The new main stream thing: mass shootings!

As many of you are aware of, there was another movie theater shooting last night in Lafayette, Louisiana. Another white male, standing up and shooting among his peers. It’s fine, it’s just another one, life goes on right? See, that’s the issue right there. These mass shootings have been occurring much more often in the past decade and each time, there seems to be excuses made to back up each one.

“He used to be such a good kid, he just got off track somehow.”
“He was just crazy, simple as that, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Something must have angered him.”
“He had a tough childhood…”
“Maybe if everyone had a gun on them…”

Hold on.

Maybe if everyone had a gun on them? Let’s talk about that for a moment. Bring your thoughts back to Sandy Hook – where the victims were young elementary school children. There is absolutely no way they would have a gun on them; I am going to assume that would be considered common sense. So okay, maybe all the teachers and administration should be armed. That way we can teach young children to fear everyone around them and show that the world is truly an unsafe place… sounds like a great idea!

It is so depressing and honestly, a little pathetic that these shootings continue to happen in our country without any consequences. How many more people have to die in order for a gun control law to be put in place? How much longer should people have to live in fear of dying when they go out at night? Or when they go to class? Or just by walking out of their house?

It’s time for us to stop protecting the criminal. It’s time for the excuses to stop – there should be no insanity plea in these types of cases. This is pure evil, pure hatred, and deserves a true punishment. Our country needs to step up and protect its people.

Young women like Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson could still be with us today. Now is the time for our country to weep with their families, pray for them, and then work to fix the issue that has caused their deaths. We shouldn’t have to wait for another shooting like this one. For those families, life doesn’t just go on – it stops dead in its tracks.

There is a lot of support on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but the thing is, a hashtag isn’t going to change anything. If you want a law to be made, start with your local government, talk to a representative or a congressman, do everything you can – because you can create change.

The time has come to end this long trend of fear.

Rest in peace Lafayette victims.

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.
  

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.

Why you should love yourself … “#LikeAGirl”

I will be the first to admit that I have no idea how football works. I don’t understand it whatsoever, and no matter how many times my family and friends have tried to explain it, I simply just don’t get it. So when super bowl Sunday rolls around, I usually find myself a seat next to the chips and salsa and wait around for the commercials to start. Yesterday, I believe most people were quite disappointed with the lack of comedic commercials; it seemed as though almost all of them were either extremely dark (Nationwide) or very emotional (moms, dads, self-esteem…). One, however controversial, stuck out to me.

The feminine product brand Always had a commercial showing what doing something “like a girl” means to people; specifically the difference between prepubescent girls and teenagers. I found it absolutely empowering for young girls. I think most people forget how horrible it is to grow up. As a young girl, you’re not worried about makeup, clothes, boys, acne, money, popularity… all you care about is getting chores done so you can play outside. I was thrilled that they created this social experiment to show why we have feminism, because so many girls are put down simply for being a girl, and that needs to change.

I can definitely say that I’ve had more than my fair share of experiences with low self-esteem. It’s a phase that almost every girl goes through. Girls are taught from the start to look a certain way and talk a certain way, and what happens if they don’t? Well, society just pushes those girls down to the bottom rung of the ladder. Every girl is supposed to be skinny, they should have long hair that shines, pretty blue eyes, a perfect complexion, and the most important: curves. It’s easy to get down on yourself if you don’t have these features.

What makes it even worse is that girls aren’t even allowed to love themselves. If a girl posts a picture of herself that is captioned “I just felt beautiful today,” her peers either don’t like it or attack her for being conceded. Since when did self-love become conceded? PLEASE explain that to me. If I want to say I’m beautiful, who are you to tell me I’m not?

So this is what we need to do – we need to teach young girls that freckles are cute, that scars can be pretty, that hair of all types is gorgeous, that every shade of skin color is absolutely stunning, that each and every girl can feel like a queen without having someone tell them they are. We need to preach self-love and confidence so it doesn’t die as they grow older. Girls need to believe in themselves, they shouldn’t have to rely on others to figure out if they are beautiful or not.

As for myself, I can tell you that I’ve grown to hate the little lisp that slips out when I get nervous and the freckles that magically appear when I go outside. I have never liked the way my hair curled in some places and not in others and I hate the fact that my skin is basically at war with me. I’ve always wished my feet were smaller than a size 10 and that I was shorter than 5’7″ and my waist was smaller than a size 8.

However, with confidence I have come to learn that the lisp that slips out is part of me, that my freckles come out when I’m enjoying the sun – they arise from happiness. My hair looks natural and that in itself is beautiful, my skin will change in time just as everyones does. My feet and my height and my waist all perfectly coincide with each other and that is how it was meant to be. I was not put on this earth to spend the years hating myself, I was put here to love myself and spread that love to those around me. So why don’t we start teaching every girl that this is how it should be?

Education – why you should stop complaining about school

Hello everyone… I feel the need to apologize for my absence. I don’t necessarily have a reason for it, but hopefully all of my readers can forgive me. I have a topic I’ve been dying to write about. So let’s get to it.

Education. It is one of the most controversial topics in the United States. Should there be a national curriculum? Should schools run all year? Are P.E classes taking away precious hours that could be spent on core subjects? Should prayer be allowed? There are so many questions that constantly take over political conversations. I cannot give you a proper answer to any of those questions because I do not have enough facts to back up my opinion. I can however tell you why kids my age need to stop complaining about going to school every day.

I get it. Waking up at 5:30 each morning and going to school for 7 hours is not exactly the most enjoyable way to spend your day. I don’t like the sleep deprivation that comes with it. I also don’t like that after spending 7 hours there I bring home 7 more hours of work to do at home. So yes, I definitely understand how annoying going to school can be. I also have come to appreciate it though.

You see, there are many countries where girls are still uneducated. There are many countries whose education systems don’t go past the equivalent of our middle schools. The American education system is superior to many around the world and that is something that needs to be acknowledged.

I am sure most of you heard of Malala. A young girl who was shot in the head while fighting for education for girls. There are others just like Malala who must fight for their right to education. In the states, it is freely handed to you. Just for being a United States citizen, you receive every opportunity to get the highest education possible. Yes, college is extremely expensive here, but at least we have it… and we are blessed to have some of the most highly recognized universities in the world. Again, it is something that needs to be acknowledged.

There are quite a few concepts that could use some tweaking in the American education system. I do believe that. I also believe that when you are about to ask why you need to learn something, or why you need to go to school, you should remember that some kids don’t have the choice to go.

There are students I know that shouldn’t even be labeled as students – they never attend class, they never receive the education they could be, they don’t learn the material. They are simply entities that arrive when they are told that they legally have to in order to avoid truancy. I wish I could force them to read Malala’s book, because maybe then they would understand how good they have it.

Why give up education? People are literally dying around the world fighting to have what we have… the least we can do is take advantage of the opportunities presented to us. Use education to make something of yourself. Use it to be something.

The excitement of new environments

We all become so used to the environment we grow up in. We grow close to the people around us and we get to know the community we live in. It’s hard to think about one day packing up your bags and leaving it all for something completely new. One day, however, that time will come. For me, it’s coming up much sooner than expected.

As my American readers will know, nothing moves you away faster than college. It’s a sudden shock that you must decide what you want to do for the years to come and where you want to spend at least four years studying. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

I was recently accepted into my dream school: DePaul University in Chicago. As soon as I got my acceptance e-mail, I joined the Facebook page for accepted upcoming freshman. That’s where my story begins.

I have always been an outgoing person. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. So I became extremely excited when I was placed into a group with over 200 brand new people. I noticed quickly how open everyone seemed to be – everyone started introducing themselves and commenting on each others posts – connections were forming from nothing.

Those posts turned into a group chat, which led to even more connections. It is an amazing experience to make so many new friends in such a short period of time. It makes the transition of dependence to independence so much easier when you are joining hundreds of people in the same situation.

I didn’t understand how college could bring people so close together until now. I mean really, what’s a better way to push people together than throwing a huge group of 18 year olds out on their own? It’s a game of survival, and to thrive you must find a group of people that will support you through your struggles, as you will do for theirs. Which is exactly what college gives opportunity to. With this excitement, I have allowed my fear to dissipate because I know that I will not be alone in my journey.

My specific group has already talked about our support for all ethnicities, LGBT, and international students. We’ve talked about our similarities and differences and how crazy it is that some of us are in California and others are in Boston. We are slowly becoming a family as we all are tossed out into the unknown. I am grateful for this new environment and the relationships that will come out of it – I am for once excited to explore on my own.

Stop Telling Me I’m 16

I am 16 years old, 17 in 9 days. I am a senior in high school. I go to football games and dances. I also have aspirations. Dreams of traveling around the world to small cities and interviewing native people, and then collecting all my interviews and putting them into a book. I have dreams of starting a nonprofit with someone who has as much passion for people as I do. I want to come home every night to an amazing guy that will be obsessed with the same Netflix series as I am and will stay in and drink wine with me while we laugh the night away.

I also have opinions. I think that money is a horrible, wretched thing. I think that the fact that we will kill for a piece of paper shows how immature our world can be. I believe that all people are good at heart. I believe that no one deserves to be put down or shunned because of the amount of pigment in their skin or who they decide to fall asleep with at night. No one deserves to be put down at all, because no matter what we are all made up of organs and muscle and bones and that will never change.

I am 16 but that does not mean anything about my voice. I can speak my mind and it will mean something. I can share my thoughts and people will listen. My voice can carry across oceans and over mountains. Every syllable has a significance that is desperate to be understood. My words have life and they are radiant.

I have 16 years worth of experiences. I have seen 6 different countries, seen the smiles and heard the laughter of many different cultures. I have read books that have made me cry for hours. I have heard speeches that made me want to change the world. I have dealt with divorces, new family members, remarriages, my father’s in and out girlfriends, therapists, psychiatrists, a dad living in a distant country, and so much more.

I do not need someone to tell me my age. I am aware of how long I have spent on this earth. I need people to understand that the number of those years do not affect the value of my words. I have enough knowledge to form my own opinions and I am fully able to share them.

I am not in Congress but I believe that our country needs to focus on more on education. I am not on the school board but I believe that our schools should stop forcing math and science classes on children and encourage creative writing and the arts. I am not a soldier but I believe killing is not the answer.

I am me. I am a 16 year old girl. I am me and I have value.