Me Too

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. 

30 and counting. That is the number of “me too” statuses I have come across in the last day. That is heavy. That is disheartening. That is sickening. And the number keeps rising. But what is perhaps even more disheartening than coming across these statuses is the lack of response I see for each confession. Each post gets a good amount of reaction, there’s the like and the love and the crying emojis. But rarely is there a comment. If there is, it’s a simple “I love you.” Or a weak “I’m here for you.” And that’s where this problem, this epidemic, becomes perpetual. We don’t know how to discuss sexual assault. We don’t know how to discourse. And so the cycle continues. And the women around me are cornered, followed, made to feel uncomfortable, groped, attacked, and raped.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t see an easy solution to the problem. There’s a history, a culture, a safety-net set up to discourage victims from taking action, from getting justice. And culture is oftentimes too difficult to change as one voice, as one movement. It may take years or decades to finally eradicate the inactivity that surrounds this topic. What’s astounding is how commonplace sexual assault is in our society compared to how hush-hush the actual term is in our everyday conversations. We know it’s out there, lurking, waiting, but we turn blind eyes to it once we know it’s happened. It’s icky. Slimy. Confusing. I get it.

But what isn’t confusing is the mentality of a victim. When someone undergoes that experience, there is true trauma. There is nothing blasé about the experience. So why do we as a society continue to assume that this issue isn’t worth the time to address? Why are we sitting by and reacting to these “me too” statuses but not getting outraged?

I applaud the women I’ve seen who have publicly added their names to this cause. Who have stood up and said “me too” with confidence and courage because they know this isn’t about them. This isn’t a pity-status. A cry for attention. This is a real event. This is happening. And so these women know what assault is. And they are actively and publicly in our faces about it. Are we going to hear them? Finally?

Talk about it. With your friend who posted a status. Ask them what you can do. Research assault. Look at the statistics. View this as a problem. View this as a call-to-action as a member of this society. Things are bleak, but they aren’t hopeless. We need to dialogue, we need to hear, and we need to change the ways in which we see people, women, attackers and victims. This is something we can’t shy away from. Because if we do, more and more people will join in the voice saying, “Me, too.”


“Me too”
was the mantra of today.
in the harshest of ways.
Sisters banding together
to share
to listen
to cope.
All in hope,
always with hope,
that men can change
and people
can heal the wounds
they create.



The past months have been defining, to say the least. Defining, not necessarily in the best ways either. I guess that is the thing about definition––it’s abhorrently objective. Definitions are clean-cut, sterile, and all too damaging to our subjective wills at times. Some recent “things” I’ve found myself defining lately: budgets, friendships, relationships, goals, dreams. Just a few small and unimportant definitions, I suppose. I’ve woken up most days in this recent season of life wondering what would be defined for me that day. Perhaps I’ll finally land an interview and subsequent job. Maybe I’ll find that apartment I’ve been dreaming of. Or even some feelings so internal as “am I happy right now?” I’ve wiped the little morning crusties from my eyes 89 times in hopes that my life will feel more defined than it did the day before. I’ve laid my head down on my pillow 89 times, give or take a few for the naps and sleepless nights I’ve encountered, with a tiny ping of pity for my potential future. It was in this time of ill-definition and lack of clarity that I found a lot of things were defined for me, surprisingly. Friends moved away. Relationships became harder to establish and continue. Employment opportunities become less “opportunity” and more “necessity.” I found I had less control over everything than I previously tricked myself into believing. Definitions were changing everyday. “Couch” became “bed,” “California” became “home,” and “security” became “I’m trying my best.” And now, with all those new definitions in my life, I find I have changed immensely. I’ve grown, that’s for sure. Maybe there’s something about tears shed that water the soul. I’ve adapted. I more deeply understand what self help looks like, and when I am most definitely not doing it. I’ve accepted. As days and situations wash over me I have learned to accept them as constant as the tide, and I am learning that “two steps forward, one step back” sometimes means productive days of job applications and other times means a day spent in bed. If there is a natural rhythm of life I have yet to find it but I’m riding the current with the best of them.

There comes a specific apathy with all of this change and uncertainty. Apathy, in a sense, but maybe over-exhaustion. A sense that one is emptied out. Unmotivated. Unable, really, to work, to hunt, to move, to reach. All of these “go-getter” characteristics that separate the great from the common. This apathy keeps me from picking up the pen or laptop and writing about my day. It keeps me from opening that new book I got and promised a friend I’d read. It keeps me from enjoying the California sun everyone always envies.  The apathy I speak of is a bit soul-sapping. Whittling away at my drive and my inspiration. It’s easy to keep redefining things in this apathetic state. “Imperative” becomes “important” which thins down to “secondary” and soon enough you find you’ve neglected to buy groceries, clean your clothes, or shower. You redefine the importance of your situation to more comfortably fit your waning interests. How much easier it is to find a new show to absorb over applying for that fifth job that hour. And maybe I have found myself in that position all to often lately, enough, at least, to scare me into action.

I’m fearful of a lot, I’ve found. Granted, most of them aren’t debilitating or worrisome. But to say that I am fearful of stagnation would be a pretty honest remark. And so here I am, finding myself very comfortably sifting into a lifestyle of passivity. I am afraid that I see this season of life stretching far and beyond what I anticipated. I am afraid that no matter how motivating one day feels, the next day I will slip back into the comfort of apathy. There is a lot to fear in the grand sense of it all with huge implicating factors like “employment,” “money,” and “career” on the line.

So if I could define this season of life for myself or anyone else who cares to know, perhaps it would be that I’m redefining what fear is to me. Why is fear something that motivates me? Why am I scared into action after days (and I mean, days) of lethargy? Am I really afraid that life will implode and all the comfort I do experience currently will be taken away from me? Or am I afraid of what could happen if I succeeded? That’s an extreme cliché and we’ve all heard it before, but maybe it holds a good kernel of truth in there. Facing my fears may just look a lot more like sitting in a coffeeshop for a solid eight hours and applying for jobs. And I mean really applying, not those applications you threw out there with a copy-and-pasted cover letter you didn’t really read through, hoping you have the company’s name spelled right. Facing my fears may mean writing more, because I always feel simultaneously invincible and painstakingly vulnerable when I write and I have to believe that’s a transcendent experience that’ll benefit me one day. I suppose facing my fears means redefining what it all means to me, and starting from there. Waking up one more day, wiping the little eye crusties off for the ninetieth time, and instead of seeing that as routine or monotony, defining it as life, and learning to make the most of that even in the apathy of circumstance.

Future Musings

In a world of doubting and questioning and fielding the “what are you doing after graduation?” questions, I’m beginning to feel small. Swallowed up by the potential I hold, buried underneath the mountain of possibilities that lay before me. I hear a lot of “ooh”s and “ahh”s from others when I clumsily list off careers I feel highly unqualified for, yet keep applying to. And I’m positive we’ve all become better liars by talking on the phone with family or meeting someone new and grimacing through the pain of appearing put-together. I’ve learned how to articulate myself so well that I can painstakingly describe how exactly inarticulate I feel when it comes to my future plans. I’ve been swallowed whole by the magnitude of the decisions before me. If I can reference Finding Nemo for a second, I’m convincingly playing the role of Marlin when he and Dory are swallowed by the whale, and I’m floundering at the task of escaping the mouth that is “the future.”

But I’m feeling wholly excited by it all? Perhaps it’s all a little like the pre-show jitters we get before we put on a play, or sing a song at karaoke, or present in class on a topic we are drastically unprepared to discuss. We know we are putting ourselves on the line and we know that we will experience both the rush and the fear that comes with putting ourselves out there. I’ve found myself countering my conversations lately with the added “but maybe that’s naive of me.” I’m beating myself up over that phrase, and I am tired of letting my optimism off the hook. It’s like I’ve given myself an F on that presentation before I even get up to speak.

“Maybe it’s naive of me to think I will do well.”
“Maybe it’s naive of me to hope for the best.”

Or maybe it’s important to think I will do well. Maybe it’s important to hope for the best. Maybe I need to be a little less Marlin and a whole lot more of Dory in this whale’s-mouth-of-a-world.  Perhaps I should start believing there is importance in fear and nerves and worry, because they remind me there is something at stake. There is something to care for. There is a life planned out for me that I will discover with each new step I take, and I may not be able to articulate what the next three steps look like but I can very well articulate the space my feet occupy now. And for now, that space is “awe.”

I find myself in awe that I have made it this far. That I have lived more days than I care to calculate, and I have collected enough bad days to know life’s struggles are real but in the other hand I’ve gathered enough good days to know those struggles birth beauty.

I find myself in awe that I write. That I sit down with the keys at my fingertips and words flow from my brain. I accumulate thoughts and memories and ideas and I release them into the world in a catharsis that enables me to inspire myself as well as others.

I find myself in awe that I have a future. Regardless of those next few steps, I know that my story will play out. And that, my friends, is not naive. I will live. I will feel. I will forever balance the spinning plates of family, friends, career, and aspirations. I will drop plates and see them shatter at my feet but I will see others spin with ease and reach heights I never imagined.

I may be feeling small right now. And perhaps I will continue feeling small for some time as I venture into the near future. But I suppose feeling small is not synonymous with feeling insignificant. What I continue to be in awe about is how nuanced this life is and how connected we all are in this human experience. We are small, yes, but we are vastly significant. I see it in the slightest of things. I feel it in my bones. We are significant and we matter. We may be small, we may be naive, and we may fail to see clearly at times. But we have a grand significance in this world and with that knowledge I’m hoping we can avoid feeling swallowed up. I’m hoping we work diligently. I’m hoping we venture forward with that continued concoction of excitement and fear that pushes us to dare, to dream, to achieve, and to be filled with awe at what we accomplish. And we will accomplish great things. I see it everyday in myself, in you, and in the world around me. And that is not naive of me to say.


A sharp inhale reminds me I am alive.
I rub the remains of sleep from my eyes––sensory overload.
Lights streaming from the open blinds.
Sounds echoing from the whizzing fan.
Tingles shooting from my sleep-ridden limbs.
I am alive to a degree I cannot comprehend.

I am aware of my breathing.
A pattern. A rhythm.
Life––at a beat. A pulse.

I am aware that I am beating.
I am the rock that disturbs the waters and yet I am the ripple.
A product of my own design
I serve the purpose of giving purpose
to my actions.

I am acting. Reacting.
Reactionary––to the world around me, to the thoughts inside me.
The thoughts I create are the ripples I make.
Synapses fire in my brain. Actions I cannot sweep away.
“It is very, very dangerous to live even one day,” I say.
A mantra I borrow from Mrs. Dalloway.

I am volatile.
I am combustible.
I am self-destructible and my bones, they feel it.
Mortality is a whore
and we all get our fill.
So I will keep exhaling until I am empty
of the lies I’ve swallowed, and the dreams I kill.

No, I regress. Life is too jolting.
My bones are revolting.
My heart is convulsing.
Mortality is a virgin, untouched till I die.
So with all of my life I shall woo her.
I will keep inhaling until I have breath enough to say,
“I love you. You are mine.”

My bones are pleading.
My heart is conceiving
a plan to take none of life
for granted.
Every beat. Every pulse. Every pause in between.
With foot taps and finger snaps
I will keep in time
and this world and I will

I will propose to Mortality
and say my vows––

“Till death do us part
I will be there for
the early morning inhales
and the late night exhales.
I will be aware of our breathing.
Our beating.
Our greeting and meeting and fleeting
I will cherish you while I have breath,
so that when our consummation comes,
a sharp inhale reminds me of the life that I lived.”





First off, I wish I could personally thank every person who made this show possible, and all of those who came out to support me in my senior exhibit. Shadows would never have been possible without the love and support and encouragement I experienced throughout this process. That being said, I want to continue sharing this show with you, and have decided to place all of my pieces on sale! I am listing all my pieces below with the price I am asking, however if you contact me personally I am open to negotiations for particular situations. I hope you enjoyed my show, and maybe now you can continue enjoying it for years to come! Each purchased piece will come with a handwritten letter from myself as to why this character has impacted me in my literary and artistic journey, and a little insight into the process itself!

**these photos are all in different stages of the drawing/editing process…I apologize for the unprofessionalism but I haven’t gotten around to editing everything. Give a guy a break — inquire with any further questions about product at:**

Hester Prynne

Hester Prynne 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Edna Pontellier

Edna Pontellier 12″x 12″, framed — SOLD

Myrtle Wilson

Myrtle Wilson 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Brett Ashley

Brett Ashley 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Sybil Vane

Sybil Vane 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Lily Bart

Lily Bart 12″x 12″, framed — $25

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina 12″x 12″, framed — SOLD


Fantine 12″x 12″, framed — $25


Dido 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Lady of Shalott

Lady of Shalott 24″x 24″, framed — $100


Blanche DuBois 24″x 24″, framed — $100


Eponine 24″x 24″, framed — $100


Eve 24″x 24″, framed — $100

Linda Loman

Linda Loman 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Clarissa Dalloway

Clarissa Dalloway 24″x 60″, unframed –$175


Antigone 24″x 60″, unframed –$175


Jocasta 24″x 60″, unframed –$175


Persephone 24″x 60″, unframed –$175


Eurydice 24″x 60″, unframed –$175

Laura Wingfield

Laura Wingfield 36″x 60″, unframed — $200


Ophelia 36″x 60″, unframed — $200

**if the photography above doesn’t sell you on my artistry, here are some snapshots of my show to prove I’m not a fraud**





Borders: a Poetic Response

It seems ours hands have done a bit less holding these days,

our arms a bit less hugging.

It seems our feet have forgotten the familiarity of another’s shoes.


With bricks and mortar,

laws and orders

we’ve turned our hands to simpler tasks:

“Secure our borders,” we hear exclaimed.

“Great again,” the jargon spins.

All along the way we have swooned and swayed

to our self-righteous siren song.


Gaze upon us now,

this nation of pride.

See us for what we’ve accomplished and

don’t dare glance aside.

We’ve left multitudes reeling

at our borders,

countless pleading on their knees.

How powerful we must be to have this choice:

Christian? Enter.

Other? Denied.


It seems our eyes have done a bit less watching these days,

0ur ears a bit less hearing.

It seems our mouths have forgotten how to build up our brother.


But build the walls. Build them high.

Our hands have work, but our hearts are dry.

Let the American people work American jobs.

“Me,” “We,” “Us,” before others.

We will reap what we have sown with the tears of our neighbor.

But look never back, we are a forward people.

Let those less capable trail behind.


So board up your doors,

board your windows too.

If we try hard enough we may just pull through.

Borders are borders

and our safety is paramount.

So we will build a wall.

Hell, let’s throw in a moat.

May the wall tower so high that its cast shadows

bring sweet relief from the light of reason,

may the moat water our indifference.


It seems our minds have done a bit less thinking these days,

our hearts a bit less beating.

It seems our humanity is crumbling before the walls we erect.


“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Let us begin this chant, tried and true,

until that desert sand delivers us ruin too.

Have we shelved our books, packed away our reason?

As we are deaf to the cries of those who seek refuge,

We must also be blind to the lessons of history.


So detain those we distrust,

hold at arm’s length those who seek comfort.

Let our empathies flow to the extent

of our borders.

For the love of God, soundproof that wall,

Let us not busy ourselves with foreign screams.

We have no room for competing voices

in this shouting match of democracy.

Give us autocracy, give us monocracy,

Anything to coo us into complacency.


It seems ours hands have done no holding today,

Our arms, no hugging.

It seems our feet have never touched the other’s shoes.

More Than a Vote

A decision will be made. No one is naive about that. Every one of us knows that in a couple of days, we will collectively elect a new president. The candidates are rather morally emaciated for most of our tastes, and the general groupthink of the political parties have caused quite the rift in the nation. But this is not a political stance, this is a moral stance. I am not here to sway your vote and therefore I will refrain from mentioning either candidate’s names. Because we as the average American people often forget that we hold sway in this country as well. Maybe we do not directly make the laws, but our fathers and mothers and neighbors enforce them. Maybe we do not directly insult, attack, and discriminate against others, yet they still receive the brute force of prejudice. Maybe we refrain from acting and speaking out against injustice, stay out of political discourse, remain safe and comfortable at home living day to day, but maybe it’s time to get our hands dirty and realize that we too can make a difference. We may not be the next president, but we have more direct impact on those we see each day than many of the laws about to undergo creation.

So with that being said, regardless of the majority decision, I pledge:

To my friends/family who vote adversely to me: You are tangible reasons for my own existence, and to throw away relationships for politics is to serve you and myself a great injustice. But know this, we disagree. We disagree on magnificent issues, and in ways, your vote has hurt me. I’ll propose that I have probably hurt you as well with my own vote. But I am open and willing to hear you out. I will be vulnerable, I will be receptive. I would rather work through the muck and the mire of this election with those I trust to love me despite my beliefs, and I hope that consensus can be found. If not, know that I try daily to love you and treat you as I would want myself to be treated.

To my African-American friends and the Black communities around me: There is no measure of the grievances you have faced and will continue facing for years to come. My voice might be faint and at times I may be drowned out by the noise of the world, but I am yelling with you. I am outraged with you. I am dejected with you. I affirm your struggles, I attest to your pain. Yes, people will say all lives matter. Yes, people will say blue lives matter. And yes, everyone matters. But I will continue to uphold your battle, I will in unison shout, “black lives matter.” It’s a fearful time and though I may never dispel the hate that surrounds you, I hope to be a safe haven for you, a place to turn when the world has seemingly forgotten you.

To my LGBTQIA+ friends and peers: So much progress has been made, and it pains me to see that progress in jeopardy. Regardless of the decisions, of the bills proposed and passed, you will always be equal in my eyes. I would bake you a cake, hell, I would bake you a thousand cakes if I knew it would assuage the wounds that society has maimed you with. The struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community is an all-encompassing struggle. It affects personhood and livelihood alike. There is hate, fear, uncertainty and misunderstanding surrounding what it is to be gay, queer, asexual, trans…the list goes on and on. But I am here to hear. I am here to empathize. I am here to dole out love where you have met hate; offer absolution where you have been dealt damnation; sit with you when the world has up and walked out.

To my immigrant friends: I have never known you differently than any American. You are not here to mooch, to steal, to cheat. You are human, and you are humane. Your lives are meaningful, enriching, and cultivating to my own community. I hurt for the families that live day to day in fear of separation. For the men and women unable to live well, to live fully, and for those who feel debased and dehumanized. The America I know is an America that should welcome you, and I am deeply apologetic if you have known anything less.

And finally, to myself: I am fearful, myself, of the next four years. I am entering into the world as my own entity, someone with the cognitive reasoning abilities to do great things—but someone with the potential apathy to sit complacently. The election affects us all. But beyond that, I live a life that daily affects those around me. I pour into others as others pour into me. I make my voice heard, sometimes too much so, and I make my presence known. Why have I succumb to the comfort of acting the humorous cynic? The sassy, “poo-poo-politics” guy? The election made a farce of itself, that is for sure. But I live in a country with deep strife, unimaginable pain, and horrific, engrossing injustices, and I think the world requires more of me than cynicism and satire. I think our country demands affection, attention. I think we are asked more of ourselves now than ever before, and I think it’s time to reach out, to shout out, and to face the political tension with kindness and empathetic resolution. The line, “it’s all fun and games until…” applies now. How dare we have fun and play games while our brothers get gunned down in the streets? How dare we laugh and mock, safe in our homes, while our neighbors and communities are deported? How dare we raise a glass to progress and modernity when we fail to compromise on the humanity of certain people groups? So vote your conscious, vote your party. Vote however you will. But do not for a second believe that your vote is all you have to cast. Cast your love. Cast your comfort. Cast your house and your belongings, your money and your time. Cast a hug onto the next person you see regardless of color, sexuality, or political alignment. You are more than a vote, and we are more than helpless in the wake of this election.


Color of the Wheat Fields


“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

It’s no secret that the idea of finality has been on my mind. With college coming to an end and daunting life decisions lurking in the distance, a lot of questions materialize and anxieties are realized as I try and sift through what is “good enough” for my future. Adding to this, my rebel heart continues to deny that my time in Oxford is done and I am coming up on the halfway mark of my fall semester. In the vulnerability of my cynicism, I can spiral into thoughts of “why does this even matter? It will all be gone so soon.”

Truthfully, my heart tires from saying goodbye to people and places. From those who have made an impact on me, shaped and challenged me, loved and supported me, and the places that paint my hopes and dreams with everything from bold cathedrals to infinitesimal cracks in the cobblestone pavement, I so easily can succumb to feelings of surrender. Why care anymore? Why give so much when I may receive nothing in return? Why is life so mobile, so haphazard and erratic? Why is my heart so vulnerable, so brash and reckless to a fault?

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry authored the fabulous tale The Little Prince. This little prince is not much different than most of us. Young and naive, yet gentle and wise, he embarks on a journey to right a past wrong, and finds such elegant and beautiful lessons along the way. When crossing paths with a fox, the prince and the fox end up “taming” each other, that is, establishing ties so as to make the other “unique in all the world” compared to the multitude of boys and foxes. They are unique to one another as I am unique to the faces and places my travels have given me. The characteristic smiles, the life shining behind the eyes, the laughs I can’t get out of my head—each person I met is unique to me. I have tamed them, and they have tamed me. But then I left.

As the prince’s time drew near, so did mine, and I was forced to leave a newfound home. I was obstinate. I was stubborn. I was angry and rebellious and fought the entire time, although I knew in the end it had to be. But in my frustration I learned something so powerful and so benign in the very same smiles and eyes I was saying farewell to. I learned the lesson of the fox.

Tears falling, hearts breaking; all of these things are bad on the surface. And even though I knew my tears came from a source of joy and life, I could not mask my annoyance with the circumstance. “Then it has done us no good at all,” I might have said. (I did say). Might it have been better to save the heartache and forgo the experiences? Perhaps. Might I have remained more whole by not giving a piece of me to Oxford? Sure. But as the fox remembers his time with the little prince, a time whereupon the prince’s blonde hair was paralleled to the wheat fields by the fox’s home, the fox revealed the beauty in loss; memory. As he gazes upon the wheat fields, he will always hold dear the memory of the little prince and all they shared.

“It has done me good,”said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

Oxford is my wheat field. College is my wheat field. Every experience I have holds inklings of perfect moments, the moments that give you chills to remember and goosebumps to share. I am sad to be back home, but Oxford has done me good. Because of the memories I cherish and the people who continue on this journey with me 5000 miles away, I will smile through the tears. And I know that it will be hard. Saying goodbye will never get easier and as this softie heart in me wears in with each passing day, I know that I will continue loving people I will struggle to leave, meeting people I plan to keep, and moving ever forward grasping at those moments of happiness scattered around me. I have had a strikingly beautiful life. Not for absence of pain, but for remarkable clarity in perspective. I live each day not dwelling on the loss, the sadness, the hurt of the world around me, but on those who have made it all bearable. It’s the giant wheat field of life that keeps me repeatedly loving and encouraging. For the moments in life that make me stop and ponder, the people who bring smiles to my face on the darkest of days, and for the places that make my heart skip a beat, I could never devalue your worth to me by mourning over our parting. I may cry at times. I may weep and scream and throw a fit, but you have done me good. You have done me infinite good.



I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted by the violence and terror.

I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear.

I am twenty-one years old, and I grew up with the notion that I could rule the world. I have lived countless days with that optimism. Life is never easy, yet the challenge was always sweet. The reward, satisfying. I am twenty-one years old, and I have my whole life ahead of me.

But something is different today than it was yesterday. Something is different today than it was a year ago. My eyes are peeled back, my heart stripped to the core. I am no longer naive. I am simultaneously softened and hardened by this world. My body aches for the pain this world feels tonight, yet my heart grows cold as another senseless act of violence dominates the headlines. I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted.

I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear those around me, the innocuous event that turns to tragedy in a heartbeat. In a world of bombings and terror, guns and gore, where do I stand? Where do I shout? How much easier to lie down, to forget the night and brush aside that which doesn’t concern me? I am twenty-one years old, this is too large for me. I am broken down. I am tired. I am exhausted.

But I am intact. I am awake. I am fighting. I am twenty-one years old and this is my world. This is my life. I choose not complacency. I choose not denial. I choose love. I choose hope. I choose each morning to wake with tear-stained eyes to the rising of the sun. I choose to remember, to honor, to respect those who have died senselessly. I choose to love recklessly those who are shunned by society. I am intact. I am awake. I am fighting.

I am twenty-one years old, and I grew up with the notion that I could rule the world. Today, that notion changes. Today, the world is not mine to have. It is mine to share. Today, the world is mine to give. To nurture. To care for. I am cautious. I am wary. I am conditioned to fear for those who are my equal. I am equal. I am equivalent to you. To him. To her. And I will not raise a hand to strike, but rather to hold. I am cautious of violence. I am wary of destruction. I am conditioned to fear for my brother of color, my sister of sexuality. Because they are me. I am them. We are one, and we are hurting. Today, the world has attacked us. Today, the world has waged war. But I am twenty-one years old, and I will not stop fighting for justice. I am twenty-one years old and my life will be lived in constant pursuit of love.

To those who have inspired me and continued fighting against all the odds, I am in debt to you. To those who have held me up when I have fallen, allow me to hold you. To those who have fallen prey to the hatred of the world, I offer my condolences. And to those who are reading my words, stand with me against hate. Against violence. Against oppression. Against injustice. Against death.

We are intact. We are awake. We are fighting.

I Vote Hilary ’16

A cohort is defined as “a group of people with a shared characteristic.”  Other than the shared characteristic of being extremely photogenic, this group of 16 shared the gamut of emotions in Oxford, and I count myself blessed to have offered my 1 part to the 16 whole. Oxford’s Hilary Term 2016 was one for the books. The laughs, the cries, the pub crawls and black ties, the early [broken] mornings and the late {substantially more broken] nights, the rants, and the memories have me more than nostalgic for the three months we got to share together.

I’m not one to overhype the group-bonding (and I don’t even think we played one get-to-know-you game) and I won’t be so naive as to believe we weren’t all a little testy with one another at times. But I will definitively say that this was the best dang cohort I could have asked for. Within these 16, I rebuilt friendships that had weakened over the years, built the foundations for new friendships that will last many more years, and gained insight into who I am, who I want to be, and who I need to be. Beyond the more trivial things such as life-lessons, I conquered grocery shopping, chicken cooking, and vegetable steaming. I’ve used utensils I never knew existed. I’ve rallied around things so nonessential yet life-giving in times of essay writing that I cheered for ice cream, cried at new additions to Netflix, and danced throughout the house for delivery pizza. I boldly faced down the challenge of a co-ed house occupied by eight (and maybe once or twice abused the fully-stocked fridge). It was with you wonderful people that I tasted the waters of Bath (and consequently spit it out), endured “The Hoff,” found Narnia (and Toot Butts Hill), experienced London (Ben there, done that), and even met Shia LaBeouf.

The 16 faces pictured above were the unexpected smiles in the same cafe when you hadn’t recognized a soul in days. The screams and laughs of the above 16 were the music that filled the Oxonian streets (and alerted everyone to our American delicacies). And the hugs and touches of those 16 friends were the non-verbal communications that reminded me “you’re far from home, but not without family.” 32 arms have embraced each other as we shouldered the freezing temperatures. 32 legs have undergone impressive transformations as they walked miles upon miles each day. 32 eyeballs have scoured the pages of books researching to no end, all for an essay that was most likely more trouble than good. and 16 mouths contorted to that ugly “sad smile” you get when you’re leaving someone you love for a significant amount of time.

So, maybe for this cohort we don’t have the run-of-the-mill study abroad experiences. Maybe our shared characteristic isn’t bungee-jumping off a bridge together or going on safaris (yes, I’ve seen your South Africa photos, APU). But what we do share is an unforgettable, culturally-shocking, educationally-challenging, cerebrally-stimulating, expectation-shattering, bone-chilling, independence-building Oxford experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So, Joey, Angele, Marissa, Justin, Alex, Katy, Delaney, Chrissy, Gianna, Julie, Annie, Ashley, Mika, Jessica, and Alyson…I miss you. And that’s why I’d vote for Hilary ’16 any day.