I am a work in progress

I am a work in progress

It’s been over a year since I graduated college, moved back home, went unemployeed for over half that time, borrowed too much money from my parents, moved to a new city, started a new job, and began this thing called, “adulting.”

It’s been over a year I told myself I would give myself a break from theatre (participating, not seeing), to give myself a chance to understand who I am outside the performing arts.

It’s been a year ago since I really felt like myself.

Maybe it’s my crippling anxiety and depression but let me tell you, nothing prepares you for life outside the bubble that’s college. In college, you’re surrounded by the same people, places, entertainment and expectations. Now, in adulthood, effort to keep friendships is even harder, saving money becomes near impossible and fulfilling life-long aspirations become more of a dream than a promising reality.

Maybe it’s just my journey where I feel this way but seriously, like “Dear Evan Hansen” puts it:

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To put it as eliquently as I can… Adulting is hard, and I’ve learned it can be really lonely.

For one, I’m a social butterfly. Think of it like Tinkerbell: I don’t need attention, I need people in order to live. I enjoy my alone time and doing things by myself but it’s not the same as actively feeling lonely.

I live for the personal connections we make in this world. We’re nothing without the people we hold close to us: family, friends, mentors, coaches, teachers, directors, you name it. Those are the people who make us who we are today. Even that, I haven’t been able to see all those people who mean the most to me as often as I’d like.

But for over a year, I’ve put a lot of what I’ve wanted on the backburner. Any dreams I once had have gone out the window. Any expectations I had for myself and my future have disappeared. I don’t look forward to really much anymore, except when I see a show or the chance I do get to see my friends.

In the beginning of the year, I left my home in Ithaca, in the comfort of my best friends and my family, to move three hours away into the unknown to take this chance. A chance to start over, become someone instead of something.

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It’s been almost seven months and the most exciting thing I’ve done is see almost a dozen shows. I’ve seen my friends in Buffalo, but since I work weekends, it’s a rare adventure now. I’ve seen my friends in Ithaca, but we haven’t all been together since March before I started working. I’ve crossed shows off my list, but I haven’t been a part of the theatrical process since Playground last summer. I have a job that pays decent for what it’s worth, but I’m in a never-ending loop of getting up, going to work and then coming home to sleep.

There’s no excitement. There’s no fire, spark. I don’t really have that purpose in me anymore. I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m struggling and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Maybe I haven’t been the best of friend, maybe I haven’t reached out like I usually do, maybe I’ve kept all of these feelings to myself because to me, I just feel like I don’t know how to handle this whole adulthood idea when everyone around me does. I feel like I’m behind everyone who’s much more successful than I am at this point in life.

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I’ve become what I’ve feared the most; a failure. I’m only 24, I know I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but here I am.

Now, I’ve always been behind everyone else my entire life. Newest trend? I got into it after it was a thing. Supposed to be reading at a fifth grade level? Whoops, I’m reading at a first grade level. Discovered a new hit song? Well, it’s been number one for over four weeks now. Should be getting a job related to my field of choice like my friends are? Nope, I’m no where near that.

No matter how hard I try, I am always four steps behind everyone else. I’ve always have, and I’ve grown accustomed to maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

If you’ve kept reading thus far (thank you!), I promise, I’m not here for pity or anything like that. I’ve been feeling like this for quite some time and since speaking from the heart can be the trickest to articulate, I’ve found comfort coming back to my writing. Finding that one security of putting my feelings and thoughts out there that maybe, just maybe, someone else is in the same boat as me. That I can stop feeling like I’m alone in this huge world.

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I’m trying to find that passion within me again, but it’s only getting me so far when I’m stuck living the same reality each day. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, maybe I haven’t really started over like I’ve planned since this whole year began.

I’m an ambitious person, when I have my mind set to something, there’s no changing it. I find that to be one of my best qualities. But when you don’t have anything set as a goal, where do you go? How do you start?

Something has to change. My job? Maybe. My aspirations? Probably. Where I am? I don’t know.

Maybe this is what rock bottom feels like. Well, if I’m at this so-called bottom, I can only go up from here. That’s the first goal, going up!

Hey, look! We’re already making progress.

Adulting… It’s not a trap

Adulting… It’s not a trap

Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

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Adulting is trying to navigate the partly sunny dirt path that never seems to ends.

Being an adult is making huge decisions that will ultimately benefit you ten years down the road more so than the immediate present.

Adulting is trying to figure out what classifies as good health insurance. And for that matter, trying to save money while drowning in student loan debt where the total number you owe, visibly, never seems to change.

It’s also about making memories, taking wild adventures and “see[ing] the world” while having to (presumably) support yourself almost 100% for the first time in your life.

*Cue scream*

I can’t be the only one who is terribly scared of adulting, right?

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When I graduated in May, I had this idea of what was going to happen: I would work one last summer at Chautauqua Institution, come back to Ithaca, find a job and save as much as I could just to pay my student loans. Sounds reasonable, right?

But as everyone knows, life doesn’t always work out the way we have it in our heads or what we want to perceive.

I came back in August and applied to some jobs in Ithaca, nothing. I continued to look online for various jobs in and outside the Ithaca area, nothing. My bare savings was running out, my student loan payments were going to begin in December and I had no job to my name.

Something needed to change.

All my college friends were in Buffalo, finding their own personal success in each of their endeavors and I thought, hey, I can do that. I should be doing that. Why aren’t I doing that? Finding success.

So, I did something.

I found myself in Buffalo by the start of the New Year.

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It’s been absolutely insane. I threw away over 7 garbage bags full of trash, clothes to donate, things I had no use for in bags to donate and I headed 121 miles west to Buffalo. I have just enough room in my apartment just outside the city, with access to all shops and stores which are only a two minute drive down the road in all directions. If I want to go to the mall (read: LUSH), it’s at most 15 minutes, depending on traffic.

In Ithaca, I would have to drive, at most, 15 minutes to get to the grocery store and over half an hour to get to the gym or post office. If I wanted to go to a larger mall, it would take me almost two hours to head north towards Syracuse. Living closer to things and places is a whole new world.

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Now, my main reason for moving to Buffalo was not because my college friends are here or that there are more jobs to apply to, although those were major perks. I was becoming too comfortable in Ithaca.

So many people stay in Ithaca forever, in this bubble of our liberal college-town, with the same annual events, with the same beautiful gorges, with the same people you pass by on your everyday outings. Staying in one place is definitely not a bad thing, but I’ve realized that I can’t live in a place that is always… the same.

Ithaca is a beautiful place to visit and definitely to live in. And I do I have my friends, family and my favorite things to come back to. Trust me, I miss all of my favorite people and places, a lot… Oh, lets be honest, I miss my dog, Jack, the most.

But I don’t want to live in the same.

I’m 24 years old with so much ahead of me. I’ve realized that if I want to better my life, I need to start making the choices in order to do that. I can’t sit in what’s comfortable waiting for the opportunities to magically appear before my eyes. If I want something, I need to get it myself. I can’t live in comfort because it’s safe.

I don’t want to live in what’s safe or comfortable. It’s not a life worth living, being comfortable and never embracing life changes or taking the opportunities that come our way.

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If I succeed, I succeed. If I fail, I fail. But at least I tried. I can say I did it. I can say to my future children, “I did this. I found success and I failed and I learned from it all.”

We don’t succeed when we stay safe. We succeed when we do something risky. When we push our own boundaries to the edge to see how far we can actually go is when success presents itself.

The twenty-fourth book of my life is underway, and we’re almost through the second chapter. Right now, nothing can stop me and there’s no challenge that will defeat me.

Book review: January 2018

Book review: January 2018

I plan on reading 20 books within 2018. So, to keep myself on track, I decided to make posts about the books I read during each month. 20 books broken down into 12 months is about two books per month. I’ve found myself sucked into so much technology (i.e Netflix), I want to replace that with books.

Over the years, my appreciation of books and reading has expanded tremendously; I thank my college best friends for that. They brought me to this bookstore down the street from campus on one cold Saturday during the spring semester. Before I knew it, I started grabbing multiple books at a time off the shelves. There wasn’t enough room on the counter for all the books I was getting. Now, I visit every chance I get.

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To start us off, I read “Between You and Me” by NYT Bestselling Author, Allison Winn Scotch, published on Jan. 9, 2018. Coming in at 349 pages we follow partners Tatum and Ben on their journey of meeting, falling in love, getting married, having a child and leading success in both of their lives. On it’s own, by what I described, sounds like an ordinary love story, right?

The difference in this story is that we follow Ben recalling their relationship at the end and moving backwards to their first time meeting. Tatum, on the other hand, starts at the very beginning while working our way to the present. If you’re a familiar with musical theatre, it has the same structure as JRB’s, “The Last Five Years.”

When I first read synopses of “Between You and Me,” I thought it was going to be a small copy-cat of this beloved musical. I was very, very wrong.

Every twist and turn is unexpected, the imperfections are more prevalent. There are so many beautiful and tragic moments of doubt, sacrifice, heartache and happiness. The power of love and priorities makes you think; was it only one person in the wrong? When traveling through this journey of Tatum and Ben’s relationship, you don’t necessarily gather all the information in one person’s point of view, which makes you want to keep reading. Sometimes, there were word jumbles but each chapter got you turning the page. There wasn’t a moment I was invested in; 4/5 stars.

Nine days later, I finish my first book. I travel to my college town 45 minutes away to 21 E Main Bookstore in Dunkirk, NY, the bookstore I mentioned before. I thought I would peep in to browse the shelves, see if I could find anything intriguing. Low and behold, there was a book sale happening and, well, I bought another twenty books to my never ending pile on my bookshelf.

Whoops.

But here is where I find my second book, one I’ve wanted to read and dive into since watching this year’s Golden Globe awards. Book number two is “Big Little Lies” by author Liane Moriarty published in July 2014. My copy of the novel comes in at just under 500 pages.Image result for Big Little Lies novel

As I wrapped up January, I haven’t finished “Big Little Lies,” I am roughly an eighth of the way through the book, but this novel will be added to my January and February book log; I will add a more thorough description of it at the end of the month for February’s review.

Here is what I do know:

“Big Little Lies” follows three women, Madeline, Celeste and Jane, who all meet in this town from all walks of life prior to a mysterious murder in town.

Like I said, I haven’t even made a dent into the novel to give more information on the book.

What I can say is that it’s a little difficult to get into; the first chapter takes place in the present and then six months later before the infamous night of the murder is where the second chapter begin.

The novel, written in third person, can be hard to keep track of who’s who when all the main characters are female and all use the pronouns she. It’s a book that needs to be warmed up to, you can’t rush into the novel with this idea that it’s going to be a simple read.

It’s a complex story so, therefore; reading it will be complex. I haven’t read any summaries online, I have not seen the HBO limited series and I am still very new to this journey so anything I’ve said it what I know thus far. And I am excited to keep reading.

New Year, 2018, Reading, Woman, Learning, SittingAnd for my next novel in February after “Big Little Lies”? I’m not too sure which novel I’m going to pick up next as February settles in. I have a couple book series I got when I was at 21 E Main; my entire bookshelf is filled from top to bottom, side to side, with books so the possibilities are endless.

Casting in the high school theatre

Casting in the high school theatre

High school musical. No, I don’t mean the hit tween Disney Channel Original Movie, I am talking about being in a musical during your high school years.

The last couple weeks I have seen multiple articles about whitewashing happening in the high school theater department I spent my younger years participating in. I’ve heard views on both sides, seen what posts on Facebook has produced. Some have been against what the students have said, commenting that their is no issue of racism present in casting.

The issue that is being talked about is, the role of Esmeralda, who is culturally known as a woman of color, was cast to a white female. Above you can read two different viewpoints of the issue at hand incorporating students, faculty and administration’s testimonies. This is not the female who was cast’s fault, this issue is not her fault. It’s the system.

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As an alumna to such theater program, I find myself with opinions that I want to voice. I am white, yes, however: being part of a minority, being plus-sized, I understand where this issue roots from. I’ll break the issue at hand as we continue this discussion. Let me reiterateI do not have the same experiences as those who face race problems, as I am white. But being judged and looked over for who you are holds similar feeling.

I’ve seen a black man portray Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” who is always portrayed as a white man. I have seen a black man portray Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch me if you Can,” who is, in real life, a white man. I have seen a black man portray the Pirate King in “The Pirates of Penzance,” who historically, is usually portrayed as a white man, as the term “king” is often associated with someone being white. Hell, the title character of the now 30 year long run of “The Phantom of the Opera” has been portrayed by a black man on Broadway and touring companies.

I’ve seen black women portray white characters in youth theatre: “Annie,” “Catch me if You Can,” “The Wizard of Oz.” One of the articles I read, if I recall correctly, mentions composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda discussing how kids participating in high school theatre should play the characters they want to play now before they hit the real world and are placed into a “type.” Playing the type of characters kids have always wanted to play and portray should be encouraged. Miranda encourages that for his musical, “In the Heights,” if high schools choose to pursue that.

Even though one composer and creator gave a blessing of casting whomever in his show in a high school setting doesn’t mean that is a blessing to all musicals or characters who are traditionally a person of color or different ethnicity.

Putting white people in specific roles made for black people proves the point that we don’t take black people, any person of color, or ethnicity, as seriously as we need to be.

My freshmen year musical was “Aida,” with the title role portrayed by a black woman. Would people understand the concept of racism and privilege if Aida was a white woman falling in love with a white man? Or would we be seeing just another love story?

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My junior year musical was “The Wiz,” with half of the prominent principal roles, including Dorothy, being black performers. The only people called back for Dorothy were black women. Would we call a production of “The Wiz,” “The Wiz” if a white woman portrayed Dorothy, or would we call it, “The Wizard of Oz?”

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We wouldn’t cast an all-white production of: “The Color Purple,” “Fences,” “Hamilton,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Miss Saigon,” “The King and I,” or “Once on this Island,” would we? It wouldn’t be the same story if we did.

There is work made for people of color and different ethnicities for a reason, because 75% of theatrical material, straight play or musical theatre, is made for white people.

Those who caught the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards might remember Sterling K. Brown earning, as the first black man ever, to win the Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Television Series – Drama. He then said revolutionary words in a revolutionary moment:

Dan Fogelman, throughout the majority of my career, I have benefited from colorblind casting, which means, ‘you know what, hey, let’s throw a brother in this role. Right? It’s always really cool.’ But Dan Fogelman, you wrote a role for a black man that could only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am. And it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me, or dismiss anybody who looks like me.

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Dismissing black people, any person of color, or different ethnicity is harming. We feed into the notion that white people are on the top while everyone else is underneath. Roles made for people who are not white, whichever ethnicity or race the role calls for, should only be played by those people who are not white.

It’s not “casting the person who’s best for the role,” it’s casting the person who has the best talent. And I learned through my collegiate years that it’s not about who is the best, it’s about who’s right. Someone might not have a strong voice but they bring something to the role that a director wants and that person is going to get cast rather than the person who has a better voice or dance skills. That is revolutionary. Giving a chance on someone who might not otherwise get one is what makes live theatre thrilling.

And I get casting a show take a lot of time. I have sat ten hours straight one time as a stage manger watching audition after audition to then spending almost three out of those ten hours figuring out, with two directors and my one ASM at that moment, who would be called back. Then add another day of callbacks and preliminary casting, so maybe 16-18 hours total. But within those various hours, I don’t think it was hard to realize that we shouldn’t cast a role made for a person of color to someone who is not a person of color.

The woman who directed each show I was in was a white director but she never dismissed the importance of having people of color, various ethnicities portray characters meant for people who aren’t white. The casts of the productions I was cast in were based on who was right for the various roles.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

People have stepped down from shows because casting has been unfair.

People haven’t auditioned for shows because they’re only seen as a stereotype based on their race and skin color.

People have called out the problem to challenge the status quo and dismissed.

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We can’t change the status quo if we don’t say something is wrong. When we are so used to something being a certain way, we’re scared of change. We sometimes don’t see or acknowledge the problem because it doesn’t affect us directly. That is a notion of privilege.

It’s been 10 years since my first show ever, a show that was produced by Ithaca City School District. If we want to change, we need to listen and not pass over the emotions, experiences and comments the students have. This is not going to change over night; we all know that and can agree upon that. But it’s going on for far to long to let it continue happening.

But what these students are doing, speaking up when so many have told them not to, will make sure that ten years from now, this doesn’t happen to another student who wants to audition for a role made for them. They won’t have to fear they won’t get the role made for them because of their skin color or ethnicity.

We can do better than this. We need to do better than this.

Eight days into 2018

Eight days into 2018

The first few days of 2018 have been absolutely insane. I turned 24, I officially moved to a new city, I saved a man from a fire, I’ve got those “new year goals” underway and I’ve witnessed the environment reach negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I know, Happy New Year to me!

To be quite honest, it hasn’t been all that bad. Actually, it’s been really great. I’ll give you a quick synopsis of each point above.

Turning 24

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Yeah. 24. I’ve been living on this Earth for over 24 years. I’ve seen and done a lot over these past few years alone and I’m just starting to see where my light is heading. I’m started to fully grasp the direction I should be heading in. It doesn’t mean I understand where exactly this light is heading or why I’m going this way but I feel moving in forward. 2017 made me have so many “Ah-ha” moments, I’ve had some of my largest revelations. After having those moments, I’ve looked at life in a complete different focus and point of view. “Her dreams went out the door when she turned 24,” from the hit song “1985” by Bowling for Soup is quickly proving to be quite accurate. Because the dreams I had at 23 are certainly not the dreams I have going into my 24th year. And I hope those dreams keep changing and happening.

Moving to a new city

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I’M IN BUFFALO! On Dec. 30, I packed up almost all my things from my parent’s house in Ithaca, NY, and traveled 121 miles West to Buffalo: “An All America City.” And yes, that is the sign that welcomes those on the New York State Thruway into the city. All my things are slowly and surely settling into place in my apartment. It’s spacious, tons of storage, great water pressure, (literally) seconds away from everything in town and an array of stores that can’t be found in Ithaca. I’ve been living here for almost a week and the things I miss the most are (in this order:) my dog, my family and friends, the local restaurants and Ithaca’s natural beauty. I started the job hunt and I am optimistic that the city will lead me to a job and money in the bank!

Saving a man from a fire

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Yes, I did help save a man in a fire. And yes, Wonder Woman captures how I feel looking back on that moment. During the second night of 2018 my mom and I were playing cards at our dining room table when I was about to stare aimlessly outside the window, at what I thought would be my reflection, turned out to be a fire starting on my neighbor’s porch. I yelled out, “FIRE!”, to my mom, running towards the phone to dial 9-1-1. A trembling in my chest lingered as I waited until an operator answered, my mom rushing out to her car to drive across the street (our house sits back ways from the road) to save anyone who was in the house. I ran up to the top of our driveway and just watched. The smell of debris flew through the air, the clouds of smoke filled the sky, and the illuminating light of yellow and orange colors pierced though me. A man is going to see 2018 because my mom and I saved him. An honor of a lifetime.

New Year, new goals

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I’m not one for the whole, “New Year, new me” mentality. In actuality, the “new” entails new beginnings, new adventures, new experiences. We should be continuing to change and grow as humans. That’s an inevitable part of life, change, but the change we endure shouldn’t make us into necessarily “new” people. We’re just discovering who we’re meant to be in every moment of our lives. I’m also not prone to keeping goals; I’m ambitious and capable of a lot of things and unfortunately, keeping goals is one I’m just not capable of (yet.) So that’s why, in 2018, I am going to be keeping some goals. I don’t find them out of reach or one’s I won’t be able to keep throughout the next 357 days remaining in 2018.

  • Use a planner every day/week
  • Plan a trip for 2018 and 2019
  • Save $5,500
  • Read at least 20 books
  • Experience more theatre
  • See my student loans under $30,000 (or as close to that as possible)
  • Live a healthier lifestyle
  • Blog more (I bought a domain, I should use it more.)
  • Take a photography class (and pursue photography more in general)
  • Live life with more fulfillment

Negative 20 degree Fahrenheit

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Shit was cold. It was crazy insane. Yeah, that’s all I got on the weather. Buffalo weather is really cold and changes almost as much as the weather changes in Ithaca.

So with 2018 settling in on all of us, I hope to find this year with lots of successes, failures, lessons, goals, changes and experiences. From the classic musical written by the late Jonathan Larson, “Rent:” “It’s gonna be a happy New Year.”

Journey(ing) to the past

Journey(ing) to the past

The past and future are two of the scariest places in the world. The past is unchangeable and the future is unpredictable. Every choice we make determines the next step into the future.

Over 10 years ago I moved from the little town of Salem, NH, to Ithaca, NY, when I was 13. From eighth to eleventh grade I visited Salem almost every other weekend in order see my father. When I entered my senior year I stopped going as often; I think I went once a month, if that. Once I entered college in the fall of 2012, the first time I went back was the summer of 2015. Now in 2017 I’ve been back to Salem twice in less than five months.

The first time was an impromptu visit for my family’s 4th of July party and then from Nov. 22 to 26, my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving and my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in the 603. It was a great four days in my least favorite place in the world.

I never thought it would become a place I’d hate going to. My whole family, immediate and extended, are there and that’s what continues to bring me back but it’s not my first choice as a vacation destination.

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On a whim, I decided to drive around town to see if either schools I attended were open that Saturday of our holiday weekend. To my surprise, the middle school was.

I contemplated going in, my chest trembling as I starred at the unchanged brick facade. I popped in my headphones, took a deep breath in and made my way through the metal doors. The entire time I walked around the halls where my sixth and seventh teams were, I was listening to “Waving through a Window” from the hit-musical “Dear Evan Hansen” on repeat. I’ve loved that song since the soundtrack to the show was released but it never resonated with me until I walked around Woodbury Middle School 10 years later.

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?

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Even though I am a changed person, a better person than who I was at 13 years old, I retracted to the person I was, instead of the person I have become, as I walked those halls.

I saw the lockers I had in sixth and seventh grade with vivid images of where my peers stood gathered around each day, where I was pushed, shoved and ridiculed on a daily basis, the (new) parking lot where I was blamed for defending myself from a bully and later became suspended from school.

I walked through the cafeteria and sat at the exact table in front of the vending machines where a group of boys yelled and flipped me off for no reason every single day those two years, the place where I got gum thrown in my hair before first period one morning, the library where I had to work with my worst enemy to be made in my entire life, that same library where I threw a Twinkie in a boy’s face after the same group of boys made fat noises at me at the end of a school day. I remember which classrooms I was sexually harassed in and the names of the boys who did it even when I said, “No.”

I remember so distinctly standing emotionless outside the counselor’s office where I told two people I couldn’t forgive them for bullying me after a teacher gave a report about the bullying happening to me each day.

I even remember crying at my computer screen over the Myspace profile someone made of me with a picture from environmental camp in seventh grade with a blue background with little Twinkies embedded where I read everyone’s true opinions of me.

When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?

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10 years later I remember the names of all who tormented me, who made me feel like I was nothing and those who witnessed what was happening but decided to say nothing. I didn’t want to be saved, I wanted the burning hell that encompassed me on a daily basis to die. I wanted someone to listen. I needed someone to believe me.

10 years later I knew I had to go back to my roots to fully understand the growth and accomplishments I have made since moving to Ithaca and finally talk about what happened to me growing up.

Because thank God, I have changed. I got out of the town that made me feel like I was a something instead of a somebody, an easy target to the people I grew up with. I left the town, the people and the school administration that was inevitably going to make me fail. I am so incredibly happy I became a new person the minute I stepped onto Ithaca soil.

I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me.

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I developed proper social skills and made friends, I had teachers willing to help me in my classes, I wasn’t being bullied anymore, I fell absolutely in love with (musical) theatre, I graduated high school with high honors, I became a leader in college, I found my voice and I graduated college with two bachelor’s degrees. If I didn’t leave I wouldn’t have experienced all that I have and met those who built me back up from the black ashes of the people who tore me down.

I might always be the fat girl who didn’t have any friends growing up in Salem, NH. I might always have the connotation of being an immature bitch, the naive girl who had no where to sit during lunch, the girl who was shamed for trying to be someone, the girl everyone threw to the side like a piece of garbage. Maybe that will always be the image for those who knew me 10 years ago.

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But here are words I hope you read, from the woman who you can know now, 10 years later:

We’ve all changed. I am certainly not the same person I was back in the day and I hope you aren’t, too. I hope you’re well and I hope our paths cross again in our lives. I hope we can talk, catch up on our life endeavors.

Anyways, thank you. Truly. Thank you for making me realize what pure happiness feels like after knowing what complete humiliation entails. Thank you for breaking me down just to be brought back up by those who only wanted to see me succeed. Thank you for teaching me about character and good judgement for those who pass by in my life. Thank you for showing me what it means to be a friend, kindness and understanding. Thank you for showing me that, “Even if you’ve always been that barely-in-the-background kind of [girl], you still matter.

Thank you for making me the confident, takes no BS, compassionate, empathetic and badass woman I am today. Without you, I would have never gained the courage to leave, stay in Ithaca, “step out of the sun” and experience the beautiful second chance at life I was meant to live.

And yes, I forgive you. I forgive you for whatever you did, no matter how shitty it was. I tell you this in print and I would say it verbally. But please know I can’t forget what happened, I will be remember that part of my narrative vividly for as long as I live. You might not have meant it then or you might have thought it was cool because everyone else was doing it but those words and actions stick, even 10 years later.

My body is none of your business

My body is none of your business

I’m fat. I have a lot of fat on my body. I’ve had all this fat since I six years old. I have always had bigger arms, bigger legs, a rounder stomach that most people growing up in elementary school, middle school and high school didn’t have. I’ve heard every negative word to my face, online and behind my back at least five times a day in school growing up. I’ve heard I need to go on this diet, that diet, lose this much weight, I will be better off when I am thinner or a man will desire me if I am thinner. I could fill an entire novel based on every single negative comment someone – a stranger, bully or family member – has said about my body and weight.

I’m going to be 24 in December and it’s taken me the last five to six years to start learning to unlearn all the negative bullshit I’ve been told about my body and self-image in order to accept my space, literal and figurative, in this world.

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There is this stigma in society that if you’re fat, have a lot fat or are not in the ideal body weight of your age and height, then you’re unhealthy. I’m going to debunk that right here, right now.

Body weight is not a sole factor in determining whether you are healthy or not. Body weight does not determine your happiness or worth.

There are plenty of people on this Earth who exercise regularly (or not) and eat healthy who are not a size two or four,  There are also people who have never exercised in their life, eat like garbage, who have a thinner set and are absolutely unhealthy.

So here I am, I am going to tell you what it’s like being a woman with a lot of fat on her body. We’re going to talk about that exercise life first.

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I love working out. I love the atmosphere of a good gym and getting a killer workout in during my day. I love doing some mean cardio and spending most of my times in front of the mirror working on free-weights or on the various machines. I have recently increased my weights in the 50-80 on various arm machines, 100-140 on leg machines and free weights I am around 15-20 lbs. I get stupidly happy when I realize a lower weight is too easy for me. I love sweating because it makes me know that my body is working hard.

Some people don’t like working out and that’s okay. Not everyone has to like it but I am someone who does. Second point I’m going to move onto is eating.

I eat absolutely horrible. I do, I eat like garbage. But I don’t drink soda and to be quite honest, I don’t eat sweets all the time. I do enjoy a mean spinach-based salad, fruit and not processed food, truly, but greens are definitely not my choice.

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When I first moved to Ithaca I went to this one dentist in town and asked me point blank, “How much soda do you drink per day?” with a nice sexist gesture towards my body. *Cue Jim Halpert camera stare* Because if you’re fat, you automatically like soda, right? Wrong.

I politely told him that I didn’t drink soda. My main form of beverage is that ice cold H20; ask any of my close friends. He couldn’t believe me and for over three years when I went to that specific practice, the hygienists and dentist asked me repeatedly about my soda consumption.

And my answer every single time was, “I don’t drink soda. Please stop asking me that.”

I have a lot of fat because I eat like garbage, not because I drink soda. I have a lot of fat on my body because my body craves sugar and starch like a smoker craves nicotine. My body is so used to those substances that it will literally go into some sort of withdrawal if I don’t give it the sugar and starch it wants. It’s hard to resist temptation, it’s more than just saying, “I’m not going to eat that.”

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I can lose weight, I’ve done it before. My freshman year of college I lost 42 pounds; since then I gained that and then some back. When I gained all that weight back I was going through a really hard time emotionally where I ate most of my feelings away. Now, I’m not in that emotional state and I am finally out of college so it’s just a matter of time to fully commit to a better lifestyle in my head.

I’m still going to work out, I’m going to watch what I eat the best I can and I’m going to make small changes in order to be better. 30% is working out, 20% is what you eat and 50% is all about mentality. If you get through that 50% worth of mentality the other 50% falls into place. I need to figure out how to successfully have that 50% positive mental state in losing weight.

I am beautiful at the weight I am now. I am happy. I am healthy. I am fine just the way I am now. My worth is not in what other people think of me but of what I think of myself. My body size is not to please or be desirable to a man but to please me. The only person who has to accept the choices made over my body is me; not you who is reading, not the boys and girls who picked on me when I was younger, not my family, not my friends, not my doctor, not my dentist. I’m not going to apologize for the space I take up because someone else is uncomfortable in it.

As I wrap this up, I will leave you with this advice: don’t comment on someone else’s appearance. Don’t assume that a person is unhealthy by the way they look. Don’t comment on what someone eats. Don’t comment on their weight. Keep your negative comments to yourself; they are not welcomed. If you do decide to comment on someone’s weight or eating choices, I promise they will call you out on it. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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