“Back to My Future”

“Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time…..

…Its too late baby, now its too late. Something inside has die and I just can’t fake it.”

~Carole King, “It’s Too Late”

********* Trigger Warning: This was originally drafted on the 1 year anniversary of my sexual assault, October 21, 2016.*********

Do you ever replay things in your mind and wonder if a split second decision, leaving 5 minutes earlier/later, choosing a different route, listening to a different radio station, and so many other of life’s smallest moments could’ve changed your fate?

I torture myself. I go over every detail of that day and I wonder how I could’ve changed the course of my history. I lie awake staring at the cracks in the ceiling above my bed and go over every mind numbing, meniscal, isolated second of that day. I had slept somewhat later that morning. The combination of too much chardonnay the night before, a late night (out of character) outing that kept me out until nearly 1 am, and a personal shit storm of a shame cloud due to personal decision making. I swung my feet over the right side of my sunlit grey warmth of my bed as I did every morning and staggered to my Keurig in the kitchen.

I had the best of intentions to make it a great day. It was one of those amazingly gorgeous Fall days in Michigan that you hear Tim Allen voice over on ” Pure Michigan” commercials. I had paused to take in the splendor of fall foliage from my balcony view. I was still clad in my nightgown, and popped open the screen to let my cats slink out wide eyed to the balcony. I saw the date on my phone as a familiar morning message broke my face out into a smile. It was about to be “Back to the Future 2 Day” tomorrow.

I go over this scene of my ordinary, unassured bliss from that morning over and over in my head. I ask myself a million questions all starting with “what if?” I revert back to the them of the same movie I would share a horrendous occasion with, how can I go back in time and “undo” my future?

  • What if I had swung my legs over the left side of the bed?
  • What if I had gone out for coffee, walked to the bagel shop down the road?
  • What if I had gotten up earlier and gone for a long walk or run?
  • What if I had turned off my phone and let my mind think free of interruptions??
  • What if had stayed home the night before, and not created the guilt hiding in the back of my mind?

I once read a statement by the late Christopher Reeve regarding the days leading up to his accidental fall from a horse that left him paralyzed. He was a huge movie star at the time-handsome, wealthy, happy, athletic and in his own “unassured bliss.” Reeve stated in the interview that he saw a man in a wheelchair not too much before his life altering incident and had pity for the man. He describes his actions of almost being arrogant or “better than.” Reeve stated in this interview that he had reflected deeply on this one, brief moment, and pondered if he had thrown bad karma into the universe. He wondered if that moment helped lead him to his physical sentence of being wheelchair bound.

I deeply relate to this interview as I have tortured myself with the same shaming thoughts as I replay this moment over and over again. It was a beautiful day outside, but I was not in a beautiful place in life. I was lying to myself, to others, I was not performing at my full potential and settling for relationship behavior that I knew deep in my heart was wrong (and I had said I never would have engaged in.) I had committed some “serious girl on girl crime”, as  Tina Fey would state. Do women wish each other such harm? Had I put bad energy into the universe, “planted a seed”,  that I deserved to be punished for?

I assimilate further in my darker moments, is there such a thing as “rape karma?”  I define it as “torturous, self-inflicted victim blaming that I can nightly impose on myself. Its a brand new term of hell that I have branded myself with. Let’s be honest most of its self inflicted by replaying the BEFORE that day mixed with a special recipe of horrifying victim blaming after the fact.

I had been listening to John Lennon with the door open that afternoon. Music specifically chosen to let my mind think, and in an odd way of deep reflection. The mid-morning warm embrace that left me feeling lonely this afternoon had sparked months prior  with a dance to John Lennon on vinyl. I had no idea that would be the last embrace either. I can see myself pacing my living roon, pondering what I should do that evening. I had waited to charge my laptop before dinner. Pacing and listening to music.

Why didn’t I go pick up the books I had on hold at the East Lansing library? I had been dying to read “Rising Strong,” why hadn’t I just gotten up and traveled the few blocks? Why hadn’t I picked up this book, sat outside, and let the late afternoon sun hit my face? My face was raw, pure, and unmarred that day. Afterwards, would always carry a faint scar I would try to hide-reminiscent of brutality and forever marked. It may have been the last time I was vulnerable to allowing my naked face to hit the sun. Before I externally and physically showcased my internal self.

Where is my Delorean? Why do I hear Carole King echoing in my brain that “it’s too late?”  How do I go back in time and change the days, hours, minutes, seconds that became my fate?  10, 20, 30, 60 seconds? How much could I change? How many seconds was I unconscious? How many seconds do I need to correct in order to not wake up broken on a public sidewalk. How much further do I need to go back to not dance to John Lennon, how much further back do I need to go?

You could argue that the nightly “Kate beatings” are reminiscent of the film “Ground Hog Day” instead of the previous title. Of course I know I didn’t deserve this, but did my actions leading up to this magnify the risk? What could I have done differently? Where in time did my destiny become apparent? WHY can’t I stop blaming myself and reliving that day when I can’t sleep?

Victim blaming topped with a whopping side of PTSD is deep. The reality in life, is that we don’t get “do overs”, we don’t get time machines, we never get to know  what split second decisions we made would have full blown consequences, consequences that would lead to a less desirable fate. When things do go horribly wrong though, I will quote Carole King, “something inside has died and I just can’t fake it.” I reminisce in that day because something inside of me DID die that day, and I can’t fake my reality.

The only plus side is I will probably never, ever take a beautiful sunny Fall day for granted again. Ever.

 

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“Cheers to Growth”

“Think I’m going to get myself happy.

I think there’s something you should know

I think it’s time I told you so

There is something deep inside of me.

There is something else I’ve got to be.”

-George Michael, “Freedom”-

How many of you have made a resolution on New Year’s Day and failed? You might be like me, and personally never make a resolution. I despise the societal expectation that a ball dropping at midnight is going to make me suddenly resolve to participate in a triathlon, volunteer 20 hours a week, read 4 books a week, eat 100% healthy, climb Mt. Everest, be a perfect partner, learn 30 new things… the list goes on. I do not like New Year’s Resolutions or the concept that we all are going to suddenly become so perfect the next year we will be featured as one of Barbara Walter’s “20 Most Interesting People of Given Year.” I am a firm believe in setting yourself up for success and think the looming absolute of resolutions demand unattainable perfection. We are imperfect creatures doing the best we can moving through life. This year, however, I am breaking my own unwritten rule and embracing a new resolution trend. I have chosen to embrace the concept of a one word resolution and incorporate in into my everyday of 2017.  Link for this concept is here: http://myoneword.org/

Choosing a solitary word, and a needed paradigm shift of a new year is difficult task for me. I will openly share that 2016 was not my best year. 2016 could be summed up with various (negative) words: challenge, loss, shame, isolation, difficulty, heartache, denial, and struggle. I went into the year simply just wanting a difficult end of 2015 to end. Optimistically hoping for a new number to bring good tidings. Serious reflecting on what word I wanted to embrace to better myself for 2017 brought some ugly truth in the mirror of self-reflection. The reality was (is) I need(ed) a serious attitude adjustment if I’m going to make the personal and professional strides I aspire to have. I never would have told a student in distress to carry a bitter pill around a boulder sized chip on their shoulder. I always used to state, ” How can I help you? What can we learn from this?”

A’Ha moment.

Learning means growing as a person. Without personal growth, I’m not setting myself up to be successful in the future. In order for 2017 to end with a more glowing list of words, I need to be asking myself, “how can I help myself, what am I learning from this, how can I grow from this?” I need to challenge myself to grow in 2017.

You may ask, how does a person challenge themselves to grow? How does this make sense in everyday practical life?

My personal definition of growth is reflecting versus internalizing challenges without guilt. (The without guilt part is going to be a struggle for as a devout perfectionist.) In essence, reflecting on learned behavior is a cornerstone of bloodstream education and should be simplified into personal learning. Universities look at retention numbers, budgets, academic assessments, and analyze all date in order to grow into a more successful institution for the next year. Personal growth is also indicative of personal “data” we all store and gather daily. I am going to have analyze simpler things in my life to set myself up to be successful. Was I irritable all day because I stayed up late binge watching Netflix? Notice a pattern of depression around certain days, when exercise took a back seat, or a connection with a friend wasn’t a priority? These little things we don’t think matter, well I am here to tell you folks, they do!

My personal concept of growth is the following:

  • Growth, like healing, is not linear. It is not perfect, absolute, or 100% measurable.
  • Growth can mean being more assertive with my needs.
  • Growth can be taking critical feedback as a building block for character growth (and to not internalize as shame.)
  • Growth is making daily meditation and reflection a priority.
  • Growth is only engaging in personal relationships that are healthy and mutual.
  • Growth is openly owning that I struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and that makes me real-not a bad, flawed person.
  • Growth is sharing when the above struggles are resonating, and not secluding myself.
  • Growth is unplugging when I need to for my own self care.
  • Growth is as simple as reminding myself I’m worthy of self care.
  • Growth is challenging myself to not take everything personally.
  • Growth is knowing when I am hiding in my work by working too much, and taking a step back –guilt free.
  • Growth is taking a possible negative interaction and trying to focus on how you can change your role for the better next time.
  • Growth is being curious and finding out answers.
  • Growth is being a better friend to myself.
  • Growth is evolving.
  • Growth is analyzing my own “data” to help set more positive patterns.
  • Growth is admitting insecurities and trying to learn the root cause of them.
  • Growth is asking myself how can I help myself. Seriously!

Growth is ongoing and does not take the place of goals. I have many personal goals I choose to aspire to achieve. (I’m a huge fan of SMART or Stretch goals.) These goals include: competing in the half marathon I selected this Spring, finalizing decision for future master’s degree programs/potential move locations by July, finishing binge watching The Walking Dead, reading a few selected books, working to add strength training to my running routine, work on fixing my blog, sing up for 5 speaking engagements, and monitoring my sleep habits (like data) for a healthier mindset. Goals can be daily, on lists, large scale and I can see where personal growth can help one actually achieve these goals.

I often reread certain books that have had positive effects on my life, and that I continuously learn from. (I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee once a year for 20 years now!) I recently reread “Rising Strong” by Dr. Brene Brown Can view book here on Good Reads and it further moved me to encourage growth. I wrap this up with this quote as I attribute personal growth very much to the rumble phase.

“The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”   (Rising Strong, 2015.)

We cannot control what happens to us, we cannot deny it. How will you reflect this year to get to a place of growth? Instead of a New Year’s challenge, would you be willing to ask yourself “what do I want to learn this year?” What does personal growth look to you? Do you have a one word resolution that resonates with you? What word would you like 2017 to represent next New Year’s Eve?

Cheers, Peace, Love, Reflection, Growth, and Well Wishes to you all for 2017.

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Won’t You Please Give Me Love…

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul”

George Harrison, ~Give Me Love~

When is the last time you gave up hope on something?

It could have been when the clock was winding down to the last few seconds of the 4th quarter of a football game and an ominous loss of your team came to fruition. May be you had a great outdoor event planned and despite checking weather.com daily, the stone cold truth is, it is going to rain. You scrambled out of the office as early as possible to make it to an event to find yourself stuck in summertime road construction–no chance you will make it.

That’s the thing about life, we all have dreams, aspirations, plans, goals, and future accomplishments that we hope come to fruition. I have been accused of being a bit of a dreamer by someone close to me. I wouldn’t say I dream as much as hope that by putting positive out into the world it will come back to me. I hope that by planning ahead for the work week, I will have enjoyable stress free mornings setting myself up for success. I hope that by being cognitive of what nutrition I put in my body I will retain good health and longevity of life. I hope that by adhering to a running schedule I will be able to attain life long goals of fitness, stress relief, and future looming races. I don’t feel I’m a dreamer; more of an optimist that relishes in my world of hope that things will turn out somewhat how I aspire for them to turn out.

So what happens when your hope turns to dismay?

Life throws curveballs and things that would never happen become reality. Death and serious illness occur. Divorce or a relationship ending can rock a person’s world. You don’t get accepted into your university of choice, you don’t have the pace to qualify for the Boston marathon, or your presentation falls flat in front of your colleagues. You succumb to a hard time in life and begin to lose hope.

The thing about hardships in life that we tend to call people out behind their backs instead of lovingly bringing them in. It is so easy to judge another person while sitting in the stands with another (friend) parent about a family in your child’s school. Its not your hope or your dreams that are shattered, its their hard time. It’s easy to state that we wish people the best; but do we really practice what we preach here?

I don’t think we do even with the best of intentions (its not our hopes and dreams being shattered after all.)

I recently witnessed someone read the front page of the newspaper about a local person being the cause of an auto accident that took power away from a patch of neighborhoods near us. It was stated this person was over the legal alcohol limit and was arrested. A person well known in the area that you would say hello to and shake their hand. I watched the person reading this call their closest friend (and someone else familiar with the individual) and say, “Hey! Did you see who is on the front page of the paper and got arrested for…” I had to walk away because I felt a feeling of disgust wash over me and wanted to not react out of a place of emotion.

(Please note that I do not condone ever operating a vehicle while under the influence as I state this below.)

Can you imagine being that person? Being the spectacle of a local town and now facing legal ramifications everyone knows about? I can empathize. This was a person who I understood had hoped to retire very soon, a person I had met in a formal interview setting and treated me with utmost respect and decency. This person is now being publically called out (behind their back more than likely.)

Guess what, we all make mistakes in life! Some mistakes have minimal impact of a $5.00 late fee on a cable bill for forgetting to pay. Some mistakes impact out health and make others responsible for our well being. Some mistakes have serious, long term, and impactful circumstances. The choices we make as a person have create our futures, and impact our hopes and dreams.

The real reality is we are always secretly glad that it’s someone else’s “bad luck or down time.” It’s not our hopes and dreams crumbling around us. I would be willing to bet that most people would not be willing to admit this out loud. I am going to take a bold step here and own the fact that I now would. I would now due to having my own hopes and dreams crash and have to be recreated this past year. The paradigm shift of being on the other side of the whispering is realizing just how very real, close to, relatable, and human a person in distress is. I look back at some of the conversations and judgment I have had of others in the past and fully see how wrong I was. How wrong it was for me to call people out behind their backs, secretly relish in the fact that it in fact wasn’t me, and consider myself a bigger person for it. There is nothing elite about judging another person. There is no moral high ground in feeling superior to someone in turmoil. Saying, “well how terrible” or “I hope things turn” around with an underlying tone of judgment does not make it right.  Thinking something could never happen to you is asinine.

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were front page news for your biggest mistake? Dig deep. Dig really deep and think about the biggest error in judgment you made. Something bigger than turning left, instead of right to beat traffic. I am willing to bet that you would be stuck in a shame cloud that would prevent future hope.

My point? Either show compassion and bring someone in; or say nothing at all. Be very careful for what you perceive as someone’s own fault and something they may be deserve. Your grass is never greener than that persons. Mentally actually wish someone the best. If you are person of faith, pray for them. Tell people you hear gossiping that its not okay and its hurtful. Look someone in the eye and sincerely ask them how you can be supportive of them. Categorize your own hopes and dreams, put yourself in that person’s shoes, and show compassion. Connection and compassion are two things that essentially drive the human race.

I own my past judgment of others and also own my own mistakes that I didn’t anticipate in life. I am not perfect by any means. I’ll make more “left turns” in life and I will come to snap judgments of others misfortunes. I will strive to avoid doing both and learn moving forward.

As for my own hopes and dreams, I do believe the late George Harrison’s former band mate John Lennon did state, “You may say I’m a dreamer….but I’m not the only one….” No John you aren’t the only one; I will keep on planning with hope and aspirations of a dreamer.

May be I will even special order a special pair of “Lennon style” rose colored, compassion embossed glasses.

It couldn’t hurt. Truly.

“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…