#WhyIDidntReport

*Trigger warning: In this post I talk about my experience with sexual assault.

I am sharing my story because there are thousands of others who are not ready and may never be ready to share theirs. And I want the people around me to know they are not alone.  I am not asking for help. I am not asking for opinions. I will not be offering apologies for not including you in this journey until now. If you are feeling excluded or offended because I did not confide in you, then I am glad I chose not to share with you. My story is not about you or your feelings.

I did not want to be reckless with my with story and my heart. I wanted to protect my story until I was ready to take the reactions of the world. The way I chose to heal 4 years ago was, and will continue to be, my choice and my choice alone. The difference between now and 4 years ago is I am ready to handle the inevitable skepticism, criticism, ignorant questions and pity that will come my way.

If I seem defensive and angry, it is because I am. I think a lot people who have survived sexual assault find (for better or for worse) an intense sense of self preservation when it comes to their memories, stories, and healing process. I had to be fiercely protective of myself and my heart in order to move forward. In a lot of ways I am still healing. I am sure it will be be a lifelong process. And I will continue to fight for and protect myself and my story.

I also sound angry because I am. I am angry this happened to me. I am angry men are taught they deserve everything they want, regardless of what it does to other people. I am angry that the blame for my trauma is placed on my shoulders, and not my perpetrator’s, because men are never responsible for their actions – every one else around them is. I am angry that my personhood was taken from me. I am angry I believed all the lies we tell victims to make them believe it was their fault. I am angry I have to write this blog post because people STILL do not see sexual assault for what it is and STILL call victims liars and sluts. 

I am sharing this with you because I need to expose this disgusting secret. It is toxic for me to keep this hidden any longer. I think we keep secrets for many reasons – one of the biggest being shame. But this is not something I should be ashamed of. So I am setting it free…

• • •

#WhyIDidn’tReport

I was 21. 

I was on a Tinder date. 

I had been drinking. 

Reckless girls drink, and when you drink, bad things happen to you. I drank. So I deserved the bad things that happened to me. 

I had chosen to trust a stranger.

I said no with my body, but couldn’t with my voice. 

I was in shock. I fought the best I could. But fear gripped my voice. I never spoke out. 

I felt stupid.

I felt like I deserved it for putting myself in that position.

If this happened to me, then I must be a stupid girl. Girls who are raped make stupid decisions. 

I was applying for law school.

He was a med student. 

Lawyers don’t get raped. They know better. Nobody would take me seriously professionally if I was dumb enough to get raped. 

Doctors are people who are trusted. Who would believe me if I told them I was raped by someone who wanted to become a doctor?

I knew the kinds of questions I would be asked.

I knew the comments that would be made.

The first person I called told me “What you are feeling is regret. You’re just mad you decided to sleep with him.”

When I told my next partner about the assault, they got angry at me and told me I had betrayed them, even though the assault happened before I even met them. 

I was ashamed of myself. 

I was afraid.

I wanted it to disappear. 

I was fragile and I thought if I had to endure any more emotions, I would crumble and never recover. 

• • •

Even as I was running from his apartment, barefoot in the rain at 2am, I had already began to believe every lie we have ever told victims about their assault. I believed nobody would believe me. I believed I was to blame. I believed I deserved what happened to me because I did all the things you aren’t supposed to do. I believed my bodily autonomy was allowed to be taken from me because I had drank. I believed saying yes to a date meant I wasn’t allowed to say no to sex. I believed I was a slut. I believed I was a stupid girl.

Each time I tried to tell my story, I was told a new lie about why it was my fault. Why it wasn’t rape. Why I should feel ashamed.

So I stopped telling my story.

I choose to tell my story now because I think the world needs it.

I choose to tell my story now because as horrible as my experience has been, women and men of color are rarely listened to. And even if they are, their stories are never protected, never vindicated, and never held with care.

I tell my story in solidarity with every victim of sexual assault.

I tell my story to say to every girl who can’t get out of bed because they are gutted with fear and shame, #MeToo.

I tell my story to set myself free from carrying this secret.

I tell my story because I no longer let myself believe all those lies.

I tell my story because we need to do better.

I tell my story to say to every person who thinks they can take whatever they want from someone simply because they want it, #TimesUp.

I tell my story because there are millions of others just like it.

And that is not something I can quietly live with.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sara

SUCCCESS

My definition of success seems to change every couple of years. It also seems that the concept of failure is becoming a bigger and bigger part of that definition. Wise people (who are they again?) would say that failure builds character and makes you stronger and makes the successes greater. I think I agree, but I didn’t always.

At the age of 13, I figured out that I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. So, I planned out my high school years. Art classes, math classes, college classes filled my schedule so I could get into the architecture school of my choice.

SUCCESS!

At the age of 17, I applied for college, K-State College of Architecture, Planning & Design, to be specific. And what do you know – I got in!

SUCCESS!

At the age of 21, I graduated with my Masters of Architecture. I was ready to take the last 5 years of studio critiques, sketching, thinking and learning out into the real world. * throws cap into the air *

SUCCESS!

You’d think at this point in my story, I would be telling you that I got a fabulous job designing amazing buildings – SUCCESS – right? Well, let’s talk about a different word – RECESSION. Yes, I was one of those lucky kids who graduated right, smack-dab in the middle of that lovely time in our country when there were no jobs. People were getting laid off daily and companies were putting on hiring freezes. Needless to say, I did not get a job that summer after graduation, nor the following summer or the one after that. Here’s where that jerk of a word – FAILURE – started creeping into my vocabulary.  

The next couple years involved a lot, and I mean A LOT of emotional roller coaster rides – or as wise people say, “growing.” I sold shoes at Macy’s, I volunteered with high school students, I worked for my Aunt, I was a nanny a couple days a week. I revised and revised and revised my resume, portfolio and cover letter about a billion times. I sent out countless emails all but pleading with firms to give me a chance. (At one point, I did offer someone to simply get their coffee if they’d let me sit somewhere in their office.  A bit of a desperate time, clearly.) I was either responded to with silence or “Sorry, but no.” Ugh, there’s that word again – FAILURE.

So, I decided to run away to Italy for a few months. Ha! If only I were that spontaneous and brave! I did go to Italy for a few months, but it was an actual planned trip that included a job as well as room and board.  As I think back to that Fall, I truly believe it was a turning point for me. Man, that country is beautiful. I think I finally took a full, deep breath and exhaled. I was restored during my time there and came back ready to turn some failures into successes.

At the age of 25, I was offered a position as an Intern Architect. Finally, I had a job and my career was starting!

SUCCESS!!!

At the age of  27, I decided to buy my own home. That was pretty terrifying but it’s been ok so far. I love my little house.

SUCCESS!

At the age of  29, I adopted the cutest puppy ever. Don’t try to disagree, you’ll never win. ☺ Now, I have to take care of another life, but I absolutely love it!

SUCCESS!

At the age of 30, I bought a car. It’s the first time, I’ve done it on my own, so it was a pretty big deal. Car payments aren’t the most fun,  but my snazzy new car is!

SUCCESS!

I assume you’re wondering about that jerk. You know, FAILURE. He’s an ass, if it’s not too bold to say. Life seems pretty great, right? A job, a house, a puppy, a car. Aren’t those all the things that we’re told prove that your successful? So, what’s the issue? Where is failure in all this?

Did you know to be an actual licensed architect, you have to pass SEVEN exams and get a gazillion hours of experience? Oh, did I leave that part out, oops! The experience is the easy part. I finished that up a couple years after starting my job.  The exams, those haven’t been quite so easy. Of all the experiences I’ve been through, these exams have been the hardest. (Spoiler alert! This is where failure has been hiding) I started off thinking I could pass these, no problem! It’s just a test! You study, you pass! It’s that easy, right?

Ha! Hahahaha! No.

To avoid a long and depressing story about studying and failing and studying and failing, let’s go with the Cliff Note’s version. (Do those even still exist?) I have taken all seven exams twice. I just failed my last one, like THE last one, for the 2nd time. So, I’m studying for it, again.  When you get your score report, guess what word is the largest.

FAIL

I mean, good lord, I get it! I’m stupid. I’m dumb. I’m a failure. Thanks for pointing it out. Ugh, he’s such a jerk. Oh and did I mention I’m still single and have no children? Yeah, I’m pretty much a failure at life at this point. Who cares about the house and the car?! Pass the damn tests! Get married and make babies already!

If you’ve made it through this excessively long post, you’re probably wondering if there’s a point and when I’m going to get to it. Well, here it is.

Every few years, my definition of success seems to change. Failure seems to becoming a bigger part of my definition. Success can cause joy, hope, pride, and all sorts of good, warm-fuzzy feelings. Failure can cause sadness, embarrassment, hopelessness, and all sorts of bad, spiraling out of control feelings. Yet, here I am, happy, hopeful, proud and excited for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to go to the bad place every once and awhile. (You know “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”) BUT, as those wise people say (seriously, though who are these people?) failure builds character and teaches you about yourself.  Failures also show you the other things in life that are much, much more important than jobs and tests. Friends. Family. Adventures. I have the best friends and family a girl could ask for. Every failed test was met with hugs and encouragement and wine, lots of wine. None of them think less of me because of my failures, they love me just the same.

So, what do I want to say to the generation behind me and maybe even those who are in the same place as me?

My 20’s were nuts. Your 20’s will be nuts. You will change so much in those short 10 years. You will fail. You will succeed. Life will take you places you never thought you’d go. All of the plans you made won’t matter, because it’s not fully up to you. You’ll learn that. You’ll learn more about who you are and find out who you want to be. You’ll make friends. You’ll lose friends. Then you’ll turn 30.  And one day, you’ll look around the table at your friends and their super cool hubby’s and their sweet little ones and realize that you are happy, like truly, incandescently happy. You are loved and you love others. You’ll realize you went through some tough crap and came out ok on the other side. You’ll feel comfortable in your own skin and secure in who you are. You’ll realize that you’ve made it.

SUCCESS!

 

Jennifer

What is “success”?

Are you “successful”?

How does it feel to succeed?

Who is someone you think is successful?

What is “your truth”?

What does it mean to you to “live your best life”?

What is “failure”?

What role does fear play in your life?

What role does courage play in your life?

What empowered you to make the choices you did?

How did you end up where you are in life?

Is there a moment you can point to you that really felt was a turning point/cross road for you?

What do you want to say the the generation coming up behind us?

I like the question “what is success” because it is the question I asked my husband on our first date. We prefer to live by the idea that for us success is freedom…to travel, relax, help others, spend time with family, work when we want. I don’t need a lot of things to feel successful, I just want to be able to enjoy my life in a way that is authentic to my soul.

Am I successful? I am making progress, 40 years old feels better than 30 or even 20. I’m learning to measure progress not the end result and that feels better to me.

Someone, not sure who, said surround yourself with the people you want to be like and that’s what I’ve done. My favorite successful person is my Dad, he is successful in my eyes because builds people up, relationships are important to him. He leaves a legacy of healthy marriage, hard work, setting boundaries and gratitude.

My truth is nurturing my souls desires to have a a happy heart and bring energy into people’s lives-specifically my kids, husband, family and co-workers. My best life is being an effective efficient leader in my business so I can be my true self.

Failure is having no gratitude- we all win when have something to be thankful for.

Most recently fear manifested itself in my business. We were struggling as a company and all my reactions and decisions were focused around fear—that did not serve me well. When I focused on the big picture and what I am trying to create, I became energized and positive things are really starting to happen, we are building momentum.

Courage for me is understanding that not everyone knows or understands where your life is going or how you will get there. Courage is this feeling where your faith and truth line up in your soul, and you just keep moving forward to your best version of yourself.

I felt empowered by my faith(which I keep pretty private) and the people who I consider my circle of influence. You need a core group of people who know you and have your best interest at heart, then don’t listen to the rest 🙂

I am where I am today because I was open to all kinds people and relationships, I care about people more than I do profits(I like profits a lot too!) I have allowed myself to get out of my comfort zone and take opportunities that maybe I was afraid to take. I have learned from a lot of wise people in my life, Jesus being one of them.

My turning point is still to come, there is still so much life to live!

To the younger generations, be kind to everyone, work hard for what you want. Also, allow yourself to have feelings, good or bad, don’t just tuck them away because they will show up again in your life down the road.
Oh, and travel the world!

Austin

Let’s talk about success. Julia reached out to friends she saw as pursuing what they see as success, happiness, and their personal truths and I had a real, aw shucks moment being thought of for this.

But first, little introduction, hi, hey there, I’m Austin. If you’re reading this, you might know Julia. Or, maybe you know me. Or, maybe you’re an alien intercepting random frequencies from eighteen parsecs away, trying to figure out if you want to invade, or if we humans really, really aren’t worth your time. Or maybe you’re just someone clicking through the wormy worm holes of the interwebs.

Who am I? Here’s the relevant bullets: I know Julia through church. And I really need to hang out with her more often, because getting to know her through this blog, and playing music together at church, I’ve found she’s pretty rad. I’m a librarian, an English student, and primarily, a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, working hard towards publication.

Julia had a few questions for this blog series, some things she wanted people to talk about. She said we might even consider using those questions as if we were writing up the answers to an interview. I believe thinking of them as questions from a friend—which they are, blog post or not—will let me answer them honestly, and with care. It’s a lot easier to give a long-winded person like me, some direction. I omitted a few of the original questions for both length, and so I don’t ramble on the same things too long. So, without further ado, here’s my brain spilling out onto a page, with as little censorship, and as much honesty as I can manage.

What is success?

To me, plain and simple, success is the achievement of an aim or purpose. Now, I’m assuming we’re talking about the BIG overarching SUCCESS. Not rolling the dice high enough to deliver the final blow to the dracolich in your weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. This is a label we often use for a whole person. SUCCESSFUL. What makes you, as a person, successful? Well, achieving the goals of your aims and purposes. There’s not a person on this planet who’s aims and purposes are the same as yours. Or maybe there is, and your evil twin—a doppelganger of darkness—has been tailing you for quite some time. They want all you have, but there’s not enough room for the two of you. There’s probably no twin, but you can never be too careful.

But for realsies, that’s why everyone in this blog series will have a slightly different definition of success. But, I think there’s one thing we all have in common. Success usually makes us happy. So, maybe that’s a question to wrestle with as you try to find your definition of success: How can I find my happiness?

Are you successful?

This is a tough one. Seriously, this damn cookie of a question is eating my brain alive. I’ve written five hundred words, then deleted them. Rinse. Repeat. Nothing. There’s so many angles I could use to take on this question, so let me narrow it down, and then spill the bullet point thoughts that come to mind.

Am I achieving my aims and purpose? I think I am. Or at least, I’m trying hard to.

My aims? I want to make a difference. I want to tell stories that make people feel—whether it’s just for entertainment, or something to really chew on. And I think I’m on track. I work somewhere where I feel I make a real positive impact in the community. I get to teach digital literacy classes. I get to help people gain access to life changing information and resources they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

With this question, at least when we ask about the big SUCCESS, I think we can only observe whether or not we think we’re on track. After we leave this earth, others will judge us by their own definitions of success, based on what we leave behind—legacies, changed hearts, money, material things. Two of those things last a whole lot longer than the other two. So, I think those are the ones that really matter.

How does it feel to be successful?

It’s no secret I’m bad at going WAY over word count, so forgive me if some of these are short answers. If you’ll pardon me for the use of my favorite word, it feels fucking great. Rad, and euphoric are also acceptable words, but honestly more effective in this case when you put a certain adjective in front of them.

What is your truth?

“You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank one.” – Chuck Wendig

I want to leave behind a lot of good stories, both on the page, and in the lives of others.

What is failure?

I like to think there are two kinds of failure. This only applies to my personal philosophy of course. The first one is the failure you experience in life. It’s big stuff and little stuff. Tripping down (or up) some stairs. Forgetting to brush your teeth. These are failures. Getting fired because you aren’t what the company needs. A crumbling relationship. Falling apart from those you love. These are also failures. Both, are of the first kind. To put it bluntly, these things don’t matter in the grand scheme of this world. They really don’t. With each of these, you have the power to deal with them, in your own way, on your own time, to make them what you need them to be in order to move towards your definition of success.

The second kind of failure, terrifies me. This is what keeps me up at night. The second kind of failure I have no way of controlling. And I don’t mean it’s because it’s a situation out of my hands, like getting fired, or losing a friend. It’s far worse. All failures fall into the first group, save for one. The failure to live a life that mattered. Failing to successful pursue my ideals, failing to leave any sort of legacy behind—that is the only kind of failure you can’t help.

What role does fear play in your life? What role does courage play in your life?

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

I like to think of fear as an opportunity. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to not get killed. Other times, it’s a chance to learn more about yourself and grow as a person as you overcome obstacles. My fear of the second kind of failure is a big motivator to pursue things.

What empowered you to make the choices you did?

For me to pursue my definition of success I walked away from a nice mid-range salary job with full benefits, to go make a quarter as much working part-time in libraries, and to go back to school to study writing and literature. Why did I do this? Long story short: My grandfather died, and then my father died seven months later. This showed me life is short, and that legacy matters. If you’d like to read the longer version of my scary journey of taking that leap of faith, you can find it on the last post I wrote for this site. There’s also an update post on my site here: https://austingragg.com/blog/2017/11/19/if-you-dont-start-running-a-follow-up-of-sorts which was written a while after the changes took place. In those posts I talk about turning points, and basically how I ended up where I am now, a hell of a lot happier, and feeling more fulfilled than ever.

What do you want to say to the generation coming up behind us?

Stop eating Tide Pods. Sorry! Bad joke! Couldn’t resist.

I’d tell them that they’re the ones who are going to make this world change. And if they were to roll their eyes at me and sigh because this sounds like some mushy gooshy emotional bullshit—I’d tell them to look at the news. Look at the kids suing the US government because they don’t do enough to protect the only planet we’ve got. Look at the kids after the Parkland shooting. My generation didn’t stand up like that. I don’t know why we didn’t, but damn us for not doing what those kids are doing. Damn us, and damn our parent’s generation for creating a world where they HAVE TO stand up for themselves because no one else can or will.

Look at the news. Talk to your friends about the things that matter in this world.

Define what you call success and pursue it. Make part of your success, making a difference.

Thank you, dear reader, for trusting me with your brain for this post. If you like genre fiction, writing, or pictures of cats, you can find me at www.austingragg.com where I should be blogging more often, and co-host an irregular podcast project about storytelling. *The cat pics are in the Instagram feed on the About page*

Kesley

“I am starting off by inviting people to write who really inspire me.” Well, Julia, without people like you helping to inspire me, I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s friends like you that remind me that what I’m doing, what my values are, and what I want to fight for, are worthwhile. So, thank you for asking me to be one of these people to discuss this topic on your blog.

Let’s chat success. Not what society and others tells us that success is, but what we should define as success. Because that is going to be different for each of us.
I have been in a weird place recently. Not that Colorado Springs is a weird place 😉 It has been a beautiful place to start my career. I exist in a weird place emotionally. Ever since graduating law school it has felt as if my emotions are in a blender, constantly being mixed and flipped around. In May 2017 I graduated law school and left Kansas City, the city I made home during some of the toughest three years of my life. I am a Colorado girl, but damn it, I could not handle leaving everyone that had shaped who I now am. I waited, anxiously, while living at home with my parents until December 2017. It was on December 6, 2017, that I began my job as a Colorado State Public Defender. It was my absolute dream come true.

Working as a pubic defender means that every day is a rollercoaster of success, failure, joy, sadness, stress, relief, tears… you name the emotion and more likely than not we experience it. There are highs, of course, but I’ve found it difficult to ride those highs for very long. The sheer amount of clients I have, work that needs to be done, emotions I feel for each of these PEOPLE, each one who has a story that needs to be told, takes a toll on me. Finding a work/life balance feels impossible.

I reach out to a therapist. My mom. My dad. My brother. Midwest Innocence Project and MO public defender clients who have now become dear friends. Co-workers who act as a shoulder to cry on, make me laugh my obnoxious laugh, and pump me up to keep fighting. My extended family members. My beautiful friends.

I am 27, have a job, have my two dogs, can support myself [most of the time, shoutout mom and dad], and I am at a point where “success” is a tough term to define. From the outside, I hear that being an attorney is so impressive. That people who find a job after law school are immediately defined as successful. “Yay, you’re a lawyer!” What they do not know is how truly difficult each day is.

Looking at me from the outside, or on social media, or a quick check-in how I’m doing won’t give you a full picture of what defines me or my success. A client leaving an office meeting knowing that I am working for them, is success. Five minutes later,though, I could have someone yelling at me. Complaining that I’m not doing enough. I may realize I only completed half of my to-do list for the day. One second can feel amazing, and the next moment I might have fear driving my every step. Or anxiety preventing me from being able to move at all.

Public defenders are asked all the time how they can defend “those people” – and I thought that would be the most frustrating part of this job – people not understanding why I care. Why a former client named me “Care Bear” and how it stuck with so many of them to call me that. The hardest part of this job is caring so much about these people and not having enough time, resources, or stamina to do absolutely everything that I want to do for them.

The main thing that keeps me going is this concept that no matter what, I am doing SOMETHING. I am reminded that we don’t have to do everything in order to be labeled successful. Rodney Lincoln, an innocent man incarcerated in Columbia, Missouri, told me once that, “you don’t have to be great to start, you just have to start to be great.” My success or greatness should be defined by what I am doing rather than what I can’t do.
I guess my message for this blog is don’t let someone else define your success. Don’t prevent yourself from feeling successful. Every single little accomplishment should be acknowledged. [Easier said than done, but I’m working on taking my own advice]
We are all going through more than what the rest of the world sees. While I see so much potential from the generation coming up behind me, I also have a fear that they will compare themselves to others so much that it will prevent them from being their true selves and reaching their full potential. Don’t forget that every little step taken makes a huge difference in one way or another. I am still working on that. I have to breakdown in tears sometimes before I can remind myself that I’m doing all that I can. And I should label that success.

Success is what you make it. Someone’s degree, job, or financial status is not what defines success. I would not be where I am today without other people inspiring, empowering, and uplifting me. Having people like that in my life is also a success. It’s amazing for me to hear that I can be an inspiration to someone. It just further proves that you never know who you are inspiring. Everyone should remember that. To everyone I work with currently, to those I learned from in the past, to all of my friends, new and old, thank you for inspiring me. And thank you for helping me learn what success means and sharing your successes.

Nikki

Julia asked, “Are you successful?” and my first response was “I don’t know, am I?”

My second response was “no.” I haven’t been feeling very successful, lately. I’m finishing up my first year as a Ph.D. student, and for some reason, I had this delusion that it wouldn’t be hard. I’ve always excelled at what I do, so this would just be another notch in my belt. But, what they don’t tell you upfront about academia is that you are constantly rejected- figuratively and literally. And lately, that has been making me feel quite unsuccessful.

But to truly responsd to the question, I needed to go back to my first response, because it made me aware that I didn’t actually know what success was in the first place.

If you know me, you know I’m a pretty big nerd. I wear tennis shoes with skinny jeans, I only write with certain pens, and I have at least a dozen superhero t-shirts. So, I did what any good nerd does… I consulted the dictionary.

According to the Oxford Dictionary (because I pretend to be a sophisticated Brit who drinks tea with milk), success has the following definitions:

1. accomplishing a desired aim or result

1.1. attainment of wealth, power, or social status

As I reflected on that definition, I began to understand why my first response when asked if I was successful was to consult someone else for the answer.

Success is not something you feel, it’s something you’re told.

For some odd reason, I’ve always wanted to internalize success. I’ve wanted to have a feeling, an “ah-ha!” moment that marked my achievement of success. I’ve wanted to feel successful. But, that’s impossible. Success is not an emotion. Success, itself, is not a feeling. Success is a check mark on some checklist that either I’ve created, or someone else has created for me.

And in that mindset, success no longer becomes a complicated concept. Figuring out if your successful is quite easy, it’s defining what the aim or goal was in the first place that is complex.

But then, what is that feeling when you do feel successful? Because despite the definition’s lack of an affective component, there is a definite feeling to when I’ve gotten an award, a promotion, or finally figured out what temperature you’re supposed to set your car to when your windows fog up (let’s be honest, I still haven’t felt successful at this).

This semester I learned that there’s a system in our brain that releases neurotransmitters to elicit a rewarding feeling (thanks, neuro class). And you know what? It’s not only activated when you get a new degree or make more money. No, it’s also activated when you help others, spend time with people you love, or make some kick-ass music. It’s activated in countless situations and scenarios.

So, what lasting words do I have for the younger generations (another Julia question, look at me, checking off two questions in the list)? Understand that success is only a checkmark, and if you think your life is unsuccessful at the moment, consider what goal you are basing that off of. And if that goal is the feeling of success, remember that it can be achieved in more ways than a degree, money, or social status.

I’m not much of a believer in fate, but I do believe I needed to reflect on this now, more than ever. So, thank you Julia, and all those following along, for letting me make this little self-discovery. It is so incredibly appreciated.

Much love and coffee,

Nikki

Audrey

I’m an enneagram 5. If you don’t know what the enneagram is, it’s a personality test with 9 different types and it’s the best. Read about the enneagram and the 9 types here: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com and take the test here: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test. It’s life changing. You won’t regret it!!

An enneagram 5 is called the “investigator” or the “observer.” We hoard knowledge. We are in our own heads a lot. Some say we are socially awkward. We fear feeling stupid or not having the right answer. So as a type 5, success is being smart. Success is acquiring knowledge and, sometimes, degrees and schooling so that other people think I am wise and not stupid.

Just like hate, I think our idea of success is driven by fear. Fear of becoming (fill in your version of failing here. The enneagram test can help you out with identifying that.) Because I value being smart, it’s easy for me to put my worth in my grades or affirming words from other people. I have a million dreams of the degrees that I want 1) because I want to accumulate knowledge and 2) because I want people to think I’m smart and dedicated. That sounds pathetic, but it’s true. And the reason I don’t tell a lot of people about all of the degrees that I want is because of the fear of someone thinking I’m not smart enough to earn them. How twisted is my brain??

Obviously my wisdom will (and does on an hourly basis) fail me. I will never know everything. I will never satisfy my need to impress other people with my brain. As a 5, relying on the Lord’s wisdom is more of a challenge than the average person. I don’t like admitting that I don’t know. Rest and happiness only comes from complete surrender to God’s infinite wisdom and admitting that mine is so, so limited.  

Success is accepting the fact that I am not living on this earth to have all of the answers. My purpose is not to “wow” people with my knowledge or set a record for how many times a person can graduate. Learning is awesome and my education is such a sweet gift that I have been blessed with. But it’s just that—a blessing. Not a necessity or a way for me to feel good or bad about myself.

As Easter is quickly approaching, I can’t help but be thinking about Jesus and the ultimate sacrifice he gave for us. The free gift that he gives us every day. Jesus did not die for me because I’m smart or because I have anything cool to offer. I’m not someone he’s choosing for a group project. Jesus died for me because he loves me. That. Is. It. He loves me when I procrastinate studying. He loves me when I get a “D” on a test (which has happened this semester. Woo pig.) He loves me unconditionally.

I talk about my parents pretty often to my roommates and some of my friends here in Fayetteville. I got the best darn ones. They are truly a dynamic duo. Yes, they provide for me and care about me and they’re not super strict or anything but that’s not why they’re the very best. My parents’ love for me and my sisters is the most unconditional love I have witnessed on this earth. I used to be offended that my parents didn’t check my grades in high school or make a big deal about report cards like some parents do. The older I get, the more I realize that they are not keeping score of what I do right and what I do wrong. They raise me and support me without expectations. They are happy that I do well in school and that I want to be a nurse, but if I didn’t do those things, they would love me the same. It doesn’t matter the mistakes we make or the people we choose to hang out with or the fact that saving money is the hardest thing ever for Julia and I to do. My parents’ love sees past all of the messes and the expectations. I don’t know a lot of loves like that.

Success to me is finally accepting that I don’t know it all. That I’m not supposed to know it all. Success to me is truly believing that Jesus’s unconditional love for me is enough. I’m lucky to have a close up example of that in the form of my parents. Success to me is making love and acceptance my default action. If I graduate college and accomplish cool things, those things are just the cherry on top.

One of my very favorite lyrics is from a Sleeping at Last song called “Emphasis.” A good type 5 song if you’re looking for one:

 

“But the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard

Is that I don’t have to have the answers

Just a little light to call me own

 

Though it pales in comparison

To the overarching shadows

A speck of light can reignite the sun

And swallow darkness whole.”

 

The enneagram type 5 description also says that 5’s have poor hygiene at times. I’d like to think that part doesn’t apply to me but if I’m ever mistaken, be a pal and lmk. 🙂

If you take the enneagram test, let me know what your type is!! I am obsessed.