Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the girl who leaves before she is left

"I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I'm arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me." - Meryl Streep 

There are always going to be people in your life, my life, anyone's life that are characterized as the walkers, the abandoners, the people who walk away. Sometimes they do it with such a silence that you can't even hear a pinch of the soles of their shoes stepping away from you on a creaking wood floor, and sometimes, there's a huge lead up to the inevitable silence and awkwardness that follows, a supernova of miscommunication, receding effort, and hurt. I never really pictured myself as the type of person to do that; I always thought I cared too much about the people I love, and from personal experience, did not believe that if you truly loved someone, you just....stopped talking to them. Stopped seeing them. Stopped being a physical and emotional presence in their life. No matter what, the motto to me was aways, "Never give up on the things you love." 

College made me realize though that the relationships that really end up leaving marks on you are always the ones stuck in the grey areas. Oftentimes you wonder in these relationships how you got to these feelings of discontent and even anger towards this person that you love, while you still love them, and it becomes really confusing all of a sudden. Especially when it gets to the point where all of a sudden, you're not friends anymore, or you're not dating anymore. How did you go from not being able to stop talking to each other to....eternal silence? Coming from the girl who was always left, I never understood, and I always would stay up and question everything I did wrong, how I could've changed myself and molded myself to get the person to want to stay, how I could fix this and get them back in my life. 

This was me when I first went away to college. Now, I don't really care when another person and I grow away from each other. Maybe its some sick narcicissm instilled in me from being hurt, or maybe I've just grown enough to pick out and separate between the people who are going to make an effort, the people who are my friends but probably won't be around forever, and the people I don't really care if I talk to again or not. 

You know when people tell you "people in your life that don't help you grow or improve, you can cut them out because you don't need them"? And how usually you have at least one person on your mind when someone is giving you these kinds of anecdotes? (unless you're at a really great point in life where you don't feel the need to do that, in which case, serious kudos to you, you've got something figured out that I don't or you must probably be entering your late twenties.) Throughout college, I've had two people that came to mind when being repeatedly told this. One was a poisionous friendship, and one was a stagnant one. The first one was probably the hardest to let go of because not only did I love her dearly and wanted to disprove her pessimistic view of people always leaving, but I also lived with her. However, we also fought all the time; she was never happy with me, and even though some of the best times I had in college were with her....some of the worst were with her too. It was becoming a cycle of building up to a fight, fighting, the fight getting really nasty, making up through several tears and "I love you, let's not do this again"'s, and then maybe three great days where we'd get along perfectly. Then the cycle would start all over again. I did probably contribute an issue or two, in fact I definitiely did, but honestly, even if you love someone, some people are just not meant to be together, and some people are just not meant to be friends. She was a beautiful person, rough around the edges, but our ways of displaying love did not match up with each other. I still love her and hope the best for her...but, there just gets to be a point where there is too much damage and not enough energy to repair from both sides. The cycle was wearing out, and I was unhappy and exhausted. Tired, I prayed continuously, and an answer eventually came to me. Finally I had to cut ties, and it wasn't pretty. There was something beyond a supernova that happened, it was like an atomic bomb went off in a black hole (if that was even possible.) I was expecting it, but it didn't make it easier to deal with. 

Even after all of that though, I still never really understood why people would cut me out of their lives, especially if we didn't have a cycle of fighting, or anger, or such. Then friend number two came around, the stagnant one. This one is the true biter of all friendships, because half the time you don't even know if you should cut them out or not, but you know there's always been something "off." I realized a few months into this friendship that this was probably why people cut me off or distanced themselves from me, because I was the stagnant friend in those friendships. I realized I didn't really care about this friend after a while, I just kept her around because of a sheer need to have someone close by, which was selfish on my part. Someone can have a beautiful soul, but that doesn't mean its meant to be shared with you. I didn't feel like she exuded enough of a personality to bounce off of my weirdness, and it got to the point earlier on this year when I felt bored hanging out with her, I didn't feel challenged or convicted or encouraged to do more with my life after seeing her, like I did with most of my other friends. If anything, hanging out with her felt like an endless chore, as awful as that sounds. However, as much as I debated cutting her out, toying with the idea for months on end, I kept stopping myself. "But she did this for me..." "She was here for me when.." it seemed like I had a huge cesspool of excuses ridden from guilt that kept me from doing it. Then it hit me one day after reconnecting with someone I had had a falling out with....all of those excuses and statements? Past tense. To simply put it, I'm going to look like a huge bitch for doing this, and maybe I am a huge bitch, but I'm not happy when I'm around her. 

Before distancing myself from that friend, I had held a little bit of dissapointment towards the people who left, the people who never said goodbye, the people who walked out of my life. Yet, after distancing myself this time, not only did I feel relief, but I also finally understood the people that walked away. Most of the time, it really doesn't have to do with you (sometimes it does, and I will admit I have been a shithead to certain people and that they probably reached their breaking point with me. It happens.) Sometimes people let you go because they're actually trying to not be selfish, the opposite of what I thought all along. They let go because they realize they can't return the insurmountable love you give them, and they want you to find someone who not only returns it, but matches it. 

So yes, the past year or so, I've become the girl who leaves before she is left.
I've joined the ranks of the people I despised most in my teenage years.

And you know what? I don't handle it well sometimes, but I accept it. You're probably going to think I'm a huge bitch after reading this, and I accept the backlash. It's fine. I'm getting too old and impatient to spend time around those who I don't want to give 100 percent of my love to. I have nothing left to give to the empty souls of this world.

So, in conclusion, sometimes people don't leave out of hatred or selfishness. But out of love. It's a cliche, but life really is too short to be spending time with those who don't want to be around. I've come to realize, despite my earlier thoughts, I don't cut people out because I want to be cold hearted, but because my heart is tired and wrung from giving out too much or too still from giving out so little. When people leave from now on, I'll let them walk out the door in peace. 

It may hurt for a while, like a Band-Aid being ripped off the surface of my skin, but at least now I understand. 

"It's hard to watch the game we make of love, like everyone's playing checkers
Saying 'checkmate'
Whenever they get out without a broken heart
Just to be clear
I don't want to get out 
without a broken heart
I intend to leave this life 
So shattered
there's gonna have to be 
A thousand separate heavens 
For all of my flying parts"
- Andrea Gibson 

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Dear Alex:

Pittsburgh. College.

One of the wildest, wonderful, most whimsical chapters of your life so far is about to begin. You've been waiting, wishing to get out of the bubble that is Stuart, Florida for the past four/five years you have been here….yet...for the first time since you've moved here, from Miami to Stuart, you get that feeling. That feeling that signifies that something is about to end, you don’t know what’s going to happen beyond the point where you close a door on a particular chapter of your life, and it’s freeing, but it’s also beyond terrifying. You will move past this feeling quickly as you drive away with Aunt Kathy, rental SUV all packed to the brim with your personal belonging and clothes that are left over from your days in Florida, finally headed up to Pittsburgh for college, after giving your mom your last hug at 6 am until Thanksgiving break, turning your back towards Florida for the first time in your life for longer than three weeks.

Let me just go ahead and say that like most things in life, college is not going to work out the way you expected it to or wanted it to. I’m sorry to have to say that. You are going to base some of the most amazing memories of your life here; you will discover yourself and find different corners of your mind that you never explored before. Yet, you are also going to let yourself down more times than you can imagine, you are going to fuck up a lot, and you are going to be the biggest disappointment to your friends, your family, your professors and advisors. You’re going to have a ton of friends freshman year, only to lose a lot of them. You will meet some really shitty people that are going to hurt you. Sometimes you are going to be that shitty person that hurts others. You are not going to meet the love of your life here, at least not right now. You are not going to succeed and get straight A’s your first year. You’re going to put a lot more into some relationships that end up not working out, and you’re going to feel completely destroyed from handing your heart out so freely.  You’re not all of a sudden going to turn from the spoiled, irresponsible child that you are into a full functioning, responsible, accountable adult. That takes time, something you need to remember. There will be heartbreak. There will be lots of tears. Unfortunately, part of discovering the unexplored corners of your mind means that you are going to discover some really dark matter that you never thought existed before in your head. These next three years in Pittsburgh are going to be the most trying times of your life, yet also somehow the most rewarding.

You will finally start to act like a fucking adult somewhat, which is long overdue. You no longer have mom around to do your laundry or remind you to schedule your doctors appointments or remind you to drop off this and that paperwork to this place, or pay your bills on time, or coddle you in general. You’re going to be late on paying your bills a few times, you’re going to piss off your roommates more than once because of your naturally selfish nature, you’re going to get too drunk some nights when you really need to be up at 8 am and not in shambles the next morning, but it’s okay, despite this at least you’re moving a few steps forward into becoming accountable for yourself and becoming a better person. That doesn't mean you’re not going to have those friendships and relationships and days in general when you’re not a complete asshole. Because you are going to. You’re not perfect. You’re not always going to be a nice person that makes the best decisions, you’re not going to respond to emails on time like you are supposed to, you’re not always going to own up to your mistakes, and you need to learn to forgive yourself for that. Definitely work on improving upon it, but also don’t hate yourself because you mess up. You’re going to feel frustrated that you are not as put together as some of the people around you. But keep in mind, they had to journey down a path to get to the point that they are at now. You just started your road a lot later than some other people did, and to this day you are still traveling down it. It’s never going to be a perfectly narrow path either without any curves or edges or road bumps. You will hit your hard times. You are in repair….your not fully together, but you are getting there. Be happy that you are moving forward and not backwards anymore.

You are going to realize sometime during the summer before your junior year just how reliant you are on the men in your life and how much you have depended on your relationships to define you. You will then realize that you don’t want a guy or his career to define you, you don’t want to be a paper doll that is looked at as a delicate play-thing that is not taken seriously anymore. You can’t dwell a home in another human being, or entrust your heart with them. They will always drop it. Always. You can’t wait to have kids and take care of a home someday, but you will want to be something more than a housewife whose excitement for the day caps at when her husband comes home (because honestly, especially after being a nanny for a family of three children under the age of 5 for over a year, you’re going to realize that if you’re just at home all day with three children you are going to go insane. Yep, you’re going to babysit three little rascals and it’s going to be crazy but so rewarding.) You want to define yourself.  You always dreamed of having a conventional “Once Upon a time….” story with a Prince Charming and a beautiful ball gown and a happily ever after. Yet, what about your life has ever been conventional? You are a calm sea and a hurricane all in one. A living contradiction at times.

Even though it seems like a stretch and like no one believes in you, you’re going to finally decide that you are going to pursue your lifelong dream of attending law school. You will get incredulous looks and people saying behind your turned away shoulder that you are not smart enough, don’t have what it takes to be a lawyer, don’t have the right personality for it. Don’t solely pursue it to prove them wrong, do it because its what you want for yourself and you want to prove to yourself that you can reach your highest potential. Their eventual words of encouragement will come once they see progress, see that you believe in yourself. That might take a while. It will not be easy. Keep going though, because you know in your heart that it’s destined to happen. You will have people that do believe in you from the start though, and don’t forget to let them know how much you love them and appreciate their encouragement. God gave you life for a reason. He instilled you on this planet to complete a small portion of the work he wants done before he calls you back to His kingdom. There is a girl being sold into sex trafficking somewhere in the world, sitting, wanting an end to her misery and torture.Think of all those children that are put through so many atrocities not just worldwide, but also domestically when pushing through your schoolwork, thinking that it won’t all add up someday. You want to help them. That girl in that brothel, or that boy that is being raped every night by his father, or that girl that, like you, was sexually assaulted and drugged at a party is waiting for you to finish your degree, pass your bar exam, join the workforce and help save them so they can eventually save themselves. Sometimes people need a guiding force to save them that is a little bit more physical and concrete than faith and God’s presence. Give those justice that can’t quite pursue it themselves. The harder you work, the more you can make it happen.

That’s another thing we need to talk about. At the beginning of your sophomore year, you are going to be drugged at a party. A boy is going to force himself on you, rip your clothes off, hurt you, touch you when you are trying to scream the word, “No,” yet the drugs won’t let you. For a long time afterwards, you will feel violated, broken, destroyed, everything you never wanted to feel. What is left of your innocence has been compromised and there’s nothing you can do about that last part of it that you were trying to hold onto and protect for so long, that ultimately was ripped away. You are going to mentally write lists of things you did wrong, things you could have done to protect yourself more against the shadow of evil that was cast upon you that night. You will hate yourself for months afterwards, drinking too often and too excessively, lashing out at your ex-boyfriend, your roommates, your friends. Remember that none of it was your fault (the fights afterwards were, and honestly, you were acting like a freaking crazy moron because you refused to talk about and acknowledge what happened to you. Apologize.) You were intoxicated against your own will that night. Regardless, that did not give him the right to touch you. Girls do need to learn how to protect themselves, but some boys also need to learn how to stop raping and violating other human beings.

You know what though? I’m proud of you. You moved past it. You will come close to letting it consume you and swallow you whole, the guilt and frustration and anger you feel. Yet, you will come to a day where you forgive yourself. You’re going to feel free from the crutches you latched yourself on to. You are going to realize that one person’s act of violence does not define who you are as it never should.

Perhaps the most important thing that is going to happen to you over these next three years is that you are going to start calling yourself a Christian again. Yeah, I know. You spent a good deal of high school saying you believed in God, sort of, but didn’t really want to do anything about it because you were lazy and discouraged. You’re going to be confused by it a lot of times too, because you drink, you say “fuck” way too often, and you have definitely more than once shown up to church in the clothes you went out in the night before (seriously, be thankful that God hasn’t struck down a lightning bolt on us for being so awful sometimes.) Your faith is going to be the light that guides you through your dark times up here. That being said, your faith itself will never be easy. You’re going to find yourself questioning things a lot, slipping back into old habits that consumed your life before you let Christ back in it, and some days you’re going to feel like you’re taking ten steps backwards instead of ten steps forward. Your trip to Guatemala sophomore year (yes, you’re going to go to Guatemala and it’s going to be a life changing experience) will help you define where you want to go. You’re currently on a lot of roads. Your career road, your personal development road, your faith road. Katherine is going to be a huge guiding point of your faith road. Thumim will be a huge part of your personal development road. Listen to them. On all of your pathways though, most importantly, listen for God’s voice. He won’t abandon you, He’ll always listen to you, and He’ll always be here to guide you. Don’t abandon God despite circumstance and what may come up in the future, because, I repeat: He will never abandon you.

After three years here, you’re going to realize that the way you are trying to approach pursuing your career and the rest of your goals in life is simply not working right now. For the first time in your life, you actually feel homesick. You still love Pittsburgh and feel like you have some special connection to the city that will never go away, but you hate being so far away from your family. Dad and Karin will get divorced in the beginning of your third year of college, leaving you with no real family members in Pennsylvania. You’re going to get really lonely. You’ll hate that John Patrick is growing up seemingly so quickly before your eyes, and you are missing out on so much of his childhood. It’s okay to feel this way, and it’s okay to make the decision to move back home. Don’t think of it as starting over, because starting over sometimes means forgetting what happened before your new beginning. Forgetting a place like Pittsburgh? Impossible. Darling, you will find yourself here. I don’t know where she was hiding; maybe it was somewhere near the pool table in Belvedere’s or in the upper tier of PNC Park during a baseball game, or in the pews of Shadyside Presbyterian or one of the nationality rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, or amongst the law tomes in Pitt’s law library, or in 419 Atwood’s basement dancing. The important thing is that you found her, and now you can make sure you grow. Just think of this all as moving forward. This isn’t taking a step back, it’s simply just taking a step in a different direction than you had originally thought. Hey, think about it this way. Right now, you think you’re going to go to college, will meet your future husband some point after your first year, go into fashion public relations and writing, and then move to New York City and become a huge PR magnate taking the fashion world by storm, because someone told you you weren’t smart enough to become a lawyer, that you had a writer’s soul and liked clothes so you should do something with that. Two years ago, statements like these would have paralyzed me, as I’m sure you are feeling now. However, now, as you will learn to do eventually, I scoff at statements like that. You and you alone are the author of your story, the life you pursue, the story you come to share with others. What do you want your story to be? You are going to swap out all your fashion magazine prints on your freshman dorm room walls for a Bible verse chalked onto your brick back wall. You will trade your fashion statement coffee mug for one that lists landmark Supreme Court cases. And you know what, that makes me happy, because that means you have taken the steps necessary to define yourself, what you want for your life. For once, you’re calling the shots somewhat and it feels good to do things for yourself. You’re going to finally learn how to become financially independent from your family, your savings, and it’s going to be a really satisfying feeling when you do. You’re going to hold a few jobs, and it’s going to be really difficult but you’re also going to feel so happy that you can trust yourself to do the grunt work, to labor through arduous tasks that seem unimportant but add up to a bigger picture. Consistency and hard work are key, my dear, and you will learn that here better than anywhere else, in a city itself that has risen and fallen so many times and has had to pick up its broken pieces to reconstruct and succeed eventually.

By the time you are getting ready to leave here, you’re going to look at a lot of the same places you used to go to a lot freshman year, or even sophomore year, and you’re going to look at these places in the present and sadly, in a way, think to yourself, “Wow. What a different person I am now than when I was first in this place. Different mind. Different thoughts. I am a different person now.” There is a bit of melancholy attached to these thoughts, but try to move past that and think of how far you've come, how much you will grow up in these three years. You’ve certainly grown more than you did in high school, that’s for sure. The skyline of this city will always be your first love, yet, every time you come back to this place and look at the magnanimous buildings that light up downtown once more, you are going to be a different person, occupied by different thoughts and feelings. This is good because it means you are evolving into the person you need to be to complete the things you were meant to do with your precious time here. In high school and during my freshman year of college, I used to look at myself as meek, somewhat quiet, awkward, weird, friendly, not hard working, lazy, messy, afraid to stand up for myself. Now though? I look at myself and I see a girl who has gained a few curves and edges alongside herself while here. I look into a face of not beauty or innocence, but hard work and experience, two great teachers. A girl that is not afraid to argue back when her dignity is compromised or at risk anymore. A girl who is stronger than she had ever thought capable before. I’m still quite messy sometimes, but this summer I have become really happy that I don’t sleep in past 8 am anymore most days (exceptions of course are handed out for those nights I'm at work until 2 am), because nowadays  I would rather wake up and chase my dreams than merely live them out in my head. I think I've become a pretty hard worker, even though there’s always room for improvement. I’m still awkward and weird, but who said those always had to be bad things? I am nowadays much more concerned with having a personality rather than being a pretty face (God forbid I continue to be a basic white girl ever. Lord help me.) A lot of people would probably disagree with the way I look at myself and describe myself now, and I can’t blame them. They are probably among the people I have let down countless times or at one point or another. I look forward to showing them my continuous growth so that they can believe in me again in their own time, as you should too. Your journey won’t be easy, but it hopefully is going to be worth it.

Last but not least, I need you to ask yourself these things every day from now on.

1) Are you taking care of yourself?
2) Seriously.
3) Did you pray today?
4) What did you learn today?
5) Did you make another person smile?
7) Did you help or hurt someone?
and most importantly,
8) Does it make you happy?

You are going to slip under the wagon sometimes and you have a long road ahead of you. Just keep faith in the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you’re going to reach it sooner rather than later. Most people have a prayer of contentment, something they always ask for and wish upon. Yours will always be a line taken from your favorite artist, John Mayer:  “Just keep me where the light is.” You’ll be asking God that a lot these next few years, but also remember that you’re going to learn, and always will learn, how to search for that light in the darkness and to hold onto it on your own too.

Whatever dark corners you encounter, know that you and your faith are strong enough to pull yourself out of them.

21 year old Alex

P.S.: I am proud to say you will get over your stupid flavored vodka phase and move onto liking whiskey/scotch, like a real woman should. Good job.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cultivating Gardens

I believe in the strength and power of music and written word.

I believe that all of us have that one song that got us through that awful breakup, or your parents divorce, or that leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in your mouth while listening to it because it reminds you of a memory you miss that you can never get back. All of a sudden, the beginning chords strike, and you are immediately pulled back to that moment that continues to stick in your mind when you first heard that song. You are overcome with the emotions you felt while listening to said song. You remember the landscape of where you were, who you were with, what you were doing, what people were saying. Sometimes music sets a reminder to us that the past never goes away.

I also believe a lot of us have that one book that you always go back to because sometimes you feel discouraged by people leaving so often, but then this book reminds you that it is always here and is always beckoning you to open and explore its pages once again, or that book that is your escape from reality, the place where you go whenever you feel upset, fed up, or angry--whether it be to Westeros, or Narnia, or Hogwarts, or 19th century England….it's probably really weird to say that you "connect" with a book, but for those who have had it happen to them, I'm sure you get it too. You are completely transported to that world, those characters seem like for those brief days you are leafing through its pages that they are almost real. It's kind of like you have this humongous book hangover whenever you are done reading--you're still pulled into that other world of the book, however now the pages have run out, the characters stories are over, yet here you are, still breathing, still….existing. When a book really hits home for you and changes your way of thinking, or a particular set of poems, all of these things just seem completely unfathomable to you. You're still writing your story. And it doesn't abruptly end with "and they all lived happily ever after."

Books and music have the power to transform, to change this world for the better. You think you're so disconnected from certain people, that they're way too different from you, and then you find out that they also listen to Dave Matthews Band and swoon when Stefan Lessard tears it up on bass, or have also read The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield just also spoke to them so damn much. Literature and songs are written in so many different languages, yet emotions scream off the page as one united form of communication. I constantly find myself connecting to complete strangers because they took the risk of pouring out their feelings and publishing it into a book or putting a melody to their words and putting it out there online in the hopes that other people who have felt the same way will feel connected to the way they felt when creating those stories, and that maybe after all they won't feel so alone. I think one of my favorite days this past semester was when I walked to the Carnegie Library on a Friday afternoon when I didn't have to work, I walked in hoping to look up and read part of a biography on Margaret Thatcher, or re-read one of Gloria Naylor's works. Instead, I saw a book display on the first floor that read: "Afghan Women's Poetry." Intrigued, I walked over and started browsing through the books they had propped up for people to pick up and browse through. I picked up a book that was a collection of poems written by women in traditional Pashto, translated. All I had to do was open to the first page, and there was a short poem written by a young woman who was assaulted one day while walking home from town and how she felt deemed worthless because of her "impurity." The next 160 or so pages were filled with words of hope, depression, worry, anger, frustration, injustice….you know, the United States is not a war zone. However, it is amazing to me that it is possible to still relate to someone who is halfway around the world who was raised and continues to  live in a completely different world than your own. However, our words, when translated, and our emotions unite as one.

These are just a few reasons why I get a little saddened when people tell me they hate to read. I can promise you something: you don't. I think there are a lot of correlations between music and writing besides just song lyrics, and if you don't hate music, I can assure you, you don't hate reading. You just haven't found that one book that speaks to you yet, that one author that pens sentences that seem to sum up your existence and everything you feel onto a page, which you never thought previously was possible. Just wait for it. Because it is going to be one of the most relieving, comforting things ever when you do.

You know how you're always told growing up that someday you are going to meet and marry your soulmate and everything's going to be all cupcakes and rainbows and happy times? I think a lot of people neglect to tell us when we're young that it's possible to find our soul mates through writing, through songs, through reading different books. Soul mates aren't just found in fellow human beings. Sometimes you can find fragmented parts of your soul in things other humans create, especially when they exert passion into something. Yeah, they also forgot to mention to us that everything isn't all cupcakes and rainbows and sunshine when you do meet your soulmate, but that's okay. Having a soulmate makes it all better because it means you have someone there to sit with you and love you when things aren't perfect. You find appreciation in imperfect things and love them anyways.

Great literature is waiting for you to fall in love with it. So are songs. If you don't believe me, be patient. Just like that "right" person is going to come along for you, I can guarantee you that "right" book and that "right" song will be coming along sometime soon too.

One of my most distinct memories from when I was younger was the summer eve that the sixth Harry Potter book was supposed to come out. There was going to be a huge party to celebrate the launch of the book. I had mentioned to my parents the week before that I wanted to go so badly, that I knew it was way past when 12-year-old-me was supposed to be out, especially in Miami, but I really just wanted them to make an exception this one time (on another note, what a huge effing dork I was. Yeah, I was twelve, but whatever.) They briskly told me they would "think about it," before turning away and getting back to whatever it was they were doing that day. The mood around my house was tense at this point; my parents had been fighting for weeks, my mom having came home several weekend nights at 3 am that were turning into week days. I felt like my parents were slipping away from me. I knew something was wrong, as I had snooped through my mom's phone at the wrong time and saw several explicit text messages between her and another guy, another guy that was definitely not my dad. I knew better than to say anything. I didn't realize at the time that I could try to glue back together my broken family all I wanted, but it wasn't going to stop the cracks from coming out again and continuing to fragment and decay. I thought every time my mom came home in the wee early hours, drunk, without her wedding ring on, and I would hear my parents screaming at each other, that me making them aware to the fact that I was awake by making noise and turning my bedroom light on was going to stop the fighting. It didn't. It only continued to store up the anger and hurt that they felt towards each other. My parents weren't each others soul mates, and I had a hard time accepting that….because really, isn't that all you want besides from your parents besides for them to love you and support you?

Finally one night, the cap blew off on all that pent up anger and hatred and everything was out. My dad had caught my mom in a lie and found out that she had been having an affair. The fight got so bad that I remember in blurs there being several broken kitchen appliances and tableware scattered all over our dining room and kitchen, and a police car blaring its lights outside our front door, a sheriff aggressively pounding on the wood to let himself into our broken household that was beyond repair at this point. Despite my awful track record with dating, I think love can fix everything. It's just how much you have of it that really is the determining factor of whether two people are going to get through something or not. My parents just did not love each other enough to make it work out. I was put in a car and next thing I knew I was at a friend's house for the night. An hour later, my dad showed up at my friends front door. I was sad I had missed that stupid launch party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, reiterating to my friend Sarah that I couldn't wait to read the book. In actuality, I knew that it didn't really freaking matter. I just wanted something light to keep my mind off of the mindfuckery that just happened. My dad came into Sarah's house with a small bag. He handed it over to me before kissing me on the forehead and heading out for the evening. I opened the bag and saw a brand spankin' new copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Oh my god. I finally had it! I stayed up all night and the whole next day reading it, throwing myself into the non-Muggle world, trying in every way shape and form to escape the reality that was my looming parent's divorce. Hogwarts was there to welcome me to a landscape that was completely different from all the anger I was surrounded by constantly. I always credit the support of my friends, and books and music to getting me through the first difficult period of my life.

Another memory I recall was shortly following the divorce and a prompt move up to Stuart, a small, sleepy beach town about an hour away from Miami. My dad and I were taking a drive up the coastline to Vero Beach, just the two of us. It was our "thing". You know how you probably have some distinct memory with your parents that either just your mom or just your dad do with you and you guys always bond over it? Maybe your dad runs into your room and sings along to a stupid song to cheer you up when you're sad, or your mom holds you close to her heart when you feel like the world around you is falling apart. My dad and I's thing (since I had outgrown being able to fall asleep on his chest to listen to his heartbeat every night as I did when I was a baby, apparently) besides making mix tapes is that we like to get in the car on random weekend afternoons and go for drives close to the shoreline and just talk and listen to music. One day, my dad opened up to me about things that had happened to him before him and my mom had met, my mom's past, and secrets that I had felt were kept from me for the past few years. He was an open book that day, and as we were listening to music, the acoustic version of "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters came on one of several mix tapes we had made for each other. A line of the lyrics lines go, "It's times like these you learn to live again."

My dad turned it up right at that line, looked at me, and said, "This is our new beginning, kiddo. Listen to this whenever you feel like you're starting to slip back."

I do. I do every time, Dad.

I've never owned a garden myself, but I do know that you have to water your plants and tend to it, in other words cultivate it, for it to stay alive and to flourish. It's challenging, but with work, it grows and is more open and beautiful than ever. Gardens require weed whackers, and water, and soil and strong hands to continue for it to flourish.

Your mind is a garden too, in a sense. And it requires cultivating. Our tools to cultivate are a little different though than your standard garden. I think books and music are two of the most important. They grow us. They comfort us. They expand our minds. They remind us that we're living.

 And sometimes, they might even save you a little and remind you that everything's gonna be okay.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"I go to seek a Great 'Perhaps'"

I've never been much of a stand out student, or stand out person for that matter.

To this day, one of the most paralyzing moments of my life was during my high school graduation. It was a windy day, I was focusing on not letting my cap fly off of my head while trying to sit and look pretty for the event photographer who was taking snaps at the most random moments when Alec, our male class speaker, went up to the podium. He went on to make a great speech, as was expected of Alec, and during one portion of his speech he started pointing out our classmates and what made them "special", what they were good at. It seemed as though basically everyone was named off in my class except for me. "Oh, Kat's great with animals.....!  Myrthe's going to be great in the sciences!" On and on the list went, and I kept hoping that there was a distinguishable quality about me that was worth pointing out. These people had been going to school with me for three years, maybe they would find something special. Apparently there wasn't, as Alec continued to move on from speaking about my class and delved into the cliche portion of every graduation speech that goes a little something like "Things are gonna change when we move away from here and move on with our lives..." Everyone else moved on like it wasn't a big deal, and in retrospect it shouldn't have been. Alec's manner in which he brought it up was meant to be encouraging and positive in the way he was directly addressing my fellow classmates, but I was sitting in my seat for the rest of the ceremony, too enthralled with the fact that I had been spending most of every day of 9 months for three years with these people, and they couldn't find a distinguishing quality about me. It scared me. Oblivion wasn't just inevitable for me, as Augustus Waters was so worried about in The Fault in Our was already happening. I hadn't even officially left the halls of my high school as a graduated senior, and I was already forgotten about.

I know for a fact most people would not associate the word "perfectionist" with me, but the truth is, I have a very strong perfectionist streak that runs through me. I didn't even notice it until recently when one of my professors pulled me aside after class one day and pointed it out to me. "Alex," he stated as he sat at his desk with his feet propped up and beckoned me over, "I know you have probably spent your whole life being told that you have amazing potential. Really though, I think you would be more satisfied and less continuously frustrated if you applied yourself more. I've seen you do it at this point now, and have noticed you're almost obsessive about doing whatever it is that you're setting your mind to perfectly. Do you ever think that you so often just give up before you even try a first time because of this overarching fear of failure if you don't have control over the situation completely or simply because you shrink at the slightest sign of discouragement? You don't apply yourself most of the time because you don't believe in yourself."

Well, it would certainly in a sense explain most of the nightmares I've been having--nightmares that have included a guy breaking up with me because I wasn't the best or prettiest girlfriend, nightmares of me getting back my LSAT score and finding out I had failed, nightmares of my first day in law school, my classroom filled to the brim with people from my past who were ever discouraging or mean to me, nightmares where I got dropped from my modeling agency because I had gained too much weight. 

It all suddenly hit me like a swift slap to the face, and all I could think to myself was, "I guess he's right, but dammit, this asshole barely knows me and he just psychoanalyzed me. Cool, now I'm going to be his signature 'work in progress/pet project' for the semester and he's not going to lay off my case at all. Great. Just great." This isn't the first professor or teacher that's taken an invested interest in me. I understand it is a teacher's job to go out of their way to help develop their students, even if it means chipping in more hours off the clock. I just really don't think I'm someone worth spending extra time on. 

I really have never thought I was anything special. People say my writing and my eye for fashion are two of my strongest attributes, but I think my writing is especially mediocre. I get sidetracked extremely quickly and often have a case of going over something someone else wrote, and when they make a great point or have that one strong defining sentence that really hits a nail on the head,  thinking to myself, "Why couldn't I have written that myself? I wish I had." My blog is merely one out of millions of others written by enlightened people with strong epiphanies that were worth sharing, or were traveling the world and needed to share the details of their growth while abroad. What makes my blog so special, what makes my writing so special? I'm just a beyond confused 21 year old girl trying to figure out my greater purpose in life is while trying to tackle my day-to-day tasks and relationships. Which sounds a lot like the plot of a John Hughes movie, minus the invested love interest I end up with in the end and the awesome 80's soundtrack. 

My taste in fashion is something I find fun but also very shallow, at least in my approach towards it. I don't feel I give other people joy by dressing nicely. It doesn't give me much of a personality, it doesn't give me the depth that makes me someone worth knowing. People spent years telling me to go into fashion journalism because I'd be "good at it." A part of me was extremely flattered, as fashion writing and fashion magazines have provided much solace and temporary happiness and have proven to be a great pick-me-up on bad days. They were my form of escapism growing up, when I couldn't leave the house or travel. However, a much greater part of me strongly thought to myself, "That's it? That's all you see me doing with the rest of my life, other than supposedly being a great mom? You don't expect something greater of me?" I realized if I had continued to follow down this path in life that I would quickly develop a strong case of Betty Draper housewife syndrome. Which just sounds sad. I knew my heart wouldn't be into fashion 100% had I continued to pursue it, and I would've been miserable.

To those boys and girls that grow up getting told they'd make great doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or well....anything that's considered a "respectable career" by traditional standards, you are so lucky. So lucky.  I am jealous of you. I get told I'd be a great writer. You know what most great writers do? They write, go crazy isolating themselves physically and trying to mentally isolate themselves from all the crazy thoughts running through their minds constantly, and then about eight times out of ten, they kill themselves in some theatrical manner. This is what career life I get told I should run into. Cool! Life is a treat! Either way (see that whole "getting sidetracked" thing I was talking about?!)  I'm jealous that someone has that much faith in you to put the highest of expectations in you. I hope you find encouragement in the standards people expect from you. It must be nice. 

Despite the fact that I had at six years old written in my diary (then full of pages about how someday I was going to get married to the kid that played Draco in the Harry Potter movies and how I hated Hilary Duff SO MUCH for being able to kiss Aaron Carter on the Lizzie McGuire Christmas special--my first recorded incident of jealousy) that I wanted to be a lawyer so I could help fix people's fights, and my parents saying that I could do whatever I set my mind to.....that didn't stop all the incredulous looks and strongly defined smirks when I began telling people I wanted to go to law school. Conventionally, I guess, only super standout star students really are considered for that path. In other words, not me. I still remember my old roommate rolling her eyes at me and telling me I was "too nice" to be a lawyer. I even more so vividly remember the time she accidentally butt-dialed me while telling our other mutual friend at the time that I was so very stupid, I had no brain cells, and was too dumb to be anything more than a housewife that bends over for her husband whenever he wants, because at least I still had the pretty thing going for me. You may not realize it, but when you are discouraging and condescending and mean towards others, it sticks with them forever. They will never forget your smirks, your cruel words, your discouragements. They will never forget because it's what's going to fuel them to continue to work for something better for themselves.

I had started to tell my friends that were declaring pre-med, pre-vet, biomedical engineering, etc. as their majors that I wanted to become a human rights lawyer when they asked what I finally decided to do with my life. As I was declaring the news to them, I found my voice constantly cracking in to a high-pitched tone, scared of the response I'd get in return. I still can't bring myself to tell a kid I used to talk to last year, who is currently in law school, that I too want to be a lawyer for fear of being judged even more harshly than everyone else since he's currently the only one actually experiencing it. 

I can sadly name off over a dozen isolated moments where I have been told to my face or behind my back that I was dumb, not capable, inconceivably stupid, and only a pretty face with a nice set of legs and hundreds of sundresses, and that was all I was meant to be. (For the record, aspiring to be only a housewife is not "lowly"  or should be looked down upon. I can't wait to raise kids and help take care of a home someday. I just know I would never be happy only doing that.) 

But you know what? I'm tired of people only knowing me that way. So what if YOU think I'm not good enough for something or am too dumb to be a certain type of person?

Some things you have to freaking do for yourself.

My path isn't by any means straight and narrow, but at least I'm the one paving it with God. I'M paving it. Not you. Not your opinions. Just me, my hands, God's will, and my hard work. 

The other day, over Bible study and some coffee,  Katherine, my campus minister, and I were discussing what it means to glorify and praise God. Conventionally I had thought about singing worship songs and making speeches in favor of God and all the wonderful things He's done for us, but then it got brought up that many a time,  it means doing something and working towards something that you know will make Him happy and praise Him, because it makes you happy too. I know for sure that going into fashion would not be MY way of glorifying Him, at least. I just remember at the Jubilee Conference back in February, meeting a lawyer for the Department of Defense (one of my dream jobs), stating that he found he could practice his faith in his line of work by helping not only those who had been abused, but also by providing help to those who perpetrated the abuse. Even though they're overlooked and did something evil, that doesn't mean they don't need help, as I was reminded surely that day.

I want to be a lawyer so I can help better prosecute sexual assault and rape cases and provide the counseling and help needed to survivors to help them move on and fight back, as I have tried from my case for the past almost two years now. I don't want assault and rape cases to be given a case number, I want them to be given a story, I want them to have the happy ending of justice for those who have been hurt and those who need help to keep from hurting others again. I want to make sure that in war zones, refugees are given human rights to travel safely without fear of being abducted and raped. I want to stop sex trafficking domestically as well as abroad. I want to be a lawyer because I know it is my way of glorifying the person I believe in, who most believes in me, because He created me. I want to help other people because I want to remind them, that despite these awful things happening in the world and the awful things that have happened to them, there is a reason to keep believing in something, whether it be God, yourself, your potential.....just, anything.

Don't you dare ever tell me I'm too stupid to help other people.
Don't let anyone tell YOU that you're not enough of something to do what you are passionate about. Your passion is enough. You are enough. 

I was re-reading one of my favorite John Green books yesterday, Looking for Alaska. The book centers around a fictional boarding school in the South and a student who was, especially regarded at his old school, to be a nothing, someone not worth remembering. The story is molded around finding himself and realizing he is someone worth remembering, famous last words said by people who are now deceased, and a torrid love for the rambunctious Alaska Young. 

There was one part of the book that particularly struck me (well, one of's a great book, and I highly recommend reading it.) At one point, the narrator, Miles, who has an obsession with memorizing famous people's last words before they passed on, said, "Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." That's why I'm going. So I don't have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.” 

My "great perhaps" is law school, my path to becoming a lawyer and continuing to fully develop myself. My "great perhaps" is becoming someone who is able to help repair others so that they can eventually continue to repair themselves, and perhaps becoming someone worth remembering in that time lapse. Like Miles in the book, I too do not want to wait until I am passed on to seek this "great perhaps." Notice it is not worded as "my great guarantee", because nothing in life is guaranteed. Who knows, law school may not work out, whatever you, person reading this, is working towards may change. Professor, you may have been right that I have a perfectionist streak that stops me most of the time before I even start trying. I think most people are like that actually, not just myself. We all have a little bit of a control freak in each of us, and all of us wants to know our future and a solid path to get there. However, I'm going to not stop myself anymore and just keep pushing forward, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, despite self-doubt, despite other distractions and discouragements. It may not work out for us in the end as we intended it to, but things will most surely work out. At least we can say in the end that we tried.

Which, in my opinion, is always something worth remembering. 

Monday, April 21, 2014


Whilst growing up, "Categories" was always one of my favorite games to play.

Books, movies, cars, cereal brands, clothing brand names, cities, gum flavors--it's always easy to categorize things.

We also love pointing out labels--Gucci. Fendi. Prada. Jason Wu. Abercrombie. American Eagle. J. Crew. Hurley. Billabong. 

Does anyone ever notice as much as I do though that we tend to do the exact same thing with people, too?

Bitch. Slut. Manwhore. Christian. Jewish. Hispanic. Canadian. French. Scottish. Irish. Catholic. Geek. Pretty. Popular. Cool. Sweet.

People--you know, not inanimate objects.

Living, breathing, thinking, complex souls. We try to categorize people all the freaking time. In high school it was that you were popular, a partier, or a nerd, or an athlete, or a stoner, or a whore, or a weird kid.  We factioned ourselves into these cliques because we were basically told by social stigma and by other people that these were the classmates that we were supposed to get along with, because outwardly we seemed similar.

Key word: seemed.

In high school, I was at such a small school that cliques did exist, but there weren't really so many categories to fit into. I was well into my awkward phase by my sophomore year (braces, poorly shaped eyebrows and absolutely no self confidence will do that to a girl), so I was definitely not clumped with the party crowd. I wasn't even really among the ranks of the "other" group in my grade that seemed to like to do their own thing more yet still all hung out with each other. I may have not been one of the overachievers of my class, but I definitely was still involved. I was super quiet when I first started at my new school, so I think people were super surprised when two weeks in, I ran for SGA secretary…and somehow won? I wasn't exactly sporty, but I worked my ass off in lacrosse and turned out to be a pretty decent player by the time I graduated. I wasn't a brainiac, but I wrote a lot and basically almost had an out-of-body experience the first time my AP English teacher complimented one of my papers and gave me an "A." I most definitely was not a partier at first……which is why people were so shocked I guess when I threw a huge house party that got way too out of control my junior year, and would show up at parties sometimes after that.

I just was kind of a wanderer, a person that really didn't belong in one particular place, one particular group.

I used to have such a hard time accepting this. All I wanted was a place to belong in middle and high school, a social ranking, a way to simplify my existence so that people could understand me and stop calling me "weird" or "awkward" or "odd" or "different" or even just stop asking the simple yet somehow still paralyzing, "Who's Alexia?"

After all…..who the hell was I? Who the hell am I? 

It was because of this sense of not belonging and feeling like I was constantly forging an unmarked path alone that it would get to the point where I was constantly always trying to categorize and label myself, making changes and molding myself invariably to cater to the needs of other people that incessantly label to understand their peers, yours truly included. It seemed easier to do that. It made people feel less intimidated and more comfortable around me, or just less perplexed in general. However…I actually really started hating what people were labeling me as soon as I did feel a need to change.

To this day, I still get all the time from people that they "can't ever seem to figure me out." That I "intrigue" them with my mysteriousness. It's what keeps people drawn in, others tell me. I still get so confused by this. I don't like being told it to an extent because it feels as though you are treating me like a puzzle that needs to be solved, a novel that needs to be broken down into themes and reasoning for writing it in the first place. However…..I'm a human. I'm not a novel, or a puzzle, or anything else other than a lost, complicated damn soul, just like the rest of you. I'm not meant to be "solved." Neither are you. Authors don't always need an excuse to write something, puzzle makers don't need a reason to make a puzzle as freaking complicated as it is, just like you shouldn't need to justify being yourself or have a reason for doing so. You just….are you. I am me. That's it.
I know for a fact you can't fully figure me out or break me down. I'm essentially a living contradiction.

I'm a writer, yet oftentimes I find myself at a loss for words.

I love sundresses and beautiful shoes and vintage clothes and J. Crew, but a huge part of my wardrobe is also Urban Outfitters and off-kilter skate and surf brands. I find myself wearing a lot more black than the bright colors that my normally peppy wardrobe would suggest.

Looks-wise I'm pretty straight-edged to the point where you wouldn't know I'm planning on getting two tattoos done within the next couple of months.

I'm a Christian, but often I do things that show I am nothing but a sinner. I still go out, I still go to a lot of parties, and a lot of things I have done would make any normal person question my relationship with Christ.

I seem like I have a one-track mind and am pretty simple to some and that I'm pretty much only motivated by pizza and/or whiskey, but I read a lot, I over think more than many of you realize, and so many of the books that I have read over the years have put too many ideas in my head. So many to the point where I have a very difficult time verbally expressing them to others.

I was raised Republican but am socially liberal.

Everyone spent so many years telling me I'd be great as a fashion writer or PR magnate or teacher or school psychologist.Guess what? I love kids, I love fashion, I love working with people. I switched my major around a bunch between these things while I was very lost and confused with what I wanted to do with my life, and I hated all these majors for the most part.

Maybe some perceive me as too air-headed and dumb to go to law school, but I was never one who was okay with getting told I can't do something. If I told people my average practice LSAT score, I think they'd be pretty shocked.

I'm a girl, I'm white, yet I do not have a yoga instructor "that has changed my life", I don't have yoga pants that state "kiss me" on the back, I've grown to hate Marilyn Monroe quotes because they're actually cliche as f***, and I hate tequila.

I seem easy going to many at first, but I'm probably one of the most competitive people you will ever meet.

I'm a Political Science and English double major, yet….I still love my philosophy classes. I loved my biology class. Astronomy always fascinated me as a child and still does. And you know what? Some of my English classes make me feel like ripping my hair out. Sometimes I don't feel like writing. Sometimes I don't feel like discussing the polarization of Congress and arguing over Scalia's opinion on a recent Supreme Court ruling. Sometimes I want to sit back, enjoy a beer, and read up on where we we are in the sciences, why climate change is an issue,  how black holes grow and how we are going to continue to explore the vast empty spaces of our never-ending universe.

Sometimes I say "fuck" way too much. Yeah, I go to Bible study pretty regularly too.

I'm a pretty bubbly and happy person, but I have battled with depression.

I'm half Cuban, but I get told all the time I don't look or act Hispanic…however a Hispanic person is supposed to act or look like.

Normally I'm sweet, but those who know me well also know I have a beyond fiery temper. If I don't like you… will know it. Those who have been at the forefront of it know that it is a very odd place that is borderline frightening and they do not want to go back there, ever.

Sometimes I get scared and act like an asshole because of it.

I have a very hard time caring or getting attached, I always need to be constantly moving around because I hate staying in one place….but there have been a few times when it's been difficult to let go.

I can go one minute from listening to John Mayer and Jack Johnson, to Jack White and Foo Fighters, to Nirvana and then completely change my mood around and start listening to Purity Ring, Cults, The xx, Muse, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Ke$ha, or a country song. My love for music knows no boundaries, and neither does my love for learning or exploring.

Like I said, a living contradiction. Hey, it's okay, I bet you have sides of you that are this hard to explain as well, and you don't really have a summary to give others--nor should you ever feel like you need to give an explanation. I spent so many years trying to shorten these sentences and descriptions of myself to make myself more simple, more manageable, more….understandable. Now though I've realized that I was never meant to be that simple. No one is, whether they are showing you all their sides or not. Most people have some pretty far off corners of their mind that take a lot of time to get to know, but are so worth it once you do.

Don't limit someones abilities of how they are able to change this world, impact your life, touch your soul, by the constraints of categories or labels. Sometimes people will surprise you, and most of the time  it's a good thing. I think one of the things that truly holds us back is our inability to understand how complicated all of us are. We think it's all as simple as defining a person by using ten adjectives and then that's that, when it never is. Perfect people are never as perfect as they seem. Sometimes Christians sin. We're not robots, we're not supposed to be simplified and predictable.

No matter how complicated or different or whatever you may be, just know that every part of you is enough. Not just the parts that people have chosen to label, or the categories they have decided to stick you in. You are enough, including the surprising sides of you people don't normally get to know. Despite what others may put to label on you, do yourself the favor of not listening to whatever they think and defining yourself, even if being yourself doesn't carry an exact definition. No one knows you better than you, after all.

You are who you are and what you are is enough.

No categorization needed.

Monday, April 7, 2014


A couple nights ago, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, as per usual, when I saw a girl I had met a few times post a statement that I had known true to my heart since the first day that I moved to this city:

"Sometimes I feel like I'm in a relationship with Pittsburgh."

Sometimes I look outside and want to hate this city so much because it's too damn cold, or windy, or rainy, and forgodssakewhereisthesundoesitevercomeoutdoesitevenexisthereomgomgomg ok. (I'm done. sorry.)

Sometimes I look at the shamble ridden infrastructures of South Oakland and feel disgusted that half of these places, many of which are falling apart in their own ways, are still deemed livable to college students and the occasional older couple.

There are many days that I have woken up, wanting to give up, feeling not an ounce of motivation boiling in my blood, feeling myself surrender to the grey weather and coldness around me.

Oftentimes I get really frustrated that I can't pick up my surf board and drive out to the beach, or sit on the lifeguard stand at Hobe Sound Beach and write, or think, or simply cry when I couldn't put words to paper over what I have felt.

There have been many times where I have forgotten what warmth feels like, what it felt like to have the warmth of the sun lick its rays against my shoulders as they continuously brown into a deep tan.

There are days when the PAT buses are running so slowly (I'm looking at you, Sunday schedule) and all I want to do is dig the heel of my boots into the ground until my utter frustration simply vanishes, although it never quite seems to until I finally arrive at my final destination and exit the bus.

This is the city that has destroyed me in so many ways. It stripped me bare and broke me. It's made me lash out, act crazy, be a bitch, be selfish and a bad person.

Yet, that doesn't make up for the amount of times that Pittsburgh has actually saved me. For every bite of destruction it gave me, for every awful incident that has been thrown my way, Pittsburgh and it's daunting skyline have blessed me more than I could ever hope in the three years that I've been here, amidst all the frustrations and anger I shed towards it sometimes.

Pittsburgh gave me an amazing group of girlfriends my freshman year. Pittsburgh gave me a few wonderful guys who came in and out to teach me how to guard my light, how to protect myself, but also how to let myself love others. Pittsburgh gave me Kenny, and Alex, and Megan, and Josh, and Noelle and Nikki and Katherine and so many other beautiful people that I am continuously thankful for. You know, sometimes you hate to acknowledge how much love surrounds you, and maybe that's how it needs to be, because we'd actually destroy ourselves from feeling the exuberant amounts of love that we show towards others and that others show towards us. It's why we need to feel numb, indifferent sometimes. Yet while our hearts may be numb to feeling, we should never let our minds stop ourselves from remembering the amazing things the loved ones in our lives have done for us. This city has torn me away from so many wonderful people, yet in return has also given me an abundance of beautiful souls that seem to love me amidst my brokenness despite the fact that I'm really awful and irresponsible and have a super fiery temper and make stupid decisions sometimes.

Pittsburgh gave me a level of strength that I never recognized I had within myself, where I have located some of my darkest shadows, where they have followed me around and tried with every fiber of their existence to engulf me in whatever dark places they wanted to take me to and keep me there. Pittsburgh has let me explore myself, to re-create myself from the extremely shy-girl shell I had put myself in high school because I was so scared of letting people get to really know me. It's broken me, sure, and there are so many days when I don't think I'm smart or strong or pretty enough to do certain things. I discovered I can be that crazy emotional person, and I was at a couple of low points. But in a way, there are more days when I feel like Charlie does in that scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower where him, Sam, and Patrick are driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and he is in the back of Patrick's pickup truck, holding on for dear life while Patrick is driving through the tunnel, yet completely lets go and simply lets himself soak in Pittsburgh and it's skyline once he lays eyes on it. He is strong, he feels beautiful, he feels invincible as they are flying across the bridge to downtown. Pittsburgh and the people that come along with it gave him an energy that made him believe in himself in that moment, as I have found people that have helped me many a time believe in myself.

Whenever I feel frustrated at this city, whenever I am at my wit's end with this place, I always find myself putting on my Asics and running. I run despite the chilliness, despite the rain, despite the heat when it does actually feel like summertime. I run regardless of how depressed I may feel or frustrated or angry. I run to the top of Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park every time. It has become my new lifeguard post from Hobe Sound Beach, my thinking spot. For those of you who have been there, you know. For those who have not, I encourage you to walk up on a clear night, sit, maybe take a good book, and gape at the almost idyllic painting that's drawn right before you, especially at sunset. I reach the top, turn around, sit, and then I'm reminded of who my first love ever was, why I fell in love with her, and why I will always love her despite my moods, my quips about the awful weather and so many parts of her existence. I think the reason why I love this city so much is because she's almost, if not more, broken than I am. Down to the crumbling buildings, to the broken souls I pass on the streets of Oakland every day, to every homeless man and woman that has wandered through Oakland begging for a way of support to keep them alive, to the drunkards stumbling out of the bars at 2 am on East Carson Street, to the Lululemon-clad, small dog-wielding women in Shadyside who always seem to have a yoga mat on them and be on some new juicing diet. Everything about this city is broken or borderline questionable it's it own ways, factioned sometimes even by it's many neighborhoods, but amidst it's brokenness I find only pure beauty and hope in the most strange situations sometimes. I see a city that has fallen down and rebuilt itself so many times, from our sports teams to our public transportation system to our nightlife.

We break, we heal, and we rise again.

This is Pittsburgh. This is our city. This is my home.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


(Disclaimer: I was never planning on fully writing a public blog about this, especially on this topic because I still feel as though to this day there are open wounds over it, and for me, I really hate writing on topics that have traumatized me that I don’t fully have closure on. I tried doing as much research as possible to make sure I was taking as valid as a stance as I could on this issue, and I know this blog is probably going to anger some, but I ask you not to read this with judgment. This is first and foremost for the girls and guys that have been through this too. It is taking a lot of me to post this, and honestly I don’t have the time to listen to critics when I’m emotionally pouring myself out through writing in this way. This is extremely personal for me, and I feel honestly terrified opening myself up this blatantly. I still don’t know a lot about this topic, as it is extremely sensitive and may carry different meaning to people who I don’t know. We all already are shown enough judgment in this world. All I ask is that you read with an open mind and an open heart.)

I don’t normally remember dates with the exception of birthdays and holidays, but I remember August 22nd, 2012. It will forever be engrained in my memory.

August 22nd, 2012 was the day that I was sexually assaulted.

Before this day, I had been very naïve and trusting of people; usually would walk home by myself all the way from Oakland to Shadyside without thinking anything of it, would be okay with passing out at a guy’s house if I knew him relatively well. Some more unknowledgeable people would say I was asking for it to happen to me. I was extremely lucky before August 22nd, because before then I really never had to worry about distrusting people. Usually I guess freshman year of college is supposed to be that time that you learn some street smarts, learn to not be stupid when it comes to people you don’t already know super well, especially when at parties. Yet, I had been dating someone most of my freshman year. I didn’t have to worry about being protective of myself, because he was in a fraternity and I spent most of my time at his fraternity parties instead of encountering new parties, new people, unknown faces. His brothers were polite and cordial to me while we were dating and even after, and I know would’ve never attempted something that awful towards me. Even after I had stopped hanging out there, I by good chance had gone to a CMU fraternity that one of my friends had known one of the brothers at and was once again, extremely fortunate to meet a group of nice guys that would drive me home if I was drunk or ended up missing the last bus and really took the time to make sure I was doing okay. I ended up spending the rest of my freshman year hanging out around them. Like I said, I was lucky. I was naïve. I wasn’t exactly dripping in innocence, but I really didn’t know my way around college because I never had had a chance to experience it all by myself before my sophomore year, before August 22nd.

Evil loves innocence. Evil loves naiveté. Evil loves both those things almost as much as it loves preying on it.

So when I got an invitation to a party that night from a guy I had met at one of my new friend’s houses, I really didn’t give much thought to it other than, “Oh, that sounds like fun!” because he clearly knew all of the new guy friends that I had made that seemed pretty trustworthy, and they were all involved in the same organization. Even if he kind of was an asshole and a little creepy, I, like I did with most people back then, gave him the benefit of the doubt. Especially because I really wanted to make new guy friends, since I was at an all girl’s school and never really got to beforehand. I wasn’t attracted to him at all, and was not intending for anything to ever happen with him. Since it was a Wednesday night, though, and only one of my other friends was willing to come out with me and it was already late, I told myself I would only take half-shots and would watch how much I was drinking because I wanted to make sure I could get a Port Authority bus home. I could handle my liquor decently well, and from drinking freshman year and having a bad blackout experience, could tell what my limit was. I told myself five half shots, nothing more, or three beers if there was any there.

I already should’ve been alert the second I got there. I was told I was coming to a huge party. There were only four people there. It was dead. We immediately were taken up to a bedroom. Red flag number two, although that was not processing in my mind at the time. I should’ve paid more attention to the fact that the pour filter was missing off of the bottle of liquor while I was drinking.

No matter how many warning signs I could’ve pointed out starting at the beginning of that evening, though, and no matter how intoxicated I was, that still did not give him the right to touch me. It took me over a year to realize that.

One half shot, two, three, four. Okay, I was good for a little bit. However, I started feeling really off all of a sudden. Weird. It wasn’t even so much that the room was spinning like it normally would when I was drunk. I was starting to see in glimpses. I sat down on the bed since it was close by and next thing I knew, I was lying down and my friend that came with me was trying to get me to get up so we could go and catch a bus. I tried to lift my arms to get up and started panicking because I couldn’t move a single part of my body. I tried lifting my arm, and it felt like a heavy weight. I couldn’t get it up off of the bed, let alone lift myself up and start walking around. My vision was blacking in and out, and all I remember was mumbling to her “I’ll be okay.” Speaking was a struggle, I could barely let words escape my lips, and I just figured I would fall asleep and wake up the next morning and leave, like I had once or twice beforehand when I couldn’t catch a bus home and had to stay at my friends houses. They never tried anything, so I was thinking the same thing would happen here.

I was so wrong. That night, evil met my life once again. And it met me to harm me.

I don’t remember much else from that point on except for in glimpses. I kept telling him, with whatever strength I could muster to speak at that point, to stop, that this wasn’t who I was to do something like this, and “no, please” repeatedly. The last thing I remember is him saying, “I just want to make you feel good!” and I said, “No.”

By the time I woke up, I was extremely confused and in so much pain.

Let me tell you, waking up one morning and not knowing whether you were just raped or not is one of the most terrifying feelings in the world. I would never wish it upon someone else.

I remember waking up with barely any recollection of the night before except for what I just shared. The guy turned over and looked at me and smirked. I immediately got up and started dressing myself so I could get out of there as quickly as possible. “Why don’t you stay? I didn’t even get what I wanted last night”, the guy said as he continued to smirk at me. At that moment, I felt a completely new wave of disgust as I had never felt before come over me. I said goodbye, and ran out of that house as quickly as I could.

I ended up walking home because no PAT buses were coming. I was in a way happy that it was so early in the morning, because it meant no cars were out if any, no one could see me amidst my shame and anger and didn’t have to watch me doubling over from crying so hard. I probably had to stop at least five or six times, sink down to the ground and let myself really let the tears flow. I hated him. I didn’t know what I hated him for more, though. For violating me or for making me so publicly vulnerable.

As soon as I got back to my apartment at school, after I showered, I sat in the tiny hallway of my apartment, I sat on the floor of my room, both in the same position of hugging my legs to my chest as if to cocoon myself off from the rest of the world, and I cried. I thought showering was just going to make the shame and guilt I felt drip off of my body, but it never did. I still felt so unbelievably broken, and incredibly numb. My roommates asked me what was wrong, and I told them what had happened. One of them started screaming at me, calling me an idiot for letting myself get into that kind of a situation, that I was too naïve for my own good. It was the last thing I needed to hear at the time, and she eventually calmed down. I know she freaked out because she was frustrated and because she, to an extent, cared. Still, I feel like it was her yelling at me that really made me feel like what had happened was just me being overdramatic and stupid, and that I just would have to move on like normal. She was what made it so hard to tell my parents, because I was scared of getting the same reaction. The other one was calmer about it and told me I needed to call the police and do a rape kit immediately. Eventually, they both agreed. I resisted immediately with phrases like “It was my fault...” “I shouldn’t have done this....” “I had been drinking....” “It really wasn’t a big deal...” even though I knew it was a lot worse than I was making it out to be. I just thought if I shut myself out to what happened, it would eventually go away. I didn’t want to feel anything anymore.

Even after having an ambulance take me to the hospital, having needles prodded in me and a rape kit examination done that was almost as violating as the actual event itself that preceded it, I still refused to deal with and continue to acknowledge the fact that I had been assaulted. I think the last thing I was genuinely upset about was that I was taking up a hospital bed when there were people dying in the room next to me. I felt guilty. I was occupying a hospital room, making all these doctors and nurses poke at and examine my body, having two police officers question me when they could’ve been taking care of obliterating some crime that was way more important, all because I had thought I had maybe been raped. I went on with life like normal, even though there were freak-outs here and there, especially when I was drunk, that made people realize I was far from okay. My favorite dress and my clothes and my DNA were all compartmentalized in a rape kit sitting to rot away in a police station, and it bothered me, but I never did anything about it. I was either extremely emotional in flashes of anger and sadness or felt extremely numb. I was quite literally going crazy. My roommate would be yelling at me in anger over something, and I would just look at her blankly, wondering why I couldn’t process a reaction to it. After those things happened, I finally had admitted what had happened to me, although I never actually dealt with it. And even then, I wasn’t honest to everyone over it...which was okay, to an extent. Not everybody needs to know my business.

What really bothered me the most was that a detective and two police officers stopped by my apartment to take a statement and were interested in furthering on the investigation upon finding out that there was stuff in my system that night that wasn’t supposed to be there, which would explain why I felt completely paralyzed for a good while and was feeling so off. I hesitate to say that to people; because I do not want people thinking that it was the person who assaulted me who gave me that. There were other people there too. That, however, does not excuse my assaulter from touching me when I said, “no.”

A detective took interest in my case. Yet, not wanting to deal with it, I threw his card away, and I never called him back. I kept somehow putting the blame back on myself.

I never called him back. I didn’t even want to help myself it seemed like. That still haunts me to this day, and even though I have the option to have my kit brought out, I don’t think I’d ever want to for personal reasons. I could never wear that dress again without it bringing up painful memories.

I think the first moment of reality that really made me start finally dealing with what happened, besides me instigating fights with all these kinds of people when I was drunk that I normally would never snap so badly at and having to apologize for it and them still hating me and thinking I was crazy, was having finally been forced to tell my family what happened.

I still remember when my mom called me and asked me why she had gotten a large hospital bill for an ambulance. I lied and told her I thought I had had appendicitis--anything to keep them from knowing the truth. She had called UPMC and asked why she had received this bill and what it was for. The lady on the phone told my mom, “You really need to talk to your daughter.”

I sat in the student lounge of my apartment tower that night, and finally told my mom and dad every detail of what had happened, from going to the party, having my clothes taken off, the hospital, all of it. It was the first time my parents have all conference called me all at once, and I was sobbing while I was telling them everything, completely broken down from lying to them. I could hear them sobbing from their respective lines of the phone as well. I had never heard my Dad cry before that day. It broke my heart even more, knowing that I broke their heart. As soon as I got off the phone with them, my sister texted me asking if everything okay, because all she could see was my mom sitting on our back porch, sobbing and looking out at the lake in our backyard. This kid managed to not only break me, but also my family.

The next months were back on a winding road of self-hatred. I kept thinking I was stupid for letting happen what happened that one night. That’s what evil wants, as I’ve learned. It wants to make you blame yourself and to make you feel like a fool for having trusted someone else. And it’s not even as though this guy is evil. It does not mean he is underserving of being forgiven or loved, it just means he needs to recognize that what he did was not okay. He was acting along with tendencies of evil strewn into his intentions. I thought people didn’t want to date me and they only wanted to have sex with me, so that’s what I did. Yet, I was still freaked out about having people touch me at all and would always end up leaving right away, or just end up completely cutting off the people I would talk to from my life because I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings, if I really even had any at this point. My guy friends I don’t think understand this sometimes, but I still really get anxious and upset when they do something as simple as lay their head on my lap, or put their arm around my waist, or hold my hand. I hate sharing a bed with others (there are a few exceptions to this) because any physical contact freaks me out. If I was talking to a guy, I made him go over leaps and bounds for me to make sure I could trust him, even if it was just to let him in as a best friend. I was beyond scared of getting hurt even more, so I always made sure I had the upper hand when it came to talking to people. I never cried in public at this point anymore, and I tried more than anything to not show emotion. I really was hurting, there was a lot of inner battle with myself and there continues to be even if I don’t show it.

I started going to counseling at my family and professor who I had opened up to’s insistence, and I can gladly say I’m feeling better and have been for a while now. I’m always going to be healing, though. While at the Jubilee Conference this past weekend, speaker Dave Allender, a counselor and victim of abuse himself, tackled the question of how long does it take to ruin a child/person’s innocence. I spent a good amount of both of his presentations choking down sobs that were fighting to come out. He finally said to me the things I had been waiting to hear for over a year now, even if I didn’t know what I needed to hear beforehand. It was the amount of finality and definite closure I needed to start writing on this topic. He told us a heartbreaking story of a client who, after 29 years, still has to see him because of one incident where her grandfather put a hand on her breast for a minute. That is not what causes all of her problems and pain, but it is a strong root for it, as he told us. It only takes seconds to ruin someone’s life like that. Seconds. Some people lose their souls, their lives, and their hearts to evil over a matter of something that happened years ago to them, for only a few seconds, and it’s all because of this idea that if we scream, no one will hear us. If we don’t, all of a sudden the abuse perpetrated on us is now our fault. You kind of get a sense of “Why bother?” after a while, and it’s this cynicism of “Yeah, I was abused,” and being so nonchalant about it that really makes going through it so much worse nowadays. We don’t need to downplay what has happened to us or become detached from the situation altogether. It’s not supposed to be like that.

Dan Allender continued by saying that the numbness and the ambivalence people like me have shown towards dealing with being assaulted was a problem with the hookup culture and with our generation nowadays—we seem to shy away from emotion, make it off to the world that the less you care, the stronger you are. We can’t name our abuse and we instead use filler words to lessen its impact or what it actually was. This quote from American Horror Story, of all shows, really sums it up after one of the characters also was sexually assaulted.
            I am a millennial. Generation Y; born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11, give or take. They call us the global generation. We are known for our entitlement and narcissism. Some say its because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for the entire world to see. But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.

.... We think that pain is the worst feeling. It isn’t. How could anything be worse than this eternal silence inside of me?”

I felt that for months, and I still feel that way sometimes. However, as Dan pointed out, when Jesus first died on the cross, death wasn’t over for him, if you believe in Christianity. Why would we think that once assault happens, it’s just over for us? If anything, the more we ignore it, the deeper the scars grow. The more we hurt. The worse it gets. At a couple points when I was opening up to people they told me to stop talking about it, to not continue my story, either because it was hurting them so much to hear it or they were still angry at me for the way I was acting because of it. That’s not okay though. This is something that does need to get talked about until we stop hurting each other like this. It happens and we should never shove off something bad that happened to someone, no matter how angry you might be at that person or how badly you want to judge him or her. If someone takes the time to open up to you about something that they have a hard time talking to him or her, be there. Listen. Let them finish their story or what they want to tell you of it. Don’t be naïve to assume some people have been hurt while others haven’t. Be there for them, and love them. They chose to lean on you for a reason.

I may be broken, but I am tired of being weak. I was told to have the courage to name my story. Well, here is a big part of it. My name is Alexia and I was assaulted. I was told yesterday while at this conference that it was still okay to be a Christian despite this thing that happened to me, because I can’t know God without knowing darkness. “If you step into His heart, you will find his war with darkness.” Since darkness has found me, since evil has beaten me down, I am now at war with it too, and always will be. Once it finds you, once it finds a way to creep into your existence and try to separate your heart from your soul, it will never leave, so we always have to keep fighting it off. As another speaker at Jubilee, Bethany Hoang said, “There is no darkness that can overcome me, and even the gates of Hell don’t stand a chance.”

One of Dave’s finishing lines was, “Don’t let evil deprive your heart of tenderness because you’ve come to say, ‘whatever’ about something that happened to you.” Well, don’t. He’s right. How you address your heartache is going to show how you will continue to act towards others in the future. Don’t ever give pain that kind of satisfaction, and don’t let it own you. Once something bad happens to you, every day is going to be a battle from that day forward. Wake up and play. He continued to say, “The best way to play is to hate evil.” Carry an invisible sword with you wherever you go, protect your heart and your existence, but don’t let it harden, and tell yourself that you are no longer afraid of your own shame. What happened to you is not your fault; don’t let it take ownership of you.

I will not let my heart be deprived. I will not let evil own me. I decided to start being strong again, but not in the cold, closed off, mean sense. I decided to be strong by learning to open myself back up to people again. I will try to keep myself safe, but to also start fighting for the other people who cannot yet fight for themselves (it’s okay, it takes a while sometimes, it took me almost two years).

At the end of the day, you embody a lot more strength than you know. Use it. Embody it. Don’t let someone else’s hurt destroy you. You are better than that.

We are better than that.