You & Me – a stage manager’s preview

You & Me – a stage manager’s preview

Since November, I’ve indulged in my first stage management project in Buffalo for the new theatre company, Green Buffalo Productions (GBP.) Three of my dearest friends started the company in April 2018 with the goal of producing original work by local and regional playwrights and poets. In a city that produces so much popular, mainstream theatre, there’s no other company that is producing new work like they are in Buffalo.

So, what new show are they producing?

I’m glad you asked!!

The semi-autobiographical play, “You & Me: The (Mostly) True Story of the Day Before my Senior Prom,” follows the relationship between Tori and Geoff from their awkward but happy moment at freshmen year orientation, to the day before senior prom where even the thought of Geoff pushes Tori to her limit. This 90 minute production takes you on a journey through young love, relationship violence and abuse, conflict, heartache, friendship and figuring out what to do once you reach your breaking point as a teenager. Through the perspective of Tori, we slowly connect all the pieces to the puzzle that leads her to ask for help the day before prom.Pair, Man, Woman, Discussion, Difference, Relationship

When I first read the script, its format reminded me of the musical, “Fun Home.” Obviously, they don’t have the same exact format but going from past to present Alison in “Fun Home” and demonstrating how she got to where she is, it’s structured like that for “You & Me.” The present day scenes set up for the scenes that take place in the past to give the arc of the story more depth and understanding. Usually in theatrical shows, whether they’re plays or musicals, they open up to a moment in time. You see the characters as they are without ever necessarily knowing how their story began or how their story ends.

In this show, audience members will receive all the information they need from beginning to end. Nothing’s left out, nothing’s left unsaid. It’s raw, it’s real and most importantly, it’s relatable. This production and story will leave audience members connecting the dots and starting a conversation once the final words are spoken.

Not only is this piece autobiographical, it’s a piece of theatre for social change.

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In the time of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, talking about sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape is the forefront of the fight. GBP producing “You & Me” is giving a voice to survivors who wouldn’t otherwise get one. And this story takes place during high school, a pivotal moment for social and physiological development for teenagers who are just beginning to gain their own opinions, viewpoints and voice in this massive world. I don’t know of any recent established works that give a voice to a teenage girl who’s been through hell and back, literally.

 

More importantly, violence towards girls during the teenage years is not uncommon, actually, it’s more common than one would think. According to Love is Respect:

  1. One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
  2. One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  3. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

Most of the depictions of abuse in “You & Me” are subtle, just like how they happen in real life. Words spoken by our talented, driven and passionate company of actors were said in real life, exact verbatim.

Why exactly were those words said? Some of that we don’t know.

Hand, Women, Hands, People, Violence, Nostalgia, Young

Why do people abuse and manipulate other people? Sadly, no one exactly knows that either…

This show is going to ring the bell louder and hit closer to home whether you’ve been in a toxic relationship or experienced intimate partner violence. Even if you haven’t personally experienced those things, you might connect with the reality of what happens when you ask for help or the feeling of almost losing your best friend. Maybe you’ll relate to its illustration and honesty of mental health. Maybe it’s something personal from high school that you didn’t think would resonate after so many years from this production. Most of all, anyone who sees this show will know they’re not alone.

It’s a show everyone should see in a time where violence against women is a continuous, rising international issue. It’s a show that will make you ask questions. A show that will make you want to turn the other way, like when you see a bad car accident, but you just can’t. It’s a show that will make you laugh (even with this show’s subject matter, there are moments of appropriate laughter, I promise!), it will make you think, it will make you uncomfortable, it will make your blood boil, it might even make you cry. But again, it will show you that you’re not alone in any connection you have with this show and this story.

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The point of theatre for social change is to talk about all the issues that are pinned uncomfortable. Those topics that we should push under the rug, this show is giving the proper light and opportunity for further discussion. “You & Me” shouldn’t be an easy show to watch or listen to. The only way we make a change in this world is by facing the problem head on and looking at how we can individually make a change in our lives to impact the bigger picture. If we keep the conversation going once the show is over, we’ve done our job.

I’ve watched this show grow from start: auditions, casting the show, notating every single change and movement made on stage. I’ve seen the cast grow with their characters, bringing this story to life and giving justice to the subject matter. It’s evolved from the page to the stage and in just nine days (eight, actually) we’ll have an audience. I’ve worked on many shows over the years and to begin 2019 stage managing “You & Me” is  an honor and the best way to begin my year of theatre. It’s a show not to be missed by an up-and-coming theatre company in the Buffalo area.

All information pertaining to the show and tickets can be found at Green Buffalo Production’s website by clicking this link. We hope to see you there; you won’t want to miss it!

DISCLAIMER: ‘You and Me: The (Mostly) True Story of the Day Before my Senior Prom’ includes direct examples of and illusions to intimate partner violence. Characters experience and discuss issues of emotional, mental and physical abuse. Explicit language, may not be suitable for anyone under 16.

Wait for it

Wait for it

On the top of my graduation cap, I put two of my favorite lyrics from the hit-musical, “Hamilton,” not realizing how true they would become to me at this point in my life.

I am the one thing in life I can control…

I’ve always been the one to initiate any and all sort of change that has happened in my life. I made the choice to get out of a major I wasn’t pleased with, I stepped down from a stage manager position because the person in charge made me feel useless, I ended friendships because it was long overdue, I made a lifestyle change because I couldn’t live the way I was any longer. Anytime I’m ready and want to do something on my own terms, I do it and no one can talk me out of it.

Change was coming, I just didn’t know it yet.

I’m not falling behind or running late…

I’m not late in the sense of time, because theatre teaches you one should never be late, but my maturity has never up to the same speed as my peers. I didn’t develop social skills until high school in my late teens, I didn’t figure out study skills until I graduated college, I understood class information and lessons days after it was taught in class. It’s always taken me longer than everyone else, and it still does.

In high school, I knew I wanted to major in theatre in college. Originally, I wanted to major in a performance focused curriculum, but after my first year, I just knew I had to graduate with a theatre degree, regardless of what my focus of study was. I added another major, switched that second major and minor too many times, and I graduated after five years with two degrees in theatre and communications with a minor in journalism.

I thought, “Okay, here we go. I have the skills to get a job!”

After coming home the summer I graduated school, I applied to multiple different places, with absolutely no luck. I began thinking, a small doubt in my mind, that maybe, just maybe, what I’m doing isn’t what I should be doing.

My first change happened: I moved to Buffalo in January 2018.

Two months later I took a job at a call center and six months after that I realized my mental health was spiraling out of control, so I left that job and have been living off my savings since August.

It was time for another change but I need a sign.

I’m willing to wait for it.

And I did but not for too long.

The world works in mysterious ways because before I knew it, I got my sign.

My mom went to a medium where she mentioned my brother and I. She told my mom that I was a healer, I had a healing aura, and that I’m capable of anything. It felt good to be reminded I’m intelligent and capable beyond my own self-doubt and insecurities. Through everything my mom told me, I just kept thinking of the part where the medium said how I was a healer.

I mean, all my friends can attest that I am the mom friend of the group. I take care of people when their sick, I took care of a girl I didn’t even know in college who was too drunk to walk one Saturday night. I am always the DD when my friends and I go out, I put other people’s well-being before my own. I make sure everyone is okay mentally, physically, and emotionally. I always take care of people.

I got the sign. I’m healing, a healer, and that’s where it all began to make sense.

Out of no where at 1 a.m. this past fall, I began feeling my fingers type rapidly in the google search bar, “n-u-r-s-i-n-g p-r-o-g-r-a-m-s i-n -b-u-f-f-a-l-o,” that I didn’t realize what I wrote until my search results appeared.

Nursing was never something I considered. For over 10 years, I had my heart set on being in theatre. It’s what I always knew I was going to do from the time I was in middle school in my first musical. I knew that, I believed that. But I’ve changed drastically over the years, and as I’ve changed, my thoughts, goals and dreams have, too.

I’m not upset over my five years spent at Fredonia. I don’t regret the degrees I studied, the classes I took, the shows I did and the opportunities I earned. Two years out of school with no luck, savings or some sense of security will make you think… a lot.

Maybe, I might not be in the right place. Maybe, I need to take another couple turns down this uneven path I’m walking. Maybe I need to step out of somewhere that’s comfortable to somewhere that is unknown and scary.

…I am the one thing in life I can control.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t compare my journey to someone else’s. I’ve learned that just because someone got from point A to point B one way, doesn’t mean the way I get to point B is any less. My story and journey is nothing like I originally thought; and that’s okay.

What does this all mean? Well, after much consideration and long hours of studying, I’m going back to school, sooner than I actually anticipated.

I got accepted into a LPN, Licensed Practical Nursing, program here in Buffalo starting in April. It’s a 1,100 hour, one year program.

I studied my butt off for my entrance exam in December, I found out I passed mid-January and before I knew it, I put my deposit in today, Feb. 5, for an official acceptance into the program.

I’m really excited, more excited than I’ve been about anything I did during my first round of undergrad. If I decided I wanted to do be a nurse when I was 18, I wouldn’t have been ready or mature enough. If gaining entrance into a program didn’t mean anything to me, I wouldn’t have studied as hard as I did, panicking from the doubt about, “what if?” I didn’t pass.

But I got in. This program is going to challenge me and I’ll have to put more time in than the average person because of how I learn and study but I’m doing it. It’s happening.

I’m 25; ready, nervous, excited and determined about becoming a nurse.

In a year, I’ll be an LPN. My goal is to become an RN and then earn my BSN within the next 10 years or so.

When I became a stage manager in college, I had this feeling, something I still can’t fully describe. In that moment during my first show, I knew that stage management was my home in the theatre. I had that same indescribable feeling for nursing; I just know it’s where my career lies ahead for me. I’m listening to my signs, trusting my instincts and understanding these moments that are happening in my life as they happen.

And I’m exactly where I need to be.

Because I waited for it.

25 lessons from 25 years

25 lessons from 25 years

Here’s the thing about having a birthday on December 31; you reflect on your life in more depth than a person who doesn’t have a birthday on the biggest celebration of the year.

I think the reason why is that New Year’s Eve birthday’s can be seen in the duration of a 12-month calendar. Everyone celebrates a birthday every 365 days, but not like we do. Not only is it a New Year for Earth, it’s a new age for those who are born on December 31. I look back on so many things, not just my year as a whole, I look back and think, “how did 24 treat me?” I don’t think of it like, “how did 2018 treat me?”

With that said,

“Her dreams went out the door, when she turned 24,” from the hit “1985” by Bowling for Soup, proved to be true, but 24 just showed me who I’m supposed to be. Age 24 has tested me, gifted me, hated me, loved me and challenged me.

I’ve learned a lot just this year alone but here’s what I’ve learned over the last 25 years.

  1. Don’t take life too seriously: It’s too short to worry about the small things. Is it really going to matter in 15 minutes that someone messed up your order? Or that the line is moving too slow at the grocery store? Are you really going to get somewhere faster by speeding and driving recklessly? Probably not.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cut out toxicity: I’ve let go of people and things that didn’t make me happy anymore. People don’t deserve your support if they don’t support you. Things don’t deserve your time if it doesn’t make you happy. I’ve learned people shouldn’t keep you around just for convenience. You win some, you lose some. Sometimes, it’s just time to let go. And that’s okay.motivational-quotes-its-a-work-in-progress-but-im-getting-there-look-out-world-im-making
  3. Go for it: Do all the things that scare you. Take risks, take the road less traveled. Go down the path where you can’t see the light. Don’t be scared if it’s wrong or right. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you stay where it’s comfortable.
  4. Do things by yourself: Go shopping by yourself. Take yourself out on a nice walk. Go to that movie you’ve been eager to see. I’m one of the biggest extroverts I’ve ever met, and I love doing all the things by myself. It’s the little things.
  5. Speak your mind: This one can be scary, but if you don’t agree with something, don’t change your opinions to fit the climate. Don’t level to someone else’s thoughts and opinions when yours are just as valid. 
  6. Accept the past: We’ve all been through shit in some way, shape or form. Just because something(s) happened, doesn’t mean that it has to define us. It doesn’t mean we have to stay in that place of darkness, even if we don’t know it at the time. I’m not saying it’s easy getting there or even knowing where to start. But I’ve learned that there is light. There is good. It does get better. I promise.img_1151
  7. Know your worth: No one knows what your good at or capable of than yourself, even if you don’t know it. There are always these expectations of who we should be as individuals that fit us into an unrealistic, intangible box. There are always people, women in particular, who feel the need to belittle each other down. We’re all capable of wonderful things. The only person who needs to believe in you, is yourself. And this point leads me to my next lesson: 
  8. Different is better: Whether that’s in our opinions, style, personality, class, interests or dislikes, it’s always better to be different. We weren’t meant to be the same. No two bodies are the same, no two personalities are the same, nothing about any one of us is the same. That’s good. It’s supposed to be that way. 
  9. Don’t compare yourself to others: This lesson I’ve learned a lot about in 2018. What’s best for someone else, isn’t what’s going to be best for me, or you reading this. We’re all on our own journey, living our own (hopefully best) life. How I plan to get to point B is no less than how someone else gets to the same exact point B. 
  10. Money (sadly) doesn’t grow on trees: I’ve learned that the money I have, the little I do have, needs to be saved. I can’t spend it willy-nilly. The night out with friends will happen again, the movie I really want to see will be On Demand in the next few months, I can live without name-brand products. I plan on *really* saving my money, any penny I can, come 2019.
  11. Take care of your health: It’s so, so important. What I’ve gone through this year aren’t life-threatening conditions, but I’ve learned if I don’t change aspects of my life now, it’s just going to be harder down the road. I’m done letting myself go. My body isn’t going to be in the same shape it is right now 10 years down the road, and if I want to keep up with everything life is going to throw at me, I want to be in the best shape possible.
  12. Be okay being alone: Your own company is the best company. Doing things alone and being alone are two different kinds of alone. Sometimes the peace of being with a good book, watching your favorite tv show or cooking what you love, at your own pace and comfort is so relaxing. 
  13. Other people’s opinions on you is not your problem: I’m a people pleaser. I’ve always been this way. I’ve cared about what people thought about me, how I looked, I’ve been scared to eat around friends and family because of what they might or were thinking about me. Then I thought to myself, why do I care so much? If people have the energy to dislike me or say negative, or even mean, things about me, that’s their problem.
  14. Laugh a lot: It’s honestly the best medicine. Even if no one else is laughing, laugh anyway. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend laughing at things that aren’t funny. That’s obvious.7e88f456df340c13641ba9126980f699
  15. Always be creative: There were a couple times in the last few years where I thought I needed to step back from theatre or singing because I believed I wasn’t good enough to keep something that made me so happy once I was out of college. I was wrong. Keep singing. Keep working at your craft.  Being creative through various art forms is something we need more of in this world.
  16. There’s a difference between a job and career: In 2018 alone I’ve been through I think four different jobs. One was beginning to destroy my mental health, I traveled back and forth for three weeks for theatre (so worth it!), I got a job but left that for something I thought would get me to where I want to go and then left that job after two days because I felt so out of place. I know there’s a feeling people get where they know where they need to be. I felt that and now I’m taking the steps to get out just having a job to now building a foundation for my future career. It’ll take some time, but I’m figuring it out.
  17. Admit when you’re wrong: God, if I had a quarter for every time I was wrong about something, I’d have millions. Sometimes, we’re right. Sometimes, we’re wrong. It’s okay to be wrong. So many fights happen because someone won’t take responsibility for their actions from being either right or wrong. There’s a time and place for admitting when you’re right and especially when you’re wrong.
  18. Know when to listen: Everyone doesn’t want your opinion all the time. Being there for someone, no matter what situation, can be sitting there in silence from all parties. It can mean driving around in continuous circles throughout town just so someone can get out of the house for awhile. Sometimes people need to figure out what’s going on inside their head without the need for a comment or sense of judgement from someone else. Listening is powerful and we don’t do enough of it.
  19. Keep reading: I was never the reading type when I was younger. I’d be found doing anything else but reading. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school I truly appreciated reading for fun. I didn’t do so much reading during college, I did these last few summers. I made a goal to read more books in 2018 but that didn’t happen like I thought it would. Reading books is refreshing, going into a world unlike yours, but reading can also be from a magazine, news article, a Buzzfeed quiz, or learning how to make the perfect omelette. Just keep reading, exercise your mind to the fullest.
  20. “I am a work in progress”: This has been my motivation through every single hardship I’ve experienced. I first learned this from one of my favorite professors in college all the way back in 2012. It was the first day of Intro to Acting as a wee freshman who didn’t know what the hell she was doing but was told she was a work in progress. It stuck with me. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t remind myself of that. Truthfully, I don’t know if I would be even half the person I am, and continue to become, if it wasn’t for that phrase.work-in-progress-2_daily-inspiration
  21. Love yourself: This isn’t a lesson you learn overnight, in a day, week, month or even in a year. It’s a lifetime of understanding and patience. I’ve heard probably every negative word, phrase, comment and gesture in the last 25 years of my life. A lot of those feelings have stayed with me up until a few years ago. I’ve learned that what people think of me is their own problem. If they’re uncomfortable with the space I take up, it’s their own insecurity. I’m not going to apologize for loving myself exactly as I am; my size, my looks, my personality, my life and my choices. If someone doesn’t like it, oh well.
  22. Learn how to take constructive criticism: Now, I’m not saying you have to like it. During any of my theatre classes in college, giving constructive criticism was second nature. When giving or taking criticism, 9 out of 10 times it’s not even that bad. In anything we do, we want to get better. Listening to what other people have to say, with fresh eyes and new ideas, means what we’re doing is only going to get better. We can only go up with the help from others.
  23. Accept failure: Not everything we do is going to end with a perfect success story. Hell, even if we do succeed, doesn’t mean it was easy to get there. Everything we do have their battles, the uphill climb we weren’t expecting. Sometimes in our pursuit to get something we want or desire, we don’t: the door closes. Life is a series of high and lows and all the in-betweens. It’s okay to not succeed, it’s okay to fail. What’s not okay is if you let the failure define you; that you stop going after what you want in the midst of fearing you’ll fail again. Don’t do that, keep going.
  24. Never be afraid to ask for help: Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or incapable,  it just means you need additional support. It can mean helping someone with their groceries. Maybe you’re asking someone to get something off the top shelf since you’re short. You could be asking for help when you don’t know what decision to make. Maybe you don’t know what to do and you need someone. Help comes in all ways and it should never be looked down upon when someone needs it.large
  25. Everything happens for a reason: I’ve done so many things, have said (and written) a lot of words and have made too many right and wrong decisions. Even when I’ve made, what feels like my worst mistakes, there’s a reason why they happened. Things just don’t happen; there’s a reason behind everything we do and experience, even if we never learn the reason why. If I didn’t make all the decisions I’ve made up until this point in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m thankful for every great and horrible decision I’ve made, the words I’ve said, the feelings I felt. It’s part of my story, it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t supposed to. 

Holy shit, I’m a quarter century old guys. I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20 now.

It’s been a wild ride and I’m excited to see how 25 turns out.

“It’s gonna be a Happy New Year.”

On Kavanaugh: Time’s up.

On Kavanaugh: Time’s up.

We’re all on edge over the next justice that will be placed onto our United States Supreme Court. Dr. Christine Beasley Ford told her story yesterday to millions of people, trembling with each word she said. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied his way under oath about everything he has done and said (come on, someone who is innocent wouldn’t jump down the throats of everyone who was asking questions he didn’t want to answer.)

We don’t get to decided who the victim or survivor is. We need to listen to the stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape from survivors themselves. We need to get uncomfortable while listening to these stories because it happens too often, every 98 seconds too often. We need to understand that coming forward is not an easy choice.

It’s not something that’s decided overnight. It’s not the victim/survivor’s fault over what happened to them.

While I was in college, I couldn’t tell you how many stories I’ve listened to about a boyfriend who assaulted their girlfriend because, “you should do this for me.” I’ve heard the story about going out where, “he followed me home.” I’ve listened to countless, “I said no.” I can’t keep track of how many stories I heard where, “he seemed like a nice guy” came up. Don’t even get me started on the, “I still have nightmares.”

It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s daunting and confusing. It’s scary and all too real.

I don’t recall ever meeting a women who hasn’t been assaulted in someway, shape or form. It’s as if it’s a right of passage to be assaulted, something we should expect to happen in our lifetime.

I mean, statistics don’t lie. Will I be the 1 in 3? 1 in 4? 1 in 5? 1 in 6?

Women of color are less likely to report an assault or rape than a white woman.

47% of transgender people will be assaulted in their lifetime.

Native American women are 3.5 times more likely to face assault and rape due to isolation and lack of resources.

46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to straight women.

We’ve been conditioned with these thoughts and questions:

Boys will be boys.

Maybe if you didn’t drink so much, nothing would have happened.

Are you sure you weren’t leading him on?

Why didn’t you just say yes?

What were you wearing?

You’re going to ruin his future.

He’s a nice guy.

Are you sure it was actually rape?

Why didn’t use report it?

Why didn’t you report it? The whole point of this entire thought.

The reason why women do not come forward about their trauma and experience is because we’ve been taught that rape, sexual assault, harassment of any kind, doesn’t really happen.

We’ve been taught that if we don’t talk about it, then it’s not real.

We’ve been taught that there is no possible way that someone could control another person’s body and feelings.

We’ve been taught to blame the victim/survivor than the rapist.

We’ve been taught that these cases go no where.

We’ve been taught that justice can never be served.

You don’t have the right to tell a survivor when it’s time for her/them to come forward. You don’t have the right to discredit their experience. You will never, ever, understand the pain they carry with them day in and day out until you’ve lived it yourself. 

Survivors are called survivors because they’ve had to live through the fear of knowing that saying no could mean whether they live or die.

I’m looking at you Republicans a part of the Senate Judiciary Committee, don’t you dare call Kavanaugh a victim in all of this when a women looked at you dead in the eyes, painted the chilling pictures of her experience of sexual assault. How dare you discredit her story when her life was ruined before it could begin when she was in high school. He had a choice, he made his bed, he lied on top of her against her will  in that bed and now the truth is out. And it pisses you off because the truth can’t be a lie.

There are so many men who have committed such crimes that continue to receive praise and support  – Trump, Weinstein, Lauer, Moovnes, Kavanaugh, Louis –  that they’re seemingly untouchable; they’ll never receive punishment for what they did. People think, “Oh, think of their lives that will be ruined! Think of the good name they made for themselves, he’s never done anything wrong before! Why didn’t she come forward earlier? He’s a reputable man.”

That sort of mindset is our problem.

It can take years for survivors to even begin to talk about their experience. A women doesn’t come forward for the hell of it. Believe me, anyone who is a survivor of sexual harassment, assault or rape, the last thing they want to do is relive and vocalize a play-by-play of their experience to people they don’t even know. The people who have come forward in the last year have done so because injustice is still happening and we need to fix it. That’s why Dr. Ford came forward, as she said, as a civic duty.

Survivors are conditioned from societal expectations to let their experience go, move on and live their life as if nothing ever happened. I’m sure that’s what happened with Dr. Ford and countless other women who were attacked by these boys (yes, boys) that have been exposed and those who’s times have yet to come. They all came forward to tell us, the people and public, what each powerful white boy has done. If we don’t say something, they’ll keep getting away with it and we will perpetrate the same toxic culture we’ve been conditioned with since the world was created.

If you are a survivor: you are loved, you are valued, we believe you and it’s not your fault. It’s never too late to come forward. It’s never too late to use your voice. It’s never too late to stand up for what’s right. It’s never too late to put the power back into your hands. It’s never too late to put privileged individuals in their damn place.

We can’t be afraid anymore. Our time is now.

Time’s up on sexual predators. Time’s up on the rapists. Time’s up on serial attackers. Time’s on white, privileged, cis-men to say who’s a “real” victim. Time’s up on the GOP.

Time is up on all of this bullshit. If we want change, we have to vote them out. Stand up for what you believe in. They’re hearing us, it’s time for them to listen.

Sources

https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/woc-stats/

https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

September – PCOS Awareness Month

September – PCOS Awareness Month

I’m a pretty open book when it comes to my life, I’ve reeled in quite a bit during the last year, but this topic hits a little closer to home. I’ve mentioned this once on social media, but I’ve only really talked about it with my close friends and family. If you’ve been reading, even briefly, the news on women’s health, this conversation is important now more than ever. So, here we go!

Since I was a teenager, I’ve always had acne and irregular cycles. I thought it was because I was (still am) overweight, how I handled stress from school, and the hormones that were changing during puberty never settled. There was never a moment during my youth where I didn’t have acne; seriously, a new one showed up every single day. I constantly gained weight, and my periods? I was lucky if I could count on one hand how many I’d get in a given year.

Fast-forward to sophomore year of college, I got my appendix removed. My surgeon, while performing surgery, noticed my ovaries were quite larger than normal. He didn’t know what it meant or if there was anything necessarily wrong, he just knew something wasn’t right. Since it was out of his field of practice, he suggested to my mom we get the pictures he took examined further by my primary or a gynecologist.

Thinking to myself, “What does he know? He’s a man!”

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Needless to say, I was reluctant to talk about my large ovaries. I mean, everything else on my body is large, why should I be surprised of largeness on the inside?!

During my follow-up post surgery, my primary said nothing looked wrong based on the pictures. There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. When I looked at the images, they did look larger. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the beginning of developing PCOS.

Fast-forward to April 2018. As a surprise, like normal, I get my period. I go through my cycle, all is good in the world. Not even a week later while I’m getting ready for work, this pain like no other comes over me. I’m warm, I feel like knifes are twisting inside my uterus. The pain was a solid 12. Come to realize after the pain had past, I was shedding large chunks of my uterine lining. To compare, the pain felt like I was pushing out an egg each time this lining came through.

All this time while I wasn’t getting a period, the lining my uterus was forming didn’t detach and come through with my period, as it normally does in order for a new cycle to begin. The thin uterine lining that forms, produced by hormones, is its way of preparing for a baby. In my case, each time a new cycle started, even when I wasn’t physically getting my period, the lining kept building up until one day it decided it needed to vacate the facility.

For about two months, I bled profusely. I missed countless days of work because the pain became too much. I felt my body contracting just to get the lining out of my system; this was more painful than the agony I felt before I got my appendix removed. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy.

It wasn’t until I went to a gynecologist and described what I was going through, I finally got an answer.

I had a couple exams, ultrasounds and blood work done, some bearable than others, to figure out my mess of a uterus. About two weeks later when I met with my doctor again, she said all the symptoms and tests correlate with PCOS.

My heart dropped and my mind went racing.

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a genetic hormone imbalance disorder caused by cysts that are formed on the ovaries. Common symptoms are: excessive facial and body hair, severe acne, irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and infertility, its leading factor.

PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women worldwide starting as early as 14 years old. PCOS is not a disease that can be easily diagnosed and doesn’t discriminate; women will go through their whole life not knowing they have PCOS. Women with PCOS have ovaries 1.5-3 times larger than normal ovaries. Women with PCOS are more apt to experience diabetes and heart-related diseases as well as heart attacks. And to top it all off, there is no cure for PCOS.

The entire day after that appointment, I cried, I screamed, I kept blaming myself thinking there was something I could stop this from happening.

I couldn’t prevent my PCOS.

So for the rest of the day, I read other women’s stories. I learned how they cope, how they live with PCOS, medications they take and most importantly, their process of having children.

Surprisingly, that’s the part that got me the most. When my doctor told me I have PCOS, she said that if I tried to have a baby now, I wouldn’t get pregnant.

At this moment in time, I’m infertile… Thinking about it doesn’t get any easier.

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Let me just say this, women who have PCOS can and do get pregnant, sometimes without any fertility treatment. I’m one of those cases where I need to do everything I can to make sure I am in the best physical shape in order to bare a child.

What’s the next step from here?

Well, I took all of my frustration and fear and decided to do something. I can’t have this disorder take control over me or make me believe that I’m not capable of having children myself. To make this happen, I have to change my lifestyle.

There are plenty of women who get pregnant successfully and have no complications during pregnancy or childbirth who are my size. I thought I’d be one of those women myself (because screw societal expectations on what body type is most “suitable” to grow babies, AMIRIGHT?!?!) Unfortunately, my body physically can’t do what I always thought it was capable of doing.

I know that being a mom is someone I want to be. Losing weight is the only way I can better my body, not only for my overall health in order to live with PCOS, but in order to carry a child. The more weight I lose, the greater chance I’ll have to become less infertile.

In the dead of night, I signed up for Weight-Watchers and I haven’t looked back since June when I registered. At first it was hard because all the things I was eating were too many points which made me realize how many calories I was actually putting into my body. I had to compromise significantly. After a few weeks it became much easier incorporating fruits and veggies while also eating food I love in moderation. I’ve lost 30 pounds just by watching my diet. I haven’t conquered my fear of going back to the gym yet, but we’re still working on it.

I started on birth control in June and have seen significant differences in my acne, hair growth and cycles; I’ve never been more thankful to be on medication. If it wasn’t for getting on birth control, I would still be in a lot of effing pain, losing more blood from my body than a healthy amount during a period and I wouldn’t have my PCOS under control if it wasn’t for the pills giving me the hormones my body can’t naturally make. Now, if I could just convince the government the positive health benefits from birth control… Sorry, side thought.

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We need to talk about women’s health way more than we do now. With our current administration threatening safe abortions, access and coverage of birth control, not knowing the basics of childbirth, not knowing how periods work and lack of proper sex education in America, it’s so important we lead the discussion. Women have PCOS, endometriosis, other disorders that prevent them from getting pregnant. We have to talk and not be uncomfortable doing so. Our dialogue has to change and not feel like we’re alone going through all this BS that happens. Maybe I shared too much, but it’s the only way to start the conversation. It’s a step to start some serious change in our views on women’s health.

I have PCOS. I’ve blamed myself almost every single day thinking there was something I could have done to stop this. I think maybe there was a way I could have known sooner when I was younger. Maybe if I took my health more seriously or noticed different patterns in my mood, or took those photos more seriously. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

But then I remember that there’s nothing I could have done to stop this. I’m healthy, I’m taking all the right steps to improve my health and well-being for the future. And that’s all I can do.

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.