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.

Letter #1

For those of you who do not know, I am moving to Chicago this fall. With that, I have decided to do an installment of letters to members of my family. They will be somewhat personal, but I believe that many of you will be able to relate. So, here we go.

To my dad, the one that currently resides many, many hours away.

Thank you for teaching me the pain of distance. I know that sounds a bit aggressive, but I don’t mean it that way. Although you were not exactly there to raise me, your absence was able to teach me many valuable lessons.

After the divorce, I became aware that love does not always last, and therefore I should be cautious of the relationships I am in.

During our brief tradition of Wednesday night dinners, you taught me to never work in a job that makes me unhappy. It creates awkward silences and stress – a combination that no one should have to encounter.

When you left for the first time, you headed out to Thailand. You taught me that sometimes people need to get away to find out who they really are, and you showed that it was okay.

You went to Thailand a few times. Each time, I learned how to create a relationship with someone very far away.

When I told you I was in therapy during one of your trips home, your silence taught me that you don’t have to speak in order to understand.

When you left the second time, you moved to South Africa. That was when I learned that it is very easy to become disconnected with someone you were once very close with. I also learned that time zones are kind of a b*tch.

When you came back, I learned that it is possible to pick up broken pieces and put them together again. Certain relationships can withstand the test of time.

When you left for good, you moved away to California. When you broke the news, I learned what it felt like to have your heart shattered into millions of pieces. I learned that even when you are surrounded by people who love you, you can still feel alone.

Now that I am older, I know that it is not your fault that you had to leave all of those times. I understand that you needed to leave in order to discover who you really were and you needed to do what was best for you.

I know that you needed to hear this a long time ago, but I am proud of you. Both of us are human, both of us make mistakes, and I hope to see you back home one day.

Thank you so much for everything, even though you did not know what you did for me.

I forgive you.

Love,

Katelyn

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.

Wait, should I be scared of frat boys?

I am a young girl moving to a big city. This poses a lot of concern, most (but not all) of which lies with my parents. To comfort themselves and give me advice, these are the comments I usually hear about my future move:

“Don’t walk alone at night – ever.”

“Find a guy to take you to and from any night classes.”

“Don’t let a random guy pour you a drink.”

“Always be on the lookout, you never know what is going to happen.”

Comments like these have instilled a fear in me; a fear of what, I do not exactly know. The only thing that is for sure is that I am terrified to walk down an alleyway or past a man when I am alone.

I have heard so many stories about the “rape culture” at universities. The frat boy that uses and abuses the naive freshman, or the older guy at the bar that slips a little something into your drink as he brings it over to you. If you choose to report it, no consequences are put in place, and if you don’t, the abuse continues. That is absolutely terrifying to me. In fact, if I hadn’t had prior experience with tailgates and parties, I don’t know if I would even take the risk.

So why are girls my age so scared of boys? Is it because they are all out to hurt us at some time or another? Or is it possible that the fear comes from years of being told that we are going to be hurt by them? For example, when I was little, my mom never wanted me to go to the deep end of the pool. It was her biggest fear that I was going to drown. So as I got older, I began to associate the deep end of the pool with negative consequences – and then I started associating water in general with those same consequences. Now, I am terrified to be in lakes or oceans where my feet cannot touch the ground and I will cry out with fear if you dunk me in the pool. I think that this is sort of the same concept. We are told at a young age that specific, bad men are going to look to hurt us, but as we get older, we begin to believe that all men are like that, which of course is completely false.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are boys at universities and in the workplace who truly believe sexual harassment and rape is okay. I know that they are sick people that do not deserve to see the light of day. I pray that as I continue my journey into college, I do not have to meet any of those kind of people. However I also believe that we should be careful how we word things to young girls. I do not believe it is fair to tell them that men are looking to hurt them. I do not believe it is fair for me to have to be fearful walking back from class. I do not believe that it is fair to categorize males as those who create terror and females as victims. It could easily be the other way around.

You see, this is what feminism is all about. Just as I should not be scared to run an errand alone, a boy should not have to be a victim of skepticism. There should be no questions like, “Do you think he drugged her? I don’t know, he doesn’t seem like that kind of guy…” Men and women both deserve equal respect. No gender should be scared of what the other thinks of them, because that is exactly what keeps the gender lines so strong.

Rape-culture-pic

Prompt: What is in the sky?

Have you ever wondered what is contained in the stars above you? It was said in a legend long ago that each star was an ancestor; another said that each one was a king or a queen or a leader of some sorts. To move into contemporary legends, some say that the stars are other life forms living among us… watching us. If you asked a practical person, such as a scientist, what stars are, they would explain to you that they are simply just collections of gas in space.

I feel as though the question “what is in the sky?” is more complex than it looks. If you take the time to think about it, you will come to realize that many things are up above us. The first things you will think of will be the most visible, such as birds and clouds, or the moon and the stars; however there are also conceptual items that seem to be in the mass of the unknown, such as prayers, sorrows, wishes, and even a higher power who controls the world in which we live.

For those of you that believe in a God, you know that when prayers are said, they are always sent up – never down – because up is where the heavens lie, and down is where despair awaits. You also know that your God is far above the clouds, invisible to the human eye, way beyond where our galaxy dares to reach. To ask for a blessing, you beg the planets and the stars to align in a fashion that brings you what you wish for. Everything that you ask for is sent to a place in the sky with hopes that something miraculous will be sent back down to you.

As for sorrows, people often use the phrase “letting go”. Whether letting go is acted out in a physical manner, such as writing down your burdens on a Chinese lantern and watching it float on into the sky, or figuratively, such as taking a deep breath and allowing your troubles be exhaled to a place beyond your reach, you are pushing something away from you in an upwards manner. As people, we feel the need to have balance in our lives, and it is believed that the sky brings that feeling of relief to us.

If I can bring you back to the image of stars for a moment – have you noticed that the number of stars visible is different in every part of the world? In America, you see quite a few, yet in the populated areas of China you see next to none, and then in Canada it seems as though the sky is lit up with glowing freckles because of the millions on millions of stars that you can see. If one of the legends is correct, that the stars truly are our ancestors whom have gone before us, then does that mean that one area has more than another?

I don’t want to seem as though I am full of ignorance. I know that pollution and gasses and such affect the visibility of the sky above us, but just think with me for a minute; pretend those facts don’t exist. Perhaps the places with the most stars are where our ancestors feel the most at home. I believe that I would much rather look out at the mountains for eternity instead of a busy city.

So if you were to ask me what I believe is in the sky, I would tell you so much more than the stars and the moon and the planets and the birds. I would tell you that everything I have ever dreamed, every prayer I have ever said, every wish I have ever made at 11:11 and every burden I have ever pushed away from me. Part of me is up in the sky above me, as is part of every other organism here on this earth, and maybe after we finish our time here, we will be reconnected with our lost pieces up above.