Pieces

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She was the bottom.

She was the bottom. The one that finally held up a mirror and I remember sitting on the cement floor, in the garage and staring into the bottom of the glass, knowing I was done.

I would never tell her this… because she would think it was her fault and I would never want her to carry the burden. If anything, I am thankful. She was only the reflection- the final broken piece of the mirror, and I know now that rock bottom isn’t really a bottom–

it’s a mirror.

It’s the moment where you truly see who you have become and where you’re going so clearly. I was looking into her face and hearing her words– so angry and judgmental and hurtful and I recognized parts of myself in her. It was an incredibly sad moment of reckoning–

A reckoning on a cold cement floor, 3 bottles of wine deep, watching your soul leave your body temporarily, allowing the demons in… the black and white checkered floor became a reflection of my own struggles and when I sat, looking through the smoke filled haze that resembled oil meeting water in my mind…

THERE’S THE LINE. I can see it so clearly now…

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

 

maybe the answers never come?

Every time the cosmos shift, I start seeking the answers to us.

I plant my feet in the sand and as I look up,

I close my eyes for a second,

I like the moonlight on my face.

 

I see our futures so clearly intertwined,

I love you so fearlessly and unconditionally yet,

I wonder how I can feel so full of fire for you,

yet, unattached.

 

Have I grown independent from this time apart

or has my heart expanded enough to allow love,

in all its various forms,

to come in?

I think of you now and I feel a warmth,

A security that I’d been craving…

wanting for us.

 

I have sought out the crash of the waves and

the energy of the moon

for as long as I can remember,

Even though I know it doesn’t have the answers,

only lessons.

 

And aren’t we just here to make mistakes and learn lessons?

And maybe if we illuminate our hearts enough,

we can start building the next evolution of “us”-

one where multiple realities don’t play out in my head

and it’s you and me,

around the fire,

recommitting to us–

burning old bridges,

so together,

we can rise.

Trigger Warning: Plastic

As a scuba diver, I’ve gotten to see the devastating effects of plastic first hand. On a dive in Mexico I passed a hawksbill turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around it’s mouth. I tried to get close but the turtles in that area don’t usually approach divers and although it wasn’t too comfortable with me, it seemed to slow down as I neared. When I attempted to put my hand out to free the plastic the turtle panicked and swam away. I was crushed. Unable to breathe at the surface due to the bag, I wasn’t sure how long he’d make it. Turtles can only hold their breath a few hours depending on the level of activity but he had a mission in front of him and a limited amount of time to remove the bag.

This isn’t my only story about plastic in our oceans.

I’ve been unable to surface in normally clear water certain days because as I approach the surface after a dive you can see that it’s lined with floating debris, plastic and other rubbish. It looks like a gruesome film layering the surface of the water. You can see the gasoline sparkling rainbows as you look up and watch your bubbles break apart when they hit the surface.

I cut a fishing net in Indonesia and almost got hit in the head by a weight belt as the the boat captain realized and tried to stop me. My student looked on in horror. I realized in hindsight I shouldn’t meddle in certain things, I know it’s their way of life, but I have a hard time with the way we treat our oceans. How ignorant we become. How things like dynamite fishing are even a thing.

In 2012 I joined hundreds of divers as we set the Guinness Book of World Records for pulling out the most debris from our oceans in one day. It was the biggest organized event they’ve ever had. In Phuket specifically 650 divers, including myself, pulled out 15 tons of rubbish. We were proud of ourselves- we did something great! But I was so sad that something like that was necessary. If we took out 15 tons in one day, imagine how much there is! And setting a world record for the most rubbish collected at a time seemed like something I didn’t want to be competing for.

Once, I watched a seahorse swaying along the bottom with tinfoil sachets that had been thrown into the ocean- bobbing back and forth with the waves and seahorse in unison. It was like looking at one of the cutest, most beautiful tiny things in the world, next to something that was slowly integrating in where it didn’t belong, where it never belonged. The plastic can’t go anywhere except back into the environment as a microplastic, this is now our cycle… That’s when I realized where we were going if we didn’t stop, what our world would look like… and it scared the shit out of me!

I jumped first during season opener with my group of divers on a liveaboard in the Similan Islands in Thailand one year. We had arrived at Richeleu Rock, the most famous dive site in Thailand, to find that it had been covered with a fishing net. The whole thing! We spent 2 dives cutting away the invisible fishing line with plastic bottles attached as surface markers and fishing hooks scattered throughout the lines underwater. This area was a “protected marine park” but it closes 7 months a year and when it’s closed the fisherman know there is no one out there patrolling, and they don’t care.

I broke apart a fish cage with my hands and dive knife on a familiar dive site in Thailand once to free the 8-10 fish that were trapped inside. I know it was small and they probably just wanted to feed their family but something happens to me and I become protective of the water I spend so much time in. I feel the need to speak for it. But first I have to educate myself about the seafood industry, fishing practices, local customs and ways of life, the environmental effects and other aspects of what I’m doing. Sometimes our actions come from a good place but we might have misguided intentions.

I’ve used a shovel to pick up and throw away huge blankets of oil that had covered the beach in the morning, melting in the hot sun and getting harder to move by the minute. I’ve joined environmental groups while I traveled, organized beach clean ups through my dive shop, and been a part of more Debris related activities than I’d like because unfortunately as a diver we get to see it daily. It makes us sad to watch dive sites disappear and change so greatly within a few years. Before it used to take a lifetime to notice these differences, now they’re happening in a matter of years.

Regardless, I’m not on a pedestal but something I will get hot and bothered about is plastic! I’ve walked down beaches in some of the most beautiful places in the world (YES EVEN IN THE US)  and seen them littered with plastic lighters, chip bags, plastic straws, sachets, styrofoam and so many other pieces of microplastics you wouldn’t believe your eyes! I don’t even know if you believe me, you probably think I’ve seen this once or twice, here and there; I’m here to tell you I have seen this everywhere, in all different parts of the world! Although it’s more certainly on display in third world countries, it still exists in the United States, we’ve just gotten better at “recycling” it and stashing it out of the way. We don’t have to look at it and be reminded of the pounds of plastic we throw out in the trash every day, it isn’t our problem. Out of sight out of mind!

Although somehow, if someone dumped that rubbish right out in our yards every day, we might start realizing how much unnecessary plastic and packaging we consume. I’m not saying you need to go out and be a damn warrior but start somewhere! At least become AWARE of the amount of plastic you use and if there’s a better way. Bring a reusable bag, avoid products with palm oil, tell the waiter you don’t need a straw, ANYTHING will help!

Oh, and please don’t get me started on single use plastic because I don’t know how we can even justify using a piece of plastic once and throwing it away! Look, no one is perfect. But if we all just did a little bit better, it would make such a huge difference! I worry constantly about the future of our oceans, about how to teach the next generation to be better than we are, to create products with less environmental impact, I worry about how to reduce my carbon footprint. But I also have certain habits that contribute to the consumption of plastic and I recognize that none of us are perfect! I think it’s necessary to look at our lives and see the ways we could improve. Not only how we can improve by purchasing less and being aware of different kinds of plastic, but on how we educate our children and the ways in which we normalize plastic’s use.

I’d like to be able to continue sharing my passion for diving for years to come. If our ocean’s continue at this rate I might not have fish or coral left to show people. Our favorite sites that used to be considered the most beautiful dives in the world will be covered in plastic fishing nets and rubbish littering the surface and the bottom! Divers are natural ambassadors for the underwater environment because they get to see the effects first hand and share what they see with others. You get to see all my beautiful dive photos and travel photos, I don’t show you the way that I’ve adjusted the camera frame to exclude a bit of rubbish or the way the surface of the water shines as the trash dances up and down in the sun. I don’t share the ways in which we’ve had to educate our boat crew to not flick their cigarettes in the water or throw their rubbish overboard.

I’ve realized that I wanted to share all of this because I’m in a position to do it. This isn’t your usual inspiring post because sometimes it’s important to talk about the hard stuff. It’s important we stop pretending like these things aren’t problems because they don’t affect us “enough”. I think it’s time we stop making up excuses.

 

How Alcohol Gave Me Anxiety- From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

I’ve never understood what anxiety was or the ways in which it could cripple your life. I’ve never been an anxious person, nor have I suffered from anxiety in the way some people do. Whenever people spoke to me about their anxiety I couldn’t really connect because I simply couldn’t relate. As a child I was always moving and talking but I don’t remember having social anxiety or feeling like anxiety was affecting my life in any way. After almost 3 months sober I am finally able to see the ways in which my anxiety was a direct cause of my drinking.

Anxiety came rushing into my life about 4 years ago for the first time. Being completely ill-equipped to deal with it, I didn’t even recognize it as anxiety at first! It would come in waves and started gripping me during social situations. Being a traveler you are constantly meeting new people and making first impressions, being asked to sum up your life in 10 seconds and explain who you are and what you represent to people you just met. I’d always identified myself as an extrovert so when I started getting to the point that social conversations with new people because stressful, I started drinking more. Drinking was a HUGELY socially acceptable part of not only every other facet of life but especially the diving community and was the number one way to network with other instructors or people involved in the industry. Booze fueled my travels and social interactions, it helped me make friends and even got me job offers in the middle of the evening, completely sauced. This all gave me the illusion that drinking was helping me make connections and get to where I want.

About a year ago I started feeling hyper sensitive to energy that was surrounding me and became extremely susceptible to picking up and carrying the negative energies of others. I wasn’t healthy spiritually, mentally or physically so I wasn’t able to protect myself from any of this, nor did I have the awareness to identify it was happening. I started having these completely random moments of panic where I felt like something terrible was about to happen, where it consumed me and I found myself in the midst of my first panic attack.

In March of last year I had my first emotional breakdown. You know those “mid life crisis” breakdowns everyone speaks about but mostly in a joking manner? Yea, well… at almost 30 years old I had a alcohol induced emotional breakdown that left me completely scared, lost and alone. This moment became my first tipping point. I recognized this encroaching anxiety as a cry for help from my body. I realized it was time to do something drastic but I wasn’t ready yet to pinpoint exactly what I needed.

I sought out sobriety first to get my life back under control, seeing the ways in which alcohol lowered my self esteem, caused a whirlwind of shame, kept my brain cloudy, and forced me to seek refuge again in the very thing that was causing me to feel this way in the first place. I did great for 6 weeks, really dived into my yoga practice and started actually exploring my own spirituality for the first time. Things started to fall into alignment and once my self esteem went back up and I felt in control, I went back to drinking again.

Guess what happened? Nothing changed! I slipped right back to where I started. I would balance my life for awhile until I would get a bee in my bonnet, go back on a bender, and then start my self depreciation and self loathing cycle all over again. This resulted in huge anxiety that I was unable to control. When I felt all these feelings my first instinct was to have a drink to get my anxiety under control. The thing is, I always knew in the back of my mind that all of this could be controlled and eliminated if I simply quit drinking, but that seemed way too dramatic. I couldn’t and wouldn’t admit that I’d failed! I had failed to control my drinking and substance abuse 10 years before and ended up in rehab, the ultimate mark of an addict! I didn’t want to admit my own failure again. I simply wasn’t ready and I was scared of not being able to do it.

I had to BREAKDOWN to BREAKTHROUGH! This was 2018 folks! Not only for me but the story I’ve heard from so many loved ones! Maybe you had a breakdown, or maybe you had a breakthrough or maybe both! Energetically this was an extremely difficult year. If you are relating to any of this, or if this resonates with you, I hope that you’ll seriously consider making some changes for 2019.

In a few days I will be 3 months sober. My anxiety is completely gone and although I have anxious moments about normal things that happen in life, I no longer suffer from panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. The thing is, introverts or people who suffer from anxiety typically tend to drink more- feeling the need to relax during social interactions they reach for a beer to calm the nerves and believe that this is actually helping them. The reality is that we’re all a little anxious, that sometimes human interaction is difficult and that’s okay. I’ve had to learn to be my bubbly self without alcohol, I’ve had to learn to dance and laugh and be silly without having any “liquid courage” to do it! Although introverts usually seek alcohol out to make them feel more extroverted, my extrovert personality paired perfectly with drinking and partying and in turn give me anxiety. A different route but the same result.

One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was losing my “party girl” persona. I didn’t think I’d be as much fun and I was afraid people wouldn’t view me that way anymore! I know now that I’m just as much fun, that my interactions come from the heart, that when I connect with people it comes from a real place. I don’t fake small chat anymore and I don’t stay in situations or around people that give my intuition red flags- before I could ignore my own signals by consuming more booze, now I listen to what my body tells me and invest in the people and moments that bring me joy.

I still have INCREDIBLY awkward moments sometimes out at bars and in basic interactions. But I’ve learned to laugh it off because I know that I’m being authentic and we all are trying to connect in the same way. I see now that drinking added so much anxiety to my every day life. If I wasn’t anxious while I was drinking, I was anxious afterwards while I suffered from a hangover and a load of shame, when I felt bad for all the things I wasn’t accomplishing and the way in which I was wasting my time and wasting my life. Because of that anxiety I would just reach for the one thing that gave it to me in the first place and tried to fix A MILLION other things about my life first, instead of starting with the most important step.

You don’t need to be an alcoholic to stop drinking! I know, I know, crazy right!?! You don’t need to label yourself in any way! I for one, don’t like the term alcoholic. It makes it seem like I’m doomed to spend my life wanting something I can’t have. That doesn’t sound like freedom, and I no longer want something that caused me so much misery! I think most of us can agree that drinking affects us in negative ways, but we simply can’t imagine a life without it. If this is you, I hope you hear me- it is possible! And WAY easier than you think! I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found purpose and true joy. I’ve learned that I can handle anything life throws at me sober and that I do not NEED to rely on any substance to live happily! I have never felt more free knowing that I no longer want to poison my body with a substance that has literally never given me anything in return, but remorse.

The cycle of alcohol and anxiety is huge! It affects so many people and we have all been fooled into thinking that alcohol gives us more courage, makes us more funny, lessens our anxiety, calms our nerves and does a MILLION other things!

STOP! Quit lying to yourself and quit letting the rest of the world lie to you too! There is no black and white! There are no “good drinkers” and “bad drinkers”! There are soooo many in-betweeners like me! The grey area drinkers that woke up and realized that alcohol was a waste of money, time, and energy. I’m happy to have myself back and I’m blessed to go into 2019 free from something that used to consume me. From breakdowns, to breakthroughs, I’m telling you, I’ve been there. Bring it, 2019!

My Break Up with Alcohol

Great change typically begins with the person in question getting sick of their own bullshit. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. 1 month ago I made a personal video where I sat down and privately broke up with alcohol. In it I talk for 10 minutes about all the reasons that alcohol is no longer serving me, I cry, I list my fears and I remind myself of all the negatives so that any time I feel tempted, I’m able to look back and listen to myself.

To help you understand where all this came from we need to back up to high school. I was an overachiever as a kid and teen. I got great grades, was in student council and speech, and had been dancing since I was 3. I wasn’t a young drinker, I didn’t smoke, and I think I tried smoking weed only about 3 times before I graduated. I was an organizer and a planner. My junior and senior year I decided to leave high school and go to the local community college to get a jump start on college credits because high school was boring and I had already taken all the advanced classes. The junior college introduced me to college students and college parties and this is where it all began.

By my senior year I almost lost my dance captainship being accused of drinking at college parties and there begins my first big lie to cover up my drinking. One summer before my senior year I threw a small party at my house when my parents were out of town. I didn’t think I drank that much but at one point I don’t remember anything until I came to with someone on top of me and inside of me. I remember trying to talk and move but I was unable to do anything. It was the worst feeling in the world. Unable to consent I was raped.

Now whether or not I was drugged, or simply inexperienced with alcohol and drank more than I thought, this is where it all began to spiral. After that my senior year was a blur where I was forced to go to counseling but sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk, insisting I was fine. The summer after my senior year I went to visit my best friend in Colorado and came back with a bottle of Adderoll that I couldn’t stop nibbling on. My boyfriend at the time threw it out the window in a fit of rage. By my freshman year of college I discovered more Adderoll, Ritalin and then eventually cocaine to go along with my binge drinking ways. It allowed me to forget everything amongst my almost constant blackouts and made me feel like I could cover the shame I felt by being the party girl. After my freshman year of University I was completely broken down by the time I came home to visit for the 4th of July. That day everything came to a head and in a drunken stupor I managed to horrify my 16 year old brother, scare my parents, and almost lose my boyfriend. I came clean and said I needed help. On 7/7/07 I got sober for the first time and checked into a 28 day program at Hazelden.

Because I was young and hadn’t exactly tried to control my substance abuse, I was told by my counselors that I may not be an addict but that I needed to deal with the things that were making me drink and abuse drugs in the first place. For the first time I started opening up about how I was feeling, and actually allowing myself to go through all the emotions. I got the help I needed, a new support system and for the next 2 years I remained sober and worked on myself. On my 21st birthday I went back to drinking with a new attitude.

In the beginning I was cautious only allowing myself 2 drinks, and creating all these rules around drinking. I found a new group of friends in the festival scene, started traveling around and making music my priority. I kept things pretty well in control the first 2 years but the blackouts never went away and the feeling of shame that came from not remembering the night before made me feel like shit. Since then, the last 10 years have been hit or miss. I’ve watched my family struggle with alcohol and seen the ways in which all of us act out. I’ve spent the last 6 years teaching scuba diving and traveling the world- both of these things regularly include drinking. It’s normal for customers to buy me a beer at the end of the day and for us to get to know each other. I’ve struggled with saying “no” and found myself getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon only to accomplish nothing the rest of the day. I’ve tried to maintain a spiritual practice, yoga practice or other daily rituals only to find it impossible with a hangover and given up.

I do things that I wouldn’t do if I was sober. I say things I don’t mean and have done other incredibly embarrassing things that make me feel lucky to have my partner in my life. I always claimed that I didn’t want a relationship because I enjoyed being single, and although a lot of that was true, the primary reason was that I didn’t want to show anyone my struggles because I didn’t want to be challenged. I didn’t want someone else to judge me and I wasn’t ready to admit that my drinking was affecting me more than I’d like. When Victor came into my life, he tried to be supportive and understanding but I could tell that he was worried. Quite often I’d come home not remembering getting home, not remembering what I said or did to the person I love, and I’d wake up angry with myself, shameful, and full of regret. To top it all off, I’d made my partner angry and scared for me too.

Getting out of Mexico and living on a small island made me focus on the simple things in front of me. It put my drinking problems at the forefront of my mind as I tried to create a healthy relationship with myself so that I could reflect that back to the man I love. I did a 30 day trial of sobriety this year to see if I could do it. I finally found a yoga practice that I fell in love with and started to make spirituality my primary focus. After my 30 days of sobriety it didn’t take but a few weeks until I had a blackout incident or lost a wallet or my dignity in some other form and I was back to where I started. A few months later I did almost 2 months before my 30th birthday and once again felt amazing. But just like before, once I started drinking again things slowly went back down hill.

It became very clear to me that the universe was giving me an opportunity to change my life. At 30 years old I have a lot of goals to open my own business, I now have a daily yoga practice, a partner I feel deserves the best version of me, and I am beyond sick of hangovers, drinking, shame, and subscribing to a lesser version of myself. People kept telling me to control it but that really hasn’t worked for me, and if it has, it was by sheer luck. It wasn’t abnormal for me to say I was going out for “an hour” or that I “wasn’t going to drink that much” only to come stumbling in at whatever hour I pleased. Drunk Lauryn does whatever she wants and that stops being cute or okay when you’re my age. I look at the person I know myself to be and the person I am when I drink and I don’t like myself anymore. My hangovers have become so bad that I cannot even function normally. A few years ago in Mexico I lost 8 phones in a year, 2 wallets and 2 purses with everything included. I’ve taken taxi rides home I don’t remember. I’ve partied with people I shouldn’t have trusted. I haven’t respected my body or my sexuality. I’ve allowed my behaviors to affect my relationships and my job.

When I got sober at 19 I got a tattoo on my wrist that said, “amen. peace. love.” When I was in treatment we used to recite, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen, peace, love.” The tattoo was supposed to be a reminder of the power I held by getting sober and a reminder that if I ever felt that I’d lost control, I could always get it back. As I sit here 11 years later and rub my fingers against my wrist, over the words, it brings tears to my eyes. After 2 attempts at temporary sobriety this year, I realized that the only way I could move forward with my life was to remove drinking from the table completely. Sick of trying to control it, figuring out when to drink, when to not, thinking about my next drink, giving myself pep talks that I’ll keep it under control, blah blah blah… all of this was only forcing me to spend more energy and time on drinking. If I removed it from the equation, it no longer took any of my energy.

I read a book when I came back to the States called The Naked Mind: An Easy Way to Control Drinking, and it completely changed my viewpoint on alcohol. My previous experience with getting sober through the 12 Step Program was something I didn’t really relate to. Now, more than before, I have many people in my life that have opted for “spontaneous sobriety” where they’ve suddenly realized that alcohol wasn’t serving them and gotten sober without anyone’s help. According to the 12 step program I need to admit I have a problem with alcohol, am powerless, and cannot control it on my own. From my own research on the study of habits willpower only lasts so long, which is why we seek out support systems. But if you really want to change a habit you also have to change the subconscious mind otherwise you’re only changing the conscious habit. My conscious mind no longer wants to drink, that is a choice I’ve made, but my subconscious mind still desires a drink and this is where most of us fail. I am working on changing my subconscious so that I can be free of the desire.

So, am I an alcoholic? Sure, maybe, I don’t like that word. I’m just someone that got sick of my own bullshit. Someone that realized that my life would be better without alcohol and vowed to do 1 year sober to see how and if my life changed. To most of my friends I wouldn’t be viewed as a problem drinker, but from my experience more people then we realize have their own struggles. I call these people “grey area drinkers”. If you’re someone that regularly feels shame or guilt around their drinking then maybe you fall into this category too. I’m not encouraging you to get sober, because what works for me may not be what works for you. But I encourage you to do a 30 day challenge and see how you feel. I encourage you to reach out to me or talk to someone else you love and trust. I think you’ll find that more people share the feelings you do.

I looked at the person I want to be, the relationship I want to have, the people that love me, the way I was living my life, my spirituality and my values and just decided that enough was enough. For the first time I feel in control of my future. I don’t have to worry about being able to keep it all together anymore and I feel a huge weight has lifted. This has not been an easy article to write, or to share. I hope in doing so we can create more conversations around a socially accepted illness. I will continue to share my story, struggles, and moments of hope as I continue down this journey. I decided the best way to start was by calling friends and family to tell them about my decision. I’ve decided to share it with you now that I’m 30 days in as a way to hold myself accountable and hopefully help anyone else that’s struggling.

Life is beautiful and I have been so blessed to travel and experience the things I have. I am ready to change my life and that begins by getting out of my own way. Drinking was the root of so many problems. I kept looking for other things that I thought would fix it but ignoring the fact that this ONE thing was clearly the culprit. In the last month I’ve been reunited with friends that I haven’t seen in years, attended parties, gone bar hopping, seen 2 nights of my favorite band, and traveled across the country, all while sober. I haven’t said no to doing anything I would’ve done before and I haven’t hidden away from drinking or being around alcohol. I’ve just decided that alcohol isn’t the central theme anymore. It hasn’t been hard and I haven’t been tempted. I don’t want a drink anymore because I am reminded of where that goes. I no longer buy into the false beliefs I used to have around alcohol and I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t envy people that can control their alcohol and I don’t judge those that can’t. I don’t compare myself to other drinkers or do google searches online to figure out whether or not I have a problem. The problem I view is enough for me, has created enough problems for me, and that’s enough, that’s it, it’s a personal choice.

Thank you for taking the time to read, for helping me stay accountable and for supporting me. If this resonates with you and you’d like to speak to me please reach out, it’s healing for me and you!

I love you and I’m here for you,

Lauryn

What’s at stake in the midterm elections?

46.1 percent of Americans age 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential elections, according to the census government website. Younger voters are known for skipping the midterm elections, viewing them as unimportant. Typically Republicans vote more often in midterms, although hopefully opposition to Trump and concerns with Russia could swing it this time around. This year early vote count is showing that Republicans are more likely to vote early than Democrats and on average, 60 percent of voters show up for the presidential elections whereas merely 40 percent of those same voters turn up for midterms.

If this hasn’t already made you curious as to why voting these coming midterms is so important, let me break this down a little bit more for you. Midterm elections obviously happen in between every presidential election. Since congress is literally up for grabs at the moment, who takes congress will set the stage for the rest of President Trump’s term and for years to come. This election is being called a “Referendum on Donald Trump” because if the Democrats can secure congress it would insure that any Republican legislation would be dead on arrival and there would definitely be more investigations into corruption, Russia and Trump’s businesses.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that although I’ve voted every presidential election, absentee from overseas, since I turned 18, I haven’t voted every midterm election. During the Obama years I kind of just sat there going, everything is fine for another 4 years… but something I wasn’t paying attention to was the fact that the Republicans had the majority in the House of Representatives and Senate since 2010 and have slowly gained more control since. If we look back it becomes easier to see how someone like President Trump was actually elected. As someone that was completely shocked by the outcome of our last election, I, like many of you, realized it was time to start paying more attention.

So, how does this work? We know that Republicans are in control at the moment but if Democrats take control of either house, it could spark major changes. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. House elections are 2 year terms so literally every seat is up for grabs. Republicans currently hold 246 seats while Democrats hold 193 and 6 are currently vacant. More than 40 Republicans aren’t running again including house speaker Paul Ryan. Flipping the house has only happened 3 times in 25 years so it is pretty rare. Our senate is comprised of 100 Senators, 2 from each state. Senate serves 6 year terms so elections are staggered every 2 years meaning 1/3 of the Senate is currently up for grabs (35 seats). The Senate is currently controlled by the Republicans by a tiny margin. 36 governorships are also up for grabs and we are seeing a historical amount of women running, mostly Democrats. As you can see, a lot is at stake in this election! But not only that, it’s an incredibly exciting time as well!

It is incredibly close and tight as far as predictions go. And if you remember 2 years ago as well as I do, I am paying even closer attention now and leaving nothing up to chance. Look, I get it, I have friends and family members that don’t vote because they feel that they aren’t educated enough on politics or the political process. That was a fine excuse before but it doesn’t work anymore. If you don’t know where you stand, there are basic online quizzes that can give you a start to point you in the direction of candidates that align with your beliefs. Check out this quiz here to get started! Once you know where you stand, identify the issues that you believe in the most and find candidates that share your beliefs and values. Voting is your right! And it’s time we stop leaving it in other people’s hands! Lets start the discussion and become an active member of society. Young people, please vote!

If you’re still not convinced let me remind you that whoever controls congress, controls the country. There are SO many things at stake in this election that surely ONE of them hits home for you! The big things up for debate include gun control, health care, environmental policy, infrastructure spending, immigration, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, criminal justice reform, and student loan policy. Surely you believe strongly in AT LEAST one of these things, and if you don’t you ARE directly affected by multiple issues I just listed! AND if you’re still not convinced it’s time to do your research and vote on November 6th!

I know this article may seem a little bit bias, because it is. I think it’s clear to you where I stand but that’s not the point, the point is that you have the right to vote and I want EVERYONE to exercise their right! Even if you don’t stand on my side, stand up for anything! It might sound like I only want you to vote if you’re a young democrat but this is a call to ALL voters! If everyone votes then at least we know that majority of our population is being represented accurately. It’s time to stop bitching and it’s time to start voting. Do it.

the heartbreak of losing a friend.

letting-go-relationship_conflictNo one warns you about the loss of a best friend and the heartbreak that it will cause. We aren’t prepared for friends to walk away from us. Not only are we terrible at accepting the fact that most people will inevitably walk out of our lives, we are terrible at handling it when it comes to pass. We’re such self absorbed individuals that it’s really hard for us to understand why someone would leave us. We can’t wrap our head around it. We know the code when we lose a lover. We know the stages of grief for relationship heartbreak- eat a lot of Ben and Jerry’s, blame and pity ourselves, cry to our friends, and then eventually wake up one day and we’re past it all. But when we lose a best friend, that’s something worse almost, it’s a different kind of heartbreak. It sits in our bones.  Continue reading

life after 5 months on a tiny tropical island

My oh my, where has the time gone!?! I have officially lived on this island for 5 months! I can barely believe that because time has literally flown by. So many things have happened and I felt like it was about time I seek out some wifi, take advantage of my sick time, and write it all down!

Incase you haven’t been following me, I will fill you in. My boyfriend and I moved here from Mexico 5 months ago with an original plan of staying in Bali and finding work as scuba instructors there. Well I guess the universe didn’t have that planned because Bali’s Mount Agung started erupting a week before we arrived and managed to evacuate the two biggest dive towns on the island. So, we spent 2 weeks exploring Bali, handing out our CV’s, speaking with dive shops and moving around the island because Bali doesn’t feel much like an island, I mean, it’s HUGE. Anyways, as beautiful as it was we decided that maybe a smaller island vibe was in fact what we were looking for and took everyone’s advice to look for work in the Gili Islands . The Gilis are located in between Bali and Lombok (another island the size of Bali with a volcano).

The minute we arrived on Gili Air we fell in love with the quiet and tranquility of the island. Although Bali is mostly Hindu, Lombok is predominately Muslim and so are the Gilis. There is at least 1 mosque on each island but Lombok itself is deemed “the land of 1,000 mosques”. You can hear the call to prayer 5 times a day starting just after 5 AM and there is a loud speaker on the island that announces it. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you live really close to the mosque. Although no where on the island is safe, I sleep pretty soundly and can only hear it if I’m outside!

When you first arrive you’ll notice the flat little sand islands against the back drop of Lombok, this huge mountainous island that towers over all the Gilis. All the local boats boast a similar shape with 2 outriggers on each, all different colors dotted along the reef. The tide here is incredibly extreme and exposes the reef for almost a kilometer sometimes twice a day depending on the moon. The islands themselves are quite dry but Gili Air has a fresh water reservoir beneath it which helps irrigate crops on the island and allows some things to grow.

The only mode of transportation is by foot, by bicycle, or a “Gili taxi” or “cidomo” which consists of a horse drawn cart and 1 driver. I can tell you, from experience, that this is quite the ride while you’re bumping along these tiny roads. These drivers are known for going extremely fast as well so if you’re not in the horse cart, you better get out of the way! I’ve jumped to safety more than a few times. They equip the carts with bells and you can hear the horses and bells coming along, but it takes awhile to train your ears that the sound means, “get the F out of the road!”

I cannot tell you the exact population of Gili Air but I do know it has the biggest local population. It is a good mix of the other 2 islands- Gili T and Gili Meno. Gili T is known for it’s party culture and has the biggest total population, not only locals. Gili Meno is known for it’s chilled out beach and honeymoon vibe. Gili Air is a happy medium between the two. Gili actually means “small island” in Sasak, the local dialect of Lombok and Air in Bahasa Indonesian means “water”, so it technically means “small water island” which is pretty fitting. They named it Air because of it’s reservoir. The Gilis didn’t become developed until the 1970’s when fishermen from Sulawesi started creating small settlements after their travels. By the 1980’s it had caught on as a tourist destination due to Bali’s merging popularity.

bali map

Do you see the 3 small islands off the NW coast of Lombok? There I am!

Now do you understand why I haven’t written publicly much these last few months? I’ve been writing a lot for myself but it is honestly such a chase to try to get good wifi that I prefer to live in the moment and stay disconnected instead of posting most of it publicly. Some day!

Another daily occurrence is island wide black outs. It happens a few times a day most of the time and makes the whole island dark. Sometimes they can last for 8 hours at the very moment you need to use the ATM or cook something. Although it doesn’t stop me, I now have candles all over the house and the minute the lights go out I don’t even flinch, I grab a lighter and start walking around. At least I can still cook because the stove runs on propane, I only need a few candles around my work station! I like the quiet nights where the power is out and I can do laundry by headlamp and read on the balcony. I’ve learned to make sure the electronics and battery packs are always charged and ready so when it happens we have a working speaker, music, a computer for saved movies and whatever else we might need.

There are cows and horses on the island. They all have owners but they basically roam free. Chickens are EVERYWHERE and are probably the most dangerous part of my daily life because they run in front of your bicycle tires like they’re trying to kill themselves! I’m telling you, watch out for the chickens! Victor and I always make, “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. Lately they have all been having babies and there’s little peeps everywhere. There is a new rooster located directly next door to us, which apparently has no regard for what time of the day he decides to kick off, so that’s been fun lately. My favorite island horse is named Beyonce, she is a baby still with a little bit of a temper. Quite often you’ll see her running full speed down the beach road with her long line dragging behind her. She’s usually just looking for a nice patch of grass but she’s known to be a sassy lady. There are also lots of CATS so I’m in heaven! Cats everywhere! I’ve adopted my own adventure cat, named Botas, and helped with the cat clinic in November where they come to the island to vaccinate all the island cats. Unfortunately you won’t find dogs on the Gili Islands as they are considered dirty in Muslim culture. From what I’ve heard, all the ones that were here ended up poisoned or dead.

Gili has been the sweetest blessing! I have truly enjoyed this little island and taken the last few months to really disconnect, jump into my job, and enjoy my surroundings. Although the reviews on my part are wonderful, there are a few downsides. Despite my month long battle with ringworm, which grows rampant in the soil and spreads by *gasp* cats! I have managed to have it, not have it, have it, not have it, for almost 4 months now. Athletes foot is also common because people never wear shoes and it’s the same bacteria as ring worm. The spiders here are the size of my hand and you’ll find them frequently on your walls which took V some getting used to! I have become a pro spider catcher, and Botas also loves to chase the cockroaches and spiders out of the house.

Living on a tiny tropical island sounds great at first, but there are definitely some disadvantages that aren’t always forseen in the beginning! Regardless, I absolutely love it here. I am thankful to be barefoot and in the ocean every day. I am thankful for the beautiful reef I’m surrounded with and the people who have come into my life since I arrived on this island. Now that our work visas are through, we have another year to look forward to here! And then, who knows!?!

#metoo is the catalyst

The hashtag #metoo has gone viral this week, with women posting their experiences with unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault publicly on Facebook in hopes that men will begin to see the magnitude of the problem. We’ve been told our whole lives that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted or raped, which is too high of a number regardless, but doesn’t even begin to explain the myriad of things that we experience as women on a day to day basis.

In light of this I feel inspired to tell a story that changed my life. That changed absolutely everything I believed about myself, my autonomy and my body. A story that has been told many times, that resonated with every woman I know and one that ended and started my life again.

I was drugged and raped at my own house when I was 17. My parents were out of town and I had friends over which led to other people being invited that I didn’t know very well. Same old story. I remember having 2 drinks and then completely blacking out. I remember him on top of me and being completely aware of it all and not being able to move. I remember wanting to fight with everything in me but being absolutely helpless. The next day I cried to my friends and they told me I was raped. I was too scared to call a spade a spade. A girlfriend of mine brought me into Planned Parenthood for a rape kit and called my parents because I was too ashamed to do it on my own. I called a guy I was dating at the time and he immediately told me it was my fault because I was drinking. I felt all of the shame immediately and tried to hide the evidence and clean myself up for fear of being judged or labeled.

Although 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime only 1 in 10 actually report it. I reported it. It went no where. Another “victim” lost in the system. My word against his, no evidence because I showered, did the dishes, and deleted his text messages that said, “you’re not going to tell people I like, raped you, are you?” In full on survival mode, I did what I needed to do to try to feel normal again. I remember walking into school on the first day of senior year and his locker was next to mine. I requested a change. Entering the cafeteria one day he held the door open for me from across the parking lot, staring me down, making my skin crawl and bringing back all of the same feelings and emotions. I went to counseling because my parents thought I needed it and sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk about it, insisting I was fine for 6 months.

It carried into University where I went from straight A’s and dance captain, studious, barely drinking- to partying to forget, denying myself the right to feel any emotions, blaming myself for what happened because maybe I shouldn’t have had that party, had that drink, trusted those people. I was a bad kid, that’s what I thought. It ruined my relationships because I didn’t enjoy sex and felt shame during sexual intimacy. My high school boyfriend held me down the first time while I cried and refused to stop. He kept covering my mouth and telling me to “relax”. These stories are normal! My experience isn’t unique! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to women I know and love share their experiences and heard everyone in the room say, “me too”. Me too. You too. Her too.

By 19 I was struggling with a drug addiction and a partying lifestyle. I was completely out of control. Because in the back of my head, not dealing with the root of the problem became the way I was dealing. I refused to talk about it or even admit the experience to anyone except the police, who were no help. I began to hate myself. I felt disgust with my body. I hated and didn’t trust men. I spiraled and forgetting became my solution. I found myself in rehab after my freshman year of college. It was the first time that I saw the strength, beauty and healing power of talking about things. I got to share my story and listen to others and it changed me. I was told that I needed to try to control my drinking, because it was obvious to my counselors that I didn’t try to control it because I wanted to be out of control. They told me to spend 6 months in counseling afterwards, sober. I thought at the time that after 6 months I’d be excited to get back to partying, but surprisingly 6 months came, then 9, then 1 year and finally after 2 years on my 21st birthday I had my first drink again.

Being sober changed my life and saved me. I changed my major to Women’s Studies because I remember the women that held my hand while I had the rape kit done. They told me that they could stand outside or stand next to me but either way they weren’t leaving. I yelled at one of them and said, “you don’t understand” and I remember the way that she looked at me and said that she did. After that I realized I now had a power to share my story and be there for someone else that experienced what I did, knowing that I understood. I worked for a sexual assault clinic, I volunteered on campus for a non profit called WATCH. We took notes during sexual assault and domestic violence cases, at the court house, documenting and making public whether or not the victim was re-victimized during the trial. Did they ask her what she was wearing, how much she had to drink, how many previous sexual partners she’d had- like any of those things matter in that moment.

Finding my voice allowed me to help others. Sharing my story and allowing myself to talk openly about it became the catalyst for the rest of my life. It changed my lifestyle, my mentality and my college major. It made me strong. But first, it made me hard. I tried to fight it, I tried to blame myself, I tried to be quiet. But in the end, all of those things only hurt me. #metoo is the catalyst for awareness surrounding sexual assault. I hope that it softens men when they understand that it’s their mothers, daughters, sisters. I’m not saying this is isolated only to women because I’ve seen many posts from men in my life that have been assaulted by women. This is the catalyst, this is the conversation we need to start having so that we can start raising men right and stop saying things like, “boys will be boys”. Your gender is no longer an excuse for your behavior.

The world needs more men with gentleness on their lips, flowers in their hair. Not balled up fists and denial of their emotions. I don’t blame the men that have hurt me because I know this is a bigger conversation about the way that society teaches men to be men. Although they’re taught to protect us, they aren’t taught softness. Although I’m incredibly happy to hear women so openly sharing their stories I want to know what’s next? The dialogue is our catalyst but what now? How do we make the world a safer place for women AND men? How do we learn to balance our masculine and feminine within ourselves and the wider world?

I want to see solutions and action. Raise your boys to play with dolls and teach your daughter’s to stand up for themselves. If you son is bossy you say he’ll be a leader, if your daughter is bossy you tell her to be quiet. Women are sick of being catcalled EVERY DAY. We’re sick of our bodies being policed without our input, your laws all over our bodies, men determining the future of birth control and abortion without the opinions of women. Where does this end? When can we start telling these stories and be taken seriously by our bosses, our partners, and especially other women?

It’s 2017 and it’s time to wake up! So ladies, keep sharing these stories! And men, start listening to your women with more softness, more love. Maybe you don’t understand, you probably don’t, but all we need is to be listened to, believed. It starts here.

#metoo