What It’s Like Currently Being a Student in America

I’ve grown up in a post-Columbine world. The talk of school shootings is not something new to me, I’ve been taught how to prepare for one my whole life. I’ve spent hours siting in dark classrooms, huddled in the corner with my classmates praying it’s only a drill. As of February, there have been a total of 18 school shootings in 2018. The latest, taking place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people.

As a current student, this terrifies me. Many days I wake up wondering if I could be next. I’ve made action plans for every classroom I go to, in case I find myself in an active shooter situation. When I see students walking with their hands in a hoodie, I wonder if they’re concealing a gun. When I hear screaming in the hallway, I immediately think “where should I hide?” The worst part about all of this is that it is a preventable issue, yet our government just won’t do anything to prevent it.

I don’t want to be the next victim of a school shooting. I don’t want to see my classmates be victims of a school shooting. I don’t want to see anymore children die in school a shooting. We’re required by law to go to school from the time we turn five until we graduate from high school, and yet we are not safe there. I may now be in college, and have made the decision to be in school, but I still deserve to be safe. No students will be safe until we have gun control, and no students will be safe until our government stops taking money from the NRA.

It is not too soon, now is the time to talk about this. April 20th, 1999 was the time to talk about gun control, December 14th, 2012 was the time to talk about gun control, February 14th, 2018 was the time to talk about gun control, and yet we didn’t. We’ve become so numb as a nation that we get over mass tragedy is a few weeks. We don’t even remember the details of all the recent shootings, because there have been so many. The victims of these horrific acts of violence deserve to be remembered. They deserve justice, and that can only come when we, as a nation, make sure this never happens again. People my age and younger, like Emma Gonzalez, are having to step up and lead a movement. Children, and people who are barely adults, should not have to constantly tell grown-ups that our lives are worth more than your right to own an automatic weapon.

 

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Contemplating Societies Response to Murder Victims

David Sherrard, a Texas police officer, was killed last week after responding to a disturbance call, where he was shot. Later that week his funeral was held, and I just so happened to be driving on the highway that his funeral brigade was being led down. At first I didn’t realize what was going on. There were tons of people sitting on the grass next to the highway, and at least 75 cars pulled over on the shoulder. Finally, when I saw all of the first responder vehicles and tow trucks holding massive American flags, I understood what was happening.

It was tragic and beautiful at the same time. So many people came out to pay their respects to him. I may not be a fan of the way our justice system is run, and I 100% condemn the actions of the racist police officers who continue to target and kill people of color. However, in this situation an innocent man was murdered when trying to respond to a disturbance call and protect the neighborhood. He left behind a wife, two daughters, and countless other friends and family members. The response to his murder brought tears to my eyes and sent chills rushing down my body.

I in no way mean to down-play the severity of this situation or the massive loss his friends and family members are going through, but it made me think about how we respond to other murder victims. When police officers are the victims, hundreds of people gather and make donations. We hear news stories for weeks, and hold huge candle-lit services. However, when the victim is an unarmed black man, who was murdered by the police during a traffic stop, the majority of our society is silent. The victims community steps up, and black people continuously call out the injustice, but the world does not respond in nearly the same way. Where are the hundreds of people waiting to pay their respects to them? Why do we value some lives more than others?

I’m not saying that the response to Sherrard’s death is wrong or unwarranted, I just believe we should have a conversation about why we don’t respond to other victims the same way. We should be even more outraged when the victim is a civilian, let alone a civilian killed by police. It is a tragedy when anyone is murdered, and we should respond in the same way. First responders lives are not more valuable than civilians lives. Every human life has value, and the loss of anyone, especially when they’ve been murdered, should evoke a strong feeling in all of us to pay them respect, and make sure we can do everything in our power so it doesn’t happen again. I want to see hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to victims of police brutality. Yes, some cases do make it in the news, especially in the last few years, but so many others go unknown. These people deserve the same response and respect that police officers get, and above all they deserve to be treated like their life had the same value.

Dear Body,

The Dear Body Project was started by Ari Fitz. She asked some of her friends to join her in writing love letters to their bodies to promote body positivity. Since then, many people have started writing letters to their own bodies and posting them as videos, letters, and photo captions on social media. Here is my love letter to my body.

 

Dear Body,

Wow we’ve been through a lot together. I often find myself blaming you instead of recognizing how much you’ve been through. For many years, it felt as if I as a mind, were fighting you as a physical being. A battle I felt you always won, yet somehow we both lost in the end. Together we’ve gained weight and lost weight, gained confidence and lost confidence. We’ve struggled to stay alive, and we’ve celebrated living life to the fullest.

When people talk about disabled bodies they often say, “You are not broken, you’re beautiful,” but I believe we are both. Beautifully broken. Not that every aspect of you is always beautiful, but I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be. Thank you for doing what you can, even when I feel like you aren’t doing enough. Thank you for teaching me that my value does not rely on others traditional measurements of success. I’m sorry often I don’t believe you.

I don’t appreciate or praise you enough. I want you to be perfect, look perfect, and work perfectly, but those aren’t fair expectations. I promise to try and not make perfection the goal, but you know how meticulous I can be. I am learning perfection is subjective, and you are perfect at doing what you are able to do. Thank you for continuing to fight for me, not against me, even when it feels like the world is fighting against us.

Love,

Alyssa

 

Would My Twelve Year Old Self be Proud of Me?

As I enter into adulthood, I find myself wondering if my twelve year old self would be proud of me. After some reflection, I have come to the conclusion that no, my twelve year old self is not proud of me, but I’m glad she isn’t.

At twelve, I had no concept of true struggle. I had just began my health journey, and thought everything would be resolved soon; boy was I wrong. I would have been devastated to know I would still be chronically ill nearly six years later. There’s no way I could even fathom everything I was about to go through at that age. I also would have been so disappointed in myself if I knew I was going to drop out of high school. Success in education has always been incredibly important to me, and I would have viewed leaving high school as a failure. Now, I can see that leaving was the best possible decision for me, and a smart choice. On the same topic, I would have been embarrassed that I go to a community college. At that age, I thought the only people who go to community college screwed around in high school, and couldn’t do any better. She would be proud of my grades though, so I guess that’s a win.

Obviously I was incredibly judge mental and had a very narrow view on life. Honestly? I’m incredibly happy that I am not the same person I was when I was twelve.  My twelve year old self didn’t know what was coming, and she sure as hell didn’t know how the world worked. Sometimes the dreams we have a children shouldn’t come true. Other times we learn that we can be successful and/or happy without completing those aspirations exactly as we had planned. One of the hardest parts about being chronically ill is mourning the life you planned for yourself. I’m processed a lot of the things I’ve lost over the years, but processing the things I may lose in the future is difficult.

I no longer view not my completing my childhood goals as failure. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m beginning to feel like I’ve truly just gone down a different path. Now I can look at my life and say, I completed my goal of going to college even if I’m going to community college, and I finished high school even if I got a GED. I actively have to chose to view these things in a positive light, because naturally they don’t feel like positive things to me. However, given everything thats happened to me I’m glad my twelve year old self wouldn’t be proud of me, because if I did everything she wanted me to do, I wouldn’t be proud of me now.

Do you think your twelve year old self would be proud of you? What are some of the childhood goals you set?