Fear v Courage

There’s a lot to be said about courage and fear. Everything I’ve seen is usually in response to some vague stressor that makes us feel doubt, concern and general consternation. And I think that that’s worth mentioning. However, I want to do a good old fashioned mental health blog today. The kind that’s more or less just preaching to myself.

In Facebook, you can look at all the things you posted on that day throughout the years. And today pulled up a piece I’d done here that was designed as a letter to myself. I talked to myself about abusive relationships, about self-hatred, about perseverance. And all of those things are important. But they’re not the only things I need to tell my younger self.

Anyway-fear. I found myself at a place mentally where I knew I wasn’t poised for success. But I’d convinced myself that it was completely necessary for me to be there. I told myself the list of reasons I had to be there, and then told myself that list again. And the louder I yelled that list at myself, the more I hated why I was doing it. So I shushed that voice that told me I had to and I got out of it. The list of reasons isn’t gone, but I sure am.

Do I have a plan? Nope-I have like 12% of a plan.

But what I do have is my mental health. And as I told someone today, that feels very selfish. That person then told me that mental health is never selfish.

And they were right.

I was so caught up in the embarrassment that I was going to ignore the voice telling me I had to because I couldn’t be happy with it. And I looked down.

I’ve told you this story. About how a little girl said the four words that changed my life. I wish for this. And the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. So I left. I made myself feel better, happier. I chose me over all the reasons telling me “them”.

So here’s the deal.

Courage isn’t the thing keeping you rooted to the bottom of the ocean, fighting the tides. Courage is the thing whispering quietly to uproot yourself and be free. Fear isn’t getting swept up in the breeze, not knowing where you’re going. Fear is never leaving the mundane because you’ve convinced yourself not to take chances.

And so I took a leap of faith. Which was rewarded by an opportunity. I am pleased to announce that I now have a series on Channillo! You can find out more at: Coffee and Criticisms

Reminders from the Universe

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in life, in the way it makes you feel or overwhelms you. And I’ll be honest, I have those pestering thoughts about where I’m taking my life. I worry that I burn so brightly that I’ll burn out and be of no help to anybody. And I thought about what I might do if I walked away from everything-from justice, from law, from my home and just started over some way. I think that you think about that a lot when you have depression or anxiety or whatever. Just starting over. Taking the knowledge you had and using it to make better choices. But to that effect, I offer a quote:

“But then I wondered how I’d feel… Would I feel relieved or would I feel sad? And then I realized how many stupid times a day I use the word “I”. And Probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s like seven billion other people out there on the planet…But then I thought, if I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that’s probably a much better use of my time.” -Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

And in the grogg of all that, a news story came across my FB feed. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say that I don’t take things at face (lol pun!) value-I investigate. So when I saw the article, I left Facebook and began my search. It was like getting punched in the face. 

If you search “16 year old received no jail time”, there comes a list of stories that aren’t for the faint hearted. They range from racial bias to toddlers to every manner of monster available. And that was when I stopped thinking about myself for a minute. I detached as much as I could and just thought. No amount of me feeling sorry for myself or scared of what the future holds makes any difference. I know that what I want is difficult and scary and it means that I need to be able to hold my own at all times-even in the worst of my bad days. Why?

Because if I don’t keep burning brightly, how will these problems be illuminated? If I don’t keep speaking up, who will speak for the children who can’t, for the people who are scared? They deserve their justice, their safety-just as much as I do. And if no one will help them, I will.

I force myself to read each news story that comes across my feeds. I read them and I burn a little brighter, a little stronger. I don’t know if that’s good or bad-but as far as I can tell, it’s how it has to be. Why? Because this cannot be. There are judges across the country who aren’t holding up the law. They’re letting criminals of the worst kind fall between the cracks. I can’t sit by, in my fear and worry while the last stronghold of justice fails.

And that’s why no matter how scared I am, no matter how frustrated and tired I will become, I have to keep fighting. If not for me, for the people who need me and for the future. So stay tuned for a blog in the future where I tell you which law school I will be attending.

Waiting on Superman

I really adore superhero(ine) movies. I enjoy the comics, I enjoy the messaging, I enjoy it as a fan who simply wants to be transported to a different place for a little while. I love that the hero(ine)s have dark pasts, tragic events and things that make them relatable. I also happen to enjoy Disney Villains (especially Maleficent and Ursula) and I do quite like Star Wars and Star Trek with equal measure. I belong to as many fandoms as I can (although none so much as Supernatural, Sherlock, iZombie, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And do you know what? All of this has one simple thing in common.

Almost none of the protagonists believed they were “the chosen one”.

So, before we get into this, no-I’m not in the middle of a serious delusion. Seriously. Let me tell you the story.

When I was asked the first time what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said mortician. I was told that was improper for a lady (by the teacher). When asked again, I said doctor. No one ever asked past that-until I asked myself. And when doctor just didn’t fit, I toyed around with a LOT of other ideas. Nurse. Wedding Planner. Phlebotomist. Social Worker. And then I found anthropology. And I LOVED it! But I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was stuck in the “swamp” for a while-where you just want to do all of the types of anthropology. Then I leaned cultural. I wanted to study religions and the occult and spirituality. But could I get a job in that? So I shifted to religious intolerance and hate crimes and religious terrorism. Surely that would be a useful career! But I wasn’t quite set on it. It just didn’t “fit”. And so I kept looking for the thing. It was quite like finding an academic soul mate. And then I fell upon law and rape prosecution.

I’ve applied to law schools. I’m trying to make my life. And it’s hard and scary-and I haven’t even heard from my schools yet. But you know what I keep thinking?

Am I even cut out for this?

I read cases pretty regularly. I think the cookies in my browser history just knows I’m going to want to follow cases and it finds them for me. And I read them with integrity. I read them, I research them and then I cry. I ugly cry, scream into my pillow and mourn the loss of humanity. It breaks me so much. I fall asleep with puffy eyes and wake up exhausted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked it over with my husband. And now, I shall trust you all with my secret.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I will lose my cases and have to look my clients in their eyes and tell them I did my best without being able to give them justice. I’m afraid I will cry in the courtroom because I am so emotionally attached to my cause that it’s all personal for me. I’m afraid that I will wake up one day, after crying myself to sleep and realize that I can’t face any more clients or judges or courtrooms because hearing one more “Not Guilty” will do me in. I’m afraid that I won’t be good at it. 

But get this.

Every now and again, when I wake up after a particularly brutal article, I feel it. I feel the revolution. I feel the change in my brain that says “Hey. You don’t have to be perfect. But if no one stands up, nothing will ever change. What if the person we’re all waiting to stand up is you?” And I look at the fictional characters that I relate to most. Sam and Dean Winchester. General Organa. Buffy Summers. I see them given an impossibly frustrating task-one that they don’t feel qualified to handle and they feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I look at the characters who struggle with themselves. Liv Moore. Anna Marie (Rogue). Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Castiel. I see them fighting their own identities, trying to figure out why their lives are the way they are. I look at stories that split the line between misunderstood and wrongly judged. Maleficent. Prue Halliwell. Captain Janeway. I see people who had terrible things happen that forced them to react.

I wrote my personal statement for law school over heroes. As soon as I hear one way or another, I’ll post my Personal Statement here, because I’m actually kinda proud of it. It’s something I need to keep looking over. In it, I referenced Les Miserables, Supernatural and Daredevil. I spoke of Enjolras standing up for what was right, Dean Winchester’s redemption and Matt Murdock’s humanity. The story lines that spoke to me most about being brave, even when you’re afraid.

The great thing about superhero(ine) stories is that they apply to you whether you’re dealing with a bully, you’re fighting your own inner demons, you’re focused on saving the world. Uncle Ben’s words are still as true today as they were the first time they were printed: “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

So no. I don’t feel like I can do this. I feel overwhelmed and terrified. I feel hopeless and insignificant. And that’s exactly why I have to keep trying.

The List of Buckets

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(Image from Google, Karen Boyes. I don’t own it-it was just cute.)

I have a hundred things on my mind right now, but that means that the best thing I could do is write down my bucket list. Not only had I mentioned I would earlier, but I most of the stuff on my mind has to do with that, so why not!

Now, I’m not sure any of you need the definition of a bucket list, but for sanity’s sake-A bucket list is a list of things that the individual would like to accomplish before they “kick the bucket” (die). And here’s mine.

  1. Whale watching
  2. Cliff Diving
  3. Learn to ice skate
  4. Learn to surf
  5. Swim in a waterfall
  6. Slow dance in the rain
  7. Witness a miracle
  8. Visit Canada
  9. Save a life
  10. Visit Ireland
  11. Visit England
  12. Visit Scotland
  13. Help turtles hatch and reach the ocean
  14. Be the starfish girl
  15. Eat pasta in Italy
  16. Eat bread in France
  17. See the Great Barrier Reef
  18. See Stonehenge
  19. Venetian gondola ride
  20. Get published
  21. Learn guitar
  22. Stand in the Sistine Chapel
  23. See the Mona Lisa in person
  24. Have lunch with a famous person
  25. See the Northern Lights
  26. Stand in a phone booth
  27. See Platform 9 ¾
  28. Visit Forks, WA
  29. Ride in Hot Air Balloon
  30. Zorbing
  31. Kiss under Mistletoe
  32. Live by the ocean
  33. Learn to scuba
  34. Make the perfect cup of coffee
  35. Learn how to make latte art
  36. Be fearless
  37. Own a 1967 Chevy Impala
  38. Make epic, award worthy cosplay
  39. Perfect cat eye
  40. Go fire walking
  41. Read a book in something other than English
  42. Visit every museum and zoo in the state I live in
  43. Visit Cueva de los Manos
  44. Leave a note in Juliet’s Wall
  45. Make someone smile more often than cry
  46. Be invited to a PowWow
  47. Stop worrying
  48. Stop micromanaging
  49. New Orleans Mardi Gras
  50. Swim with dolphins
  51. See Heaven’s Trail
  52. Give Christmas to a children’s hospital
  53. Replace my wardrobe with clothes I actually like
  54. Repay all the kindnesses
  55. Change the world

I know there are more-I’m just not entirely sure I could remember anything else. (Clearly haven’t mastered that perfect coffee haha!) But I think this is a pretty solid list-and I’m going to get started on it right away.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

I’m tired of people telling me what I do and do not know, what I need to do to know things, how much I’m allowed to know. I’ve spent the last two decades being told I can never know everything, but being held accountable for everything regardless, only to find that every year or so, what I know is obsolete information. I may never meet the standards of knowing. But I’m ready for something else. If after 20 years knowing things doesn’t make me happy, I’ve got to change things. So these next twenty years aren’t going to be “knowing” years-they’re going to be “experience” years. I’m gonna do things, see things, live things. So that when I get to the next fork in the road, the only thing I’ll know is myself.

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.

From Dust (Part Two)

Where were we? Ah yes, the pain of insecurity.

I’ve had a moment to think upon my thoughts, a little metacognizance if you will. And by that, I really mean I finally had a break down, got it pushed through my system and snatched a little help from my husband. We spent a decent amount of time walking, trying to get a new perspective on the situation, and while I’m not entirely sure that everything is honky dory, I can say that I am coming around to the understanding of all the things. So, with that in mind, let’s get to it, shall we?

When I think of myself, I think less along the lines of physical traits and more along the lines of character ones. So irrespective of how I look, I think of myself like a Disney villain-a little mystical, more than a little misunderstood. I volley between being reckless and being respectable. I’m a walking contradiction nine times out of ten and that’s simply my existence. I don’t mind it. I actually kind of revel in the chaos.

Anyway, I did a post about things bipolar people don’t want you to know (which got featured on The Mighty-read Here) and in it I speak of how those of us with bipolar often feel creative, but get distraught when we don’t reach the level of famous people with the same disorder. I frequently have that happen. And the past couple days were absolutely not an exception. I was listening to an album done by people with depression, anxiety and histories of self-harm while I sat in my room, wallowing in my own rejections.

I voiced these concerns to Ben, and I told him that just once I wanted to be a Beethoven (whose talent was appreciated while he was alive) instead of a Van Gogh (whose talent went under appreciated-and in fact not accepted as art-while he was alive). I kept saying it, each time I switched insecurities. I just wanted the all-important someone to point at my stuff and say: “Yep, that one. I want that one.” My novels, my music, my proposals, my applications. I just want someone to say something other than Not good enough.

And I know, I have the capacity to be that person. I mean, I sit here and tell people every day that they are more than the numbers on their scales, more than the way they compare themselves to others, more than the test scores, grades, life stories they have survived. And I am 100% sincere each time I say those things. But for whatever reason, when I say them to myself, it falls on deaf ears. And I asked my husband what was wrong with me.

He said words I didn’t expect, but we’re still exceptionally true: You’ll never be happy just accepting success. each thing you achieve, you’ll just say you were doing your job and brush it off. You just haven’t appreciated all your successes.

I can’t say that the moment he said it, I believed it. It’s been a day since, and I still am grappling with it. But the thing is, I can appreciate it differently now.

I still want to be a Beethoven. I want to be celebrated in my lifetime as someone worth knowing. I want people to look at me with more understanding than just “will that be all for you today?” And I don’t think I’m necessarily wrong for wanting that.

At 23, there are plenty of now-famous people who weren’t doing so great yet. And I know that. 

Some people are born with beauty and money and talent.

Some people must spend their entire lives fighting for what those people had at birth.

Neither path is wrong. 

I know one day all the little insignificant moments in my life will have led to somewhere. It may be awesome, it may be average, but only if I let myself think it is. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around things, but each time I keep trying, that’s the real form of success.

From Dust (Part One)

This little picture popped into my social media feed a couple days ago:


I read over it, had a little chuckle and then a complete meltdown. Just like that. Well, almost. I’ve got some stress in my life, sure, but nothing I hadn’t been handling. And all it took was one little capture of a tumblr post and suddenly I began to notice some insecurities.

I’ve been having a really hard time sleeping lately. I stay up til dawn, get up a little before noon and repeat. It isn’t that I’m not tired, it’s that I’m too tired. And the same thoughts eat away at my insides, day after day. I eat less and less each day, I drink more-mostly water and caffeinated beverages, as I try to stay away from alcohol. I’m trying to get into a new schedule to prepare for school. But it’s summer, and I’m dealing. That’s what I do, after all.

And how ashamed am I, that my walls could cave because of a picture I took a little too personally!

I was making a chess set yesterday, couldn’t get it to look professional and scrapped the entire thing. Deleted every story I had started, because I didn’t believe they were going to get me anywhere. Threw out several drawings I’d made because I couldn’t look at them anymore. Spent an entire day shuffling through music because I couldn’t find the joy in my songs.

And that was the tip off that I wasn’t in a good place.

I used to get in trouble as a kid quite often because I couldn’t deal with silence so I would hum. It’s gotten me warned during tests, it’s gotten me picked on and laughed at. But ever since I can remember, music has been my fortress. If I could sing, if I could hum, the darkness would not get to me. No matter if I was manic or depressed, music saved me. And yet, I was silent.

So while I laid in bed waiting for the moment I’d fall asleep, I fell into a depression instead. 

Every single thing I’d ever made, crafted, involved myself in or otherwise attempted artistically came into question. And I found myself completely and utterly ashamed. I thought I’d listen to an almost-out album by some of the members of Supernatural’s cast (Jason Manns-Covers With Friends) and immediately started crying. I was listening to beautiful music created by ultra talented individuals who had careers doing what they loved and were successful at. 

And I didn’t feel like I had any worth at all.

I’ve gotten rejected from everything artistic I’ve tried.

I auditioned for the school of music when I started college. Rejected.

I wrote a novel! And sent it to agents. Rejected.

I wrote another novel and sent that one in to agents. Rejected.

I wrote a children’s book. Sent it in to agents. Rejected.

I tried my hand at slam poetry for a scholarship. Rejected.

Tried to sell homemade soaps, lotions, and even offered to make theme songs for a buck. Rejected.

I tried to tell myself that it didn’t sting. That there was something bigger and better waiting for me ahead. That the doors that were closing were only doing so so that I’d keep my “eyes on the prize”.

I don’t believe my own bullshit anymore.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up for the President’s Prize. Because the odds are against me. I’m trying not to get my hopes up for law school. Because the odds are against me. But I don’t know where that exactly leaves me and I guess that maybe that’s part of the problem.

The way my life worked out in my head is that I would go to law school, become a lawyer. I’d write books on the side so I could make my student loan payments and afford the things I can’t right now. When all my debts were settled, I thought I’d use my skills to work my way up the system and make a real difference in the world. 

But what skills do I even have? I’m absolutely ordinary. And that hurts more than it should. I say the words “I know I’m just one person” more often than I probably need to but I don’t think I’ve ever really believed it. I’ve always believed I could change the world.

But can I? Is that something which is simply unattainable for me? Is it reserved for the beautiful people, the people with connections and money? The people who don’t have to worry about how to cover bills, what’s useable from the discount carts? The people who are whole? Without an illness?

I came face to face with my own reality and I can’t accept it. I can’t accept that I feel so deeply, care so much and see so much beauty and pain all for nothing. And yet, that’s my reality. That’s my life. 

And it hurts so fucking much.

(Part Two coming tomorrow. See how the story resolves then.)