What Comes Next

In response to the events of the recent past, I have no more words-I have said what I needed to, and the extent of my voice has been used. What comes next? Actions. For too long, I have been behind the scenes planning and debating and thinking. I wallowed in my defeats and I am prepared to start the good fight (or rather, continue it more actively). I can’t say it’s a surprise, but I’d like to pop away for a moment from politics and do what I do best-speak from the heart about issues important to me.

I applied to law school today. My applications are finished, and my letter of rec providers have been notified and I’m preparing for my LSAT in just three weeks. I debated long and hard about whether or not being a sexual assault/rape prosecutor would still be a viable job option for me and ultimately I decide yes.

The need for a compassionate, justice driven lawyer who actively works to better the lives of victims has never been more necessary. I have not changed-I still want to help people who have experienced the depravity of the human condition and I know that it’s something I am uniquely qualified to do. So I will-and I will do so most fervently.

There is one more way I can help-and it’s something I’m going to actively pursue for the time being, to see where it leads me and that’s politics. I’m not going to make this all about me just yet-but I’ll keep you informed. I’m going to be 25 next year, which puts me right in the prime zone for House Of Representatives in the midterms. But as I said, more on that later.

Bill Cosby believes that he will return to his career after his case is over. A picture of Taylor Swift was leaked in connection with her sexual assault case. Donald Trump’s case was dropped. DePaul University saw an increase in sexual assault crimes this week. My own university saw an increase in hate crimes. And the list, quite literally, goes on.

But you know what? I’ve seen incredible kindnesses this week as well. I saw friends gathering together to keep each other safe, I saw (and was involved in) several hugs with strangers (with consent to hug, of course!) and I know that there are good people out there.

I wanted to do a full report over the cases like I usually do-but I’m still not done talking about love and acceptance. It’s what the world needs right now-it’s what I need right now-and I hope that wherever you are, you find a little piece of hope as well.

I’ve lost family members over this election. I have friends who were disowned over this election. Trust me, I understand. I’m in the boat with you, and all I’m asking is that we not let this boat sink.

Love and light, people. For the night is dark and full of terrors.

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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).

bs1bs2

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 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.)

Falling

It is a rare (or perceived rare) circumstance that everything which needs to happen falls smoothly into place. I believed it would, and now it has begun. I desired a job (for some extra spending money-which we shall discuss soon), my husband desired a job (to feel more productive) and I desired my financial aid to be released so that I could go back and tell my boss at the department I could continue working (because I really like it there). I desired to find a place which would not cost an arm and a leg to live in, somewhere quiet, with lots of serenity, and I believe I have found it.

Do not get me wrong, all of this is wonderful. I am at ease that there are things going along in my life which have been much needed and are better for my future than the alternative. But I wonder if there are other people like me who reach this point in their lives-when everything is as it needs to be-and the panic sets in.

I cannot tell you how many times i have applied to a place of employment during an “up” period in my life only to find that when an interview is scheduled, there is a pit-of-the-stomach panic that tells me it’s an incredibly bad idea to go through with. A lot of doubt about the situation arises. What if something comes up? What if something bad happens? What if there is too much demand on me? What if…?

I know that it’s a mental game. I know it. And I know that I cannot pass by every chance I get. I know that once I get into a rhythm, everything sorts itself out-every. single. time. But it is getting to that point which is a period of great stress for me.

I just keep looking at the end goals, the things I want more than not and saying how lovely it is that I am able to work, that I can get a summer job out of desire, not out of necessity. I think part of the problem is that I’m beyond ready to move on with my education, with my life and I feel like hourly jobs are just reminding me that I’m not there yet. But it’s not a difficult job, and the people are all very friendly seeming. I just want to be at peace with my decisions for once.

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.

Just Breathe

If you had to sum up what I am most passionate about in terms of what I blog about most often, that list might look something like:

Women’s Rights

Self-Care

College Life with Bipolar Disorder

Poetry

And if you added in coffee, I would not mark that as wrong. But I want to come at those things from a different angle today. I’m gonna do a humdinger post, where literally all the things come together and we hopefully have a work of art. Might work, might not.

I have a couple months before my lease is up, and my husband and I are looking for a place to move that we can afford with just the two of us (we currently live with roommates). We have one car, and while that doesn’t seem to be bad right now, it means that we don’t have a bunch of space for moving everything all over hell’s half acre. We’re probably going to move again when we graduate, and that’s okay. It also means that there is one fatal flaw to this process.

  

(This isn’t my personal stack of books, but it’s basically the same thing.)

While I may not be a hoarder, I happen to attach emotional value to lots of things-namely books. Every time I approach moving, I discover that somehow I have accumulated a large quantity of knick-knacks. What happens then is something I like to call Purge-aggedon. I go through all of my clothes, my books, movies, general stuff and everything I own and start throwing away or donating whatever I have that I don’t need. It’s akin to shedding off a layer of skin, or getting several feet of hair cut away. It may cause me exceptional amounts of stress, but once it is gone, I feel loads better.

The thing is, like so many people, I create barriers around myself to protect myself from life. I used food as medicine for the longest time, creating a layer of fat to protect my feelings. It was like I had a protective coat which wasn’t me, but would take on all of the negative things from other people. Some walls are not physical, but completely mental and mostly subconscious. I broke through one on accident this semester and it was a disaster. Some walls are very much physical and yet mean so little. I keep clothes which do not fit either in hopes that one day they will or because I feel “rich”because I have multiple things. And while that is all fine and well, sometimes it’s more important to be completely okay with myself as myself rather than the illusion I make of myself. I really hope that makes sense.

  

Anyway, I sat down this morning and actually drank my coffee while watching the sunrise. I took a pause in life, looking at the bigger picture. I didn’t weigh myself down with worries and stress, I just was. And it was wonderful. I know that not everything can be solved by stopping what you’re doing, but one of the most helpful things I learned from a counselor was that if you spend too much time in the past, you’re depressed. If you spend too much time in the future, you’re anxious. If you spend just enough time in the present, you will live life to the fullest.

I’m not an expert in the way life works-or even the way I work. I have good days, bad days, days with both and days with neither. But I know that I left my hair down today, watched the sunrise, drank my coffee slowly and just breathed. I have no idea what the rest of my life holds. But for today, all I need to know is today. And that’s something very doable.

So, it’s clear where two or three of my list comes to play, but what about poetry and women’s rights you ask? I’m glad you brought that up.

Part of what I’ve been doing at work today is working on some ideas about how to help children with body safety (as a stand alone project). And if you can’t see the poetry in a cup of coffee and a sunrise, then I will add in some very lovely words to close.

My eyes, once the vision saw

Melted into the watercolor sky

Without so much as a hello

Without needing to say goodbye.

My heart, once the sun rose 

Fluttered once then stood still

The life which beat within me paused

Then soared out from it’s window sill.

The Start to a Great Day

This past week was a brutal week for human beings. Earthquakes, bigotry, hatred, fear and on my own campus there was a display of some very xenophobic graffiti. But there were also some wonderful things which happened. The grafiti was covered over by messages of acceptance and love. The bigotry and hatred was combatted with hope and kindness. Aid was given to those who needed it.

Yesterday was one of those weird days when I missed something from my old life: routine. Not the kind that I’d expected, but I missed having songs to sing to my deity. I had seen a video of someone singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and vividly recalled all the times I spent in church singing that song (and playing it on the piano) and then all the times I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t even want to sing the song. I wanted to revisit a time when there was a routine in my life that made everything seem simple. That is the way it is because is is that way. You know?

It was a weird feeling, but I think the point of it wasn’t that I found a hole in my belief system, it was that in those days, everything was simple (for me at least). I lived in a small town of people I knew and who knew me. I could walk all over the county by myself without fear. I could stop by people’s houses if I needed to call my parents or get a drink or hang out with people roughly my age. I missed the simplicity.

And yet, there are things I would not change about today. I braided my hair for the first time successfully all by myself. I got up on time, I dressed up today (I’m channeling my inner Snow White-red lips, blue top, yellow skirt) and I even managed to get rid a bunch of homework done. I didn’t panic when my husband drove us in this morning, even though I’ve grown accustomed to driving by myself. I got in to work early and successfully set up for the day. I’m a stronger, more independent person than I was six months ago. And what’s more, I accept myself for who I am more so than I did when I moved here. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a little different, but it means that I am not ashamed of who I am now.

  We are all products of our pasts. For me, that past means walking barefoot through grassy fields on the way to a raspberry patch to get my fingers completely covered in red dye. It means traveling downs dirt roads covered in arching trees and watching baby rabbits run across your yard right before a huge buck comes sniffing for roots and tulips. It’s picking apples off the trees while waiting for the bus to take me to school and bonfires with burnt marshmallows (which my parents had to eat). It’s dressing up on Sunday’s because that’s what respectable people did and then going home to pick garden produce.

  And we choose what becomes our future. Coffee dates with friends, and making time for people. It’s proving to yourself over and over again that you’re not the mistake you thought you were. It means taking the time to capture life’s little moments, watching a sunrise even when you’d rather be sleeping, making the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten and then being surprised that it tasted that good.  

  It means choosing to feel good about yourself and “I’ll be damned if I let other people shame me out of my own life”. It means giving up every reason you have for not being happy and just taking chances anyway-because you’ve finally decided that it’s in your best interest to believe in yourself.

  At the end of the day, we’re not always going to listen to the naysayers. And doing so will only hold us back. We’ve got to start living with love and passion, or else we don’t stand a chance of living at all.

(All photos today were taken by me and as you can see, are on my Instagram. Ya’ll can hop on over and browse about if you feel so inclined, but this is basically what I take pictures of. Only now it’s my dog and campus, but hey.)