IMADTTO: The Conclusion

Hi folks.

Last night I received word on the President’s Prize, the project I’ve poured my heart and soul into for these past few months. I set out to combat rape culture on college campuses and in the end, it was decided that my project (for whatever reason) was not up to the level that my university wanted and therefore was rejected. I spent last night at somewhat of a loss. I believed in my project, it was the very first thing I put my whole self into and I received a very short “There were so many wonderful applicants, but unfortunately you will not be continuing on.” email and I debated what to do as my next step.

I decided that I wanted to share what I’d done with you all, so that you might know what I’d spent so much time working on, but also to use as a way to put some accountability on my university. I hope they do incorporate some of my ideas-because my pride is far less important than the safety of women everywhere. But if these ideas come into use, I hope they put them to action with as much devotion as I would have-because for them it’s just policy, for me it’s an entire life’s worth of passion. I’m only going to put the second round project proposal, because it is the most complete-but there were many other drafts, and additional pieces of work that needed to be included in the process of review.

I invite critiques and thoughts-because, as I said, this is something I’m devoting my whole life to-and am applying to law school for- so making this project better and better can only help me enact it in the courtroom.

I have to deal with losses as a lawyer, with grace and humility. I don’t want to lose, nor do I like it, but I am human and it very well may happen. I’m doing the best I can to plug forward, shake it off and carry on. My pride is wounded, but my compassion and drive are not. (Oh, and I changed the logo colors to Sexual Assault Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness colors-a change I am very happy with.)

tl;dr: I’m placing my project proposal on my blog so that I can use it as a platform to save the world in a different route: my own self.

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell President’s Prize Project Statement

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Project Title: IMADTTO (I Made A Difference To That One)

Problem Statement:

          Rape culture on college campuses is a social pandemic which needs to be addressed and eradicated. There are three target areas that I seek to focus on as key elements in the fight against rape culture: prevention, prosecution of crime and response to survivors. These elements are broken into sections of action that IMADTTO addresses as research, outreach, education and advocacy.

I maintain a blog on WordPress which, to the best of my abilities, I use to further stories of perceived injustices-focusing on rape culture. I use the critical thinking skills I have cultivated to seek out the legislation, proposed bills and the stories themselves so that I may present the facts. I also use that blog to discuss ideas for the improvement of society in respect to rape culture. I have opened the conversation to my readers and subscribers to tell me their ideas and stories. Since I have done so, it has been made abundantly clear to me that survivors of sexual assault desire to have their stories heard by someone who shows them respect and believes them at face value.

I have been approached by friends I have known for years, by family members and by complete strangers alike and asked if I could just listen to them. Among their stories, a vein of similarity popped up repeatedly: the need for gender inclusive education (whereby the message of body safety and awareness was given to all young adults), the need for a safe space to talk about their experiences and the need to be believed. It is these three suggestions from which IMADTTO came into existence, and will excel. The stark need for a program like IMADTTO is highlighted by the cases of Brock Allen Turner (Stanford University) and the Steubenville rape in 2012.

This project will positively affect everyone. The students are the target audience-both at a collegiate and high school level. By increasing body positivity and safety, young adults will be prepared to enter a world where they understand their rights, are fully capable of protecting themselves and are aware of what resources are available to them should they encounter an unsafe situation. On a slightly larger scale, this project will be beneficial to the parents of college-aged children by giving them the peace of mind that their children will be attending a college which is prepared to protect its students.

Ohio State will benefit from admissions increases, emerging as a leader in student safety and body positivity. Ohio State will serve as the role model for how rape culture on college campuses can be combatted. This commitment ripples through the national and global level, because Ohio State is rich in diversity and what student learn while attending will provide them the opportunity to be ambassadors to their home states and countries.

Project Outline and Timeline:

IMADTTO operates at four specific sections: research, outreach, education and advocacy. For each of these sections, individual tasks have been allocated. The research section will initiate the project. A survey will be created to assess potential problem areas on campus, the individual’s knowledge of available resources for the issue of sexual assault, responses to stigma and pop culture rape culture, as well as gauge their interest in a support group for survivors of sexual assault. This survey will serve as the basis for my own research (in accordance with IRB). This section will also include creating a compendium of resources available across the state to be used as part of the education and outreach sections. The research conducted in this section will be used to present at the latter two conferences I will attend.
Education will focus on the themes of body safety and body positivity. Under this category, a website and mobile application will be created in order to disseminate the information gathered in the “Research”. This will include a map of the areas deemed “issue” (that is to say, where students felt needed extra precaution when using) areas, the compendium of resources, links to news articles and legislation about sexual assault and rape culture, as well as important information such as basic self-defense tips. This information will be dispersed at twenty-five (25) high schools, as well as talks at each of the five (5) branch campuses, plus main campus. How to duplicate this project at other universities will be made available on the website as well.
The capstone for this section is the introduction of a sexual assault learning module in the Freshman Survey course, and a discussion for the parents at Freshman Orientation. The learning module will be a condensed, statistical exploration of rape culture and sexual assault that will be inserted into the pre-existing Freshman Survey course. The Freshman Orientation discussion with parents will be an introduction to the ways in which Ohio State is looking out for its students, including how a perpetrator will be dealt with. This creates accountability between Ohio State and the parents to ensure that all students are protected and informed.
Outreach focuses on publications. A newsletter featuring words of hope, self-care, the stories of survivors, and thoughts from professionals (such as nurses, social workers and police officers) will be created and distributed in both print and virtual format. This newsletter will also include progress reports for IMADTTO, as a way of holding the project accountable and also informing the general public about the successes of the project. Three books will be created, as conversation starters: one children’s picture book, one middle grade book and one young adult book. These books will focus on the theme of body positivity and inclusiveness at age appropriate levels.
Advocacy will take on a sustainable entity of its own. Small groups (of about 4-6 people) of survivors will come together to create support systems and lasting friendships during their time at Ohio State. These groups will serve as a type of “first line of defense” for survivors including-but-not-limited-to encouragement, providing escorts for the other members of their group to and from activities, get well cards, providing meals or support on “trigger” days (days in which the individual may suffer from the memory of a traumatic event). These groups will be for morale boosting purposes, but also provide a basic level of support by other people who understand the necessity of the group. There will also be collaboration with local law enforcement and politicians to promote an Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, modeled after the National Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which was passed just this year.
Apart from the support group, this project will be, essentially, a networking and structural one. In order for IMADTTO to become functional, I must prepare the foundations of each section (the survey, the website, the newsletter, educational materials) and use those to further the project. As the foundations are completed, the project will require assistance and guidance from both curriculum advisors and orientation organizers (for the survey course and orientation discussion) as well as the cooperation and coordination efforts between myself and the leadership of the schools which I will be presenting at. Once this is accomplished, the project becomes more self-sufficient. The course work and discussion materials will be available, as will the publications, finalizing the third tier. The research presentations head off the final leg of the project, support groups will form and be self-managing.
Achievements to date include the information gathered from my blog, in which the basis of this project has come into formation. The compendium of resources has been started, but is at a national level, compiled into an alphabetized list. This is a fantastic starting point, and will be made available on the website. I would like to make an Ohio-specific list for IMADTTO. I am also currently working to complete general IRB (Institutional Review Board) modules so that I can begin the project immediately.
There are several project goals over the course of the year. Within the first three months (July through September) the survey will be created and dispersed, data compiled, presentation materials created, website and newsletter created, and branch campus visits scheduled. In months four to six (October through December) will focus on the publications as well as drafting the Freshman Survey module and the Freshman Orientation discussion. The support groups will also be organized and commence in this time frame. The third quarter (January through March) goals are completing and publishing the children and middle grade books, speaking at the high schools and working with law enforcement and legislators to draft and propose the survivor bill. The final three months (April through June) will be centered on enacting the learning module, the orientation discussion and ensuring that IMADTTO has impacted the university in a positive way. Instructions will be created for those wishing to continue the support groups, newsletter and website (or final arrangements made). A research paper will be produced (and presented), and the young adult chapter book will be made available for purchase.
There is nothing about this project which will take more than 12 months to achieve, however, there are some items which will require ongoing effort. The Freshman Survey learning module, the Freshman Orientation parental discussion and the support groups will be the lasting sectors of IMADTTO, in the event that no one continues the newsletter and regular website upkeep. For the learning module, this will be in the hands of the faculty and staff who teach the survey course, as well as the curriculum advisors. The parent discussion will be in the control of the directors of orientation. The support groups will either end at the discretion of the individual groups, or will be in the control of Sexuality and Civility Empowerment.
I will measure the success of IMADTTO based on both quantifiable markers and abstract ones. The successful creation of educational materials, the website and the completion of the goals listed above will serve as indicators for the overall success. I will also view success based on the level of reach which the project will have. The introduction of the survivor bill and the implementation of discussions about changing rape culture and making sexual assault survivors less stigmatized, while a little more abstract, are no less important.

Budget Description:

In total, this project will require $48,469. This money will be utilized for marketing, data collection, producing educational materials and dispersing information. No external funding is required. Marketing will involve “swag”, or promotional materials to be distributed to the schools I visit, as well as at various times throughout the academic year. These items will include the link to the website, resource compendium and other valuable information. Data collection will include the cost of running the survey through Survey Monkey. This will also include the price of maintaining the website and domain name (if not included in the university’s page) and mobile application costs. Producing the educational materials includes printing handouts, producing the newsletter in print form and also startup costs for the books. Funds to sustain the project, as well as scholarships for the creation of artwork for the children’s book and mobile application design. A budget for travel is included not only to ensure transportation to the schools I intend to visit, but also to three conferences given by professionals for the sole purpose of combatting rape culture in their various professions. It is at these conferences that this project’s findings will be presented.
These financial resources directly affect achieving the project goals by ensuring the conception and implementation of the project itself. Without the research aspect, this project cannot fully address the concerns of the Ohio State population. Without the education aspect, IMADTTO cannot affect prevention of sexual assaults (or knowledge of availability of resources). Without the outreach aspect, no one will know what IMADTTO’s purpose is, what is being done and how to start the discussion about sexual assault. Without the advocacy aspect, no actual change will occur. Students will have to navigate the justice system alone, Ohio might not have a survivor bill of rights, law enforcement will not know which areas students feel unsafe in. By attending the conferences I have selected, I will be able to bring the knowledge of other professionals from a variety of backgrounds to Ohio State to continually make the information I have gathered both useful, timely and culturally relevant.

Additional Information:

Although I am not the only one to think of addressing the issue of sexual assault and rape culture, I do not believe there is a program which mirrors IMADTTO in its breadth and the way it is broken down. Of the programs which exist in the state of Ohio, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio and Sexuality and Civility Empowerment will be the resources I utilize most as I take on this project. Along with this, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network will be paramount to the successful accumulation of knowledge.
The marketing sector of this project will be taken care of both in person and through social media. I have a decent following on various social media platforms, and by utilizing the power and prestige of the university, I can access a vast database of networking moments through other students and faculty and staff. The in person marketing will come from meeting with students at their schools and at Ohio State’s Welcome Week.
In order for this project to be successful, each and every one of my interactions will be a form of partnership. Because I will have access to an entire university of staff and faculty who have insights into things I may not, such as research they’ve done over a specific facet of my project, the scope of my ideals will be far less limited. My faculty mentor will be the discerning rod for any questions I may have. From procedural decisions to research methods and write-up questions, I will use my mentor not as a crutch to lean on, but as a net to capture the things I might miss because of inexperience.
Apart from financial and networking assistance, all I require is a place to set up my work and internet access. This ideally takes the form of an office, so that I may organize my work in such a manner that causes maximum efficiency. I would also require a place (such as Sexuality and Civility Empowerment) for the support groups to meet if they so choose to do so on campus.
As with any project, there will be challenges. I anticipate that my own limitations in technology will be an issue, as will recruitment in the early stages of the project. As for the technological issues, I have designed a scholarship for the mobile application so that I can both give back to the university, but also so that I can devote my time to the website. Should there be problems beyond that, I am not too proud to ask for assistance and get my hands dirty! As for recruitment, I have set aside money in the budget for a reward for participants. There will be a raffle (for those who choose to enter) of 20-$50 gift cards. Any unforeseen problems will be handled with care and patience, and with the help of my faculty advisor.
I started down this path because of my own personal outrage at court cases like those involving Ke$ha, rapist Brock Turner and the Steubenville rape. In those stories I saw human beings who, like me, had had their bodily autonomy fractured and I saw the incredible strength of the survivors. It is with all of this in mind that I submit this project statement, in hopes that I might be the leader that my time at Ohio State has prepared me to be.
This project is more than just an opportunity to be the change I want to see in the world. It is the springboard I will use to further my career goals and ambitions. With graduation pending, I am applying to law schools around the country. It is a degree in criminal law which will afford me the honor of upholding justice and running for District Attorney. As District Attorney, I will continue the work I humbly began with my blog: fostering awareness and open dialogue between peoples of different backgrounds. I carry this one piece of truth with me each day, as both the inspiration for my passions, and also as the compass with which I make my decisions:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.)

Freedom Writers (The 2016 Version)

freedom-writersI don’t know how many of you have seen the movie in the title (with Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey). The premise according to Google: “A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. She assigns reading material that relates to their lives and encourages them all to keep journals.”

There is a scene in the movie in which Hilary discovers a very racially biased drawing (an African American child with big lips) and says “This is how a holocaust happens.” The kids didn’t know what the Holocaust was and that leads to the real meat of the movie.
That moment happened to me in real life Sept 27. And I need to talk about it.

I’m gonna link to the videos of the portion I’m talking about. I’m sorry it’s not one video. The first one is the intro (poor quality) the second one sounds reminiscent of my class discussion today (better quality), the third one is where healing begins (but also is heart breaking-because they are high school kids) (has subtitles). And this video plays into what I need to say.

I walk by thousands of posters every week. They hang on bulletin boards in buildings, outside, on sign posts, everywhere. Flyers, ads, everything. I pay attention to them a little because I hang up some of them (academic ones, on my floor at the department). But most of them I miss because I’m very busy.

My first class this morning, the professor (who I find delightful) burst through and was quite visibly shaken. She mentioned that we were not going to be taking class the direction she’d originally planned and held up these two posters (I’ll explain why I have them when we come to that point in the story).

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These posters didn’t immediately mean anything to me, as I am used to seeing Greco-Roman sculpture (I’ve taken a fair few Art History classes, and Archaeology courses). I thought it was advertising a study abroad or something. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES. The professor was shaking, as she asked if we knew what they meant, who “Identity Europa” was. No one did. And she pulled up the links she’d found this morning to the Twitter feed of the group. I’m going to post the pictures here, because you need to be informed.

I’m posting screenshots because I don’t want to give them any more traffic than is necessary. If I gave you links to these tweets, they would get more views. More views=more validation and that is something I cannot get behind.

This group’s mission, essentially, is to deport anyone from America who isn’t white (read: European). Their targets are obviously people of color, people of Muslim heritage. Less obviously, their targets are members of the SAGA (LGBT) community and other religious minorities. Does this sound familiar? And as if this could be any more shocking, they don’t appear to be Donald Trump supporters.

We spent the entire class period discussing this information, these images and groups. I came away with the following pieces of information. (I’m only going to bring up some highlights-this conversation lasted almost two hours.)

The triangle thing (Twitter profile picture): This is actually coded messaging. The triangle is actually a three armed swastika (used by the Neo-Nazi movement) as a way to identify other fascist/racists without calling it what it is. It is also tied back to the original Nazi movement-because triangles were how prisoners were identified (they were color coded).

Response One: There’s a self-identified Japanese-African-American girl in that class who was also disturbed by this news-and shared that it is things like this that made her mother give her an 8PM curfew (the girl is 20) and she said that her time living in Okinawa was spent being racially profiled, but she feels unsafe in America now. She moved here last year from Japan. Her contribution to this conversation (one of many she had) was that the oppression of the minorities does not need to be a source of shame-it needs to be acknowledged, fixed and then left in the past, where it belongs.

Response Two: There’s a self-identified Mexican-American in that class. He was actually the most insightful person I heard all day. He spoke of how he wanted to sit down and talk with these people-to find out what it was that motivated them to feel this way. His contribution (amongst many) was that if all sides of the argument come to the table with respect, perhaps we will all walk away with a better understanding of the motivations of others.

Response Three: There’s a military man (of 20 years of service) who spoke up as well-about how he fought to defend the ability to speak out, even when others do not agree. (Which I can respect.) But he then compared this movement to BLM (Black Lives Matter) and my respect for him was markedly diminished. His “white male” privilege was mentioned by someone I didn’t see. He also chuckled at these posters-but perhaps it was out of the fact that they are absurd. I don’t find them funny.

Response Four: There’s a blonde girl who sits on the far other side of the room who brought up how “white” isn’t something that belonged to the Greeks or Romans-who were Mediterranean and therefore more olive skinned than the marble they carved. I appreciated this. As the lines between skin colors are muddled more than ever.

Response (Mine): Where is the line? I asked the professor, because I needed to know. I needed to know if I needed to be scared. I brought up that skin color is a very poor indicator of heritage and ethnicity-about how my grandfather was an immigrant from Russia, my grandmother from Poland, I was told as a child that I have native blood, I did a DNA test and I have African blood as well. I’m not Christian. I know multiple languages. I enjoy other cultures deeply. I’m part of the SAGA community. I’m mentally ill. I’m a woman. (I could go on.) Should I be afraid? My brain felt like screaming it. And that is how we learned that not only Muslims and people of color are targeted by this group, but several labels I use to self-identify. Apparently quite a few people in that classroom (my professor included) have things to worry about. We spent a few minutes talking about heritage pride as something that’s acceptable and to be enjoyed. We talked about how identity is something we make for ourselves. We talked about how differing opinions are beautiful-until they disrespect someone else. We discussed fear. But we can’t let fear win. And I’m going to keep on keeping on. Because fear will never win.

This is how a holocaust happens.

Not loudly and with much gusto-but quietly, with covert symbols and language choices. With seemingly harmless posters and images. With hidden meanings, hidden identities and hidden agendas.
This is how a holocaust is prevented. Not with apathy and fear-but with knowledge and openness. With communication and collaboration. With respect and understanding.

So I ripped down the posters I saw hung up, just as my professor had done this morning. I will continue to do so for every single IE poster I see. But I kept two. And I want to tell you why.

I’m not racist. I don’t agree with ANYTHING this movement stands for. I loathe it entirely. I felt like a shitty person carrying around racist, borderline-terrorist propaganda in my bag today.

I have the posters for the same reason that World War II holocaust propaganda is in museums: because people need to be warned, so that history is not repeated. When my children (if I have children) grow up, I need them to know that this is what the dregs of society look like-welcoming and filled with deceit. I need them to know that they need to break apart the messages that they interpret and see the truth. I need them to know the same lesson in the videos I shared up top: what may seem innocent on the surface can be filled with hatred. And hatred will fill a person up with poison until they become lethal to everyone they come in contact with.

So yes, I kept these posters. I will bury them in the back of my closet, away from the light of day until one day in the future I open that box and look back, thankful that these people did not succeed in their endeavors. I will look at these disgraceful posters and remind myself that there are good people in the world, and the darkness will not win. I will keep these pieces of history and one day place them in a museum-right next to other relics of domestic terrorism, racism, bigotry and fear mongering so that generations long after my own will see them and know that if they do not learn from the past, they are doomed to repeat it.

When Push Comes to Shove


Hi there!

It’s Friday. We’ve made it to the end of the week and for that I am so exceptionally grateful. This week has taught me more than perhaps my entire first year in college altogether. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m just experiencing the realities of the beginnings of transition (what I have dubbed the caterpillar effect). I know that all things come to those who wait. I know my future is what I make of it. I know that the sun will rise again and so will I.

I know all those things.

Depression has that weird way of making you feel like you can’t reach the things you know. For example, my most relied on quote (the bolded one above) is true, but I don’t know that I believe it. And that’s frustrating. I was up last night with a new friend who was having a panic attack and I was trying to alleviate those concerns. I know what it’s like, I completely get it. And all the while I felt my own walls caving in on me. Did I say so? Of course not. But it was there, nonetheless.

Always keep fighting. Love yourself first. You are not alone.

Those are the “tag lines” for some of the campaigns that I partake in through the Supernatural fandom. And you best believe that I’ve been chanting them over and over again since I woke up this morning. Every theme song for carrying on has been blasting through my headbuds, every inspirational quote has been read, every coping technique I know (that is healthy) has been employed. But my soul is still tired. 

And I think that’s the problem.

Being physically tired is something that often times, a day off and some peace-and-quiet can remedy. Just a break. A nap. But being emotionally, spiritually, mentally tired is something that often comes at a much steeper price. I get enough sleep everyday but my heart and soul just aren’t in “it” anymore. What do I mean by “it”? Well, at this current point-the life I’m living. I mean college and working and “adulting” and well, the total package. Let me be explicitly clear here-I am not headed down the dark and dangerous path of suicidal ideation.  I am just tired in a way that cannot easily be fixed. And I have been for quite some time.

I feel like (and this could be exaggerated because I am depressed) everything I attempt, everything I put myself out there for is getting negative feedback-denial, rejection, being ignored altogether. And that stings a little bit.  It starts to feel like just when I thought I was finding my way through this big journey called life, the universe (fate? Destiny? God(s)?) has stopped believing in me. And I’m starting to cave.

Now, I’m not trying to elicit sympathies or whatnot, as I’ve said before, this is my “journal”-one that I make public to be accountable, to share with the world so that other people may not feel so alone. 

Anyway, I people watch. I see so many people walking down the sidewalks with life in their eyes but I see every so many more who are, just like me, dead inside. And I don’t mean to be melodramatic here. You have seen it too, I’m sure. The people who catch your eye and just look completely used up and empty. Like the world has taken more than they had to give and there’s nothing left but a shell. It’s those people that I understand.

I’ve said before that I don’t feel like praying (in the traditional sense of making yourself look inferior and pleading for help) is something I can get behind. I ask things of the universe as someone who needs things-not as someone unworthy of receiving them. But this past week has seen me asking in every way possible. I’ve even starting asking Angels and Ancestors. I’m starting to feel…desperate.

And I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. Life isn’t something you can control. You just minimize damage and plan for the best case scenario.

If you take nothing else from this rant, take this:

You may be feeling these things too. You may have left depression in the past, or be waiting for it in your future. But you most definitely aren’t the only person like that. It can’t rain (metaphorically) forever.

After All This Time.

Greetings all! It’s been a while, and for that I am sorry. Today isn’t going to be a news day, it is going to be a catch-up day. By that, I most definitely mean a checklist of things for me to think about.

First, thank you new followers, old followers, people who occasionally comment and like, and people who read my stuff and think “huh, not bad”. I appreciate it. Quite a lot, in fact.

My senior year has started! Today is day three and it has most definitely been busy-busy. I feel incredibly “active” always and it’s only just started.

My senior year in college oddly mirrors that of my high school one. And that kinda concerns me. I mean, not because I’m naive about life and have no idea what’s in store, but because of this weird funk that I’ve been in these past few weeks. As a senior in high school, I’d have been one of the first people to laugh out the word “senioritis”. I’d have meant it, believed in it, used it as a saving power if ever I needed a day to myself. The college version? Depression. Crap. That’s no good.

I was watching a YouTube video by HeyoDamo about how he lost his job to depression. And he said the words (I’m mostly paraphrasing): I thought that my depression was because I was unemployed. I got a job doing what I love and I had those same feelings come back and get worse and worse…There were times when I just “checked out”.

I can completely understand. Education is wrapped into my ego, into how I define myself. At the age of three (according to my parents) I told them I needed to go to school. I cried the first time I got an A- because I thought I’d failed. (That was second grade.) And I knew I was going to college because that’s what smart people do. The thing is, about the time August started, I got sucked into this pit of depression and I’m clawing my way out (I think).

I haven’t written in so long because I felt I had nothing to say. I mean, I wrote a post about being depressed, but it’s carried over. And I want to define the parameters of it today. *Monster by Imagine Dragons*

Okay then. We need some background, I think. I’ll list it instead of paragraphs because the factors are numerous. 

-A lot of balls in the air: my proposal still hasn’t had a decision made, my financial aid is still being finalized, my LSAT score is low for my GPA, applications are very expensive, my husband and I might not be going to the same grad school (or even state).

-The feeling of inadequacy: I posted about my “Van Gogh feelings”, but include in here my weight, my stress management and my inability to control the “balls in the air”.

-Underlying factors: low self-esteem, senior year jitters, mental health conditions and just “stress”

I’m taking a full semester of classes. Four of my six classes are required, two are electives.  And I like about half of those classes (electives included). So here’s the problem. I call it my “crisis of conscience”.

I know I will save lives beyond my mental capacity following my law school path. I will leave the world feeling like I made the difference I always wanted to. And I do. I want to fix so many problems.I absolutely can too. I know it.

But.

There is some small piece of me, that however selfishly, still needs to run away. And I don’t mean in a literal sense, but in a “I want to do what makes me happy” kind of way. 

Instead of getting into the specifics (because I haven’t necessarily found a conclusion to that dilemma) I’m just going to say this:

Senior year is supposed to be the year of memories, of mistakes, of changes which will affect my whole life. But for right now at least, it just feels like I’m repeating lines I said years ago, making decisions I’ve made before and returning to a life I’m pretty sure I spent the last 5 years trying to escape from.

Depression is crap. But the sun will rise again, and so must I.

Learn the Language, the Rest Will Follow

Howdy all! I return as my slightly charged, post-GISHWHES self. I thought I’d ease into this week with a simple reflection before getting into full swing. These are my last two weeks before my senior year!! I’ve got a lot of things coming up, and I’m very excited about all of it!

It wasn’t until college that I really understood the title for today. I’d taken four years of Spanish with a wonderful woman who stressed conversation over written (of which I am eternally grateful), including an entire year with her where all we did was speak Spanish. I took 3 semesters of Swahili (a language that one of the most influential teachers I had in elementary school took as well) and I’ve been nosing around a couple languages on my own.

It was an anthropology class that drilled home for me the “learn the langauge, the rest will follow” lesson. I’m pretty midwestern. I have southern family, and that’s why I say “ya’ll”. I drink sweet tea like it’s going out of style, I mean, I don’t have to list my “credentials” but I’m trying to paint a picture here. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, the fun things to do there included mushroom hunting, digging for arrowheads and spending days being lazy.

I never really understood how people struggled with learning English because I’m a native speaker. And then something weird happened.

I’ve done a little research on this (just enough to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind) and found that my experiences are pretty common.

It started around the time I was finishing up my last year of formal Spanish education. I remember I was waiting at our local fair, talking about foods and I said the words: You know, I’ve been here all week and I still haven’t gotten any…. and I forgot what the food was called. I believe I called it sugar cloud and then someone figured out I was talking about cotton candy. That same concept has happened to me so many more times than I thought possible-made compoundedly worse with each language I study.

Suddenly, I was only able to find the words I needed if they were in another language. It’s kind of like when you’re learning a new language and you don’t know all the vocabulary, so you will in with English (that’s where the idea of Spanglish comes from) except it was happening to me in reverse!

And then it all made sense (after that anthropology class). Or well, I tried to make it make sense. You see, in a culture is like a locked box, you need a key to get in or you will never understand it fully. That key, is language. And if you master the language, you’ll be able to understand the culture. There is a culture all its own or non-native speakers learning English and although not from their perspective, I learned how to open that jar of panic, of “outside-ness” and peer into the life of someone who is still growing as an individual.

Those memories came to me this morning as I people watched from my landing steps. Diversity is a great gift-if you have the compassion enough to see that it is a blessing.

 

IMADTTO

I’ve mentioned a couple times (I think!) about the project proposal I was working on. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to introduce my project to ya’ll: IMADTTO!

My husband pronounces it “ah-muh-ditto” which makes me chuckle, but I pronounce it “I matter”. (If you say it with a southern accent it’s “I matt-uh” which is how I reached I matter.) Anyway, it’s based off of the story The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared the story before, but just in case, here’s a picture:

I Made A Difference To That One

I chose the acronym IMADTTO from the very last line. I Made A Difference To That One. This story is one of the ones I’d heard as a child, but the true value didn’t become apparent until I was older, but once I understood, it stuck with me always.

 

IMADTTO is my response to campus sexual assault. It is broken down into four parts: research, outreach, advocacy and education. And in order to execute all of those things, I have submitted my proposal to a newly founded President’s Prize through The Ohio State University. There are two rounds of applications. The first, I have completed-requiring a proposal, resume and application. The second will occur in October and will be the in-person presentation. And then I find out in December what the official verdict is. There will be two winners, who will be employed for 12 months by the university to actually *do* their project. So now that you know why I’ve been working on it, let’s talk about the actual project.

I said there were four parts, and that’s the truth. I’m going to break down those parts, and we can hopefully have some discussions about how they sound to ya’ll! I’m using pretty much quotes from my actual proposal, I’m just condensing it.

Research: A survey will be drafted to determine what students feel have been acceptable measure to prevent and address sexual violence at Ohio State. A portion will address which roads, areas and places students feel that they must exercise extra caution when utilizing. This step will also include data collection by means of determining a comprehensive list of resources available to sexual violence victims both on and off campus.

Outreach:This will encompass both a newsletter and a line of age-appropriate resources which cover body positivity and bodily safety for a broader age range of students.

Advocacy: Small groups of individuals (who wish to participate) come together on a monthly basis to maintain morale and to offer support to the other members of their groups. The members of these groups may offer support in many ways, be it conversational or in more tangible ways such as providing escorts for each other to and from work, making meals for one another on “trigger” days (times in which the well-being of an individual may be compromised because of associated trauma) or even going to a court date with one of the members, if a case was made of their attack.

Education: There are three sub-sections here: high school, collegiate and technological. The high school level involves guest speaking at high schools about body positivity in a question and answer format specifically focused on prevention of sexual violence as well as how to rise above body shaming. The college level will see the addition of an educational module in the required freshman course, using the information gathered from the survey. The technological level will involve a mobile application, as well as an accompanying website with the information from the survey, as well as plans for the outreach section, information about basic self-defense, the list of resources available and other invaluable information.

 

So that’s the basis for my proposal. I’ve been working on some of the specifics, and I have to say, although I’m very excited to have turned in that piece of work, I’m very ready to be able to present it in person, so the review board will see just how much passion I have for this project, and for my future.

So if anyone has any thoughts on my project, or what you think would be an excellent addition, I’m more than willing to consider ideas. I even made my own logo (with the help of a free logo creator!) I know it’s not the catchiest thing in the world, but it’s unique, and it means a lot to me. This logo might just end up on some shirts and stuff. I may do a fundraiser with it, in order to fund some of the untested rape kits in our state.

IMADTTO Logo

(This is my logo. I’m really proud of it.)

Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

Thank you card

Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

Once Upon A Time

It was a slightly overcast day, but with enough sun to count as sunny. I woke up, smiled a bit, and headed to school and my then job as a tutor for the school. It was the end of April, and I was looking forward to the end of the semester. Ben, working in the same department, saw me as I walked in. I asked him what was on his mind, and we began to talk about the same topic that we’d been casually mentioning for ages: marriage. I thought we could just do a courthouse run when we went to get our marriage certificate, but the courthouse hadn’t offered them, and so we were still looking for a solution. I pulled the number up for the courthouse of the municipal we were in for classes (which was the next district over, and therefore a possibility). The judge DID perform marriages-by appointment only!

When would we like to be married?

I wanted May Day-a religious holiday about fertility and thusly good luck.

They only did Friday’s.

May second? Booked.

May ninth?

That was fine. We were scheduled for 9AM. Perfect.


The date was two weeks away, with plenty of time to break the news to our families that we were being completely serious (they’d known we would for about a year, but until we had something concrete it was always just up in the air.) We’d tried a December wedding, but it hadn’t panned out.

Fast forward to the Friday before our wedding-Friday, May 2 at 4:56PM. The Judge had been overbooked! And he wouldn’t even able to do our wedding!! No appointments available before our marriage certificate expired. Thank you.

It was the end of the business week before we were finished with our conversation. I could call no official until Monday, and that might be too late. So I began to try every minister, high priest, high priestess, pastor and anyone I had an email address for in the closest three counties. Most, as I had assumed, needed more notice. One had asked if we could drive forty miles to their Sabbat that same night, where they would love to do so, with less than an hour to get there-we passed, but I would have loved to!

Ben had been calling people with the same fervor, and emailing his professors (who are well known to be better connected than college students!) and lo and behold-one of his professors was ordained! Was he free on Friday the 9th? Yes! Would he be willing to do so? Yes! Perfect!

It wasa sunny Friday, the flowers were all blooming in the trees and it seemed like the perfect day for happiness. My parents and siblings, Ben’s dad, Ben’s best friend (and his parents) and a couple lost stragglers came to the classroom. My dad stopped off and bought pizza for everybody before we got there. In walked the professor, complete with a stole and robes, a brief case, and a guitar case. I’d never had Dr. Emens, but he seemed a nice enough fellow, and he was certainly doing us a kindness.

We had a traditional wedding, complete with prayers, vows that were based in a religion I had left, and the exchanging of rings. Then, at the very end, Dr. Evens sat down and asked if he could play a song for us. He chose “Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)” by Green Day. We paid him, signed the things we needed to and then headed to our honeymoon-weekend (where we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones and the owner of the place we stayed picked wild flowers-which I dried (because they were my wedding bouquet).

It may not have been traditional, it may not have been the big and fancy wedding that everyone always thinks about, but it was unique, it was prophetic and it was the start of a wonderful marriage. And it was all completed at 4:30PM Friday, May 9, 2014.

Now, two years later, it is rainy (which I love!) and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my huge cup of coffee, thinking about that day. I remember that I sat there thinking that I wasn’t nervous at all, that I knew I was making the decision that I’d made in my head a long time before.

There are some things you didn’t get with that version of the story.

I was 21 (and had been so for 5 months exactly). Ben was 20 (and had been so for a week under 5 months). I was asked within five minutes of getting married if I was going to have kids/when I was going to have kids/if I was already pregnant. 

Ben told my dad (and I later adopted the same reasoning for the people who asked why we got married so young:

I didn’t want to start our lives separately and have to make room for the other person. I want to start from absolutely nothing more than love and build a life together. I want to start out together poor and watch as our riches grow.

I’d always told people that when you know you love someone, you shouldn’t feel like age should stop you from spending your life together.

I chose to hyphenate my name because at the time I thought I wanted to go into academics and that way, if I published any papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me. I may not be directly going into academia, but I don’t regret splitting my name. Because it gives me an identity all my own. I use either name as I please, both for formal occasions and I am content.

So happy anniversary, my love. It’s been an interesting, epic, bizarrely perfect two years and I look forward to collecting more with you.

On Settling

I had a conversation with my sister recently about college and about passion and careers. I tried my best to be a guiding voice, as much as I could be, but I also am very conscious that everyone must make their own mistakes. I know I would not be the same person if I hadn’t “wasted” my time or made the choices I did. So I try to keep that in mind every time I give someone advice. Usually, I end up giving myself advice and they just listen.

But talking with her really was like talking to a younger version of myself. She hasn’t decided quite where she wants to go to college, what her passion is, what she wants out of life specifically. And I can appreciate that on so many levels. (Most of which come from making those mistakes I was talking about.)

I told her that it didn’t matter what she chose to do, as long as she chose it with her whole heart. Because settling for anything less than your passion is killing everything unique and creative about you. That applying to college as a high school senior was doing something insane that would work out in your favor later. And with that in mind, I told her if she wanted to go out of state, do it. If she wanted to stay at home and commute, do it. If she wanted to major in underwater basket weaving, do it. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, so long as you get there.

191455-Never-Settle

I remember being a senior in high school and thinking that I had everything figured out. I would go into medicine, wear the white coat and then devote my life to saving kids (I wanted to be a Pediatric Oncologist-aka children’s cancer doctor). I thought I could do that, have time for hobbies and maybe, just maybe do something great with my life. I looked into all girl colleges, co-ed ones out of state, universities in Ireland. I literally wanted to run away from Ohio and never come back.

I never left Ohio. And I don’t really regret that as much as I thought I might. Mind you, Ben and I are looking for law schools out of state, but if we stay here, it isn’t the end of the world. High school doesn’t really give you the sense of “everything will work out”. Instead it gives you unrealistic ideas about college, and incomparably ridiculous amounts of unnecessary stress.

I couldn’t find a way to convince my sister of this, and that’s okay. She’s got to find her own path. But in the end, I think that what I said was the only thing I could have said. Because I didn’t know it then, and I wish I would have.

You have to commit to an entire lifestyle when you pick a career. And if you want to live to the fullest, you’re going to need to find out what drives you enough to make that easier. Anything less than your passion isn’t living-it’s torture.

I’ve decided on a few proto-ideas about what makes a person passionate, that I will be honing throughout my life, so maybe if I have kids, I will be able to help them more than I could do for my sister, but for now, that is what I will leave her with.

956fa60ed017f0dbde0dd6929bf3a6da

What do you want out of life?

What do you want your typical day to be like?

What things can you not do without?

What things do you not want to do without?

What are your hobbies? Favorite classes?

Who are your role models? Why?

Who are your favorite teachers? Why?

What do you want out of your career?

What will it take to make you happy?

What would you do first if you were given a super-power?

What kind of super power would it be?

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

equal

I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.