After a scary diagnosis, a connection with a hairdresser offered this man a lifeline.
True
Extra Chewy Mints

I’d always been an anxious person, but it wasn’t until grad school that I realized something was very, very wrong.

After getting an acceptance letter to my dream school, it felt like everything was finally falling into place. Eager to leave my hometown behind, I crammed everything I could into a single suitcase and embarked on my new life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the life I’d pictured — exploring the Bay, hanging out at the beach, making new friends, and trying every single vegetarian restaurant I could find — looked nothing like the life I walked into.


Photo by Camila Rubio Varón on Unsplash

Every time I tried to leave my new apartment by myself … I couldn’t.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. I was in a totally new place, so it made sense that I’d be nervous to venture out on my own. I was lucky to have found an apartment with roommates that were eager to show me around the city, so it was easy to forget that I’d eventually have to navigate this new life alone.

I had no idea how much I’d later come to rely on these connections in my recovery.

When classes began and I had to take public transit to get there, my panic about the outside world took over.

Knowing I’d have to take two busses alone to get to campus left me shaking, dizzy, nauseous, and terrified.

Photo by Andy Mai on Unsplash

What if I needed help and no one was there? What if I got lost? What if I got attacked? What if I had a panic attack in public and humiliated myself? The “what if” became so daunting in my mind that staying home seemed like the only safe and certain option.

I started missing classes.

The more I avoided going out, the more relief I felt, but staying home only worsened my condition, until I stopped leaving entirely — not for groceries, not for medicine, not for anything or anyone.

That’s when my friends encouraged me to get help.

I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which is a panic disorder that develops as a response to fear. It’s fueled by avoidance, and can include an avoidance of public transportation, open spaces (like bridges or parking lots), closed-in spaces (like movie theaters), crowds, or in cases like mine, a fear of going anywhere alone.

Agoraphobia can be completely debilitating, leading a person to isolate themselves, even if it means going without basic necessities like food. My disorder actually led me to drop out of graduate school altogether, a wakeup call that made me realize that enough was enough.

While things like therapy and antidepressant medication were an important part of recovery, it was the small acts of kindness that made the biggest difference.

I found this kind of generosity often where I least expected it — like when I met a hairdresser who struggled with the very same disorder that I did.

I had reached out in an online community, desperately looking for a haircut from someone who wouldn’t judge me if I cancelled at the last minute or arrived in tears. That’s how I found Jane.

When I made it to Jane’s salon for the first time, I was greeted by a tattooed woman with a pixie cut, a beaming smile, and her adorable little dog. It was the first time I met someone who knew what I was going through.

“You made it!” she exclaimed. With those three simple words, I immediately felt safe.

We talked about the endless cycle of making plans and cancelling them, stepping outside only to turn right back around, how embarrassed we sometimes felt to be ordering our groceries online, and the frustration of how “simple” tasks — going to the pharmacy, taking the bus, making and keeping friends — were huge obstacles for us.

Photo by Hai Phung on Unsplash

It was an unexpected miracle to not only find a hairdresser who was understanding, but who knew first hand what it was like to live with agoraphobia. That connection motivated me to make the trek to an entirely different city — even when it felt impossible — not just for an awesome haircut, but for that hour in her tiny salon, when I could forget how alone I felt.

It was people like Jane, who refused to give up on me, that kept me connected to the world that I would have otherwise cut myself off from.

It was friends who kept inviting me to brunch, even though they knew I might not make it there. It was loved ones who stayed on the phone with me while I braved public transport. It was roommates who encouraged me to step outside, even when I didn’t believe I could.

I won’t lie — getting my life back was difficult. I started by just trying to make it to a coffee shop down the street. When I finally reached the door, my loved ones were waiting for me, cheering for me. The little things — a study date with a classmate, taking the subway, or just an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix at a friend’s house — became huge victories for me.

One of the best humans + me 💖💖

A post shared by Sam Dylan Finch (@samdylanfinch) on

We might not always understand what someone’s going through. But a little compassion can go such a long way.

Even small gestures, like a morning text cheering a friend on before their big test, a small gift to remind someone that we care, or asking “how can I help” when someone seems to be struggling can go a long way.

In spite of a debilitating disorder, I’m finally getting my life back — and that’s due, in no small part, to these seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

These small moments of connection can be the lifeline that reminds us there’s something worth holding onto. And every single day is filled with opportunities to offer that lifeline to someone else — to the barista that makes your morning coffee, the cashier at the corner bodega, or the neighbor struggling to carry their groceries up the stairs.

Moments like these offer us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of a helping hand. You never know who might need it.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

When we think of what a Tyrannosaurus looked like, we picture a gargantuan dinosaur with a huge mouth, formidable legs and tail, and inexplicably tiny arms. When we picture how it behaved, we might imagine it stomping and roaring onto a peaceful scene, single-handedly wreaking havoc and tearing the limbs off of anything it can find with its steak-knife-like teeth like a giant killing machine.

The image is probably fairly accurate, except for one thing—there's a good chance the T. rex wouldn't have been hunting alone.

New research from a fossil-filled quarry in Utah shows that Tyrannosaurs may have been social creatures who utilized complex group hunting strategies, much like wolves do. The research team who conducted the fossil study and made the discovery include scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colby College of Maine, and James Cook University in Australia.

The idea of social Tyrannosaurs isn't entirely new—Canadian paleontologist Philip Curie floated the hypothesis 20 years ago upon the discovery of a group of T. rex skeletons who appeared to have died together—but it has been widely debated in the paleontology world. Many scientists have doubted that their relatively small brains would be capable of such complex social behavior, and the idea was ridiculed by some as sensationalized paleontology PR.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.