought back to the other things from Sunday, that were now branded into my memory banks as a result of the venom now coursing through my veins. Among them are lessons in not rushing creativity and returning to what is fun. 

Don’t. Fear. The. Venom.

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