Why I’m afraid to run, walk or be alone in public

Trigger warning: If you have been assaulted/violated, this may trigger you.

I’ve never loved public transportation, my greatest fear was always that I was going to get off on the wrong bus stop and be lost. This was the early 2000’s, I had graduated high school a few years prior. Cellphones back then were not the smartphones of today. So getting lost always felt like a real danger, even if I was just going a few miles to the community college I was attending at the time.

What I wore that day is seared into my memory. I remember it was a black off the shoulder top, a denim skirt and black flip flops. I even remember what eye shadows I had on: Urban Decay Midnight Cowboy and Grifter. I was feeling cute, a rare moment of feeling good about myself. My self-esteem has always been shaky, at best. But on this rare day, I felt pretty.

The bus stop was not far from my house, 2-3 blocks. Most of it was in residential areas, you just crossed 1 main street to get to the stop. I lived in Whittier, a slice of suburbia in the San Gabriel Valley. In my immediate area, it felt like a safe neighborhood. I sat there at the bus stop, knowing me I was probably reading or on my phone. The large bus stop ads were to the right of me, so I didn’t see the car stop.

Suddenly, a man walked up to me. He said, “I just had to stop and tell you how beautiful you are.” I was polite and said, “Thank you.” He said, “Can I give you a hug?”. Alarm bells went off in my head, a hug? That’s clearly not a normal request for a stranger. I said, “No” I think he asked me again and still declined. He said, “Aw ok, well I just wanted to stop and tell you that” and walked away.

I was so relieved he was gone, maybe I started going through my backpack? That part gets fuzzy. But what I do know is that before I knew it was back and he grabbed my thigh and said something like, “Oh let me just get a little touch”. I grabbed his arm and said, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” He told me to calm down. I don’t remember what he said after that but I do know he walked away.

At this very moment, I am shaking after having written that. Shaking like someone who is terrified… and crying. A lot of my peace was absolutely shattered in that moment and it changed how I would operate in this world forever. What if I had let him hug me? What if I hadn’t grabbed his hand and showed him I was ready to fight back? WHAT IF, WHAT IF. What if I had just stayed home that day?! Was it my outfit?! Was it my makeup?! WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE IT?!

Everything after that moment is blacked out in my mind. I think I walked back home and called my sister Mercy. My mother at this time was in the hospital so telling anyone else felt like a burden. My sister ended up telling my father what happened, unbeknownst to me. But when he asked me about it and I told him what happened he basically said, “Oh, that was it? I thought it was worse. So you are ok?” Mind you, we are sitting in a hospital…my mom is very sick…and I don’t even know how to process this. I said I was ok, and that was that.

In that moment, unfortunately I fully metabolized, “It’s not that big of a deal”. So, as I did with most things in life, I sucked it up and soldiered on.

At the time I was actively keeping a daily livejournal. I wrote EVERYTHING in it. I was in a terrible relationship at the time, so when I’d write about really bad things I’d make the posts private and rant or cry away. I went back looking to see if I posted something when this happened, I didn’t. This was so shameful and dark I couldn’t even write about it to myself. And I wrote about some DARK stuff back then. But not this, this didn’t get to see any light. Shame 101.

Anytime I am tasked with being in public alone, I am terrified. I failed all my courses that semester because I could no longer get myself to ride the bus. It’s probably why I quit school eventually, as I could not consistently get myself to go to classes.   Every time I did go I would LITERALLY wear pants, a hoodie (EVEN in summer) and keep my backpack in front of me. I’d stare at every car that passed by to make sure it didn’t stop, I also never wore makeup.

Flash forward to me as a full fledged adult in 2016 getting a new job. A job that required me to take public transit because we have minimal parking. EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY was a struggle. Getting on that Metrolink felt like war, walking to work from the Metro station felt like walking through a warzone. I STILL only wore pants to work, I STILL wore hoodies, I still paid attention to every fucking male on that train/in the street and tracked their every fucking move. I walked with keys in my hands, ready to fuck up anyone. I also never wore headphones on the train or my walk…I needed to be 1000% alert.

If my friends were out for the day at work and Adam wasn’t available to talk to me through my entire walk on the phone, I would not go anywhere alone. I would eat out of vending machine if I happened not to bring my lunch. I’d rather eat a lunch of Doritos and a Snickers then put myself at risk walking alone. This is 2020, this is NOW. I wore a skirt to my current job once and a man on the street told me I looked pretty, I don’t think I ever wore one again until I started parking at work.

When I moved in with Adam, my need to take the metro stopped. But my need to walk to lunch or Trader Joes did not. My co-worker has invited me out so many times. But it literally takes so much mental strength to take an uber/train alone anywhere. And everytime I do, I am texting someone the entire time. Telling Adam, “I’m leaving now” so he can watch me on find my friends. I AM ON CONSTANT ALERT when I am alone.

I told myself if it ever happened again, I would scream, I would raise hell, I would stab the person. NO ONE was ever going to get away with violating me EVER AGAIN.

Until…someone did.

All my best laid plans were to protect me, in public, were to protect me from strangers. The boogeymen, the people lurking around corners and in the streets. I didn’t have a plan in place mentally for someone that I knew.

It was Thanksgiving 2019, I was somewhere I had been many times, with people I had been with many times. All guards were down, why would I need them?

Adam had stepped outside, but I was still in a room with 15+ people. They had just called us to take a group photo and I felt someone run their hand slowly across my ass. They said something to me before they did it, so I know who it was. I remember I just walked away and took the photo and smiled. I didn’t tell anyone, I acted perfectly normal, I was a guest in this persons house and it was fucking Thanksgiving. Once again I was left saying, “WHAT DID I DO TO DESRVE THIS” Once again, I no longer felt safe, it shattered me.

I kept it in for a few days until I finally told Adam what happened. I honestly didn’t want to but I also know enough about what happens with shame when it hides in the dark. It turns into an even bigger monster.

Even after I told him, I still could not shake the feeling that I had fucking failed myself. I HAD FAILED. This moment that I had been prepping for for over 15 year and I blew it. I fucking blew it, I didn’t scream, I didn’t yell I didn’t punch him in the fucking face. I walked away. I absolutely fucking failed myself. I had learned nothing.

If you knew how many times I’ve cried since this happened. If you knew how many times I have beat myself up for both these incidents…but mostly this one now. Because this time, I fucking knew better and I failed myself and all fucking women who have been through this.

I’m shaking less at the moment, but I am still crying.

We were once again talking about this, and Adam told me something that really, really resonated with me. I was once again beating myself up about not fighting back and he said, “Our natural instinct isn’t to automatically fight, we assess the situation and will usually choose to run before we choose the fight.” I’m well aware of what fight or flight is, but I hadn’t put it in that context. I wasn’t walking down a street or sitting at a bus stop, I was not in fight mode. So when it happened it went into flight and shock. That makes me feel like less of a failure.

If you have ever experienced anything like this, or worse, you are not alone. You are not stupid and this is not your fault. I can tell you that with 1000% conviction. But it’s a lot harder to say that to yourself as you look in the mirror, I’m also well aware of that.

This is why I don’t go running, or walking or do much of anything alone. Prior to last year I had gotten to a point where I could ONCE in a great while go for a walk/jog alone. But since this last incident transpired I’ve regressed. It will probably take me along time before I am able to attempt those things again.

Decades

I distinctly remember not that long ago listening to Prince’s “1999” and marveling that we were actually going into the year 2000. THE FUTURE.

Growing up teachers always made a big deal in my classes because we were the, “Class of 2000”, the first graduating class of the millenium. I distinctly remember telling my then best friend one day, “OMG we have a few more years here then it will be Jr. high, then high school then we are graduating!!” I was probably in 5th grade…yes ladies and gents I have been overthinking life ALWAYS.

So what lessons did I learn those first 10 years of the space age 2000’s?

There were harsh ones.. like being assaulted (grabbed) while waiting for a bus and subsequently not wanting to go to college anymore. Leaving an abusive relationship after 7 years. Watching my mom be diagnosed with a rare disease. And eventually starting a job I absolutely hated.

But there were beautiful ones too. Learning I was strong enough to leave a bad situation and eventually learning not everyone can do that. Immersing myself into music and meeting amazing people I’m still friends and some guy I live with now . 🙂 Having nights with my sister so wild and fun they could have easily been pulled right from “The Hills”. Taking my mental health seriously for the first time and visiting a therapist. Watching my mom reprioritze her life and leave so much anger behind.

I blinked and it was 2010. Literally blinked. This was supposed to be THE decade, the one where all the pieces came together and I lived my best damn life. Right?!

I lost my crazy nights, I traded them for 6 more years at the job I hated. Oh and my weekends too. But the most debilitating thing by far was loss. I lost my mom, I lost my sister I lost my entire way of being in this world and I spent the last half of this decade trying to recover. Trying to pick up the pieces and figure life out again. And in my heart of hearts I feel like I didn’t accomplish shit the past 5 years especially. I feel like I have been on pause and I’ve made very little forward motion. I feel like I failed. And it hurts…

I am hard on myself, it is my greatest curse. I am not where I want to be. But does that mean I’ve truly gone nowhere? My negative mind says, “YUP!”. That loud annoying voice that reminds me daily that I’m an introverted failure. “If you were just more like ____. “If you just acted a bit more outgoing/personable/friendly.” Oh and my favorite, “If you weren’t so anxiety filed maybe you’d actually HAVE a life.” That inner voice is great isn’t it?

So what have I done this decade?

I got a job at an amazing place and I wouldn’t have gotten it without having worked that job I hated. I learned how to drive. I fell in love with my longtime friend and I moved out of my house for the first time with him. I got medals for running races. I went to Maui, I went to Walt Disney World for the first time in my life, and then again! I became a Disneyland AP again because I realized my love of Disney far outlived and outweighed a relationship I didn’t care about anymore. I bought a guitar and learned how to play it. I stood on stage with my friends and backstage at some of the largest music festivals and the Hollywood Bowl. I got to experience things that many fans don’t get to see, ever. I was an honored guest at Disneyland and go to experience what it’s like to win a contest. I stood in the Disneyland hotel, free. I went to at least 12 concerts and countless live shows. There is probably more, probably a lot more, but that’s what comes to mind. Oh and Reggie, how can I forget Reggie.

I still look at that and my mind goes, “Well…you didn’t do anything important though.” *sigh* My mind will never let me be great. So I have to be great despite it.

My urge is to cap this off with a lot of positivity about the upcoming decade and how it’s going to be the best yet because I’m going to use all my knowledge from the previous ones. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I talk to much, I think to much, I need to just do it.

So instead, I’ll end this with an ask. I’ll ask that you be a little kinder with yourself and not look at yourself so harshly, because I assure you, you’re probably doing awesome. And I hope there is someone in your life that will tell you as such.

And if there isn’t, I’ll do it for you. It’s not as bad as you think, you’re going at your own pace in your own race. You’ll get where you need to go. You’ll find your way.

38

I have been thinking about my 38th birthday for the past 5 years. Ever since I lost my sister the day after my 32nd birthday. Here I am, on the cusp of my 37th birthday and it becomes more and more ingrained in my mind.

I have been thinking about my 38th birthday for the past 5 years. Ever since I lost my sister the day after my 32nd birthday. Here I am, on the cusp of my 37th birthday and it becomes more and more ingrained in my mind.

My sisters last year of life was her 37th year, pretty much. Her last birthday was on August 20th 2014, when she turned 38 and she passed away October 1st 2014. She didn’t even get 2 months of 38. My birthday is September 30th.

So hear I am, about to start my 37th year, the year that was her last. So, I look at my life and my mind goes to that place, the inevitable place of, “And if this was my last year, would I be satisfied with my life?”

That was one thing about my sister Mercy. She lived the fuck out of her life, because she NEVER took for granted the time she was here. She wasn’t supposed to make it past a few months old, so she lived accordingly. But the question I have for myself is…am I living accordingly?

I was born relatively healthy, especially in comparison to her.  But I have always waged a deep internal battle of dissatisfaction with who I am. That, however, is not to say that I haven’t worked on this actively and consciously.  I’ve been trying to turn this self-esteem boat around since I was 25.

My 25th year was one of my hardest, until I hit 2014 that is…but at 25 my world was flipped and I had to make a very hard choice. The choice was that being alone was better then being with someone that was destroying me. To love myself, more then the person I thought I loved. It seems really easy now, but I remember how devastating it felt at the time. But literally, walking away from that mess was the BEST decision I have made in my life. It was the first time I was my own hero, or in the words of Pretty Woman, I rescued myself.

And since then it has been a slow and steady learning and reckoning. I have learned SO MUCH about myself and my life. But to be honest, I was still never 100% happy with myself, I was still traversing rocky territory…and then I lost my mom and sister.

It threw me and it threw me hard. I didn’t revert to any of my past mistakes but I had a whole new mess to contend with and reconcile. I have walked slowly through it watching it go from unbearable to just heartbreaking to lonely. I wasn’t in a great place before I lost them, now I feel like I’m in another not so great place with even more baggage.

But what about the work? The learning and the self introspection? I can’t discount it, I know so much now about loss and pain but on the flip side I know the value of celebrating the fact that you get to live another day. Do I always remember that? No, I’m still imperfect, flawed and very human. You don’t walk away triumphant from loss one magical day, you walk away and realize you have to learn how to traverse LOTS of new, scary terrain.

When I first lost them I thought I’d reach a moment of clarity. I’d wake up one day and it would all make sense. It doesn’t work like that. The gaps in my heart will never fill, the pain I feel when I see their pictures will never go away. And I will never stop wishing that I could just talk to them one more time.

But that takes me back to 37. To this upcoming year of life I am about to live. Though I have done the studying and have been seeking knowledge and endless guidance. I must admit, there is something I haven’t been doing much of.  The work. The hard labor it would take to really begin to confront my own terrible, harsh, self opinion.

The work looks like me being disciplined with myself about eating better or going to the gym. It looks like me playing my guitar and taking voice lessons again. It looks like me doing a lot of things I currently don’t do. I have a lot of reasons and excuses why i don’t do these things. Some days life just feels to hard or draining or sad to do anything more then sit and spend another evening on my phone.

But, the question is do I want to turn 28 next year and feel exactly as I do now? Exactly as I have felt for many, many years. Maybe before I was thinner or had less bills but I have never been fully happy or accepting of who I am as a person. I love so many other people in my life unconditionally, but I cannot offer myself this same kindness. I don’t do things that make my heart happy often enough. I’m not doing the work. I even know what the goals are now, but I am still not pursuing them.

This is my New Years Eve, this is actually way more important to me then Jan 1st ever could be. Did my sister squander 37? No, my sisters crazy ass up and moved to West Virginia at 37 because that’s what my sister did! She did whatever her heart called her to do no matter how ‘effing crazy all of us thought she was. That is how she LIVED her life. She L-I-V-E-D it.  

Don’t read this as me being a fatalist and thinking my life won’t extend past 38. Though, it is not my choice when I leave this earth, I fully know that. But I just feel this is my personal call to action. This is my brain saying, “You have done so much already but now it’s time to take it all the way”.

I wanted to write this as a private journal entry to myself at first. Why? Because I feel like I have said I wanted to change so many times, and I never have. So if you don’t call your shot…no one can see you fail. But I’m calling my shot right now. This is going to be so hard, I know it is and that’s why I have been avoiding it.

But I’m not going to squander 37 or 38 or however long I am given. I’m tired of it. I want to push to be the person I truly feel I am on the inside and the person I was meant to be. I’m not even 100% sure who that is, but I know I sure as hell won’t find out unless I actually do the work.

I feel like I am dragging myself through life right now. Life is living me. And though many amazing things that have happened to me, I still feel like I’m not enough. This comes out in a lot of ways. My appearance, my actions and even more importantly my non-actions. All the things I don’t do because I fear judgement or failure.

I vow to change, and I promise you 37 will look and feel unlike any other year that came before it.

I will not break…I will not…

Do you just continuously do things that are bad for you? Make the decisions that put you facing the opposite direction of where you want to go? I totally do and it’s becoming more and more apparently to me.

I went through my February life coaching with Rachel Hollis and then revisited my January coaching again. I had listened to the coaching session live in January but had done so while I was working. I even took notes! But when it came to February was I was too busy to even listen so I had to go through the session over the weekend. I realized how much more impactful it was to actually just sit there and be a student vs trying to do 2 things at once. So, I re-listened my January course.

It was like I had never even listened to January! The way everything absorbed and hit me. I’m so glad I spent the two hours this weekend really focusing in on what Rach was trying to teach. But, it also made me realize that since January I had basically made NO movement toward my goal.

The first goal I’d like to work on is getting healthy and fit. I feel like it would be a gateway and a confidence booster for all my other goals. But in my Start Today journal this has been, “The first goal I’m going to accomplish..” since October. And I can sheepishly admit that I have made ZERO freakin’ progress towards this goal. Actually things have gotten worse because my gym membership expired in Feb..so now I don’t even have a gym to not go to!

This kind of ties in with February’s lesson and my biggest takeaway from that was that people don’t accomplish their goals because IT’S HARD. We all KNOW what to do we all know where to find the info/what the steps are to take but we don’t do it! This is SO true for me. Self-discipline is something I am apparently NOT good at. Another huge takeaway for me was anything good that has ever happened to you has probably been through your own effort (one way or another).

What made me write this? Well I decided to simply keep track of my calories today. And I realized that snacking is REALLY not helping any of my efforts. It has made me conscious of how many calories those delicious smores girl scout cookie sitting about a foot and a half away from me actually are. AND YET I am sitting here dying to snack on more.

This is not about cookies and calories though, this is about me constantly letting myself off the hook to the commitments I make to myself. (Rachel also touches upon that in “Girl Wash Your Face”.) But this is exactly why I have not made any movement towards my goal since October and before. And I don’t just do this with food I also do this with finances and even some relationships. “Let it slide…I’ll do it next time…next month…next year…” Next, next, next until 2020 rolls around and I still have the same goals. I’m paying for this coaching but I need to take action and use it.

If I tell myself I’m only going to have two cookies I need to just have those two cookies. I could have saved one and ate it later..but I didn’t. It’s about keeping promises to myself and to yourself. But obviously I have not figured out a magical way to do that at the moment. Hence my struggle.. Though I must admit, writing this out and putting it in my own face has squashed my craving quite a bit.

I think everyone has an area in their life where they KNOW they should be doing differently and they don’t do it. Because it’s just so easy to say, “I’ll do it next time…” I don’t think self-punishment or negative self talk is the answer to this either. How do you deal with this? What have you done to navigate around your weak points? I should have set myself up to win last Friday and not bought the cookies in the first place. But I can’t go back in time…so I can only do better in the future. So that is what I’m really, really, no REALLY, going to try and do.

Maybe I need to improve on keeping promises to myself more than even fitness and health?? Maybe that should be my first goal.