Sunday, May 29, 2011

joy comes in the morning

I got a tattoo.

Some of you are freaking out at this revelation--amazed that I am more of a rebel than you previously thought, or horrified at that same notion.

But I didn't do it to prove anything to anyone. I didn't do it to prove that I'm a badass. I didn't do it to be cool. I didn't do it to make my parents mad at me.

I thought about it for a long time. I had toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, probably since I was 15, but I knew it would be something encouraging to me, something I could deal with having on my body forever. But I also knew I would have to wait a while. When I was 18, I thought of what I wanted. A good general rule of thumb with tattoos is to wait a year after deciding what you want as a tattoo before getting it, to make sure you still want it. It's been three years. And I got it a few weeks ago.

I didn't take this lightly. I knew my parents and other members of my family would not be happy about it, and it was a struggle to go against that. It scared me to make a permanent mark on my body. I thought about how this would affect my future career plans. Would I be able to hide it if I needed to? Do I really want a tattoo if I want to hide it? Are my parents ever going to forgive me? Are people I know or meet later going to think less of me? Do you really have to do this?

Some of those questions I know the answer to, others I don't, but to the final one--No, I didn't have to do this. I made a choice. So, no I'm not going to say, oh it's just something I had to do for myself. It's something I wanted to do for myself. This tattoo is important to me, its message is important to me, but yeah, I could have lived my life just as well without it.

But it's all about the choices we make. I mean what about the person you married? The job you chose to apply for/take? The place you moved to? The child you chose to have or abort? A tattoo seems less serious than some of those to me, and there are many that spend less time thinking about those things.

But, again, I'm not really trying to compare myself to others, by saying I'm so much better because I haven't made other difficult choices. I take full responsibility. I'm an adult. I thought about it a long time, weighed all the consequences of doing it, and decided to get a tattoo.

I worked at the IRS for 6 weeks, and told myself I would let myself do one big thing just for me with the money. The rest of it would go to paying for food and bills, and saving up to pay off my student loans. While I was working a desk job for 8 hours a day, I was sure I just wanted a spa weekend, or at least just a massage. But as I thought about it, I thought about this tattoo I had already waited 3 years to get. It was the week of the anniversary of Madeleine's death. And I realized it was time.

This tattoo describes my life. It's both for me and about everyone around me. In my high school years, I really found comfort in a song we sang in youth choir, that came from Psalm 30:5

For his wrath is only for a minute; in his grace there is life; weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Especially that second part: joy comes in the morning. I have struggled with depression throughout adolescence. I have been blessed with incredible people in my life that helped me through it, but what always kept me going is remembering that it wouldn't last forever. Joy comes in the morning. 

And I wanted to have it as a tattoo. With a peace dove. Both a symbol of peace, and a symbol that I can fly away from the pain that sometimes feel likes it's holding me back. And maybe I should be able to remember that without having it as a tattoo, but it's nice to always be able to look at it.

2008 was a rough year. It was the year I sprained my foot twice, wasn't allowed to dance for six months. It was the year I was diagnosed with PMDD and then Major Depression. It was the year I started taking medication for both of those. It was a year full of a lot of friendship drama. It was a year I constantly had to remind myself that joy would come in the morning. It was the year I realized I wanted this tattoo.

I put it on my ankle. I'm a dancer, so my feet are important to me. They carry me through this world, they let me dance. And it was horrible when I couldn't dance. I had to remember that joy would come in the morning. And that's why I chose to put that tattoo there. So much of my joy comes through dance. I want to remember that at all times. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

But still, why a tattoo? I've always loved seeing tattoos as art. There's a conflicted history of tattooing, some of it cultural, some of it very painful. But contemporary tattoos are often body art. And so many of them, especially when they mean something to the person, are so beautiful. They are becoming more popular and more accepted in our society. The message I chose to tattoo is a part of me, and I chose to make it permanently a part of my body.

I love this tattoo. The artist did a beautiful job. And I love looking down and seeing that reminder. Joy comes in the morning.

Here's some photos:
getting the tattoo done (by crtnz @ true blue tattoo in austin)

after the tattoo healed, the dove on the back

the text wraps around above my right ankle

then for fun:

this is how I felt getting the dove done on the back--the rest of it wasn't too bad, but that part was pretty painful. fortunately, it didn't last too long!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Street Harassment + Me

I've had this body my whole life. I don't remember the first time I got honked at or holla'd at, but it may have been as early as middle school. Because as soon as I hit puberty, wham! I had curves. Not that I can even say that is the full reason. It may lend to it, but the real reason is simply this: I'm a woman. If I'm walking down the street, then I'm fair game to any man who feels the need to holla.

I'm not a prude, I love my body, I'm comfortable in it. But I think about what I wear each morning in terms of what attention I'll get as I walk down the street to the bus stop or work. Some days I just don't feel like dealing with it, so I wear jeans and a t-shirt. I might not get honked at that day. But turns out, me feeling like I ain't lookin' cute--I still get honked at sometimes. I still have men pull up next to me trying to chat me up or offering me rides. But, if I wore a cute dress? It's guaranteed to happen. In jeans and a t-shirt, it's a question of whether I'll have to deal with street harassment. In a dress, or anything slightly more "feminine", it's a question of when.

I live about a seven minute walk from the bus stop where I took the bus to school last semester, and about ten minute walk from my job. No, I wasn't harassed every day. But a lot of days. It's more annoying when I get honked at (from the front and from the back, but from the back most often), but at least that's not coming into my bubble. It really creeps me out when men pull up next to me, try to offer me rides and crap. I mean, seriously? I'm not five anymore, but I pretty much still abide with the idea of not getting in cars with strangers.

I have very fortunately never had to deal with any actual assault. I am extremely grateful every time a man backs off and drives away. I hate that I feel fear every time a man pulls up next to me. What if all he wants is to ask directions? It's never happened. I don't even give them the benefit of the doubt anymore, and I hate that. I don't want to be a feminist man-hater. But considering my work is primarily in the area of intimate partner violence, and my own experience with harassment--it's hard sometimes. I know a lot of great men who treat women well. But I ask of them--do you call off your friends when they try to holla at the girls? If you don't--then you're just as bad--someone who stands idly by.

Anyone who thinks street harassment is harmless, ask yourself why the men are doing it. Do they really just want to tell me how beautiful I am? It's a power play, showing me and and other women who walk down the street that men are still in control. In the society we live in, it's accepted that you shouldn't walk around at night, especially alone. But I don't. This happens in the middle of the day. In broad daylight. In front of many other people in their cars. So don't try to tell me it isn't about putting on a show.

Race may be involved with street harassment for some, but you won't find me saying that. My body apparently is equal opportunity trigger for men of all ages and races. I can't even say one race does it more, because they don't. Just depends what part of town I'm in.

I will not stop walking everywhere. I will not be intimidated by men trying to show me who is in control. And I am speaking up. You try to holla, and you better believe I will hollaback.

Hollaback is an organization speaking against street harassment by collecting people's stories. My story was posted a couple of months ago. I invite you to take part in speaking up. You can also follow them on twitter.

It's time to be the change.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy mother's day!

There are a lot of amazing, strong women I have been blessed to have in my life that have shaped me into the person I am today. My grandmothers, my aunts, my late godmother, youth leaders, college ministers, women in the church and at Peace Camp, teachers, professors, friends... I wish all of you a Happy Mother's Day and I am grateful that I have you in my life.

But most of all, I wish Happy Mother's Day to the woman who gave birth to and raised me: Everly Broadway. It is thanks to her that I know that the sky is the limit when it comes to what I want to do in my life. It is because of her encouragement that I still dance. It is thanks to her that I am strong and independent and hardheaded sometimes (learned from the best!). It is because of her that I work so hard. It is because of her sacrifices that I have had so many opportunities to travel and the opportunity to go to St. Ed's. There have been many, many people who have shaped me in my life, but there is a big part of why I am who I am today, thanks to my mama.

Happy Mother's Day Mama!