Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Letter to my Youngest Niece on the Second Day of Trump's Presidency

Dear Rachel,

You probably won't see this unless someone directly links it to you, since you don't use Facebook, but this is something that's been composing itself in the back of my mind now for years. Composing itself, ever since that Easter a couple years ago when you, barely 15, started expressing an interest in politics and a desire to see a woman in the highest elected office in this country. That Easter, when I saw you visibly withdraw your passion when your grandfather (not my Dad, mind you) stated "the worst thing we ever did was give women the vote." With that utterance I felt rage well up inside of me, and I am truly sorry I didn't speak up, but instead buried myself in the glass of wine in my hand and worked on getting drunk.

With that single utterance, he reduced your thoughts, ideals, and hopes into an insignificance he ground under the heel of patriarchy, and I should have spoken up. I was so happy to see your burgeoning feminism at the table, and so incredibly sad to see someone in your life who is supposed to love and support you quash it. I'm sorry I didn't let my anger manifest into words. On this day where so many women around the world are voicing their anger and fear by demonstrating political dissent, reminding the patriarchy that our voices will be heard, I offer my humblest and sincerest apology. I have been dwelling on that day for years, and you have no idea how much that one harmful phrase has stuck with me. I will no longer remain silent. I may not be marching for us today, but I will no longer remain silent in the face of a regime that wants to subjugate women and commodify them.

You are an incredibly intelligent, articulate, generous, gentle, and kind person, Rachel, and don't let this cruel world strip that from you and turn you cynical. Seize hold of that burgeoning feminism I saw manifest years ago, and speak up for yourself, your friends, your loved ones. Get involved, be active. Get to know victims, marginalized people, vulnerable people. Use your incredible capacity for caring and compassion to make change in this world. Whatever career you embrace, use it as a platform for good, but please, I implore you, never lose your values, your ideals, your autonomy. Stand up for what is right and never allow someone to drown out your voice.

I'm sorry I didn't stand up for you then, but I will and am now. I have your back, and the backs of all women whose voices have been drowned out.

You are not property.

You are not a commodity.

You have agency.

You are strong, whether you realize it yet or not.

I'm proud to call you my niece.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thanks, Obama

I posted briefly on Facebook this morning, as the Inauguration proceedings were underway in Washington D.C., that I would not be participating in the Women's March locally, not because I don't support the cause (I wholeheartedly do. Dissent is political. Dissent makes change) but because I know, as a person living with bipolar disorder, that the sheer crowd would trigger a negative reaction in me. I am, however, incredibly proud of the friends and family that will be marching tomorrow, locally and in the nation's capital. It is incredibly important that we use our voices, that we stand up for ourselves, loved ones, marginalized populations, at-risk populations, humanity.

I will admit, watching footage of Barack and Michelle Obama waving farewell and stepping onto Marine One made me tear up a bit. There went one of the biggest champions of human rights, women's rights, gay and transgender rights, health, and public health. So, without a shred of irony I say, "thanks, Obama."

Thank you for the Affordable Care Act. Is it a perfect piece of legislature? No. Is it huge and incredibly complex and in need of reform? Yes. As we face a vague plan of "repeal and replace," I worry that the good work Obama has done will be undone by the incoming administration. Many people focus on the high premiums on the plans offered in the Marketplace, and the struggles to navigate the website. Consider, however, that the ACA removed the ability for insurance companies to deny you coverage based on preexisting conditions. Looking at things through the lens of public health, the ACA has been monumental in healthcare reform. The ACA introduced value-based purchasing and improved quality measures that have improved healthcare delivery and health outcomes. While the HITECH Act was implemented prior to the ACA, it has flourished and expanded within the last several years, opening up health exchanges that collect, examine, and report on population health data. Thanks, Obama, for trying to resolve healthcare disparities and gaps in coverage.

I won't lie. As someone in her last semester in a Master of Public Health program facing an administration that has already demonstrated it doesn't care about the health and welfare of Americans, I'm scared. I'm scared but this degree puts me in a position to advocate for the health needs and rights of all people.

This post isn't nearly as coherent and cohesive as I would like it to be. I am sure, in the near future, there will be plenty to write about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Harmful Ways We Think

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper said that "the most dangerous phrase... is 'we've always done it that way.'" A collective resistance to change exists in this world, and I used to embrace it with open arms. I found change scary and harmful-- after all, if ain't broke don't fix it, right? But I've realized this is a harmful way of thinking. As part of dealing with my bipolar disorder, I've had to become incredibly introspective and self-aware, which includes examining the way I think about things and react to things. Change makes me panic, but I realize it's necessary for growth. On January 1st, I wrote on my Facebook "I've realized over the past few weeks that some of my ways of thinking seriously limit my personal and professional development, and I'm going to work hard at changing my own mind, no matter how scary it might be." 

One of the biggest changes I've made was my decision to go to graduate school, and as I enter my last semester, I face new changes: transitioning back into the workforce. I've already dipped my toe in the water, and have already been rejected for one job (I was quiet about the application and rejection, I've processed it, and while I'm bummed, I'm okay with it). I regularly search for public health/health information technology jobs to get a feel for what is available. When I entered my program, I did it under the auspices that I was doing a duty to my state, to Maine, that needed my help so much. I was going to champion my fellow rural poor, I was going to champion reproductive justice and mental health. And I was going to absolutely, unwaveringly do this in Maine because I was born here, and dammit, I'm going to die here. 

Why, my fellow Mainers, do we get into this mindset? Why do we view the outside world as scary and not worthy of even visiting? I'm in the bad habit of reading the comments on articles online (I know, I know, never read the comments) and I've seen salt-of-the-earth Mainers say things like "I went to [state] once. I didn't take to it. Didn't see the appeal, I'll stay right where I am." We are ingrained to have this horrible world view of anything outside of the state, and to look at people From Away with disdain (I am guilty of this), and even treat our largest city, Portland, as not part of the state. We are formed of the earth of the state and will not be moved. I love my state, and I love my people, but the resistance to change, the unwillingness to be open minded to new ideas, new people, and new experiences is suffocating. 

I was never one of those kids who said at high school graduation "I can't wait to get out of this state." I was one of the "I will never leave" kids. But as I reach the end of my career, and I look at job opportunities and median salaries (because while job satisfaction and knowing I'm helping others is important, so too, is salary) I realize I need to be open to new experiences and opportunities. I have never lived outside of Central Maine. While I am more traveled than probably the average Mainer, I've never fully experienced life in a more urbanized area, I've never been in a culturally diverse area. My resistance to change has narrowed my worldview and that is a hurdle to overcome, in and of itself. When I look at the careers of people I admire in my life, I see movement, I see change. I can help people in Maine, and elsewhere, but I can't remain static doing it. I can't remain in this holding pattern of resistance to change. I can't, and I won't. 

Maine is a special place. Escaping to the forests makes me feel refreshed and healed. But I can't put up a wall of resistance to change if opportunity arises. That way of thinking is harmful, and I can't limit myself.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stop Telling Me to Give Him A Chance

In the wake of the horrible news that Donald Trump will, indeed, be the next President, I've swam through a sea of ignorance, white male privilege, and pure hostility on Facebook. I spent a good portion of yesterday unfriending and unfollowing people that support and spread the rhetoric of hate and intolerance while I tried to reconcile my own feelings, only to sit on my couch crying and feeling nauseous. This election season has been so stressful, and I get it, people are tired of hearing about it, tired of campaigns, tired of media oversaturation. And that's okay. I'm tired too. I'm emotionally exhausted, but my brain is already trying to think two steps ahead to plan how I'm going to help people most affected by this national tragedy. And as I try to think, as I read about the fears people have, I keep seeing the same things written by people over and over, people who don't get it, or people who lack empathy and compassion for others to see exactly why we're scared.

"Give him a chance"
"It'll be okay"
"He has no real power"
"Get over it"
"Stop whining"

On an on the apologist litany goes. I will be totally up front that I do have a level of privilege being a middle-class, educated, white woman in a largely rural state. I've never been sexually assaulted and despite dancing with poverty and mental illness, I've had a relatively comfortable life. But reading these sentiments over and over makes me sick. Why? Because these are the things rape apologists say about the victims of sexual and domestic assault when they try to use their voice and stand up for themselves and expose someone for the predator they are. And that's not okay.

I am scared. I am scared for my fellow women, queer folk, trans friends, friends of color, friends in a non-Judeo-Christian religion. I am scared of the culture of hatred, racism, and misogyny that has already sprouted as people are reporting harassment, threats, and assaults, all in less than 24 hours of the election results. For the first time in my 36 years, I am genuinely afraid of sexual assault. This is a Trump presidency. It's already happening. So no, I will not "take the high road," I will not "give him a chance." And it certainly will not be okay. This will be an unbearably long 4 years. Let's support each other.

Ways to help:
Donate to help transpeople get their names and genders legally changed here
Jezebel has a great (and expanding list) of organizations that support women, transfolk, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and people with disabilities that you can help by donating or volunteering here
Support the ACLU

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Being Hormonal Doesn't Give You Carte Blanche to be a Bitch

This is a rant I've been saving up for a long, long time. This isn't directed at anyone, but if you want to take it personally, go ahead and blame it on your scapegoat, hormones.

I don't know how many times I've heard pregnant women blame their pregnancy hormones on being absolutely awful to people around them. The same women, who if they acted the same way when not pregnant would be labeled a "bitch" and "obviously on her period." The hormones are the same, whether you're pregnant or PMSing, so let's have a seat and talk, shall we?

Ladies, being hormonal--whether you're pregnant or not-- is no excuse to be an absolute, terrible bitch to everyone around you. Check your goddamn selves because you're feeding the misogynistic stereotype that women are ruled by their hormones, uncontrollable monsters on their periods, precious sweet creatures morphed into evil demons by that mean baby in their tummy. Ugh. Stop. And if you're so newly pregnant that your pregnancy test just barely registers that you are pregnant, you have no excuse except that you want to be a horrible abusive bitch and get away with it. Yes, hormones can make you grumpy, yes, they can give you mood swings. But take some goddamn accountability for your actions. You're not a base animal, you have agency, and control over your actions and the words you say. And this isn't just aimed at pregnant women; if you're PMSing and you feel mean, maybe stay away from people? Use breathing exercises, or what I do: loud angry music in the car/working out. But please, for the love of dog, stop using it as an excuse to be horrible!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Bad Bipolar Days aren't always Mania

I've been attempting to read and write a brief summary on a CDC report on mental illness surveillance for two days now. I've become easily distracted, frustrated, and today, I wanted to cry for no reason. Here I go, sliding into that depression like...

Usually my bad bipolar days are days where I'm manic in a very negative way (rage and anger) but it's not always that way. I'm slipping into apathy, hopelessness, and an inexplicable sadness. I have nothing to be sad about. There is someone amazing in my life that I get to talk to every day (unfortunately long distance), and in a month, he'll be here. In my heart I'm ecstatic, but my bipolar disorder wanted to remind me it still exists, no matter how well-adjusted and self-aware of my own disease I am, or how well my life is going right now. It'll pass, but it's the worst time to slip into apathy. Aside from the report I'm reading and have to summarize, I have my first paper of the summer semester due tomorrow and I haven't been able to focus on that, either.

Do you think I can get course credit for snuggling my cats?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Turning 36 Has Taught Me

Taken a week before my birthday
March 22nd marked my 36th year on this earth. I have learned a lot in my 30's. One of the things I've learned and embraced is that age is merely a chronological measure of your existence and is by no means a definition of who you are as a person. Leaving your twenties isn't a death sentence. Getting closer to 40 isn't either. There's so much rigidity in society with how we should be at a certain age, and I fell prey to that myself when I had my quarter life crisis at 25 because I wasn't married (actually, I had that crisis first at 24, because my sister had gotten married at that age and I felt I should be by that time, too). I felt some panic last year as I turned 35 because I was in a long term relationship with no sign of marriage in sight. Today I turned 36. I'm single, and I'm okay.

I've seen so many articles online that say "Things you should definitely stop doing/wearing once you hit your 30's" and I just wonder who made these arbitrary rules? A lot of them have to do with how a woman looks and that's just utter bullshit. Ladies, regardless of your age, be you. Do what you like, wear what you love, and if you want glitter and loud makeup, fucking go for it, girl. Why, all of a sudden, when we enter our 30's are we expected to shrivel up into dull beige beings with matching pantsuits? I rock business-casual Goth on the regular.

I honestly don't understand the phrase "act your age" either. What does  that even mean? If I acted my age I'd... have kids? No thanks. A former friend of mine told me on the eve of my (I think) 32nd birthday when my ex and I were trying to plan a trip to New York City with the express intention of clubbing (because I love techno and had never experienced a club before) that I shouldn't be concerned with going out and clubbing at my age. What? So wither on the couch and watch reality TV like you? No. Thanks.

One valuable thing I learned from my mother is "you're never too old." While there are times I feel like the oldest person in my degree program (I'm not) I'm at the right place in my life to go back to school. I started thinking about graduate school in 2009 (I couldn't believe it had been so long, I honestly thought 2012) but never made the leap. I wasn't ready, mentally or emotionally. I had work to do, and lessons to learn. Entering graduate school at 35 with a goal to graduate at 37 is right for me now. I certainly wasn't ready in 2003 when I got my Bachelor's when I didn't even know what I wanted to do with my life since I realized I didn't want to be a teacher 4 years into my degree. Now I know that in my heart of hearts, I am an educator, but not teacher material. My opportunities are limitless and opening up in front of me. I am in the right place, at the right time, for me.

So if we take anything away, remember that it's okay to be in your 30's and single. Wear the thing, have the fun, and live life. You're never too old to go after a dream.