Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.

 

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Pieces

I find it notably paradoxical that oftentimes, I feel most lonely when I’m surrounded by people.

Interestingly, I don’t tend to feel this stomach-sinking emotion when I am all alone.

I think that I’m a fringe person. I dwell just on the outside; within arm’s distance of others, but never closer.

At work, I float around from clique to clique, managing shallow small talk and building bridges just strong enough to give me someone to eat lunch with in the break room.

Within my family, I am amidst most of the inside jokes. But oftentimes, I sabotage our kinship banter with annoyance or moodiness or an inability to just let myself enjoy experiences.

When it comes to anything relating to the male sex, sure, I’ve got a list of dudes that would likely be more than willing to spend an evening with me. They grace me with their attention and overdrawn compliments on the Snapchat or when I post a new selfie featuring my legs.

And I keep them around. Y’know, just in case loneliness sets in.

And for just an initial moment, I gain a minuscule taste of satisfaction.

Every now and then, I feel ballsy and decide to reach out. Give somebody a chance, if you will. But they say that there is no loneliness like the type you feel in another’s company. And they are right.

I’ve caught myself time and time again making the horrific mistake of trying to open up to someone and truly be understood. My cries for help are dismissed, and people come and take what they came for, and then they are back on their merry way.

Cynical? Perhaps.

That being said, I think I’m just intended to be a fringe person. And that entails drawing further and further inward, playing it all safe.

I’ve accepted this reality since the day the pieces of me shattered into too small of fragments that they simply don’t fit together anymore.

And so I carry on, broken and wounded from yesterday’s mistakes.

M.

Stuck

I typically try to be a little bit more eloquent and creative in titling my blog posts, but this simple, 5-letter word seems to be the most appropriate for encompassing the mood I’ve been in for the past, well, months.

Some nights, when I’m out inhaling the heavy summer air, enjoying the romantic landscape of a late night sunset, I feel carefree and optimistic, and completely in love with my life.

Other nights, and honestly, most nights lately, I feel a sobering sense of hopelessness- like I’ve dug myself into the ground, and there is no rope long enough to rescue me.

I miss who I was before I became who I am now.

I used to wake up every morning as a girl on a mission. I was charismatic, passionate, and a bit of a know-it-all. I knew where I was headed, and nobody was going to stop me. I knew I had a lot to prove, but I also knew more than anyone that I was more than capable. I was engaged in my everyday experiences, and I drank up every opportunity I had to learn something.

Even despite my history of trauma, anxiety-based pathology, body dysmorphia, and self-imposed tendencies to isolate myself.

But now, I am uninspired.

Or, perhaps, simply unconvinced of my own capabilities. Disenchanted with me.

I’m in a maze-no-multiple mazes at once, and I’ve hit a dead end in every one.

I chose an academic path that is insufficient for my career goals.

I chose to associate with people who were capable of more damage to me than I could have ever foreseen, and can no longer outrun the impact.

I am stuck in a body-a cage that I hate-and will never be able to mold into something that I can tolerate.

I am stuck in a toxic atmosphere, where I see real suffering by real people everyday, and am incapable of alleviating it.

I am stuck in a brain that won’t turn off, or simply even slow down.

At home, I feel like an intruder.

I feel distant from everything, as if I’m watching it through a glass barrier in a museum. Close-but not close enough to feel.

The best solution I can draft is the “clean slate” method. I want to run away-start over in a place where nobody has met me. Go by a different variation of my name. Become someone else. Someone better. Someone stronger.

A change of scenery is what I need.

And that, is the sole mechanism that propels me forward-the opportunity to never look back.

M.

 

 

 

Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.

 

 

Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortitude

This year was hard for more reasons than the ones mainstream media chose to shine its spotlight on, but you already know that. Anyway, it’s over now and 2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse, which brings me an air of optimism for the upcoming 365 days.

I love the end of the year, because it gives me the opportunity to look back on my previous resolutions (if I remember them) and measure just how badly I failed. AND THEN I get to set new ones for the next year. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In all seriousness, though, I love the concept of a clean slate. I love setting new goals. It makes me feel motivated and revved up to do some serious, lasting self-renovation.

I couldn’t even tell you what my resolutions were last year, so I obviously didn’t accomplish them, but this is a CLEAN SLATE, remember? If I had to guess, though, I’d say it was your typical “I want to lose 15 pounds” or quit sugar or something fitness related.

I weigh the same weight as I have since I graduated high school, and I most certainly did not quit sugar because sugar is awesome and I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Cadbury Mini Eggs. A lot.

New year’s resolution #1: Stick to my new year’s resolutions.

All joking aside, 2017 is going to be my year. Because I am in control of me. I’m choosing to focus my energy on lasting changes that will result in me becoming a more balanced, healthy, strong, independent individual.

I esteem myself as an extremely ambitious individual who just so happens to have an anxiety problem. Anxiety victims can tell you just how severely it can hinder your progress in any and every facet of your life. If I am to realize my academic an professional goals, I need to minimize and eliminate as many obstacles as necessary.

So, I have resolved first and foremost to adjust my lifestyle to one that is as anti-anxiety producing as possible. I have already gotten a jump start on this goal by adopting my trusted feline friend. leo

Meet Leo, which is short for Leonardo. He was named after our favorite cinema star and recent Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s a tuxedo cat, so I often call him Mr. Sir. He has successfully prevented numerous panic attacks, binge/purge episodes, and been a phenomenal dance partner to Katy Perry jams around our quaint, cozy apartment. He is my light and my life, and I love him very much.

So already, I’ve made significant changes that have made my anxiety more manageable. However, my final semester of my undergraduate program is upon us, so I’m expecting a bumpy ride for these next 4 months, but I assure you it’s nothing Leo and I can’t handle together.

In addition to improving myself as an individual, I’d really like to take this year and focus on making a difference in the lives of those around me.

This year, I’ve resolved to do one simple thing per day to build up a fellow woman. Because frankly, being a woman is, in my experience, no walk in the park, and I’m sick and tired of the way in which society has turned us against each other. I’m done being a pawn in the game of female competition.

Women are not my competition, and treating them as such does nothing but hinder our progress toward gender equality. I am officially pledging myself to the pro-woman team. Instead of glaring jealously at a girl’s outfit in passing, I’m going to compliment her shoes, her blouse, or her hair. If she needs a night to vent about her day at work, her relationship with her family/spouse/significant other, I’ll head on over with my good friends Ben and Jerry and one hell of a pep talk. I’m here to help.

Obviously I’ll gladly help people of all genders in any capacity that I can, but I really want to focus on helping my fellow women this year, because I have had many hard experiences in my life and I really could have used some encouragement, a listening ear, or a confidence boost. So this is me returning the favor to those who have assisted me in these ways.

May we all learn to see each other as allies, not enemies.

Happy  New Year’s, loves. I hope that together, we can help each other build ourselves back up from last year, and live happier, healthier, and stronger this year and for the rest to come.

 

M.

Didactic

Two evenings ago, I terminated my relationship with a boy I spent the better part of 2016 with.

I see you, behind your computer screen, rolling your eyes in annoyance, expecting a lengthy rant of a post authored by a dramatic and heartbroken twenty-something. Well calm down, Nancy. (As my ex would say). I’m not THAT predictable.

I had my reasons for cutting ties, but just a week before I did this, I was thoroughly convinced that he was “the one.”

It took four days of separation from him for me to finally admit that our relationship was far from healthy. Don’t get me wrong, our good times were good. And I miss when things were good, a lot. But at what cost? Because our bad times, well, they were BAD.

During these four days that I had minimal involvement in our courtship, I came to realize that I was losing myself by trying to make things work with him. He has a very dominant personality, and I am vulnerable, and admittedly a little naive, despite my fiery ambition and feminist mindset. If I continued to be with him, eventually that flame would be extinguished, and I would be stuck. The things that it took to make him happy hurt me, and up until that point, I thought that for some reason, I owed it to him.

He liked to play mind games with me, and get me really riled up “just to see how I’d react.” He’d check out hot chicks in the supermarket parking lot for 2+ minutes, while I exasperatedly waited for him to get in my car. He’d tell me that I was naive and assumed that he always knew better.

These were painful things to experience from someone who had countlessly claimed that he loved me.

The breakup was painful, and despite how hard things were when I was with him, adjusting to being alone again has been nothing short of difficult. But I have purged myself of material representations of our relationship, and am ready for a fresh start.

“Everything happens for a reason” was one of his most frequently employed mantras. Though I was never completely convinced that this is the case, I do believe that breaking things off with him inevitably needed to happen. It took this entire experience for me to re-focus on what I want for myself and my life, and I now feel empowered to dive head-first into exactly the life that I want for myself, with or without a significant other.

I’m one of the lucky ones with a kick-ass support system that has been there for me unconditionally, and has done everything they can to ensure my wellbeing, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’ve learned from him that I am strong and powerful and in control of myself. I am the only one who knows what’s best for me. And the only people who belong in my life are the ones who make me feel empowered. And that, my friends, is something that I require.

So that’s where I’m at.

M.