To my future daughter…

To my future daughter,

I want you to know that the world is beautiful.

It is here and nowhere else that butterflies are free to fly and elephants roam about.

The world is beautiful all around because it is here where you may always live in curiosity,

Because here you shall never be disappointed when you are striving to learn.

Little girl, the world is so beautiful,

Because it is here that flowers bloom every year and colorful leaves fall above you.

Baby girl, I hope you always see this beauty,

Because only here can you dance in the piazzas of Venice and stand in awe at the beauty of Paris.

My pretty girl, I will not lie, this world is not only filled with beauty.

It will hurt you, push you, kick you.

But this world is forgiving and this world is kind.

It will pick you up and encourage you to fly.

So, my beautiful girl, please listen to me now,

This world is yours to live in and yours to share.

Your beauty exists to mix with the butterflies and elephants and piazzas and create this amazing place.

To my future daughter, take what I have learned,

Dance in the rain and sing with the birds,

Because you are so beautiful and your world is too.

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To the boy that sexually assaulted me…

To the boy who sexually assaulted me,

I don’t know if you remember me, since you were very drunk when we met. It was my first time ever meeting you; I still don’t know your name. You were waiting for me at the door of the party, as if you were an animal stalking its prey. As I stepped in the room, you pounced.

I don’t know if you remember pulling me away from my friends, but you isolated me. It was a very crowded room, I couldn’t see them anymore. You were a lot bigger than me, it was almost impossible to get away. I screamed for you to let me go.

I don’t know if you remember putting your hand up my shirt, but you brought tears to my eyes. You had your lips by my ear, drunkenly whispering sexual comments to me. You said you wanted to take me away, you said that I was perfect, you said that you needed my clothes to be off. I was so scared, but I don’t think you cared.

I don’t know if you remember me hitting you, but I was desperately trying to get away. The room we were in was filled with people, but no one seemed to notice what was happening to me. As you forced your mouth to mine, I wanted to kill you.

I don’t know if you remember my rage, but you laughed at it and pushed me away. You said that I’d be back, you said that I can’t resist you. You watched me search for my friends and enjoyed my fear-stricken struggle. You made me terrified of every boy around me.

I don’t know who you are, but if you read this I want you to know that I think you are pathetic. I want you to know that I am stronger than you. I want you to know that if I ever see you again, I will make sure you remember what you did to me.

Sexual assault is too common, and more people need to learn to stand up to it. If someone was to step in, I wouldn’t have had to go through that alone. So if anyone does relate to my story, know that I am here for you and willing to give you support. Survivors need to band together to show the world that we are here to fight.

The disconnect between adults and kids

One of my biggest fears is that one day far in the future, my kids will be crying themselves to sleep at night and I will have no idea. It just seems to be such a common feeling these days – kids grow up thinking that they have no real support and that no one really understands what they are going through. We act as if there has to be some huge disconnect between adults and kids and I think that this divide is proving itself to be extremely emotionally draining.

In my generation, people are becoming much more open with who they really are. The LGBTQ community is growing each and every day as people come out, finally deciding to be true to themselves. Kids are getting into serious relationships at younger ages; it’s as if we have this instinctual urge to grow up quicker and experience real love earlier. We can’t help it though, that’s just how we are.

Adults, specifically parents, are in a very special place. They have the ability to build up a child’s self esteem or completely tear it down. They have the choice to emotionally support their child, which sadly, some parents refuse to do. Which is partly what has created this gap between kids and parents. There are certain choices that parents don’t have the right to decide – such as if your child is gay, or transgender, or if they want to date someone of a different race or a different religion or financial class or if they just want to date someone in general. No parent has the right to choose who their child falls in love with.

By the age of 18, we have a pretty good idea of what we like and what we don’t like. We know which foods make us sick and we know which school subjects we like the most. We also sort of know what career path we would like to take and what sort of people we want to surround ourselves with on our journey there. Most of us have picked a learning institution that we hope will carry us to success and many of us have had to figure out a plan to pay for it. We are considered to be adults, yet we are still treated as young children. This also adds to the divide between us.

There is such a simple solution to this problem though, and it amazes me that this isn’t universal knowledge. We both need to support each other. Parents should lift their kids up when they are down – no child should have to cry themselves to sleep feeling as though they cannot talk to the two people sleeping in the room next door. If your child comes out as gay, you should be thrilled that they had the bravery to do so in front of you, because it is a huge act of courage. If your child is in love with someone, you should wholeheartedly support that relationship. As long as no harm is coming to either party… there is no reason to separate them. From a kid’s perspective, it is so hard to live your life without support. Feeling alone while making decisions is so ridiculously stressful. We need help from those older than us, even though we will deny it to our grave. Just as those older need help from us, and we will be there to give them that.

We need to push to close the divide between us. It’s time for both sides to come together and to realize that there is no reason to not support each other. We both feel the same things – it’s time we respect that.

Simple pleasures and banana pancakes

I am obsessed with the simple pleasures life presents. People often become distracted by the big things that we are supposed to love, such as money, work, the way our lawn looks and the way we dress… and I’ll admit that I have been a victim to that type of thinking too. However, I am writing now to remind you all, and myself, how incredible the smallest things around us can be.

Imagine this: you are young again, around ten years old, just waking up. As your senses come alive, you begin to smell one of the most incredible things in the world: bacon. You spring out of bed and sprint downstairs to find your dad making banana chocolate chip pancakes and your mom placing a plate of bacon on the table. You eat until you feel as though your stomach might explode. You curl up on the couch and watch Tom and Jerry and slowly fall back asleep…

You are in high school again, it’s your junior year. You had been up all night finishing a lab report for your chemistry class and doing book work for your precalculus class. As you walk into your first hour, you realize that you had completely forgotten the fact that you had a test today. You hadn’t studied at all and you feel extremely unprepared. You go into the test blind… and come out with a 92%. You and your teacher have no idea how you pulled that off, but you did, and you couldn’t be happier.

You are in your late twenties and you are trying to catch a cab to work. Yellow taxis seem to be taunting you, quickly switching lanes as they come near you. Then the person next to you catches one and asks if you’d like to have it, since you seem to be in a greater rush than them. You couldn’t be more thankful, since it was only your second day at this new job.

You are in your late fifties or early sixties. Your father has just passed. You decide to take a walk to clear your head a bit and get some fresh air. As you walk past the endless houses filled with families, you come by a park. As you go to it, you decide to sit on one of the swings. You reminisce how your dad used to push you on swings just like this and how you would scream with joy… and as you are thinking, you notice a single tulip had grown next to the swing set. As you look at the lavender colored flower, you also notice that it is the only thing in the park that is illuminated by the sun and you smile. Your dad knew how much you loved tulips.

Now stop imagining, and realize where you are right now. Go through all of your senses. Recognize that you woke up today, you are breathing, you are able to find food to eat, there are people around you who love you, there are flowers growing somewhere and you can find happiness everywhere. Let go of any obsession with money or work or whatever it may be and instead, go outside. Enjoy the fact that you live on this beautiful planet. Look. Smell. Touch. Taste. Listen. Let your senses guide you to happiness.

20 things I will do

I had a teacher last year who forced us to write 20 things we will do in our lifetime. Looking back, it was one of the best assignments I had ever completed. It was a list that made you really think about what you aspire to be and what you truly want out of the life you were given. I still have the sheet of paper that I wrote my list on – it hangs above my desk so I can read it each and every day. It is my inspiration to keep going; because of that, I decided to share my list with you. Here it is:

1. Ride an elephant

2. Eat a meal that I don’t think I would usually try, such as escargot.

3. Swim with sea turtles (COMPLETED!)

4. Study abroad

5. Be able to say “I made it – I’m accomplished.”

6. Change someone’s perspective

7. Have a son and name him Luke

8. Have a daughter and teach her what it is like to always love

9. Get a tattoo

10. Visit every continent, including Antarctica

11. Write a short story

12. Learn how to dance

13. Win an award

14. Fall in love with a man and have a ridiculously happy wedding

15. Have a chalkboard wall in my house and cover it with quotes that I love

16. Give my time to those less fortunate than I

17. Have a conversation with someone who is homeless; make them laugh

18. Go on a spontaneous trip with someone I love

19. Make enough money to take my Dad on a trip with me

20. Find a way to prove to him that I love him, and make him proud of me.

21. Adopt a dog from the humane society (multiple dogs are okay too)

22. Buy my mom and stepdad a very expensive bottle of wine, then sit down and drink the entire thing with them

I know I had a couple more than 20, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a lot of goals! I encourage you all to write your own lists, and if you do, send me the link! I would love to read them. This truly is one of the best ways to really reflect and get to know yourself a little bit better.
  

I am not embarrassed to love myself, and you shouldn’t be either

As I sit here in this coffee shop, drinking chai tea and looking at the people sitting around me, I quickly notice the diversity that surrounds me. There is an older woman next to me who looks to be in her late 40’s doing school work. A little bit farther, there is a black girl scrolling through Twitter. To the right of her, an Indian boy listening to music, mouthing out the words while looking through a textbook. Next to the door, a white girl who biked here, drinking a frozen mocha and looking out the window. We are all different, and we may have nothing in common except the fact that we all happen to be at Biggby Coffee on this day. With that said, I cannot find anything negative to say about these people, and that is exactly how it should be.

Confidence is a hard thing to have. Nowadays, it takes real courage to stand up for yourself. Why is that? Why should it take everything you have to look in the mirror and say, “I am an incredible human being”? There should be nothing that stops you from believing that. Other people should not affect how you feel about yourself; their opinions should not dismantle your own. However, that is much easier said than done.

For a long time, I believed that there was some magical recipe for being beautiful. I thought that if I straightened my hair every day and made any cellulite I had invisible and wore really expensive makeup, people would look at me and think, “wow, I want to look like her.” As I grew up though, I realized that there is no magic potion that would make me beautiful. In fact, I began to understand that the only way other people will perceive me as a beautiful person is if I believe that I am. I’m not only talking about physical beauty either – I would have to believe that my mind exhibits something amazing too, which was very difficult.

That is exactly the problem. Convincing myself that I am worth everything and anything should not be difficult. I found a quote on Tumblr the other day that actually presented this in a very deep way:

“At seventeen,
the hardest choice you should have
to make is what clothes you want
to wear,
or what food you want
to eat;
not sitting at the edge of your bed
at four in the morning
considering whether or not
your existence matters in this world.”

This is an issue so many people face, and it is one that often goes unnoticed. We are a generation of “I’m fine”, and “Don’t worry about it”, rather than “I need to vent, can you listen for a bit?” We are a generation that questions ourselves and whether or not we are good enough for the people around us even though we know that we will constantly disappoint ourselves by thinking this way. We are a generation that doubts our own beauty and worth simply because we aren’t up to date on the latest trends. We are a generation that blames society and by doing so, blames ourselves.

I dare you to look into a mirror today and tell yourself that you are amazing. Compliment yourself. Walk outside, think to yourself that you are beautiful, and do whatever you need to do. Smile at everyone you walk past and tell a stranger they look good. If you present an aurora of confidence, it will pass on to those around you. In order to breed confidence, you must start with yourself. Let me get you started: I am not embarrassed to love myself, and you shouldn’t be either.

PSA: You’re not gonna “catch the gay”

I go to a high school with over 6,000 students. This is great in the way that kids are able to make many new friends each year and there are hardly any of your classic “cliques”. It is not so great however, in the way that it gives room for many kids to feel pushed to the side, forgotten, or out of place. Until I became comfortable with myself and found my core group of friends, I was one of those kids, so I know what it’s like to feel as if you are just a walking body with no way to engage yourself.

It is my senior year now, so I have spent four years watching kids close themselves off from the world around them. I have found this to be especially true with students who have come out to be gay or transgender. As they gained courage to come out or went through the very difficult transition of publicly stating which gender they want to identify with, people around them quickly shut their eyes and walked away. Maybe it has something to do with my generation or the age of high school kids, but I simply don’t understand why so many people who are so close to me choose not to accept their peers. What are they doing that offends you? I’m aware that this argument is one that has been repeated too many times, but it is still extremely valid. If two girls are holding hands, does that somehow make you any less of a person for having seen them? Does it make you any less straight? Does it make you any less religious? In case you can’t answer those questions, I’ll do it for you. No. It does not do any of those things.

If someone has the courage to come out as gay, then there is absolutely no reason for someone else to ridicule him or her. Using the word “fag” in a derogatory way or treating him or her like he or she is not truly a man or a woman is the epitome of immaturity. If a boy decides that he is more comfortable as a girl, then you have two options: either stand by her and support her or pass by without saying anything. You have NO right to look down upon her or verbalize hatred towards her. With that, I don’t see why anyone would want to do so. How can someone else’s actions cause you so much anger that you feel the need to act aggressively towards them?

This rant was fueled by comments I heard today during class:

“He came out as gay?”
“Why would anyone wanna hang out with a fag?”
“I’ll beat my kid if he comes out as gay.”
“Is he going to start talking like a girl now and wear short shorts?”

I’m sure most of you can see the unbelievable amount of ignorance in these comments. Actually, I was so angry that these words actually came out of someone’s mouth that I got up and left the room. I feel bad for people like this. It is obvious that they have chosen a life of immaturity and stupidity. You do not have to support an act to accept it. All you have to do is end your negative comments.

If you have come out as gay or transgender or anything else and have a story to share, feel free to do so. I am open to listening and responding. I promise that you will have my unconditional support. If you read this post and realized that you may have been acting homophobic or transphobic or just plain mean, I suggest giving the person a simple apology. Sometimes that is all it takes to make up with someone.

I cannot stress enough how much equality is necessary in our world. We cannot achieve peace unless we all work together, so please, help me to help all the people around you and end the constant bullying. Speak words of love, not hate.