0 to 100 / The finish line

As my last semester of school approaches, I cannot help but recount how the past few years I have spent at EC have molded me as a person and shaped my outlook on things. In retrospect, the changes I see are all positive.

When I first started, I was not so sure I would finish. Graduation seemed eons away, like an ungraspable task that could never be accomplished. I could not help but trick myself into believing that obtaining a Bachelor’s degree was a dream and nothing more. Education is not an option in my family, but beyond that I knew it was something I wanted to do for myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could stick to something through the end. At times, however, it seemed impossible.

So many nights I spent sprawled over my laptop, six cups of chai already consumed, hair a mess, hours flying by with each second I blinked. In those moments I wanted nothing more than to call it quits.

Now here I am, just weeks away from being finished for- ever, and the reflection has me pondering the lessons I have learned along the way.

Sometimes, friends are closer than family and can break the barrier of blood. They can prove themselves to be intimate soul connections that feed you positive energy when all you wish to do is sulk. Maybe our best friends — I mean true, genuine friends — are people we connected with in a previous life. I do not leave any possibilities out anymore, another thing that changed about me this year.

I truly believe friendships are the most valuable thing this earth possesses. Without them, I am not sure where I would be right now. My friends push me to be better, tell me I deserve better when I cannot see it myself and force me to look at things from a different perspective when I need to. Good friends are everything. Over the past couple years, I have lost tons, but in return gained a few gems. The switch made all the difference.

And sometimes, your family knows you better than you know yourself. My dad is forty-six years older than I am, so I guess he knows a little bit more about life than I do. All the times I doubted the advice he gave me, I ended up regretting it (though most of the time I never admitted it.) I carry too much pride still. But I am learning.

My point is this: family (in most cases) are the people who look out for your best interests at heart. They want my well being with nothing in return. They go to the ends of the universe for me even when I wish to fight my own battles and strive for independence. They are annoying as all hell, and they screw me up a little, but I have learned that all their pushing is only to force me to do better.

And if I have learned anything about myself, it is that I am ultimately more intelligent, caring and stronger-willed than I used to give myself credit for. The good in me outweighs the bad, and if I come to blows with my personal problems, I know now that I am strong enough to overcome them. Too many times I was scared about what lay ahead for me, and too many times I thought my issues would swallow me whole. But every single time I have proven myself wrong. And I am so glad.

College is somewhat of an other worldly experience. It is different for every person but certain elements stay the same: you hate yourself, you cannot remember the last time you got decent shut-eye, you live in the library and you meet interesting people you are certain you will not forget.

So I leave with this: gratefulness for the two years I was able to spend on this campus, growing and nurturing and flowering my mind so that it is ready for the next phase of my life, the friends I made along the way and the work that forced me to put all my effort and energy into what I believe matters.

The details of the rest of my life are insignificant. They do not matter. I will make it up as I go. All I can do is live in the moment and know that each one is a blessing from the universe.

0 to 100 / A vote against me

Shock. Anger. Resentment. Just a few of the many things I felt upon attempting to accept that Donald Trump is the President-elect of the U.S. I stared at the television screen in awe, denial like waves electrifying every part of my body.

A racist, sexist, misogynistic sex o ender is the face of this country come January.

The physical and mental unrest that comes with these results feels like a giant wave of nausea that never ends. When something upsets or no longer serves to make you happy, you are advised to let it go. You are told this is the healthiest thing you can do for your mind and soul. It is supposed to rid your heart of its heaviness. You are expected to leave the obstacle behind and continue on, never looking back, to rid yourself of the extra weight. If only it were that simple.

Nothing in my eyes points to any complexity in Trump’s agenda. He is an out and proud racist. He is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. He openly sexually abuses, harrasses and degrades women. He is xenophobic is every sense of the term. He said he would date his daughter if she were not his daughter.

Despite knowing all of the horrifying and truly saddening things Trump has said and done, he still has millions upon millions of supporters. At Trump rallies, many have reported the racist, sexist chants spouting from people’s mouths, white supremacist discourse dripping from their tongues in an attempt to rid the U.S. of anything that does not t their bland idea of what it should be.

I, like so many others, want to believe that I am an accepted member of society. That despite not being white or straight or male, I can live my life knowing that people accept me as I am and what I am. I want to believe that we as a collective group believe that black lives matter, that certain groups have a clear disadvantage in this world and that the opportunity for growth among us has never been equal. I want to believe that the U.S. is rooted in equality of all people from all different walks of life.

But it is not. And this election proves it.

If you voted for Trump, I want to say thank you. Thank you for exposing the political campaign that fights against keeping my social and civil rights in tact, that fights against protecting me, my family, my friends and sheltering my well being. You actively exposed all the bigots in this country that so many argued no longer existed.

More than anything, thank you for making yourselves known so I know who to steer away from in these difficult times. Thank you for showing me who you are. Now more than ever I am aware of those whose views disrespect my very existence. I can rid them from my life with ease.

I have seen several posts on social media from a so-called “neutral” perspective proclaiming that, despite what political stance you take, you will not be judged, and everyone should stay friends regardless.

Wrong! If you voted for or support Trump, you automatically side against me. You side against my rights. You side against my voice. His campaign is built on and feeds o of the nonsensical fear against minorities, Muslims, blacks, Latinos, and LGBTQ+ folk among many others, perpetuating the idea that only the straight, white man can be trusted and everyone else is “other” with a hidden agenda. Your agreement with Trump and his campaign is rooted in my oppression and denies me my humanity. You are no friend of mine.

What has been proven to me through this horrendous freak- show of an election is that my country hates everything I am, who I am and what I stand for. I do not know where to put that weight down. It is excruciatingly heavy.

Perhaps in this bleak and dreary time, I can take comfort in the words of Maya Angelou, a woman who knew in nite struggles as a black woman living the nightmares of this country: “You may shoot me with your words / You may cut me with your eyes / You may kill me with your hatefulness / But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

0 to 100 / Anxiety alert

I have never experienced anxiety the way I have this past year. Some days I feel anxious about everything going on around me, so much so that it consumes my every thought. Some things are constantly in the back of my mind and no matter how hard I try, they never truly go away.

Then there are days I couldn’t care less about anything. I do not care about getting good marks in my classes; I do not care about my adult responsibilities that lay on my back like boulders and I lack the energy to “live life to the fullest” as so many corny people quote on Facebook. I just do not care.

This feeling of disconnection is relatively new and started just after I came forward to my religious family about being agnostic. Back then, I thought the weight on my chest would leave me forever, but it did not. It only transformed into a different kind of pain that now rests in my stomach.

The indifference fluctuates. There are days I feel a little better than others, where I get a little bit of free time to spend with friends or my niece and nephew. For a while I forget about my worries and anxieties, and life as a whole feels lighter. Things look up, and I do not feel the weight of my responsibilities, nor the dread of living day-to-day feeling like everything I do is aimless or has no greater purpose.

What makes me feel happiest is being around those I love, who encourage me, are consistently there for me and try their best to bring out the positive qualities in me I sometimes forget I have. Relationships like these make it all worthwhile. And I guess that’s just it: if you feel lost or anxious or upset, keep close to whatever it is that gives you good feelings, whatever makes you happy to be alive.

More open discussions about matters of mental disorders, anxiety and depression need to be brought forward. Too many people fear seeking help because of social stigma and lack of support among other reasons. I think if we felt we could be more honest with ourselves and those around us, and were also encouraged to be more in tune with our mental health, more of us would feel inclined to seek the help we need.

Too many people suffering- from anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are told to simply “stay positive” or to “think about how good they have it,” but these are not, nor will they ever be, realistic solutions.

Mental illnesses do not cause a person to suddenly have weird “off” days once in a blue moon. They are feelings of real hopelessness, loneliness and indifference, and they need to be taken as seriously as physical ailments.

If someone comes to you with trust in their hands like an open wound, open yourself up to them and their struggles. Be there for them. You do not have to pretend you understand what they are going through, but you can be the person that lets them rest their head on your shoulder to feel okay for a little while. Sometimes, that is enough.

Life feels like too much to bear at times, and being surrounded by those who genuinely want the best for us and encourage us to get help can feel like a saving grace. There is something fulfilling and comforting in knowing you can be someone’s safe space. You can be the person they feel comfortable, open and truly at peace around.

Being present in someone’s life when they need you most is the best gift you can give them. You are not expected to give advice or say everything will be okay. You are not expected to be a hero in a cape. You just have to be there.

0 to 100 / “True” american

Over the past several months, I have come across several differing opinions about the two presidential candidates. Some argue that Hillary will run this country into the ground and is a shady human being for those emails. Some argue that Trump has the right vision and will, indeed, “make America great again.” Lately, when asked who I’ll be voting for, I’ve replied with, “The lesser of two evils.”

Only recently have I realized that this statement does not really fit the situation, though, nor is it an adequate response. One candidate is heinously and laughably less qualified than the other, so my saying the “lesser of the two” does not even fit.

Trump’s ideologies are taking us back to medieval times in which women’s opinions have no voices, their sexualities and outward appearances are at the forefront of their worth, and decisions about their bodies are solely dependent on men’s judgments.

It is taking us deeper and deeper into a nation of racist thinking where people believe America equals straightness and whiteness, and has no room for anything or anyone else. Like Toni Morrison once said, “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

But it is America’s entire population, non-white, women and all, that has helped make it what it is today. And though we have a hell of a long way to go, it would be nice to believe that we have already come so far in achieving some sort of greater goal. With so many having Trump’s back, however, it is difficult to believe that coming a long way is even a realistic way to put it.

It is downright terrifying to imagine what this country will turn into if Trump succeeds as its leader. For those of us who are not straight, white and male, the odds do not look good. Trump’s campaign is made to cater to this specific demographic while the rest of us are at the bottom of the food chain because, for whatever reason, we are not good enough to have our voices heard. Nor are we good enough to be respected, as women, people of color and otherwise.

I won’t claim that Hillary is the perfect candidate or anything close to it. I wish more than anything we had better options for both parties. Why is it that every election, like I mentioned previously, I find myself saying that I will side with the lesser of the two evils? It should not have to be that way, and yet it is. And I doubt that will change anytime soon.

It is difficult for me to understand how we have gotten to this point. When it was announced that Trump may be running for president, many assumed it was as a joke. Then reality hit, and more and more people came forward with their support for the candidate. What seemingly began as a joke turned into a frightening reality as Trump gained more and more support throughout the country from people who do not seem to love themselves a whole lot.

For the sake of those who do not match Trump’s criteria of what a “true” American is, it is best to leave him at the bottom of the stairs where he belongs. Let him go back to running a reality television show, building more Trump Towers or whatever insignificant things he was doing before he decided it was a good idea to run this country into the ground.

I sincerely hope that whoever is voting for Trump realizes the weight of what they are doing and what it will mean for America if he does win. I hope that for the sake of this country and all those in it that people will open their eyes to what Trump truly stands for, and then vote for Hillary.

0 to 100 / No one deserves it

It has been all over the news recently that Kim Kardashian was held at gunpoint by five armed men in her apartment in Paris. Some speculate whether the incident was a publicity stunt, which is irrelevant when it comes to a mass amount of comments on the situation which are shockingly apathetic, hateful and downright nasty.

A string of remarks along the lines of “Too bad she didn’t get shot” and “What do you expect if you show off your wealth?” litter the comments sections detailing the incident. And all I can think is, really?

It’s not totally surprising. When model Gigi Hadid was groped and harassed by a random man on the street a few weeks ago, all of which was caught on camera, the media decided she was aggressive for trying to fight him back. It’s not like she was trying to protect herself or anything.

Why are people so quick to frame women as exaggerative bitches who deserve every abusive, abrasive action done to them?

This isn’t about if you dislike a celebrity or not. This has nothing to do with celebrities even. This is about women. It doesn’t matter if you hate these women for whatever reason so many do (because they’re rich? Had plastic surgery? Are unapologetic about their sex lives?) No. This is about harboring hatred towards women even in some of the most horrific situations one could possibly go through.

Think how traumatizing it would be to experience these types of situations. Kim was quoted saying she was afraid she would get raped by the men who forced entry into her apartment while she was alone. And all people have to say about it is that she deserved it and it’s too bad she didn’t end up dead?

Does hatred towards successful, powerful, rich women run so deeply that people feel the need to wish death upon them at their most vulnerable?

You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to like anyone if you don’t want to. But over the years it’s been difficult for me to understand the hatred women receive on a daily basis, and women in the media serve as perfect examples. When people try to justify their hatred, they only prove themselves more and more misogynistic. It practically radiates off their bodies.

The issue lies in why society decides to bash women and decide they want them injured, harmed or even murdered simply because they don’t like how they choose to live their lives. And like I said before, this goes for all women and not just those in the spotlight.

This particular hatred stems from misogynistic attitudes towards women who do not live their lives to please others, particularly men, and who do as they please without seeking approval from anyone but themselves.

When we hate men, there isn’t much consequence. When we hate women, it can cost them their lives.

Why is so much hateful energy pushed towards women whose lives are in danger? Why is there little to no empathy for the trauma so many women experience? So many instances of abuse go unreported because so few are willing to listen to trembling voices that feel they might be shut down. It is so important to validate those women and their distressing experiences because it could mean possibly saving a life and preserving someone’s mental health.

If a woman has gone through something difficult traumatic or distressing listen to her. Be there for her. Back her up. It’s already been proven that very few are willing to do so.

0 to 100 / Watch your words

It still shocks me every time I hear offensive language being used in regular day-to-day conversations. All I think to myself is that it’s 2016 and we still do not realize this one thing: words carry weight.

I can’t tell you how much it hurts to hear men calling their friends “f*ggots” as a joke because it’s the normal thing to do, to hear a person call some- one out as a “p*ssy” because they come off as weak or lacking strength or to have someone say that someone else is “r*tarded” because they said something stupid. These types of scenarios happen all too often.

These words are not synonymous for stupid. Unintelligent means stupid. Dumb means stupid. Ignorant means stupid. But those words I just mentioned, those have nothing to do with the meaning of stupidity.

Why is someone’s intelligence bashed and berated with derogatory slurs just because they said something someone else doesn’t agree with? What does sexuality have to do with someone’s level of intelligence? How is calling someone a pussy reflective of them lacking toughness?

Back in the day, the word r*tarded was used in medical terms, but today it’s different. If someone utters it, it is clear it is meant to be offensive. Hardly anyone uses it to describe mental conditions anymore.

All I think about when this kind of language is used, and many like it, is how it makes the person appear smaller. People I once looked up to or thought of as friendly I find hard to associate with after continuous uses of slurs and offensive discourse. If you cannot articulate your argument — or simply hold a conversation — without the use of derogatory words, then that argument has holes.

This type of language — specifically in which women or female parts are used in conjunction with slurs — is part of a larger problem that stems from misogyny. If we don’t like how someone is behaving or think it’s stupid, we tell them to stop acting like a little girl. If someone acts scared, they’re a p•ssy. This is all part of the sexist society we live in.

The way you say things ultimately has a greater, deeper affect than you think. There’s a reason writers spend so much time deciphering word choice trying to decide what sounds just right. It’s because each individual word holds significant meaning, and each one comes off a different way to its recipient.

Words carry weight. The terminology you use matters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean for things to sound a certain way. A lot of the time we say things without meaning harm or offense, not realizing just how much they affect someone. If we collectively take the time to acknowledge that our words matter, we can end up saving ourselves a lot of trouble, heartache and misunderstanding.

0 to 100 / Rapist, not a swimmer

How is it that a man who raped and assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster only spent three months behind bars? How has the American justice systemallowed this to happen?

I don’t know what’s worse: the way the media is painting Brock Turner out to be an innocent athlete, or the fact that he just got offered to speak at college campuses around the U.S. to speak about drinking and promiscuity?

Over and over again the media has made Turner out to be a good kid who just so happened to sexually assault a woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and will not use the correct terminology in labeling him.

Do not refer to him as the “Stanford swimmer,” as the “hardworking student” — he is not. Turner lost those prestigious titles the second he decided it was okay to rape. Before he is an athlete, a student, or a son, he is a rapist. And we must label him as such.

Because what happens when you push his crime to the side and instead choose to focus on the positive aspects of his life? His crime diminishes and his status rises. I don’t give a fuck if he was a good swimmer. I also don’t give a shit if his parents, friends, or school mates insist he’s a good person who got caught up in something bad and didn’t mean what he did. I simply don’t care.

Why do we let rapists get away without being called what they are?

On top of that, news just released that he might have the opportunity for a speaking tour in which he could be going around the country to talk about his experience.

I can’t speak on this subject and simply ignore that Turner is a straight, white, affluent male. That would defeat the purpose. If Turner were a black man — or any man of color — in this situation, you can certainly bet he would not be offered opportunities to justify his actions. If Turner was not white, he would be serving a long, gruelling sentence behind bars.

Rapists should not be given the opportunity to justify their horrific actions. Rapists should not be allowed out in public. Rapists should not be given sympathy for physically and emotionally scarring other people.

I’m tired of hearing about white rapists in the media who are labelled as anything but. I don’t care if they painted themselves as good people, if they were athletes, helped an old lady cross the street once — I don’t care. Call them what they are, and do not shy away from it.

Turner deserves to spend the rest of his life in a jail cell, but because of his privilege, he will probably never set foot in prison ever again. And he will most likely continue his offender practices, it is just a matter of whether or not he will get caught. You don’t just stop being a rapist.

I hope the woman he assaulted and her family get the justice they deserve, but it doesn’t seem like that is likely to happen. And I can’t say I am the least bit surprised. These sort of cases don’t shock me anymore.

When reality sets in

What do you do when looking into your future feels like staring into a bottomless pit? How do you balance making a living with living your passion? These musings are the result of writing being my “one true love”.All I want to do — all I have ever wanted to do — is write. Not only is it the only thing I believe I am somewhat decent at, but it is the only thing I truly enjoy. I don’t care about anything the way I care about words. I am in love with them. Realizing that I have to do everything but that to make ends meet, however, is starting to get me down a bit. I recently started a job working in an office, and although it’s not in my field, I was still excited. I would be able to stretch my arms into new territory and see what it was all about. Except, the opposite happened. I realized my dreams of making a living off writing are worse than I could have ever imagined, and if I ever wanted to make it as a writer in the professional world I was going to have to suffer through all the other BS that comes with it. Anyone who keeps up with my column knows that I am a server. It’s all I complain about. I have no idea what not standing for eight consecutive hours is like unless I’m sleeping. This is the life I’ve endured for three years. So when I go to my new job and stare at a screen like a zombie hour after hour, bored out of my mind, I start to get restless. Of course, a career in writing will include time sitting in front of a screen, typing away at a keyboard endlessly. But when I write for myself, it is not a job, obviously. It is something I enjoy. It feels different. When I write for work, it is not at all the experience I imagined in my head. This piece is not meant to be a negative outlook on life; rather, I want my fellow English majors interested in creative writing to simply be realistic about their futures. I wasn’t. And now I am trying to find ways to integrate my skills in the professional world without seeming like a lost puppy desperate for income. How can we make our world one in which we get to do what we love and live off of it? It’s too good to be true for most of us, I think, but what’s important is to dedicate your free time to your passions. If I did not write in my spare time for myself, I might go on a rampage. It is my outlet and allows me to be free and speak my mind, even if just to paper. She listens to what I have to say, and for that I am thankful. But I have to be realistic. If I am going to make this into a career, the fact of the matter is that I have to suffer through things I don’t want to do. Such is life. I cannot afford to be negative, but realistic (that’s what I like to call it anyway). The road is long and full of bumps, ice, and maybe dog shit, but if that is what it takes to get to the end where the sun shines, I guess I have no choice but to suck it up.