Please STOP the Music

“There is no real perfection
There’ll be no perfect day
Just love is our connection
The truth in what we say”

Badfinger, ~Perfection~

So I’ve been part of a club lately. This club has the sole job of analyzing an individual and breaking down different components. The theme is to tear apart, break down, antagonize, and compare the parties’ person to everything better than this person. Nothing is off limits in this very analytical journey. This club will scrutinize this person’s physical appearance, athletic ability, mental competence, resilience, domestic skills, and contributions to society. This club is hard core. Did I mention, this club has a membership of one? One individual responsible for being the treasurer, president, secretary, VP of membership, and marketing professional. Its a big job and exhausting. The best part–wait for it–I am the sole member of the club. The person being analyzed; myself!

Its no wonder why I am so tired! (I’ll allow the club to judge how tired I actually should be at their next meeting.)

Circa 2011 I read Real Housewife of New York City and Skinny Girl creator, Bethenny Frankel’s book, “A Place of Yes.” I admire this woman for putting herself out there with her no nonsense attitude, zest for going after what she wants(wanted), and her platform of owning up to imperfections before it was popular to do so. (She also has a snarky side I can relate to.) The very first chapter is titled, “Stop the Noise.” I loved this chapter, read it, wrote about it, incorporated it into a speech, and reread it some more.  A Place Of Yes Information can be found here. Its not Brene Brown deep, but has some great advice on the complexity of holding yourself back and how to simply just stop it.

So what is noise?

The concept of “noise” and “stopping noise” is very complex and yet so simple at the same time. Its literally about stopping the voices in your mind that tell you that you can’t do something. The voices that judge yourself against others. The reminders of how less that great you echoing throughout your daily life; as you smile, go through the motions, and act completely self confident. Noise can be recordings of insults or unintended insults from others that we play on repeat in our minds. A person’s noise could be a set of internalization of self doubt set up from preconceived notions of what you should be not what you currently are.

Noise was the theme of my fake club of internal voices that I projected with self depreciation and humor. Noise isn’t funny though. Noise, or “Kate chatter” as I like to call it, holds me back in life. My own personal noise hurts myself daily, and I have to find a way to silence this noise. I meant humor about a fake club analyzing myself, but there is nothing laughable about hurting, feeling less than worthy, or like I don’t deserve things. After another night of insomnia (4 am), I woke up to another booming internal voice of “what is wrong with me!” I wrote down a list of specific thoughts and behaviors I need to completely silence or vote to kick out of my “club.”

Hereby, on the 7th day of October at approximately 1:54pm, I stand to add the following formally to the minutes (non subject to discussion.)

This club will no longer tolerate, allow, request, support, or administer furthering the following:

  1. Comparison of yourself to other women who have married and started their families as single thirty something (side note: No playbacks of tapes from those who openly question why you are still single, how IS it you are not married yet? You are a catch. Nope audio tapes destroyed.)
  2. Kicking oneself for having a abundance of drafts written, but not yet published. Your writing flow is your own. Let it be and let live.
  3. Judgment of your accomplishments versus others. You may not have a master’s degree, list of publications, or your dream job yet. Stop it. Just stop comparing yourself to others.
  4. Hating yourself for the mornings you cannot drag yourself out of bed at 5 am to run, work out, practice yoga etc. There are 24 hours in a day. Not making the morning work everyday does not make you a bad person. The entire point of these habits are for health, self care, and to feel better about yourself-not worse. (Side note: Also judging yourself for no longer having a 7 minute mile, marathon under belt etc.)
  5. Severe mental beatings about having depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, and trauma. You didn’t ask for any of these. Refer back to meeting add on #2 for ways to cope.
  6. Idolizing past times in your life when you felt like you “had it all” or at least had it together. You weren’t perfect then, you didn’t feel perfect then, just stop.
  7. Envy of those that seem to be able to afford anything. Financial envy isn’t healthy. Just no.
  8. Move to abolish all thoughts of disgust over eating any foods not distinguished as “healthy.” Also move to avoid using humor to deflect self disgust (no a raccoon didn’t sneak in to eat the Halloween candy-you did-just own you had a bad day.)
  9. Let the record reflect that self worth and identity no longer will be measured next to other women. Use of social media to self deprecate will no longer be tolerated either.
  10. All negative uses of noise will be silenced and tried to be executed in a healthy, efficient, and timely matter. Next meeting will go over these specific items (please allot time.)
  11. Lastly, this club will be abolished if above matters are not resolved in a timely, efficient, and self serving manner.

Okay, so its obvious I use humor to deflect, but I cannot be alone here. I cannot be the only woman out there who is tired of “noise,” or voices in her mind that bring her down a few notches. I’ve been through a tremendous ass kicking the past year, I’ve got to stop kicking my own ass. Noise is ongoing, perpetuating, and exhausting.

How do you navigate through the tapes in your own mind? What about your own internal voices holds you back? How can you relate?

I put this out there as I’d much rather own I am feeling a certain way, than pretend its not real and amplify what’s already blaring. Perfection is deadly and I’m tried of injecting myself with it daily.

Hi, I’m Kate, president of my own Noise club, today I feel about a 5….how are you?

 

 

 

Text Messages, Apathy, & Heartbreak

“As I walk this land of broken dreams

I have visions of many things

But happiness is just an illusion

Filled with sadness and confusion

What becomes of the broken-hearted?”

~Jimmy Rufin~ “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”

An unexpected text message or phone call can elicit a variety of emotions. It can bring a smile at the sight of a long lost friend reaching out. A reassuring feeling of a someone we care about remembering our birthday, anniversary, work anniversary etc. A stunned expression of wonderment why this person needs your attention. A jolt of a reminder of something you forgot. Empathy for a friend in distress or potential bad news. The thing about caller id is the elusiveness of who is on the other line no longer exists. When you save a contact in your phone it serves a purpose of bringing to your attention. Perhaps you don’t answer the electric company conducting surveys when you unexpectandly see their number pop up. You may reflect for a moment if it’s worth responding if it’s going to stir up emotions you have buried. If you were me and while getting ready for work saw the name “detective” flash on your screen while getting ready for work; your blood stops cold.

This is a contact I had saved in late October of last year was for the detective working on sexual assault case. The detective that I was in constant communication with up until they hit a wall in my case. I hadn’t heard from him in nearly five months. My heart soared, hands shook, and I immediately responded to his text. I stated I would make myself available at that very moment.

He politely asked how I was and got to the point that evidence had come back. I heard his words of bad news and it took me about a full minute to realize I was sobbing. I listened end to him and felt every ounce of hope I’d had been carrying around for months be completely shattered. I heard myself ask him to explain what he had just told me again (I didn’t comprehend at this time.) There was new information involving running my DNA I wasn’t aware of. The news wasn’t good. Due to inconclusive evidence my case was going to be closed. I asked for a courtesy call to those that had complied with the investigation. The poor detective kept asking me if I was going to be alright, if I had a support system, was I still with my new job, if I was alone (due to my reaction.)  I sobbed and said I would be fine.

I dropped my phone into my bed and staggered down the stairs get in the shower. I stood numb and sobbing under the hot water trickling down on me. My reaction after this was 100% apathetic. I didn’t tell a soul. I put on my work clothes I had set out the evening prior, grabbed my coffee, and went through the motions. Even worse, I was scheduled to present more than once (on a new subject.)  I felt my mind starting to tell me I needed to process this. I needed to go in the bathroom and cry, tell a coworker I trusted what had happened, text a friend, or do SOMETHING! I plugged through, not one tear, not one display of emotion. (Mind you my current job entails me to interact with staff at a consistent pace. No office to hide in or private desk to hide underneath.)

Even I was stunned by my reaction.

Further thoughts trickled through my mind when heading home for the day. Just as we never know when we are going to get a phone call/text that will completely change our world; we never truly know how we are going to react to a situation. We carry perceptions of how we are supposed to feel. How we are supposed to publically display emotion. I was completely heartbroken and yet showed no display of emotion other than my initial private meltdown. People judge reactions and how others grieve. For the first time I really understood it.

My heart was broken and every sinking hope that justice would be served was shredded by a single phone call. I think for the very first time in my entire life I truly understood grief and how others process on their own timeframe.

My grief and different emotions came in like a flood the next day.

Text messages and closed cases.

Apathy and heartbreak.

Grief and even as I write this, a small glimmer hope, and wonderment of what tomorrow’s emotions and roller coaster will be.

 

Gimme Some Truth and Get Mad

“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”

~John Lennon, “Gimme Some Truth.”

Thursday, May 26, 2016’s breaking news mid afternoon is going over the firing of the University of Baylor’s head coach Art Briles. It’s all over sports media, 24 hour news cycles, and the number one trending topic on Twitter. I’m dismayed, disgusted, horrified, appalled, and feel angry. Point blank; I’m mad! I’m mad to read about another tarnished athletic program. I’m mad about elitism being shown. I’m mad about the sexism that can be found in this story. I’m mad about the personal, professional, and political integrity shown forth regarding this story. I’m mad as a woman. I’m mad as a former higher education professional.  I’m mad as a recent survivor of sexual assault.

Mostly I’m mad that this all could be prevented.

In November of 2011, the world of college sports was rocked to its core when shocking allegations came forth regarding legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The allegations led to a grand jury investigation, indictment, firings, a long trail of horrific sexual abuse, incarceration, a penalized University program, and reform across the board when it came to reporting of sexual violence. At this point in my professional career I was affiliated with an office at a fellow Big Ten University. Our acting leader mandated we read the Grand Jury report regarding what happened at Penn State University. I had to walk away from it several times and put it down. We were expected to comb through this gruesome document as a point of learning, prevention, and further reform that was to come down the pipeline; and it did come down the pipeline.

Years later my role in Higher Education at this University was helping to run Summer conferences held in the residence Halls. A very well crafted piece of literature was handed down to full time employees and signed over viewing expectations of reporting any sexual violence, abuse, child abuse etc. It may have been a piece of paper; but I saw it as progress. My signing this meant my position at the University was to uphold the law and integrity of which this University wished to stand for. I was grateful to see information dispersed at all levels of administration of what was expected, and what professional consequences would happen if reporting lines didn’t not happen in the event of an instance.

The thing that puzzled me was my personal integrity would have always superseded any title, position, or power when it came to do the right thing in reporting wrong doing. Especially wrong doing that included violence, sexual violence, child abuse, or anything pertaining to these categories. I can recall a specific conversation with my ex regarding the Penn State story. There was an assistant coach who witnessed an event of sexual abuse against a minor and neglected to report. My ex stood firm that as a person, you always do the right thing, regardless of your position. I was really proud of him in that moment and of how he processed this event with me.

Sexual violence survivors that find the courage to report their assailants often times find themselves revictimized. You involve media and a national story and this further complicates the stigma and embarrassment of the survivor. A survivor who deserves complete and total anonymity during their healing. One of the hardest parts of my journey through surviving sexual assault last Fall was the public message indicating “a 31 year old female was attacked and sexually assaulted near campus.” There were further details on this story and the alert was meant for public safety. The trigger and damage this did to me was insurmountable. I choose to be open about what had happened to get ahead of the speculation. It still hurt and is forever in print.

What the administrators and coaches in the athletic department at Baylor did was similar. According to the reports out there, victims who came forward were not properly reported to the Title IX or campus police. Alleged perpetrators of rape were dismissed. The survivors ( a term I prefer to use over victims) were not heard. This now being a national public story means they will be further re-victimized every time this story is told over and over again. Even if they try to keep their anonymity, others will know who it was. A Big Ten town newspaper told my story and made me feel re-victimized. These women will have CNN, Twitter, ESPN, magazines, online publications and more putting daggers into their already exposed selves. I really feel for them here. They don’t deserve this.

A decision to pursue athletic glory over integrity has once again marred a University, an athletic program, a coach’s career, and more administrators. Penn State happened nearly 5 years ago. What have we leaned since then? How are reporting lines helping victims at University’s? How are those brave enough to come forward being re-victimized by reporting structures, media, social media and more?

I am mad, are you? Use your anger over another headline tarnishing those with integrity in Higher Education to demand reform. Look at your own policies while you have summer down time (or are supporting conferences /campus on campus.) Be angry another “stereotype” in college sports was just affirmed. Male dominance and elitism were supported. Get mad about it. I am!

I am currently in a corporate role between Higher Education opportunities. I am consulting on speaking on sexual assault and violence on campuses. I am mad enough about this to collaborate with my Survivor Speaking coach and see what education from this we can bring forward. I witnessed the hurt of those on campus who were victims/survivors of sexual violence. Its a vulnerability that can be transformational and detrimental at the same time.

 

 

Lastly, have compassion for the true victims here. The administrators at Baylor University that esteem themselves with integrity and would have properly reported this situation. The alum of this University dismayed to hear about this. The current students and incoming freshmen who will be abuzz with this. The players on the athletic team that do not condone sexual violence. The women who will be going through a national media nightmare while trying to heal from a sexual assault.

I’m mad, and you should be too.

“Life Happened Without My Plans”

“When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way.

But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured, Now I find I’ve change my mind and opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I ‘m feeling down And I do appreciate you being around.”

~”Help!”, The Beatles~

 

I am bout to turn 32 this week. I sometimes feel like I blinked at 18 and wound up this in the body of a 30 something year old over night. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that time goes by too quickly. I have been reflecting on some of the ideas and myths I had created about how my life was supposed to be in my early 30s. I find some of it amusing and some of it hard to work through. Preconceived notions are just that, notions of ideas in this thing called life you cannot predict.

Some of my own personal stories (myths) I told myself would be reality by this age:

  1. I don’t have a picket fence, sparkly left hand diamond, or a life partner: I’m going to be very open and put out there at the age of 18; a huge part of my life goals and dreams were to be happily married in my mid 20s. This to me was just part of the way life worked out, what I had engrained in my mind from the age of young girl, and what society (myself included) thought should happen. It was just part of the pattern in life that a woman was supposed to take. You were to go to a 4 year college, start a few meaningful relationships in your early 20s, have something stick post graduation, get married, settle down into: careers, suburbia, and parenthood. Your 30s were for appreciating your growing wealth, having student loans paid off, rearing school aged children, climbing the ladder at work, being part of book/wine clubs with girlfriends, and your next worry being should your family drive or fly to your next vacation. My life would be moving towards the “summer of my days.” Here is the real deal, I have dated…..a lot! I put myself out there and had some long term relationships with men I still care deeply about. I had my heart broken. My  romantic dreams burst like a bubble. Why is this? The reality is relationships are hard work. This dream life goal that involved Waterford Crystal at the 15th year mark never once included serious illness (ovarian cancer), job loss, career stalemates, relocations, differences in how your would rear children, arguments over burnt toast in the morning and more.
    1. So no, I don’t have a life partner/husband but I’ve put myself out there. I’ve gone on an amazing amount of bad dates. One man even had his credit card denied after showing off by ordering fancy wine, appetizers you name. He racked up quite a huge bill….and then he got angry his card was cut off. He literally accused me of having a fake rack and nice things some other rich man had bought me. Needless to say, I sternly asked him to leave and called a girlfriend. (I enjoyed the rest of the wine that I paid for and for the record I have no surgical enhancements.)
    2. Despite events like the horrendous date listed above.I was always optimistic and upfront with all of these men. If I really saw nothing progressing further; I was upfront. My aunt told me to never burn bridges with a respectful man just because you don’t feel a “spark.” I didn’t settle for anything I knew I didn’t want. I may have been over picky.
    3. I’ve learned how to be incredibly self sufficient and figure out how to do things like fixing the garbage disposal by myself (it was a disgusting task I hope to never do again by the way…) I’ve gone to weddings solo and had a great time. I’ve learned how to be my own plus ones whether taking myself to the movies, reading in a coffee shop, or attending something I wanted to go see.
    4. I didn’t settle. There were some men I could’ve “stuck it out with” and just “been.” I would’ve been happy on paper and miserable deep inside. I stuck to my own truth about what I truly wanted.
    5. I still ache at the end of a stressful day for a person to have my back, vent to, and be my “other half.” I have learned that the very best part of a relationship is having someone just there. That person who is in your corner always, tells you when you are wrong (kindly), and wants the very best from you. I’ve had this in relationships and sincerely wish I would’ve valued it more when it was in my present. I openly admit I see this in other’s relationships and enviously wish for the same in my future.
  2. All of my internal struggles would disappear by this age. My self esteem would be perfectly intact, body image issues would dissolve, and I would be at perfect happiness with myself. I am so incredibly guilty of the “I will be happy when..” syndrome for most of my life. I will be happy with my figure when I weigh X amount. I will be happy with who I am when I have a serious relationship progress to marriage. I will be happy with my looks when I can afford the really good spa treatments like Botox and cellulite removal. This ties directly into what I now understand about worthiness. I was tying my present happiness into my future aspirations (or lack of reaching those said aspirations.) We live in a world plastered with the idea of perfecting slowing down the aging process equates for a meaningful life. Reality people; we all age! I still highlight my hair, try to perfect covering up those enormous zits that pop up overnight, and seriously wonder if I would ever Botox wrinkles in the future.  I have made strides about tying my outer appearance to my self esteem; however I am a woman who can openly admit I still have daily struggles. I still wish I could remain a “perfect” size 2 without working out, and eating garbage. I would love waking up looking as airbrushed as the models I see in magazines. Those pesky laugh lines and wrinkles that keep appearing…well lets just say I wouldn’t hate it if they went away overnight.  The only difference in my projections and what I thought, is that I’m learning to not tie my own worthiness/happiness to perceived flaws in my appearance.
  3. I would be supermom of the year to 2+ kids. The reality is I am one of the few women in any of my friendships circles that doesn’t yet have children. I didn’t ever see 32 as a place in my life that didn’t include children. I love children and very much aspire to have my own children someday. Life threw reproductive issues (surgery and ovarian cancer in my later 20s.) Part of this experience made me realize how very much I DO wish to have children someday (and how much I would like to be a Mom.)  Part of this ideology comes from 20 years of watching other people’s children. Whether it was babysitting for my own cousins, being a full time nanny, being asked to watch my supervisors children and more; I have always been a go to of trusted support to watch other people’s children. Commentary such as, “you are such a natural, I’m sure you will have your own very soon!” consistently came from family, friends, and parents of children I watched. I am still at an age where I can healthily bear children. I need to let go of the notion that it has to be by a certain age. I also need to stop beating myself up for being one of the only women my age (that I know) without a start down the mommy hood path. I have to let go of this perfect notion and know that what happens will happen. Medical technology does amazing things and I’m very receptive to the idea of adoption. In the meantime, I get to be fun Aunt/Cousin Kate to so many children I love and adore. I get to spoil them rotten and send them home. Time will tell if these tables will turn.
  4. I would have more female friends than I did in my early 20s. Holy cow did I have this one wrong! My earlier 20s encompassed being a part of a group of 12 women that were very close friends in high school. I kept these friendships and then joined a sorority in college.  I was the house manager and lived amongst 51 other females for two years. I also made friends via my long term student employment at Michigan State University with quite a few other women. Facebook and the former Myspace came about when I was an undergrad. Thus began the “lets see how many friends I can gather notion.” Reality is not herding friends though. Whether it was an intentional or unintentional falling out; many of these friendships fizzled. People moving across the country, only including their married friends socially (yes this is something people do), or other mitigating factors caused several of these friendships to fade away. I have learned to truly value the female friendships old and new that I have nurtured. A few have stuck around from back in elementary school and some are more recent. Maturity has helped me to see what a truly authentic and genuine female friendship truly is. The women I still have as good friends in my life are what I classify as “quality friendships.” I can go months without seeing or talking to them and our conversations feel like they picked right back up from the last point. We understand that we all have busy lives, but still put the effort out there to acknowledge, celebrate, commiserate, listen to, and be there for each other as friends should. A lot of the women I used to be closer with in my earlier 20s  I still get to keep in touch with via social media. I wish them all well and enjoy seeing their life flourish. Growing up doesn’t mean you have to grow apart; but guess what its a part of life. I am very grateful for the women I have in my inner circle that I can call my close friends.
  5. Career and Education would be flourishing without a hitch. Majority of my career has revolved around University housing. This has been both on and off campus at Michigan State University. This has meant having to be able to work ridiculously long hours, deal with upset tenants, angry parents, make magic happen, follow the housing laws (federal and state), as well as handle those fun other duties as assigned. I had a notion in my mind when younger that as a hard working, positive, energetic young professional I would be fast promoted. This was part of wearing rose colored glasses and having a few fast promotions when I was younger. I always told myself that the next semester would be the one where I tied up those lingering extra undergraduate degrees or enrolled in a lifelong graduate class to merit towards the HALE program at Michigan State University. Reality is I didn’t receive some of the promotions I sincerely thought I deserved. I was deemed “aggressive” for speaking my voice and sticking to my belief system. My surgery (ovarian cancer) had to be scheduled when closing the residence halls. No one said this counted against me, but just like women who take the full maternity leave; the unspoken rule was that it did. I made mistakes as a supervisor I grew a lot from. I didn’t have the perfect unruffled streamline of climbing the hierarchical career ladder. I learned a lot though and never will put off my own personal pursuits for wanting more aside. As for being labeled aggressive; tough. If being an intelligent woman willing to speak my mind when approached makes me aggressive then so be it. I’ll own it (just may be work on the interpersonal approach in the future.) I’m in a transition period right now in my career and have quite a bit of time to really think about what I value in my professional aspirations. Professional heartbreak and setbacks are a part of a person’s career we don’t get a 100 level course about in undergrad.
  6. I would stand behind all of my life choices as they have made me who I am and not have a single regret. Okay I’m going to make fun of my own self…what a crock of shit! I can actually hear myself saying this in a past job interview, “I have no regrets because all of my choices have led me to where I am today.” Gag me with a vampire stack. I am the person I am today due to the choices I have made as an adult. I have learned from each and every one of them. I owe it to myself to be completely forthcoming and state that I 100% regret some of the decisions I have made. I wish there were times I had thought before speaking, processed something before reacting, separated the professional from the personal, and ended a relationship when it hits its expiration date. Majority of my mistakes and regrets came from a good place.  (Tell that to my mind when I keep wanting to replay it over and over again in head how it could’ve panned out differently.) Impact and intent really do matter in the scheme of things. There are specific actions or things I have said that hurt other people and I still feel very badly about. May be I always will on some level. The reality is I am human. I make mistakes which correlate to regrets. The better way to answer this is to “embrace the suck.” We all screw up. Own it and admit you were wrong. Real maturity is owning up to mistakes/regrets, and growing from them at some point.

The reality of being a young, single, female 30 something isn’t to proudly admit I’ve screwed up and become cynical. Part of my personal journey is admitting that I set up unachievable life standards, goals, and thought I must rigidly abide by them. The truth is beating myself up over what I have not accomplished is keeping me from enjoying the planned and unplanned things I have accomplished. I survived my 20s and am learning everyday to be more at peace with who I am (this took work!) I’ve leaned to “embrace the suck” and use it for motivation. My value as a person is not on preconceived notions society (and myself) have inflicted. I also never thought I’d have the cuts to love so fiercely that it would hurt so much when it was over. I never thought I’d have the courage to stand up in front of people and speak up for the minority of the group. I never thought I’d value myself as more than a number on the scale. I used to let a stain on my shirt ruin my day. I never thought I’d fall and have to pick myself up again. Guess what? I have and am doing it daily. I never thought I’d be brave enough to show my feminist values, and openly advocate for issues that effect women. Saying the word sex in front of a group of people would have made me run for the hills in my early 20s. Guess what? I now am going to be speaking out on sexual violence…publically. I’ve learned to embrace the suck and throw out the plans. I’ve pulled the cork out of my ass and learned to just live. I may not have a three car garage, extra educational intitals behind my title, perfect children, and an ideal life to date.

Here is the thing? NO ONE DOES! The people that portray that they do have the same internal struggles we all do and are just as human as you and I. As the late John Lennon said, ” Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Boy that couldn’t be further from the truth. Embrace the suck. Suck on a lemon. Enjoy the ride. As Lennon stated, “life happens”…and boy it sure does.

 

 

 

“Fear, Falling & Flying”

“It will be just like Starting Over”

~John Lennon~

 

Have you ever felt that moment that can be described as nothing short of surreal? A realization that things are living up and reality is approaching? A paradigm shift? An “oh shit this is happening” moment? Have those butterflies in your stomach lingered to a permanent state? Has a goal that you desire but evokes fear come into fruition? To your satisfaction and horror?

I have and am currently paralyzed in this moment. I have an opportunity to share my voice, further explore my advocacy, and put my passion into reality in the near future. I am a survivor of a horrific stranger assault six months and twelve days ago. I have wanted to speak out on this for the past few months. I’ve wanted to speak out on my experience, findings on how sexual assault cases are reported/handled, view on the justice system through the lens of a survivor, and on so much work that I feel needs to be accomplished. I have yearned for a voice, a “dog in this fight,” a way to publicly use my god given talent for public speaking to a hopefully better this situation. I think about ways I can be doing more when lying awake in bed at night (and then jot them down in the notebook I keep on my nightstand.) When I set out to run long miles, I let my ideas flow and process them through my mind. I live and process these thoughts, ideas, and goals 24/7.

I am now frozen in the dichotomy of my aspirations, hopes, fears and dread. My dreams and realities are beginning to line up, and overlap for what I wish to accomplish.

Let’s revert back to who “Kate” used to be. In my past personal and professional life; I literally grabbed the bull by the horns everyday. If a volunteer was needed; I enthusiastically raised my hand. An impromptu speaker, emcee, or presentation needed to happen (which does happen quite a bit in Higher Education) I was that person. I was always eager to jump in. I struggle with a vicious cycle of perfectionism, but have always done well with on the spot public forums as needed. If I saw a voice wasn’t being heard, or knew someone didn’t wish to speak up; “I went to bat for them.” As this” Kate”, never been afraid of a challenge, never backed down from a conflict I felt needed resolve, or was able to stretch the truth to someone when asking for my advice. I can recall a former  male coworker/friend of mine looking at me in our employee break room and saying, “Kate you and I are the kind of people that are going to speak up when needed or when we view things as wrong. That means we are always going to butt heads with others. We are probably going to bump head with authority at times. You should just embrace it. The world needs people like you and I.”  I have to admit I scowled at my friend/colleague who was supposed to have let me vent at that moment. Further reflection and absorption rang true in my mind. This is who I am/was; might as well embrace it!

There is a huge part of that “Kate” that still lives inside of me. That version of me has gone through some serious, life changing alterations. Some very painful alternations. I have experienced professional heartbreak (which was a major personal set back for me.) I’ve had to learn to cope with debilitating anxiety I never used to have. I’ve had to cope with trauma. I’ve been judged for how I have dealt with this trauma. My heart has shattered to pieces by personal friends and romantic natured relations who have literally turned their back on me. Turned their back on me during my darkest hour. I don’t have my cozy nest of my own space decorated to make me happy. I ate my words by doing both things I said I would never do. I said I would never move back to my hometown or work for the prominent company everyone works for in my hometown. I have done  both in the past six months. (Mind you its a beautiful town and a fantastic company, I just wanted a different destiny for myself.) My public speaking awards and most of my life are in boxes waiting to spring back into my world when the time arrives. I’m not the same 20 something who didn’t have a fear in the world. I put myself out there: personally, professionally, and politically. I was deeply hurt in all three arenas. I silenced that “Kate.”

I don’t believe in silencing anyone through cultural norms. This especially applies to what women (and strong women who threaten the status quo.) To follow that belief; I have started to slowly let the old “Kate” back out in increments. My external and internal scars have made it painfully difficult for me to be vulnerable, true to myself, and to truly put myself out there. Slowly, I have reached out. I have spoken out on things I believe in. I have professionally presented in front of a large crowd (first time in a year!) I have started to find my inner voice come back out. I have met a group of supporters online that have helped pull that inner voice back out. I have challenged my physical strength through exercise to attempt to find inner confidence. I have read, researched, blogged, and plotted out ways I can express advocacy for fellow survivors of sexual assault and violence. I’ve structured plans on how this is going to tie in my goals for graduate programs, how this is going to bring me back to my love of working with college students/higher education, how set plans are going to pull myself back out. I’ve been doing my own personal homework.

I finally put myself out there and signed up for my first personal public speaking event to tell my story with sexual assault. My story in a way to heal, educate, and hopefully help reach someone else who is also feeling lost. This has spurned speaking with a journalist about the tragedy that is the prosecution from the county this happened to me in. I’ve agree to go on the record, put my name behind my words, and stand up for what I believe is/was wrong.  I’m aligning my reality with my goals. My desires are coming to fruition.

I am scared to death. I am putting it out there and forcing myself to be vulnerable by stating I am scared to death I am going to fail. I am terrified I am going to fail others, fall flat with how I wish to work towards this cause, worried I am going to ruffle feathers at the University I still have connections at……I’m “shaking in my heels” kind of scared.

I know deep in my heart this is exactly what I need to be doing for myself and to follow my own goals. I could sit behind a computer at a 9-5 job, pursue a few hobbies, and just “be.” I would never be happy doing these things. I am reflecting back to the first time I spoke in a training course with over 400 students. It was unbearably humid in August, the venue was having air conditioning problems, and I literally felt like I was going to vomit. I was brand new into a relationship, and had been out to dinner/drinks/socializing with that person later than usual on a week night. I wasn’t fully rested.  I was in a new personal relationship, a new professional role, a new transition of identity from where I was and comfortable at a few months prior. The nausea and threat of public humiliation of getting sick in public was ominous.. My soon to be other half sent me text messages of encouragement and got me to smile. I spoke to my inner self, pushed aside thoughts of self doubt, and quite frankly, rocked that presentation. I did it then and I am going to have to motivate myself to do it again.

I can’t be alone in these feelings of fear and self doubt. I have to leave some lingering questions for you all. What is something you would push yourself to do if you could silence your own thoughts? What passion in life would you really pursue if you weren’t afraid of failure? What would your really say to your friend, spouse, partner, sibling if you weren’t afraid of judgment and rejection?  How would you put yourself out there? Put yourself out there as your true self? How would your life be impacted? How are you holding yourself back from growing as a person?

I know in my gut I am moving in the right direction. My challenge to reset myself knowing I can be hurt again is the most raw and authentic thing I have ever done.

The world is my oyster and I’m looking for a throw up bucket at the same time.

Got Tums anyone?

 

 

 

 

Broken Wings to Flying

broken_angel_wings_by_madretierra-d31e0bo.jpgYou live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

~Alanis Morissette, You Learn~

The number thirteen has never been arbitrary to me. I came into this world on Sunday, May 13th, 1984. Nearly three weeks late on Mother’s Day. As I child I would count to thirteen of specific things to separate them out and make this number a good omen. I was aware of the stigma of black cats, the number thirteen, and superstitions at a young age. I will be sitting at my desk wearing the grey/pink striped maxi dress I set out in 13 hours from now. Its been 13 years exactly since I started my amazing journey at Michigan State University. One of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy was just renewed for its 13th season. My first childhood friend Keith Herman was born on April 13th; exactly a month before I was. I’ve learned to clear my mind during meditation for a solid 13 plus seconds (this took MONTHS!) In thirteen days from today it will have been six months. Thirteen days from this moment will bring me to the half year anniversary. The anniversary of my horrific sexual assault.

Thirteen.

Although my number is thirteen, I have to stop and reflect on six months. SIX MONTHS. Half a year has gone by. How is this possible? How did I get here? What did I learn? Am I okay? Have I moved forward? Do I acknowledge this? As a victory, as a small notation in my planner? As what? I may not want to, but I have to acknowledge how very many things I have abosorbed, hated, cried about, accepted, loved, embraced, failed at, exceled at, and integrated into my life the past six months. The past six months that in thirteen days changed who I was forever.

Deep Breath.

Here Goes.

  1. People will still let you down and hurt you. One of the hardest parts of my journey post assault was the people I thought would forever be there for me no longer being in my life. I have this image of myself as a baby robin that has fallen out of its nest and broken its wing. A baby robin can fly again with proper nurturing, healing, and support. I had a supposed good friend tell me when my “wings were healing” that they “could no longer be engaged in this friendship anymore with me. That I am not a terrible person and should know that. This is too emotional for them and they can no longer engage.” This was after I thought I was going to come into town, reconnect with this friend, and even stay the evening at their home (confirmed over the phone as okay.) This person avoided me for a few days after this conversation and finally responded to me after blocking me on all forms of media (yes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it.) I finally emailed this person directly and asked “why?” I got my response. I replied that I wish to respect how a person feels and the boundaries they need for their own emotional needs in their life. I cannot put into words the amount of hurt this caused me or the tremendous set back this caused me in my journey to heal. This was a friend who trusted me to watch their children, I openly shared everything with, I texted back and forth quite frequently, I picked up (they don’t like to drive), used to work with, and I thought was forever going to be in my life. I may understand on some levels why they chose to protect their own feelings and emotional stability; however I will never understand their approach. I stand behind what I said in writing in this same email, “I wish you would’ve stated to me how you were feeling before taking such drastic measures so I could have been supportive to you as a friends.” I still let this friendship “divorce” and person cross my mind daily. I know me. I’m a loyal friend to a fault and have to acknowledge the deep hurt I experienced. I never thought someone could kick me while I was down or my “wings were healing…..”
  2. Moments of happiness accompany moments of guilt. I’ve had this happen so many times. I have a great day, things click, I feel confident, interactions with others go well, and I smile to myself about the blessings I have in life. Then I have the burden of guilt that comes with it. I question myself. “Am I allowed to be happy?” “Whoa, can I feel this way. Does this mean I’m forgetting?” When something tramatic happens to a person there is a blank slate placed in the person’s mind (in my opinion) and its often filled with negative, binding, overwhelming thoughts of how I should feel. I’m not supposed to smile at my reflection as I notice my new concealer covers my scar and I am starting to resemble who I used to be. I’m not supposed to feel content, happy in the moment, or catch myself laughing along with others at something humorous. The dichotomy of these feelings blending together can be overwhelming. Grief for my former life comes with guilt associated with new happiness.
  3. I still have hope. I experience butterflies for the first time in about a year this past week. Butterflies associated with presenting in front of others for the first time in a long time. Presenting and public speaking is a huge part of my professional identity. I relish in it. I’m confident in saying I am good at it! I gave up on this portion of my life when this happened. I had a physical scar and an emotional scar to my soul that ran deeper. I never thought I would be comfortable in front of an audience ever again. These butterflies proved to be a beautiful reflection for my soul. Somehow in my pain, my healing, my attempt to move on; a seed was planted. A small seed of hope that I failed to recognize. A seed that proved to be a late bloomer…but a bloomer. The self-actualization/self-realization that I still had apsirations and hope for myself was one of the most postitive points in my healing process to date. I still have a voice that believes in myself. I still have hope for more. Even more important, the seed planted carries roots growing that I am worthy of and deserve more.
  4. I make people uncomfortable. Lets just call a spade a spade. I am open about what happened to me. I acknowledge it. I address it. I write about it. I have a streak of teal in my hair as a symbol of advocacy for sexual assault awareness. My not sweeping this part of my life under the rug makes other people uncomfortable at times. My growth and attempt to move forward openly isn’t as well received as I would have hoped. In an evaluation setting, a person of HR status said to me, “you have a streak of green in your hair.” (Mind you I have had this since November, but depending on how I wear my hair could be overlooked.) I casually stated, “You mean my advocacy streak?” He stated yes, that streak of color in your hair and inquired the meaning of its advocacy. I replied matter of fact, “My streak of teal is two fold. It stands for Sexual Assault Awareness in April and Ovarian Cancer Awareness in October.” My response as a knee jerk, “Good for you!” The burning of this person’s cheeks were a blatant physical indicator to me that I had made this person uncomfortable.   I am aware that both of my causes that I strongly advocate evolve around women’s issues. one is due to the physical make up of men not having ovaries. The other is that we further stigmatize male sexual assault survivors and “demonize” women as the victims of this. I am aware that hair is not a protected class in the State of Michigan (thank you Dr. Tina Riley for my CHRS from MSUHRLR certification training!) I am also aware that the more openly I wear my advocacy and show for cause; the more uncomfortable about it. Is it I make people uncomfortable, or perhaps issues segmented towards women make people uncomfortable? I say this on Equal Pay Day April 2016 as the only person in my professional setting to ask if this is recognized. I was generally curious, and the question make others uncomfortable. My advocacy, openness about being a survivor of a brutal physical, sexual attack, a physical attack on my right ovary (a sex organ) make people uncomfortable. I think I am going to try to trend the hash tag #awkwardsilence or the 80’s song lyric #enjoythesilence! Get comfortable with the uncomfortable people!
  5. Social Media has become my backbone. I am tremendously overwhelmed by the amount of online support and new online friendships I have formed. I anticipate the day I meet some of these people and cannot wait to hug them and let them know how very much they have helped me grow as a person. I have a support system nearly 24/7 at the touch of my fingertips. Thank you to all of those who have been there for me. I look forward to my weekly chats and touch points with people. I consider these folks to be my friends and lifelines! I encourage anyone struggling and wanting to reach out to what survivor conversations are out there to tune into a few. The hash tag: #SolidarityChat is a weekly chat every Monday done by Hannah Stein. This is a fabulous group of individuals who cover these tough topics and connect. I look forward to it, engage, process, and use this as an important way to heal. I’m forever grateful for Social Media and opening up my eyes to other victims/survivors out there.
  6. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I was a nanny the summer I was 20 years old. This was not a typical nanny situation, and I will also reflect on this as one of the hardest jobs I will ever have in life. I was a nanny to a family that had lost their mother in a horrific auto accident in January of that year. I started working for their Father, son at 6 1/2, and daughter of 3 that May. This family had grandparents (maternal) that had moved across the street and a grandmother (paternal) who lovingly went by the German variation of Grandma “Omi” that I spent a great deal of time with. This family was also in the process of building a beuautiful new home on Lake Michigan’s beach. There was a lot going on. Early into this position I had spent the morning with Omi and the little girl at Omi’s house (down the road.) A crazy storm came through, turned the sky black as night, ripped trees from their roots, caused us to loose power, and sent a large tree crashing down 6 inches from the home we were in. Omi called her son (my boss) immediately to come check the damage as it was over. He was already on his way. She and I were both very shook up as the 3 year old was napping in the room where this happened. Her son calmly hugged his child, and told his mother, “We will just have to get a chainsaw to chop this up later this week.” Totally calm. When he left, Omi looked at me and stated in her warm accent, “When you have been through the things my son has, you don’t sweat the small things or make a big deal.” This moment has forever stuck with me. I now understand it. I am a planner and bit of a control freak. A stain on a shirt, delay in travel, meeting that runs over and more used to rattle me. I no longer care about these things and can now assimilate with my former supervisor. Trauma and grief change a person. The things that used to make me fret and worry are no longer the large scale items I used to create stories about being problems in my mind.  Moments that used to cause my high strung, perfectionist self to unravel no longer hold the same meaning to me.
  7. I am forever Changed. I have had stubborn moments of utter denial that I have changed as person. You must understand, I used to fear change. Change meant my planning might not be going the way it was supposed to. Change means I have to accept I am human. Change made me very uncomfortable. Change brought out triggers in my myself that also initiated my go to “withdrawal/put up walls approach.” Its the oddest thing, I am not afraid of confrontation when going to bat for a cause I believe in or for a person that doesn’t have the courage to speak up. I am often the “go to person” for matters of difficulty that need to be discusses and have a them of change or advocacy. Applying these same rules to myself have never been the case. I have a different perspective on change now. I still have growing pains, I still have anxiety and stress about the unknown, and I still have curiosity about what could be. I will face days I have firm denial anything happened. I have had these days.  Days I wish my fears weren’t my reality. I am changed. I cannot be the person I was before. I can’t be that person ever again. That person had never lived through what I went through. I have had to dig deep and embrace change. After all; “you plan what you can and adjust to the rest…”

These are a few thoughts I have had after a busy, complex, somewhat overwhelming, emotion laced week. I had a thought today. Do I wish this never happened to me? The answer is of course. The second internal question was further complex. Do I regret my journey since then? I don’t not for a second. I embrace some of the lessons, heartache, and realization I’ve encountered. I go back to the salon tomorrow to get my highlights redone. Something I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old. Here is the thing though, now I get my teal streak touched up. I didn’t even blink or think about it while getting ready for tomorrow. Who I am as a person was drastically changed 13 days to six months ago. The person I’m growing into is going to be even better. I’ll be even better and with a fabulous streak of teal in my hair. I’m “toughasteal” and working towards 13 days to 6 months…