They didn’t know I was a seed.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli

This quote means so much to me. Especially that last sentence. Today’s been rough.

I set out with the goal of going to law school. And Friday I got my final letter. In the fall, no one wants me. After 10 weeks of waiting, I finally heard back with news that was crummy: waitlisted. That means that unless enough people reject them, I have been rejected myself.

I’ve debated how I want to say this-having typed up four different blogs and then trashed them. Because no matter how frustrated I sound, or how hopeful, nothing quite “gets it”.

You see, I started writing this blog on Friday, when I found out. I was so full of emotions that the words were pallid, flimsy. I spent all day Friday just moping. I mean, I was at work, so I didn’t mope too hard, but I moped. Saturday came the hard-hitting break down. All I wanted, all I’d worked for-gone. And there were a lot of deep questions that went unanswered. I reevaluated everything. I gave myself a one-over and grew frustrated. Nothing had gone the way I’d planned. If I got off the waitlist, it would be because someone else rejected their offer. I’d be getting hand-me-downs. Not how I wanted to start law school, to be sure.

And I woke up this morning. I barely slept last night-so there was lots of coffee involved. Over my second or third cup of coffee, I realized that I wasn’t as sad any more. I realized I was in need of a plan. So that’s exactly what I did. I sat down and got to work.

Most law schools begin classes in autumn. But there’s one school that I applied to for autumn that also has a spring start. I looked, and the application for Spring 18 opened yesterday. That means that I’ll be applying incredibly early (as compared to my other applications) and I will be closer to the top of the pile (meaning I’ll get a decision first). I know that that decision could just as easily be another “waitlist” or worse-“denied”, but I sat down at my computer, spit-shined my application and submitted it without a second thought.

It’s been a whirlwind weekend. I cycled through a lot of emotions, a lot of coping techniques and a lot of coffee. But I came out the other side. And I came out on my own terms. “If I can’t say I wish for this to my choices, I have the power to make different choices.”

I’m a seed. I was buried, and I burst open. My roots are coming out and I’m starting to grow. It’s hard, it’s dark, but there’s sky above me and that’s all I can ask for at the end of the day.

It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And that means that my fight goes far beyond just myself. It’s time to rise up, for the greater good.

And nobody in all of Oz, no wizard that there is or was, is ever going to

bring me down.

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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

IMaDtTO Logo for Future.png
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.)

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.)