Decisions and desires

There are a lot of things we choose to do and we think that we make that choice because it is the best decision. In reality, there are so many factors that contribute to that choice, whether it may be the fact that it’s just the easiest option, the most socially acceptable option, or what we truly feel is the best option.

Growing up, I was always striving for acceptance, and validation from others. At school, I was surrounded with incredibly intelligent, creative people. I constantly compared myself to others and their accomplishments, not realizing what a hinderance it was to developing confidence in myself. Instead of developing my strengths, and addressing my weaknesses, I constantly compared my actions to others’ actions and what seems to be easiest for everyone else. I was indecisive externally, internally struggling with trying to hash out what I actually wanted.

I started college at 17. Since I was young, I wanted to be a Pediatrician. Unlike many others, this was the career that I wanted for myself until I went to college. I went to college orientation and attended a group session for pre-med students. The majority of the session was them telling us how few of us would make it through to medical school. I now realize how I let their scare tactics and negativity influence my confidence and my goals. Shortly after that session, I decided I would try to be a nurse instead. They got to me. They convinced me that I was one of the ones that couldn’t do it, instead of pushing me to work hard enough to make it through. Looking back, it’s really disappointing to think about that session and how I let them influence me. They shattered my already weakened confidence in myself. At nearly 30, I am working on my Masters in Public Health to address mental health and developmental disorders in children and adolescents. I think that if I had actually known more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, I would have known that I could have done it. I could have accomplished anything I wanted to do. I know that now and it makes a world of difference in my motivation and dedication to my goals.

I have learned to embrace who I am. I have learned to embrace my faults, and cater to my strengths. I have learned to express myself and my desires. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t still struggle with being externally decisive due to anticipated rejection. I have learned that it’s okay to be wrong, and that I will never develop confidence in my thoughts if I didn’t express them. I often still cater to others and their desires, but I have learned to speak up when I do or do not support something. I have learned to fight for who I am and what I believe in. I have learned that I have to be myself, regardless of what others think, because it doesn’t matter what others think.

I have learned to love myself. I have realized over time that I didn’t love myself. Honestly, I still struggle with this at times. I suffer from an anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and OCD. But I am not my diagnoses. I have to remind myself that I am much stronger, smarter, and more independent than I think. We must love ourselves in order to truly be happy and accomplish our true desires.

So, here’s your reminder: you are amazing.

We are all incredible creatures with the ability to achieve great things. Put your heart into it. Forget what that person said about your ideas. Forget what that teacher told you in 6th grade. Forget what that person said to you about your body. Turn inward, develop your confidence and self-love. We can do anything.

365 Days

365 Days.

It’s been 365 days since I lost him.

It’s been 365 days since I lost my best friend.

It’s been 365 days since I had to make the hardest decision in my life: the decision to put him to sleep.

It’s been 365 days since I put to sleep the cat who laid with me every night since the day I adopted him.

It’s been 365 days, yet I still cried when I found his old collar and tag in the drawer of my desk last week.

When I adopted Percy, then Cheech (his brother was Chong), I was questioned on whether or not I would still want to adopt him because he had a heart condition. He had a grade 5/6 heart murmur. I was told he could live a full life, or he could last a year. Considering the fact that I too had cardiac issues, I was a little offended at the notion that someone wouldn’t want him solely because of his heart issue. Of course, I took him home, and he was the most loving, social, and intuitive cat.

Over the years, he laid with me during some of the roughest times I’ve faced – physically and mentally. He was my baby. He was my rock. It’s been 365 days.

On December 13th, I took Percy to the vet. It was his first time going to the vet since we relocated to New York. I noticed he had some increased effort when breathing and seemed to be breathing faster than normal. The vet was amazing. She was incredibly caring, responsive, and gave me the most information she could. They did a chest x-ray. She brought me in and showed it to me – it showed his entire abdomen had built up fluid. She let me know he would need a chest tap and to spend the day with them. I left him there and she called me back shortly after I left to let me know I needed to pick him up and immediately take him to the animal hospital. She did the chest tap, but it wasn’t the fluid she was expecting – the fluid was filled with blood. She did another tap, still… all blood. We took him to the animal hospital in Manhattan. We could have kept him alive, but the fluid could build up within a matter of hours, or a matter of months or years, and there was no way to tell which it would be, and medication wouldn’t necessarily help him. I could have taken him home, but come home from work the next day to him passed away. It didn’t seem like it would be fair to do that – to prolong his life for my own benefit, to hang onto him for one day… while he suffered.

On December 30th, we went to the shelter and rescued Lincoln. He’s brought a brightness into our home when it felt so empty after our loss.

It’s been 365 days, but I had a remarkable 2118 days on this earth with him, and each of those days makes up for each day without him. I went into his adoption ready to rescue a cat who may or may not make it through a few months, and I got 2118 days with him. For that, I am thankful.

These last 365 days have been filled with so much. So many laughs, so many tears. In these last 365 days, we’ve gained some, and lost way too much. We lost Percy. We rescued Lincoln. We lost Caleb. We decided to make the leap and move to DC in January 2019. I will face the next 365 days with my head up, my heart full, and ready to face the adventure each of those days brings. Thank you, Percy, for showing so much affection to everyone you encountered. Thank you, Caleb, for showing us all the best way to live and reminding us every day how important it is to live with light, love, happiness, passion, perseverance, strength, and hope.

365 days. 

1-800-273-8255

Within a week’s span two well-known individuals lost their battle with their illnesses and committed suicide: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We were unable to see the pain and suffering that they endured from their illnesses. We were unaware of their struggles.

I suffer from major depressive disorder as well as an anxiety and panic disorder. It took me 25 years to come to terms with this. It took me 25 years to seek help. It took me 25 years to overcome the stigma of having a psychiatric disorder. I have had days where I could not stop myself from crying. I could not calm myself down. I had no motivation to lift myself from my bed or my couch. I have had days. I have had weeks. I have had months. I have been confused and hurt and angry. I have doubted the purpose.

The CDC released the U.S. Suicide Rates/Trends by State from 1999-2016 and they are nothing short of horrific. We need to divert public health resources. We need to offer assistance to not only those with mental illnesses, but also their family members. These statistics are astounding.

All too often people do not seek help for their illness because of the stigma surrounding mental health. All too often people do not recognize psychiatric disorders as actual illnesses because it is an illness you cannot physically see. This needs to end. I know of multiple individuals whose healthcare has been mishandled due to their symptoms of a physical illness being attributed to their mental illness. This needs to stop too.

The number of individuals who commit suicide with no known mental health condition is higher than those diagnosed with mental health conditions for men and close to the same number in men. People go undiagnosed for decades because they are afraid of the repercussions of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. They go undiagnosed because we live in a society that is full of judgement and not support. We live in a society of hate and fear, not love, compassion, and empathy.

I am shouting to the rooftops over this. PLEASE: Get help. PLEASE: Reach out to those who you think may be suffering. Reach out to those who seem completely fine. Reach out to the strongest people you know and the weakest. Let each of them know that they are important and that you care. Offer a judgement-free environment for them to express themselves.

This is not okay. We are not okay. We need to be better. We need to do better. We need to work together. We need to help and support one another.

Hear the Children Crying

When I see people blaming mass shootings on bullying, it really grates me down to the bone. Not every mass shooter has been the product of bullying. Bullying has been a decades-long issue. However, the widespread ownership and use of military-grade weapons has not.

When I was a child, I was a scrawny, quiet, female. I had a teacher who bullied me. Anytime I wanted to say something in class, he made sure to demean me and diminish my worth. It was because I was small and quiet. I lacked confidence and he made sure to point it out. He continuously called me “mouse girl.” A boy in my class also rode my bus and he liked to bully as well. He caught on to the teacher’s name-calling and proceeded to make fun of me the entire drive home from school on that big yellow school bus. I was a victim of bullying, but that bullying did not result in me wanting to shoot up my school or hurt others. Yes, I would like Mr. Mullin at Ammons Middle School to not have a job anymore – to not be able to harass, belittle, and bully anyone else. You look online at RateMyTeacher and boys continue to praise him in their ratings for being funny while numerous female students mention his bullying. He continues to bully middle school children – children who are at a very delicate stage developmentally and emotionally.

I remember Columbine. I remember being stunned. I vividly remember a student at my cousin’s middle school being stabbed to death in the bathroom in 2004 while my cousin sat in his classroom as they tried to determine who the killer was. I remember everyone being in shock from the violence. We now face these situations all too often. Our once stunned and confused reactions are now anger-filled. No one is shocked. We are living in a sick world where this has become the norm. Thousands of children are Marching for their lives. They aren’t marching because they don’t like the school curriculum or because they like the attention. They are marching because there are so many who cannot. They are marching for their future and to ensure others have a future.

Open your eyes and look within,
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?

Jah come to break down oppression,
Rule equality,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free.

I look back throughout history on generations of demonstrations, marches, and protests and see their strength in the students Marching today. The older generation belittling these students’ opinions and speeches because they are young, yet their generation was around their age when they fought for the freedoms they currently have the pleasure of having. Isn’t this what democracy looks like? What made them forget the past? What made them forget how we got here?

This is how history repeats itself.

Get up, Stand Up: Don’t Give Up the Fight!

My mother, who will be 70 this year, retired after well over 30 years in the school system. She is a healthy woman and stays active. She retired, continued traveling, volunteering at Fairchild, and enjoying life. She volunteered for the 2016 Clinton campaign and went door-to-door in the rain supporting what she believed in. She attends church every Sunday and volunteers through the church. She is now substitute teaching at a school that opened because of a grant she wrote. She is not equip to face an active shooter situation. My mother was a young adult in the 60s-70s and has experienced the hell out of life. She has traveled and continues to travel the world and experienced and embraced other cultures. She combines her experiences in life with what she believes is right and forms her opinions on that. She is a journalist. She always investigates so she provides factual information. She is an educator. Not just of English, journalism, or technology, but of life. I watched generations of her students rely on her for mentorship and guidance. Growing up, she taught me to know the difference from right and wrong. She taught me independence. She taught me to form my own opinions and beliefs. Best of all, she taught me to fight for what is right – she taught me to speak up when something isn’t right. She and I talked about how inspiring the students from Parkland are. How proud we are of them. It’s unacceptable that such tragedy has put them in the limelight and we didn’t do anything to prevent us from getting to this point.

I frequently see individuals from my mother’s generation berating people from my generation for our push for what is right — on Facebook, while criticizing our generation’s use of social media. Pushing against the current generation’s action to protect others from non-sense violence such as school shootings. Pushing against the current generation’s actions against the actions of the putrid man running our nation. These marches for gun reform, healthcare, and gender equality are what democracy is made of. I know of the baby boomer generation as being one that fought for what they believed in because of my parents’ lives. I know that their generation protested the Vietnam war — I know my mother lost friends to the Vietnam War. There seems to be a closed-minded portion of that generation that sees themselves superior to the current generation, instead of embracing them and allowing the younger generations to learn from their experiences and allowing themselves to learn from the younger generations. Every generation is different. Over time we have new technological advancements, fight different wars, struggle with different things, but we can all benefit from understanding one another.

Watching the numerous protests around the world over the weekend has been so incredibly inspiring. The thousands of people worldwide supporting our students. Our soon-to-be-voting, educated, powerful students. They are being raised in a time where a wealth of information is at their fingertips. They are the generation of now. And now they’re using that information and their experiences to fight for their lives and the lives of others.

Protest

You see that little blonde girl in her school uniform holding up an “Are you afraid of what I have to say?!?” poster? That’s me. My mother was a journalism teacher for high school students. She taught me about censorship and the importance of free press. She taught me to speak up when I think something isn’t right. I protested alongside high school students and adults. I learned at a young age to fight for what is right. And thank god I did, because we’ve got a lot to fight for these days.

I’m ready to fight. Let’s do this. Let’s continue to March. Let’s continue to be heard. Let’s vote them out. Let’s continue to do what is right. Let’s continue to support one another in this very long journey to improve our nation.

Connect

I feel like I will never have a stronger connection to music other than the music I grew up with. Whether it was the Rock ‘n’ Roll I danced to in the family room with my dad as a child, or the music I listened to when I was in middle school and high school, I feel like I have such strong memories associated with those songs.

Growing up, it seemed as though classic rock music was always flowing through the house. I remember falling in love with Lynard Skynard and Jackson Browne’s music and stealing my dad’s CDs to play in my room on repeat. Living in Miami, we often would open the windows and sliding glass doors, and let the music play loudly through the whole house and out into the backyard. The 90’s felt so free. I remember dancing throughout the family room, my feet on my dad’s, while the music blared. I listen to Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne and think about it’s relevance to life.

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
 I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
 ‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me
 Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry

Once I was in middle school, I started picking up on music coming out at the time. Throughout high school, I listened to mostly rock, “alternative rock”, punk rock, ska, indie, and emo. I have a playlist on my Spotify of a bunch of the music that frequently spilled through the speakers in my room back then. There is a certain comfort I find in the music that I fell in love with back then. There is a certain magic to the lyrics – and a lack of lyrics filled with materialistic and empty words.

Fight for the Future

It’s amazing how many people are in their own world. They have no idea that there are others in the world and that their actions could impact someone else. Or perhaps they do know, and they just don’t care. It’s truly sad that we live in a country where the right to bear arms is fought for over the safety of our children.

I do not have any children; however, my best friend does and her two children have been such a large part of my life. I have known her since she was pregnant with her son, who is turning 8 in a week and a half. I am scared for them. I think about losing them. I think about whether or not they are safe and it terrifies me into tears.

She was living with me on November 9, 2016. I remember driving home from work sobbing while listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech – not necessarily because Hillary didn’t win, but because Donald Trump had been elected as the President of the United States. I sat outside of my apartment in the car trying to calm myself down – trying to erase the evidence of my tears and despair. My best friend and her two children, who were 4 & 6 at the time, were inside. I was worried and scared to let them see me upset and crying, but I gave up and went inside. And then I remembered how amazing and resilient children are. I remembered how smart and emotionally competent they are. I sat with them and had an honest talk about why I was upset and what this meant for our nation. I remember her daughter, Grace, telling me that she understood why I was sad and told me that he was a “bad person.” I realized while talking to them that I shouldn’t be ashamed to cry, or to be scared. They are stronger than I could ever be.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was physically so close to my former home, and to where my entire family lives currently, but every shooting hits me in the gut. We repeatedly are fighting for gun reform. We are repeatedly arguing the same arguments. These politicians are lousy. Every person who believes that a change needs to happen needs to speak up and call their congressmen and congresswomen. I think about my best friend’s children each time one of these shootings happen. I think about my mother, who taught in the Miami-Dade Public School System for over 30 years. I think about how fortunate I am to have a mother that made it through the Public School System without an incident that threatened her life or her students’ lives. I think about the what if’s. I think about everything we have done wrong – every step we have failed that has gotten us to this point. We don’t just need gun reform. We need overall reform. We need to re-think the power that we have given the position of the President of the United States. Our democracy is falling apart. We should not be able to fight and fight against something only for the President to be able to override the House/Senate not passing something just because he wants to play who’s dick is bigger. That is not a democracy – that is a dictatorship.

People fight for the right to bear arms, but don’t fight for a stronger educational system, better pay for our teachers, or mental health counselor placements in schools. The government thinks that they have the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body (i.e. taking birth control, getting an abortion), but they don’t think they should have a say in the control of guns.

We need to fight for the future. We need to provide better support for our children. They are the future. Please fight for the future, they need us.