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.

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.

“Start Today” journal update and Life Coaching!

A few days ago I learned from Rachel’s instagram that she was going to start a Life Coaching program. It is not one-on-one. She made it clear in her video that she literally has no time to do that, and even if she did I know darn well I couldn’t afford it!

It’s been roughly a month and a half since I began using my “Start Today” journal. I can easily say it’s been an overall positive experience! At first trying to remember which 10 goals I had chosen was tough. But a month and a half later I finally have them totally memorized.

In itself remembering what the 10 goals are is a big deal, think about it! My own brain couldn’t easily recall the top 10 things I wanted to do in life. Each one of these items is super important to me, but I had never put them in front of my face enough to actually remember them. They’d come in and out of my consciousness like flashes, here and there I’d think, “Wouldn’t that be awesome if…” but that was it, after it’d be forgotten. Not anymore!

Listing 5 things I am grateful for is also really wonderful. It becomes challenging when you are pissed off or in a bad mood. I sit their brooding over whatever upset me and then I force my brain to think positively. But after I finish I tend to be every slightly less grumpy.

I do have to admit one thing though, I haven’t been perfect about doing it every single day. There are some days when I have missed it either when I was sick, I kept putting it off and forgot…or I was just in a terrible mood and was laying in bed lamenting. I always start back up though. Why? Because Rachel teaches that imperfection is ok! What matters most is that you RESTART. Don’t let go of it just cause you messed up once. This is what I always have to remind myself, because I am a perfectionist. I hope I don’t miss another day from this point forward, but if I do, I know I can start again.

Life Coaching with Rachel Hollis

A few days ago I learned from Rachel’s instagram that she was going to start a Life Coaching program. It is not one-on-one. She made it clear in her video that she literally has no time to do that, and even if she did I know darn well I couldn’t afford it!

Even still I was thinking, “Oh god, it’s going to be like $100 a month or something”. Because if you follow this space, like I do, you know that these teachers charge A LOT for their info. Courses can easily be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. So I braced myself and looked at the price. The personal life coaching, which is basically 2 hours a month, is $39 bucks.

That felt do-able. That felt like a realistic thing. I pay $9.99 for Apple Music and $14.95 for Audible every month. How about paying monthly for something that might actually help me move the needle forward in my life?! So what, that works out to $20 an hour? To get guidance from someone I feel really resonates with me? That feels like a bargain.  I pay more an hour to the person that does my hair.

So I bit the bullet, I signed up. Still skeptical mind you…still wondering if this money could be better spent. I have to say, yesterdays session felt COMPLETELY worth every cent. Rachel is just so genuine and raw and imperfect. I freakin’ love imperfection because I struggle with perfection so much. I love anyone who goes out into the world and says, “I’m doing this, I don’t know exactly what I’m doing..but I’m doing it anyway!”

I’m not going to break down what we learned or what our homework was. I’m going to wait until next month and let you know how/if what I learned helped me, what I implemented and what I possibly didn’t get rolling on. To be continued…

Starting my “Start Today” Journal

Write down your dreams. Write down your goals. Visualize where you want to be in life. Doesn’t like EVERY SINGLE self help guru say this in one form or another? But do you do it? As a self confused self help lover, my answer was a (sheepish) no.

Write down your dreams. Write down your goals. Visualize where you want to be in life. Doesn’t like EVERY SINGLE self help guru say this in one form or another? But do you do it? As a self confused self help lover, my answer was a (sheepish) no.

Oh, that’s not to say I have never written down my goals. Quite the contrary, I’ve done journal entries visualizing my fabulous soon-to-be life, I have made several vision boards, listened to countless meditations and as aforementioned…read LOTS and LOTS of books. But to no avail a gratitude or goal practice never emerged or stuck.

I recently came to the conclusion that accomplishing “things” was not helping any of my larger goals. Climbing that small hill (i.e. running a race, taking voice lessons, etc) did not create any momentum in my life. I started to ponder this really deeply for a few days. I came to the conclusion that the problem stemmed directly from the way I process the world. My thinking. 

I’m not going to go into that right now, because we want to get to the journal before the spring equinox, but just know there is A LOT to unpack there. (Isn’t it that way for most people?) So I decided for this year, as in the 12 month period after my birthday, not the calendar year, I was going to heavily focus on my thoughts, perceptions and emotions. 

That’s kind of tricky. You can quantify pounds lost or money saved, but how to do quantify your negativity? I guess you just have to go by your baseline happiness and how many crappy days you have vs bad days…I still really don’t know.

I found Rachel Hollis on a COMPLETE Audible whim. I had no clue she had a book on the best sellers list, or this huge following. Audible suggested the book for me, I read the description and though, “Ok, I’ll give this a shot.” What I love about Audible is that if a book sucks you can return it and get your credit back…which I have done for MANY a book. lol

That book is, “Girl wash your face” and it skyrocketed to one of my favorite non-fiction books EVER. Right next to The Alchemist, Big Magic and Eat Pray Love. READ IT if you’re into self help books or just need a good kick in the pants about living your best life. But yeah, I still wasn’t writing down goals or anything after I read it.

So I followed Rachel Hollis on her socials and bought a few more of her non-fiction books on audible. She’s really fun on instagram. Anyway, recently she started selling her “Start Today” journals. She is apparently going to sell them every quarter with limited designs. 

But I, Malinda, am HIGHLY skeptical about buying self help peoples products. They all promise to jump start this or change your life with that, um, I can’t even remember to fill out a simple daily calendar?? I was like $24 bucks for a journal? Nope, nope, nope. 

And I didn’t buy it, the came out, sold out and them came out again and I still didn’t buy it. But then Rachel did something I found to be REALLY cool and different from ALL the other self helpers out there. 

She has a podcast, which is also awesome btw, called The Rise podcast. In one of the episodes recently she read the ENTIRE prompt that is in the journal before you start the daily writings. She gave away the entire thing and said, “You don’t have to buy the journal, just use a blank piece of paper if that’s all you have…” So she basically gave away the content in the journal, free. I don’t know, for me that gave it a little credibility. She was truly championing the action of writing your goals and gratitude everyday and not just her journal.

If that was a marketing ploy, let me tell you it freakin’ WORKED. That gave this ole skeptic a little more faith in it. I was like, “Ok, $24 bucks plus shipping…I can swing that” 

So, everyone, I sat down yesterday and went through the initial writing exercise to find my 10 goals, it took about an hour and then I filled out my first page. You start with 6 things you are grateful for today then you write down your 10 dreams then you narrow it down to 1 goal. YAY FIRST DAY DOWN..now to keep it up.

I had even set my alarm last night 10 min earlier then normal so I could get up and write my stuff in my journal. BUT then, I was rudely awakened at 3am and had a hard time falling asleep, not going into that one. *eye roll* I knew in that moment there was no way I was going to be in the mood to wake up any earlier and do this. I set my alarm back to its regular time and (eventually) fell back to sleep.

But, when I woke up I was like, “I can’t throw in the towel! My goodness this is technically day two and I’m already going to not follow through. (I mean technically it was like day 1 because yesterday was day 0…which is even worse!) So I grabbed the jornal and threw it into my purse before I left.

Then, when I got to work I sat in my car for 8 extra minutes and filled it out. *breaks out into applause for self*

I am proud of that!!

Day 1, er 2, whatever: I am not a morning person. I am actually a terrible morning person, actually I’m pretty bitchy, esp when I don’t get proper freakin’ sleep! Making my mind focus on first gratitude and then goals was a really STRANGE feeling.

It made me realize that I basically NEVER actively think about either. I am just concerned with traffic, lack of sleep or work crap. But pushing my brain to this other realm that I hardly visit (gratitude and goals) was eye opening. I was thinking, “Wow, I really do NEVER think about this stuff” It was like an espresso shot of positivity for my super negative “morning brain”.

I’m determined to stick it out and see if doing this practice yields any fruit. The journals have 90 days worth of pages so my plan is to STICK WITH IT at least for the 90 days. Really commit to it and just see if anything happens, see if there is anything to this practice like all these self helpers say.

I will continue to write updates as the days go on. I will be very candid but even if I think it’s waste of time by day 20 I am STILL going to stick with it the full 90 days, to give it a fair shot. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the mental wake up call it gave me this morning though, I wasn’t expecting that.

Here are some links if your curious about Rachel Hollis or the journal.

Her Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/msrachelhollis

The journals have their own instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/StartTodayJournal/

Here is the podcast episode where she gives you the journal prompt:
(It’s the episode on 11/26/18)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/rise-podcast/id1245763628?mt=2

Here are the journals themselves with a snazzy video from Rachel:
https://www.thehollisco.com/p/shop

(Pic is from the start today journal instagram)