Category Archives: JustRachel

In honor of the one we lost

In my life I’ve been privileged enough to know the feeling of true community. To know what it is like to be cared for, to be loved, to be accepted, respected, and valued and all of these things are thanks to the people I met at Merrimack College.

Growing up I was part of a couple different communities. I was fairly involved so I had school, I had family, I had faith, and I had sports. And while some of those intersected, none were the same as the one before or the one to follow. And over time I learned which communities were real, and which ones were forced. I learned who to lean on, and who to keep distance from – though I am still working on the latter.

But of all the things I did and all the people I was, I don’t think my life really started until after I turned 18. Until after I went away and found a different kind of home and a different kind of community.

We laugh so we don’t cry

I think the funniest thing about my experiences on college campuses, both before and after I enrolled in one, was that, for the first time in my life, all those speeches about community and supporting each other weren’t just talk anymore. And I say it’s funny because while I hoped that would be the case, I didn’t allow myself to truly accept it until it happened. But, lucky for me, it happened almost immediately.

Now I know a lot of people that will speak of their college experience this way. They’ll talk about the institution that raised them, they’ll note how it was both perfect and imperfect and they’ll smile as they recall nights in the quad or the caf. They’ll claim that those were some of the best moments of their lives and the truth is, for them, they probably were. And I’m not here to discount that experience because I’m not really here to talk about college or institutions or compete on who had it best. What I am here to do, is talk about one person – Kevin.

About Kevin

If I’m being honest, and I usually am, I don’t remember the first time I met Kevin Salemme, and honestly I don’t remember the last time I saw him either. In fact, as close as I was to Kevin, I didn’t even know he was sick until recently, but I suppose that’s how life goes. We get distracted in our own things. We weather pandemics and heartbreaks and god knows what else. And at times we take peoples presence for granted because in our minds, some people are so much larger than life that the notion of anything happening to them between visits is inconceivable.

So what do we do when the inconceivable happens?

(That question of course is a rhetorical one but it also provides a proper page break for a little but possibly relatable tangent)

If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be worth it

As we grow up we all experience our share of losses, but as someone who lost a lot more than she was “supposed to” at an age far before she was “supposed to” one of my largest pet peeves is the vultures. You know, the people who interject opinions on people they barely knew, the ones who claim to be so distraught over the loss of someone when that someone is so massively insignificant to their lives. The people that do it for attention because heaven forbid someone else be able to experience their pain in a supportive and validated way. And my point of saying this isn’t what you might think because usually when someone says they can sniff out phony grief they have a name or a direction or finger to point, but when it comes to this, the point is that I don’t. Because when it comes to this there isn’t a single person that I know who wasn’t positively and undoubtably affected by Kevin Salemme. Which is easily the greatest testament to who he was because he didn’t have phony relationships with any of us and because even if he had wanted to, it wasn’t his way.

When WE lose someone

This week, my community suffered a loss. It wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last but for more than a handful of us it is and will be one of the hardest.

When it comes to loss and the effect some people have on our lives there’s a lot of cheesy rhetoric around how much impact certain people had on us. So when they die we become these like hallmark versions of ourselves and we develop these long winded and emotional monologues where we quote wicked songs and it always ends with something along the lines of “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having them in my life” and look, I get it, I’m not one to tell you you’re wrong, because I have 100% done that and I 100% feel that this week, but to honor someone like Kevin properly, well I don’t yet know how to put that into words. And that’s okay.

But of all the things I don’t know and of all the answers I wish I had, I do know one thing and that thing is that I am grateful. I am grateful for my community, I’m grateful for my friends, I’m grateful to not shoulder any grief alone, and I’m grateful for Kevin – because, let’s be honest, I (and WE) will never receive those kind of quality – pimple and hair whisp free kind of headshots again. And because, let’s be honest, there probably won’t be someone exactly like him ever again.

So here’s to Kevin – the man, the myth, the legend. And here’s to the hope that we may one day meet again.

On Community and Adulting

For two weeks, I’ve been working on this post off and on – trying to figure out what the source of my feelings are when it comes to why I get so upset about local politics. So I’ve been typeing, re-typing, deleting and repeating. And to be honest, part of me feels like I’m no closer to getting it right than I was when I took my first-second pass three days ago, but I’m still going to give it a shot.

It started with me hating local politics…

Two weeks ago I made a list of 5 things we could do, as humans, to “be better humans” and frankly, I did it because I was a little too riled up about some local bs to properly deconstruct the real issue. And to be clear, this issue is nothing new because while, on a small scale, it pertains whats going on locally, it’s really has no borders. And as I’ve worked to file it down in my brain and get to the root of what’s been really bothering me about all of it – I think what it comes down to is something I grappled with everytime I’ve lived here – and that’s privilege. Privilege, and how it leads people to lack respect for one another.

Now, before I go any deeper, I am not here to say I don’t have privilege. I definitely do. But, I think the problem I’m facing now, as I grow into new phases of adulthood and expand myself into new circles is that I’m seeing people with more privilege and power than me using it in less than positive ways – and it’s maddening because while I’m starting to develop my own power to change it – it’s still just out of reach.

And such is the irony of a girl with power – she often feels as though has none.

Adulting within a Society

Sometimes it baffles me how some adults can act like complete children. Yes, you read that correctly, “children.” And keep in mind, that that’s an insult to children, who in recent generations have actually learned what it means to have privilege and in turn learned to respect one another far more than most adults do now or have in the past. And if you are someone who is easily offended by any part of that sentiment, odds are you might just be one of those people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that the hierarchy of adults and Adulting doesn’t make sense to me (I was indoctrinated into it after all). I understand that the concept of “respecting our elders” and I understand that it was put in place to keep young people “safe” on a certain level; but for a moment, let’s call it how we actually see it – that particular structure is about controlling people. And let’s not fool ourselves by thinking that most if not all systems don’t work exactly like this.

Look, I get it, I don’t have to explain how society works to you, you live here, you get it. But something I don’t think people “get” anymore is that respect isn’t and shouldn’t be a byproduct of status or age or position or of having power. (read that again: respect isn’t and shouldn’t be a byproduct of status or age or position or of having power) And the reason I don’t think people understand this anymore is because they don’t act like they do. So we’re at this impasse where this seemingly obvious concept is completely neglected and it’s highly problematic.

So (at the risk of dumbing this down anymore than I already have) what is respect to me? Well, respect is something you earn when you cultivate trust within your community. Respect is something you maintain by upholding that relationship in a positive and productive way. Respect is not having a chokehold on local businesses because their thriving might affect you (and your street parking). Respect is not putting your interests before that of others, your beliefs above peoples bodies, and it is not saying you support someone, then saying you disagree with something they can’t change. But most importantly, respect is a two way street, even if, and especially when that street is divided by a single train track. So no matter what side you are on, do better.

Why privilege, why now?

So why am I even bringing this up today? Why am I rehashing things I dealt with weeks ago?

Well, simply put, I’m still a little peeved. A big part of me always will be — but more so I think this is an important conversation to be had. I think it’s important to recognize that it isn’t just politicians and white men or cops or someone’s jerk of a boss – it’s happening in small scales too, in local legislature and in small town organizations and among colleagues and friends. It’s happening right under our noses.

And frankly, from acting like we’re in a version of turf wars by drawing borders and over-punctuating a sign with (!) to throwing a hard-working individual under the bus to save your own a**. From denying a business the chance for a liquor license to “unintentionally” being a bigot, and everything in between I’ve see first hand how people with privilege and power exert it over others – and I’m over it.

So yeah, sometimes it baffles me how other adults can act like complete children and still demand respect, as if it was a one way street.

And thus, the moral of the story is this – if you’re someone that needs to do better – do better, and if you’re someone who’s doing better then aim to do best, because it takes a village and no one wants to be a part of a crappy one.

On Adulting and Community (Part 1)

Sometimes it baffles me how some adults can act like complete children. Yes, you read that correctly, “children.” And if you are someone who is easily offended by that sentiment, odds are you might just be one of those people, SO, this week, instead of a scathing review of the current state of humans who live near me and humans who don’t we’re going to turn up the positivity and talk about 5 ways that people, as adults, can be better humans (and next week we’ll backtrack and talk about why some people aren’t always the best.)

#1 – Smile when passing

*and before you come for my throat – no, this is not me sitting at my keyboard telling women to smile more… stick with me.*

In this world, smiling or smiling and saying hello to someone in passing is probably the freest form of kindness. At our core as human beings, all we really want is to be seen or heard or for someone to validate this super realistic lifestyle simulation (joking), so smiling at someone and saying hello or merely smiling at them in passing is literally the easiest way to be a good human and show other humans you care about life beyond yourself.

So in short — “smile more” not because old white men told you to but because it might make someone else’s day. (cue the finger guns and smile with that fake sparkle sound)

#2 – Take a breath (for yourself and for them)

There are a lot of times and a lot of days when life gets hecktic and crazy, and on those days we are a bit more likely to take out our own crap on others – let’s stop doing that.

And to be abundantly clear, like #1 this is not me telling people to “just breathe” because I can forever admit that sometimes that is incredibly hard (especially in the world that we currently live in). BUT – what I am saying, is that next time you find yourself having a heated day or just feeling overheated in general, take a moment to take a breath, to welcome the emotion and place it somewhere where you yourself can confront it in a healthy way, without taking it out on others. Don’t push it away of course, but nestle it aside.

#3 – Learn to say no (respectfully)

Part of being a good human is realizing you won’t always do everything right. Not everything you say will be perfect, and not everything you do will be perfect but knowing when to say no, when to compromise, and when to set boundaries is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and for those around you.

For example. You and a friend made plans to go out a week in advance, but the day of you had a really bad day and you know yourself well enough to know that going out wouldn’t be good for you or your mental health. Step one is to let your friend know where you’re at, but the rest is up to the both of you whether you will set a healthy boundary by compromising or saying no. But ultimately, you know what is best for you and even if it isn’t easy to say no, it is what is best for you and the people you care about.

#4 – Support Your Community (and its local businesses)

In the past five years, there has been a huge rise in the promotion and support of local businesses. Part of this was because businesses took a hard hit during the panoramic, but also because when it comes to where we live, what we put in, is what we get out.

Supporting the community you live in is a huge part of being a good human because it allows you a greater sense of pride in where you come from. And the best part about supporting the community you live in is that it doesn’t have to cost you $$$ (though that does help too). You see it can be as easy as signing a petition for a local liquor license or providing a separate point of view. It can be as easy as listening to others and realizing that you aren’t the only voice in the room, or for some it can be as hard as listening to others and realizing that your voice isn’t the only one in the room. Either way, supporting your peers and your community is a great way to be involved and ensure that both you and those around you have a lovely day.

#5 – Respect other People’s Boundaries

This one is a bit trickier for quite a few people to grasp (if not the trickiest) but thats why its the most important… Respect other people’s boundaries ie. if it isn’t emotionally or physically hurting anyone and it isn’t hurting you – let others live as they wish.

For example! If someone is saying hateful slurs and representing oppressive beliefs – that needs to be shut down because it is emotionally and sometimes physically damaging.

BUT,

If someone is living as their true self, loving who they want to love, or practicing a belief system outside of your own – (respectfully) that is none of your damn business (why?) because reminder: even if it makes you question your own beliefs, it isn’t damaging to them or to you, and thus, it is none of your damn business.

At the end of the day (as I love to say) Being a good human is about supporting your fellow person toward being their truest and best self and just because your beliefs may contradict theirs if it isn’t harming anyone and it isn’t stopping you from getting into heaven (or wherever you’re. trying to go) then let it be.

On Slippery Slopes

The other day while getting drinks with a friend of mine, I told him that sex and the city taught me how to properly talk to men in a seductive way. (I didn’t elaborate then on details and I will not be elaborating now.) And embarrassingly, this was not a lie. But it and the conversation did open my mind up the already interesting conversation I was having with myself surrounding honesty and online communication in a way that I didn’t expect. Allow me to explain…

Lying is wrong

Look, it’s no secret that people lie online. Despite honesty being the best policy and probably one of the very first rules our parents teach us — aside from the obvious ones like, “the dog isn’t supposed to drink out of the toilet and neither are you.” [to be clear: this is not a lesson I had to learn but I have no doubt that kids do the darndest things.] The fact of the matter is that lying seems to come more naturally, in some cases, than telling the truth does because we want to be liked, we want to be loved, we want to be listened to, and most importantly, and in a workplace (which has turned into an online and remote community) in particular, we want to stay employed.

Now before you get on my back no this is not going to take some serious or dramatic drama filled twist about me making bold faced lies to my employer, but something that has been weighing on me is how, when I started this job, I said I was willing to relocate, but when I say that now… it comes with a lot more personal risk and would require quite a few benefits that would have to compensate for living in a place like that.

Lying is (always?) wrong

See I never thought I’d be comparing my professional life to my online dating profile, but unlike most people I know – my dating profile might be a bit more upfront and honest than I can and that I am willing to be in the workplace. For example, online I can be an open book and I can talk about anything – but at work, I can’t talk about quite a few aspects of my personal life and while that’s fair and that’s a choice I make, when it comes to the prospect of living where I work rather than working where I live now, my personal life and the qualities of my personality that I put above most also happen to be the very reasons that I wouldn’t want to relocate to a place where I can’t be my authentic self.

And worse than that, I can’t, after saying that I was interested in relocating for work, suddenly say…. Oh, well, I changed my mind because … ? Because I am queer. Liberal. And female and because I want bodily autonomy. And oh your state is a hostile place for all of those things… And before you tell me “but Rachel, you can do that, you can make that choice” I say – No! I could never say that. Because no one in their right mind would say those things to an employer that works in the state that mine does. Or to any employer for that matter because that would be crazy. And so, logically, but despite my values, I keep my mouth shut. (And yes I realize the sentence structure in this paragraph just took a turn toward absolute trash.)

Lying is always wrong, but omission is a grey area. (right?)

Ok so sure this is a true statement, obviously lying is wrong because, like I said it’s one of the first things our parents teach us as children. But as an adult, sometimes telling lies, or omitting truths can be a way to protect ourselves from very real and dangerous situations. But that’s also why I consider it a slippery slope.

See a little over a month from now I’m going to be taking a trip south to meet my bosses for the first time in person and while I’d love to tell them that that’s the first step to me moving there – I really can’t say that. I can’t tell my bosses that I want to be there because it is only a half truth. And also can’t tell them that I don’t feel safe in their state because that could jeopardize my standing with the firm, so what can I do? What should I do? Do I do like I used to and sex and the city the situation? Meaning, do I tell people what they want to hear at my own expense? Do I tell the truth and face the potentially obvious consequences? Or do I find a middle ground and speak in half truths, only to have to make excuses about why I can’t follow though? None of those sound like good options, so what would you do?

See when it comes to this stuff, you might be able to imagine why it weighs on me. Or you might not. But as an honest person I don’t like having to choose between a paycheck and who I am, and right now that choice is just a risk I’m not willing to take. Even if it could go in my favor. So I guess what I am saying is that I’ve already made my choice, and fan of it or not, slippery slope or not, it’s just one I have to live with.

And maybe you can relate.

Anxiety, Adulting, and the ‘Outerlands’

As someone in one’s mid to late 20’s there are some societal and personal expectations on where one should be in life. See, as someone living in the year of our lord 2022, as a 26-year-old cis and typically straight presenting white woman, you would think I could have hit my “prime” by now.

For example (as deemed by the internalized misogyny and capitalism): I should have found a man to love and settle down with me. Once acquired, said man and I would be thinking about a house we can’t yet afford. Then we’d be thinking about kids to fill it, and if we aren’t ready for kids, then maybe we’d start by taking some trips around the world to all the places we’ve always wanted to go. — And even if all that wasn’t the case, and I wasn’t on the path to be wed, then based on where I thought I’d be by now – I would be financially stable with a place of my own, health insurance of my own, and based on my budget, a minor amazon addiction. — But see the problem with that adolescent and anticipatory way of thinking is that it isn’t realistic. [And – not that you are asking, but when it comes to the things above only like 1.5 of those things are true.]

Truth is – growing up is hard, and it sucks, and it doesn’t usually pan out the way you thought it would when you were 16 – which is probably why my anxiety kicked in the way it did when I found myself in a big room full of 16 to 19-year-olds last night at a concert.

Before you judge – Let me explain…

Part 1: Anxiety

Last night I went to a Chase Atlantic concert and if you don’t know who they are that’s ok because I have since realized – neither do I. Truth is, I bought the tickets on a whim because they were like 35$, I had heard a couple of the groups’ songs [probably on tiktok] (they were alright) and frankly, I have been going to a lot of concerts lately because it gets me out and allows me to meet new people in a cool setting.

But early on into the night, I realized this show was different.

Now let me pause for a second and note that it wasn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ show, but, for me at least, it presented an uncomfortable vibe because if there is anything that I, at 26, still have in common with my 16-year-old self, it’s that I try to avoid spaces where underage children are passing out in the middle of mosh pits. And despite the fact that the performers handled the situation incredibly well, pausing their sets to check on and help the fans in need, the whole room was giving me – “you need to be drunk or stoned to vibe and enjoy this” and I really don’t like that.

Anyway, upon arrival, the usual line to the venue was extended around three to four city blocks — and the crowd was much younger than what I was used to. So, as you can expect, I immediately felt out of place, and then quickly realized that I was possibly the only person without a group, a friend, or a chaperone. [It’s also important to note that the other three times I’ve been to this venue in the past year there hasn’t been a crowd over 200 and this one looked like triple that. So essentially, upon arrival, my perception of the event shifted to a point where I didn’t want to stay the whole night.]

Which brings us to —

Part 2: Adulting

At the end of the day, when you boil down the generic brand anxiety that comes with life and living there is one thing that is more important than anything else. Boundaries. And the most important thing about boundaries is allowing ourselves to feel comfortable enough to make and stick to them.

As I’ve grown in this life, the most important lesson I have learned (or at least one of the most important lessons I have learned) is that I set my own boundaries. I get to decide what spaces I am in and for how long. I get to decide that some food and drinks don’t need to be consumed in one setting. I get to decide who I kiss and how far it goes and I get to decide that being at a show with hundreds of kids, their parents, and a performer with a cat like ski mask might not be for me and then I get to decide to leave. And to be clear, while this may have never been the case in the past (giving myself permission to walk away), it’s comforting to know that my experience last night did allow me to make the call that was best for me, without feeling guilty about it.

Part 3: experiences in the ‘Outerlands’

Somewhere in the middle of quarantine, I coined the phrase, “the Outerlands.” I guess the main reason I used was because, when the pandemic hit, going out felt a lot more daunting or almost medieval in nature. Not medieval like chainmail and horses but like an arduous journey with twists and turns.

See every time I left the house I felt anxious or excited — like I was on this quest for Camelot… or more realistically the grocery store or the pharmacy (potato po-tah-to, I know). But of all the things I ditched after the pandemic (since we’re now in an endemic), the ‘Outerlands’ wasn’t one of them because sometimes, and especially on times like last night where I am rolling solo in the world – just leaving the house feels like a journey to be taken.

Sometimes this is hard to admit but, to me, the ‘Outerlands’ are sometimes scary (not in an agoraphobic way but in the sense that I’ve gotten used to my bubble). There’s so much in this world that happens outside the front door, so many good and bad things and for me, with my anxiety, it’s really easy to take the path most traveled and revisit the familiar and get stuck in ruts — but in the past few months, going to concerts and feeling old in a room full of 16 year olds, those are the experiences that need to be had because despite how often I say I am, I am not old – and even if I wouldn’t consider myself to be in my prime [YET] (not spoken pessimistically but in the sense that I am too young to have had the best years of my life) I do feel like these are the things one must do to take those steps toward their prime.

Moral of the Story

Look at the end of the day – I know I have to put myself out there. I know I need to go to the ‘Outerlands’ and have sometimes awkward and anxious experiences. And I am here for it. But I think the reason I am sharing this with you all today is that – like you – I’m human and I’m trying to adult and I’m trying to make 16-year-old me proud and I’m trying to live my life and … I’m just generally trying. And if that all and this all is something that resonates with you then that’s great, because at the end of the day (because I use those words far too much) we’re all just trying to get out and get anxious and make boundaries to live in and outside of and when it comes to adulting – I don’t think there’s anything more adultish than that.

On Healing

I’ve mentioned before that I once saw a quote on my facebook wall that a friend posted around the time she had her first child. It read, “We all just want to give our kids lives they don’t have to heal from.” And given recent events, the overturning of Roe, the clear beeline being made toward attacking the rights and lives of LGBTQ+ people, a new perspective dawned on me.

We all want to give our kids a life they don’t have to heal from, sure, but the irony of the statement is that we ourselves are living proof that, broken or whole – we heal.

So what does this mean in the context of what is happening today? Well I suppose it would be natural to make the connection and just say, “we heal” but I’d argue that saying that, after knowing the extent and the ramifications of recent supreme court actions is incredibly tone-deaf.

You see, if I were to say “we heal,” as a declaration, or as a distinct statement regarding next steps – as if it were that simple, I would be diluting the actual gravity of the situation.

To say, “we heal” as a and in the tone of “just” statement – to insinuate that a 10 year old girl, who was r*ped by her father and had to get an abortion out of state because her state outlawed it after 6 weeks, needs to “just heal” is inherently insensitive and tactless and far too on-brand with aggressive and radical republican christian values for my liking. In other words, it gives “you are in our thoughts and prayers” and that is just no longer acceptable.

So instead… we fight.

We fight not only for our rights to merely exist as we are and have full bodily autonomy like the men do, but we fight for the right to heal despite the odds and the laws being against us. We fight for the right to survive this deeply barbaric assault on our freedoms and our bodies and we fight to forgive those who thought for a single moment that they could take them — and to be clear we don’t fight to forgive them because they deserve it, we fight to forgive them because when we boil it down, we don’t really forgive others for them – especially in cases like these where they don’t deserve it, but we forgive others for ourselves. we fight to forgive them because the anger is too heavy and it will only slow us down.

Healing isn’t a linear path but it’s one many of us will be on for much of our lives – because the fact of it all is, whether or not our parents or our country give us a life that we have to heal from – we will fight and we will heal.

This is America (Pt 1)

Hello, and happy July 1, now that LGBTQ Pride month has officially ended I am emerging from my Straight(bernation) —

[straight-bernation: a term meaning to hibernate from straightness as to reflect on ones queerness and embrace their true self. According to American social law, straightbernation only may occur for thirty days in a calendar year during the fruitiest month, June --- this is of course a joke.]

Anyway, yeah I am emerging to talk about and to reflect on the absolute F***ery that the so called leadership in this country has been pushing through lately. So welcome back and buckle in because today is only an introduction on some of the things I would like to touch on in the coming posts.

– BEFORE YOU PROCEED –

TW: If any of the statements, considerations, or opinions below (regarding the completely abhorrent events and individuals currently committing a full-scale assault against our rights, our freedom, and our democracy) offend you – congratulations, you’re human. If anything, that has happened in the last month or in the past 240 years upsets you, good, it should. If you are mad, good you should be because we all should be. —- Lastly, if I make a mistake or misstep at any time in the content below, hold me accountable. Of all our issues in this country freedom is not the most prevalent, accountability is. So, while I hold my truths to be self-evident and reserve the right to speak my truth – I am not above being accountable for my words or actions and would hope that my readers and peers would be conscious of that.

– YOU MAY PROCEED –

Aside – The below text seeks to act as an introduction to deeper conversations that will occur throughout the next few months. Issues may include triggering topics such as racial privilege, violence, abortion, gun control so if you wish not to read on these topics, you might want to find some other place to better avoid reality…

One step forward 50(0000000) years back

Let me begin by saying that my voice is and should well be inconsequential compared to subject matter experts (SME’s). These individuals include, Doctors, Attorneys, Women of Color (especially those who live in red states), etc. When it comes to the overturning of Roe I am affected but my concern for my own body is inconsequential compared to my concern for my fellow citizens with uteruses.

That said… I AM F***ING PISSED

In the short time since the supreme courts documents were leaked I had no doubt in my mind that anyone could stop the absolute f***ery that has since been written into law. And what’s worse, even as a woman, I was just as ignorant to the magnitude and breadth of what american protections existed under Roe and what an abortion procedure covered.

Fact – 1/3 people with uteruses will get an abortion in their lifetime.

Fact – Abortion does not solely effect women, but when it comes to abortion as a procedure – people with uteruses and only people with uteruses should be deciding what protections and procedures should be available for their body and their safety.

Fact – Last night on the news Stacy Abrams brought national attention to a doctoral shortage in the state of Georgia. Now, among what I can only assume are thousands of other issues with this shortage – the most prevalent, as it pertains to this forced carry law is that most counties in the state of Georgia DON’T have access to an OBGYN. Which means – people with uteruses in Georgia are now forced to cary a child with no exceptions and no way to get the proper neonatal care they require to ensure that child is healthy. (it’s also important to note that people of color, as usual, will be disproportionately affected by this).

Fact – the documentation for this country was written such that issues of church and state shall be regarded separately – also FACT – the basis for the decisions currently being written into law are based on the religious perspectives also also FACT – the people who are directly behind overturning a fifty year law that protects the bodily autonomy of all women in this nation, are a.] beyond child bearing age and b.] are in a staggering minority when it comes to popular opinion.

which leads us to the conclusion of this topics introduction and the intro to next week’s intro on violence and the “pro-life” debate.

– NEXT WEEK EXCERPT –

Let them live… unless they are already breathing

So yeah – with Roe overturned and multiple school shootings rounding off the end of the school year it is starting to become extremely more evident that the republican party isn’t as “pro-life” as they would like to believe but since it’s five o’clock somewhere and that somewhere is here, So I’ll leave you readers with this. A great and powerful woman once said this – “fire is catching, and if we burn, you burn too” and frankly, with the state of the world today, I couldn’t agree with her more.

  • J.R

The road to hell and the path to heaven

“Lately I’ve been thinking”

(Shudders and whispers emerge from a crowd shocked that a woman would dare think ESPECIALLY in this day and age.)

“dangerous I know. But I’m doing it.”

They say…

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I’ve never heard honest talk of the path to heaven. Or about the people on it. And I say that, not because I haven’t heard the traditional beliefs on what grants one access to heaven, but rather because I often, in my head and in this day and age, struggle, with the image of a person who thinks they are entitled to a spot in heaven vs the person who embodies the beauty and the good that heaven represents. [And mind you, this is exactly to say that my ideals of heaven and hell could be easily explained by that one part of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry gets the Stone over Voldemort because Harry wanted to find it but not exploit it but Voldemort was obviously acting in his own interests from day one. — coughs – republican christians – coughs]

For example – in recent weeks some extremist, mega-church Christians, expressed their desire to publicly execute members of the LGBTQ+ and trans communities. And I know this because multiple videos of Christian leadership have gone viral. [Now personally, I think these sentiments, among other things that have been preached and cheered for recently, are wrong – not to mention directly contradictory to a whole handful of fundamental Christian beliefs and values – but as a queer woman and quaker (quakerism is a branch of christianity), what do I really know?] (insert proper facial expressions to enhance sarcasm.)

Anywayyyyyyyyyy ……

As you may or may not know, when it comes to faith I am more of a spiritual person rather than a religious one. See as someone raised in the Quaker faith, I learned to value love and stewardship, acceptance and simplicity rather than paraphrasing text and praising grand imagery. But aside from those values, the reason I don’t gravitate toward larger religious institutions is because there are particular aspects of certain modern and institutionalized religions (and the stereotypical image we get in our head about the people that follow those religions) that, in my mind, have been weaponized to further stratify and control members of society. And while it’s important to note that it’s “not all” religions and it’s “not all” churches — saying it’s “not all” of them only distracts from the fact that the ones that are, can be very damaging and in some cases lethal.

I say…

All that said, recent events and the people leading those events got me thinking “if the path to hell is lined with good intentions” then would it be fair to wonder if the path to heaven is lined with, what? Un-intentions? How about microaggressions? Subtle jabs? or even things we “didn’t mean,” Or maybe just any form of “excusable” acts of disrespect [in the eyes of God or the law as determined by paraphrased text] – Because frankly, if we’re going to be so open and honest and critical about what gets you on the path to hell, if we’re going to be so dynamic with our opinions on who and what deserves God’s love (despite his biggest schtick being that he loves ALL his children) then, by all means, let’s identify some characteristics of those that might think they are on the path to heaven and the effects of their “unintentional” acts on others.

And to be clear I’m not saying this to air any specific dirty laundry. I’m just saying it because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life and loss and about the patriarchy and religion (as one does). And I’ve been thinking about queerness, and color and beauty. I’ve been thinking about home and about what makes home special and beautiful and because I am adhd as all hell – all that somehow that got me to the idea of heaven and how I find it funny that when we think of heaven and we think of pearly gates and white clouds and sparkling utopia, but we rarely state aloud what it may actually cost those who might be unable to achieve and uphold that sort of sparkling image that some some christians preach. And because as much as we talk about the end result, we rarely think about who was stepped over to reach those goals.

The cost of progress

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions then the path to heaven is undoubtedly lined with subtle but distinguishable micro and macro-aggressions.

Now since you all know me, you know I can’t leave this blog without talking about this week’s serious event and how it relates to the catchy clickbait excerpt above.

So, as you may or may not know this week – in the attempt to stop the supreme court from its all but inevitable attack on gay, interracial and interfaith marriage [because we officially live in the dark ages] – the House put forth a bill (that passed 267-157) that writes these marriage rights into law (thus telling the supreme court to properly screw themselves and preventing them from attacking any more “controversial” rights.)

In recent weeks and in the weeks to come there will be quite a few conversations surrounding gay and interracial marriage. And with those conversations, there will be many supporters and many naysayers. And with those conversations of disapproval come voices who claim to be moral and just, who claim to be fighting a good fight on their path to heaven but in the end and in 50 years time, I can’t say that heavens’ incredibly low census will surprise me.

I suppose at the end of the day I just find it interesting that when it comes to those among us that claim to be the most devout are also the ones who, in a way, are unknowingly damning themselves in the name of supposedly saving others. [But for the record, we aren’t the ones who need saving.] Or in other cases, condemning others because, somehow, other people’s actions and who and how they love others affects your life.

So as I continue to contemplate this, among other issues that I’m currently facing in my adult life, I encourage you to take the time to do the same. I encourage you to think critically about the people and places you are supporting, I encourage you to vote. I encourage you to think about what life holds and what you hold dear because in end nothing is promised and the path to heaven [if that’s even where you hope to go] might be lined with more danger than you know.

“Unthinkable”

The dictionary defines the word “unthinkable” as follows: UNTHINKABLE, adj. (of a situation or event) too unlikely or undesirable to be considered a possibility.

An act of “Unthinkable” and unspeakable evil – this is often how right-wing politicians phrase their empty apologies every time school children are slaughtered in mass shooting events. But if I am being honest, throughout my brief lifetime there is only one school shooting, the effects of which I remember vividly, and believe deserves that particular term.

On April 16, 2007, the unthinkable happened, on April 16, 2007, a single gunman used a semi-automatic weapon to gun down 32 people and injured 17 more at Virginia Tech.

Back then, school shootings were nowhere near as commonplace as they are now. Back then, that act of violence lead me and my fellow students who attended a elementary charter school in PA to have a very serious assembly, but unlike the kids today – I don’t have memories of active shooter drills before I reached high school. And why? Because in 2007 and even 2010 school shootings were relatively unthinkable, but today and in some schools, it’s all kids can think about.

Our kids are speaking, but the ones with the power to change things won’t listen

Yesterday I saw a tiktok where a teacher was asked by an elementatry school student “are you scared, like my mommy” and the teacher answered honestly saying, “yes, I am scared, but I am scared because I care about you and want to keep you safe.” and do you know what the child [THE CHILD] said as a response, “it’s ok, that’s why we do the drills, so that when [YES, THE KID SAID WHEN] it happens, we will be ready and we will be ok.” — So if our idea of protecting children starts and ends at drills (drills that some of these gunmen have been trained with) (or arming teachers???) and doesn’t include us allowing them to be a part of the conversation that they are already having with eachother and in their heads, then we are failing them. If we prioritize paraphrased rights over young human lives, we are failing our kids. If we continue to allow semi-automatic weapons to be so readily available to a general public who is not fit to use that kind of weapon, then we are failing our kids and we are failing ourselves.

“But my second amendment…”

19 elementary school children – dead. 2 teachers who tried to protect those children – dead. One 18-year-old gunman – dead. The death toll of the recent (mass) school shooting totals 22 (not including the shooter’s grandmother). And every single one of those lives lost – they were not victims of an “unthinkable act” but an entirely preventable one.

I can see the headline now “the founders continue to fail the American public 400 years after their deaths” – obviously accountability isn’t America’s strong suit.

Now in the event that someone excessively pro gun comes accross this post LET ME MAKE ONE THING ABUNDANTLY CLEAR – I personally do not like or agree with guns in any context and I personally don’t think guns should be a household item. BUT I also firmly believe that in certain households where children are taught gun safety and firearm respect, those are not households I hold issues with – with one exception – I personally don’t believe that any household needs access to a semi automatic weapon and this is quite simply because, in my mind, semi-automatic weapons are weapons of war; and while I don’t agree with that level of violence in any context, I do understand that for every tool there is a time and place, and I can understand that tool within the concept of that specific (and only that specific) time and place. IN OTHER WORDS, I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I understand a context where it does make sense.

People love the idea of freedom but most don’t understand the cost

You see – When the founding fathers wrote the original documents by which our country governs itself today, they had muskets. To them, all of the happenings today were “unthinkable” because never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined half the things that have happened. BUT flash forward to today where – in 2022 alone – (mind you we are only 6 months in), there have been an estimated 214 mass shootings (IN THE UNITED STATES). And because google defines a mass shooting as an event that takes a minimum of three to four lives in a short period of time the bare minimum toll of those combined events is equal six hundred and forty two (642) lives lost — but according to insider news the death toll due to gun violence in 2022 ALONE currently sits at Seventeen thousand, three hundred lives lost (17,300 – dead) — that’s a little higher than the definitions minimum isnt it?

But in a couple of weeks, the dust of this will settle, Texas reps will stop their press conferences and their empty apologies and we will have some quiet time to reflect until the next shooting happens… This is the cost of freedom in America. This is the cost of maintaining the value of the second ammendment. This is the debt that we pay and in my personal opinion, it is disgusting, the cost is far too high, and it is the furthest thing from “unthinkable” that I can think of.

Look, at the end of the day, I don’t think we should take anyone’s right to bear arms away, but I think we should consider re-establishing what arms they have access to and how easily they are granted access to them. And the reason this article focuses on school shootings rather than the dozens of other mass shootings is because our government has shown time and time again that they won’t change no matter who falls prey to these attacks, but discussions where children are involved are much more likely to garner support. And don’t get me started on how angry it makes me that that even needs to be said or the fact that the absurd levels of inequality in this country span accross all kinds of labels and personal identifiers.

but I digress… where was I, oh yes – “at the end of the day, I don’t think we should take anyone’s right to bear arms away, but I think we should consider re-establishing what arms they have access to and how easily they are granted access to them.” —

If you want a pistol or a riffle or even a bayonet to defend yourself – I am all for it, after all that is what the founding fathers intended, but with what is happening and what continues to happen things can not and truly should not stay as they are. And to be clear, that’s not a political opinion. The stance I take isn’t because I am a democrat, it isn’t because I am a woman and because my rights have been threatened recently, it isn’t because I am anything – it’s simply because I am a person and because if I am lucky enough to have kids one day, the last thing I want is to be scared to send them to school.

In this life or any other – the last thing anyone wants is to live in a state of fear, but for our country, for the minorities in it, that’s all we and they know.

So stop claiming that very preventable acts are “unthinkable,” stop apologizing to and praying for the families who continue to lose everything without bearing responsibility for what is happening to them, stop allowing this damn country to be like the freaking wild west, and stop allowing any old person above the age of 18 to buy a semi-automattic weapon — because by now, and when it comes to gun violence in america, too many of our kids (and citizens) have not only thought of it, but they’ve lived it – and that should be enough insentive for real change to be made.

An open letter to the class of 2022

To the class of 2022, by now most of you have graduated from your respective institutions. You have done it. You have finally earned your degree. (Or at least they’ve given you the paper for it) And hopefully, you have earned the chance to pursue your career-centered dreams.

Years of sweat and blood and tears have finally led you to this moment and as glorious as it is, it’s slightly tainted by the moment where your institution, the place that has been your home for the past (+ or -) 4 years, said (in not so many words) – “congratulations, you did it – now go home.” (As closing time plays “closing time,you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”)

Suddenly your mind races, “Home? What home? This is my home. This is my friends and my favorite/least favorite food and the place my stupid ex broke my heart before my friends (who are really more like family) put me back together again. Go home? What does that even mean?”

Maybe it hit you this weekend or maybe it’ll hit later but the moment you received your diploma everything changed. And it did, because… I guess… because it has to? See when I graduated with my bachelors degree 4 years ago, before I started this blog or even really knew who I was, I was terrified. I mean that’s quite literally the reason I continued my education and my track career – because I wasn’t ready to leave my home. And the while all the analogies about birds and nests rushed to mind more than they had the first time I left “home” I knew that this was different. This was different, because this home, felt like so much more than any other.

Now I realize this post is bittersweet because while I feel like you will identify with it, it isn’t necessarily what you want to hear right now. You don’t want to hear “everything changes” even if you know it will. You don’t want to accept that your people won’t be a couple of doors or even a couple blocks away, but possibly a couple of states or more. You don’t want to accept that this chapter is truly over, but as third eye blind once said – “every new beggining comes from some other begginings end” and if you don’t know that song then please follow the dotted line to hand your diploma back in.

Look, at the end of the day, I know this next phase will be different and it will be hard. Whether you are moving home for a bit or moving somewhere new – bills suck, work can be tedious, and last night’s drinks rapidly become all the more unforgiving when they are served by a new bartender who makes their drinks differently than you are used to. But this time will soon become the best time of your life – as will every phase to follow it. (Insert Miley Cyrus “The Climb” Lyrics) And that is the way it should be – because while the last four years were the best of your life, don’t forget that they are merely the best of your life SO FAR and that the best is still yet to come.

All jokes aside though, as a sister of a brother in the class of 2022, I cannot be more thrilled at the lives I see unfolding. I could not be more proud of the voice this generation is cultivating, and I could not be more excited to see what you all do next. The world around us is changing – and it needs to continue changing — so I for one, am excited to see what you all bring next.

Anyway!

Cheers! To the Class of 2022 – may your voice be loud and your hangovers quiet and here’s to the next best years of your life.

25 things that will never make sense

Lately, I have been struggling to make sense of the world around me. Granted, this isn’t anything new, but what is new is that some of these things hae knocked me off balance and made it so that I can’t organize my thoughts enough to talk about them clearly.

See, as an educated person I often struggle with knowing the “why”, and “how” of things, understanding how they may make sense to others but also grappling with the moral issue of how these things in an “advanced and civilized society” have ever been allowed to happen continuously. And like I said, some of these things have been really messing with my head lately so because I don’t have the full ability to make sense of them – I’m doing this list instead of a full form post this week. Hopefully this will start some conversations in your own life and hopefully once I get my wits about me I can come back and write on these topics with a cooler head.

[Some of these things will have explanations some won’t and I certainly won’t be covering them all today but feel free to add to the list in the comments. And be sure to have these conversations with the people around you because they’re incredibly important.]

  1. The fact that Webkinz ever went out of style
  2. Starbucks prices (I don’t care how artisinal the caremel whatchamacallit crunch is)
  3. Bounce Houses especially the watter feature ones
  4. Kids born after the 2000’s – specifically kids born after the 2000’s that don’t have a healthy fear of their parents because this generation doesn’t have the same healthy fear of their parents that me and mine did and I don’t know if I am jealous or proud or…
  5. Living in the past – we’ve all done it. But it has never been as dangeroius as it is now and in the context of the conversations we are having today.
  6. Alcohol: Back in the times of the ancient egyptians beer was used as payment to workers because it provided some sort of nutrition. As someone in their 20’s I feel like alcohol is so much a part of our social lives but it also is killing us all slowly. Not saying I’m going to or need to stop indulging – but this is weird to me.
  7. Minimum wage – it took me 26 years, 10+ of which I was in one or more workplace, to realize that my skills and my time were far more valuable than what I was being paid and how I was being treated. (in some cases)
  8. Sexual harassment in the workplace this one is only speaking to my experience in the service industry. I don’t think I have ever worked in a service industry related job where I haven’t been subject to some sort of sexual harasment type lines being crossed and 9/10 times I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think I could or because I knew it wouldn’t make a diference.
  9. Anyone who disrepects anyone in the service industry or in retail – or anyone who disrespects anyone who in general is just trying to help you.
  10. Weaponizing children in times of war. The number of contradictions this world has when we claim to want to protect our youth and our future but then subject them to even a small percent of what we do is dumbfounding.
  11. Relying on the declarations of individuals who have been dead for 400 years. or even valuing old dead white men and what they said 400 years ago more than we value women today or of any time.
  12. Overturning Roe (it’s 2022 and we are still talking about a decision made 50 years ago)
  13. Disrespecting others in the name of God or Jesus or the Bible – when that litterally contradicts the very foundation of the teachings of that religion
  14. The assumption that any VIABLE HUMAN BEING could have less value than (a.) another human being. or. (b.) a clump of cells – in other words if you think a 12 year old incest and r*** victim should carry the product of that assult to term because that “baby” didn’t be asked to be created that way then you need to go way back to health class because you have zero fundamental understanding of anything relating to the creation of human life, viability, or basic human rights.
  15. Anyone who isn’t a feminist or who doesn’t believe in equal rights or believes that equality implies that one person getting more than they currently have will give you less. Life isn’t a pizza party, if anything it is a race and some people got to start at the gun and others weren’t able to cross the starting line until the first group hit mile 1 – letting them run with you won’t make the trail smaller, it won’t cause you to trip – it will only give them a fighting chance in hell of keeping up.
  16. Racism
  17. Homophobia
  18. Mysogony – internalized or externalized
  19. Transphobia
  20. Bi-phobia
  21. Disagreeing and in turn hating someone for who they are and the very things they can not change. (10-14 aren’t political items, they aren’t a topic of discussion, they aren’t things to disagree about or to quote scripture against. If someone subscribes to these they are ignorant. Point blank period.)
  22. Religious Philosophies being warped to opress others
  23. People who whole heartedly believe that the Insurection was just, police brutality isn’t a thing, that Donald Trump didn’t lose the election, and that we shouldn’t be supporting Black Lives Matter because “all lives matter”
  24. Slavery, both in the context of the 1800’s and the present day where young women are sent into sex slavery and children are trafficed in the most hanus of ways. It makes me sick how anyone could ever justify OWNING PEOPLE but it’s happened in the past and somehow it continues to happen with different storylines.
  25. Life, the Universe and Everything – if there is one thing that I will never for the life of me understand – it’s everything. I will never have a full working knowlege of how things have come to be or what is going to happen next or if a plannet will live or die. I am not a god. OBVIOUSLY. But I will also never live under the delusion that I am meant to know it all. All I can do is my best to understand others and give people and myself grace and do everything I can to survive this big floating rock for as long as I am given to live on it. I think as an adult I am meant to be confused and conflicted and fluid and learning. I am not meant to know it all at once but I can do my best to understand those around me and try to make the world a better place for those who come after me.

To Summarize

As a working list with little to no context, I understand how this may not fit the usual subject matter of the awkward and adulting brand. But in truth I think a big part of growing up is understanding that the world around us does not subscribe to the same morals as we do. That the things that other people do and believe don’t always make sense – and while in some cases that can be ok – lately, and in a lot of cases it really isn’t. There are going to be people that claim to have “opinions” on things like race and gender and identity and while I have never been someone who will blatantly say “no, you’re wrong” I am sorry but this world has taught me that there are some people that really need to check themselves and be told that they are. We can’t afford to compromise or be polite anymore when it comes to certain issues.

As a country, we are at a crossroads. Not in the sense that some people agree with others and others do not but in the truest sense that the choices we make now and the things we stand for now have the potential to define us and our country for the next 50 years. And I think the reason this has me so speechless is that we, the people, are fighting for a future that might be set off track by the ignorant few – and that, above everything else on this list is something I will never truly understand.

The Sins of the Father

A while back, there were certain religious institutions that would accept monetary payments in exchange for forgiveness. This “forgiveness” whether it be partial or otherwise would then grant deceased relatives access to heaven that they otherwise may not have gotten. Sounds great right? Assuming your family could afford it… and for a while people paid these “indulgences,” probably thinking and believing that they were buying gods love and a family memebers freedom from suffering. But in reality what the money really did was give religious institutions access to the kinds of funds that would support their varrious projects and “expansions.”

But why, on a Friday, am I talking about church and forgiveness? Well, to be frank, I’m not… what I am talking about is the debt we pay for the ones that leave us behind and while it certainly isn’t always monetary, it can still be quite costly.

Inheritance

Something that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately is the concept of inheritance and how we inherit the sins and in some cases, the atrocities, that were inflicted on our parents and their parents and so on. See a few years back a friend of mine posted this really profound thought that I probably brought up before but I’m going to say it again –

She said “We all just want to give our children a life they don’t have to heal from.” – read that again – “We all just want to give our children a life they don’t have to heal from.”

And though she is completely right and although no parent sets out to damage their child, some kids today are constantly paying for sins that they didn’t commit and that they might not even be able to understand for another two or three decades. Why? Because they, and we, are paying for the sins of our mother’s mothers and our father’s fathers and so on – and if you stick with me for a bit I can explain exactly why and how we are doing that.

Spacial Awareness and Mental Health

Now before I get too deep into this, I’ll preface this with – not everyone has aggressive amounts of trauma or any real trauma at all, but some have and as humans, it’s our job to respect people where they are at on their journey and listen to them and their stories to the best of our abilities. We don’t have to agree with them or their beliefs, but telling them they are wrong or lying for the sake of making ourselves feel better is no longer an option. That said, let’s get into it.

A decade or two ago, the mental health resources were obviously not what they are today. The stigma surrounding mental health and even asking for help was often portrayed as weakness and while, in a lot of ways, men are still made to feel inferior for asking for and getting the help they need – young men are in a way better place now than their fathers and grandfathers were 30-60 years ago. So, keeping this in mind – our parents and their parents, in some cases, are pretty darn screwed up. BUT ITS NOT THEIR FAULT. (With one very important exception…)

The exception: If you, as a parent, relative, friend, etc. can properly identify your own trauma and the trauma you are inflicting on others and you are not doing EVERYTHING in your power ie. therapy or medication or kickboxing (whatever works for you) to work through that and not be hurtful to the people you love – you CANNOT blame anyone but yourself for the fallout of your actions and you can’t blame those around you because they don’t spend every minute of everyday trying to avoid your invisible trip wires.

Look, believe it or not, I’m not here to place blame or condemn anyone or point the finger this way and that and I’m also not trying to be the trauma police. I’m not here to name names in order to validate my own trauma – that would be twisted – but I am saying this because I know I am not the only one who has been snapped at or has snapped at the people around me because someone did something to me or I did something to them as a result of an entirely disconnected situation. So, in order to understand why older people are triggered and why they react to things we do and why we and our kids feel like we are stepping on invisible trip wires – we need to accept that the people raising us have some stuff they haven’t dealt with – and a major reason for that is because they were conditioned to believe it is normal by their parents. (gaslighting is generationally screwy)

Forgiveness isn’t for them

I forget who said this recently, but I heard this quote that ran along the lines of “forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you.” – read that again – “forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you.” which brings us back to the church and to “indulgences” because when we pay for the sins of those before us, we don’t nessesarily do it for them. We do it for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, while claiming we are doing it for them – and if you think that’s selfish… well in some cases you gotta allow yourself to put you first.

When we forgive others – we do it knowing that we can let go of our half of the burden and the weight of carrying that hurt and that anger in us. When we forgive others we give ourselves permission to move on.

So I guess in other words, we learn to bear it so they don’t have to – then we allow ourselves to let it go because we don’t have to. And none of this discounts how hard this can be but maybe on a certain level it allows us to come to terms with the idea that everyone that we love and that every person around us is human.

They are imperfect.

AND

Everyone around us is fighting their own battles and sometimes we, in our proximity to them, are met with friendly fire. And that sucks – but at the end of the day, we choose what and how these things actually affect us – and hopefully twenty years from now we will have built better tools to carry those things with us. But for now – let’s just work on doing better and being better because just because I went through it, doesn’t mean they have to.