*This piece was written after viewing Jon Stewart’s segment on the Charleston shooting*


Writing about the hard things, the painful things that we face as a people, has never been my strong suit. That makes me part of the problem. You see, I’ve been mulling this over for a while now and I grow more disillusioned and more enraged with each coming day.

We are steeped in a culture of complacency. We are complacent about the things that matter and infuriated by the things that don’t. I’m guilty of it too—but here is what I cannot stand….the sense of blindness. The obstinate INSISTENCE that as we stare things straight in the eyes that we can call it a sheep when it’s a wolf.

We do not live in a post racial society. We are not free of the evils of bigotry; it attacks our culture, our friends, and entire groups of people every day. But when we see it for ourselves, I so often find myself saying “They can’t deny it now, surely they see it now, there’s no way they can’t.” Oh, but it’s the same every time. In the wake of this horrific act of terrorism on our soil, we boil the Charleston shooting down to a crazy person, an extremist. While his act was extreme, this individual is not alone. He is not the only man who believes that black Americans are less. Calling him crazy or extreme is an excuse. It makes him more than he is. He is a man—and men are capable of evil acts. Let us not overlook that fact. Let us not see the evils of man and call him a monster. He is a man and he did evil things—evil things we’d do well to remember that anyone CAN do. This isn’t fiction, we aren’t talking about the swamp creature coming out of the lagoon to wreak havoc. The scariest of stories are those we know are possible, because the acts were executed by people.

And that IS what we should be scared of. We should be scared of what people are capable of, of what everyone is capable of. We should look at ourselves and see our lack of care and lack of action and we should be scared of that too.

We should face our complacency and decide that it’s enough. We’ve been silent long enough, blind long enough, in denial long enough. It’s time we stop this and recognize that racism is alive and thriving in our country and we should come together to end it. After all, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I don’t want to be part of the silence anymore.

I wish I knew you, silly girl.

With your bright lit eyes as you watch life unfurl. 

Are you standing here for passions’ sake? 

Or because you’re afraid of what the world might take?
Oh but I’d tell you that you musn’t hesitate.

Life is this thing that we can scoff at–or celebrate.

There are so many kinds of souls, 

And everyone wants you to fulfill different roles. 
But hear me. Here I am. Listen. 

Who you are is strong, and kind and driven.

Carve the path you want and love,

You’ll always be able to rise above.
Don’t step down, walk that ledge, cross that line. 

You should know I love when you speak your mind. 

Speak to me, let your voice roll off your tongue. 

Don’t let your story be a song unsung. 
Find in you the will to GROW,

You are the only you the world will bestow.

When you feel small and weak and fear you will succumb,

Know that this is a world you can overcome. 
When you forget, I’ll show you the way…

I speak from your heart–to your head–to say…

I am here silly girl, I believe in you. 

For All My Moms

This morning my mommy posted a really cool list on Facebook titled “For My Daughter: 15 Life Lessons I Wish I Had Received Growing Up” and she shared it with her daughters and the daughters of her heart. So I decided it was high time to let all the moms of my heart know just how much they matter.

My mother is an inspiring woman. She’s stunningly beautiful, kind hearted, intelligent, well-spoken and undeniably brave. Her heart is warm and she’s quick to share her love—but you should never underestimate her…as anyone who REALLY knows her also understands that she can be a fierce mama bear as well. Even now, as I’ve come to accept my quasi-adulthood, I still need my mom. And, I’ve also come to realize, I need the mothers of my heart as well.

In the 3rd or 4th grade my parents went on a trip to Vermont and I stayed with our next door neighbors, the Graham family; this was my very first experience of being adopted by an extra mom. Most vacations in the Williams family were taken all together so this was one of the rare occurrences that my sister and I did not join our parents. I loved our neighbors; nonetheless, after a post-dinner phone call with my parents I confronted the fact that I was a homebody and I missed my family. So while my little-girl-self whimpered and boo-hoo’ed, Cheri Graham held me and said I just needed some “mama love”. You know what? I felt better. Turns out, that even if it doesn’t always come from MY mom, “mom love” is a healing force.

Ever since then, I’ve been adopted by mommies all over the place. And while having so many moms in the world definitely has its drawbacks (I have more people telling me to drive safely, commenting on my weight loss and slapping me in the chest when we make rapid stops in the car), I couldn’t be more thankful that so many incredible women have given me love over the years.

So, thank you all for the hugs, the tsk tsk’s when I’ve lost too much weight, the advice about which vitamins I should take, the coddling when I don’t feel well, the hawk eyes that always seem to catch me when I shouldn’t be doing something, the extra comfort when my heart hurts and, above all else, for sharing your mom love. I appreciate every single bit of it.

Putting Pen to Paper

It is hard to explain the feeling that washes through my veins when I lay words on a page; impossible to describe the process behind each selection, why I string this word along with that one or where they even come from in the dredges of my mind. This is something that flows…writing is a substance that seems a part of not just my brain or heart, but perhaps also it is included in each sequence of my genes.

Writers might call my style convoluted or juvenile; editors would probably guffaw at the improper use of ellipses. But here, behind the computer, with my fingers lain gingerly atop the keys, none of those opinions matter. The critiques of my syntax, the skepticism of my voice, those all slip away as if they never even existed….writing is an escape, it’s a place I go to free myself from MY thoughts. Writing it out means I have to analyze myself, explain my point of view and, really, come to terms with my opinions.

But while the process comes easily, the decision to let the words go is impossibly hard. For whatever reason, once those thoughts escape, they do just that—they escape and I can’t reclaim them. I have to commit myself to releasing a story that I won’t be able to tell again, I cannot take it back or retell it—once the story is gone, it isn’t mine anymore. Maybe they’re my thoughts or beliefs or what have you, but the words don’t belong to me. Not once they have left, anyway. Writing isn’t this static thing that I have created; it’s alive. So maybe that’s why this is hard; why it’s tough to release my words into the world—like a parent who watches their child grow, I spend embarrassing amounts of time clinging to the stories I want to tell.

This very post has lingered in my mind for ages. I’ve mulled over every facet of it, I’ve dissected its influences, and I have spent time acquainting myself with what this really means.

Writing is cathartic. When it comes to sad things, or intimate things, as often as I consider letting them flow away, I spend about twice that time convincing myself to keep it all—keep it close. I find myself in a wildly unpredictable argument about two mutually exclusive terms—to let things go or to hold on for dear life?

In the end, the drive to put pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keys) always wins.

Is Tact a Dying Breed?

In my job, I often meet a hundred people at college fairs; on preview events, I’ll probably meet a hundred more and when I visit high schools I have the opportunity to interact with half a dozen students or so. Though I’m not by any means *the best* when it comes remembering names, I insist on trying my darnedest to commit at least faces to memory. I love seeing students I have met at college fairs come to visit the school on preview events—they remember me and I always want to remember them. So here’s the thing, while I can’t always draw a name out of the dredges of memory, I want the opportunity to say “It’s so good to see you again!”; even if that has to be followed by “Remind me of your name,” remembering people, in my opinion, is a great way we can show others that they matter.

This past weekend, I encountered someone I’ve met a couple times before; she’s a friend of an incredible friend of mine and so I’ve always made it paramount that I remember her because of that fact. On this occasion, I happened to be speaking to someone else we both know and I remarked that it was funny how small the world is—that we should both know this person but not ever really discuss it. She looked at me, in a way that implied I was something of an irritant, and she said “Who are you?”—not “Good to see you again, remind me of your name,” not “Oh my, I didn’t even recognize you!” but rather she actually inquired about my identity, as though we hadn’t ever met before. In the moment, I stammered to explain myself. I told her my name, I reminded her how we know one another and I made excuses—“my hair WAS a different color then, so I really can’t blame you…” She never acknowledged that we’d spent an entire evening together less than a year and a half ago and, actually, she never acknowledged we’d even met before that very moment.

Looking back on it, I haven’t been able to rid myself of the fact that I am genuinely offended. Perhaps recognizing others and showing recognition of our encounters is something only I value but even if that were the case, I would think that she would at least navigate such a situation with tact—after all, if I clearly knew her then she should probably know me as well.

But that brings me to a question I often mull over: in the present day of sarcasm as a second language, bluntness as an admirable quality and celebrations thrown over candid speech, has tactfulness fallen to the wayside?

Fair Weather

I used to think arguing was worth my time. That somehow, I wasn’t utterly wasting my breath trying to change other peoples’ minds about me, about the world, about what they believed of me.

I learned something. Arguing is not the same as debating. Changing peoples’ minds is not the same as seeing the light. Questioning is not the same as hearing. So I changed my view. Instead of arguing with other people and fervently attempting to vouch for myself, I decided to become right with ME. Spending time considering what I believe and what I want and how I plan to get it became a goal. I shared those feelings with the people who care about me, the people I love. I learned something else….arguing, proving myself, and trying to get other people on my fence left me jaded, wanting and bitter.

Approaching the world from the perspective of Bernard Baruch in the fashion of “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind,” gave me peace and peace of mind. This wasn’t an overnight journey, I spent time exhaustively trying to convince people I was worthy of something, that I deserved their respect–instead of taking what I deserve, going after what I want and surrounding myself with people who don’t need to be convinced.

As people, we all make mistakes; we occasionally fail to live up to our potential. But we don’t owe success to those people who don’t support us when we fail. We don’t owe consideration to those who walk away when we aren’t our best. Life is exhausting. Being a person is a learning process, it’s full of ups and downs, three steps forward and two steps back. It’s trying enough to live without grudges or hatred, so I choose to let that go. If you don’t value me, that’s okay, I don’t hate you and I won’t blame you. Why? I have room in my heart for anyone and everyone who has room in their heart for me but I’m too busy loving my family and my friends, focusing my energy on those who have carried me through this life to worry about the people who choose to act selfishly, who choose to be fair weather and who choose to love conditionally.

Here’s to those people who love me at my lowest AND my best, who value me as a person when I fail AND when I succeed, who put in love every day even when I mess up. I promise to always do the same.

At lunch today my co-workers and I joined another office on campus for burritos at one of the local favorite spots. It’s always a nice change of pace to meet up with new (read: not new, but rarely seen) people so we can back and forth about what’s going on in the office. On this occasion though we got onto the subject of student tour guides and one of the other individuals adamantly expressed “I HATE when you walk backwards, it’s so wrong.” It would come out that “you’re not supposed to walk backwards because it makes people nervous.” I didn’t expect to be so vehemently opposed to this line of thinking…but, you know, I was. 

As the coordinator for tour guides and a former tour guide myself, I’d say I’m pretty well versed in the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t on the campus tour. And here’s the really important thing, something my fellow co-coordinator and I have always emphasized with your guides–DO what you’re comfortable with, DON’T do it if you’re not. I think it’s that simple. The best tour guides are students who engage their groups and are confident in what they’re doing. 

Personally, I probably spend less than a quarter of my time walking backwards on tours. That said, it serves a great purpose in how I execute my tours: 1) I have the opportunity to make eye contact (see: connect) with each of my group members. 2) I familiarize myself with their faces and they have the chance to do the same with me. 3) It engages my group in what I’m saying. I’m talking to them and with them, I’m not talking AT them and I’m not talking toward them. 

If the strongest argument against backwards walking tour guides is that it makes visitors “anxious”, then pfffffft, can’t we just get over it? There are a million things in this world that make people anxious. Pickles make my pledgesister uneasy. Little kids on scooters make me incredibly nervous. My coworker feels queasy at the mention of the word “moist”. Anxiety is a part of life, and in the event that I do trip over something while backwards walking…so what? We laugh it off, keep going and have a funny, quirky story for our visitors to tell when they leave. This isn’t the end of the world. 

That said, I don’t walk backwards all the time, I would trip and I would get tired of it. So I adapt my tours to my own pace, style and the desires of my group. My tour guides are encouraged to do the same. If they want to walk backwards they’re free to; if they want to walk forwards, go for it; and if they have their own mish mash of patterns then that is fine too. 

Pentagon tour guides receive extensive training on how to navigate the twisty, winding pathways of that building (which, for the record, includes 19 escalators and 131 stairways) seamlessly while walking backwards. So I say this, if the Pentagon can do it…so can we. 



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