Autism + Human Trafficking = Hooked

Tweet: I want my friends to join me in bringing awareness of autism and modern slavery in the United States by supporting the movie Hooked.  Please, right now, go to https://ctt.ec/3fxCf+ and donate or just follow! And then in 2019 go see it in theaters!  Thanks, friends!

Huh??

That’s right you heard me.  But what is Hooked?  Well, it used to be an award-winning book, but now it transitioning into a feature film.  The screenplay has already been honored in competitions and is going into pre-production beginning of July and I am part of it!
Autism + Human Trafficking = Hooked awards

I still don’t get it.

This should help:
Autism + Human Trafficking = Hooked poster

Hooked is the romantic dramedy of a young man whose autism prevents him from recognizing that the woman of his dreams is, in fact, a prostitute.  The film is respectful to those with autism as well as those working the streets.  The relationship between the two characters is sweet and heartwarming while shining a light on human trafficking in America.

Tweet: I want my friends to join me in bringing awareness of autism and modern slavery in the United States by supporting the movie Hooked.  Please, right now, go to https://ctt.ec/3fxCf+ and donate or just follow! And then in 2019 go see it in theaters!  Thanks, friends!

The hooked film production is being sponsored by the 501(c)3non-profit, From the Heart Productions, so that any contributions, whether cash or non-cash, made toward Hooked are tax-deductible. From the Heart Productions has been dedicated to supporting world-changing films for over 23 years.

And just today an individual has offered to match Seed and Spark contributions made to our indie film up to $2500 between now and July 4 so that’s exciting too!  And this is what got me fired up to share this project with all of you! (I guess I have been kinda holding tight to this project and not allowing others in… I wanted it all for me and didn’t want to share.)  Not the wisest move.

Seed and Spark is a pretty cool crowdfunding site.  It is just for filmmakers and they donate cool stuff to films that gain followers (different levels of award based on how many followers we get. )  We can even get free submissions into the film festivals with 1000 followers on Seed and Spark.  Now I think that is totally awesome!  And I am hoping some of you will follow our campaign to help us get there!

And just like other crowdfunding sites, you can earn cool stuff by donating too. Have you ever dreamed of being a screenwriter? With a $200 contribution, you can join a screenwriting workshop with award-winning screenwriter Allen Wolf taking place on Saturday, Oct. 27th. And there are, of course, lot’s of other fun, exciting incentives waiting for you. But I think the greatest reward is knowing that you are helping a movie that brings American human trafficking and bond slavery, as well as autism, to the big screen.
U.S. Human Trafficking map

I want to know more about modern slavery in America!

(Excerpt from Hooked website)

“Our hope is that people who experience Hooked will be inspired to take action against trafficking. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 81% of them are trapped in forced labor, 25% of them are children, and 75% are women and girls. The map above only reflects cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 where the location of the potential trafficking was known. Some cases may involve more than one location.

“Here are 11 Facts about trafficking from DoSomething.org:

“1. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.

“2. Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: Forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.

“3. According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.

“4. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.

“5. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.

“6. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.

“7. California harbors 3 of the FBI’s 13 highest child sex trafficking areas in the nation: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

“8. The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the US. 15% of those calls are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“9. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.

“10. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.

“11. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men.”

Please go to our Seed and Spark Campaign and support us through follows, donations, or both!  Thank you!

Support “Hooked” movie

Tweet: I want my friends to join me in bringing awareness of autism and modern slavery in the United States by supporting the movie Hooked.  Please, right now, go to https://ctt.ec/3fxCf+ and donate or just follow! And then in 2019 go see it in theaters!  Thanks, friends!

10 Ways to ‘Reach Out’ When You’re Struggling With Your Mental Illness

Via: Let’s Queer Things Up!
Author: Sam Dylan

10 Ways to Reach Out When You're Struggling With Your Mental Illness

Via: Let’s Queer Things Up!
Author: Sam Dylan

I’m a mental health writer and advocate, and a suicide attempt survivor. I’ve told people on this blog many times, “Keep reaching out.” I’ve written multiple articles preaching the importance of vulnerability, defying stigma, and owning your struggles.

This is my whole thing, okay? This is what I do.

So when one of my closest friends died by suicide a few weeks ago, I wasn’t just shocked — I was completely gutted.

I thought there was never a question of whether or not my loved ones could reach out to me. But the very person who I’d talked to so often about mental health… didn’t call me.

Not even to say goodbye.

10 Ways to Reach Out When You're Struggling With Your Mental Illness 2
The last night I spent with them.

In the weeks following their suicide, my grief took me to dark places. I soon began having my own suicidal thoughts. And even then, when it was my turn to “reach out“? Even after losing my friend? I began to withdraw, too.

I watched, with painful awareness, as I did much of what my friend seemed to do leading up to their suicide. I wrote myself off as a burden. I isolated myself. I got lost in my own head. And despite knowing the danger of where I found myself, I said nothing.

After an especially scary night, I realized something: No one ever explained to me how to ask for help. No one told me what “reaching out” even meant.

As my grief began to snowball, I hesitated to tell anyone I was struggling, largely because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to ask for, and without knowing what to ask for, it felt too complicated and futile to ask.

“Why didn’t they tell me?” is such a common refrain when we talk about suicide or mental health challenges in general. It’s easy to make this remark, because “tell someone” seems like a simple request. But in truth, it’s vague at best.

“REACHING OUT” IS THIS SKILL WE’RE SOMEHOW EXPECTED TO KNOW, YET IT’S NEVER TAUGHT AND RARELY MODELED FOR US.

It’s this vague, hopeful sentiment that people throw around, without ever really defining it. What are we asking people to do or say? It’s not exactly clear.

So I want to get more specific. We need to be more specific.

I don’t know if an article like this could’ve saved my friend. But what I do know is that we need to normalize asking for help and talk about what that might look like, rather than pretending it’s a simple and intuitive thing to do.

Maybe then, we can reach people sooner. We can meet them more compassionately. And we can find better ways to support them.

So if you’re struggling but you don’t know what to say? I get it.

Let’s talk about it.

Tweet: 10 Ways to Reach Out When You're Struggling With Your Mental Health https://ctt.ec/4Rdb6+ “'Reaching out' is this skill we're somehow expected to know, yet it's never taught and rarely modeled for us.

1. “I’M (DEPRESSED/ANXIOUS/SUICIDAL). I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO ASK FOR, BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE RIGHT NOW.”

Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we need, or we’re unsure of what someone can offer. That’s okay; that shouldn’t discourage us from reaching out. It’s perfectly fine if you have no idea what you need or want — especially when all you can think about is how much you’re hurting.

Let someone know how you’re feeling. You might be surprised by the ways they offer to support you. And if they aren’t helpful? Keep asking until you find someone who is, or seek out a hotline (I know it can be weird to talk to a stranger, but there are some awesome hotlines out there).

Tweet: 10 Ways to Reach Out When You're Struggling With Your Mental Health https://ctt.ec/4Rdb6+ “'Reaching out' is this skill we're somehow expected to know, yet it's never taught and rarely modeled for us.

2. “I’M STRUGGLING WITH MY MENTAL HEALTH AND WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING ISN’T WORKING. CAN WE (MEET UP/SKYPE/ETC) ON (DATE) AND COME UP WITH A BETTER PLAN?”

Feeling helpless or exhausted is part and parcel for dealing with a broken mental health system. But a team approach can make it a little more manageable. Sometimes we need a cheerleader/researcher that helps us explore our options, especially when we’re having trouble believing that we have any.

One thing you’ll also notice is that, for almost everything on this list, I suggest setting a time.

This is important for a couple reasons. The first being that it helps the person you’re talking to understand the urgency behind your ask. It can also be helpful to know that there’s an event in the near future when you can expect to receive some support. This can help us hang in there when things get bleak.

3. “I DON’T FEEL SAFE BY MYSELF RIGHT NOW. CAN YOU STAY ON THE PHONE WITH ME/COME OVER UNTIL I CALM DOWN?”

I know this is a hard one to say. Because we often fear telling someone just how much we’re struggling, and admitting that we don’t feel safe? That’s a biggie. Obviously you can replace the word “safe” if it’s not working for you, but I always encourage people to be direct, because it’s the surest route to getting exactly what we need.

Asking someone to be present might feel especially vulnerable. It might not even feel like, in the moment, it’ll make that much of a difference. But you’re more likely to feel better with support than without any.

And remember, from everything we know about mental illness, depression is more likely to be a liar than a truth-teller (I talk about that a bunch in this blog post).

4. “I’M IN A BAD PLACE, BUT I’M NOT READY TO TALK ABOUT IT. CAN YOU HELP ME DISTRACT MYSELF?”

You do not have to talk about what’s bothering you if you’re not ready.

Opening up a whole can of worms might not be the safest or best thing for you in that particular moment. And guess what? You can still reach out for help.

Sometimes we just need someone to shoot the shit with, so we aren’t stuck in our heads, making ourselves a little crazy. This is a valid and healthy thing to ask for! And it’s a subtle way of making folks aware that you’re having a rough time, without needing to go into detail.

The sooner the folks around you are aware that you’re having a hard time, the quicker they can show up to help you through it.

Early interventions are so critical for our mental health. In other words: Don’t wait for your whole basement to flood before you fix a leaky pipe — fix the pipe when you notice the problem has started.

5. “CAN YOU CHECK IN WITH ME (ON DATE/EVERY DAY), JUST TO MAKE SURE I’M ALRIGHT?”

I cannot say it enough — do not underestimate the value of asking for a check-in. I am such a huge fan of this as a coping skill, especially because it can be super helpful for everyone involved.

If you take nothing else away from this article, it should be this: Please ask people to check in with you. It’s such a small thing to ask for in the age of texting, but it can help us stay connected, which is freaking critical for our mental health.

(If you’ve played The Sims before, remember the social bar? That’s you. You need to fill it. Humans need to connect with other humans. It’s not just about wanting to, it’s that we actually require it to survive.)

And this can happen in so many smart ways. A few of my favorites:

  • “I haven’t been doing well. Can you text me every morning to make sure I’m okay? It would really help me.”
  • “Hey friend. I’ve been kind of sad lately — do you maybe want to Snapchat/send selfies to each other before bed every night, just to check in? It’d be nice to see your face.”
  • “I’m in a funk right now. Do you want to be self-care buddies? Like text each other once a day something that we did to care for ourselves?”
  • “I’ve been isolating myself a little lately. Can you check in with me every so often, just to make sure I didn’t fall off the face of the earth?”

Add emojis wherever fitting if you want it to feel more casual (but really, you don’t need to, there’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need!).

Asking for people to check in with you when you’re struggling is just like buckling your seatbelt when you get in a car. It’s just one extra safety measure in case things get rough.

Both can actually save lives, too. Consider this a PSA.

6. “I’M HAVING A HARD TIME TAKING CARE OF MYSELF. I NEED EXTRA SUPPORT RIGHT NOW AROUND (TASK). CAN YOU HELP?”

Maybe you need help getting to an appointment or the grocery store. Maybe you need a cheerleader to make sure you took your meds, or someone to send a selfie to to prove you got out of bed that morning. Are your dishes piling up in the sink? Do you need a study buddy? It doesn’t hurt to ask for support around tasks like these.

Sometimes these things add up when we’re struggling with our mental health. But we forget that it’s okay to ask for a hand, especially at those times when it could really make a difference.

Being an adult is already challenging. If you’re going through a rough time? It’s even harder. We all hit a point when we need some extra support. Don’t be afraid to let folks know directly how they could support you.

7. “I’VE BEEN FEELING SO LOW. CAN YOU REMIND ME ABOUT WHAT I MEAN TO YOU OR SHARE A FAVORITE MEMORY? IT WOULD REALLY HELP ME.”

I used to think that asking for something like this meant I was “fishing for compliments.” And what a lousy way of looking at it…

Sometimes we need reminders that we matter! Sometimes we can’t recall the good times, and need someone to help us remember them. This is true of every single human being on the planet.

It’s such a simple request, too. If you’re the kind of person that feels nervous about making a big ask (again, I’d encourage you to challenge that assumption — it’s okay to ask for help!), this can be a small step in the right direction.

8. “I’M STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW AND I’M AFRAID I’M REACHING MY LIMIT. CAN I GIVE YOU A CALL TONIGHT?”

To be honest, it wasn’t until my friend died that I finally found these words in particular.

Up until that point, I’d never been sure exactly how to raise the alarm. You know, that moment when you’re not at the end of your rope, but you’re getting there? It’s a crucial moment.

Yes, you can and you absolutely should reach out then, even if you aren’t sure if it might make a difference (spoiler alert, people might actually surprise you). I think about how much pain I could’ve avoided if I’d saw that moment for the opportunity it really was.

Listen to that little voice in the back of your mind, the one that’s trying to tell you that you’re a little too close to the edge for comfort. Listen to that nagging feeling that tells you you’re in over your head. That’s your survival instinct — and it’s an instinct you should trust.

9. “I KNOW WE DON’T TALK MUCH, BUT I’M GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME AND I FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SOMEONE I CAN TRUST. ARE YOU FREE TO TALK (DAY/TIME)?”

I wanted to include this because I realize that not all of us have people we’re close to that we confide in.

When I was a teenager, everything changed for me when I reached out to a teacher at my high school that I barely knew. She had always been incredibly kind to me, and I had a gut feeling that she would “get it.” And she did!

To this day, I still believe that she saved my life at a time when I had no one else to turn to. She connected me with a social worker, who was then able to help me access the resources I needed to recover.

While it’s important to be respectful of people’s capacities and boundaries (and be prepared, of course, if someone can’t be there for you or isn’t helpful — it’s not personal!), you might be surprised by the responses that you get.

10. “I’M SUICIDAL. I NEED HELP RIGHT NOW.”

Raise the alarm.

Raise the damn alarm, friends, and be as direct as you need to be. An emergency is an emergency, whether it’s a heart attack or a self-harm risk. Harm to you in any form is reason enough to ask for help.

I promise you, there’s someone in this world — an old friend or a future one, a family member, a therapist, even a volunteer on a hotline — who wants you to stay.

Find that person (or people), even if it takes time. Even if you have to keep asking.

Give people the chance to help you. It’s a chance that my friend deserved, and it’s a chance that you deserve.

(And if all else fails, I have this resource about going to the emergency room when you’re suicidal. I’ve personally been hospitalized twice, and while it’s not a ritzy vacation, it’s the reason I’m here today.)

PICK SOMETHING FROM THIS LIST. WRITE IT DOWN, EVEN IF IT’S ON YOUR HAND OR A STICKY NOTE. REACH OUT — BECAUSE NOW YOU KNOW HOW.

Hell, bookmark this article while you’re at it. I know I’m going to, because there are times when I need this advice, too.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, let me remind you that it’s never too soon or too late to let someone know.

And it’s never, ever too heavy, too messy, or too much to ask — even if you asked fifty times the day before.

I’d have rather had my friend “bother me” every day for the rest of my life than have to lose them forever. Their life was that precious.

And yes, so is yours.

Author Signature

SAMheart Hey there, friend. Before you go, I want to share some resources with you.

If you’re suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

You can also go to the emergency room. If you’re not sure if you should or how to prepare for something like that, I’ve got an article for that, too.

This isn’t just a generic “here are some numbers” plug, this is a “I want you to stay, we need you here, please don’t go just yet” plea.

Chris Alvaro And Lastly…

There’s a memorial fundraiser in honor of my dear friend, Chris Alvaro.

The funds raised will go to organizations that support trans mental health and racial justice.

This article is, of course, dedicated to them.

Topher, you’re still the brightest star in my galaxy. We couldn’t keep you safe. But I will never stop fighting for a world that could have.

Feature photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash.

©2018-2020 Let’s Queer Things Up!
Republished with permission

Out of the Darkness II

out of the darkness II

A year ago I wrote a piece on the Out of the Darkness community walks put on by the American Foundation to prevent suicide.  Well, today we participated once again in our community walk.  It’s been a year since we lost our last loved one to suicide (rather than a month) so attending the walk was much easier, no more tears only a touch of sadness — nothing more than we feel on any given day.  We were able to enjoy everyone coming together in community to remember those we have loved and lost.

FIND A WALK NEAR YOU AT THIS LINK (CLICK HERE).

AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states and is “the leader in the fight against suicide.  Fund[ing] research, creat[ing] educational programs, advocat[ing] for public policy, and support[ing] survivors of suicide loss.

“The Out of the Darkness Walks are proof that when people work together they can make big changes in the world. They are AFSP’s largest fundraiser – they produce millions for suicide prevention programs, unite those who have been affected by suicide, and create communities that are smart about mental health.”

You can read about my previous Out of the Darkness experience. Or you can read previous posts I have written about how suicide has impacted my life in these posts listed below:

You can also read two powerful posts about personal struggles that I hosted here on my site written by guest bloggers Chris, and Sarah.  The post written by Chris does have a trigger warning attached to it so if you are thinking of suicide do not read it.  Instead, please telephone or text the resources below.  It is confidential and will help alleviate your pain.

Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text “Go” to 741-741 to get started
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veterans they understand your experiences are different. Press 1 for a line dedicated just to you.
LGBTQ National Youth Talk (afternoons & evenings M-S only): 1-800-246-7743

Author Unknown…

Author Unknown | Memee's Musings

Dear little trump and follower. I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this…
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.

— Author Unknown

The wonderful photograph was taken by Noah Grezlak and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!

Split Personalities

Split Personalities | Memee's Musings

Caring and Compassionate
Lady of Liberties
Indiscriminate and Independant
Nowledgeable* Negotiator
Tenacious yet Tactful
Open-minded Overachiever
Nasty Woman

Rude Racist
Uncouth, Unapologetic, Un-American
Misogynistic Millionaire Megalomaniac
Phony President

*K=Know-how

This month’s Poetry Party theme is Politics!  Whether you agree or disagree with my perspective I encourage you to participate!  The more we share with one another, the better we know and understand one another.  And although I do not vote and cannot win I never put forward a poetry challenge without requiring myself to participate.  So please accept my poem for what it is… my feelings based on my life experiences, biases and perspectives just as your life experiences, biases, and perspectives aid you in determining your viewpoint on any given topic.  Below you will find the important dates and the submission link for #NewEra Poetry or, to learn more, click the previously given link.

IMPORTANT DATES:

Submission deadline is Tuesday, January 24th, 2017, at 23:55 PST. Submit now!

Voting opens at 00:05 PST on Wednesday, January 25th and ends on Tuesday, January 31sh at 23:55 PST.*

O! God Now Come on the Earth

lightening, mankind, turmoil, strife, hatred, blog, poetry, emotionsvia Mere Jazbaat
Author: Syed Sabah ur Rehman

 

Understanding Today’s world is Arduous Task,

Like Filling water in the Broken Flask.

What were we and what we are,

All emotional Relations are Shifting Far.

 

Sentiments & sacrifices are mere words

They seem to be as we have Never heard

God has created us to survive,

but we are vandalising each other’s lives

 

who shed Tears is indeed the faulter,

as,it is nothing but just salted water.

Ecstasy is Altering in to Embarrassment,

No flower can Bloom in venomous Environment.

 

O! God now please stop taking our test,

come on the earth and abolish the tempest.

Original Poem entitled: O! GOD NOW COME ON THE EARTH © MereJazbaat.com, and Syed Sabah ur Rehman aka AATIF, 2016-2018 All rights reserved.
Republished with permission.
O! God Now Come on the Earth post © Memee’s Musings, and B.L. Memee 2017-2019. All rights reserved.
The wonderful photograph was taken by Emil Jarfelt and acquired through Unsplash. It’s a great source for free photos under the Creative Commons Zero license, so check it out!

Growing into Political Awareness

Growing Into Political Awareness | Memee's Musings
Photo courtesy of Madi Robson

This beautiful piece of writing is by Demetra Szatkowski. This is a coming-of-age story about politics, belief systems, and being female. Everything except for the title above and the photograph is credited to her. She posted this on Facebook and said we could share it. I am happy she is allowing us to share it because that is what I wanted to do as I read it, share it far and wide with every woman I know. I hope you will enjoy it.

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀

I am 12. My family is on vacation in South Carolina.
“I don’t think a woman should be president,” I say contentedly, walking alongside my parents.
They both disagree.
“No, women are too emotional,” I say. “And I can say that, because I am one.”
***
I am 14.
I have decided that I’m not a feminist. “Feminism is stupid,” I say to anyone who brings it up.
It’s not even a real thing. I get things out of this system too. I know how to work the system. If I can manipulate men to get what I want, then that means I win. Men are not smarter than me. I have already discovered that I can flirt to get out of things, and that if I wear a low-cut shirt and bend over, it is distracting. I like having these advantages.
***
I am 16. I have just started driving, and I have a NOBAMA sticker on my car.
I know nothing about politics, but I was raised with Republican grandparents and parents who followed suit. I know that my grandfather is smart and so he must be right. I know that Republicans are for the people who work, and Democrats make the way for lazy people who want the government to hand things to them.
I argue with the people in my class who make fun of me. “Obama shouldn’t get to be president just because he’s black,” I say. Black people aren’t a big deal to me. I don’t even see color.
***
I am 18.
I like being cat-called. I smile and wave back at the men who do it. I laugh at other women who say they don’t feel safe. I feel safe, because I know how to handle myself. Anyway, it’s just boys being boys. That’s just how men are. It just means I’m attractive. Other women should face reality and deal with life.
***
I am 19. I am teaching yoga. I think politics are stupid. I don’t see why everybody can’t see that we’re all one. I think that if we could all just live in the woods everything would be fine. Politics have nothing to do with who I am as a person.
I read an article about yoga and cultural appropriation. I decide it isn’t real, because I’m doing a good job and helping people by teaching.
***
I am 19. It is fall, and I have started school in Vermont. My roommate is from New Jersey. The election is happening in November, and this is the first time I’ll get to vote. I still think politics are stupid, but being able to vote is exciting, plus my teachers always said I should. I am going to vote Republican, because I know my family is smart.
But my roommate is also very smart, and her family has a lot of money. And yet she is a Democrat. And when I ask her questions, she has an answer for all of them. And when she explains different policies, I realize that my actual values align more with hers than with the Republicans. I feel a bit ripped off. We watch the debates. And I love Obama. And I vote for Obama.
And he wins, and it’s like a fun game, and I happily move along with my life.
***
I am 20. I read stories about girls who have been raped. I have friends who have been sexually assaulted. I remember boys grabbing my butt without asking in high school. I start to wonder if it’s all connected. I learn what “rape culture” is.
I am 20. I stop wearing makeup. I stop caring so much about what my appearance looks like. This process is extremely difficult for me, and takes me months of anxiety and tears to get used to. I am angry that it is so difficult. I am angry for the 12-year-old girl that felt she needed to start wearing makeup in the first place. I am angry for the 12-year-old girl who wrote lists about how she could make herself more attractive. I realize that people are still nice to me even when I don’t look “pretty.” I realize that it is society who has been telling me I need to look put-together, I need to wear bras, I need to shave all parts of myself.
I am really fucking angry when I realize how much the ideas of powerful men have controlled my life. I am really fucking angry when I realize how much my teenage thoughts were taken from me by society.
***
I am 21.
I am in San Francisco. I am walking alone, and I get cat-called the most I ever have in my life. At least once per block. It is unbearable, the comments are disgusting, and it is irritating. I am mad. Sometimes I tell them to stop. Most of the time I feel too unsafe to say anything back, so I have to ignore it.
I feel angry that I live in a world where I feel too unsafe to even be able to defend myself.
***
I am 22.
I own a yoga studio. It has been 10 months of owning a yoga studio.
I become disillusioned with the drama-filled community. I google, “I don’t want to teach yoga anymore.” Up pops an article about cultural appropriation.
This time, I understand it. This time, I research for hours and days upon end. I read everything. I am uncomfortable about everything. I do not like it. But I understand it. I recognize the truth in it.
Research leads to topics about social justice in general. Dreadlocks are appropriation too? I watch videos and read articles written by people who are not white.
I am upset. I don’t know what to do with this knowledge, because no one around me wants to hear it.
***
I am 22. While my internal world is crashing down, my outer world is opening up.
I read about the refugee crisis in Greece. I decide to go.
I am scared. I am met with resistance and fear from people around me. But I have found a group of volunteers online who are actually there, who are able to calm my fears. I trust them, the people who are actually there.
When I tell my parents I’m leaving, my mom says, “Well, that’s noble.”
My dad says, “Watch out for the Muslim men, because they will want to hurt you.”
***
I turn 23 while I am in Greece, in a camp full of single Muslim men. A camp I had been terrified to go to because my entire life I have been taught by the world that Middle Eastern men want to rape blonde girls like me.
But bigger than my fear is my conviction that I do not want to live in a world where that is true. I feel that I would rather die than have to live in a world where I am always afraid. A world where I hope that stereotypes aren’t true, but am too scared to go find out and know for sure.
I think that the comments about Muslim men are based in racism, but part of me is afraid that I am wrong. I think, those beliefs had to come from somewhere, right? I am afraid that society is right and that I am wrong.
And I am not wrong. I am so fucking not wrong that I want to scream it from the rooftops and yell at every single person who had the nerve to say that I was. BECAUSE I WAS RIGHT ABOUT THE WORLD.
I meet the people that negative articles have been written about. I hear first-hand the stories of tragedy and war. I hear the other side of the story. I begin to understand, truly, how the media shapes our views.
The newspaper writes an article about me where I say that America is partially to blame and people from home attack me in the comments in ways I didn’t even know were possible. And I do not care, because they are not there. They do not see what I see.
And I come home and I am upset because how do you convey that experience to people?
***
I am 23 and I am laying on the couch at my best friend’s apartment while he tells me the history of the Middle East, that he majored in in college but I had never learned about before.
I start crying as I begin to understand the layers upon layers of the history of the world, and how different events have impacted each other, the mistakes people have made. I can relate the history to the stories of people I have met in real life.
All of a sudden politics feel extremely important.
***
I am 23.
It is before the primaries.
“I just don’t like Hillary Clinton,” I say. “We should have a woman president, but not her. I don’t trust her.”
Someone I respect a lot shares an article about how sexism has shaped our views about Hillary.
I read it and am not sure. The whole country says Hillary is a criminal. At least some of that must be based in fact, right?
I talk to people who confirm my views. Then I talk to other people, and they say, you’re wrong.
***
I am 23.
I have decided to travel, by myself. I am in Vietnam. I adore Vietnam. I buy a book on the history of Vietnam and start to read it while I am in the country and it is like magic, to be able to see things in front of me as I read about them.
I take a tour of areas of war by a war veteran.
I go to the Vietnam War museum and I have to stop over and over again to sit quietly with tears running down my face as I try to absorb everything my country did to that country. History I have never learned, not in this way.
I realize that politics not only are important – they are a matter of life and death.
***
I am 23. I start reading books from perspectives of people who are not like me. I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which makes me inconsolable for hours. I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. I understand what he means, about knowledge being the most powerful thing. I read article after article after article on racism, on sexism. Articles written by people of color, and articles written by other white people who say “I have been there too, and this is what you need to work through.”
***
I am 23. I am with people from other countries. “We quite like Hillary,” they say. “Our leaders like dealing with her, she is really intelligent. We don’t get why people from your country hate her.”
I am 23. I watch as an unqualified man gets to run for president because he has a ton of money. I watch as he is excused from his racism. I watch as he gets to say anything he wants because people are tired of political correctness. I watch as he brags about sexual assault.
I watch as men excuse his actions away. I watch as women excuse them away, and I see my 14-year-old self explaining why I’m not a feminist. I feel incapable of describing how this is the same. How oppression can be so deeply rooted that we do not even know it’s there.
***
I am 23.
At least a quarter of my country thought this man would be a good president. Around half of the country didn’t think he was bad enough to get out and vote against him.
I am 23 and am told that I’ll grow out of being so upset about this one day. I am told that when I’m older, I’ll understand that this is just democracy. I am told that because I am 23, I’m not able to see that everything will really be okay.
I am 23. I am told to be more positive, that I should not be so angry, that I should really be getting over myself so that we can move forward as one.
I am told that I am too vocal. I am told that I am not being vocal enough.
***
Next week I turn 24.
I am not putting up with this any longer.
________________________________________

*inspiration for this comes from Lauren Hayes. Her article was featured on The Codex and was entitled Stoking Fires and Poking Bears: The Evolution of a Nasty Woman. You can follow both The Codex and Lauren Hayes, separately, by clicking on their links above and then clicking on the follow buttons for each.