Spring 2020 Last Lecture – “Let It Go”

I feel like it is so weird to be giving the last Friday lecture for the semester by letter, but I know you guys do not watch the videos on classroom, so fingers crossed you read:

I’ve been throwing around ideas of how to start my final Friday lecture for this semester when we had so few Fridays together in person. How to send my seniors off into their futures, whatever that may hold for them, and what to say to my freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to encourage you all through the summer, and maybe leave you all with something that stays with you for longer than a weekend. 

I wrote something else completely, then in light of everything I wrote this when inspiration struck as I was trying to write a grad school paper. 

So I will try to make this short and sweet, so here we go.

A wise man has encouraged me over the last few months, that sometimes you have to be queen Elsa and just let it go. 

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If you’ve known me for like ten seconds, you know I am an overachiever, and a perfectionist, so “letting it go” is not really my style (I’m more of a Belle…or Leslie Knope if you will).

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Anyways, quarantine has made all of the people who have to let things go. So I have two points based on “let it go.”

  1. There have been so many things all of us have had to let go in the last few months. A typical graduation, having family accompany us to important medical appointments, flying (or traveling at all) to Boston to meet your sibling’s firstborn, birthday celebrations, seeing friends and family members regularly, getting your haircut and/or dyed, watching or attending sporting events… These are just a few that come to mind. 

But we have had no choice but to let it go. 

So, if we have had the ability to let go of these things, or put things on hold, my first point is, what else can we let go of? 

Can we let go of apathy, can we let go of political division, can we let go of hate, can we let go of the fear of the future? Can we let go of the things that do not really matter or the things that are not positive? Because we have already learned to let a lot go. 

  1. My second point is this. If we have learned to let all of these things go, there have also been pieces of life that we have realized are too important to let go. Finding ways to see family members and friends when we can’t in person (Facetime, Zoom, Skype, etc), weddings of 10 or less with drive-by receptions because love cannot wait, online learning for college because we want to get to that career or educational goal we have set, neighborhood block parties from our driveways, Zoom graduation parties, and an absolutely awesome graduation opportunity to drive the Charlotte Speedway to graduate (I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS AND CANNOT WAIT TO SEE A FEW OF YOU!!! I AM INTERNALLY SCREAMING WITH EXCITEMENT, FOR REAL!!), are a few that come to mind. 

So what is so important that you know you cannot ‘let it go?’ Loving your neighbor like yourself, the friendship that you have continued to pursue even when you cannot see each other in person, (clearly graduation), standing up for what matters to you, self-growth, finding what matters to you, and choosing what is best for you. I think we can really use what we have learned in the past few months to make decisions on what we want to keep in our lives and daily schedules as we transition out of quarantine. 

So, all this to say, do not let the time we have spent at home be a waste. I hope you participated in your courses and you learned, but I hope that even more so you learned about yourself and about life and what matters to you. Learning happens outside of classrooms too (but this does not mean education is not important, don’t get it twisted). I hope at the end of quarantine you feel that you learned something from this season of your life. 

To wrap this up, I genuinely miss you, guys. I also hope that you have a fun, relaxing, and safe (and socially distanced) summer. I hate we only had seven weeks together in person, but you all are still “one of mine” like I promised you on day one. I am here should you need me, now, in the coming months, and even years into the future- just let me know what you need and I will help however I can. Thank you for being my first kids at Concord High School, and thank you that I feel happiness at the idea of being back with you in the coming months. 

All my best. 

TLDR: Don’t waste quarantine, learn what matters, I love you guys, I’m always here. Also, why did you not read my Friday Lecture? You’re done with me, you could have given me this one joy.

2020- 5 year goals

I’m trying to stop ‘pinning’ things that I do not use, so I am currently going through my pins and cleaning out things that are not used.

I am also trying to use the writing prompts that I’ve saved.

One is “86 lists for the planning obsessed” and the first of the lists is “5 year goals”

Here we go:

  • Have completed seeing every state on the east coast (this currently leaves me needing to see Maine and New Hampshire)
  • Finished grad school- starting over put me behind in my mind, but hopefully, this happens within the next year or year and a half
  • Have streamlined my cleaning routine- currently cleaning our house from top to bottom, at once, takes me 8+ hours
  • Have found what works for my new diagnosis
  • Have paid off our final student loans
  • Have made progress on negative self-talk, and allowing others’ negative talk about me to affect how I feel about myself
  • Have cut down my weekly screen time consistently – currently, we are in quarantine, but with audible, listening to a sermon a day, working out, scrolling social media, etc, I’m averaging over six hours a day and that is not cutting it
  • Have minimalized my social media presence
  • Be on the board of a nonprofit
  • Be at peace with the relationships in my life
  • Learn that a 60+ hour work week is a requirement from anyone in my life but me and slowing down will not make the world fall apart
  • Stop feeling the need to google my answers to things to make sure I am not missing anything, and just be confident in who I am and that I am damn intelligent – I really while writing this googled how to write five year goals to see if there was anything I was missing
  • Have found our church home
  • Meditate at least once a week
  • Be a better friend, like understand that people not texting back is not a statement that means they are done or do not love me, etc, but just be a normal human a little bit
  • AFSP Capitol Days, yearly
  • Be killin’ that funt life (love my nugs)
  • Start pursuing my nonprofit management certification
  • Have taken Caleb to Disney
  • Have gone to New Orleans, Dallas, and to the Price is Right (Logan Smith, Come on down!!!)

To love myself, I cannot hate the experiences that shaped me.

I have not been here in a while. I have written, but I have not posted those thoughts here. However, last week I finished a paper for graduate school. I was asked to think about how my gender or race shaped my life and experiences, and how those experiences shape my thinking. I wrote hard and clear about what hurts, my treatment, and experience as a survivor. I wrote about how life looked alone, with others, and how my experience differs as a woman than it would as a man. If it rubs you the wrong way, please consider that you may very well be someone I am talking about because you have not handled my story that I trusted you with, appropriately. 

There was a lot I left out that didn’t feel like it belonged there but I can briefly share here, including how I do not pursue people anymore because I am so tired of rejection and hurt. How my health continues to deteriorate. How I have lost people close to me since we got married in June and how much it hurts that the people we trusted to stand next to us on our big day, turning away from me for unknown reasons confirms to me that I can’t trust people because this is the way my mind works at this point in my life. How I have panic attacks that find me in the random and mundane because something takes me back to that place: in a TJ Maxx, my bachelorette weekend, in the car, etc. That my flashbacks have grown more vivid in the last year for some reason. Finally understanding my need for overachieving and it’s links to what I went through. Yet also constant feelings of being able to do nothing right- literally nothing, but understanding that constantly seeking validation is obnoxious to everyone around you. Anything about my depression and how close I have come to relapse in the last year. 

Anyway, here’s the paper:

To look back at my life and how race or gender have affected the events and my reactions to these events, my focus is drawn to events that center around being assaulted when I was in high school. November 2019, marked ten years since my assault, and I often find myself looking at events in hindsight and realizing that my assault and my gender have determined how I have been treated, as well as the ways I have acted as a survivor. I have watched for ten years how my assailant and others have exercised the power of my assault over me, whether purposefully or as a result of the socially-constructed rape-culture we live in. 

As a preface, I was assaulted when I was sixteen. I knew my assailant, I had dated him for over a year, although at the time of the incident we had been broken up for many months. It was an openly known fact that my family did not approve of him, so when continuing to see him, I did so without my family’s knowledge; as a newly-licensed driver, this became relatively easy. He assaulted me in a public space, I am petite so I did not have a lot of force to fight back. I did scream when I saw someone passing by, the woman looked in our direction, and kept walking. At that point, I went into “freeze” mode and tried to make myself mentally anywhere, but there. Later that week, I told one male friend, and then I did not speak about it until January 2012. I did hear that my assailant told people he took my virginity and there were some rumors and name-calling when I was not around. This is why to this day, I am really only friends with one person from high-school. The same people who had watched this boyfriend throw me against lockers for speaking to a male colleague during class and did nothing, willingly believed I had lost the most special part of myself to him, and this told me all I needed to know about any of them. I did not know at the time this was the beginning of the different reactions towards sexuality when it comes to men and women. That even though I had done nothing, because it was rumored I had, I was called a slew of names, while he was patted on the back for bedding a cheerleader and beauty queen. In January 2012, I was watching television with the boyfriend of the year, a rape scene played on screen, I told him, “I think I was raped.” Within a month, I had ‘come out’ to my family, friends, and church, and I was seeing a counselor. I also had encountered my first experiences with victim blame and rape culture, my personal favorite being one of my bible study friends saying “Wow, you must have sinned really bad for God to have punished you like that.”

My gender has been a defining factor in the reactions I received from the day it happened to today. I understood within a few years of speaking up, although I never reported it to the police, that survivors are very often blamed, and just as often, not believed. What drove home how many people in my life, and around the nation, did not have empathy for survivors was the testimony of Christine Blasely Ford. It was terribly phenomenal to scroll my social media and read people I trusted with my story discussing how Justice Kavanaugh was the true victim. The election of Donald Trump and the dismissive nature of our nation towards the slew of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct has opened a can of worms in my life that will never be closed. I have learned things about people I love, that I can never unknow. I can say with complete confidence that my assailant, as a male, has never been asked the things I have, like what I was wearing, if I did anything to imply I ‘wanted it,’ if I was sure I had not done it then regretted it, or if we had done it before and now I was just mad at him and trying to make everyone hate him. I have had jokes and comments made about assault in general, and about me specifically, to my face and on social media. All of it has defined who I have become with my family and friends “at home” because if I cannot trust them with the worst thing to ever happen to me, they do not deserve to be trusted with any of the good either. It also makes me very sad to be that cynical. 

My cynicism and my anxiety carry into school, both my workplace and my education. I have been asked to leave a class for a scathing review of one of my professor’s book on sexual assault in the twentieth century, and how he took part in rape culture by writing it. [Sentence removed here for legal reasons]. I had a hard time with the thought of returning to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s campus after the shooting last spring, because new trauma can cause one to feel other trauma-induced feelings. I can find myself in highs and lows in defense of the people like me who live with our specific type of pain daily. I do see how my gender and my experience have positively affected, as well. 

Being a woman, who is okay with feeling her feelings, I have let what happened to me help define the emotions I let myself feel. Without the hurt, I endured that day and every day since then, I would not have the empathy I do for others. I would not care as deeply as I do for my students and their needs. I would not be walking through life with other women who were assaulted in the last year and loving them and telling them it does get easier. I would not have the heart to decide to leave another school, and a master’s program that was almost finished to continue to pursue my heart for education and the kids I get to help raise through it.

My gender has positively affected my experience with sexual assault too because I do see other women who talk about their assault and their feelings. I have women like Christine Blasely Ford, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Chanel Miller, and Lady Gaga to look to. One of my male friends was assaulted before we met, and he never felt like he could speak about it because socially it feels like it is even less acceptable to be a male who has been assaulted. It was hard for me to go through my feelings alone for over two years, I cannot imagine what he feels living through it daily, knowing he does not get to share the burden with others, in all the ways I am able to. For as many adverse reactions I have received, there are also people who are empathetic. There are people who think of me and send an email during the news coverage of Biden and Trump’s growing list of accusations to say they are sorry I lived through that and if I need them they are there, but he does not have that. My gender allows me to talk about it and feel my feelings, being a male who talked about his assault would gain him more negative commentary than my waiting and lack of legal action gained me.

Today, I reiterated my story for what seems to be the three-thousandth time, and I felt my emotions. I decided some time ago to follow Ernest Hemingway’s piece of advice, and to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Being a woman for me means, I live with what he did, every day. The trauma resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a chronic musculoskeletal disorder called fibromyalgia. Both make sure I am reminded, daily, even if I wanted to forget. My trauma means I live with the anxiety of having children and something similar happening to them. I also wait for the next person in my life to show me why they are not trustworthy. It also means I scream all the louder about the things that matter. It means there is a fire in my belly to pursue my dreams and pursue them fiercely to prove to anyone that I am more than what happened to me. [Sentence removed about perpetrator because of identifying information]. I would never be thankful for him or what he did to me, but I am grateful for being a woman who owns my story and loves myself despite the hard parts. Without my struggle, I would not be me. Without my pain, I would not love so fervently. To love myself, I cannot hate the experiences that shaped me. 

96712709_2537042799896098_1576000724137934848_n*references to textbook were removed.
but I did reference this book we’re using in the course
https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=hflWCgAAQBAJ

 

“Do Better”

TW: Suicide, depression

 

I don’t sleep well on this night.

Tonight I am sitting alone in my new living room, with my cats, with my spouse sleeping in the next room.

And it seems that with each passing second the clock ticking on the wall behind me gets louder.

When it strikes midnight, it will be October 1st.

On this night, seven years ago, I wonder how you spent your final night on this earth. I wonder what your thoughts were. If you had fully made the decision. If you had any caveats, any signs that would stop you. I wonder what texts you sent. I wonder what words would have kept you here.

I imagine you hugged your sweet mama’s neck extra tightly that night. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

None of the people who loved you in the course of your 19 years had any idea.

In less than 24 hours, I would be sitting in a new member education meeting when I received the phone call. A friend who doesn’t call anymore. But the only person I would’ve wanted to share the news with me.

I hugged a wall. I hugged my sisters. I screamed, a lot that night.

The monster that has seemingly has no end. The one that reaps without care of age, gender, race, religion, had come into my circle, our circle.

As much as I wish that night could be taken back. I wish we could rewind. Someone could have stopped you. Hugged you tighter, said what you needed to hear, sat with you all night, done whatever you needed, it’s been done for seven years. Our bodies have completely regenerated since that night. We are completely different people than the ones who got those phone calls, than the ones who hugged you in the hallways, than the ones that can never again hear wonderwall without stopping to think of you.

I desperately wish that night would’ve my only encounter with the monster. Yet, time after time, the phone buzzes, the words are uttered, the heart breaks, the spirit is crushed.

If I never heard those words again, it would still have been too many times, it would still have been soul crushing weight, this night still will forever hold a magnitude as the night before our worlds changed. Because of you. And somehow, I want to find this to be poetic justice, that you must have felt so alone, yet by passing from one world to the next you have affected more lives than I think you probably could have imagined. But there isn’t justice in this world. There isn’t a healing balm. There is no time machine. There is only the movie playing in my head that reminds me of the week of October 1, 2012, and what it held, there is the picture show that repeats every phone call since then, and a voice echoing ever louder with the ticking of the clock, “we must do better.” Im sorry we didn’t for you. 

Learning to Rest

A month ago I made a hard decision. What felt like one of the hardest decisions I have made to date. I had to choose to take a break. I am not good at breaks, rest, slowing down. I measure myself by how much I accomplish. I find worth in my grades, my to-do list being checked off, pats on the back, jobs well done, and the fact I stay busy. 

I ask God a lot to teach me how to slow down. I ask Him to show my heart the meaning of the words “Be Still.” I ask Him to teach my heart the meaning of my worries being taken care of by Him. But I don’t ever really put this into practice. It seems every time I lay down my worries in front of Him, and every time I ask for my worth to be found in Him and not doing ALL THE THINGS, I still pick my duties back up, find my mind running rapid during quiet time, and I don’t ever actually slow down or find myself in Him. 

So as this semester should have been beginning, I found myself on Skype with my thesis committee chair/grad school advisor, in tears. I heard myself utter the words “I advocate for everybody else’s mental health, but I’m not taking care of my own.” As I uttered those words out loud, as this thought occurred to me for the first time, the seriousness of the situation struck me. I asked what the process was for taking a semester break to get my life under control. I heard my brain whispering to my heart that I might not ever find the strength to get myself in order. 

I have depression. I have anxiety. They have returned full force in the last few months. I found (still find) myself struggling to get out of bed on so many days. I take my medicine. I do frequently forget (or don’t feel like) exercising. I pray about my mental and emotional health, a lot. I know I dug my way out of this hole more than once in the past, but I don’t know the way out this time. I don’t know where to begin this time. Asking for help seems hard. The solutions that have been offered when I have asked don’t seem right. The harsh answers that have been given seem even harder to swallow. 

Yet, even in the midst of all of the struggles, and there have been plenty, I have seen small glimpses of grace. 

I also have been, and this will sound different than I mean it to, forcing myself to spend time with God’s Word as I search for His promises of rest. And He’s been teaching me. He’s been whispering to me heart:

Isaiah 41:10

Matthew 11: 28- 30

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Psalm 46:10

Jonah 2:2

Psalm 61:2

Isaiah 42:2

Psalm 91:4

Exodus 44:14

Psalm 147:3

There is a precedent in God’s word for rest. To be still. I’m searching for that. I’ve run. I’ve run hard, in fact. I’ve served (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve prayed and waited. I’ve called upon the Lord. I’ve failed. I’ve trusted. I’ve succeeded. I’ve preserved. I’ve conquered mountains. But, the valley has returned. 

My struggles with mental and emotional health are not a sin. They may better me in the long run. But I’m determined they won’t define me. They may bring me down momentarily but I’m determined they won’t keep me in the valley. In trying to understand myself in these dark nights of the soul, im trying to understand the complexity of my human nature, and that of others. I know I have failed in so many way and I will continue to fail. My heart hurts for the wounds I carry from myself and those I’m still trying to find forgiveness for from others. But, Each step I take that seems to have a positive connotation feels like a big deal. Each day that I get up, make it through another day; accomplish tasks set before me, I am doing my best to remind myself that I am enough, and I am loved. As I try to become more gentle with myself to grow through this and heal, I hope I’ll become more gentle with others. And I hope to maybe even learn what it means to be still. Even if it’s for a few moments, that’s more than where we started. 

A Friday Lecture: Don’t Give Discounts

I shared some important words with my students for their weekly “Friday lecture” today. After giving my weekly safety lecture for the weekend, I spoke truth that had been laid on my own heart this week:

You set the standards for how others treat you, by how you treat yourself and by how you allow others to treat you. Your standards have a price. You should  respect those in authority; however, you must also respect yourself and the way you deserve to be treated by yourself and by your peers. If you allow person A to treat you badly, when person B enters your life they will believe they can also treat you with disrespect as person A is allowed to do. So, if someone cannot afford to meet your standards, you do have an option. You can choose to not accept this behavior and cut this person off, you do not have to give any discounts when it comes to treating you well. Know your worth, and live like you do.

Baggage & Lies

As I listened to my devotion this morning it asked me what my big lie was. The lie that held me back. The lie that kept me from loving and living fully. The lie that scared me. The lie that scarred my heart. 

 

I, full of fear, wrote a few months ago about the feeling that I am a bad friend. Those feelings did not dissipate over night…or at all. In fact, read something by a former friend that confirmed to me just what a terrible person and friend I have been all along. A small part of my heart whispered what she wrote could not be about me, it could totally be about someone else, but the biggest part of my heart told me even louder that I knew it was about me because who else could be as terrible a friend as I was. 

 

So, as I began this work year, I came in with feelings carried over from last year. As I began this academic graduate school year, I came in with my feelings of inferiority. I brought my bags with me. My bags marked “TERRIBLE FRIEND,” “NEVER ENOUGH,” “BURDEN,” “MY WAY OR ANXIETY,” “CHRONIC ILLNESS,” “NOBODY EVER UNDERSTANDS,” and “MAY FORGIVE BUT DEFINITELY CAN’T FORGET.” 

 

I walked down the quiet hallway towards my classroom on those workdays and played in my mind the hurtful words I caught a coworker speaking about me on more than one occasion. The words that this person said to other coworkers about me not being good at my job, about my failures in this person’s viewpoint, about their dislike for me. I replayed the way I saw another coworker roll their eyes every time I spoke, even though they thought I never saw. I replayed the way everyone else’s good news was celebrated, and I never received a congratulations on my nuptials, that were so long awaited. 

 

I replayed these incidents daily in the first weeks of school. I replay these incidents daily. 

 

I knew there was blame of my own to hold. I knew my own inclinations to withdraw. I know the way I am apt to stay in my room and keep to myself when I don’t feel welcome. I know I have been overwhelmed and had a lot to get done, so I have worked diligently in the hours I am here, instead of socializing. I know my own anxieties over not fitting in. I know that I’m more inclined to speak if spoken to first, and that when I do talk, I do overshare. Yet, I don’t think that any of these are fatal flaws that make me a bad educator, a bad coworker, or a bad person. 

 

I sent a text to my husband today when school ended. I told my best friend in the world that I miss having a work friend. At my first job it took a while. I learned there were people I could not trust. I learned that drama does not end in high school or college. I learned that some of the most hurtful words can come from people that you think you can trust as the people you really see the most often as members of your work team. But, I also made one of my favorite friendships in the world. I made a friendship that I love when my phone rings with this person calling. I made a friendship that this person stood at the altar with me when I married the love of my life. I made a friendship that I could go to their office during my free time and get my work done, but they were also a safe space that we were so comfortable with each other sometimes there was definitely no work getting done because we were venting so that we were able to work for the rest of the day/week. I miss that connection. I don’t have that here. I tried. And yet again, my heart was hurt. 

 

I tried to make a friend. I tried to open up this year. I thought this year could be different. I thought as I adjusted, as I taught a subject I loved, I would hit my stride in year two here and fit in and find friends. But today, words were spoken to me that made me realize in my room, with my work, is where I need to be. My baggage that I hoped would get a little smaller this year, just grew a little more stuffed. 

 

My lie just got a little bit louder. My heart has whispered again to look how lonely we are here at work, but all lies tend to have a smidgen of truth, I think. Otherwise they would have never formed as thoughts to begin with. 

 

I am so sad, and I wish I could put it more eloquently, that adults can act like they are in middle and high school. I am so sad that we don’t have more respect for each other. I am sad that the golden rule did not sink in for us as children. I am sad that we see each other disposable, useless. And I’m sad that if we don’t like each other we can’t just be upfront about it. There’s something to be said about being truthful yet cordial. I don’t believe in fake. Fake is a waste of time. Love who you love, like who you like, be cordial to everyone, because whether you care for someone or not, and whether or not you care to be their friend, every life, every mind, every heart is valuable, and some are far more fragile than others. I would rather not waste my time on someone who is faking being my friend and is talking about me behind my back, and would prefer to spend that time cultivating true relationships including the one with myself that is a lifelong process of growth and love. 

 

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. 

In the Mourning & my hope for the future

*names are redacted as I doubt this will go anywhere beyond my friend group but it has the ability to do so.*

The day I started teaching I was bright eyed. Tonight I sit here blurry eyed with tears.

It’s officially past midnight making it the 20th. It’s officially been a month.

A month ago, at 7:11 pm, I read a message that made me sick to my stomach. Even right now it makes my breath stop in my chest.

Less than 12 hours ago, coming home from errands today, I was driving home and was stopped there. And I paused my audiobook and just sat there and wondered why.

It was on my mind a lot in the last 24 hours. I saw a boy (I’m sorry I say boy I know you were technically a young man, but you were one of my babies) that reminded me of you. His body language reminded me of the way you held yourself in my classroom and the countless times I passed you in the hallway.

I walked into a shoe store and pretended to look. One of the clerks tried to make eye contact and I watched them read the look on my face then walk away.

I kicked myself for the fact that a little over 3 weeks ago, I stood next to your casket and choked through half of the words I wrote about you. I didn’t make it through before I sat down. And I still feel like I owe you more than that.

These are the words I had written down, if it’s okay for me to tell you now:

From the first day that students enter my classroom, I welcome them with the fact that they are now my “kids.” I taught J* his junior year. His class was something special They were the first time I watched my students truly embrace the concept of family in the classroom. It was a privilege to watch J grow as a student and young man in the time I had him. [I added somewhere in here, something along the lines of that the day of that so many of your classmates were there and that showed me that class’ community]

I’ve reflected over the last week on memories of that semester, particularly those of J. And I have three things that come to my mind and stick with me. The first are his headphones. Every day he bopped to whatever song was playing while he took his notes. But ever so respectfully, he would move one side away from his ear to listen when I was speaking, I took this as his desire to learn.

The second thing that sticks in my mind is his smile and laugh. There was a lot of laughter in his class. They had fun while they learned and J was always friendly with his classmates. I did not know him to have conflict with any of them. He had a life skill that many of us could use to just be friendly and relaxed. He loved well and I think that has really been shown over the last week.

Lastly his determination. I saw this in a few aspects of his life, through the bonds he formed and fought for, through his work in my classroom, but also one of my favorite memories, of his unique ability to sleep through a noisy classroom watching a movie after an exam, and he had three desks pushed together because he was determined he was taking a nap.

The last week has been hard. I see it on your faces today. I see it in the posts online where I’ve read countless memories and the love you had for this sweet boy. I feel it myself.

As we collectively struggle to find peace in these moments of grief- I truly believe that you should rest in the idea that while he is not physically here, he is looking down on you, bopping along to the song playing through his beats, and smiling. And when we see him in the after life, he’ll pull his headphones to the side and greet us with that warm friendship we will all remember him for. Until that day, I think we’re called to live the friendship he showed so many of you, because I think that’s what he would want. It was and is an honor to have had him as one of mine, thank you, Miss R, for letting me love yours like one of my own for the brief time I had him, that will never leave me.”

 

If I were to be honest, today the thought crossed my mind that as a teacher I’ve failed my kids. I’ve lost two of them. Each time someone my age has passed since I graduated high school 8 years ago, I haven’t understood, and I’ve always felt like it happens too frequently, because we’ve lost too many people that walked my high school halls with me. I’ve never wanted that to be the feeling that my “kids” experienced. The fact that two of “mine” have been lost makes me feel like somehow I didn’t protect them enough.

It makes me feel like I didn’t give enough Friday lectures.

It makes me feel like I didn’t hug them enough.

It makes me feel like I didn’t remind them enough to be safe because they were so valued and they mean(t) so much to their classmates, their families, me.

It makes me feel like I didn’t literally say the words “you are valued. You are loved. You are so important. You are enough,” to them enough.

If you’re one of mine, and I didn’t say it enough, I’m so sorry. Please accept this as my way of telling you now and I hope you’ll hear it in your heart and mind every day.

I never imagined losing one of you. I never wanted to. I’m sorry I did. Im sorry I was afraid to go to the first funeral. I’m sorry my words standing at the second fell so short.

I hope each of the rest of the 600+ of you outlives me by so many years and makes the most of the days you have ahead. I hope you make everyone around you proud. I hope you remember that life is short and use that as a lesson to remain safe and to also honor those that you’ve lost along the way, because it will and should shape you. I hope that even on the hard days that you realize how absolutely loved and needed you are…and if you ever need to be reminded and don’t feel like you have somewhere else to go, please come to me because I’ll remind you, and be longwinded, emotional, well-meaning, and most likely cliched about it.

Xoxo, Freeman

I’m not a good friend

The first time I thought the words “I’m not a good friend,” I was 12. My best friend chose to exclude me from plans with one of her other friends, and I told her my feelings were hurt by this. Her reaction and the reaction of others told me that I was a bad friend for admitting my feelings to my friend.

The enemy planted a seed in my heart and head that day. The thoughts started to grow that I was not a good friend and that I was not worthy of having friends. 14 years later, and tonight, those words are ringing just as loud as ever.

The last few months have had a clear line of events that have dug these seeds up to the surface (and I can’t even begin to touch on each one). Every time each of these events happened, although seemingly small, I felt the roots of these now well-grown plants wrap a little tighter around my heart.

I knew the thoughts were festering again when a friendship ended approximately 10 months ago.

But then I had confirmation.

My friend didn’t know what the words she said did to my heart.

The friend mentioned in one of our conversations that at an important life event she had all of her close friends involved….I hadn’t been involved. Her words cut me and she didn’t even know it. I literally replay them at least weekly, when something reminds me that I’m not a good friend.

It has double meaning for me. I’m not a good friend, as in I’m not anybody’s Tier 1 (Hope in the Hard Places ) go to person. I’m not a good friend, as in I’m not the friend you depend on because you know I’m not a good person and I fail as a friend, and I fail terribly.

These words tug at my heart. Sometimes daily.

When I don’t have an inner circle at work.

When a friend writes about how they spend so much time weekly catching up with their besties, and I considered them one of my “besties” but I’m never the one they call or text.

When I realize there are people who have lifelong friends, and I can barely maintain a friendship for a few years before it falls apart.

When (as much as I love him and our time together) my spare time is spent with my fiancé or alone, not with friends like other people my age.

Sometimes, I’m still the 14 year old sitting by herself during lunch for her entire fall semester of freshman year.

Sometimes I’m the college girl who was betrayed by the group of people she trusted to love her, who felt a hurt deeper than she knew existed — that still runs deep today.

I tell myself there are reasons I’m not a good friend.

I guess we can call them my excuses.

My autoimmune disease wears me out.

My anxiety is crippling.

My depression is exhausting.

The two combining mental issues overwhelm me more days than I would ever tell you.

I legitimately forget to do things frequently, including responding to texts, calls, and social media messages.

I sometimes have to cancel plans because I’m in too much pain.

I’m busy planning a wedding.

I’m busy working a job that requires more hours than I get paid for.

I’m busy completing graduate school.

I’m busy doing all of this at the same time that sometimes I forget my name, my age, and what day it is.

I have RBF so people don’t approach me.

I’m too outspoken, so people don’t agree with me or don’t know how to handle me.

I’m really weird- look at my mind map for my thesis sometime and you’ll understand.

But what this all comes down to is…I’m not a good friend.

I don’t call.

I don’t text.

I don’t check on people.

I fear rejection so I don’t try.

I talk too much. So other people don’t get a chance to.

I stay busy and I don’t try to make time in my schedule because then people will realize what a bad friend I am.

I’m not a good friend.

I don’t know that I ever will be.

I’ve read endless blogs, devotions, and articles about how to be hospitable, loving, and a better friend.

It doesn’t stick.

I’ll never be the friend demonstrated in the Bible.

I’ll always fall short.

And I think that’ll just always be my struggle.

I want to cut the weeds but I think they might be too strong.

I hope one day to be better. I pray for it. I wait anxiously for it. I fall short. But I hold hope that every morning holds new mercies. I thank God for the friends who love me through my weaknesses and pray he gives me the ability to love them as a friend should. Because Heaven knows this torn heart needs the help.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes…. [Sexual Assault Awareness Month & Approaching Year 10]

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Suicide

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined this post because I thought it would never happen to me. Nine years ago, I could not have imagined this post, because I thought I would never have the ability to speak these words. Yet, here we are. And this year, I’ve struggled to find the words to type for my Sexual Assault Awareness Month post.

 

For a month, I’ve had the head knowledge that this post needed to be written. I had the passion to do it. But I have felt a lack of courage. And also a lack of motivation as life has been overwhelming.

One night I thought I found the place in which to write, but as the words formed, I decided I could not for fear of it being too emotional.

Even now I wonder— Can I be vulnerable enough to share this?

This year has been particularly rough. I have a myriad of reasons I believe it is so rough.

It’s year nine…which means in November I will have survived ten years since being assaulted…which is largely significant.

I’ve struggled with things at work, grad school has kept me busy, and I’m busy with wedding planning.

My autoimmune disease and pain disorder have kept me on a run for, what some days feels like, my existence.

My anxiety and depression have been on the attack full force and I have no doubt that this is the enemy using where he knows I am weak in an already trying schedule.

I’ve fallen down on my self-care more than once because I’ve run out of time on so many days.

So today I sit in a Starbucks, sipping a skinny vanilla latte, after leaving the rheumatologist, hoping being in a public space will allow me to keep my emotions in check to write this.

The night I felt I could a few weeks ago. I lost my courage. But the moments in which I felt ready, it was because I realized how much my assault still affects me in my every day.

I froze. And I don’t know how long I was frozen where I stood.

I had been contemplating the words to write. I had been thinking about my assault. I had also been having very vivid nightmares and flashbacks.

I was standing in the shower and everything in me froze. My mind played back my assault. The details. The weight of him. The screaming. The woman walking by and refusing to stop. Watching it happen to me and thinking this can’t be happening to me. The thoughts that this was someone I knew and this only happened when a stranger assaulted you. The way I froze and stopped fighting and tried to leave my body until it was over. His words telling me he knew I enjoyed it. The way I apologized to him afterward. The realization that my innocence, and the purity I cherished about myself, was taken from me. The words whispered about me in hallways. How only one person knew the truth for what felt like so long.

It was a while before I realized the shower water was burning my skin, I was sobbing, and I had been standing there far too long. So I did my best to pull myself together and went on about my day.

[I’m now being stared at in Starbucks because I just choked up a little]

So why am I writing about this again? Haven’t I done that enough? Doesn’t that make it harder for me?

I’m walking in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on Saturday hosted by Safe Alliance. Funds raised from the walk, go towards their mission of helping women domestically or sexually abused. A dear friend will walk with me. And even as I type this I’m shaking.

But I want to tell you why I’m choosing to walk this year. Maybe you’ll choose to donate to Safe Alliance, join us to walk, or both.

You can find the link here.

I want you to walk in my shoes; a brief walk down memory lane of what the last ten years have held for me in the grief, and the growth.

  • 10 years ago, I was 15. My boyfriend at the time was very jealous and possessive, but I thought that meant he loved me. He even shoved me against a locker once for hugging a friend. But nobody who watched it said anything so I didn’t think about it. Looking back now, I should’ve known he was trouble.
  • Sometime in spring 2009, we broke up. But he continued to give me attention. My family didn’t like him but I saw him around them knowing I was seeing him.
  • In November 2009, he assaulted me. He told people I was a slut/whore/slept around.
    I whispered the words “he forced me” to a friend later that week, but swore him not to tell. We never talked about it. He didn’t tell anyone to my knowledge. But people talked about me with the rumors that had been spread.
  • In 2011, an old friend was assaulted and killed. I was torn up over this, and struggled heavily (and I many days do still struggle with) with survivor’s guilt.
  • In January 2012, the new boyfriend of the year heard the words, “I think I was raped,” after something we watched on TV. He encouraged me to tell somebody. I told my bible study group at NC State.
  • My group leaders set me up with a counselor. A girl in my group when she heard said the words,Wow, you must have sinned really badly for God to punish you like that.” I began to doubt God because if that was the way God worked, I was not a fan.
  • Later that spring, at my home church, I asked for prayer as I continued counseling to work through it. I was asked what I was wearing, how far I had gone with him before he assaulted me, and what I had done to lead him to believe I wanted sex. In a phrase, I was victim blamed. That week I decided I really didn’t like church and began to pull away.
  • In the fall of 2012, I transferred colleges, and my life fell apart in a series of events, some of which still tear at my heart. Among these was a series of successful suicides by multiple people I knew or who were my age. I began drinking, and self-harming, believing God either didn’t exist or hated me (I mean he had punished me pretty badly, remember?), and that my worth was basically nonexistent. I was put on medication for a misdiagnosed condition that messed with me mentally. I gained a ton of weight. And my self-harm worsened as I wanted nothing more than to get my pain from the inside to the outside so I could deal with it.
  • On April 28, 2013, my sister found me in the bathroom with cuts on my wrists, and God wrestled with me in the ER to bring me back home to him and my family.

But this isn’t nearly the end of this story, is it?

Even with a new found faith, the enemy has made sure to continue my anxiety and depression and panic attacks, sometimes coupled with flashbacks.

    • And there are always plenty of people to victim blame and perpetuate rape culture.
      Over the course of the last 6 years, I was privy to one significant other telling me that it was okay that I had been assaulted, he didn’t begrudge me that or my past as a result of it….and that he was still going to vote for Trump even once the p****-grabbing tapes were released.
    • I’ve been asked countless times what I was wearing, what I did to lead him on, why I couldn’t just have sex with him, or why I had sex then called it assault.

 

  • I’ve been told that rape and assault are nonexistent because who wouldn’t want sex. As I write that sentence I wish I was joking that that has been said to me.
  • I’ve been told that my willingness to speak, and write, about this without holding back and without fear of how ‘this would hurt him,’ means I have not truly forgiven him, and maybe I should work on forgiveness.

 

  • I obviously was fired up over the Brett Kavanaugh investigation and subsequent appointment. 
    • Among my personal favorites in that incident is how many people jumped on the #HimToo bus…like I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to tell me that was a joke and I was being filmed. I had family and friends tell me I was going overboard in my defense of believing survivors. Oh, and of course there were the jokes. But most of all the assumption that anyone who is assaulted comes out immediately and if they don’t, they’re clearly liars. [I’m currently shaking thinking about this]
    • I have seen a plethora of jokes in my years of dealing with this. I have cut multiple people out of my life as a result. No matter what you think, I’ll let you know, they aren’t funny.


Yet, despite every bit of this…and how it still hurts so many days…the Lord does not waste a hurt.
Never, does He waste a hurt.

Because of my assault. Because of my anxiety. Because of my depression. Because of the low self-esteem I battle. My outlook on life is different. My ability to emphasize and sympathize is different.
My heart for serving others has grown in ways I cannot describe to you, because I want to make the difference I have yet to experience.
My testimony allows me to connect with people who have felt people in the church would not understand them or would be too good for them.
My story allowed me a beautiful relationship with one of my former students and she and I have matching ribbons we wear in April because of the phrase #MeToo and that was all it took for us.
And because of all I’ve seen and been through, the long, weary miles I have walked, I know I don’t walk alone.

So today— will you walk with me?*

Because, let me tell you, for the culture we live in…

For the abuse that is perpetrated every day….

For the 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men, sexually abused in their lifetime (based on reported numbers), who feel they will never see justice….

your support, your love, your voice matters.


And almost just as importantly…for the 0.05% of perpetrators who are convicted in my area….#TimeIsUp….we will tolerate #NoMore.

 

*Even if you choose not to walk or donate. I implore you to consider the way you speak and think as it pertains to sexual assault and abuse. If you take part in rape culture or victim blaming, I encourage you to pledge today to stop. If you are someone who has not believed survivors in the past, I hope that this has helped bring some perspective of what just one account of the millions looks like in the every day; and that you will believe the next survivor who comes forward. Become part of the change that is so absolutely necessary.