December 31, 2012

From Where I'm At

Day 31-Perspective 

Imagine that you can see yourself from above. Watch carefully. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you think you're going in the right direction? 

I am standing at the threshold of a door that doesn't necessarily lead to just a New Year, but a new season in my life. I don't see it as starting over, but rather continuing and progressing what I've already been doing throughout these last few months. I've spent some time looking over my journal entries throughout 2012, and am amazed by all the prayers that have been answered and how I have grown both emotionally and spiritually. 

Participating in Reverb this December has been a blessing; I shared thoughts and events in my life that were deep and at times heartbreaking. And I feel like I did so at the right time. In a way, Reverb has become a sort of therapy for me when I don't have my actual counseling group to go to, particularly during winter break. I've discovered a lot of wonderful bloggers as well and am interested in seeing what 2013 brings them. 

I don't know which direction I'm going in; what I do know is that I'm filled with joy that I'm no longer carrying the heavy burdens that I once took on. I'm ready to embrace the freedoms that I talked about at the beginning of the month. I have goals, but I am also open to wherever God wants to take me on this next part of my journey. It is a journey that I've been on since I was eighteen years old, and maybe even before that. I feel confident and comfortable. I have very few regrets. Yes, 2013, I am ready for you!

The celebration will be low-key; I'm going out to dinner with my family, and then my family and I will see Les  Mis just in time to make it back for a midnight toast. The majority of my friends are twenty-one and are going to the city or are doing things that legally I'm not able to do just yet. But it doesn't really bother me all that much, because my time will come a month from tomorrow. And the world didn't end, so I'm very happy to be able to welcome another year in itself. 

To you and yours, may this year bring you and abundance of love and joy! God bless!

December 30, 2012

Unconventional Success

Day 30-Change Of Heart

Did you have a change of heart about something or someone this year? Who/What was it? Why?

I used to assume and believe that success was getting everything you want, or at least doing everything right. Therefore, I frequently beat myself about a lot of failures, more often the ones involving relationships or actions and personal character. But in the past year, I've come to view success in a different light; that it's not about whether everything goes according to plan, but how well you can adapt to the curveballs and what you can learn from it. 

From a broad view, a majority will argue that my past roommate fiasco was an epic failure; there was an overflowing amount of stress, and we're no longer in each other's lives. That being said, it did teach me a lot expectations, as well as how to live gracefully in an environment that is filled with so much tension and negativity. Personally, she taught me a lot about attitude and how it impacts your life and the people that you surround yourself with. So no, I don't regret choosing to live with her. I wish that I had done some things differently, but I think us living together pointed me in the direction that I needed to go in so that I could work through my own issues. 

I was single for most of the year. but did go out on a few dates. Most of them were awkward and I didn't sense that anything was there. The one that I did feel totally comfortable with never called again afterward. In general, I was terrified of opening up to any man for a fear of what he might think of me. Things got even more complicated after one of the worst nights I've had in college. But it helped me grow so much as a person and a woman, as well as see past some of the lies and misconceptions about dating. I'm planning on doing a stand-alone post about that real soon But again, just because I didn't get exactly what I wanted, but that doesn't mean I didn't get anything. 

Overall, I view life in a much more positive way because of it. In the last few months, I have felt the weight of what feels like the entire world get taken off my shoulders. I now know what is in my control and what isn't. And that in any situation, if I can't do anything about the outcome, the least I can do is try to look at it in a different way. Here's to seeing out that plays out in 2013!

December 29, 2012

When It Just Doesn't Work Anymore

Day 29-Excuses

What excuses did you make for yourself this year? How will you go about doing it differently next year?

When it comes to doing what you want and achieving your goals and dreams, the only one that's really stopping you is yourself. As I wrote through Reverb at the end of 2011, my biggest fear was that I would still be in the same place, mentally and emotionally, during the same time period of the following year. While I did make a lot of progress, I certainly could have gone further. And it was only because of the excuses that I made that I didn't do that. 

"He/She/They won't understand" This is the biggest lie that I told myself over and over. For the first half of the year, it was the reason I guarded myself so closely. It didn't protect me, but rather caused me more pain in the long run. Even if not everyone sees things exactly the way you do, or doesn't react the way that you want them to, doesn't mean that you're alone. You may feel like it, but there's always at least one person who's willing to put their arm around you and listen to what you have to say. 

One of the things that stuck with me was my experiences in my Spring semester of 2011 counseling group. Our moderator encouraged us to not focus so much on the reaction of whom we're talking to, but to focus on saying exactly what we feel and how we feel about it. It's not an easy thing to put into practice, because so much our culture emphasizes validation and obtaining self worth from those we surround ourselves with. But closing oneself off out of fear of rejection tends to do more harm than good, and when all is said and done, much of the time I'm glad that I took a risk of being vulnerable. 

"I don't have time." The only reason time feels so limited is because I'm putting too much energy into things that really don't matter to me, or I'm wasting too much time online as opposed to getting stuff done. Time is meant to be created and used wisely, not just given. That's something I want to do better at as this year comes to a close.

"I can do it tomorrow" Honestly, you don't know if you'll get "tomorrow" until it actually comes around. I believe that there are appropriate times for certain things to be said and done, but I also believe that you shouldn't constantly put something off either. My goal is to do something right when I think of it, or at least make a point to do it sooner rather than later. 

As I said, you can blame the whole world for your problems and setbacks, but there comes a point where the only one holding you back is yourself. 

December 28, 2012

Meaningful (And Intentional) Creativity

Day 28-Creative

How will you honor your creativity in 2013?

One of the big issues I have with being creative, especially in terms of writing, is getting my ideas out of my head and onto paper; or in this current day and age, onto a computer screen. I think one of the reasons that I don't immediately write down an idea or start a piece is because I'm still somewhat afraid to reveal that kind of vulnerability to other people. Most of the time, anyone who reads my work sees a much deeper, passionate, and even emotional side of me that they don't take notice of when they interact with me in person.

But that's what writing is about; being able to connect and resonate with others through ideas, opinions, and stories. I imagine that the more I do it, the easier it will become.

That's why I'm making it a goal to write for at least fifteen minutes per day; it might be a journal entry, a blog, an essay, or part of a story. It might be a little bit of everything. I've realized the more I write, the better I become. The amount of time could increase, but that all depends on how much school work I have and how I use my time for other things.

I would also like to connect with other writers; I'm taking two classes this-coming semester, so I imagine that there will be some workshopping through there. I just feel like I need something that's a little bit more intimate and personal, other than just reading a dozen plus comments on a multitude of copies of whatever I submitted at the time. Plus there is revision, which can take place more than once or twice. It would just be nice to get feedback from someplace other than a classroom or a teacher.

The other thing is this blog; I have been a blogger for four years, and while I feel that my writing style and subject matter have matured, it's as though a lot of it has remained the same. In other words, I'm looking to do different segments about different things. I will still do two, possibly three posts per week. But I want to include variety, such as weekend links/finds, book reviews, or even a series on a particular subject. Right now I don't know how often I'll do it each, because it was largely depend on school work and activities. 

 It seems like a way to spice things up, rather than just do a deep post involving current issues or events. It's overwhelming when written about often, and in order to be well-done, takes more than one day. I will still tackle such subjects, but I want to give myself time and energy to edit them and look over them, as opposed to focusing on hitting the "publish" button before a certain time in the day. 

How did you expand your creativity in terms of writing or blogging? I would love suggestions!

December 27, 2012

Screaming Silence

Day 27-Emotion

What intense emotion did you find yourself feeling the most this year? 

Call it anger, bitterness, or sadness. Feel free to call it confusion Entangle them all together in a braid of negative emotions, and you have nothing but frustration. 

But before I continue, I have a confession to make: I may have been selfless this year, but it wasn't always for the sake of putting someone else's needs before my own. It was more so that I wouldn't cause any conflict or make the situation worse. 

With my roommate, I kept my mouth shut not only to keep the peace, but because I was under her thumb (mostly in terms of transportation). Realistically, I wanted to have the last word in every argument we had. I wanted to tell her just how messed up she was and how her life wouldn't get any better unless she took responsibility for her actions and got help. Yes, I wanted to stick it to her, which I did at the end of the year when I moved out. But honestly, it was a power struggle for the both of us. 

With my family, I felt as though I had been branded the "easy one" and therefore had to play that role. Both of my parents were frequently stressed out over financial matters or each other, so voicing an opinion or asking for something at times was similar to setting off a time bomb. I feared being an inconveinience and having stuff thrown back in my face, so I kept quiet. When we had to pick a place to eat or an activity to do, I did my best to keep my preferences to myself and let the others pick, if only to keep my sister from throwing a tantrum and therefore causing a headache for the others. 

But the worst part was when I seemed to be the only one acting like an adult, while the others fought like kids. 

There were incidents with my friends as well. Generally speaking, I am sensitive about when I make plans with people and they don't communicate with me about it, especially if something comes up and they're no longer available. And the more it happens, the more likely I won't react well to it; in a way, it has almost become automatic. There were quite a few instances, but I'd rather not call anyone out specifically because I haven't spoken to them about it yet (I'll get to why momentarily). 

It all seemed to pile on in front of my face. I want to scream "what about me?!" but felt as though no one would understand or hear me above the chaos. Deep down, I became resentful, as though I was being neglected. I wanted to be validated. I wanted to know that I mattered.

The whole "I am third" mentally seems like hogwash at times. I do try to take things to God in prayer before I make a decision and try to live my life as a reflection of my faith, even though I don't always succeed at it. But I do wonder what the exact benefit is of constantly putting other people's needs and desires before one's own. There does come a point where it's exhausting and no longer healthy. 

And I guess that's why my birthday has always been a big deal, particularly my twenty-first. It's the one day where I get to do what I want (within reason, of course) and don't have to bend over backwards trying to make sure that other people are comfortable. It's one day where as I said before, that I feel like I matter.

The thing I always had trouble with was finding the right time, let alone the words to talk about it. I didn't know how to approach the subject; should I carefully craft an explanation, or say exactly what is on my heart and risk everything being interpreted the wrong way? 

Going into 2013, I would like to address these frustrations in a better manner, a way reflects God, but also bearing in mind that I shouldn't have to justify my feeling every time. I get that sometimes I have to pick my battles, and that a lot of it involves compromise and being able to meet half way on certain things. But no one person should have to always be sidestepped for the benefit of someone else, regardless of who is involved. 

I have a voice, and in one way or the other, it's a voice that deserves to be heard.

December 26, 2012

Simplicity At Its Finest

Day 26-The Simple Things

What were some of the simple things that you enjoyed in 2012? Describe a typical day

This year was a very busy one, but thankfully not in a way where I forgot about the small joys. In fact, I learned to appreciate them  on a deeper level, particularly during the latter half of the year when I wasn't dealing with drama and difficult people every day. I grew to love this routine, and while my schedule will be slightly different next semester, I hope the pieces that fit into it remain the same. 

During the week, my day would begin pretty early; although my classes didn't start until midday, I'm first and foremost a morning person and don't see the point of sleeping in until right before something needs to get done. Waking up would sometimes be a pain, but that first cup of coffee in the morning is always something that I look forward to. And it's from a Kuerig machine that actually works and doesn't take five to ten minutes to work correctly. 

Even though the warm water would run out after about ten minutes, I still appreciated being able to shower in  a clean bathroom. More specifically, to show in a bathroom with more space and no mold or mildew to speak of. I could take my time. It was a bathroom that I truthfully liked being in. 

After my hair was dry, then it was on to the beauty routine. I don't consider myself an addict, but I do love fragrance and make-up. I loved being my own canvas, even if there were days where the look didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. In the background I'd have a specific Pandora radio station playing on; usually Disney, Luke Bryan, Hunter Hayes, Keith Urban, or Billy Joel. It perked me up when I wanted to do anything but go to class. 

Once I looked put together, it was time to refresh myself both mentally and spiritually. For close to a half hour, I spent time in prayer and wrote in my journal. That's why I often wake up early, so I don't feel like I have to rush through things that are so important to my well-being. There's nothing more annoying than having to breeze through times that genuinely matter me because I have a whole list of crap that needs to get done. 

Walking around campus, whether it be to class or wherever is always wonderful; well, at least when the weather isn't awful. The best thing is looking around at all the buildings and places, remembering exactly what I have and how far I've come. A definite plus is running into a friend that I haven't seen in a while and catching up, if only for a few minutes. Making plans to get together is even better!

I'd make it back to my apartment around four o'clock-ish, and would flop down on the couch to watch General Hospital or some other TV show on my DVR. While I only had two classes during the day, I still needed to give myself time to decompress, particularly when I had ones that were difficult to understand. Of course there were times when "decompressing" would go from one hour to two, where I literally had to go into another room to get my homework done. 

My nightly activities would vary during the week, depending on what night it was. Usually I either worked out, attended a Christian Campus group/Bible Study, went to counseling, or had dinner with a friend. Sometimes it was multiple things in one night. Either way, they left me feeling refreshed and happy because it was a time of togetherness and well-being; a time to relate to other people. 

As the clock struck ten (or later at times) I would tumble into bed, exhausted but grateful; I had a bedroom that was mine. A place that was mine. And a life that I was (and am now more than ever am) at peace with. 

Is there anything here that resonates with you, dear readers? Are there any simple things that you wish you would have, or would like to make time for?

December 24, 2012

The Smallest of Times

Day 24-Celebration 

What did you celebrate this year? 

Aside from today being Christmas Eve, where in my Christian faith I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoy a time of laughter and family, there are many other occasions in which I toasted and look back upon with gratitude. I'm not going to go into too much detail since I have to help with last minute preparations and getting ready before we go to Christmas services at my family's Catholic church. But here are the smaller, but no less significant celebrations that I took part in:

I celebrated my twentieth birthday; that is, surviving my teen years

I celebrated making it through two semesters in an awful living situation

I celebrate my ability to succeed in grow during two years of college

My grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary

Oddly enough, I celebrated on the day and I chose to start going into therapy again. It has been over a year that I've been getting help, and I have never felt more present or aware of who I am and what I've been through. 

I celebrated a variety of birthdays, and will be celebrating my twenty-first birthday a little over a month from now. 

I celebrate my health, and the health of my loved ones

And above all, I celebrate being alive and for coming as far as I have. I will never take that for granted. 

Whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday, may you have a blessed day (or multiple days) surrounded by people that mean the most to you, God bless!

December 23, 2012

Closing The Distance

Day 23-Anticipation 

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

If you had asked me this question in years past, I could easily rattle off a list of things that I wanted to happen, but had no way of guaranteeing that they could happen. Yet I've learned the hard way that depending on circumstances and leaning on this perfect yet uncontrollable vision only leads to disappointment. Instead, I want to focus on what I can control. 

And rather than make a long list of cliche New Years Resolutions that I'm more than likely to give up on at one point or another, I'm going to choose one thing to primarily put my emotional time and energy into. In my first entry for December, I declared that 2013 would be the year of freedom, and discussed the particular freedoms that I would like to embrace. But those freedoms can be summed up in one simple sentence: living with authenticity as well as intimacy. 

Despite sounding incredibly similar, I've come to the conclusion that these two words are not the same thing. While authenticity involves a person's self-awareness of who they are, it tends to frequently come off as defensive and lacking the will/motivation to improve or become better at something. It's individualistic and involves only that one person taking responsibility for how they present themselves. 

Intimacy is where two or more people genuinely present themselves to one another exactly as they are and make a point to actively connect and relate to each other.  It's raw and without pretense. It takes time and involves an equal amount of sharing and listening; telling the truth and being able to hear it and recognize it.  It's not a state of codependency, but acknowledging the fact that one can't survive or succeed on their own. 

And I say that because there was an insane imbalance of the two in my life this year. I knew who I was and how I felt, but scared stiff of how some of my friends and family would react if I peeled back those layers. I was not only careful about who I talked to, but how I talked to them; I didn't want to risk being looked down upon for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or just oversharing in general. 

What my insecurities prevented me from discussing in person, I wrote it on my blog and had other people read it. It may have kept me from enduring rejection (at least verbally) but it left me isolated from those that I desperately wanted to know, and for them to know me. 

So if there's one thing that I really want out of the New Year, it's to have relationships with very little insecurities or inhibitions. To have that closeness and vulnerability that I once did seven years ago. It's just too exhausting to try so hard to keep my guard up, as opposed to risking a kind of pain that can eventually be healed. 

It won't, nor is it possible for everyone that I interact with, because sometimes personalities just don't mesh well. On the other side of it, I can also tell when we don't have a lot in common and when I'm the one holding back. I don't know why exactly, but I've been told that it's the gift of discernment. 

Whether it be feeling confident in our own skin, or being vulnerable with another person, I think it's something that is hard for everyone in one way or another. It's hard because we're given this mixed message that our self-worth should be based on being likable rather than being human. If we don't meet specific standards, then we're not good enough. 

Although I don't have an exact blueprint as to how I'm going to work my way out of isolation in terms of certain relationships, a lot of it is a matter of not depending on friends or family to help determine how I see myself. And that no matter what pain I have to go through, I will be OK. 

I've assumed that the greatest pain is rejection. But it turns out the greatest pain is a life without knowing, and a life without love.

December 22, 2012

The Intersection of Love And Hate

Day 22-Revelation

What was your most surprising revelation in 2012?

I may come across as niave or lacking common sense by not having figured this out until I was in my twenties, but here it is: just because a collective demographic tells you how to do something, or that you should feel a certain way, doesn't mean that it's sound or rational advice. Just because it's the "norm" among a particular generation at this time, doesn't mean that it will work for you. That being said, the two categories that this applies to the most are as follows:


When built on a strong and firm foundation, I don't believe that love ever truly dies. Some relationships will fade into the background, maybe for a certain period of time, or perhaps that their purpose in your life has been fulfilled. If nothing else, it changes a different shape. You can't always put a finger on it and recognize exactly what it is, or even why. All you know for sure is that you will always care for them on some level, regardless of the paths you take or the amount of times one/both of you mess up. 

You shouldn't have to have reasons why you feel the way you do or how you treat another person. You do it  because of who that person is, and not necessarily what they do for you. 

On the other hand, it's essential to know how to give and take; to know how to love well. You may feel like your heart is completely filled to where you would do anything for someone; but if either one or both don't know how to demonstrate that, being in each other's lives is more stress than it's worth. Sometimes you're both in different stages or seasons of life. Sometimes you have your own issues and insecurities that you need to deal with separately. But it's not good to risk losing yourself when you're grasping at straws. 

I have no doubt that I want to be pursued, to be fought for, and to be wanted.

If there's one piece of advice that I never want to forsake, it's to allow God to put the pieces of the puzzle together in His timing, rather than try to force them on my own. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, never try to mold yourself into a type that fits into someone else's ideals, or force something to happen when at the moment it might not be a good time. 


I was once asked why I don't hate anybody. It's rather simple, actually: I don't see the purpose in putting that much energy into a person that does help me to grow or make my life better. Oh yeah, I've proclaimed it in the heat of the moment. There are people that drive me absolutely up the wall at times. But it doesn't mean that I would try to make their lives miserable every chance I got. 

I just don't understand why some have such disdain toward people they don't know; they claim it's because of one or a group's religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political association, career/profession, etc. But if you don't know them and who they are or what they do doesn't directly affect you, then why go all out?

Personally, I think hatred is what's driving this country into the ground. Worse is when one puts hatred into action. It's not about whether you should like a person and/or agree with what they do, say, and believe. It's about being respectful, regardless of the situation, and knowing when to walk away when you can't handle it anymore. 

Avoiding them isn't going to do it. The only way life will ever get any better is learning how to coexist with what you don't necessarily like. 

I can understand anger and heartbreak toward one that has wronged/hurt/completely broken another. It's a natural reaction to fight back, because it's the one immediate way to do it. And it takes a lot of time to work through; weeks, months, or even years. It's how healing takes place. 

But the biggest step of healing is forgiveness. In my eyes, there are two kinds of such: one is where you're willing to give whoever caused you pain a second chance and allow them back into your life. The other is when you have no contact whatsoever, but you forgive if only for the sake of giving yourself permission to move forward. I speak from experience when I say that holding grudges will do nothing but destroy you in the long run. 

That doesn't mean you have to forgive right away, or only forgive once. Depending on the level on pain, it can take a very long time. Don't rush yourself. But don't actively try to hold on to what you can't control, either. 

On a final note, this is not an instructional manual on how to navigate love and hatred; I just feel that this is what's best for me, and how I want to live. 

May 2013 be a year of love and joy, not a year of pain and hate.

December 21, 2012

Sweet Baby

Day 21-Sadness

What was the saddest moment this year?

Before it happened, I would have picked the untimely death of Whitney Houston. But then around two thirty last Friday, I began hearing the reports of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The numbers came pouring in from the likes of Facebook and various TV screens. First it was eighteen, then it just kept going. Twenty-seven in all.

My automatic reaction was that it had to be some kind of sick joke. A twenty year old breaks in to a school and opens fire on a classroom full of kindergarteners and other teachers nearby. Many of them ranged in ages from five to seven years old.

They were just babies...

The name and face of Adam Lanza is being shown everywhere, as though his twisted legacy is what we should remember. That yearbook photo, or whatever photo was chosen, is so incredibly haunting. I can't help but think of Norman Bates every time I see it.

And frankly, I'm tired of seeing it. Those kids and the teachers that died protecting them are the only ones we should focus on right now, not the killer. I understand that people want answers, especially the parents. But unfortunately, I feel that we're not going to get them right away, or perhaps not ever. 

Those sweet babies....

The media is reporting every single little detail; survivors are being questioned and interviewed when they probably haven't even had time to process what happened. One tells of a bullet going right past his head. Another walks out covered in a classmates blood and says that he had to pretend that he had died. While there's no telling how they'll cope in the time to come, there's no denying that innocence has been lost. 

Those sweet babies....

I can't read or watch anything without bursting into tears, particularly the funeral of the little boy who was saluted by the entire fire department because he'll never get to be one. Or when his best friend wrote him a simple, yet heartbreaking letter about how much he was going to miss him. 

Those sweet babies...

Meanwhile, politics and the American people have started a verbal war of words over gun control. An issue no less that should be looked at closely and carefully. But what about the reasons behind why so many of these infamous shooters  do this? What about the intense hatred and loneliness that courses through them, and that has been spilling out from every single one of us for decades? 

All I know right now is that I will never be able to look at a young child again without wanting to pick them up and hold them; to whisper that it's going to be OK and that they can hold onto princesses and superheroes a little longer. But the reality is that nothing is completely safe anymore. 

In the middle of all this, twenty-seven sets of parents and/or family members are doing the unthinkable by not only burying their children, but doing so in front of a dozen or more news cameras and photographers. While I get that the media is only trying to do their job, what about allowing these people to grieve peacefully and in private? I don't need the internet or a twenty four hour feed to know that their hearts are broken and might never be completely healed. 

Rest in peace, sweet baby. 

And in the depths of my soul, a small cynical part of me dares to ask "what or who is next?" 

I hope and pray that no one ever has to find out.

I purposefully waited a little to bit to write this, because there were times when I didn't know how. This is not perfectly polished writing, but simply my train of thought as I try to wrap my head around all of it. I may be right and I may be wrong, I can't say. But God bless the children and their families, and may one day a light shine through it all.

December 20, 2012

From Man, To A Monster, And Back Again

Trigger warning: Rape, rape culture, sexual violence

Day 20- Fear
Describe something that scared you. How did you overcome your fear? 

I've always thought to have good relationships with guys, but I've actually been struggling with those views for a while now. I've only mentioned it in passing because I was still in the thick of working through it, and in many ways that is still true. I will forewarn and say that I’m not glossing over anything or mincing words, although I won’t include names out of respect for those involved. 

It was back in March, when a couple of family friends came to campus to visit me for the weekend. We went to a nightclub downtown, and immediately got separated upon entering; I'm not sure where they went exactly, but I did immediately hit the dance floor.  After a little while I did make an effort to try and find them, but the place was packed and texting became pointless. For a short time I considered heading home; I didn't want to wait around and waste an entire night on keeping track of them. However, I felt extremely protective of the both of them since neither knew the area very well. And when you’re unfamiliar with how the police force in my college town works, it’s possible to get into some serious trouble. And for those two, getting into trouble meant serious consequences.

And on the other side of the coin, I didn't get very many opportunities to get out and have a good time, shall we say. And normally when I see an opportunity to let loose, I take it. When a guy approached me and asked me to dance I said yes, having no problems with having done so before. It was fun for a little bit, at least up until he tried to kiss me. I hadn't experienced my first kiss yet, so I was not about to give it to someone that I wasn't even attracted to. "Just a little kiss?" he asked. I told him that I didn't want to.

I'm not sure if it was solely because of my refusal or what, but a moment later he resorted to groping me below the belt. Honestly, It didn't occur to me to tell him no, because I’d believed over the years that such touching in that kind of environment was “just something that people did” and that it was best act like it didn't matter. All I remember thinking was how badly it physically hurt, though it lasted only about ten seconds. It hurt so much that for the next two days, I had a hard time putting jeans or pants on. The first chance I got, I bolted up the stairs and out the door.

Upon leaving, I found my friends outside near a bench and insisted we get the hell out of there. Meanwhile, they’re telling me that they want to go find a party and that we should split up. They were way past drunkenness, and I felt as if I had no choice but to agree. I had very little money to spend on a taxi, and the night ride service was done after three in the morning.

I started walking toward my apartment with the mindset that if I couldn't find a party, at least I could go home. Creepy Kevin Federline (that’s how I remember what he looked like) showed up again out of nowhere and was adamant about walking with me, despite my firm rebuttal of preferring to be alone. I felt trapped, because everything was starting to close down, so there weren't many places I could go to get help. It seemed even less safe to go to the cops; the buzz of the liquor had worn off, but I was extremely tired and therefore appeared to be more out of it then I actually was. I didn't want to run the risk of getting a ticket or being arrested for public intoxication. I basically went  into survival mode; in that moment, I thought it was better to have him walk with me than walk alone and be ambushed.

On the way back, he asked me a lot of personal and sexual questions, most of which I didn't know how to answer. I did my best to be nonchalant about it in hopes that he would take a hint, but he kept persisting. Taking it a step further, he put his arm around me and attempted to sweet talk me about dating and what I wanted in a relationship. By now I was more irritated than I was afraid. I wriggled out of his grasp and told him “I do have pepper spray, and if you touch me one more time, I will spray you!” I figured something wasn't right when he immediately took his hand off my waist. 

We got to the intersection where I usually crossed to get to my apartment, and I said that I could take it from there (there was no way I would allow him to walk me to the door). He tried to kiss me again, but I refused and then practically sprinted toward my building without looking back.

For about two weeks afterward, I was both terrified and paranoid; I wasn't sure if he had seen the exact place that I was living in, so it was hard to fall asleep at night. The building was more like a Motel Six, where you could walk right in as opposed to having to go through a hallway, and needing a special key or code to get to that point. Not to mention the lock didn't work well (and I know because I accidentally kicked the door in once). I avoided going out until shortly before finals and I made absolutely sure that it was with friends that I completely trusted.

I didn't have a whole lot of time to work through the ordeal, since I had a whole lot of other crap going on in my life. I did tell a few of my close girlfriends about it, most of whom I knew would react without judgment or asking why I hadn't handled it differently. And while I do kind of regret not bringing it up, I chose not to discuss the matter very seriously with those that I had been with that night; I tried to do so very casually, and all I got was “I’m not responsible for what I do when I’m drunk” which indicated that going any further would be a lost cause.

Of course, I had no intentions of making my family aware, but one relative did see that something was up and eventually got it out of me. It wasn't a very detailed explanation, so I wasn't surprised when I was told that enough time had already passed (four months up to that point) and that I needed to move on.

In a way, I did get what she was saying; I hadn't been raped, so why was it a big deal?

The thing is, while that slimeball didn't take my virginity that night, he definitely took my sense of safety. I have never viewed myself as an overly sexy person and I don’t try to purposefully get attention, so I assumed that no one would try to come after me. But then I thought the other tiny incidents that I had pushed out of my mind: a guy calling out to me on the sidewalk asking me if I would sleep with him, and then when I ignored him, he told me that he could easily rip me in half. Another being a little too rough with me the first time I went out dancing, where I was first told that that kind of behavior was typical. I was hit on by at least three or four different guys during my twentieth birthday celebration, and that ended with my friends and I being followed out of the place. Oh yes, when I look at all of it from a broad perspective, it was a big deal.

I didn't realize just how much it affected me until I started my junior year. I was constantly on alert while walking around at night, even though I lived much closer to campus and it was only a ten minute walk. I couldn't, and still have trouble with looking a man in the eye in passing, regardless of the time of day. I was judgmental and suspicious of every guy that I saw on the street or on campus, mostly because of the manner that they spoke in or even what clothes they wore. There was even a night where a guy was walking behind me and I got so freaked out that I yelled "what the fuck do you want from me?" before running all the way home. I didn't stop or look back until I was inside and had locked the door.

More than anything, men scared the crap out of me.

I decided to continue doing group counseling, and knew I needed to discuss if I was ever going to truly heal. It took a few weeks, but eventually I did gather the courage to talk about it.It was really tough, both in group and in general to be vulnerable; I was ashamed by the choices that I made, and didn't want to face the pain and rejection that could possibly result from such honesty. This was especially true of the Christian student organizations that I was involved with, as well as most of my guy friends. Around campus, you’re either a good person or a bad person, and there doesn't seem to be much of an in-between. This seems especially true for women.

Emotionally and figuratively, it seemed easier to become defensive and automatically assume that the people I interacted with the most weren't going to understand. I particularly kept it from my guy friends for a long time because I didn't want to dump everything on them and make them feel like they had to make it better. I needed to be able to see clearly first and work it out in an environment where it could be properly addressed before I told certain people.

It turns out that there were a lot of difficulties underneath what I’d been through. I realized that I didn't know how to say no or communicate effectively when something, be it physical or emotional, upsets me or makes me uncomfortable. I don’t have a close relationship with my Dad or my brother, and that has bothered me to an extent. The big thing was that I hadn't opened up to a man since I was sixteen years old.. There were several others that came into my life after that, but any attempt to connect with them on that level was immediately shot down or turned out to not be worth it. For a while, I thought it was better not to try.

In the last nine months, I have been slowly working my way back to viewing the opposite gender in a healthy light. I’m still somewhat hypersensitive when walking around at night, but I do take the Night-Ride bus if I’m going home at ten o’clock or later. I haven’t been to the nightclubs since then, although I still enjoy dancing and can’t promise that I won’t ever go back. I will no longer allow random men to touch me or give me a hug if they ask (it has happened many times). I no longer care if it gets to the point where I have to be a complete bitch or get other people involved in order for a creep to stop bothering me. I’d prefer not to make a scene, but self-protection ultimately  precedes over being nice.

I've come off the pedestal of thinking that all men are heartless; I have met and gotten to know some that are absolutely wonderful and respectful. However, it does still take time for me to fully trust and invest  in someone, which is for another post regarding intimacy.

This kind of situation is just about me; there are millions are stories regarding both women and men who endure this kind of hell, often way worse than what I experienced. It’s not enough to just avoid specific areas or establishments, because it can happen just about anywhere and at any time. Go on and you’ll read stories about incidents on subways, trains, and even just walking down the street in broad daylight. Any place can be potentially dangerous, depending on how crowded or deserted it is.

I don’t know if there is one broad solution to solving this problem; there will always be sick idiots out there who think that they’re either entitled or claim that they can’t control themselves. While it’s important for women to be aware and keep themselves safe, one can only do so much before they feel like they’re isolating themselves from daily life. Men need get it through their heads that if a woman tells them no or makes it clear that she has boundaries, they need to respect that and back off. Even if there are mixed signals or scantily clad clothing involved, that does not give a guy the right to feel her up or take her home. I don't advocate for the hookup culture, but if that's what you want,  go find someone that’s sober and will give a clear and verbal “yes.”

This is not an issue of sensitivity or how a big of a deal something is; this is an issue of comfort and personal space. I know that if I don’t like something or become uncomfortable, than dammit you’re not going to be able to convince me otherwise.

 Unfortunately not many want to openly discuss this stuff, but the only way a difference will ever be made is if we stop making excuses are start standing up for something. This kind of crap isn't normal and shouldn't be taken lightly. It’s disgusting, and no one should have to live with the shame of another person’s choice.

If you can, take the time to share this with people that you know. If a friend or a family member approaches you and admits that they were in this type of circumstance, don’t brush them off or tell them to let it go. Everyone has different ways of handling stuff that scares them, and it’s not your place to tell them how to do it. Listen carefully, and if you don’t know how to respond, simply say “I hear you and I respect that you feel that way.” It might very well be a situation that needs to be reported to the police.  But overall, a positive and non-condemning response can and will make a world of difference.

I don't see myself as a victim, but rather someone who has been through a lot and is managing to overcome it through love and Faith.  The more I hear about these stories, the stronger my feelings become. I don’t want pity or apology, but to live in the comfort and truth of not having to hide anymore.

It happened to me, but you can impact whether or not it happens to anyone else.

Update: It has been two years, and most likely there are people who are wondering why I'm still talking about this. This may have been my first experience in being exposed to rape culture, but it wasn't the last. There were several incidents my junior and final year of college, none of which were as severe but still left me shaken. It was never a question of "why did he do that?" but rather, "why didn't I fight back? Why didn't I stand up for myself? Why did I let him push me around?" There are a lot of possible reasons, but I'll elaborate more on that another time.

I saw the guy who approached, touched, and followed me that night at least one other time, but toward the end of junior year. I wasn't freaked out, but more so just wanting to get as far away from him as possible. We were both at the same bar and he said that he remembered me and thought I was a good dancer. Needless to say, I stayed glued to my friend's side the rest of the night. 

To this day, I still haven't had a full, in-depth conversation with the other two that were with me for a short time that night. I considered it and weighed my options carefully when one of them told me that they planned on visiting me last summer, but it never worked out. I just never saw the opportunity to bring it up again. And yes, the possibility of ruining that relationship by having that conversation is what scares me the most. I'm not sure how to describe their attitudes exactly, but let me just say that they only way they will understand is if and when they have daughters of their own. I can only hope and pray that it's sooner.

As much as it hurts, I accept that not everyone will see where I'm coming from. When you haven't walked in another person's shoes, it's hard to know what to say, though there are times when words aren't wanted or needed. I chalk it up to being a generational thing, but that's not an excuse to invalidate another person's experience, especially of it's painful or traumatizing at worst. 

For all of the horrors that continue to happen every day because of other people's choices and warped views on life, I will continue to speak up on this matter. I know now that what happened to me was not a punishment for underage drinking or using a fake ID. It was not because of what I wore, nor what I said or didn't say. It's true that I did make some poor choices, but nothing where I deserved to be preyed on by a twenty-six year-old grown man who probably had every intention of having sex with me that night.

 No one deserves to objectified or have their dignity taken from them. No one deserves to have their worth defined because of what they do or don't do with their bodies. And I make no apologies for saying this, but no one deserves or their life threatened or taken because they choose not to sleep with a certain person or attend a high school prom with them. There are so many things that have happened over the last six months that sicken me, so much that I can't even find the words right now.

While I genuinely believe that not all men are like this and not all men rape or commit violence,  this does not excuse the fear, shame, and humiliation that women have to endure because of the culture that we live in. I say that not because women are the only ones that go through it, but because I can only speak from what I've experienced as a woman, what I've seen, and what I've heard. I shake my head as I angrily agree that probably all of us have and will go through some form of this bullshit, regardless of what we do to protect ourselves from it. But damn it all, I'm ready to put my foot down. 

photo credit: DanielJames via photopin cc

December 19, 2012

The Lone Wolf on Balcony #14

Day 19-Humor

What was the funniest thing that happened to you this year?

Oh jeeze, I managed to get myself in quite a few shennanigans over the course of time. In retrospect, this scenario seems worrisome rather than funny, but looking back on it, I can't help but laugh over the circumstances. For the sake of knowing that you really had to be there in order to see the humor in the situation, I'm going to tell it from a third person point of view. 

It was an usually warm late afternoon for that Tuesday, even though the semester was only in it's second or third week. A had been hard at work trying to get a good chunk of reading done, but arriving home close to four o'clock almost every day made it difficult to not want to do anything but rest. 

"I need a break," she murmured, grabbing a gatorade out of the fridge. Upon seeing her open laptop, she decided that this might be a good time to sit down and work on her blog for a little bit. She hadn't had much time because of all the running around that needed to be done for classes, along with getting slammed with a boatload of course work after Labor Day weekend. 

She sat down and proceeded to write, but something felt odd about it; the room was too dim and her phone felt like a distraction.

Why not sit on the balcony? A mused. She thought it be best to enjoy the warm weather while it lasted, since it was probable to be eighty degrees one day and fifty the next. 

A sat down in one of the patio chairs and proceeded to write about the latest happenings and perks of living in a one bedroom apartment. Everything felt peaceful, almost to the point of being idyllic. She looked out onto the street nearby and felt a tingle of appreciation that caused her to shiver. I really am blessed, she thought. 

She looked at the clock on her computer and realized it was five thirty; she had spent almost an hour and a half avoiding homework, and didn't want to risk falling behind so early on in the semester. Deciding that the blog post could wait, she gently set her laptop down on the adjacent chair in order to open the door. 

Except it wouldn't open. 

Jingle. Jangle. Push. Pull. Bam. She tried several times, but nothing seemed to work. 

"Ok, this is weird." A had enough trouble keeping the door closed from the inside, so why would all of the sudden automatically lock? 

Maybe there was someone else in the building that could help. Her front door was locked, but she'd been told by friends that you could use just about any key to get into any apartment building. 

Apartment building. Not an actual apartment. 

The predicament that A found herself in was more annoying than terrifying. This hadn't happened before, so what exactly was wrong? She leaned her head up against the screen and tried to see if anyone else was outside. The guys upstairs were always making noise, so perhaps they might have a solution. 

But when she called out to them, no one replied. 

There was the option of breaking the glass, but A could already tell it was pretty thick and didn't want to risk hurting herself. 

"Don't panic. Stay calm. You can handle this." 

The knot in her stomach tightened when she realized that she had purposefully left her phone on the couch, so not to be distracted while writing. 

The sun began to slowly sink over the apartment buildings across the street. "Shit, what am I going to do now?" The idea of being outside all night made her feel rather uneasy. 

Her computer was halfway out of battery, but it was the only communication device she had. Logging on to Facebook, she first messaged some of her her friends in hopes that one of them would know what to do. In the meantime, she noticed that her Mom was available to chat. 

Mom, I'm in a bit of a situation. I need you to call the landlord and have him come over here to help me.

They chatted back and forth to try and figure out how she had managed to not only lock herself out her apartment, but on her balcony, no less. 

By that point the sun had gone down. It was getting close to six thirty, and who knows how long she would be stuck. 

Just then, she saw headlights directly in front of her. Her best friend, J had gotten her Facebook post and agreed to drive over and make sure everything was OK. 

At the sight of each other, both the girls automatically broke out in laughter. 

"What in the heck happened?" J asked through fits of giggles. 

Nearly close to tears from laughing so hard, A did her best to relay the predicament for what felt like the umpteenth time. 

"Good lord, woman, only you would do this." 

"And only you would come over and talk me down, even though there's not a whole lot you can actually do for me." 

The police arrived shortly after, along with a locksmith who wanted to charge fifty dollars in order to break it. A figured she didn't have much of a choice in the matter and was about to say yes when her computer bleeped with a Facebook message. 

He [the landlord] just called me back and will be over soon. Hang in there!

About ten minutes later, the patio door lock jiggled and opened. 

"Hallelujah!" was all A could cry out upon seeing the inside of her apartment, and J standing at the counter. 

Her landlord apologized for not letting her know that the door indeed did lock from the inside if you shut it all the way. Before giving her a hug and then leaving, J made sure that A put her spare key where she could access it in case something similar ever happened again. 

By the time everything had settled, it was close to nine o'clock. There was no way that A would get anything done tonight/ Quite frankly, she spent the night with a glass of wine and her favorite lasagna that had been sitting in the fridge. 

Needless to say, A doesn't go out on to her balcony without checking the lock Even more so, she doesn't close the door all the way whenever she's outside. 

In retrospect, it's not all that funny. But I do look back on it and laugh, knowing that I can add it to the list of crazy situations that I've gotten myself into while in college.

December 18, 2012

Yearly Gratitude

Day 18-What are you thankful for this year?

I always try to express gratitude on a daily basis, but there was quite a bit this year that made 2012 both wonderful, challenging, and life changing all at the same time. Here are the top twelve of 2012. 

1. My health, and the health of my loved ones. 

2. Friends that tell it like it is. I wouldn't have made as much progress so far if it weren't for those that were willing to tell me the completely blunt and honest truth. 

3. My family, who supported me in all that I did this year and when I achieved. The small gestures of calling to make me laugh or let me know that they were thinking of me always brought a smile to my face. My grandparents, in particular, have a way with doing that. 

5. My therapy group; again, they're also people that looked me in the eye and told me exactly how they saw it, and I needed that wake-up call. Each of their stories has given me so much perspective on life and the fact that we are all dealing with our own pain and struggle. 

6. The Salt Company and Intervarsity; I have been involved in both of these groups in the last twelve months, and have experienced so much growth because of it. I hope to go deeper and develop closer relationships as this coming year goes on. 

7. Having my own place to live that I feel insanely comfortable in, and others feel comfortable in as well. 

8. The blogosphere; yes it can get crazy and sometimes down right nasty, but I learned a lot from the blogs that I read on a regular basis, especially those that I posted yesterday. 

9. My gift and passion for writing

10. My school

11. The ability to stay physically fit. 

12. Awareness of both the good things, as well as the bad and the ugly. It is something that I once felt had set me apart from my peers, but now I see it as a very positive trait about myself.

December 17, 2012

This Year's Inspiration-Blog Edition!!!

Day 17-Inspiration

Who or what inspired you? What did you learn from them?

I thought I would do something a little bit more unique for this prompt. Instead of listing out people in my life, I would discuss the blogs that have inspired me and motivated me, both as a writer and a person. The blogging world gets discredited and land blasted for not being an actual form of writing, I have come away with so much from these people's stories about their lives and such a willingness to share them.While some of them are centered on the Christian faith, others are not, but that doesn't mean that they're not worth reading!  If you have time over the holidays, sit back with a cup of cocoa or cider and see for yourself. And just a little side note, none of these are ranked. They're all wonderful in their own way and it would be very hard to do so. 

Single Dad Laughing-I started reading two years ago when I found it through Facebook; at the time, I wrote it off as something that I couldn't relate to because it was mostly about parenting, and I was only eighteen! But there was something about it that drew me in, and I kept reading post after post. It's definitely more than just about being a parent; he covers topics such as dating, religion, perfection, and so much more. Some will leave you in tears because they're so deep, heart-wrenching, and moving. Yet, it's not just the topics that interest me, but that rawness and vulnerability in his writing.

The Identity Project-Not only is she a good friend of mine, but an amazing woman of God who has such a gift of words and wisdom. I read her blog every morning, and I'm always left with something to meditate on throughout the day. Her recent prayer for those involved in the Newtown tragedy left me weeping for those sweet children and their families. I love how every day has it's own kind of theme and topic, along with a verse or quotation. Thank you being such a blessing, dear friend; both in real life and in the blogosphere!

The Good Girl-Every time I read something of hers, I can't help but feel that "warm blanket" feeling that I often describe when something really speaks to me, or I'm completely and utterly at home with a person or a situation. I love her enthusiasm and and positive attitude about her faith and life in general. I also can't wait to hear about her many adventures to come!

All Groan Up-For anyone that is in their twenties or even thirties, this blog is definitely worth reading! I found it to be a great and necessary kick in the pants, because it gave me a realistic look at what life is like during and after college, and how to navigate the not-so-glittery reality. What really hit home for me was the 21 Secrets For Your 20's. Even if you're not a big fan of reading blogs, at least read that one!

The Good Women Project-I can't remember how exactly I found this; possibly through the devotionals that I was receiving via e-mail sometime ago. When I did, I was going through a very confusing time in regards to where I was at in my faith and with God. It was reassuring to know that I was not the only one trying to make sense of certain things that I had been taught or witnessed in church, specifically problems that a lot of women tend to face.  It was like pulling back the curtain after a long period of time, but I didn't have a spotlight shining in my eyes. Thank you for giving me peace of mind, and hope!

These are only just a few of my favorites. I plan to put a blog roll up sometime in the near future, so keep watching for that. In the meantime, take some time to read these. Most likely, you'll be glad you did!

December 16, 2012

Me And God

Day 16-Discovery

What did you discover this year? How did it help you grow?

Back in August, I wrote about where I was at in my Christian spiritual journey, and how a lot of what I was struggling with had more to do with The Church and Christian culture than with God. I had planned on immediately writing a second portion to it, but I didn't even really know where my faith was at, or even how to describe it. It has taken time to put a finger on it, but I feel like now I can discuss it without any major confusion or fear. 

It began with a real moment of clarity; I was lying in bed one night after a particular stressful week, during the second semester of my sophomore year. The tension and stress in my than- living situation was at an all-time high, and there wasn't much that I or anyone else could do about it. With tears spilling down my face, I thought to myself, I wish I could just take my Bible and go someplace far away and spend time with God until this is over. 

Lord,I'm alone and I need you. 

I can't do this anymore

Please, help me

In that moment, God was what I needed. In similar moments, God was and often is all that I have. 

That summer, going to church on a regular basis was hard; I was only taking one class, but it took up a lot of my time due to the hefty amounts of reading and note-taking. On the other hand, I was also yearning for something more than just sitting in a service and hanging on the pastor's every word. I wanted connection and intimacy; to feel what it was like to know God beyond the walls of a building or a group of people. 

I had heard about Jesus Calling through a few friends that had been reading it. I was in the process of learning how to genuinely pray, and I discovered that I was terrible at doing so out loud. It felt weird and uncomfortable, almost to the point of being robotic. I had already gotten into the habit of writing letters to my Creator over the years, but this brought it to a much deeper level. 

I would often write in my journal while listening to meditative music; sometimes it would be a short prayer, and other days it would take an hour or more to articulate all the thoughts I had regarding the topic. I have connected with God so much more through that book than I have anywhere else in the last five years. 

When the Chic-Fil-A controversy came about, I once again felt as though I was trapped in the middle of it, as I tend to feel with many current social issues. I witnessed so much anger and uprising, both online and offline. Frankly, It was not something that I wanted to give involved in. At the time, my little brother had just shipped out for basic training while the Air For Academy was being surrounded by a raging wildfire in Colorado, so I was not about to get worked up over whether or not I should boycott a fast food chain. And I know that it was so much more than that, but taking a side in that fiasco wasn't exactly on my priority list.  

I do have my own opinions about various social causes, such as abortion, homosexuality,  and the like. Everybody, both Christian and non-Christian, has the right to have their own thoughts and views regarding such. What makes me unbelievably angry is the way both sides go about articulating such. I can only speak for myself, but I refuse to pick up a sign and go protest at a courthouse or an abortion clinic. I am not going to blatantly tell someone whether or not they're going to heaven or hell. I refuse to hold others to specific and impossible standards that I wouldn't want to be held to. 

Why? For starters, I just don't see the point. I've heard people say that they're motivated by "holy passion", but there is a vast difference between passion and blind anger/hatred. No one wants to listen to anyone that stands behind a fence or a piece of caution tape and screams about how much God hates this or that. And if they do stop and listen, my guess is that they walk away with an impression that is anything but good. 

Second, a person's struggle with their sexuality, or anything that goes against the Bible, is between them and God, not me or whomever is around them. It's not my place to tell that person where they stand with God, or what their relationship with Him should be like. These things take time and processing, and only God is fully aware of that person's heart. Don't try take on a task that is only possible for the Holy Spirit to do. 

Again, I completely respect the fact that people think what they want to think. What I scratch my head over is how one chooses to treat other human beings in light of that the line of thinking. In other words, Scripture may have a ton of different verses about what is a true Christian and what doesn't, but what about the verses regarding love? 

How you act is most certainly a reflection of faith; how you love is an even bigger, more powerful reflection of that. Refusing to love, in my eyes, seems like absolute hypocrisy. 

That's why I had such a hard time all those years. I questioned and wondered all right, but that period of time was a lot shorter than trying to figure out how to admit that I didn't, and still don't see everything as completely black and white. I was terrified of not being "Christian enough" and being pushed away and condemned as a result. 

For the last year, I have been slowly learning what it means to be a woman of faith outside the Christian bubble; the one that puts so much emphasis on gelling into this clean, Eutopian-esque culture, instead of living authentically and being willing to extend and receive the gift of Grace. As I said in that post, I needed to stop trying to mold myself into something that I thought I should be and allow God to mold me into the person that he wants me to be. 

These days, I don't know if I like the term "Christian" anymore. Sure, I use it a lot and it is pretty common. But I'm not a fan of the negative connotations that have become associated with it, and I don't think it genuinely represents how I view my creator. 

I would much rather say "I have a relationship with God." That's what it ultimately comes down to, particular when I take my last breath. Me and God. 

Yes, community is important; by finding the right community, even more than one for me, I have grown so much more and it's been a lot easier clearing up some of the cobwebs. But you can't depend on it to "feed" you all the time. If you try to build a solid foundation on something that can easily change, it eventually will crumble. 

I'm going to church and I'm in a Bible study, but I'm no longer afraid to disagree with the way that a message is being presented, or ask questions about it. I'm open to discussions about faith and daily life, but I'm not going to pressure myself to try and follow other people's convictions, especially if it's just not me. 

My journey is not over, as is the case with everyone. I still have a lot to learn in terms of how I can apply my faith to the coming stages and seasons of my life. My advice to anyone who has, or is currently experiencing what I went through is this: Don't be afraid of uncertainty, or the possibility of going through what some may label a "crisis." You will go through it, whether it be in high school, college, or at some point when you're out in the real world. Like human relationships, spiritual relationships have their own ups and downs. Be patient, and be open to wherever you feel like God is leading you. It might take a while, and it might take you to places that you'd never thought you would go. But eventually, you will look back on everything and be reminded that it happened for a reason. 

I know I did. And I'm glad.