Not Throwing Away My Shot

“I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish

The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish

I gotta holler just to be heard

With every word I drop knowledge”- My Shot, Hamilton, the Musical (lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’ve been listening to this soundtrack since December, and today I heard and felt this song with renewed vigor.

Recently, I’ve been stepping  up with my knowledge and experiences from the Rape Crisis Center and applying them to where I currently work.

I gave a presentation to a group of students at the University I work for. Even though I work as an Assistant, I spoke up when our school revealed the frightening truth that sexual assault and harassment was, in fact, a problem our community was facing.

The moment I got up in front of the students, (only about 12-15) what had become low burning embers were suddenly doused in gasoline. The fire inside me roared out as I explained to them how to handle disclosures of sexual assault, either on campus or out in the world after their time here is ended. The truth, the stats, the real life experiences all came flooding out of me.

They noticed. They noticed because you can’t hide real passion.

Still, I continued to deny that this was what I wanted to do in life.

When asked by my boss “Is this what you want to do?” I froze up, clammed up, and quickly said, “No, I can’t go back to that.” Claiming burnout, I  had left Rape Crisis for what’s now my current job.

While I claimed it was the work itself that burned me out, it was in fact just the toxic work environment created and sustained by one person.

I realized this at dinner last night, when I met up with two of the women I use to work with at the Center. We talked about everything from her grand kids to my new job and the wonders to come with the Spring season. We talked of the various challenges we experienced, reminisced, and praised the positive changes that have occurred in the last few years.

At one point, one of them brought up something that was said to me by the Executive Director, our boss at the time. It was something I had blocked out, but upon hearing it again, felt a flush of anger, shame and frustration.

At the time these words were spoken, I was a Community Educator; my job was going into schools to teach prevention programming, trying to do what I could within my power to teach students about body safety, and how to come forward if someone ever touched them inappropriately. I taught students from age 3 up to age 18, and assisted in running support groups at the college level. I was TREM trained and I was trying to do the good that I could for my corner of the world.

The words of my former Director rang in my ears as my friend spoke them out loud:

“Do you really think these kids care what you’re saying? Do you think they’re actually paying attention? They don’t care.”

It hurt. Deeply.

I’ve always prided myself on being a strong minded individual, sometimes to the fault of being downright stubborn (divisive, intransigent, Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda for inadvertently teaching me these words).  My dad use to praise my ability to not be bothered by people who didn’t like me. My mother always complained I was a “thick headed child” because when I believed something, I believed it with my whole heart and mind. Happy to report, I’m now the adult version of both these things.

But in that moment, and the many similar moments I experienced under that leadership, I eventually couldn’t stop the poison seeping in.  I let it beat me into submission. I let it cloud over my passion and my love for what I did. I let it win. My dad noticed I was coming home angry and sad more nights than not. I felt helpless, like what I was doing didn’t matter.

I lost hope.

By the time this person was let go, it didn’t matter. I had already checked out and had begun applying for Administrative jobs elsewhere, ready to do anything else. Two years worth of words similar to that above sentence had been loosed; they had done their damage.

I hadn’t thought of those words in a long time. The mind is an amazing thing. It has the ability to block things out, to protect and heal itself. I had nearly forgotten, buying into my own lie that the work had been too much for me, when in truth,  I could’ve kept going long past my two year tenure.

I have been going along, in a cloud of uncertainty for the past 2 years, trying to pick a path and figure out my next move, saying things that made sense to people who were acquainted with me. As someone who reads all the time and loves recommending books to people, Library Science made sense to my brain. Books and reading are my peace; they bring me joy and clarity and burn my fire for learning.

Then today, I passed an acquaintance on my way into work. In our general conversation, he kindly inquired if I had begun pursuing my Library Science dream.

My favorite poet Hafiz once wrote: “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”

And so it was in that moment, when I couldn’t truthfully burst forth with passion about pursuing it. I fumbled some words about uncertainty, and we parted ways.

When I got  back to my desk, I thought about that conversation. I thought about last night. It all came at once.

It always does with me. Nothing ever happens slowly but surely. It happens all at once.

So I messaged my friend Alisha, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey

A: Yo

Me: I’m trying to figure my life out. I’m online looking at Women’s Studies at SCSU.

A: Oh yeah? Please tell me more about your interests…

Me: I am interested in helping people. And understanding all the things. I am thinking…women’s studies and then going on to become a social worker. And working to help people recovering from DV and SA. (domestic violence and sexual assault).

A: How will WMS better prepare you for these goals?

Me:  In order to help people, I need to have a stronger understanding of gender, race, culture and advocacy here in the US and around the world, on a level higher than what I already know. WMS will teach me what I need to know to be a strong advocate for for human rights and equality. In being at the rape crisis center, I’ve laid the ground work, but now I need to build upon and polish the skills I have.

this comes about for 2 reasons: One, last night when I was out with Cindy from RCCM, she reminded me of one of the reasons I left / despaired at the center: She reminded me of the day my boss at the time said: “Do you think what you’re saying matters? These kids don’t care about your message, they’re not listening.”  I hate to admit it, but I let that resonate, I let it cloud my mind and my mission and over all I let it break my heart.

 Now, being here at Work, I did a presentation for students who were not only grateful for the information, and who listened, but who saw my passion and love for teaching them what to do and how to handle disclosures.

I almost feel like I’m getting a reboot.  An hour ago, I passed a student who asked me how the library science thing was going and I realized how lost I felt. Books and reading will always be my love, my peaceful place. But I’m here for more than that. And I’m realizing it. 

 I want to kick ass in this life. I want to do good things for people. I want to be hopeful and helpful. I need to start somewhere, and that place feels like WMS. I’m smart and empathetic, and hopeful and in that is the power of the Sun. If I’m going to help humanity, especially women, I need to know more.

A:  🙂

A: I see your enthusiasm

and you have some experience behind you that you are already drawing from while thinking about moving forward which is great
wms is about inspiration and collaboration and bringing a diverse community together to learn how to co-exist by understanding why people are the way they are, how they became that way and how we can work together to teach others how to respect it.

you will learn so much in wms but you won’t come away with any kind of technical, marketable trade skill. as long as you are ok with that then yes you should apply. 

a lot of people ask, why women’s studies? what are you going to do with that because they can’t see a physical end goal coming from it, like a specific job or skill, but if you really know who you are and what you can offer and with the knowledge of how some communities are the way they are, you would be invaluable. 

the trick after that would be getting employers to realize your value

if you are aware that that is what you will be doing then and not working toward some kind of skill certification then DO IT!

Me: ❤  I want to do it
A: Please ask more questions
Me: Like what?
A: Anything
Me: Okay, let’s definitely get together so we can talk more about this. I can’t even tell you how relieved I feel making this decision- like I’m not lying to myself anymore.
Relief washed over me. Fear dissipated. The weight and anxiety I’ve been carrying around about what to do with myself, my time, my talents, and purpose finally makes sense. And it had to happen this way. Sometimes you have to step away from something and get some perspective, give your mind a rest so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind, having grown in the time away.
I’m here. I’m ready. I’ve never been so excited.  The tools are at my disposal. Everything has happened for a reason.
Peace, love, and understanding.