Accomplishments from 2018

When I have started each year, for at least the last five years, I have started with a list of things I would like to accomplish in that year. The number of accomplishments on that list corresponds to the year that it is, like 18 things in 2018, 17 in 2017, etc. It turns out I have yet to accomplish all of the things on the list that I have set out to accomplish in any of those years. So last year I started a tradition to recap at the beginning of a new year the things that I did accomplish in the previous year- some of them were on my list of things I aimed to accomplish, while others were not.

So here are the 18 things I did accomplish in 2018.

  1. I paid off my third loan. I’ve paid off 3/4 of my debt on my own and I’m really proud of that.
  2. I completed half of my requirements for graduate school and maintained a 3.5 GPA even though I was wedding planning and working full time while attending school.
  3. I read 64 books and got closer to my life goal of reading 1,000 books.
  4. I beat my addiction to calorie counting and learned to eat when I’m hungry.
  5. I said yes to my best friend and we planned a lot of our big day together. I cannot wait to marry him and share those moments with our friends and family! Only 166 days!
  6. I accepted a new job and left the comfort of my first big girl job.
  7. I went to Miss America for the first time (and got to watch one of my dear friends win!!).
  8. I learned to stomach tequila. Okay, that one may sound sketchy, but for a while I could not even smell it in my vicinity without being sick. So thanks to the best bridal shower for a friend, for helping me get over that one.
  9. I was part of my first protest. #RedForEd #MyBabiesDeserveBetter #WeDeserveBetter #NeverthelessWePersisted
  10. I found my voice, again, to speak up for injustice, and refused to let it be silenced, even if it was an attempt by someone I loved.  #MeToo
  11. I learned to walk away from friendships I wanted to maintain when that friendship was not healthy.
  12. I finished my year as Miss Capital City, and even though I did not get another chance to compete at Miss North Carolina, I was so proud of the way I represented that title, and all of the work I put into making a difference through my platform.
  13. I completed my graduate school internship at the Gaston County Museum. I learned a lot, and I gained new members of my family.
  14. I had worked with a lot of nonprofits before, but I had never done so with an official title, or for a prolonged amount of time leading up to an event that I helped bring to fruition, and I was so privileged to do that in 2018- and we raised thousands of dollars in the process!
  15. I judged and presented awards at National History Day, as Miss Capital City and as a student, at UNCC.
  16. I made my first bulletin board.
  17. I taught a new class where I was able to create the curriculum and actually had fun even though it was really hard.
  18. I made it to my five year recovery birthday.

There’s a lot I wanted to do in 2018 that I did not do, but that’s okay. I plan to write again in a few days letting everyone know the plan for 2019, and the list of things to accomplish and share some news.

For now, it’s off to start this semester of graduate school.

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I have been debating writing this words for weeks, months,….years.

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Nationally the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movements have become popular and extremely relevant, especially as many celebrities have been accused of being assailants. That includes one of my favorite actors.

A few months ago, a young woman in my life walked away from a conversation to which I was a witness,  when a young man said “Rape is not real, especially with men, like no man would say no to sex, and women probably don’t either.” … when she returned a short time later, I looked at her and said, “Me. Too” and she said “When?” I responded “16” and she said “I was 14.” and I knew it was time to write this, but I have still struggled to do it.

The “Universe/God/My own life interpretation” told me again that it was time when at the Sweeps Pageant in March I was asked why I thought women didn’t report sexual assault.

So, here we go.

I was 16 (2009). I knew him. It ruined me. I only told one person and swore them to never tell. It was 2012 before I spoke about it again.

I told my bible study group and one girl remarked “Wow, how badly did you sin for God to punish you like that?” Shortly after, I started counseling to deal with it. I learned a lot although my counselor wasn’t the best and projected a lot of her own circumstances and feelings on me. I completed my counseling round and planned to transfer schools; mainly because I changed my major but also a new beginning.

I tried to talk to people I trusted about the incident and was appalled at how many times I was asked what I was wearing, if I had led him to believe I wanted him to do that, if I had been with him before, and if I tried to make him stop. I was so severely disillusioned by the way people, especially “Christians,” treated me. It pushed me so far away from the church (If you know, or ever hear, my testimony, this is the first time I thought I wanted to be out of church and wasn’t sure about God.)

I watched a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” and Eva Mozes Kor changed my world. I emailed her and told her about my experience and she responded within hours about how forgiveness also shapes our experiences. I still have that email and read it from time to time.

In late 2012 and early 2013, things got really bad. In 2013, I found God for real for the first time. In 2013, I got saved. I found a new church who accepted my past and my story and the testimony from the test.

In 2015, I spoke to a club at the school I teach at, called “Feeling Beautiful” about what it looked like to be an adult who had been a victim of assault. But it isn’t something I frequently speak about. It was hard. The students there watched me cry as I choked out the words of my story. But I felt like I did what I needed to do.

I still don’t frequently speak about it. If it is brought up, not in my classroom of course, I’m willing to talk about it. But it still isn’t easy. I don’t know if it ever will be.

It’s been over 8 years. I have survived over 8 years. I became determined a long time ago to be a survivor and not solely a victim.

I determined to be the flower. I determined to grow despite the ways I had been crushed. I determined to not let his sinful actions define who I am. 

There are times I still cry about it. Sometimes I still have panic attacks. Sometimes I still have survivor guilt that someone I knew was killed by her assailant, and I wasn’t. I will never know the right words to say about it, or how to make someone feel better if it happens to them.

I still get really bitter. I still get really angry. I still feel like I missed the chance for justice. but I also have a hope that the ultimate justice will be paid out by God. I do feel like God accepts the anger and bitterness and also tries to soothe the pain that I still have.

But some days, I don’t think about it at all. I don’t want him and his actions to be what defines me. I don’t want other people to look at me and that be all that they see. But it does largely shape my political opinions, it does largely shape the way I empathize with people, it does largely shape the way I interpret a lot of what is said and done around me and in the public sphere. 

I’m not sure how to wrap this up.

I guess maybe I encourage you to not take part in rape culture. And let me side note my definition of rape culture: blaming a victim, asking what they wore, asking what they did to deserve it, asking about their sexual history and/or preferences, not believing them that they were assaulted. It is also raising our boys to believe that it’s okay to do something without consent or to coerce a woman into consent.

I encourage you to be empathetic and recognize others and the scars they carry.

“Why do women not report sexual assault?” Women and Men are sexually assaulted. Both have problems with reporting because they are afraid and embarrassed. Colleges have an issue with under-reporting sexual assault statistics hoping future students will still want to come to that school. Victim blaming and rape culture is too common in our culture. With movements like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp perhaps more women and men will feel comfortable coming forward as they see it happens to others; but until we allow victims to feel comfortable and not accused when telling their stories then there will continue to be a lack of reporting and pressing charges…until we allow them to become survivors and not just victims this will be cyclical in our society. And a little Sandra Bullock for you here…every culprit of sexual harassment or sexual assault should be charged, tried, convicted, and punished.

All my love,

L