At the beginning of the semester in my American History Class we played a reacting to the past game. My assigned character was Emma Goldman; famed anarchist, woman’s rights activist, passionate, powerful and feared woman. “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be a part of your revolution”. Her fervor and ability to stir a crowd were so powerful she is still today often used in speeches, papers… It was very funny in this very class when one of the Suffragist players who had been bashing my character delivered her speech quoting… me.
One of the drawbacks of playing this character was that though she held immense importance and weight the “Game Master” would censure me every time I tried to speak. I disagreed with opinions, was shifting in my seat at the elephants in the room not being looked at in speeches, was starring gapped mouth as people would state abhorrent facts that no one would counter… I didn’t even necessarily agree with them . I just cannot stand when elements are overlooked. When whole parties are unseen. When the Truth is stained with a huge gap. A piece of the puzzle just missing and we ignore the darkness of unknown because the rest is in light.
Today is my last day of class at Westmont ever. After today I will no longer be a student here. I walked down to winter hall, passing the bench I sat on facing the Kerwood Gardens, the brick bridge before the White Chapel, the large large oak? tree, the bench I sat on with my mom when I was 17 and overcome with a overwhelming sense of peace and serenity as I felt “I want to be here”. I smiled walking down to Winter Hall for my last History class. At peace with where I am and completely disconnected from the conversations I was hearing “It took me 15 minutes to get ready”, “next year we can all apply to be RAs”. I used to hate those conversations. Now I hear them and maybe chuckle at how far away I am from that.
Dr Winslow always succeeds in ending her classes in a way that ignite my heart and passion and inspiration. That our actions matter. That we can make a difference. Comparing us to students who ignited the sit ins for the Civil Rights Movements. Individuals make history. She quoted this from Robert Kennedy: “few will have the greatness to bend history itself but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this next generation”.
I left the class with drying tears in my eyes. I step out to the gym. I had been going to Chapel a good amount this semester though lately I hadn’t been appreciating it. I would say ever since I walked out after the 2mins of that one abortion speaker. You know the one. Though since the second semester of my sophomore year I had made it a point to listen to what is being said without rejecting all of it just because of one thing that I take as offensive. This year I came back from Thailand with a love of humans multiplied so that I love listening to practically anyone speaking because it will teach me something no matter what. We’re all humans. Sometimes though the personal pain is too much for me to stand. Hearing things that are too blind and too hurtful in their blindness and misguidedness.
I hesitated going to Chapel but I wanted to. Last Chapel ever! How ironic that the person I was would willfully attend.
I take my seat. When I met with Ben Patterson at the beginning of the semester, after reading the very detailed testimony of my time at Westmont he looked up to me and said “So let me ask you something. What did you used to think of chapel?” I chuckled. OH SHIT. I thought. “Well… I used to sit..” he cuts me off “I know where you used to sit”. HAAHAHA. “Did you ever think you would be in here talking to me?” My mind flashes to the jokes me and my buddies used to make about BP chilling in his office token it up…. “No. ahhaha”
I don’t sit in the bleachers anymore. I sit on the floor in the middle of the gym.
Today I thought back on that very claim of mine. “Ironic that I would even be here”. Why does that year and a half of my life hold such a hold on the story of my identity? It’s not like I started out as that. I wasn’t born an annoyed, irritable person. I didn’t even come to Westmont that way. I flashed back to my first Chapel ever. I was at the bottom of the bleachers standing next to Max Dunn because he had hit it off on the Class of 2015 Facebook page. We were both exceedingly sarcastic. I was excited for worship. I was excited to be with a bunch of people who worship.
When did that change? When did looking at people who are jumping around and singing wholeheartedly become something that makes me uncomfortable?
When I started to see that those actions and intentionality were not carried out elsewhere. I started judging the people who judged me. I judged their worship. Who am I to judge whether or not they are “actually” worshipping God? Why does it seem fake? It’s not their fault that the people who are worshiping here and speaking of God’s love saving them and reigning in their lives; overflowing to all that surround them, DON’T NECESSARILY KNOW HOW TO LOVE.
And yet today I was overwhelmed by the pain of not feeling this love. But the overwhelming hurt I felt coming to Westmont and not being loved.
I am a sensitive soul. That is how I’ve always been. Pain and rejection, false images of who I am I’ve let define me and harden me so that I don’t have to deal with the cold lonely times out in the dark where no one is willing to smile down at me.
Yesterday at the beach I saw a dog running to its masters, calling after him. “I want a dog” I thought, as I revelled in the sense of affection and loving playfulness that this encompasses. I thought of love and my newfound understanding of this. Of what it takes to build up. Of enjoying the bricks one sets down to build it… The first thought however was of how I’ve been starved of love these past 4 years. Obviously one cannot jump into a community and expect to actually love everyone. Love isn’t superficial. It takes faithfulness and patience and peace. I would say most freshman are lacking in these things. We want instant gratification. Most of us don’t know how to love each other, let alone ourselves.
It hurt to not be seen as a sensitive, loving person. It’s difficult today to reclaim that identity. I’m not sure why it was taken away. It’s hard to take it seriously all to the cross. All the pain and hurt and to say ‘this isn’t mine”. It’s hard to be in between your own peace and humility and your hurt. We are supposed to feel the pain. We are supposed to voice the pain. God’s heart hurts for us when we are in pain. We are to have this heart. But also to let Him take it from us.
So how? How the heck am I supposed to say NO! No more of this pain! I see so much more than just these happy dancing feet in this happy dancy chapel. I have to not be mad . I have to not shut down. Because it doesn’t matter how you get to the cross. If you say you’re there you’re there. Who are we to judge.
But those in pain. Those that are hurt. Those that are lost and irritated and fed up. I can’t not see that. Because though God meets us where we are it would be really great to meet each other too.
Ben Patterson got up to speak. Today is a day of gratitude no to us but onto Him the glory. Inviting seniors to give thanks for what God has done in their lives. I definitely felt a call to speak. I was sitting, my blood boiling up. I was waiting for the words to materialize in my mind. I felt the urge to stand and waited a little. I felt something in my mind tell me I missed it. I made myself stand up.
The girl who stood before me was in my freshman dorm. She spoke. I was shacky. Ben Patterson speaks ” I’m sorry but we don’t have enough time.”
I walk back. My anklets jingling. I jingle them a little louder than usual. A good jingle before I sit back down.
Ben Patterson calls up seniors to give communion.
The song comes on. “Save me from the need to be heard. Save me from the need to be seen. Save me from the need to be accepted”
I know giving birth would hurt a lot more but sitting down and breathing out whatever this harsh emotion was was pretty difficult. I’ve not let myself get so hurt that I broil to anger in a while. I’ve been learning to recognize the rise in my passions and ride the waves and speed bumps however calmly I can.
I saw a text ” Dood it sucks you weren’t able to speak! I’m sorry!” I answered. The first feeling that came to mind “Forever unheard”.
The thing that probably hurt me the most. Was that Ben Patterson kept on making us repeat “not unto me be unto Him”. Seniors were giving more speeches, encouragement talks than directly saying “Thank you God.” Though thanking faculty and staff and friends for their love, to me is still thanking God. Still while I was sitting and my emotions rising, waiting for a clearing to know what to say, I calmed from the “shout out to the Westmont underground” types of spiels. Just thanking God seemed easier than trying to make sense of what I’ve felt at Westmont and where I am now and who to thank for that or not.
People texted me and said to me things like “He has it out for you”, “he cut you off”…. I didn’t necessarily feel that way. Though it could make it easier to see it that way. I was hurt because I felt I yet again, yet always it could seem, was not given the chance to partake in this community.
The feelings of rejection rush in. The feelings of inability of action overwhelm. What is the point. And then I rush those aside. And breath. It wasn’t about me. It’s about Him. And He knows.
Still those same feelings as I had playing Emma Goldman are there. That boiling. That fervor of wanting to speak the Truth no one is saying. Even if that is just the truth that I wanted to thank god for the very ability, strength and change of heart to be able to stand before you all now. To be able to love you and to feel love from you when before I did not feel that. To be changed and moved. I simply wanted to reveal my heart to God before my community. And I feel I am continuously pushed aside.
I was reflecting on this “Forever unseen”.
Every time I’ve put myself out. Every time I have a meeting with Ben Patterson, with Edee Schultz, a testimony to give for the International Student Dinner. I make the meeting with in mind that I have grown and can speak about this growth. That I have been that outsider and excluded Westmont kid (because I can’t be the “Westmonty” type though I go to Westmont… lets break that connotation please) but today I am happy and stable and ready to work things out and finally engage with people ! I have accepted the ways of engaging with people who hold the reigns and I do so. However when meeting time comes situations and events always arise to stir my heart and soul in a way that make it impossible for me to act as if all is fine. All is never fine. I continuously struggle with wanting to bail on these meetings because I tell myself “they will amount to nothing, who am I kidding.”, “I can’t possibly do this because it’s not true”. Yet I do it. Time and time again. I reject those lies. And I reject the lies now that arise: you told your story and it did nothing. Because I’ve accepted that those events and situations arise to bring me back to exactly why it is that I need to speak. Those emotions come back, forcing me to show my pierced bleeding soul to the whole world because that is what I was yearning to do for so long. I can act as if I’ve “got it together” in the way they want but when it comes to step out, there is always going to be that crushed, broken heart screaming to be seen.
That might have been one of my first prayers at Westmont. That I would never never ever forget. What it feels like to be unseen. That I would never become one of those people that ignores the pain of others. that ignores others.
I’ve sometimes believed the lie. That it was all my fault. The reality is that I was a young kid, coming into Westmont. I can’t blame Westmont for the person I became. I take responsibility for the way in which I reacted to the factors that I reacted to. I only wish I would’ve had a different way of knowing how to react. Because I can’t ignore something is off when something is off. Towards the middle of the semester I had a mini breakdown. I was trying so hard to be responsible and just got fed up! Responsibilities never end! They take up my whole schedule! And I am so bad at being organized. I understand my freshman self that just was overwhelmed with all of this and frankly not interested in living life in a way she didn’t want to live it.
I am thankful for this community. How cliché I know. At lunch people came to me and told me how sad they were I didn’t get a chance to speak. I had received a bunch of texts saying the same thing. I couldn’t possibly now say “Forever Unseen. Forever Unheard”. These people have seen me. These people have heard me. I am so grateful. I see good things coming. There are many many good things here. So many loving people. Truly. Perhaps lacking certain tools. Smart smart smart, wise professors willing to be mentors. As I’ve gained certain experience from Westmont and see friends irritated and belligerent, I now don’t know another way of engaging with them. I truly know what you are feeling. But it will pass. I know that huge irritation of feeling unheard and unrepresented. But unfortunately I do not believe there is any way to be a true witness to anything, especially yourself if you present yourself in a way to others that will only see you as belligerent. Understand that just as they do not understand you, you don’t understand what presenting yourself this way will do. I know. This means taking the high road and you are tired of taking the high road and masking your words in a way that will be acceptable. But trust that things take time. That you don’t know the ways in which peoples hearts and minds are shifting.
I did want to thank God. For changing my heart. Riding me of this angsty need to be heard and seen yet filling me with the love to surround everyone and to see beneath layers. There were beautiful things said by our seniors today. I think if anything it simply shows how much more we need to be speaking our stories. How much more people need to have platforms to reveal their hearts and stories and lives. And perhaps even more, how much more WE need to be WILLING to actually STOP and LISTEN to anyone without making ANY assumptions.
I know this is a long read. If you made it this far woohooo! Wow.
Thanks for everything, Shoot me a message if you want to talk 🙂
Love and Light to All.
Your words, story, bleeding, beating, shining heart matter.