College Grad

Well, I’ve graduated college. I’ve graduated college with no real clue as to what I planned (plan) on doing with my life, and I’ve accepted that I’m going to be a little lost for a while. It’s the strangest sensation, dedicating a quarter of a century (almost) to learning, writing papers, reading, and other miscellaneous schooling explaining why America is the greatest country in the world, only to feel a little…eh…disappointed with the outcome.

I’m not sure if disappointed is the right word, necessarily. Part of me feels as if I’m waiting for something amazing to happen, like that perfect dream job, or (less realistically) winning the lottery (I don’t even play), but I know that won’t happen without some sort of effort on my part. The problem is, I’ve spent 24 years of my life putting in so much effort I feel almost tapped out. I’m drained, and I have never been less motivated.

There was all this build up from my family, my friends, anyone I’ve encountered that knew I was close to graduating, that I, myself, was completely let down when it actually happened.

Congrats! People I didn’t even know would say to me, and I would visibly cringe, waiting for the expected, “What did you major in? What kind of job do you want?” As I sit there, politely, of course, and tell them some reiterated bullshit that I’ve been saying for the past year.

“Oh, I’m looking to write, or maybe go into publishing.”

While I do love writing, and I do love reading, I still don’t know whether either of these is what I’m supposed to make a career out of.

A career. That’s the problem. A job. A job, as my parents say, is not supposed to be fun. I’ve even heard this from my friends, who claim you gotta do things in life sometimes that you don’t like.

I retort with, “Na, I don’t think so. I’d rather be broke than unhappy.” Which is true. I would much rather be broke than working a job I absolutely hate, but I’m young yet, and still living at my parent’s house. I could change my mind, (probably…hopefully not).

Part of my problem is I see all of these people on every social networking site with their lives (seemingly) planned out, or started, and I’m writing this, sitting in the room I’ve inhabited since I was 15. I know people will tell me “It’s ok, you have time.”

When I went into college without knowing what I wanted to do, I was told, “It’s ok, you have time.”

When I changed schools, three times, changed my major, and added a minor, causing me to graduate two years after my supposed four year college career, I was told, “It’s ok, you have time.”

And I appreciate all of the support, but at the same time I wish someone had said to me, when I was 15, or 16, or even 21, “Make a plan, because before you know it, you don’t have time.”

I guess I wish I had made a plan a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, or now, as I’m typing this with still no fucking clue.

I’m quite aware of how entitled this sounds, but I’m also angry that I’ve been told, since I was 12, maybe 13, that if I go to college I’ll get a good job and life will be easier and blah blah blah (don’t forget to find a husband and settle down and start a family too.) As I sit here, 100k in debt, I’m a little disillusioned, as I’m sure you understand. I know I’m not entitled to any job, and I know schooling and education doesn’t make me a better person, but I wish someone had told me this when I was 12, or 13, and not that fallacy that’s been shoved down my throat.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from going to college, especially if you’re going to Rowan University for the English degree (as I’ve found out two schools and a major later, that is exactly where I was supposed to be) since I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this education. All I’m saying is, you don’t have as much time as you think you do, and I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone.

More than ever, I feel like a failure, even though I know I’m not, and I know graduating from college is a difficult thing to do, but I feel like my entire college career was a build up to that fateful day, as if I was on a roller-coaster going up and down up and now the rides over. Just…stopped.

I’m left a little dizzy, a little breathless, but more importantly, a little *sigh* sad that it’s over.

But I know I’ll find something, it’s just a matter of when.

I mean, I got time, right?

Here are a few articles I’ve found that were interesting reads, nonetheless.

21 Things Nobody Tells You When You Graduate College

I Just Graduated, Now What?

 

Miscellaneous Musings

Just some creative writing I’ve never posted before.

“The Art of Breaking Up”

When she looked back now, it was strange. It felt strange. Looking at pictures taken a year or so ago and she didn’t recognize herself. How could one person change this drastically in such a short amount of time? It was strange. It was sad. The way she knew him, the way he knew her. And now they don’t talk at all. She never quite understood the art of breaking up with someone, and it made her infinitely sad. Not sad because she was no longer with him, but sad that she no longer knew him. The one person, who for so long was the only person she trusted, the one she was sure she was going to marry. The one. And now he was just another one. Just another disappointment.

He had asked her, of course, when it happened almost a year ago, “why?” She didn’t know what to say. “Just like that?” He questioned her again. No, not just like that. It took months of realization, months of dwelling on them, what they once had and what they would never have again. It was something she had never wanted to admit, but she was sure of it now. Once a relationship hits a certain point, either they fight for it, or they fall apart.

They fell apart.

“No, not just like that.” She finally responded.

“You’ve changed.” He had said bitterly. “What happened to you?”

“Yes, I’ve changed.” She replied, a bit surprised because at that point, she hadn’t realized just how much. He sighed, long and loud over the phone. She was crying silently, still could cry.

“Why couldn’t things have stayed the same?” He was talking more to himself than her.

“Could you imagine if they had?”

“Why couldn’t you have stayed the same?” He asked her.

My God

Could you imagine if I had?

-2013

 

“Feeble Fantasies”

Sometimes I wish I could stop time, you know? Sometimes, most of the time, I fear I’m letting life pass me by, but I don’t know how to live it. How do you do that? Teach me, please.

I’m growing old in my room without living, but I don’t know what to do.

Go to a bar? Go to…a play? New York for a day?

Go to…the movies? School?

Go to…the mall?

I’m fucking broke most of the time, so it’s a nice thought, but it’s not gonna fucking happen.

I live in my head. Oh, the lives I live in my head…

I have lived as a writer, a journalist, a singer, an actress, I have even lived as a nomad with no point but to travel.

I have saved lives, went to other continents, helped children learn to read. Helped women. Helped men. I have been selfless inside my head.

In my head, I have been to India, Rome, Egypt, London, Ireland, Tokyo, Zimbabwe.

In my head, I have fallen in love with people who write about me. For once I am not the person doing the writing. I have moved to Hollywood for a year.

New York City for two.

In my head, I have made enough money to give my parent’s some. My sisters some, my brothers, my nieces.

Just enough, you know? Just enough to get by…

That’ll be enough, won’t it?

Isn’t that what you say? We can do anything, we can be anything.

It’s America, after all.

My head.

It fucking scares me.

-2015

 

“Family”

The other day was my sister’s 22nd birthday, so I was going through old photo albums with my other sister. I was looking for an embarrassingly cute photo of the birthday girl, just so I could post it, you know? Write some cheesy ass caption, and then maybe call her and tell her happy birthday.

I was looking, and looking, and stumbling across all of these old memories. I was looking at younger me, chunky little kid me, holding an ice cream cone at Disney. I was looking at younger me, with my short haircut that led a teacher to mistake me for a boy, embarrassing me and cementing my place as an outsider from a very young age. I was looking at younger me, with my baggy shorts and baggy shirts, wrestling around with my younger brother and cousin, happy. Blissfully ignorant. I was looking at younger me and my siblings all dressed up for Halloween. My sisters as pink ladies, a dead bride, and me as an alien.

I was looking at me making my communion, standing before my dad as he held my shoulders, smiling.

I was looking at me, not recognizing me, and knowing the younger me would not have recognized the older me, with my pixie cut and currently pink hair. (My older brother keeps asking my mom if me constantly changing my hair is a cry for help. She laughs, I laugh). I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere out there, in the galaxy or what have you, there is an alternate version of me. Someone who grew up differently, who is fine with the norms, who is fine with the path life has laid out for her and everyone else. If there is a happy version of myself.

I was thinking of these things, sitting next to my sister, sifting through old photos when a card fell into my lap.

It was a valentine’s day card. I turned to my sister, chuckling and said hey, remember when mommy used to give us gifts for valentine’s day? Nothing ever extravagant, just candy, soap, makeup maybe.

“Yea.” She said, still concentrating on the photos in her lap.

I looked at the card, at the words my Mother wrote, that read:

“To my beautiful daughter, Briana. I love you. Have a happy Valentine’s Day.

XOXO Mom.”

And it hit me so viciously. It twisted my gut, caused me to flinch a little. My God, I thought to myself, it is no wonder my parents resent me. All of us.

The things they do, did, for their kids. For us. All of us.

And I still can’t help but resent them a little.

I’m surprised they don’t hate us.

We are their lives. Sure, they raised us all with level heads on our shoulders, but my God, I am still disappointed in them.

Everything they have done for me, and I still can’t stand the sound of their voices sometimes.

Everything they have done for me, and all I can think about is the darkness that eats away at my brain. The demons that laugh inside my head. The voices that drive me to sanity.

Everything they have done for me, and all I can think about is yelling and fights and cries and tears and heartache and chaos and mess mess mess. Dust, dirt, holes.

And all I can think about is younger Briana with her ice cream cone in Disney World, looking at the camera with eyes that are my own, but they are empty. Unrecognizable. Those eyes that have not yet experienced anything but ignorance.

And all I can think about is my parents. All I can see reflected in those eyes is innocence, and when I look in the mirror today, I see pieces of that innocence turned into hate, disgust, regrets, pain, so much fucking pain.

Then the demons laugh again, and I am surprised I do not hate my parents.

I know it is not their fault. Life happens to all of us at one point or another. I know this. Life happens to some of us more so than others, but sometimes it’s your head, you know? I can’t balance out the chemicals in my brain. I can’t erase my anxiety. So I know life would have happened to me, anyway. I know, at that young age, it was already beginning to happen to me.

But who can I rage at? Who can I be pissed at? Who will take the blame for me growing up?

My parents, of course.

And then I looked at that card again, turned to my sister, and said how fucking depressing.

“What?” She said, in her own world.

Mommy and Daddy, I said, just how fucking depressing.

Her eyes cleared a little, and in them I saw shards of her younger self. Pieces of hate, disgust, pain, so much fucking pain.

“Yea,” she said, “I know.”

-2015

 

“Head Games”

Yesterday I told my Mom I needed help.

She told me to get another job.

It wasn’t in a mean way. It was more philosophical. Like she believes another part time job would really heal the pain, and maybe it will help.

But I need help.

I tried to explain it to her, but I don’t think she understood. She told me she would try to get me on antidepressants. Then she said she didn’t want this to hinder my future career plans. Like she didn’t want my medical record to show I was on antidepressants. Not that it would, anyway.

And I felt sad.

So I tried to explain to her that I think there’s something wrong with me. She told me there’s nothing wrong with me, that sometimes people just get sad and sometime a small dosage of antidepressants will really help. Then I can start to focus on myself, and what I want to do with my future and the plans I have.

I tried to explain it to her.

I told her I wanted to check myself into a mental health facility. You know? Just to get away from this town (world) and everyone in it for a while. She scoffed at the idea.

She told me that was for people who were really bad, people who needed to be numb.

I tried to explain it to her.

I started to, I really did, but then I stopped. I said, yea, you’re probably right, Mom.

I wanted to tell her that the other night, when I drank too much and sat outside my friend’s house crying hysterically, that I looked at the dark night sky and I thought…

It can’t be that bad. Being dead, you know? How beautiful that night sky was. How peaceful it looked. The darkness.

I swore I would never think about suicide after Michael, but the darkness is alluring…The light is blinding….

I’m so tired, Michael. I’m so very tired.

I felt peaceful in that moment when I looked up at that dark night sky and how easy it would have been in that moment to just…

In that moment, everything seemed right. The planets had aligned. I was at peace.

Well, a moment later my friend came out to talk to me, asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know what to say, so I let them assume what they wanted.

My ex was at the party and we got into a fight (no surprise there). Well, of course they assumed I was crying because of him, which I probably was, partly.

But I started talking to my Mom about him and she made things sound reasonable, like she always does. That’s a Mother’s power, isn’t it? The world will be burning around you and she will walk through the fire and tell you everything will be ok, and you believe it will be.

That’s a Mother’s danger.

Well, I let her assume it was mostly about my ex, too. I guess once she started talking about it, I might have been upset because of my ex.

But that’s not it.

I tried to explain it to her.

She wasn’t really listening.

I listened to her reason my sadness with words that meant nothing to me. For an hour and a half, I listened to her talk about my feelings.

I started to tell her that it wasn’t my ex. It was more than that. How can I explain it properly? I don’t know.

It’s this darkness, right, and the darkness is terrifying but beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s destructive. It’s alluring, this darkness I live in. It engulfs me and why should it not when I am tiny compared to it?

It’s a tsunami that hits me, drowns me, surrounds me.

It gets in my lungs. It’s in the air I breathe.

It seeps into my pores.

There are times when I see a light. A light that is so terrifying, much more terrifying than the darkness. It blinds me, this light.

When I see this light there are times I swim furiously towards it. I break out of the tsunami, I can breathe. I breathe the light in.

There are times when that light forces me to cower further into the tsunami, letting it consume me. I am too tired to swim. I drown.

I haven’t seen that light in a long time, and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. That light.

I tried to explain it to my Mom.

She told me to think about the future and my goals.

I thought about what I wanted in life. To write. To become a renowned author. A memorable person. I wanted to create masterpiece’s. I wanted to create classics.

I thought about where I wanted to live, in a city. A big city. London, New York, Los Angeles. I thought about the future.

I thought about helping people.

I thought about my ambitions.

Gosh I am almost indestructible with these thoughts swarming around my head. I create my own light.

I am light.

Weightless.

But, of course, I am surrounded by darkness.

What if I don’t get out of this town? What if I am stuck here forever, doomed to live a life of normality? Mediocrity? What if I am simply another brick in the wall?

All in all…

What if I become a washed up pebble on the beach.

Washed up, drowned, destroyed.

All in all…

That darkness has no name, no limits. That darkness which I live in. This darkness.

I look left, look right, shift in my bed.

I tried to explain it to my Mom.

I told her there are days I can’t get out of my bed. It is hard to move. Time is warped.

Everlasting, nonstop, seconds, minutes, hours.

Days. Months. Years.

And I cannot move out of my bed today.

I am thinking about him, and you, and me, and her, and us, and the future, the past, the present, happiness, sadness, what is happiness? Success. Love.

Is love worth it?

Am I enough? Can I be enough?

Can I move out of bed today?

Do I see the light?

How is today going to be?

Am I going to have a good day?

Am I going to cry today?

Am I?

Will I laugh?

Will I succeed? Am I going to fail?

Get out of my head.

Get out of your head, Bri.

Get out.

Get out.

GET OUT!

Wait, come back.

I am so lonely without you.

I am lonely.

Sometimes.

I enjoy being alone. I really do.

You will be fine, Bri. Move out of bed today. Go for a run.

I am too tired.

No, you are not. You will be fine. Everything will be fine.

Are you sure? Are you sure, little voice? How can you be sure?

I am sure.

I am so tired. I’m just tired.

Move out of bed, go eat breakfast, go get go.

I am moving, I am trying to move.

I glance at the digital clock.

It reads:

9:32.

A.M.

And today, I am moving out of my bed.

But it is so comfortable.

-2014

 

“Sludge”

He told me to write. Then he handed me my laptop, and went to do whatever it is he said he was doing. He told me to write, so here I am.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I am depressed, and I can’t even muster up the energy to go to class, or to do my homework. Even going to work drains me recently. I know this happens to me, the way it’s always happened to me. Each time though, it’s like it’s happening all over again. Like the first time. And isn’t it? Isn’t it happening to me each time?

I guess I get so high, not high, but creative.

Ambitious.

Driven.

Determined.

Indestructible.

That when it slows down, when my brain seems to slow down, it catches me off guard. Every single time.

I become heavy. Tired. Sad. I’m fragile. I’m breaking. I’m disintegrating. I’m blowing away

in the wind, and it feels good just laying down. Sleeping for hours and hours on end. I don’t mind it, but my head does.

When I sleep, my brain yells at me. Tells me to get up. Tells me how lazy I’m being. Tells me I should be doing things. Homework, writing, cleaning, writing, writing, writing. It’s no wonder I’m still living at my parents. Doing nothing with my life. I’m so lazy.

Then I get up, and I’m so tired.

I just want to sleep.

Monotonous routine of living, I suppose.

He told me to write, and for the first time in a very long time, I have nothing new to say.

***

 

“Evan”

I am afraid.

You only ever become afraid of anything when you have something to lose.

I have Evan. He is mine.

I do not want to lose him, but what choice do I have?

I once read things are sweeter when they’re lost.

If that’s true, I would embrace the sour taste of love, if I never have to say goodbye to him.

I would wake up with a bitter taste lingering on my tongue, if it meant I could turn over and see Evan sleeping next to me.

Does that make me…

What does that make me?

***

I am afraid.

You only ever become afraid of anything when you have something to lose.

I have Evan. He is mine.

I do not want to lose him, but what choice do I have?

I once read things are sweeter when they’re lost.

If that’s true, I would embrace the sour taste of love, if I never have to say goodbye to him.

I would wake up with a bitter taste lingering on my tongue, if it meant I could turn over and see Evan sleeping next to me.

Holly once screamed “People don’t belong to people.”

And for the longest time, I agreed. I may still agree. Logically, I can say people don’t belong to people.

Logically, I can say love is a societal construct that has no real definition. Ambiguous, intangible, unreal.

Logically, I can say these things.

But when I am sitting next to him on my bed as I stare into his eyes, I am anything but logical.

I am giddy, blushing, moaning, smiling, laughing, biting, squeezing him as tight as I can.

“You’ve got a glow about you.” He says to me.

I want to tell him that I don’t. Or I never did.

That he is the light inside of me, causing me to glow.

I want to tell him how very grateful I am for someone like him existing, let alone being mine.

And I am his, as much as I would never admit it to anyone else.

I belong to him.

I want to tell him that I have never met a person who makes me feel alive.

I want to tell him that I’ve only ever felt empty and numb, or broken and deranged.

I want to tell him that he makes me feel like I can conquer the world, as long as he stands next to me as I do so.

I want to tell him… although I’ve said I’ve been in love twice, I have only felt invincible once.

I love him, and I want to tell him that love has never meant anything but pain to me. But with him…

I can see why wars are started, people are murdered, and why humanity needs more of it.

I want to tell him that the feelings I have for him are so awe inspiring, so monumental, they make me forget anyone ever mattered to me, ever existed in conjunction with me before him.

I want to tell you that in my overly complex and twisted mind, you make things simple.

You make me happy.

I am in love, and I belong to you.

-2015

Microaggression in the American Educational System: A Failing & Falling Structure

Imagine driving to a school out of town, because the education was supposed to be better. You’re driving there, just like any other day, lost in your own thoughts, lost in homework, dances, books, anything other than hate. You pull up with the rest of the students on the bus, who all happen to have similarities to you, and you notice something. Even though things like this happen at school frequently, it has never left a mark this deep before. Students standing outside, waiting for you, dressed in full KKK outfits. Imagine the fear you must feel upon first appearance, and the hate radiating off of these costumes, through the bus doors, and on your face. You feel the hate, yet you do not understand why or how someone can have that much hate in their heart, for people they don’t even know.

Now you have to go into school, and you have to sit with these people, these white people who do nothing but mock you, write racial slurs on your lockers, or, maybe, just ignore you.

For Dr. Tanya Clark, an English professor at Rowan University who teaches African American Literature, and co-coordinator of the Africana studies program, this was her reality. Although Clark grew up in the south during the ‘80’s, the issue of schooling in America is extensive, and while this sort of harsh racism may not be seen as much (oh, it’s still there alright) another form has become the new racism. Clark, who was in a program in high school with a handful of other African-American students, were ushered from their neighborhood onto a bus, and then dropped off at a predominantly white school for better education, said she recalls this memory from Halloween one year.

“There were about 5 or 6, who we came to learn were students, our classmates, but there were 5 or 6 people standing out in front of the stairs, dressed in full KKK outfits. Like hoods, crosses, everything.” Clark goes on to say the bus driver told the kids to stay on the bus, and they later came to learn that this was just a “prank.” They were students dressed up in Halloween costumes, and “thought that it would be funny for them to scare us. Or to see our reaction. I don’t know, you know, what their purpose was.”

While that may seem outlandish to readers today, and it may seem like something that would not happen in 2016, The New York Times tells a different story. According to Danielle Mayes, a student/reader who wrote to famed news source from Duke University, said she walked into the student center, and there was “a makeshift noose” hanging in plain sight. While this may seem like a “joke” or a “prank,” as Clark said her experience was described as, it is anything but. This is a racist act, and even if the person (who, according to Mayes turned him or herself in and is still on campus) did not realize or understand what they were doing, it is still something that can cause fear and terror.

So it goes. The schooling system in America has many holes, and many instances of racism laced throughout it, yet people fail to realize it until it is too late, or not at all.

Microaggressions exist all over the world, all over America, but some of the most prominent ones are things that happen within the schooling system. For example, something as small as saying, “You sound white,” or “You don’t sound black,” and for Modupe Akinmade, a 21 year old African-American student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, has heard both before. This equates intelligence with white, according to Akinmade, and it is detrimental to say to a person who is not white. According to a study done by psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD, this constitutes as a microaggression, which is defined as “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them.” According to Sue and the study he did in 2010, the theme of that microaggression is intelligence, and it subliminally sends the message that “people of color” are generally not as smart as white people.

This message seems to have been heard and accepted in American schooling systems. While some microaggressions, as Sue pointed out in his definition, are by white people who have no knowledge of what they’re saying, there are some microaggressions that are intentional.

There is a fine line being crossed from microaggressions, to just straight out racism. Someone who has thought about this, and has conversations almost everyday about race in America, and race in the American educational system is TJ Holloway. Holloway recognizes that “being racist and being a good person aren’t mutually exclusive.” As Holloway says, there are people that he’s has conversations with, and he knows they are being racist, but that does not fundamentally make them a bad person. Holloway, an English education major, with minors in international studies, psychology, Africana studies, and an honors concentration, who is also the Empire Guardian Regional Chair for the United States Students Association, says an issue that this organization focuses on is the intersection between education and social justice. According to Holloway, the biggest problem with race today is “centered around anxiety.” People are terrified and anxious to even bring race up, hence many of the color blind arguments people tend to use.

Holloway says that “white people are socialized not to talk about race,” and while that may be a plus, because white people know without question racist slurs are off the table and to never say them, it also creates anxiety with racial issues and discussing race. This is also why many white people are afraid of even engaging with black people, according to Holloway. Socialization seems to be the main culprit, and if anything is going to improve, Holloway says that, “recreation of certain ideals and values,” such as intentional whiteness and whitewashing, needs to change.

Whiteness, according to Holloway, “is an intentional and social thing,” that he believes was brought around to marginalize a group of people in order to exploit them with labor, and to gain economic standing. Holloway does not believe that the anxiety centered around race and racial issues or conversations is “an inherent aversion” to black people. It is not something a person is born with, but something a person is socialized with and forced to learn growing up in a western dominated world. This ties in with education, because I’m not sure about you, but my education was based around white cis men, colonizing areas that were already populated.

This is what has allowed microaggressions to prosper, and for well-intentioned white people to say things that are racist. This also enforces the idea that white people are smarter, inherently, and it is why the schooling system in America is failing minorities. Saying something such as “you sound white” meaning “you sound smart” is already setting a precedent for the African-American student to believe that he/she is not as inherently smart as a white student.

Another thing Dr. Clark experienced while a student at high school in the ‘80’s, was that even if she tried to participate in class, and she was the only one with her hand raised, she was often times overlooked by the teacher. This is something that Holloway says he feels as well, maybe not as intensely as Dr. Clark, but it is something that happens to him, and more so at Rowan than anywhere else.

Holloway describes it as being “pushed on the fringe” of environments, because of his “dark skin” and firm ideologies that people are easily intimidated by, without reason or cause. Holloway says it is rare for a person to be dark skinned, and “perceived intellectual.” Not because dark skinned people are not intellectual, but because that is not that image conjured up when speaking about intelligence in America.

The issue of schooling in America is extensive, but the research shows black students are projected to be less educated, while white students are expected to be more so educated. This is shown in a study done in 2015 by an organization called “Child Trends,” which is a non-profit and non-partisan research center that tracks data about children. Black parents are shown to have lesser education than their white counterparts, and therefore their expectations are less for their children. Lesser expectations, according to this study, is more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy. This creates tension with the idea of school, not very “positive attitudes” when it comes to school, and “less parent-child communication about school.” This all creates negative impacts and first impressions by students and teachers in the American schooling system.

According to this study, “disparities in discipline begin in preschool and continue through every level of schooling.” While blacks make up 18 percent of students in preschool, they account for 42 percent of students with an out-of-school suspension and 48 percent of students with multiple out-of-school suspensions. This is not the only disparity that exists between white students and black students. Even in areas where schools are predominantly minorities, “on average, schools serving more minority populations have less-experienced, lower-paid teachers who are less likely to be certified,” according to a report from the Center for American Progress.

Education, and school discipline leads to another problem, as Holloway talks about, the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Holloway refers to the “new slavery” as the mass incarceration of black people, which originated with Reagan and his supposed war on drugs. Although for Holloway, you cannot convince him that this war on drugs “was genuine at all,” and it was “pretty much an attack on black people, to capitalize off them, and black communities.” This school-to-prison pipeline is an issue Holloway and fellow members of the United States Student’s Association study extensively.

The school-to-prison pipeline is what happens when an educational system continues to push out, on the fringe, the most at risk students, such as minorities, based on all of the previous information delegated. A lack of expectation, plus discipline that is greater for African Americans than it is for white Americans highlights the more important aspects of the school-to-prison pipeline. The educational system refuses to acknowledge the problems it faces, and it enacts zero-tolerance policies that make it easier to suspend or expel a student, who is then left alone without supervision. According to a study done by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students, and students who have been suspended are more likely to be held back a grade and dropout of school entirely. This is an issue inside America that is ignored, and something that enables a system in place, that is set up to fail minority students.

The issue comes back to expectations placed on white students versus black students, and a recent study found that teachers have their own agendas and biases. According to a study by John Hopkins University, “when a black teacher and a white teacher evaluate the same black student, the white teacher is about 30 percent less likely to predict the student will complete a four-year college degree, the study found.” If the teachers do not have high hopes for the students, why would the students believe in themselves? This is a form of microaggression, that is caused by societal constructions and intentional whitewashing. Assuming that white is generally smarter than black is clearly detrimental, and provides a never-ending cycle that will not benefit anyone in the future.

This is the reason TJ Holloway wants to go into the profession of teaching, although he admits he is “disillusioned” at the moment. What Holloway wishes to happen is to create an open dialogue between race, an interrogation of yourself, of your values, and as this generation moves into adulthood, accountability. “Being culturally and socially responsible,” as Holloway puts it, “This is the first time we held ourselves accountable, whether people are there or not.” He does not expect a miracle, and in fact still understands that “19-20 years of socialization” is not going to change within one year, two years, three years, etc. Holloway believes the accountability factor will weigh in at the end. If a person interrogates themselves, and understands that this socialization occurs, it will be easier to question certain standards, and remain aware.

Holloway believes there needs to be a dialogue about these issues. Not a call-out, but more or less a “call-in.” When something happens, or someone says something microaggressive, he says, there needs to be a moment when someone engages with that person, such as a simple, “Yo, we need to talk about this.” Holloway understands that socialization is something hard to separate oneself from, still admitting there is a part of him that is socialized, and he realizes each person has their own narrative, so even type-casting, or stereotyping them will never work. Every person has his or her own experiences that lead them to a certain point in time, and Holloway understands that.

Holloway’s motto when it comes to life, and how he can always improve himself is quite simple, really.

“Never get too comfortable.”

Dreaming the Big Dream: Elizabeth Caulfield

A young girl of just 14 walked into a room four years ago surrounded by at least 400 people. She describes the setup as an “E” without the middle. Nervous to the point of shaking, she walked up and down for the people sitting around watching her. There were 30 agencies there, and all she hoped for was one person to find her compelling enough to offer a contract. With no prior experience in the field of modeling, she was almost certain she did not make the type of impression that would last. She turned to her Dad when it was over, the person who brought her to this event, and said certainly “Dad, they hated me. I don’t know what I’m doing.” This organization which set up her first ever introduction into the fashion world was called ProScout, and to her surprise, she found out after this two day event that she, Elizabeth Caulfield, had the most “call-backs” than any other model there, with an astounding 15 agencies showing interest in her.

Her journey had just begun, and the next step was actually picking an agency to sign with. She had to visit all 15 agencies that wanted to sign with her, yet her age restricted her from choosing some of them, such as Ford Models and Elite Model Management, who told her to come back when she turned 18. The agency she ended up choosing was called Click, and her reasons for choosing this agency are simple and sweet coming from the small town girl. Click is family oriented, and she thought it was important to have an agency where they care more about you than a bigger agency.

Now 18, Elizabeth, or “Biz” to her friends and family, is ready to take the next step into the world of art that is modeling. After she graduates high school, she has plans of moving to New York City to model full time, and as she greets me in the Barnes and Noble at Rowan University, it seems, to me, all too possible for her to crack into the mainstream fashion industry. Her dark brown hair, that has a natural wave and looks, right now, the epitome of bedhead, flows almost to her hips, and as she searches for me in the Barnes and Noble, I can easily see her head peeking over the bookshelves. With a fresh face clean of makeup, save a little bit of mascara accentuating her long eyelashes, she appears a little disheveled. My first thought upon seeing her, and a thought that popped up multiple times throughout the interview was: limbs. She is 5’8”, all legs and arms. She is wearing horn-rimmed glasses, a red shirt that says “Penn State Homecoming,” black leggings, and gray Ugg boots, somehow managing to look blasé yet completely chic at the same time. When we begin to talk about modeling, I notice as she sits up eagerly in her chair and crosses her legs, there is nothing blasé about her or her feelings for something that gives her happiness

Since her birthday in November, doors into the modeling world began to open up for her. With credentials behind her in the form of ads for Boscov’s, Salt Magazine, 5 Below, an Italian magazine that she does not name, among other miscellaneous photo shoots that she refers to as “childish” but also necessary because “it’s a start,” she sounds ready, maybe even eager to pose for something a bit more sexy. Although she would never pose nude because “that’d make my Dad feel awkward,” she says with a laugh, “I’m not doing that to him.”

Her laugh, her voice, much like the rest of her, is sultry with just the right amount of husk that forces me to lean in a little bit closer when she speaks. It is inviting, and curious, with a gloss of innocence protruding, so if you ever forget by looking at her, you can hear the 18 year old girl when she speaks. That innocence translates into easeful hopefulness when she tells me about her plans, her dreams that she does not describe as such. “So, do you have any aspirations when it comes to modeling?” I ask her. “I don’t know,” She nearly cuts me off, laughing nervously, “I’m just going with the flow.”

“I think you can do it.” I can’t help but believe what I’m saying. There is a presence about her, a humbleness, but also a quiet ambition. “We’ll see. I don’t like to think about it. It makes me nervous.” She is all breath in the last few sentences, and then proceeds to fidget in her seat, toss her hair behind her shoulder and smile a strained, little, not the normal toothy smile I have gotten used to seeing. I ask her about her inspirations, and the confident, self-assured, driven model relaxes in her seat, smiles with all of her teeth, and delves into who she finds admirable in the modeling world.

Her inspirations are not the social media crazed models of the time, but older models, models who had to work their way to the top. She names Victoria’s Secret, concludes that all of their models work hard, and usually start from nothing. Tyra Banks is another model she looks up to, because she started from nothing and worked her way up as well. She respects Banks, and how she left modeling to find models, because she does not like the image associated with models today, being so “skinny, and no boobs. She doesn’t like that.” This is detrimental, and a big reason why models are criticized today. Too skinny? Unhealthy? While some people, like Biz, are born that way, some models “strive to be skinny.” Biz tells me how some girls will get “you need to tone up,” or you need to lose weight from their agency, but she is not that easily persuaded. While she’s never gotten that, she says, “I’d obviously ignore them” if anyone told her to lose weight, “because” she laughs a little and looks down at herself, “I obviously don’t need to lose weight.” I agree emphatically.

While Biz may be more self-aware and comfortable with who she is, there are some models, who she lived with over the past two summers while she worked in New York, that would take what the agency said seriously. So seriously, in fact, they would only eat, “like, two things a day.” There was a 15 year old girl that stayed with her that Biz said would eat miniscule meals, one or two bites, then say she was full. She looks at me, rolls her eyes, and says, “Like, no you’re not.” We both laugh. “I’m over here eating Doritos, she’s eating a salad, cause I don’t gain like that, and she’s like, ‘you’re over here eating Doritos,’ and I’m like, that’s cause I can, and cause I don’t care.” She drags out the last part, defending her right to eat whatever she wants, and showcasing her complete nonchalant attitude when it comes to her body. While she tells me the story in a joking way, her concerns are more serious. So serious, in fact, that her and her friend Phoebe, told the person who “babysat” them in New York, since they were too young to walk around the city without supervision, that this girl was not eating, and as a result this girl has to send her Mom pictures of herself eating.

It’s a fine line to walk, and Biz says it is simply because the girls love modeling so much, that they will do anything to achieve their dreams. It got to the point where all of the girls staying in that New York house wouldn’t be able to tell each other when they got a job, because the jealousies arise along with the insecurities. In a business based solely on looks, it’s hard not to take rejection as a personal slight, but Biz has managed to do just that. “If you want me, you want me. If you don’t, you don’t.” She laughs, shrugs her shoulders. “You’re either in, or you’re out,” She says, “They either want you, or they don’t.” This is a profession that deals with rejections daily, and Biz knows that. How does she deal with it? The rejection? The judgement? Well, she looks at modeling a bit differently than the normal person. While every model wants to be “the image,” she looks at it, “like, art. There’s so many different faces, so many different bone structures, and it’s just like, whoa that’s cool.” She begins to glow, and her hands begin to move excitedly as she talks.

It doesn’t take long for her to bring up the positive effects of modeling, and while she may have appeared as mature as anyone talking about the negative aspects, and her plans for the future, there is a childish glee, an eagerness as innocent as a 10 year old telling you about the first time they rode on that huge rollercoaster, with all of its ups and downs, when she talks about actually modeling. She likes the feeling she gets behind the camera, and describes it as “really cool.” She smiles abashedly, maybe a little embarrassed to be showing such excitement and hopefulness for something she admits, she never really talks about. This is confirmed by her sister, Courtney, who says, “At first it was a huge secret, she didn’t even tell her friends, because she was afraid people would think she was conceited.” Sitting before me now, Biz twists her fingers together, looks at me, and says, “When I’m behind there [the camera], it’s like corny, but I’m home. I just love it so much.” She goes on and says, “Sports were never my thing, like, school was never my thing, but this, it all just comes to me.” While school may not have been her thing, she does tell me her favorite class in high school is English, because she likes reading books that teach her lessons, and mentions her favorite, The Catcher in the Rye. She also tells me that she enjoys writing. While this last part catches me off guard, it is not something I find hard to believe. A girl this self-reflective has to read, I thought. It only makes sense.

She does pause to describe to me a photoshoot where she had to wake up at 4 in the morning, and she wasn’t home until nearly 7. All day behind a camera, without substantial food, because the photographers and people behind the scene are in a rush, and she admits she gets “cranky.” She says the rush is mostly due to lighting, and making sure they have the perfect sun light for the shoot. While some people behind the scene are nice and worried about the models, some are “rude. I’m their doll, but that’s true. Like, I literally am their doll.” All of this is worth it to Biz, who is, as Courtney pointed out, “becoming more confident and is realizing how talented she is.”

So talented, in fact, that she has hopes of becoming a Victoria’s Secret model. Although she describes it as a “basic” modeling dream, she says it’s ideal, because all of the models are “together. They’re friends. They’re all so different in their own way.” Biz says she would like to be with the same group of people every day, describing it as fun and comfortable.

Sitting back in her chair, relaxed with her disheveled hair and black leggings, it is obvious comfortability is important to Biz, who also is not afraid, even determined to take on the ever changing world. “There’s so much to do in this world.” She tells me with a deep sigh. “This is where you came from, but this isn’t your life.”

“Experiencing high school, at least the way I did,” She says as we walk to the front door of the Barnes and Noble, drawing the attention of almost everyone there, although she appears not to notice. “This is my senior year, like you literally have to expect and accept change.”

Finally Farewell: My Favorite Posts & What I’ve Learned

Hello again,

While I have thoroughly enjoyed writing on this subject, and while I may still dabble in posts for this blog, I’m afraid the subject will not be a strictly feminist blog. I am a feminist, though, so there will most certainly be posts about/relating to feminism!

I have learned the importance of time management, and that there are really incredible stories, and immensely interesting people wherever you may be. All you have to do is look.

My favorite post would have to be my last post with Evan Roskos and Dana Harrison of Rowan University. I had so much fun discussing feminist theory and how that pertains to literature and everyday life!

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Dr. Amy Hoch’s opinions on sexual assault and feminism in psychology, as well!

My picture post was interesting to me. While it was not on a normal day, it was fun watching The Bacchae reinvented, and how the crowd reacted to the gender switches between males and females.

I enjoyed talking to my old friend, Dana D’Angelo, about her hockey experience at Rowan.

One of the first posts I wrote really put me in the mindset to approach this topic fearlessly, and that was “Do You Consider Yourself a Feminist?”

I hope you all enjoyed reading! Thank you.

An Intimate Conversation with Evan Roskos and Dana Harrison of Rowan’s Teaching Staff on Women in Literature

If I had asked you to name the great authors of history, who would pop into your mind? If you aren’t an English literature major, you may think of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, etc., etc. You catch my drift, don’t you?

Women in the literature canon are underrepresented, and not taken as seriously as their male counter parts. Women’s literature is a genre that really took off in Victorian Era England, and since then we, as women, have been trying to push the boundaries of writing and telling stories. The phrase that is usually used to study women’s literature is feminist theory, which is similar to feminism, but a little different in the aspect that it is looking at a certain work of art through a lens to understand the underrepresented, ostracized, and just the plain differences in the gender scale. Feminist theory encapsulates any person who has never had a voice in literature, not just women.

Writing and feminism go hand in hand, seeing as the first wave of feminism brought out all of the great writers such as the Bronte sisters who are most famous for Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey, Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote works such as Mary Barton and North and South, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was married to another poet, but even in her time she was more known than he was, George Eliot (yes, she is a female who wrote under a pen name), and Florence Nightingale, to name a few.

In America, women writers such as Willa Cather, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and more were focusing on their unhappiness and the limitations that were put on them by the patriarchal society.

The issues these females chose to write about were largely related to their own unsatisfactory life, and they knew the hypocrisies that existed between a male and a female, especially in the 1800’s. They were mostly focused on being allowed acceptance into public spaces, such as a voting booth to vote, or in a public office. This first wave of feminism shifted when women were granted the right to vote in 1920 for America, and 1918 for England.

The second wave of feminism was more or less about finding different traditions altogether. “The New Woman” was a phrase that was coined to describe the women in the 20’s who usually had short hair, wore flapper dresses, and smoked cigarettes. F. Scott Fitzgerald writes about women in this time, and although he does so well, it is not a women’s voice.

Zora Neale Hurston is important during this time, because not only is she writing about women in society, but she also writes about race and the problems women of color faced. According to Professor Roskos, “anything by Hurston really works and it’s because it doesn’t fall into a lot of tropes people expect from women’s literature.”

Gertrude Stein was an important name during this time, as well as Virginia Woolf, who Dr. Harrison and Professor Roskos both vehemently swear by.

The next wave of feminism, which is focused on the sexuality of women, brings out all of the writers such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Toni Morrison, whose Beloved is considered a literary marvel, Julia Alvarez, who wrote How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which is one of my favorite books, Maya Angelou, who is well known, but not necessarily well read, if you know what I’m saying.

Joyce Carol Oates writes “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and although it is beautiful, Roskos says he hesitates to teach that, because “it is such a rape trigger,” and he finds that most people are hesitant to speak their opinions about it, or he has people who say things like, “Well I mean she just puts herself in that situation,” which, he says, is exactly why these kinds of conversations need to happen.

Women will always write, and some of you may not even know you’re reading a female author, as Dr. Harrison nicely puts, “the fact that if you use a man’s name over a woman’s name you still have a better shot at being published,” even today, at the end of 2015.

Women are just as talented and complex as male writers, and the face that they are not even as taken seriously today as they should be is exactly why feminism on a whole needs to exist.

 

Kailee Whiting: Rowan University PRISM President Talks Feminism & Personal Experiences

Kailee Whiting, Rowan University’s own PRISM President, had some interesting things to say regarding college students, and her own personal experiences which led to her desire to become an activist. Her beliefs stem from equality among the sexes, to the importance of intersectionality, and briefly touches upon Title 9.

She acknowledges that every oppressed group is linked somehow, and the only way we can overcome the obstacles is if we work together, not against each other, to make the world a better place to live in.

Samantha Caramela: Her Campus Editor for Rowan University Talks Journalism & Feminism

Her name is Samantha Caramela. She is 20 years old from Franklin Township, NJ. She is the editor for Her Campus Rowan, which is a chapter of the national online blog, Her Campus.
When I asked how the blog started, she responded with the following:
“I actually didn’t start the blog. I believe that one of Rowan’s alumni started it when she was a student; I took over the position of President this year from Jacqueline Klecak. Basically, there are about ten of us, and some others here and there, who meet every other week to discuss topics and material. We cover various topics, from mental health to fashion. Opposed to what many believe, we are not strictly a girl’s magazine. We actually have a male contributor and write for a broad audience. “
Since she is the editor, she does not necessarily write all of the posts on the blog.
“It is tough to manage this blog when I’m so busy with internships and classes; sometimes, a few writers are too busy to make deadline, which I completely understand. But being the editor, I can’t afford to miss a deadline; sometimes, I’m left writing last minute articles to make up for any empty sections. “
Some of the articles that Samantha has written include a post about mental illness survivors at Rowan, a post dedicated to college girls and guilt, a post talking about changing friendships, and how to deal with stress over finals.
On her thoughts about journalism, and the online blogging industry, she had this to say:
“Blogging is taking over the journalism industry. Many writing platforms are online rather than in print—especially magazines.”
Her favorite or most interesting part of running the blog is,
“Honestly editing all of the articles. I learn so much from each writer’s style and voice. I love working with other young, passionate writers.”
Her advice for people just starting a blog is:
“I suggest to stick with a theme. Your consistency will attract a dedicated audience.”
When I asked her if she considered herself a feminist, her response was:
“I honestly do not consider myself a feminist. I am not saying I don’t believe in women’s rights—I think females should have the same rights as males. But today, I think many take feminism to an extreme, attacking men for societal issues, almost losing its meaning. I don’t blame men. I don’t blame women. I still believe in chivalry, but I also believe in independence. I will be the first to stand up for women’s rights—don’t get me wrong. But I think there is a better way to handle it. “
Which I find is a common thought among people who do not consider themselves feminists. This, more than anything, just shows that people still associate a negative connotation with feminism, and people think us feminists are about bringing down the men of the world, when all we strive for is equality.
Even though I thought Her Campus was a feminist blog, I guess I was wrong to assume a blog with the pronoun her in the title would consider themselves feminists. As one of my favorite authors once said,
“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” – Maya Angelou

Dr. Amy Hoch on Feminism & Sexual Assault Awareness at Rowan University

Dr. Amy Hoch, a psychologist and counselor here at Rowan University, specializes in trauma and sexual assault victims. Her take on workplace discrimination, women psychologists, and what we, as a school and as basic humans, can do to bring more attention to sexual assault is something to consider if you aim to be a better human being, in general, or if you (hopefully never) find yourself in a situation that you are not comfortable with, or that is dangerous.

Hoch, the advisor to the Help Hotline, and co-chair on the Sexual Violence Prevention Program,  recently spoke in an article published on Nj.com regarding sexual assault treatment on campus. She claims Rowan is a step ahead of other schools pertaining to the treatment of sexual assault victims, but there is still a lot more to be done.

Hoch speaks briefly on RU Man Action Network, a recently founded organization at Rowan University that allows men to express their feelings regarding anything, really, but their recent panel was more or less focused on men taking action against domestic violence and sexual assault. RU Man Action Network is definitely something more people should know about.

She also foreshadows events that will be held in April at Rowan, because April is sexual assault awareness month.

 

 

Our Campus: Rowan University Through the Eyes of Her Campus

Hi everybody.

This week what I had originally planned to write fell through at the last minute, but what I found while browsing the web was Her Campus: Rowan University segment. This is actually a blog run throughout the country at various colleges ranging from Aberdeen, to Cal Poly, to Fordham, to Northwestern, to simply name a few. Each part of the site is run by a person from that campus, and Rowan’s campus spokesperson is Sammi Caramela. Caramela writes the main posts on Rowan’s blog, as well as some of her own poetry that she publishes on the site. It is a basic look at Rowan’s campus, and it has a student of the week each week, a post about homecoming banners, as well as inspirational articles that will simply help you get through the day.

Photo by Jason Howie, courtesy of Flickr.
Photo by Jason Howie, courtesy of Flickr.

The main site of Her Campus has trending topics, such as feminism, and if you click on the tag, it brings up interesting articles throughout the web that have been published regarding feminism.

My apologies for the short, rather abrupt post. I hope I gave you all another informative website to keep you occupied for a while!

Until next time!