Unashamed Truths of a Middle Class Twenty Something

I'm figuring it out as I go.


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27: Year of Do

Today is my birthday.

I turn 27. I don’t feel 27. I feel simultaneously younger and much older. On the upside, I think I’m finally starting to look my age instead of vastly younger. My skin decided to hit puberty when I turned 26. I am concurrently treating and actively trying to prevent acne and wrinkles. Oh the joys of aging as a woman.  

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Sometimes, I feel like I have accomplished almost nothing in my life. Really, I have accomplished quite a lot. I have survived quite a lot too. Although, I haven’t done as much as I want to. I want to do more because I want more out of life. I want to make the most out of every day I have. One of my greatest fears is wasted time.

I read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes earlier this year. It got me thinking. Maybe I should start titling my years as an incentive to myself. Over the past three months, I have been taking an inventory of all the things I want to accomplish, experience, and be a part of before I turn 30. It turns out I have a lot of dreams. Dreams I have touched on but never done much about. I have three years to do so much. It’s not a lot of time. So every day counts.

Do. This is my year of doing. I will do the things I need to do. I am no longer thinking of things as pipe dreams, but realities I am chasing. Actively.

So here I am. Committing myself to doing. Chasing dreams. Following passions. Pushing boundaries. Loving fully. Acting upon the motivations of my truest self.

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#FeministFriday

#Feminist Friday!

I just found out this is a thing. So I’m dedicating myself to writing about it because… SURPRISE I’m a feminist. Just kidding, that’s probably not much of a surprise. At least, I hope it’s not. I think I’ve been fairly forthcoming about that tidbit.

I’ve been a feminist since I found out about the word. It wasn’t so much of a choice so much as a duhhh. I have a vagina. I am a person. I believe in human equality. Feminist. Duh.

It wasn’t until I left my beautiful college bubble of happiness that I realized the reality not everyone believes women deserve equal rights… or they think equality has already arrived… It’s not just men. There are women who share that view. Don’t get me wrong. I was aware there were anti-feminists and the word “feminist” itself put a bad taste in people’s mouths. I wasn’t that naive. Ok, I’m secretly an idealist in my heart of hearts… So it was a sad day when reality arrived on my open, accepting doorstep.

Feminist is a buzzword. Guys who were super into me walked away when they heard me describe myself as a feminist. “But you shave your legs!” You’re so right, Mr. Dumbass. I do shave my legs. My feminism doesn’t tell women how to be women or men how to be men. I like rubbing my smooth legs between the bed sheets once every two weeks because that’s really about as much as I get around to shaving my legs… It’s a lazy thing not a feminist thing. “But you like to cook and bake!” I also like to eat good food! There’s a correlation. “Then… why do you wear dresses?” Because I hate pants.

I have been criticized for being a feminist by friends, family, parents, and colleagues. Traditional values and views run deep in people and culture. When pointing things out, I have been ostracized because I can’t “just accept they were trying to be nice.” Intentions, however good, don’t really matter when you’re causing pain, stress, or even harm. Just because it’s tradition or something that is said doesn’t make it ok. It doesn’t make it right. It’s a form of victim blaming. I said something, but I meant it in a good way, so just smile and nod.

I don’t want children. I don’t want to get married. When you tell me that I’ll change my mind if I meet the right man or get older or my clock starts ticking. a) You’re taking away my agency as a person. b) You think you know me better than I know myself, and the likelihood is that we just met, so shut up. c) I’m not 15. I’m a grown ass woman. d) It’s none of your business. e) You are perpetuating traditional gender roles that are quickly becoming outdated. f) Have you ever said that sentence to a man? Here’s the thing, I may change my mind! I may not! I may get married at 65. I may adopt kids when I’m 50, or I may die with a battalion of nieces and nephews. I may have children without a husband. I may get a hysterectomy and die alone with a dog. Either way, it’s not here yet! And what does it matter??? It’s my life. This is just one tiny example of a plentitude, and I haven’t even gone through all the reasons why telling me I’m wrong about my life is wrong!   

Feminism is uniquely personal. Kind of like religion, one size does not fit all. My feminism is not my best friend’s feminism nor my neighbors nor that man’s over there. (Yes, men can be feminists too!) My feminism is open, accepting, intersectional, and inclusive. There’s a problem with white feminism. White women are not the only women. Straight women are not the only women. There are black women, gay women, asian women, bi women, trans women, native women, latinx, etc. Women make up 50.8% of the world. That’s more than half. We come in every shape, size, identity, sexuality, belief system, socio-economic status, ideology, etc. Unfortunately, feminism hasn’t historically taken much of this into account.

It sounds super cliché, but my personal brand of feminism is all about love. Love yourself for who you are. Love others for who they are. Love the differences between us all.

 


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Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all, whether you’re single, taken, or whatever in between!

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I love Valentine’s Day. I’m really not a romantic, and quite frankly I find Valentine’s Day to be a little ridiculous. It is one of my favorite holidays, though. Woah, RaeAnna! Those are contradictions! I know! Thank you for pointing that out. I could give a rat’s ass about the romantic implications of the day; although, I have been very lucky in romantic partners making beautiful VDay memories. I love Valentine’s Day because of my dad.

There are loads of holidays with presents. I always had presents from my “parents.” The card signed Love, Mom and Dad in mom’s handwriting. Dad always asking “What is it? What is it?” as we unwrapped, and he’d usually be equally surprised at the contents. You know, dad stuff.

My mom didn’t do Valentine’s Day. She said nope. Every year, I always had Valentine’s Day presents. It was never my mom who went out and bought the candy and the cards. Something for Mom, something for my brother, and something for me. The cards were always from Dad. It was never big, but it meant the world.

My parents still live in my childhood house. In college, I was a few hours away. For the past four years, I have been out of state. The past two years, I have been across the country. Not a year goes by that I don’t find a card and candy in my mailbox at Valentine’s.

This year, my dad probably won’t be sending me a card. I’m not sad at all. I’m actually really excited because he’s flying to visit me for five days. It’s the first time he’s come to visit me without my mom. Not for the lack of want. You know that work thing… It keeps him pretty busy. I get to pick him up on Saturday. It’s the best Valentine’s Day present (coincidence) ever!


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Our Heartworm Journey

  • February 13, 2017 ~ I adopted Beauvoir. My wonderful, funny, smart, beautiful, sassy, cuddly, white, boxer-mix rescue.
  • February 1, 2018 ~ Hopefully, our last heartworm treatment.

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I saw her picture online before going to the shelter, and I knew she was the one I wanted. Wandering through the shelter a vast majority of the dogs had heartworm. In the shelter her name was Delilah. She didn’t have heartworm, she was young, and when we met it was love at first sight. She came home two days later after having a check up in the shelters clinic. I named her Beauvoir for Simone de Beauvoir, the French author. It is also translated as beautiful to see, and she was a beautiful sight to me. The next day, we were in to a vet to make sure everything was a.o.k. The vet said she was perfect, which I already knew.

The first few months were rough. At two years old, Beau had been through several homes, abuse, a litter of puppies, and Lord knows what else. I did not sleep much those first two months because Beau was not potty trained, and she had to go out every few hours. She was nervous, paranoid, skittish, and distant at first. She was also cuddly, sweet, happy, and curious.

She came into my life when I was very sick, and she helped keep my spirits up. She also kept me company.

In her second month, she was acting a little funny, so I took her to the vet. She was diagnosed with hookworms. That was unfun, but she quickly recovered.

In the past couple months as we’re nearing the one year marker, Beau has come out of her shell even more. She still has her scars from her past trauma, but she is so much better than a year ago. She is the light of my life and my happiest place. She is so special. I can’t imagine my life without her. She brings so much joy and laughter into every day.

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On October 5, 2017, we went to the vet for her six month check up and her shots. Everyone in the vet office adored her – obviously. Her preliminary look over was excellent.

I had had this feeling of impending doom ever since Hurricane Harvey – did I mention I live in Houston. There was no rhyme or reason, but it nagged at my soul every day.

The vet was taking a little too long to come back for my comfort. When he did walk in, he was holding papers in his hand. They never bring paperwork unless the news is bad. The heartworm test came back positive.

*Cue Tears* No, I didn’t cry. Well, not until I got home.

My perfect girl was sick. Really sick. The vet talked. We listened. He explained treatments options, and what we would need to do to proceed. They had run a second test to see if she had baby worms; thank God, she didn’t. We had kept her from getting sicker or reinfected because Beau had taken Heartgard religiously since the day she came home. He explained we hadn’t done anything wrong, and it wasn’t our fault. Honestly, it doesn’t make one feel much better. We caught the heartworms about as soon as we medically could have because it takes six months for the heartworms to mature. They didn’t show up when she was tested on her exit examination at the shelter because she was infected IN the shelter. The shelter in Houston DOES NOT PREVENT HEARTWORMS OR TREAT THE DOGS IF THEY ARE INFECTED. Bullshit. Bullshit! BULLSHIT!!!

So we were at best case scenario of the worst case scenario.

What is heartworms? Super preventable, huge epidemic in Texas because people don’t prevent it, incredibly deadly, horribly expensive, and potentially life-long altering and definitely short term life altering. Look up exactly what it is because I can’t explain further. It makes me want to throw up.

We caught Beau’s case as soon as medically possible. Overall, she’s healthy. She’s young. Most importantly, we have the resources to spend thousands of dollars on her care and aggressive treatment while making her as comfortable as possible.

Her Treatment:

  1. Stop all physical activity outside of eating, potty, and laying on the couch.
  2. Aggressive antibiotics for one month (October into November)
  3. Sedatives – to help keep her calm
  4. X-Rays and blood work – End of November
  5. Heartworm Injection – December 10
  6. Antibiotics – one month
  7. Two Heartworm Injections and Overnight hospital stay – Today
  8. Antibiotics – one month
  9. Begin physical activity  – March -ish
  10. Heartworm – August

When I dropped her off for her first treatment in December, it broke my heart. She has terrible abandonment issues. I had to leave her at the vets for the day, so they could monitor her reaction. The feeling in her eyes was nothing short of betrayal, panic, hurt, and terror. She didn’t want to go back with the technician. When I picked her up, she was so happy I came back for her, but also a little mad at me. So I took her for an ice cream.

Beau was sore, but she did well. Then a week after her first treatment, she walked into the bedroom and stayed there. She is never not touching me. After ten minutes, I went into the bedroom. I found her laying in her box in a pile of vomit and diarrhea. She wasn’t moving. She didn’t even look up at me as I started cleaning her up. We put her in the bathtub. I thought she might die that night. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch. I stayed up most of the night watching her to make sure she was still breathing. It took a week before she was back to her heartworm positive normal self.

I work from home, and it has been a blessing I work from home. I can help make her more comfortable. I have become a paranoid, helicopter mom. Any moment she’s not exactly herself, I worry. I stay home more in order to watch over her.

I dropped her off yesterday morning for her last heartworm injections and an overnight hospital stay. The light at the end of the tunnel is nearing. Like her first treatment, the look she gave me when I dropped her off yesterday was gutting. I had to leave the house for awhile yesterday because my home felt wrong without my girl in it. So I went out and bought her a bunch of toys and a new fluffy dog bed as bribes. I picked her up from the vet today. Goodbye another thousand dollars. But she’s worth it. She had an ice cream cone and a sedative. She’s curled up on the couch with me and a new toy. 

It is unbearable to think her first year and a half of life was hell. Now, at two and half, she’s still going through so much. She didn’t deserve any of this.

Keep us in your thoughts. We’re on the back end of a hard time, but we still have several months of our journey to go.

 


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Chasing Happiness

I love carousels. I really love them. They make me happy to the point of downright giddiness. I will tug on whomever’s arm I’m with. There’s pointing and giggling. In order to keep myself from running, I skip towards the carousel. They make me happy. The fact I’m two decades older and thirty inches taller than the average carousel enthusiast does not deter me from the absolute truth I am getting on one of those painted ponies.

There are so many little things like carousels which bring me happiness on a daily basis. I take pictures of these moments because this kind of happiness is beautiful, and I want to remember them. These pictures are documented on my ever growing social media presence because of this blog and my other far more popular one. With a rise in my “happy moment” posts, I have been getting a whole boatload of comments about how happy my life is.

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Riding a Carousel

2017 was a crappy, fabulous year. I was not sad to see it go. Not even a little.

I traveled a lot. Like a lot a lot. I spent the year road tripping. Giorgio and I drove from one side of the country to the other from the bottom (where I live) to the top (where I used to live). I was on the East Coast three times, West Coast once, Iowa/Illinois four times. Minnesota once. And a bunch of places in between.

I was able to travel almost constantly for a year for several reasons: 1) I don’t have a brick and mortar job anymore. 2) I’ve been dealing with health issues, which is nothing new, but 2017 was one of the harder years. Unfortunately it’s following me into 2018. Oh well, I’m getting old! a) My health made me travel to visit doctors. b) It helped me prioritize my life by keeping me from holding down a traditional job. 3) I have savings! 4) I worked my ASS OFF for 25.5 years to not have crippling debt. Thus the four steps, which has allowed me to chase happiness around the country.

At 26, I have spent the majority of my life unhappy in varying degrees of sadness mostly due to circumstance. In October of 2016, I moved to Houston. I decided to hold of looking for a job to enjoy the holiday season and to sleep in. My health, which was fabulous, began to decline. So getting an office job and leading a traditional life was no longer realistic. I started making some decisions.

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People see my social media posts. The happiness I find in every day. Most of my days are spent on the couch, which I document, but it’s not very exciting. The couch makes me happy, which is good because I am stuck on the couch most of days from a combination of health and freelancing.

People look at my life and see happy. They always have even when I have been everything but happy. For the first time in my life, the happiness is pretty genuine. I used to hide behind “happy” because it was easier for people. I wasn’t happy. I spent a lot of my life living for other people, being “happy” for other people, making other people feel comfortable while ignoring my own needs, happiness, and life.

A few years ago, I started this blog to document my life. It was the first time I spoke out publicly about the reality of my life. It was the catalyst for change in my life. I stopped being for others. I started speaking for myself, which helped me gain the confidence to eventually start living for myself.

I’m still working on it. I’m still deciding what I want to be when I grow up. I’m still making mistakes and figuring it out and failing and succeeding and wondering and hoping and dreaming and acting.

The one thing I have started doing for certain is chasing happiness every day. Some days that means sitting on the couch binging on Harry Potter and other days it means carousels and other days driving to the beach and other days a cone of gelato. My happinesses are simple and usually cheap. My life bears deep scars of dark pain. My soul was an open wound for a long time, and everything hurt. When my soul began to heal and pained morphed into a sting and then a memory everything felt new and fresh again. That agony I lived with for years has allowed me to appreciate every little thing for what it can be: happiness.

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At 26, I have been chasing happiness for a year. I have good days and bad days, happy days and sad days, easy days and hard days. One thing I try to do through it all is appreciate the happiness in every moment.

  • Carousels make me happy. I ride them whenever I see them. On my 23 birthday, I made my best friend ride the carousel at six flags five times because I love them. I’ve ridden them by the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille, in malls, in Story City.
  • I love swing sets. Walking home from class in college, I would stop at the swing set for a few minutes. When life got hard, I would go to the swing set late at night and look up at the stars. I helped my dad build the swing set standing in my childhood home.
  • Barefoot. I love shoes, but I love not wearing them more. Barefoot in the ocean, in leaves, at home, on concrete, on gravel, anywhere. It makes me feel grounded and connected.
  • Cake. Everything about cake.
  • Igniting past friendships that brought me happiness and have brought so much light into my life again. Leaving behind past friendships that used to bring me happiness but do not anymore.
  • Puppy kisses. I love them. I’ll take them anyway they’ll give them to me.
  • Baking. I love to bake and play with recipes. I love to give away things I bake to people; it feels like passing a little love and happiness around.
  • I write letters. I love pen on paper. Handwriting. Showing people I care enough to spend the time writing to them because people need to feel important and appreciated.
  • Not wearing pants. I love being pantless. Why do I wear dresses? Because then I don’t have to wear pants. When I’m at home, I’m not wearing pants or shoes or socks or a bra. FREEDOM!!!


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#MeToo

If you have been a part of my life or followed my social media in any degree in the last six years, you will not be surprised by this statement: I have been raped. I have been raped more than once. I have been raped by more than one man. I have been raped by more than one man at the same time. I have PTSD. Men have irreversibly changed my life through violence. I have been raped.

If you follow me, you know I don’t like to say I have been sexually assaulted. It’s not specific enough. I have been raped. And I am so far passed giving a fuck if that makes you uncomfortable to hear.

Harvey Weinstein and his deplorable actions have finally lead some of Hollywood’s biggest names to come forward to tell their truths. Good for them! Social media is starting to explode with #MeToo to show how widespread rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are.

Rape is not a socioeconomic issue. Rape is not a race issue. Race is not a cultural issue. Rape is not a political issue. Rape is not a women’s issue. Rape is an issue.

Women are taught to protect themselves. Men are not taught to ask for consent. Women are taught to keep quiet. Men are taught to boast about their conquests. Women are taught shame. Men are taught pride. Women are taught how to be slut shamed. Men are taught to slut shame. Women are taught to laugh. Men are taught rape jokes are funny. Women are taught to be kind. Men are taught to be ruthless. Women are taught to be weak. Men are taught to be strong. Women are taught to suck it up and keep on keeping-on. Men are continually reinforced with the fact they can do pretty much anything they want to women and face zero consequences.

The hard part about being a raped woman is you’re constantly surrounded by men acting out, in varying degrees, the same behavior which hurt you. Where is our safe space?

I met my first rapist in church. We grew up together. I met my second in college. I met my third in church. I met my fourth in middle school. Aren’t these supposed to be safe places? Some even sacred? Church is supposed to be safe and holy and the embodiment of Godliness. That’s the problem. Rapists are everywhere masquerading as friends and even family.

I don’t like working in an office. It’s hard because they usually only look at me as one thing: their next blow job. Or they think I’m stupid and only hired me because I am nice to look at. I found it easier to work in a bar because at least, there there was a lack of nicety about it. Those men were up front about their assholishness.

I work from home now as a freelancer and blogger. I try not to leave the house without my big dog or my even bigger boyfriend. Speaking of which, I like to date big men because they scare away the other men because men don’t actually respect women enough to leave them alone when they say no. If I go to the grocery store alone, someone either asks for my number or calls me a bitch, but usually it’s both. As a blogger and freelancer, I spend most of my time online or on social media to expand my business. There is no respite there either. My Instagram inbox is filled with older men bombarding me with dick pics, sexual come-ons, and more. It’s become a new hobby of mine to see how many white men don’t take “no” for an answer. The best insult I get is “blond,” which is funny because I’m not even blond. The worst is somewhere along the lines of I hope you get raped.

When I’ve told men I’ve been raped, too often I hear “Yeah, me too! Haha.” Then they realize I’m not joking, they’re usually a bit confused followed by “I guess, I shouldn’t make rape jokes around you then, huh?” Rape has become more of a punchline and less of a criminal offense.

In college, I remember reading essays on rape. The authors didn’t know how to charge the men because it is so he said she said, and unfortunately, the men have the power. The authors were angry and upset and frustrated because they didn’t know what to do. Their arguments were well thought out, but nothing ever came to fruition in court when prosecuting. The authors were alive and writing in fifteenth century France. I remember sitting at home on my couch in tears with the heaviness of the knowledge that not a single thing had changed in over six hundred years. If some of the greatest thinkers of Renaissance couldn’t encourage change in one of the most pervasive issues, how would I?

I have been incredibly open about my past. I have always believed it can help someone. There are days, I don’t know if it’s true. There are month long periods, I will go without writing or talking about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not there; it’s just too hard to go there.

I don’t like being known as the girl who got raped. It’s not a fun identity. I have been on the receiving end of many rape and death threats because of it. Why men think this is an appropriate response is beyond me. It’s amazing how many women have similar responses. I’ve heard everything from “if you would have gotten pregnant by your rapist, then you’d have something to talk about” to “I hope it happens again and they disfigure your face” to “maybe you should have fought harder.” When employers Google my name they find two things: I’ve been raped, and I’m vocal about it. So I don’t get many interviews… Actually, none.

I mentioned I wanted to try stand up comedy to a friend because I funny stories, I like to make people laugh. Their response was “like ‘I once got raped in this super funny way’? Yeah, funny.”

I am known as the girl who got raped. Even to those closest to me. I am not known by my triple degree or penchant for books or encyclopedic trivial knowledge or my musical talent or even my personality. I am known as the pretty girl who was raped. I am not defined by the achievements I have worked my entire life for. I am known by the actions of men. Moments have defined who I am in the eyes of others because I chose to speak out in order to create change in the world women inhabit.

Sexual harassment is rampant. Sexual assault is rampant. Rape is rampant. Sex trafficking is rampant. Every woman I have ever known has been sexually harassed, some don’t even know it. I know too many women who have been sexually assaulted. I know so many women and men who have been raped. I have worked alongside sex trafficked women. I am the keeper of so many people’s painful secrets because they have no safe place, no one to talk to. I keep my own secrets because some things are too hard to talk about.

I don’t want children. If I were to have children, I don’t want girls. I want boys. I want to raise boys to be good men who do not rape or perpetuate rape culture. I want to raise boys to be good men who call out sexist jokes and support women. I want to raise boys to be good men who raise the bar for all other men. Because I do not want any other woman to know a moment of the pain men have caused me.

I have also posted this on my book blog: Bookish Liaisons. Here’s some reading to expand your mind. Go unfuck yourselves.:


Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy
$4.95
My favorite book ever.


What Lies Between Us
Nayomi Munaweera
$15.09


Blueprints for Building Better Girls
Elissa Schappell
$2.40


Infidel
Ayan Hirsi Ali
$12.64
An absolute gutting read.


The Lonely Soldier; The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq
Helen Benedict
$20.26
One of my most recommended reads.


Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov
$8.99


The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood
$9.55


The Second Sex
Simone de Beauvoir
$12.99
My dog is named after her!


The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
$5.00


Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
$15.26


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Rape Scene

I started watching Game of Thrones with my boyfriend. In Season 3, there is a scene where Sansa is about to be gang raped by a mob when the Hound saves her. This scene sparked a conversation. We briefly mentioned how hard it had to have been to film a scene like that as a teenage girl. With my knowledge of history and present day, I had to mention it was totally accurate saying, “can you imagine it actually happened, though?”

I didn’t even mean to bring myself into the equation. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it until the words were leaving my mouth. I quickly glanced at my boyfriend seeing the look in his eye. We had the same thought at the same time. Sometimes, I can forget. I was barely older than Sansa when a Hound never showed up to save me from the fate Sansa narrowly missed in that episode.

We like to say how horrible it is shows like Game of Thrones use rape to further the plot…. But it’s realistic. Are we forgetting rape was incredibly prevalent then? I know we like to forget how prevalent it is now. We say that rape is just being thrown in there to add shock value. People don’t want it in the show because they don’t want to see their favorite characters go through something so traumatic. I get it.

There are actually people who have to live with rape in their pasts, their presents, their futures. Not so long ago, I was raped more often than I needed a new roll of toilet paper. No writer added a rape scene into my weekly routine for shock or entertainment value; it just was life. I highly doubt any writer wants to write a rape scene. Personally, I have never enjoyed it. It’s grotesque. It always makes me feel vile and dirty. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. If I’m writing about my life… I have to write about rape. It’s a part of my life. For so many women and men too, it is a part of our stories. Just because they aren’t as open about it as I am, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.  

Art mimics reality, and rape is a reality. If we leave it out of our TV, books, art, or any other form of narrative, we’re not showing reality; we’re engaging in escapism.