a letter to the girl who will love him after me

I guess we’re supposed to be enemies or I’m supposed to hate you or something. You’re supposed to be a downgrade. I think that’s a little childish and we’re better than that. You’ve already won. You have what I had, what was once mine. I’m usually a fighter and believe me when I say I fought with everything I had to keep him.

But the truth is that he’s yours now. And as much as I try to say I’m okay with it, I’m still trying to remember who I was before I had him. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love him, because I loved him with everything I could. I am trying to move on, to give you space, and to give him away to you.

It isn’t that I don’t want to talk to him every day; I think of him more often than not, guilt flooding over me every single time because he isn’t for me to think about anymore. Maybe not speaking to him again is better for all of us.

He’s going to make you a better person, if you let him. He’ll bring you a lot of happiness once you get passed his dorky personality. You’ll melt when he smiles at you and your dweeby smile will spread so far across your face that you’ll forget what it was like without him. He’ll  be everything you want and with every passing day, you’ll fall faster and faster.

Don’t be afraid of falling though, because he’ll catch you. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt. He doesn’t want to hurt you. I promise. Trust me when I tell you that the pain I felt, and am still feeling, was worth it.

He’s going to make you feel wanted and special. He’s going to hug you from behind and kiss your cheek and you’re going to know that you’re completely and utterly happy. His hugs will cure every ailment and the softness of his voice will comfort every sadness.

I can’t see the future. I don’t know if you’ll be the one for him, like I thought I was. But I hope for the best for you, regardless. I don’t dislike you, but I am envious of you. You’re dating the man of both of our dreams and somehow, that connects us.

Take care of him for me.

till it happens to you

I’m strong, independent, and rarely rely on others for my own safety. I’m competent and have a good head on my shoulders. I have common sense and know right from wrong. I am a victim of sexual assault.

Sexual violence. Molestation. Assault. Abuse. Rape.

We hear these words far too often but think of them far too little. Yes, sexual violence happens, you know that, and I know that. But sexual violence isn’t something we choose to talk about. Most students my age have to sit in on a seminar or read about the realities of sexual violence on college campuses, as a requirement by the university. I took two of these. I sat through them, I listened or read, I didn’t care that much. I would never be in that type of situation, and if I was, I could handle myself.

One in four women will be sexually assaulted during their post-secondary academic careers. Look around you. Think about your friends and family. The reality is that twenty-five percent of women who attend college in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted, a majority of which the perpetrators are friends or acquaintances of the victim. Your sister, friend, cousin, or even you could be the victim of sexual assault.

There are one thousand excuses and questions people will try to throw on you. “Did you know him?” “Did you go to his house?” “Maybe he didn’t know you wanted to stop.” “What were you wearing?” “Did you say anything that might have led him on?” “Perhaps he thought you were asking for more.” “Were you flirting?” “Were you already engaging in sexual activities?” “Kissing and touching usually leads to more…you know that.”

I want to tell you this: sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. None of the excuses or questions listed above are relevant, ever. Sexual assault is not the result of a short skirt, a revealing top, or touching. Sexual assault is not the result of flirting or being nice to men. Sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.

Victims of sexual assault do not ask for it. The ones who perpetrate are to blame. They are disgusting, manipulative, forceful, criminals.

I didn’t think I’d find myself in this situation. Never in a million years. I’ve always taken care of myself. I wasn’t vulnerable, in its most literal sense; I’m not weak or afraid of much. I was wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants. I didn’t kiss him. I did everything “by the textbook.” It still happened. I wasn’t strong enough to force him off. I was too afraid to scream. My mind shut off and I couldn’t think. I knew I couldn’t grab my stuff fast enough and get out of there before he could stop me. I was trapped in the locked room.

You never hear the side of the abuser. He’ll never tell you that he could hear me crying or that he couldn’t tell I wasn’t into it. You’ll never hear him say that he felt bad about it because he doesn’t. Does he know he sexually assaulted me? Yes. Does he care? Not in the least.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. You are not excluded from the numbers. One in four women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted. I hope to God that no one has to go through this and carry this with them every day. This is an everyday battle. This is not  reminiscing or holding onto the past. This is not feeling bad for myself. This is an attack that I will carry in my mind every day for the rest of my life.

Sexual assault is not only physical but psychological. The physical scars and pain will fade and go away. The psychological scars are permanent. It is a battle that I need to fight every day. It’s walking down the street at night and passing a stranger and being worried about my safety. It’s going to a friend’s house and avoiding men. It’s sitting around a table while some idiot makes a joke about rape and not knowing whether to tell them to shut up or sit quietly so I don’t cry. It’s deciding who to tell and when, if anyone ever. It’s the nights where a sound or a smell reminds me of that night. It’s crying alone because I don’t know what else to do. It’s hyperventilating in my car. It’s walking around the following days, knowing that everyone around me, strangers and friends, can tell what’s happened. It’s feeling unworthy of anything but mistreatment. It’s carrying all these feelings and thoughts every single day, and not being able to escape. It’s being courageous every day. It’s not giving up. It’s making my voice heard. It’s making my experience real and relevant. You are not alone. I am not alone.

 

The sexual assault 24/7 hotline is available. Use them. I wish I would have.

1-800-656-4673

Pro-Tips for College

I’m not a real adult so here’s some pro tips I learned while in college.

  1. Your mom always has all the answers for everything you can ever possibly need. Did I stress that enough?
  2. If you spill wax on your carpet, don’t let your mom tell you to put ice on it. Just dab it with paper towels. When the wax dries, use your hair dryer to heat it back up and keep dabbing with paper towels.
  3. Buy good quality paper towels.
  4. You might think you wear all your clothes, and thus need to bring them all to college with you. You don’t. I just cleaned out my closet for the winter and I kept two flannels, two t-shirts, and like seven sweatshirts. That’s more than a weeks worth of clothes, so that’s really all a person needs.
  5. Always have a man with muscles nearby in case you get your desk stuck in your doorway.
  6. Invest in a small set of tools in case you need to remove your door to get the desk out, or take apart said desk: screwdriver (Phillip’s and a flathead), allen wrenches. (Mom, buy me a screwdriver for Christmas)
  7. Get your flu shot. Trust me. I’ve been sick for six weeks and I can’t get a flu shot until I’m no longer sick, which probably won’t happen. Why stop at six weeks?? Go for the whole semester!
  8. Complain to companies about their products and they WILL send you coupons for free products. #freedoritos
  9. Wash your towels and bedding. Wash your laundry in general. If it’s free to use the machines, go for once a week. Your room will smell better. Also, Wednesdays around 3 P.M. is the best time to start the laundry.
  10. You don’t need to waste so much money on alcohol you aren’t gonna drink. Plus, if you try to get drunk alone and eat pizza rolls, you might break out in hives and your entire head will be on fire and you’ll consider going to the E.R. at 2 A.M.
  11. Eat breakfast. You might forget your keys with your I.D. and debit card on it and not be able to eat all day.
  12. Become a rewards member at Little Caesar’s Pizza. If you buy 10 pizzas, you get one free. It’s the best $5.35 you’ll ever spend.
  13. Learn to use a flat-top grill. I am embarrassed at the number of people who asked me how to make a quesadilla on a flat-top. They literally didn’t know how to put a tortilla on a grill and put cheese in it. That’s a problem. Also, know how to cook an omelette. It looks more impressive than scrambled eggs.
  14. You’ll hit rock bottom at least once a week. Don’t worry about it. Eat pizza rolls.
  15. Wash your face and use moisturizer twice a day.

Learn these and put them to good use. You’ll thank me later.

What is Bridget Doing with Her Life?

Okay, so I’ve been getting thousands of questions, mostly from my family, about my life right now. “Are you going to school?” “Did you drop out?” “Why are you living at home?” “Are you going back to school in the fall?” “Do you work here all the time?” Meh.

To answer the most repeated questions right now:
No, I’m not dropping out of school. I’m taking online classes this semester and living at home because that’s how online classes work and my parents miss me. I am studying abroad this March through the middle of April. I will be at Oxford University and traveling to London, other nearby cities, like to visit Stonehenge and the like, and also Paris. I am working full-time, as well as going to school full-time. After I get back from EuroSpring, I will be finishing up a couple online classes through the end of this semester.

After this semester, comes summer. Yes, I’ll probably be continuing at the local hotspot…the Hugo’s Deli. Come get your fried chicken, coleslaw and potato salad. I promise to not spit in it. Hopefully, I’ll find a better job that doesn’t require me to be up to my elbows in dirty dishwater and sticking my hands in hot grease and dealing with awful tourists.

In the fall, I’ll be transferring to North Dakota State University to continue my degree in Elementary Education. When I am finished there, I’ll have a dual degree in Elementary Ed. and Human and Family Development. *But doesn’t that mean you have to teach in North Dakota?* I’m sure I’ll be back in Minnesota for a while after graduation, so I can take a test that licenses me for Minnesota, too. Fear not, my good people.

I’m really excited about my trip to Europe and for school to start in the fall at a new place with entirely new people. There are nearly 15,000 people that are potential friends, so that’s neat.

I am too scared to plan my life any further than next fall, so no questions about my future, please. Hopefully this answers the majority of your questions.

Cheers to new beginnings!

Happiness

Here’s the inevitable: I’m getting older every day. As each day passes, I feel the same, but when I look back at this exact time last year, I was a completely different person, and I think that’s okay. I know what I want from my life, for the most part. I keep forgetting that life isn’t an end result, rather a long journey through countless obstacles and numerous celebrations.

Getting older is scary. I’m not even old yet. I’m 19, but I feel 35. I forget that I’m so young. I forget that everyone around me is growing older by the minute. I’m too busy worrying about the end result of my life instead of living in the present and taking life as it comes to me.

My amazing friend asked me the other day, “Have you found anything that gives you fulfillment? Have you ever been truly happy?” And I thought for a minute or so and I realized I have only been truly happy when I was working with elementary students, no matter where that was. I’m not happy with my life right now, except working with kids. I’m not happy at school, I’m not happy at home, I’m not happy at work, I’m not happy with any significant others.

I’m like 94% introvert, as well as a people pleaser, so I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to make others happy before myself, or even in spite of myself. As long as they got what they wanted, it didn’t matter how I felt or how it affected me.

I don’t think that life is supposed to be like that. I should be finding happiness and fulfillment in where I am and who I’m with and I just haven’t found that. So instead of being in a rut, I’m going to make some scary changes.

No more. I’m tired to trying to please everyone and keep up this image of an obedient, goody-two-shoes. That isn’t me. I need to do what’s best for me and if that means someone else isn’t happy, then that isn’t my problem. I’m not responsible for anyone else but myself right now. I need to do what I need to do in order to better myself and do what I’ve always dreamed of.

I’m going to travel, start over, be real with people, and not be walked over anymore.

I don’t know what else to say to the people who might be hurt by my life choices except that I’m sorry I didn’t live up to the expectations you set for me, no matter how unrealistic they were. I’m going to do me and if I get lost along the way, I’ll find my way out. Everyone knows I was a better honorary Boy Scout than my brother, so I’m always prepared. Well, okay, there’s a flashlight on my phone. But, either way, I’m going to be just fine and I am so thankful for everyone who supports me in everything I do. You guys are neat.

Here’s to being truly happy and not worrying about other people’s happiness!

Red Lake Elementary School

October fourteen, two-thousand-fourteen.

My first day in a new classroom. I introduced myself to my cooperating teacher and met the principal. I was guided around a tour of the school and shown where all the important places I’d be spending the next healthy month. The kids were adorable. Twenty-one smiling Native faces gazed up at me. “Who are you?” “Why are you so tall?” “How old are you?” “What’s your name?” I was bombarded with questions. The class sat down on the carpet and I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Bridget. I go to college in Bemidji. I’m nineteen years old and I have one younger brother. I’ll be helping in your classroom for a little while. Is that okay?” The reaction I received melted my heart. They were so excited, they could hardly focus. They introduced themselves to me and I knew I was going to have a hard time remembering names…they all looked the same: dark hair, dark eyes, rattails.

October twenty-one, two-thousand-fourteen.

I was in school during math class and specialty classes, which includes gym, music, art, and culture. These kids aren’t the brightest. In fact, most of these second graders are reading at a kindergarten or first grade level. Several are EBD, emotional/behavioral/disturbed. Many have trouble distinguishing letters from one another. Math is hard for most of these children. Counting doesn’t make sense. Addition doesn’t make sense. Numbers are difficult. I watched them struggle with determining the difference between the plus sign and the minus sign.

October twenty-eight, two-thousand fourteen.

I finally had their names memorized, which apparently is quick. My cooperating teacher said she hadn’t had anyone learn them that fast. They were precious and special; how could I not remember them? I watched these kids go from struggling with five plus three to determining partitions of geometric shapes. They didn’t know it, but they had graduated to division. Yes, it was a challenge, but they could do it. I’ve noticed that when any new person comes into the classroom, suddenly the children “don’t know how” to do things. But they do. The agency they displayed after getting used to me there was unreal. It was no longer, “Bridget! What is six doubled?” “What is it called when there are three pieces in the rectangle?” It was, “Bridget! Look! I did this all on my own!” I am so overwhelmed with excitement, joy, and happiness. Life is good here.

November six, two-thousand fourteen.

Before my eyes, these struggling children blossomed into smart, young kids. They are learning geometric solids, what we adults like to call 3-D shapes. They’re learning new words, big words. They’re recognizing words like trapezoid, parallelogram, cylinder, and sphere. These words are hard for a low-functioning second grader, but they did it. As teachers, we develop biases for our kids. We read an IEP that says they can’t do certain things, when the reality is that they can. We set low standards for them and we should be setting high standards for them to strive for because they can do it if we believe in them as much as they believe in themselves.

November twentieth, two-thousand fourteen.

I’m barely containing my emotions. These kids have become my own in a matter of a little over a month. They’re excelling. Their reading levels have skyrocketed since being tested a week ago. I am so proud of them! They drew me pictures and wrote me letters today. It was two and half hours of hugs, hand-holding and “I miss you’s.” They worked on adding multiple numbers together. They are being challenged in ways they didn’t even know existed when they walked through the classroom door in September.

That’s my favorite thing about teaching. Everything is new to them. They learn everyday. Their minds are growing and soaking up every piece of information they hear. I think that is such a wonderful opportunity!

Unfortunately, my time with my second grade students has come to an end at Red Lake. They were a rowdy and sassy bunch of kiddos but my heart is so full of love for every one of them. Getting up before the sun every day was a struggle, but I wouldn’t change the last month and a half for anything in the world. My students all drew me pictures and wrote letters and one of my favorites said, “I like holding your hand. I don’t want to not. I don’t ever want to stop holding hands.” I’m gonna miss spending early mornings with the little darlings.

Sometimes life is hard, but the little things are what make it special.