Speak up. It matters.

This is an email I received from a student last night. I have been terrified to “go public” with my story for many reasons, one of which is that several administrators at the college where I teach do not support me. I was also afraid of the reaction I’d receive from my students. But this email assuaged my fears and has given me the strength to keep moving forward in my fight. Her words proved to me how critical it is to speak out.

Thank you, K-. It was an honor to have you in my class, to watch you bloom, and to hear you find your voice.  And thanks for sending the essay! We will keep in touch, and you will forever be in my heart. 

Thank you

K- G-
10:14 PM (12 hours ago)

to me

Ms. C,

I hope that all is well and that you and your family are happy, healthy, and anticipating the holiday!

I would like to take some time to thank you for a wonderful semester, for being a wonderful professor, and for filling me, as well as many others with inspiration.

First and foremost, this semester was amazing but it would not have been such without a professor as fantastic as you. I was truly worried about going into this 102 course because of rumors I had heard about some professors and their activism, but to my happy surprise I now get to spread joy and truth! The course was nothing like I was expecting it to be on any level. The course content was truly amazing in that it was not focused on just suffrage and misery like I had heard it would be, but rather about both suffrage and relief. This course taught me a lot about myself, how I view the world, and even how I handle my finances. You helped me to be comfortable speaking my mind and truths in a 4 page paper when I have been so uncomfortable facing reality in front of a mirror on a daily basis! You brought a passion into the classroom that I have not seen from any of my professors thus far and it is inspirational.

This leads to my next thank you. Unfortunately, I can relate to the pain that you have gone through so I know just how hard it is to stand before so many people and continuously tell your story. You are a very, very brave woman to be taking a stand so big. I believe that sexual abuse and harassment comes in many forms and revenge porn is one of them. I have been doing a lot of research on the bill you have been trying to pass, your story, and the realities of the matter and I must say that I am touched to say the least. You are standing up for women everywhere when they are too afraid to do so themselves, and that takes a lot of courage. From the time that I spent with you in the classroom, I know in my heart that you are a wonderful person, a loving and devoted mother, and most importantly a courageous soul. Never would I have guessed that someone with those qualities and a personality like yours, that something so horrendous would happen to them. I want to thank you for being the voice for those too afraid to speak up, for reaching out your hand to pull women out of their situations through the law, and for not taking YOUR life in the midst of the pain. Instead of taking your life, you are now giving your life to help the millions in Maryland, other states, and hopefully the world who are being attacked. Every time I read an article or see a video about you, I smile and cheer you on as progress is made. Ms. C, I want you to know that you have my support 100% if not more in your endeavor. Because of you, I am brave enough to take a stand as well. I will do all that I can to help raise awareness and bring on the support!!!

I wish you the best of luck and I hope that we can keep in touch. 🙂

Best wishes,

K- G-

P.S. I also attached my research essay that you asked for.

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Happy New Year…Almost

I am fed up with this infernal sweating. This stickiness is unbearable; it makes me logey. My jeans are crying to be worn with boots and a light sweater. I miss my jackets; I’m tired of shaving my legs every day.  My armpits are raw from having to use battery acid-strength anti-perspirant/deodorant. It’s too damn hot to do anything fun. And the mosquitoes won’t die.  If I spend just 20 minutes outside, my legs are red and welted like a hooker who works the paths of Patterson Park, and my skin is slick and gooey, covered in a sheen of humid air.

 

Summer sucks. Especially summer in its death throes – the sweltering, confused month of September. By now, I need to be cool vis-a-vis natural air. My skin is weathered and tight from the painfully drying effects of too much time spent in air conditioning and the three or four daily showers required to sluice the sweat and gnats off me. I don’t mind that my flowers are dying. I don’t care that I’ll soon be raking leaves. I’m damn thrilled to watch my lawn turn dormant brown. At this point, I won’t even miss tomatoes – I’ve had enough tomatoes. I want some butternut squash.  And clementines, sweet, tangy nuggets of sunshine that don’t make me sweat.

 

If I have to endure the shrill trilling of another damn cicada, I’m going to get a bb gun and start shooting at the trees, hoping to hit the noisy offender. If any ricocheting bb’s happen to take out a few crickets, I’ll consider it a bonus. Bring me the sweetly eerie caw of the crow. She is my sound of Autumn. She sings to the death of the trees and the months of cool, crisp nights that are ideal for deep sleep. She reminds me to fluff the down comforters and pull out the thick socks from the boxes under the beds.

 

And oh, good grief can I please stop drinking my body weight in water to avoid dehydration on the 40-foot walk to my car? I’d like a nice cup of tea. Something I can wrap my hands around and sip delicately, savoring the herbal flavors and slightly burning mouthfeel.  I miss the steamy whistle of my tea kettle.

 

Perhaps what makes these early days of September so utterly loathsome is that they begin a deeply transitionary month – the long-anticipated summer ends, its gild having become tarnished way back in July. The anxiety-filled academic year begins, awash with possibility, structure, and stresses that both wear me down and delightfully stimulate me. Also, beautiful autumn finally rolls in.  This truly is my new start. January will come and go with a toss of confetti and a sip of sparkling wine. But late-September is when the real year begins. Everything is new…schedule, students, classrooms… by the month’s mid-point my routine is established. I then work myself raw until mid-December, break for a while, start over in February, and end for the year in mid-May with vacations on the horizon.

 

The craving for stability and routine brings out the curmudgeonly old lady in me.

 

It’s too damn hot.

 

The bugs are too damn loud.

 

My damn lawn won’t die.

 

If I eat another damn tomato, I’m gonna look like a tomato.

 

Come sweet, Autumn. Come to me like a lover.

Zen in Cold Water

Three mornings a week, my alarm clock screams at me, and I am bullied from my sleep at 4:50 AM. After hitting snooze once, twice, I fumble through the familiar darkness to the bathroom where my bathing suit waits for me to shimmy it on. I creep down the squeaky stairs, try to avoid tripping over the dog, collect my keys and swim bag and groggily drive myself to Towson University. I deftly sleep-drive my way into the parking lot and find a spot for my car. I slide out onto the cool asphalt and nod at my fellow swimmers as we shuffle our way up the stairs and into the aquatic center. The bright lights inside the women’s locker room of Burdick Hall shock me a little more awake, as I ready myself for yet another grueling hour of swim team practice. Flip-flops, fins, goggles, swim cap, Gatorade – I juggle my supplies and join my teammates at the edge of the pool.

At 5:20 a.m. I slide myself into the chilly water and start the 1,000-yard warm up. The first 200 yards are manic, fueled by stress, anger and anxiety. I grumble and growl, complain to no one, push off the wall too hard and glide, annoyed at the cold water, tightness of my goggles, creeping up of my cheap practice suit.  After my little underwater bitch session, I find my rhythm and settle in to complete the last 800 yards of the warm up.

“Hold it!” our coach shouts, signaling the end of the warm up. My teammates and I stop at the wall, sip sports drinks, and exchange good mornings. The chatter gives way to silence as Coach Matt walks to the dry-erase board to translate the 2,000-yard workout. The swimmers, sometimes up to 35 of us, gripe and complain good-naturedly, select the pace for the workout, and move into position. We stare at the time clock. Matt’s voice booms, “In five…Go!” The silent pool explodes in a crescendo of splashes as one swimmer after another gracefully tuck under the water, push off the wall and surface, arms pulling and legs kicking as they test themselves against the relentless time clock.

In my lane, lane three, I am the last swimmer of four; the anchor, a spot I covet. The swimmer ahead of me varies – sometimes Bill shows up, but he travels often for work. Sometimes Mary joins us, but she has been spending more time at the gym with her daughter. Frequently, I am last of three, behind Shauna, a furiously strong swimmer who keeps speed in reserve for the end of the workout. I struggle to stay in her bubbly wake. Leading the group is Dave, a 65-year old powerhouse. Dave competes in triathlons and wins. Not just in his age group – the whole thing. He competes internationally, sometimes twice in a year. I am in awe of his athleticism and humility. His swim caps speak for him – Australia, Beijing, Germany. He leads the lane and sets a pace that pushes the rest of us way beyond what we thought we could accomplish. I breathlessly thank him at the end of every practice.

It is during these 2,000-yard workouts that I exhaust my inner critic. I settle him down with rhythmic chanting, a necessity for me to hold my pace, keep up with my lane mates, and relax in my body. Sometimes the chanting gives way to thinking and planning. I practice lessons in my head, make to do lists, or yell at those who have annoyed me.  That’s when I know I have found Zen…when I can maintain pace during a hard workout while designing discussions questions for my 10:10 English class.  I climb from the pool physically spent, emotionally awakened, my body chilled from the cool air. As I pad to the locker rooms, I note the griping and complaining around me. I grin, grateful that I pulled myself out of bed, pushed myself hard, and remembered to set the timer of the coffeepot at home.

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