In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
Click here for access to the complete project archive
“People might have labeled an athlete mentally weak,” Hillary Cauthen, a clinical sports psychologist in Austin, Texas, said on Tuesday, hours after Biles, the greatest gymnast in history, had bowed out of the women’s team event at the Tokyo Games, and one day before she said she would also skip the all-around individual competition.
But a shift in cultural acceptance began to take place in 2015-16, when the N.C.A.A. created a mental health initiative, Cauthen said. Just before the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, began to discuss wrestling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Since then, the N.B.A. players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love and the figure skater Gracie Gold, among other athletes, have gone public to say they grapple with anxiety and depression.
Though sports psychologists say a stigma persists about athletes and mental health, and Biles was surely disappointed not to have lived up to enormous Olympic expectations, she was also widely embraced as the latest active, elite athlete who had the courage to acknowledge her vulnerability.
Editorial Intern Derby Carlson
“Simone Biles Rejects a Long Tradition of Stoicism in Sports,” by Jeré Longman, in the New York Times
I wasn’t prone to airsickness or seasickness, but the combination of air and water in rapid succession was something new. I turned away from the window to contemplate the floor, stamped metal rusted at the edges, like a service elevator in a hospital. I stared at it while Karl took off, turned above the lake, then dropped back down onto the surface. Repetition was the key to learning. The only thing on hand to throw up in were the pilot’s waders, which seemed better (better?) than throwing up on the stamped-metal floor. I held down my breakfast through sheer force of will. I was angry at both men—especially the one I was sharing a bed with back at the lodge—for not caring about how seriously unpleasant this might be for someone who did not live to fly. But, despite the rage and the nausea pulsing in the back of my throat, I wasn’t afraid. Considering that about half of all small-craft accidents occur during either takeoff or landing; considering that taking off and landing was all we were doing; considering that the plane was rusted and the pilot had struggled with the aftereffects of Agent Orange and my boyfriend had never landed a plane on water before; considering that this lake was somewhere far from Iliamna and no one knew we were there in the first place; considering that if the plane flipped, as it had been established these planes could do, I would probably not be able to swim through the freezing water in my sack of neoprene (which I had stupidly worn against the cold), and that, if I did make it to the shore, my chances of surviving whatever came next were probably zero—I should have been afraid.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
“Flight Plan,” by Ann Patchett, in the New Yorker
Walking around my grandparents’ Taipei apartment for the first time in four years, I find myself treading the delicate line between displacement and belonging that materializes when one feels the strangeness of what once was a home. It seems that as the cognitive and physical abilities of my grandfather deteriorate in his post-stroke state, the lively energy of the house that I have come to consider synonymous with Taiwan and my childhood are also drained. As we sit at the dining table, light conversation is sandwiched between the clinking of silverware and the low hum of traffic outside. The caretaker spoons mushed up food into my grandfather’s mouth, taking care to wipe his chin with the small bib tucked into the collar of his shirt. My grandmother holds my grandfather’s hand, and her voice trails off quietly when she speaks; the atmosphere feels worn with the sadness lingering at the edges of my relatives’ smiles. Even with my little cousins fighting in their high-pitched voices, the house is too quiet, and I know what’s missing.
Editorial Intern Melissa Zhu
“My Grandfather’s Laugh Is Like Thread,” by Wendie Yeung, in the Rumpus