Coming Forward and Speaking Out

The Harvey Weinstein scandal caused many women – from actresses to screen writers – to come forward and accuse him of misconduct. As I write this, I am watching CNN, and listening to audio between Weinstein and one of these victims. The audio, just to sum it up, is of a woman stating that she was uncomfortable. Weinstein’s response? ‘Don’t embarrass me, honey.’

Hearing this audio sickens me. Hearing about how many women he did this to sickens me. And, hearing their stories sends chills up my spine.

It is sad that we live in a world where men feel it is okay to grab whomever and whatever they please, and not feel like they did anything wrong. That sense of entitlement further ensures that men could get away with it, as boys will be boys, and women have to deal with that. That mentality is destructive, and leads all involved down a dangerous and lethal path. And, it really needs to end. 

One can never understand the effects that this can have on a victim, that is until you become one. There is still a mentality that women ‘ask’ for it by the clothes they were and the way that they present themselves. That mentality is comical. I mean, do women ask for a man to come up and grab them, just because they are wearing a short skirt? Is an outfit like that basically an open invitation for that?

No.

The only way that it is okay is if a woman had said yes. Anything else? Then it is certainly not okay.

I applaud all of the women that are coming forward to say hey, I’m a victim. Hey, he did this to me. Some of these women include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosanna Arquette. When having this happen to you, women should scream on the top of their damn lungs. Instead, their voices are silenced. 

By those women stepping forward it is a positive step in the right direction to justice. Men like Weinstein deserve their plate of karma for all of his wrongdoings towards all of those women. And, by this scandal making headlines and all of those women coming forward, it helps victims of this feel confident enough to get the justice that they rightfully deserve.

With that being said, coming forward is one step further in getting awareness in regards to assault and rape. Having that in your back pocket will be one step closer to having men like Weinstein punished. We may never live in a world with out assault or rape. But, we will one day live in a world (hopefully) where all who were affected by this wrongdoing will be able to step forward and get justice. I know so — I feel it pulsing through my veins. 

Note: If you are a victim, please raise your voice. Tell someone so they could connect you to all the resources you rightfully need — police, doctors, hospital, etc. 

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In Loving Memory

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Today, marks the sixth anniversary of my grandfather’s death. For those who don’t know, my grandfather served as my father figure for my childhood. So, on every anniversary and every birthday, I want to take a moment to talk about the profound influence that he had on me.

My grandfather passed away on Oct. 12, 2011 after a five year battle of Alzheimer’s. If I could take away anything about his fight was his continuous strength. I have no memory of him complaining, nor do I remember him not being happy. This actually was fitting — his name was Sonny.

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My grandfather was one of the most beautiful human beings that I ever had the privilege of knowing. A tribute fitting for him would span the length of novels, but I hope that this suffices.

I’d like to think that I get my sense of humor from my grandfather. I don’t have a single memory of him being grumpy or bitter — he was always laughing and smiling. He made everyone laugh. He always looked to the bright side to things, no matter how dismal they were. He would always say these one liners. “Take it from a dummy” was one of them.

With that being said, my relationship with my grandfather was one of the most special ones that I will have in my entire life. Sorry future husband. I grew up without a father, but I never felt the weight of that absence because of my grandfather. He treated me like I was his own child, spoiling me with anything I could have wanted materialistically and always giving me his undivided attention. He took me everywhere — from the Essex Steam Train and to the Arcade in Mohegan Sun. I never once doubted that I was loved, because he was there for me in ways my own father would not be.

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My grandfather’s generosity spanned to his entire family — my mother, my uncle, my cousins and my grandmother. When he loved, he loved wholeheartedly. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and was always there for loved ones during both highs and lows.

I remember him being at every school concert that he could attend, and when I had both of my childhood surgeries, he was there to take care of me. I remember once when I was seven, and I had fainted. My mom had to rush me to the emergency room with the help of both of my grandparents who stayed with her throughout the night.

Saying goodbye to my grandfather was single handedly one of the hardest things that I had to do. For months, it felt like there was something that was missing in my life. My grandfather died when I was a senior in high school, and I kept on feeling the weight of his absence during the big events such as prom and graduation. Even nowadays as I do things, I still feel it as I wonder what would this event be like if my grandfather were here?

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As I progress and grow through life, my grandfather continues to my inspiration. He is the reason why I devote a thousand percent into everything I do, and to continuously work hard. He is a source of my optimism as I remember his fight with Alzheimer’s, and his never waning jokes. Even as I write this now, I could picture him sitting on his chair, and smiling.

My grandfather’s absence is a heavy weight that takes its toll on my family. I miss him every day. Moving forward, I continue to wonder what things would be like if he were here today. I wonder if he was proud of me as I graduated college and took the oath of office as Arts Commissioner yesterday. I wonder what Christmas would be like if he were still here. I wonder what he would have done when I got my car — I personally think that he would have yelled at me for never keeping it clean.

As I remember my grandfather (and his legacy), I want him to know that I love him and he will always and forever serve as my inspiration. Thank you Grandpa for your existence. I’ll never stop aiming to make you proud. I love you.

Why Mental Health Is Important

Hi I’m Natalie, and I have anxiety. Chances are, if you’re already reading this, you already know that.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I wanted to take a few minutes to drive home the importance of mental health.

Because of my experiences with anxiety, it has given me the drive to speak up about the subject. This is one that is extremely important to me. Dealing with a mental illness is a huge struggle — whether you have anxiety, an eating disorder, or depression.

With anxiety, your brain continuously constructs the worst case scenarios, sending your brain into a frenzy of what ifs. While anxiety is the mental illness I continuously struggle with, many others deal with mental illnesses on a daily basis. For example, those who deal with depression often have trouble getting out of bed. Those with anorexia destroy their body in the attempts of staying slim.

However, there is still a stigma floating around about those who deal with mental illness. You know, that if they are feeling upset, then they should stop complaining and just suck it up. That those with anxiety should just stop “worrying so much.” That self care should be the last priority on your list — even if you’re throwing up because of anxiety.

Frankly, those stigmas should go to hell.

But, sadly, they do exist.

This is why every week needs to be Mental Illness Awareness Week. This is why I continuously stand on a soapbox to remind readers that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to put yourself first, whether it may be avoiding a phone call to get extra self, taking a break to eat, or doing something nice for you.

Mental health is honestly so important, and I feel we as a society often forget that. Sure, we’ve come a long way in terms of awareness and acceptance. But, we still have so much more left to do. We still need to learn to listen. We still need to make mental health care more accessible to those who need it — no matter what their economic status may be.

But, most importantly, we need to get rid of all of the stigmas and speak up for those who struggle with mental illnesses every day. It only takes one voice to do so.

And, as for me, I’ve come a long way in my journey of managing anxiety. I’ve learned to manage it — well, somewhat. I’ve learned to put myself first and not let others tell me otherwise. And I am extremely lucky. Over the past two years, I have developed a cast of characters who have been there for me as methods of support and shoulders to cry on. I thank each and every one of them.

And, for those who struggle with a mental illness, please note this: you are not alone. You can get through this. Why? Because you are strong. And, as long as I am on this earth, you will always have someone to listen.

So, while this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s try to be more aware every week.

Let There Be Light

Nowadays, I can safely call myself an optimist. You know, someone who sees the light in the situations — awkward scenarios, and life taking unexpected turns that left me thunderstruck. While they were the cause for worry, I always made sure that going in, hey man I try to make the best of that. I try to sit down and come up with a plan to make things better. After all, sometimes it can turn out great? Right?

With that being said, what makes someone an optimist?

To me, someone who considers themselves to be an optimist is someone that always looks to the bright side to things. She is someone who sees the benefits, which outweigh the overall pitfalls. She is also someone who sees the glass as being half full versus half empty.

For example, let’s say you’re asked to work on a Saturday or holiday. Let’s be honest — it sucks working on a Saturday. Looking on the bright side though it’s more cash in your wallet.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about optimism and pessimism. I’ve been surrounded with a lot of pessimists and people that see the downright negative in every single thing that they are surrounded with. Sometimes, I try to be the light in their darkness. Like, if a friend is complaining about something that she frequently complains about, I try to get her to see the positive or ask her what’s good about her day. However, at other times, I just try to shake it off as being an eclipse on my otherwise sunny day.

However, becoming an optimist wasn’t easy. It was the result over a year of therapy. You see, when I first entered therapy, I was as a pessimist through and through. My world at the time was full of darkness, and I wanted nothing more than to poke my heads through the storm clouds and bask in the sunlight.

My therapist taught me how to make my own damn sunlight. She would constantly ask me whenever I would complain about something, well what was good in your day? Eventually, that became a thought I’ve began to ask myself. Sometimes, whenever I would have a bad day, I would go to my journal and write a list of all of the good in my life.

With that being said, I’ve learned that while I am not in control of circumstance, I am in control of how I attack scenarios. Therefore, I try to make the best out of it. I try to smile. I try to think of ways to change it, and remember that everything does happen for a reason. And, I may not know that reason at the time, but hopefully I’ll figure it out.

Most importantly, though, I learned that I can choose to be the light or the darkness. So, I choose to be the light. After all, the sun poking out of the clouds after a lengthy storm is the first sign that it’s over right?

Right. That’s why they call it calm after the storm.

It’s Not THAT Bad To Be Single

“Why are you still single?”

Oh, how I hate that question.

It goes along with being told “one day you’ll find someone.”

I have to bite my tongue

to avoid saying “shut the hell up.”

I’m glad to know your only accomplishment in life

is just being in a relationship.

That’s great,

but I have better things to do with my time

like meeting the band Kansas,

or working at the copy desk at the Hamden Journal.

 

It’s not that I am choosing to be single.

It’s just how it happened.

Sure, I can download Tinder.

Or, I can go on OKCupid.

But how do I know that the guy is actually worthy?

You don’t get that much information before you swipe.

Or, better yet, how do I know he’s not going to kill me?

I’m not suspicious,

but my best friend is always on the app,

and she manages to find people that look

like they are a sex offender

or belong in a prison line up.

Since online dating isn’t my thing,

one may suggest going out to meet new people.

Bars involve wearing clothes that are a bit too tight

and even then, you don’t know what they are thinking.

They may like you,

or they may want you to be their next one night stand.

Or, they just might want you to go away.

After a long day, a bar’s the last place that I want to be.

I wish I can find my future husband watching Netflix.

I don’t plan on being the crazy cat lady,

or the woman that’s obsessed with the career.

Maybe it’s fear that’s keeping me from talking to the cute guy in class,

because he may not actually have a crush on me

or he may just be gay.

Well, that might be awkward if I asked him out,

like that time when I asked Gabriel for his phone number,

later learning that he was in fact gay.

Why can’t he just ask me?

Romantic comedies lie.

But you see,

relationships are all just a game.

The winners are those couples,

you know the ones who constantly post selfies on social media,

or have someone to cuddle with on a Saturday night.

But, my day will come,

where I’ll meet someone to post selfies with to annoy everyone

and I’ll have someone to cuddle with who doesn’t have four legs

and floppy ears.

There Is A Time

I truly believe that there is a time for everything.

There is a time to radiate in the rays of love’s happiness,

and enjoy the fortune of finding someone.

There is a time to mourn love’s departure,

teardrops staining your cheeks as you say a final goodbye.

There is a time for hellos,

just as there is a time for goodbyes.

 

I discovered that life is nothing but a balance —

a perfect mixture of ying and yang.

Dark is equal to light,

just as good balances the bad.

No matter what, it always evens out.

Almost, always.

 

Maybe this is why everything happens for a reason —

you know some unknown one that I don’t understand.

And, perhaps, I never will.

So, this is why I no longer fight it.

This is why I enjoy the ride.

This is why I no longer feel despair when things go wrong.

That thought comforts me, and guides me through.

 

So, maybe I don’t understand that reason as things happen,

but it serves as a guide to navigate through life’s choppy waters.

And, that somehow is enough.

The Right Relationship Goals To Have

If you are on social media, I am sure that you are familiar with the hashtag, #RelationshipGoals. If you are not, let me fill you in: relationship goals are usually tweets or pictures — usually unrealistic — of a couple behaving in a certain way. For example, they usually consist of a guy showering a girl in some materialistic way.

Recently, I saw a tweet on Twitter about one girl’s relationship goals. They consist of: flowers and money for the girl to get a pedicure. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily condemn that, a part of me thought it was kind of nice. Don’t get me wrong — it’s easy to get your own pedicure. However, having a guy that showers you in that sort of way is completely heartwarming — and should go both ways.

But should those be relationship goals?

Maybe.

I think that having a relationship where your partner does things — from time to time — that make you smile is awesome. These are little things — like surprising them with their favorite food on a night that they are stressed out, buying flowers to celebrate an accomplishment (or just because), or writing a note to them. These little things are so important in a relationship, at least in my opinion.

But, should that be the only relationship goal that we have?

Absolutely not.

I think that the relationship goals that we have individually should differ from person to person. It should consist of the following: what you need in a relationship, qualities that your partner has, how you wish to be treated by your partner, and so on.

Those goals are so much more important than being surprised with a teddy bear. Having these goals in place when you’re dating is important so you can know what you want — and not settle for anything less.

And, let’s be honest. Dating is rough. By knowing what you want makes things a million times easier.