Love & Loss: How to Survive a Breakup

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Lean in ladies, we’re talking breakups. Yes—the inevitable endings that we cry over, break our phones over, and swear off the entire male gender over. I’ve been through it. I’ve been dumped in just about every way a person can be dumped. Whether it was through a text, email, or even simply being blocked on Facebook (yes, that really happened), I’ve finally learned that there was one consistency in each of these situations—I survived it and I moved on.

My latest relationship has taught me a lot about well, being in a relationship with myself. It took a slew of unsuccessful, regrettable dating experiences to finally realize that at the end of the day, the only one who really matters is me. As women, I think we tend to place too much emphasis on our romantic relationships. This happens for a variety of reasons but the most glaring of all is that we have been conditioned to seek out and obtain a prince charming and if we don’t, we’re made to feel as though we have somehow failed. I see this phenomenon all the time in both the media and in my social circles.

Last Friday afternoon I was struggling through a gruesome mixture of flu and hangover. I flopped lazily on the couch and flipped through channels looking for something mindlessly entertaining to watch. I stopped at Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Let me first begin by saying that Bridget Jones is a sad, hot-mess and a horrible portrayal of a single woman. Her character’s only objective throughout the entire movie is to obtain and keep a boyfriend. I’m sorry, excuse me? She is a thirty-something journalist with a promising career but the only way she finds any value in herself is through the eyes of Colin Firth. Um, sure that’s an awesome way to teach little girls how to become powerful, independent women—not.

This sub-par film from the early 2000’s is just one of thousands of examples of how main stream media manipulates us into believing that happiness can only be found in the arms of a man. Listen, I love, love. Relationships can be beautiful and uplifting but they will never complete you—you have to do that for yourself.

Every time I get dumped I cry. My life is over, I’m unloved, it’s my fault—woe is me. This is my initial reaction, but it shouldn’t be. Breaking up is bound to be painful but that doesn’t mean we need to stoop to self-loathing. Blaming oneself also comes with being broken up with for someone else or being cheated on. Listen; there is never a good reason to cheat. I have heard every excuse in the book but what it comes down to is if you don’t want to be monogamous then you can’t be in a monogamous relationship. Being left for another is a definite blow to the ego, but it’s worth remembering that, that is a reflection on their indecisiveness and not on you as a person.

When undergoing a break up you have to be tough. By no means am I advising you to ignore your emotions. If you have to cry, then cry—but avoid falling into negative patterns. When something is over, let it be over. Take all of the love you had for that person and focus it on yourself. Become your own greatest love and nurture your dreams and goals the way you would have nurtured your budding romance. The harsh reality of life is that human beings aren’t always reliable—we are an ever changing fickle minded species. However, you can control your own life and can therefore create your own stability.

Friends are also very important. They’re the ones we cry with, they wipe away our tears while filling us with tequila and pizza. They are our support system and invaluable after a breakup. Our support system can often determine whether we grow positively or shrink back into toxic cycles. In other words, although your best friend took away your phone so you couldn’t drunk dial anyone, encouraging you to hate-fuck the skeezy guy at the end of the bar is probably a bad idea. Even though she tells you it will take your mind off of your ex, it will probably just leave you reeling and craving more attention from him than before.

Remember, it isn’t over just because your relationship is. Sometimes being alone is the best thing for us. When we’re alone and away from the dizziness of love and romance we are able to clearly see the most important things in our lives—ourselves.

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O-H-I Can’t Even

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I don’t understand football—I never have. It’s not because it’s above me, or overly complicated, but really because I think it’s ridiculous. I know I’m going to lose half my readers with that sentence alone, but hear me out. I see men navigate more emotional highs and lows during one football game than I have during the duration of any of my relationships. Maybe, I’m just bitter because football gets more male attention than I do, or perhaps I just think it’s absurd to allow oneself to act completely belligerent over a game. As a child I’d run to my father’s arms after watching a terrifying episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark, and he would hold me and say, “Lizzy, why do you watch these things if it upsets you?” The only response I ever uttered was, “Well you watch football….?”

On Saturday I, along with several other miserable servers, catered a tailgate party during Ohio State’s homecoming. If you aren’t from Ohio than I’m sure you believe your hometown has the most ardent and true football fans this great country has ever seen—but you’re wrong. You are so wrong. Ohio State fans are some of the most blood-thirsty, emotionally unstable people you will ever meet, and they take intoxication to an entire new level. The thing is Ohioans, along with most mid-western people, are actually really kind. Ohio has more colleges and universities per capita than any other state. We are extremely intelligent, modest people—until you bring up football—and then everything goes to hell. Individually, fans are helpful and cheery, as a group they bleed scarlet and grey—which is a horribly disturbing motto. Once during an OSU-Michigan game tailgate, I watched a man drive up to a group of fans with a stuffed dummy in a make-shift Michigan football helmet strapped to the hood of his car. The man then proceeded to turn off his engine, get out of the car, and hand bats to the people in the group. All together they joined in beating the dummy with bats as they sang “Oh, How Firm Thy Friendship”. There was a car under that dummy. I’m going to bet that Allstate didn’t cover the damage.

Luckily, the group we were catering for was pretty tame. By tame I mean they were all doctors, aged fifty and over. My gynecologist was there. As uncomfortable as that hello was, if I’m at a party chances are good I’ll run into at least one person who has seen my vagina. She asked me how my boyfriend was—the only thing that all women of a certain age are interested in. I explained that he was fine and gave her my best fake smile. Really, I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure how we were doing—or if we were even still together. We had been fighting the night before but I was working through a powerful cocktail of Nyquil and champagne and couldn’t remember where we had left things.

The buffet lines grew longer as I moved effortlessly through the cramped tent, between tables and chairs, clearing the plastic plates and empty bottles as I went. The DJ was playing classics from the OSU marching band. Big brass and powerful base filled the air as I tried desperately to maneuver around wheel chairs and walkers. I hit a snag in the midst of clearing tables. I found myself completely surrounded by elderly doctors singing Hang on Sloopy loudly and proudly. My tray was too full and my arm began to shake under its weight. I tried to make a quick retreat but everyone was moving too slowly and couldn’t hear me trying to clear a path. I, along with the tray was going down, and it was not going to be pretty. Everything slowed, and the second act of Ride of the Valkyries began to play in my head. I crumbed, with a sort of floppy awkwardness to the floor, bringing with me beer, wine, and sticky globs of pulled pork. I was covered from head to toe in grease and backwash. For the rest of my shift I smelled like a hangover. No one noticed—they were too busy chanting along with the shrill cries of the Medical Director as she shouted, “O-H” the elderly crowd retorted “I-O” and everyone cheered.

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Spilled Milk

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I quit my job. I spent the last two years working my ass off for something that literally didn’t pay off. It wasn’t a smooth departure either. I’m not saying I flipped my desk or punched my boss—just imagined it. It was messy but so is everything I do. Now, I’m back in food service. Catering for a large local company. Serving shrimp skewers and steak to the Columbus elite. I hate rich people. Standing against the high top tables, spilling scotch as they wave their hands around—congratulating themselves for being better than everyone else. It’s not ideal but it pays the bills, while I’m waiting to hear back about a job in the city.

Catering isn’t ideal and neither is he. He’s waiting for me there—in the city. By waiting for me, I really mean ignoring me. We never talk anymore, and even when we do it usually ends in an argument. I’m all alone in another non-relationship. Needless to say, things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine in my world. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a hamster cage. Endlessly climbing through the tunnels and up the latters, only to fall back down into a pile of my own shit and wood shavings. Lately, I’ve just been sticking to the wheel, running to nowhere, too proud to give up, but too tired to try harder.

I’m itching to leave but I’m also terrified. I don’t think him and I will make it so I’m trying my best not to add him into the equation. It’s really just about the money. At the end of the day, it’s always a numbers game. Unfortunately my skill set doesn’t guarantee me a livable wage. I know you don’t get into non-profit work for the money, but how awkward would be to stand in line for food stamps with the clients you serve?

I catered a business school reunion last night, it was terrible. Some man old enough to be my grandfather with the libido a frat boy told me I was pretty and placed his clammy wrinkled hand on my low back. I cringed, he smiled, and I refilled the water.

I walked into the venue with my hair knotted on top of my head—wiggling uncomfortably inside my oversized shirt. I almost threw up when I saw him. Tattooed from head to toe, slouching by the computer. The last time I saw him I was getting money from my ex for an abortion. There was fighting and screaming and his face had gotten in the way of a shoe I was throwing. When I saw him last night—we didn’t exchange hellos. He took one look at me, pulled out his phone and began to text furiously. Great—now my ex knows that I serve mini quiches to wealthy bigots for a living.

Life isn’t great—but I’m getting by the best way I can. I no longer have to deal with coworkers who are a dangerous combination of bold and stupid, I have time to write, and even though I spilled tomato jam all over a woman wearing a dress that probably cost more than the down payment on my car—I still have my dignity, for now at least.

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Standing beneath the Umbrella: Dismantling Privilege

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“No” was a word I used often in childhood. When there was something I didn’t like or want I would get fussy and wiggle free from my mother’s grasp until I was standing. I would yell “NO” at the top of my lungs and stomp my foot on the ground. It was always easy to say ‘no’; especially to the people I loved. I believed in the power of choice and I never questioned it.

Something changed during adolescence. From the age of fifteen onward, my ‘no’ steadily began to lose its stability and importance. It was disregarded in the hallways at school, passed over in my part-time job, and ignored in nearly every sexual encounter I engaged in. As a rape survivor, most might conclude that the event of sexual assault was the moment I lost my ability to choose. In reality, I had been on the weak end of a losing battle over my body and voice for years. For me, being raped had just marked its ultimate demise.

My brain had been corrupted and my body colonized by the patriarchal idea that I owed men something. I owed them the only thing of value that I had to give—sex. Everything in my world was against me. From television and movies, showcasing women as objects meant solely to fulfill sexual desires, to popular music that divided me from my identity and placed me in such categories as “bitch” “hoe” and “slut”. The culture I grew up in left me nameless, faceless, and dehumanized me to the point where I was nothing but a hole for any and all men to enjoy.

Looking back, what I find most horrifying was my belief that this was normal. I thought sexism was a harmless part of life and sexual coercion was inevitable. The memories of my abuse pale in comparison to the sickening realization of my own inability to see. At eighteen I was blinded and enslaved by a patriarchy that was built to destroy me.

Privilege is blinding—it only allows you to see your own perfectly paved path and the paths of those who rest above you. A privileged lens is clouded, making it hard to focus on the individuals who have less than you do. We can’t see them because in order to move up, we have to stand on their backs. I know this, because I’m white. I was raised to be racially insensitive—it had been ingrained in the mind of my community long ago and was continuing to be passed on. Preconceived notions and stereotypes dictated my thinking for much of my young life in such profound, yet subtle ways that I failed to recognize them.

In the seventh grade, I proudly showcased posters of all my teen idols on my bedroom walls. Ripped from magazines and printed from the internet, I hung them with scotch tape and gave them life. At sleepovers my friends and I would giggle and daydream about the dashing men in those pictures, posing nonchalantly in their Tommy Jeans.

Unfortunately, one poster had to go. My mother saw Usher standing, abs exposed, dark and handsome, and immediately removed him from my door. “Oh honey, don’t start this nonsense. You can have Justin, Leo can stay too, but Usher has to go.” I looked at my mother side-ways and before I could interject she sat down beside me and spoke again, “If you start dating black boys, white men won’t want you anymore. You don’t want to be known as the girl who goes with black guys—protect your reputation.”

I didn’t fight what she said—instead, I internalized it. I learned to fall in line with my peers and look down upon other races. I disengaged and disconnected from minorities until it was simply, ‘us’ and ‘them’. It was easier than trying to fight it. There were 10 black kids who I attended middle school with. They fit the stereotypes that white media had created for them; they existed within these frameworks because they were safe and unchallenged. We knew nothing of their struggles with feeling ostracized—we just “knew” they were good at sports, and the hair from their heads felt funny between our fingers.

I didn’t hate other races, so I never thought of myself as being racist—but wasn’t I? The older, cooler boys constantly threw ‘nigger’ around, they were numb to it—raised with it—accepted it as everyday terminology. These were the same boys who called me slut, or weak, or stupid. I never chimed in, but I laughed along—afraid that if I didn’t they would turn their heckling towards me. It wasn’t safe to stand out. I used my privilege as a shield; I deflected my own marginalized experience by mocking those with less privilege. In their minds, I may have been a slut—but at least I wasn’t a beaner, a kike, or God forbid, a nigger.

Literature saved me. I felt different from the kids around me, but still not unlike them—I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I connected with different cultures, groups, and individuals through their written experiences. Books became my religion—if Sandra Cisneros was my saving grace, then James Baldwin was the son of God. By opening a freshly bound book, I could reach people who lived past the uniform trees and sidewalks that made up my pristine and perfect suburb. I could engage in someone else’s reality and for the first time I was able to see what life was like for those living on the outskirts of power.

Being exposed to racism in this way shaped my idea of who a rapist could be. I was taught by my mother and encouraged by the boys around me—boys I was supposed to be impressing—to be leery of men of color. They were the ones who drove around empty parking lots in dark cars waiting to pull young girls in. Dark men were lurking outside of bars and in alley ways, waiting for their shamelessly drunk victims to stumble by.

My rape didn’t happen in an alley, and I was sober. It wasn’t at the hand of some dark, hooded assailant either, but rather at the hands of a man I trusted with a face that I had lovingly caressed on several occasions. He took me the way he wanted me and disregarded my shaking body and begging. To this day, he fails to recognize it as rape because he was conditioned to believe that he was entitled to my body and I, owed it to him.

I fought hard for my ‘no’. I fought for my body, my voice, and for the futures of my unborn daughters. I took refuge in the sacred feminine and fed from it. I surrounded myself with powerful women who held me up and let me stand even if it was on their shoulders. I made peace with my body and fell in love with myself for the person who I am. I fought an uphill battle against my own shame and insecurities and came to realize that privilege, entitlement, and misogyny had kept me caged. There was nothing wrong with me, and there never was—it was all an illusion inflicted on me by those who are knee deep in power.

Subtle prejudices are usually the hardest to overcome. Mostly, because ways of thinking dubbed as ‘harmless’ are widely accepted. Privileged groups often don’t see their own power in the same context as those who are disconnected from it—when we’re not butt of the joke or the target of the insult, we fail to see how dangerous they can be. I’m telling you this so you can understand that even as a victim of sexual assault and sexism, I too carry privilege and that privilege is directly connected to the oppression of non-white, non-Christian minorities. As a community we must recognize the role that privilege and entitlement play in our lives. We need to take a closer look at the stereotypes we perpetuate and simply ask ourselves, ‘why’. We must educate ourselves and our children that stereotyping and profiling will ultimately snowball into victim blaming, taking the form of racism and sexism—the very two phenomena that hinder human rights and destroy our concept of community.

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I Am Unbreakable

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My stomach dropped when we entered the room. I wiped my hands on the sides of my pant legs as we searched for somewhere to stand. We were late, but no one noticed. Everyone’s eyes were focused intently on the large screen that hung in the center of the room. Images of women and men rotated slowly on a PowerPoint presentation. One after another the photographs appeared in front of us—images of friends, mothers, neighbors, and sisters all holding up signs that carried the weight of rape, molestation, and trauma. I knew what I had come to do; I was there to share my story and to add his words to the collection of abuses obtained by Project Unbreakable.

Project Unbreakable, founded by Grace Brown, began as a Tumblr page. Brown’s idea was to help victims break their silence by photographing them holding signs that read quotes from their attackers. Since its start in 2011 Grace has photographed over 300 victims and this once small movement continues to grow.

I stood in the back row of the crowded lecture hall, listening to stories alarmingly similar to my own. Each word, piercing stare, and utterance of abuse pushed me back to a place I never wanted to return to. I saw his face emerge on the screen and shook my head—struggling to focus, I heard him hiss and spit poison into my ears and my hands began to shake. I am here, I am safe, I repeated it over and over again in my mind but his words muffled my attempts to stay focused. His voice was booming within my brain and I could feel his words slithering inside of me—I knew I was ready.

He didn’t mean to—or, at least that’s what he told me. I can still see the guilty look on his face as I laid crumbled and silent on his bed. “It was an accident….I didn’t mean it…. You’re making me feel like I raped you.” I can still remember thinking that no, of course it wasn’t rape—rape happens in dark allies, rape happens to strangers—not to me, not in this bed. But in reality, that’s when he silenced me. In that moment declaring that what he had done was somehow outside the contexts of rape was all the convincing I needed.  It was an accident and as we all know “accidents” happen.

I was eighteen when he raped me, but the abuse began a year earlier. At first it was verbal—he’d tell me I was worthless, call me garbage, and throw all of the familiar names at me, names I was already used to hearing. The more he broke me down the more I depended on him to build me back up. I used to think of my love for him as an addiction—that something deep inside kept willing me back to him. Or, that my love had turned him bad and everything he did to me I deserved—it was my fault.

I found myself identifying with the labels he had placed on me. He called me worthless and so that’s exactly what I saw when I looked in the mirror. The abuse wasn’t my fault—but I had internalized the feeling that I had deserved all of it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. Today, one in three adolescents will be a victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

I used to wonder why it took being raped for me to finally break contact with him. Looking back, I understand that I was no match for the toxic cocktail of manipulation and coercion he was feeding me—especially when coupled with the idea that the messages he was sending me were the same ones I was receiving from my peers and from the media. I learned young that love was fear and sex was only for him to enjoy—not for me, my body and my pleasure were irrelevant.

I didn’t speak about my experience for two years. I had let myself become convinced that talking was useless  because no one would believe me—it was his word against mine and his was always heard first. Excusing abuse and placing a higher value on a man’s word over that of a young woman is a societal norm that must be changed. This phenomenon is a large contributor to the fact that only 33% of girls in violent relationships admit to being abused.

Finding the courage to tell my story was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, but I couldn’t be more satisfied with my decision. I am fortunate enough to have a community of women and men who help me lift my voice and support my choice to speak. We didn’t choose to be abused—but we can choose to heal. We can choose to take back authority over our bodies and reclaim our power and purpose. I, along with the other one billion victims worldwide can rise against physical and sexual abuse. Together, we are unbreakable.

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No More Ms. Nice Girl

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I stepped out onto the mat. With my feet placed firmly beneath me, I began to breathe. I heard the cheering from the line of women at my left. They were waiting for it to begin, for my triumphant win, waiting for something to happen. And happen, it did. Julie, a woman no taller than 4’9, stood beside me and asked me to lie down on my back. “Remember, he can’t hurt you. I’ll be right here the whole time. I won’t leave your side.” I dropped gently to the ground and stretched my legs out in front of me. I could feel my assailant, a man in a homemade padded suit, standing over me. It didn’t matter who the man behind the mask was anymore, the only thing I saw when I looked up at his makeshift helmet was the rapist, the kidnapper—the enemy.

Originally, I was going to use this piece as an opportunity to discuss the illusive soccer player I had been seeing and his latest fuck up, but none of that really seems to matter to me anymore. Looking back, the challenges I faced with him seem so miniscule in comparison to what I confronted on the old blue mat in my self-defense class. I enrolled in the course on a whim. My mentor got me an amazing deal, one too good to pass up. She had been talking up the benefits of self-defense classes for weeks prior. She explained that it would give me a chance to make peace with my rape and reclaim ownership over my anger and my body. It all sounded good until I learned that I would have to reenact the experience of being raped and fight the man— the rapist, off of me. Then, I got scared. It was the kind of scared that makes your stomach jump and whine and leaves your hands and knees shaking long after the excitement has settled.   Consumed with unease I could no longer focus on the boy and our non-relationship.

Lying on the mat, I clenched my fists and the man knelt over me. He stroked my arms and grabbed hold of my wrists—a move I always hated. Joe would grab my wrists a lot. He’d grab them and pull me on top of him, “No, no….can’t we just talk? I don’t want to.” But soon my “no’s” would be silenced and he’d have me anyway he wanted. But now I was here, surrounded by friends, I was safe. “Use your voice Liz, use your voice.” The women called to me. I choked on my “no” and could barely get it out. My voice was shaking and its weakness surprised me. “NO.” I tried again, this time it was louder—angrier. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and into my mouth. My vision was turning black and I had to fight to stay present and aware. “NO” I said again and waited for my opening, a moment when he’d be the vulnerable one, and then I could strike. He was down at my feet and about to flip me onto my stomach when the women screamed, “Kick…kick….KICK!!!”  I kicked him in the face once, and then again, and then one final time before his head hit the floor and he assumed the “technical knockout” position.

I didn’t fight when it happened. I never fought with him. I was too afraid to face what I already knew, that if I refused to give him something, he would take it anyway. The night he pinned me up against his wall, I froze with fear. My screams went unnoticed and my “No’s” were ignored. Something deep inside of me was broken that night. Some kind of God given trust was lost and my mind and my body were separated from one another. I was no longer in control; I could no longer protect myself.

It wasn’t just my physical boundaries that I had trouble protecting, but my emotional ones as well. As I stood in line and cheered along for the other women I couldn’t help spacing out. The moment was gone and I was no longer in Joe’s bed, hands pressed against the wall. Now, I was in my hotel room in St. Augustine, Florida, lying beside a man I had been fantasizing about for months. We were inches apart but I couldn’t have felt further away. I was turned over, crying silently to myself and listening to the low hum of his snoring. We had, had sex…semi-painful, unromantic, awkward sex. It was nothing like I had imagined it would be. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I didn’t need to be there for it. Like, I could have been anyone, it didn’t matter, the connection we once shared was lost and I was just a body for him to rest on.

“I’m about to blow your mind, Liz. Listen up…this is serious.” I wiggled around in my chair and looked over at my friend, awaiting her next words. We were sitting on the front porch of her mother’s cozy Italian Village home and the sunlight seemed to dance around our bare feet. “You wanna know why we date guys who treat us like shit and have nothing going on?” “Because boys suck?” I joked, half-heartedly. “ERRR. Wrong! It’s because we don’t think we deserve those nice guys with college educations and good jobs, the ones who will treat us like queens.” She was right. I had spent most of my adolescence convinced that there was something wrong with me. I was a victim—I was damaged; I had, had an abortion—I was controversial. Nice guys like nice girls, ones without scars or pain, the kind of girls who wear pearls and smile a lot—girls who are whole and happy—girls who weren’t like me.

Then something shook me from my trance. It was my mentor; she had placed a bag of ice on the back of my neck. “This will help keep you present. Hold it to your chest.” With shaking hands I thanked her and took the ice focusing my attention back onto the mat. One by one I watched the women step out onto the mat and fight their battles. Some were fighting old lovers, nameless attackers, and others were fighting family members. I watched as they screamed from their bellies and kicked and punched as if their life depended on it—because for many of us, it did. I stood in awe as I watched quiet, reserved women rise with ferocity and anger like phoenixes, hungry for redemption. I saw women who had never gotten their chance to scream and fight retrieve their dignity from the ones who stole it and revisit dark places they had spent years trying to hide away. The energy in the room grew thick with power and I fed from it. I gathered strength from their strength and their cheering kept me awake and ready.

I was my turn again, and this time I was going give it everything I had. Before I had a chance to catch my breath he grabbed me from behind. The line roared with support and direction. He threw me on the ground and slipped a pillowcase over my head. “This changes nothing. You don’t need your sight—you can feel him. Wait for your opening.” Julie’s voice was calm and clear. I breathed and centered myself, waiting for my chance to get out from under him. “I’m going to fuck you in the ass and throw you in the dumpster.” The words slithered out from behind his mask. My eyes widened and I got pissed. In that instant I knew exactly what I was fighting for. With one move I heaved him off of me and ripped the pillowcase from my head. I kicked and kicked without stopping, my limps flailed about and I hit every target on his body I could find. Finally, I got up—refusing to fight him on the ground—I was going to show him that I could take him where he stood. At the same moment he charged in my direction I shot my foot into his groin and he fell to floor. Julie blew her whistle and the women screamed with joy. He took off his helmet and looked up at me with a smile, “Well I know I wouldn’t mess with you if I wasn’t wearing this suit.”

I’ve been called brave before. They’ve called me brave for sharing my story on the Internet, or for handling my abortion alone, but this was the first time in my life that I had actually felt it. I had overcome my greatest fear and persevered when I was at my most vulnerable. In a lot of ways it was the best moment of my life. It was better than the time I meditated under the sun in New York City, or climbed the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and saw a lake so clear it looked like another sky. I ran back to join the women in line and I heard a familiar voice calling me from the other side of the gym, it was my father. Smiling ear to ear he held out two big thumbs up and I realized how blessed I truly was. I have people who love and care for me because I’m worth being loved. I’m tired of letting others push me around and silence my voice. Now is my time celebrate my life and my body. This is the beginning of the greatest love affair of my life—the one I’m having with myself.

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The End is Just the Beginning

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I stared at the screen and my hands began to shake. Every cell in my body was seizing with anger and I thought seriously about throwing my keyboard through the office window. “He blocked me on Facebook?? Are you fucking kidding me?!” I screamed at the computer. And there it was, the inevitable ending I was looking for. I had been half expecting him to break up with me for weeks before it happened. Of course, I expected him to handle the situation…well a little differently then he did.

I hadn’t spoken to him in three weeks prior to the Facebook incident. We had decided to take some space apart, which is laughable considering we live almost 900 miles away from each other. He was set to try out for a soccer team in Thailand and assured me that he needed space to “mentally prepare for the challenges ahead.” Apparently for him, mental preparation requires having sex with his ex girlfriend.

So, that’s sort of how it ended. He deleted our love with the click of a mouse and it was gone so quickly it was like it never happened. He sent me an email a couple weeks after, mostly so he could ask me to stop messing with his wikipedia page. Drinking can drive you to do crazy things sometimes. Luckily, I didn’t get much crazier than changing his name to “Douche” and changing the word soccer to “Douching”. Before I knew it his page looked like a poorly executed mad lib.

Work began piling up on my next, and by that I mean a FB post went unanswered. Regardless, I was not living up to my potential. I listened to nothing but Aimee Mann and Ani Difranco for two weeks straight before my CEO finally knocked on my door and asked me if everything was alright. I looked up from my desk and into his soul, “Tell your daughters to never date athletes.” He nodded his head and backed away from my office with caution. Everyone sort of left me alone after that. My weekends were filled with drunken debouchery and my attempts at dressing “sexy and single” fell short and I looked more like a baby prostitute than anything else. I stopped wearing pants and eating anywhere besides my bed. I had spent the last 8 months allowing my life and my future to revolve around someone other than myself, someone who was using me and who didn’t really care for me at all. It was time to pick myself up off the floor, put on my big girl pants, and try to get my life back on track. It was time for a rebound.

There was another guy that I had, had my eye on. He had meaningless leg tattoos, a beard, and dumb job–the attraction was immediate. One night he even got drunk enough to tell me that he’s incapable of loving other people. We made out sloppily for hours on his sweat stained sheets. His room, his bed, and his beard reaked of stale cigarette smoke. He had “rebound” written all over him and I went in for the kill. It wasn’t until he rejected me, that I thought seriously about revaulating the decisions I was making. “But I’m hotter than him. I have a better job and a brand new car. Like, I have everything going for me. How can he NOT be into this??” My friend stared blankly from behind her lit cigarette. “Do you even like him?” “No, I’m just trying to get back out there.” She took a long pause before finally responding, “He sends snap chats of himself on the toilet, and you want to have sex with him.” “Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Sure I get rejected in relationships ALL THE TIME but never for casual sex. NEVER for casual sex. What’s happening to me?” My friend practically fell over laughing, my face flushed pink with embarrassment and suddenly I felt deeply irritated. “You need to relax, you’re just hitting your quarter-life crisis a little earlier than most people. You’ll be fine.”

Quarter-life crisis–It didn’t need to be explained. I knew exactly what those words meant as soon as they fell from her mouth. College was over, my friends had all found healthy relationships or had moved away, or both. Real life had begun and it was sucking me in some unknown direction, one filled with morning commutes and paperwork. I thought about my job, how hard I work and how little money I make, I thought about still living in Columbus in a stuffy condo that I hate, I thought about my latest failed relationship and realized that this was not where I thought I’d be at 23. It was enough to push me near the brink of a complete meltdown, during which I continued to try to answer my own question of What the fuck do I want out of life?

The truth is that I only really think I know what I want. I do know that I don’t want to be sitting in an office watching the 27th severe summer storm of the season only to realize that my windows are down and my umbrella’s in the car. Moments like these remind me that my life might be a cruel joke. There’s a reason why I don’t know what I want and it’s the same reason why these little life crisis’ exist. It’s because we tend to lose ourselves sometimes. We put other people’s needs before our own until we stop remembering who we are and what we were made for. We allow ourselves to become disconnected from our goals and dreams and once realized, it can cause stifling depression and anxiety. I’m tired of trying to live my life for some guy, or for my friends, or even for my parents. I’m looking for me, and I’m not going to stop until I’ve found her. I’m going to prove that your twenties are not a lost decade by making mine the into gold.

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