“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu
I have come to learn that no one is ever really neutral. There is always an unspoken decision, an allegiance to one side or the other. In times like these, silence may be the most dangerous action of all. When you are young, you learn about bullying. You are taught that if you see someone being bullied and you don’t step in to help them, you are just as bad as the bully. Being an “innocent bystander” does not really make you innocent. It was an easy enough lesson in grade school, so why do people as adults cling so tightly to their neutrality when times are tough? Why are people silent when injustice is staring them right in the face? We see claims of neutrality most when we are faced with “uncomfortable” topics. People care about women’s rights but won’t outwardly say that they’re feminists. They disagree with police murdering black children but quickly dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement. They see families ripped apart by mass deportation but keep their mouths shut when friends or relatives dehumanize the “illegals." In choosing to be silent, they choose to side with the oppressors. Even worse are the people with no opinion at all. The ones who scoff when friends speak passionately about politics. They “don’t like the divisiveness” of politics, and yet they contribute to it every time they turn off the news and refuse to acknowledge the issues plaguing our country. Even if you don’t hear the sound, the tree has still fallen in the woods. Even when you turn off the television, even when you unfollow people who tweet about current events, even when you scroll past news articles, children are still murdered, rights are still taken away, and those things you try so hard to avoid stillhappen. And now, you are responsible when they happen again. The disinterest of the American people in their own futures is astounding, especially when we see how it compares to other countries. The US trails behind countries like Belgium (87% voter turnout) and Sweden (83%) with a measly 54% of eligible voters showing up to the polls (via Washington Post, 2016). A big part of this has to do with the mindset that individual votes don’t actually make a difference. I’ve heard this excuse time and time again when people say that they won’t vote, and honestly, it’s frustrating, especially when we saw that disproven by the slim margins with which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each won different elections in the Democratic Primaries. Truthfully, as Americans, we have the honor and responsibility of participating in our democracy by voting, and so many people have taken that for granted. At a time when the sanctity of our democracy is at stake, neutrality is not beneficial to anyone. This is not the time for silence. This is not the place for apathetic rants about how “votes don’t really matter anyway” or how you don’t really think politics directly affect you. The fact of the matter is, the decisions of this administration may not affect you personally, but they do affect your friends and your coworkers and the members of your community. Choosing to be apathetic doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you part of the problem.
Tori Noriega Tori is a student at Pace University in New York City and Creative Director/Staff Writer at TFP. You can visit Tori's blog at- www.dailylifeofvictoria.com/
Coming to a point where you’re comfortable with yourself and where you fit in is something that takes people years to attain. It sometimes takes some people their whole lives. Until recently, I still struggle with it, but I’ve come to a point where I’m comfortable with who I am and where I come from. That’s something I’ve always craved. I come from a large Mexican family that has immense pride in where they’re from and they’re not afraid to say it. My dad came from Mexico at the young age of 12 and my mom’s family came from Mexico, but she grew up in South Texas on the border of Mexico. They both grew up around a strong influence of Mexican culture, but around a lot of American culture as well. When I came into this world I was born in North East Texas in Dallas. My life has been always full of American culture; I was hardly around Mexican culture. My grandparents moved in with me when I was five years old and that was the biggest blessing I could have ever asked for. I was taught the beautiful language of Spanish and given more of a sense of where my family came from. I was still going to a predominantly white school in a middle-class neighborhood. Most of my friends were white and I really didn’t get a full sense of the Tejano culture. I was pointed out for being different. My curls were always a topic of discussion with people pulling at them and trying to run their hands through them. I felt embarrassed that it made me stick out so much around everyone else. I felt odd that no one else knew Spanish except for me and if they did it was butchered and not spoken well. Most of my friend’s parents weren’t as apparent in their lives like mine were. All these little things built up to make me self-conscious of how different I was. When I left that school, I moved to another school, which was even whiter high class neighborhood. Now that I had moved I became even more nervous. I started becoming self-conscious of how much more hair I'd grow than my friends and how I felt like I was maturing physically faster than everyone else. When I would tell people that I was Mexican the first words that were uttered were, “You don’t look Mexican”. What does that mean? What does looking Mexican look like? I was told I looked “too white” to be Mexican. I didn’t understand. At first everyone would be intrigued as to where I came from because “I looked so exotic”, but when they found out I was “just Mexican” it gave them a bad taste in their mouth. I was asked if my family were “maids and gardeners” as if those are lesser jobs or the only jobs Mexicans can do. I began to straighten my hair every day and I stopped speaking Spanish as much. I didn’t want to stand out anymore. I wanted to fit in. To this day that is my biggest regret. Then I would go to Hispanics and try to fit in. I am a Hispanic woman, but I was “too white”. My Spanish wasn’t perfect and of course, I was born in America. I wasn’t the typical Mexican. I didn’t grow up around the Tejano culture and I didn’t understand the mariachis or the importance of Selena. I knew some part of the Tejano culture, but I hadn’t grown up around that. Just recently I was told that I wasn’t a “real Mexican” because I didn’t come from Mexico personally. I am not connected to my Mexican culture as much as I would like and I wish I would have listened to my grandfather more when he would explain, because I do love being a Tejana. I am not the stereotypical mold of one, no. I am not extremely tan, I didn’t grow up in a low-income family, I don’t speak perfect Spanish and my idol when I was little wasn’t Selena. My idols were Shakira and Salma Hayek. I didn’t grow up around bodegas at every corner. I grew up in a white neighborhood and they also didn’t accept me like I would have liked them to. I am a middle ground of both worlds. I will not be looked down upon because my mom worked her ass off to get out of a low-income neighborhood and make something of herself. I will not be looked down upon because I take pride in being Mexican, but I still hang out in predominantly white situations. I will not be looked down upon because my family comes from immigrants, because they worked to get to where they are and how they got here. I didn’t do those things, I know. I didn’t cross the border with my family and I didn’t come out of a low-income family. I am a privileged person. I am fully aware, but I will use that to my advantage to further the visibility of people who can’t do it themselves. I am a proud of mixture of American culture and Mexican culture and that’s something that I will not let be taken away from.
Tori Noriega Tori is a student at Pace University in New York City and Creative Director/Staff Writer at TFP. You can visit Tori's blog at- www.dailylifeofvictoria.com/
There are always people in your life that either make the most amazing marks or make the deepest cuts. Some of them change your life forever. To the person this is dedicated to, what you did to me, I will never forget, but you were only a teenager at the time. You were a stupid teenage boy that didn't care for anyone but himself. You didn’t care that I was a young, insecure fourteen-year-old girl. You didn’t care that all I’d wanted from anyone at that time of my life was someone to love me. You didn’t care that I just needed someone to tell me they valued me. You didn’t care that you were my first kiss only a week after my birthday. These things all sound so petty to me now, but the scar you left still doesn’t. I’ve come to a point where I’ve learned to forgive it, but I have yet to get over it. Sometimes I tell myself I overreacted and I’m just a sensitive little girl. Then I realize I was fifteen and you had told me that you cared about me deeply. That we were best friends and I meant something to you. A week later I found out that you had been seeing someone else, one of my best friends to be exact, for over a month. You still kept trying to tell me that we had something as she would text you she loved you. You would make me feel on top of the world, then try to pressure me into something sexual. I couldn’t see the signs; I was naively enamored. I don’t know if I actually knew and was in living in my own fantasy dreamland, or if I honestly didn’t know. Let me tell you now, it doesn’t really matter if I knew or not. He was using me either way. I tried to find a spark in someone new. I wanted to get away from you. I wanted to rid myself of you. Except, you didn’t let me. Why would you? I was supposedly your best friend and you couldn’t let me go. You’d grab my ass in front of him “just to prove who you’re really with.” I pinpoint this month of my life as the start of most of my mental troubles until this day. I was treated like an object by a boy who I wanted to love me for myself. Instead, I got someone who told me he wanted me back then threw me to the side once I returned. Then the event that changed it all. The one time that ruined everything for me. The day that ruined almost every relationship I had at that time of my life. An event that I honestly didn’t even want to happen. I’ll never forget the nerves I felt when you first sent me that text. You told me to look up how to do it. I didn’t want to. I really did not want to. We were going to a school retreat before our sophomore year started. Why would I want to do this? I knew my mother would be mad, I knew I would hate it. Now this sounds like we had sex, we didn’t. Every day I thank God I never let him touch me. After this moment, everything had changed. At first I thought “wow, he’ll love me now” but instead I got thrown to the curb, again. From then on everything changed. It sounds dramatic and absurd, but it did. My mother and I fought for months on end, my best friends were leaving me and talking about me and I had lost myself. You didn’t care, because after that you never spoke to me the way you used to ever again. You never treated me the same way. I became no one to you. I can’t explain the pain that made me feel. I can’t tell you the damage it did to me. I can’t tell you the emotional scarring you gave me. I’m nineteen now, almost twenty. I can’t talk to men without getting a shake in my body. I can’t look them in the eyes without feeling like crawling out of my skin. I haven’t been able to have a romantic relationship since those days. Whenever a man talks to me I feel my heart begin to race and tears come to my eyes. No one gets it. They say that I need to let go, but I can’t. I can’t let go of this gripping fear that I’ll be hurt again. That I’ll be used as someone’s play toy. I can’t let go of the idea that someone I truly cared about- loved is too strong of a word- would do that to me. You have no idea how much I have wished I could give myself to someone. To let them in and let them love me. I have wished for years now. When I met a boy, who was wonderful to me, who cared about me. He would have hurt me, I know it, but I would have loved to have given him the chance to make me feel something again. I shut him out and pushed him away. I would try my hardest to keep him close, but my mind would push him away. He was the closest I’d gotten to loving someone. Was it love? No. I’ve never felt that kind of love. I haven’t even felt that kind of love for myself. So, here’s to you, my kryptonite. You caused me more pain than anyone in my life. You tore apart my heart, but it taught me how to put it back together. You’ll probably never see this and if you do, you’ll probably never confront me, but if you do let me tell you this. Thank you. Thank you for ruining me so I could put myself back together. Thank you so much.
the author of this essay has asked to remain anonymous
For years, I’ve dealt with many mental health issues, I’ve been told its depression, severe panic disorder or something to do with me being lazy. I believed it was just how I was supposed to feel. For nineteen years having the constant need to bite my nails till the most painful point. When my heart would race for hours on end and I couldn’t breathe with sweat dripping down my face from how nervous I was. I would sit in bed not being able to enjoy a single moment of my life without feeling guilty or sitting in bed wishing I could do something but not having the motivation to do anything but wallow in self-pity. I’d dealt with emotional issues due to the fact of having a toxic relationship with my father as a child. I still to this day make excuses for him. He was going through a hard time. He struggled with his own issues, but I was only three or four and I was terrified to go home and face him. I was terrified I’d do something to upset him and I’d ruin his day. I had to grow up and learn that being a child wasn’t an option. Then I move on to high school and meet a boy who I thought truly loved me for me. I thought that finally I had reached the peak of love fairytales. Then I was used and thrown out like a used tissue and when I told my mom I was told that what I did only prostitutes* did back in her time. It was a moment where I felt that what I did with that boy wasn’t what I had wanted, but I was told by my mom that I was something she deemed as a lowlife. I felt useless and empty for years. I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it. I had one person that listened to me and honestly that person is the only reason I’m alive right now. I had to convince myself that I was worth something again. I had to tell myself that these people don’t mean anything. Their comments don’t mean anything. I am more than these comments. I didn’t handle it the best way with getting into fights with my mom and ignoring my dad. I would skip school not wanting to show up and see anyone. I’d ignore my friends and shut them all out. I was becoming someone I didn’t recognize. A girl that use to be happy and bright. Someone who always had a smile on their face and was laughing as if there was no tomorrow. To this day I don’t fully recognize the person I’ve become. I’m happy with who I am, but it’s not who I was. The point of this article is that for years I had no idea what was wrong with me. Why did my mood change so much? Why was life so hard when I was at my lowest? Why do I constantly have these feelings of insecurity and pain when I come into contact with men? Why did no anti-depressant or anxiety medication ever work for me? Over spring break, I got only part of the answer, but it was a step to something I knew that would begin to help me more than anything had in my past. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II, which is a less severe BPD than I, but it still affects the daily life of someone severely if not controlled. The idea of telling someone frightened me because people have predetermined stereotypes of people with Bipolar Disorder. Would people turn on me? Would people think I was unstable? I know I’m not. I know I’m strong, because I’ve been dealing with this for most of my life without any medication or true help and in my personal opinion I’ve done it beautifully. I have convinced myself now that I deserve to be self-absorbed. I deserve to love myself and compliment myself relentlessly. I deserve to appreciate myself. Now there is more to deal with. I know I still have relationship issues that I need to deal with. I have more psychological issues to work through, but for once in my life I’m at peace with myself. I’m finally ready to begin self-help. For anyone who is dealing with things they don’t understand or with pent up emotions that they feel like they can’t let out. It will get better, but you have to work towards it. You have to open yourself up to it. It will get there. You will get there.
*I in no way believe prostitutes are lower or lesser than me or anyone else. They are working women/men that deserve respect.
Kendall Kindred Kendall is the Editor and Staff Writer for TFP.
I spent years blaming myself for things that were caused by illnesses I did not yet understand. I was convinced that I was going insane. I started failing classes, something I had never even imagined doing. I distanced myself from my friends. I blamed my family and my environment for the constant storm in my head. I spent years refusing to get help because I didn’t understand how badly I needed it. Although I didn’t know it when I was young, I have always dealt with severe anxiety. The feeling of my heart pounding in my chest is more familiar to me than the back of my hand. As a child, I would have panic attacks if my dad was late coming home from work or if my mom didn’t immediately answer when I called. I became a professional at convincing myself that the worst had happened. I sent myself into a panic, crying and fighting for air on more occasions than I care to admit. I got older and depression found a home in me. Paired with my anxiety, it was nearly lethal. I lost interest in things I cared about, and stopped putting effort into my schoolwork. I could not force myself to do it, but in my mind, I obsessed over the potential consequences of not doing it. It was a constant back-and-forth in my head, worrying about all the things I should’ve been doing but never finding enough motivation to do them. My grades slipped and I stopped writing music. I couldn’t explain what was causing the sudden shift because I didn’t have a single clue what was wrong. All I knew was that there was a heavy weight in my chest that made it impossible to function normally. I took a lot of my own confusion out on my parents and my siblings, who just happened to have the misfortune of living with me in a time when I could hardly handle living with myself. They had no idea what I was dealing with, and I didn’t care to enlighten them. How was I supposed to look at my little siblings, the kids that I am supposed to be a role model for, and tell them that I felt broken and small? How do you look at your family and the life they gave you and tell them that you don’t feel like you deserve it anymore? It is overwhelming and terrifying. It was impossible. Throughout all of this, I felt completely alone. I had no idea how common mental illnesses really were. It wasn’t until I started reading other people’s stories that I really started to understand what was happening. People that I looked up to opened up about their own battles with anxiety. I heard them speak candidly about their mental health and started taking control of my own. Truly, I owe my life to them. Years later, I still have days (weeks) when I feel that way. If I’m being honest, I barely even had the energy to write this piece today. Most days, I have a hard time getting myself out of bed in the morning. I am fighting to keep my head above water, but I’m so much better than I was before. I still have a long way to go, and I know that, but I’m trying. My point in writing all of this is to remind people who may be struggling with the same things that they are not alone. We live in a world that often casts mental illnesses aside, ignoring them for “real” issues. Mental illness is a real issue. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it should be treated as such. Ask for help. Talk about it. Take care of yourself. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for it in the long run.
Candy Barzola Candy is a student at NCTC in Texas and is studying business management. She is a Social Media Director and Staff Writer at TFP.
It was around 10pm on a cold night on February of 2016 when my mom started to realize something was off about me. I knew for 2 years that I was struggling with some sort of mental issues, but I didn’t want to believe it. “Sad” wasn’t the right word to describe it, but something more severe and constant than that. The next day, my mother made an appointment at the doctor’s so I could take a test for depression. I was shaking with nerves, already knowing what the results were going to be. The lady was nice and gave me a brief explanation of what the test was going to be over, gave me an ipad that already had the first question popped up, and walked out of the room to give me time. I answered the never-ending questions truthfully, and waited patiently for my doctor to tell me the results. When she came back, she sat down and carefully explained to me that I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I know what I was expecting, but I didn’t think it would hit me that hard. The kind doctor proceeded by giving me cards on recommended therapists and physicians. Once I walked out the door, I told my mom everything, and she started to blame herself for it. None of this was her fault, and I told her that, but I know she feels like she let herself down for not knowing earlier. I hope she knows that this was all on me, not her, and I appreciate her for all the support she’s given me. As time passed by, I have been going to a physician who has prescribed me the right medication that thankfully has worked. Although I don’t believe there’s a “cure” for depression, I do believe that it’s possible to have it under control. My therapist has been the most loving and supportive woman, and I am grateful to have her in my life. She has huge hope for me in the future, and I couldn’t have possibly lived an easy year without her. It’s been almost a year since the news, but I have made such huge progress. Although all the panic attacks, the suicidal thoughts, the self harm, the stress, the episodes, and all the self doubt that I’ve been through, there is a fight to win. My mental illness does not define me. I am not ashamed of my mental illness because it has made me the strong woman that I am today. I know that hearing the words “it will get better” gets exhausting, but I believe it. My life has been getting better since I’ve started to manage my mental health, and I couldn’t thank the people who have helped me with this more. Take my advice, don’t reject those who are there to help you, because they are truly there for you to guide you into a happier life. I’m not cured, I don’t think I’ll ever be, but I am at a good point in my life. That’s the closest thing to content that I’ve ever had in years, and I’m grateful for still being alive today for it.
Kendall Kindred Kendall is the Editor and staff writer at TFP.
As long as I live, I will never forget the way it felt to march alongside thousands of men and women, young and old, promoting equal rights. I will always hear the voices ringing out through the streets, proudly proclaiming “this is what democracy looks like”. Any time I feel hopeless and small, I will remember the faces I saw, the people I met and the voices I joined at the Women’s March, and I will rise up in the face of adversity and opposition. Everyone has their own specific reason to march, but we all share a common goal: equality. We want to create a world that is more inclusive than the one we were handed. Personally, I march for my little brother and sister. I march because I see the hope and the light in their eyes, and I know that they will be the ones to build this country into something better than we have ever dreamed of. I march to lay the groundwork for them, just as previous generations have done for me. In recent years, protesters have been met with scrutiny, many critics asking the same tired question: “What is marching around with a sign going to change?” Did anyone pay attention in history class? The Suffragettes didn’t just sit back and wait for someone to hand them the right to vote, they protested outside of the White House every day. They organized rallies and fought hard for their right to vote. We take a day off from work and school to celebrate a man that organized one of the most famous protests in history. Do people discredit Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests? Do they belittle the movement he gave his life for? No. So, why do so many people belittle modern protests when we are still fighting the same battle? The Women’s March was unlike anything I have ever experienced. There was so much hope in the air, it was almost tangible. There was a sense of safety and camaraderie as we all marched together, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. I spoke with strangers who instantly became friends. I saw children holding signs promoting love and kindness, their parents following close behind and beaming with pride. As I marched with the people around me, I was very aware of the fact that there were people in every single continent marching along with me. I could feel history being made. It’s nearly impossible to put that feeling into words. Growing up, I read about the heroes in my history books and could never imagine myself in their shoes. I never thought I would find a cause worthy enough to fight and sacrifice for. I never thought I would be part of a movement that changed history. God, was I wrong. Today proved that. This march showed me, and the world, just how powerful women can be when we stand together and fight. So, to the little kids who don’t think they can make a difference, you are in for a big surprise. You are the future. You are going to do big, incredible things. To my little sister and brother, you both have the heart and the ability to change the world. You WILL change the world. I can’t wait to help you do it.
Kendall Kindred Kendall is the Editor and staff writer at TFP. twitter - @kendallscout
As the daughter of an English teacher, most of my life has been spent with my nose buried in a book. I have always been passionate about reading, finding homes away from home in other people’s stories. Because of this, I was fortunate enough to have strong female role models as a young girl, both in my daily life and in my books. I can say with total confidence that I would not be the person I am if not for two characters in particular: Scout Finch and Hermione Granger. Scout Finch, the narrator in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, is my namesake. I have carried her with me throughout my entire life, even before I really knew her. Within the first few pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, I was completely hooked. I have always been fiercely independent, so Scout’s wild spirit and total disdain for the expectations thrust upon her quickly showed me that we shared so much more than just a name. Scout is bright and uninhibited, at times to a fault. She knew that she didn’t want to be just like every other girl and boldly protected her right to individuality. One of my favorite moments in the book occurs when Scout is being scolded by her uncle, Jack. “You want to grow up to be a lady, don’t you?” he asks. Scout responds, “Not particularly”. This is one of many times that Scout challenges the belief that young girls should be calm and quiet, wearing a dress and a smile at all times. I read about her and wanted to have the same kind of fearlessness that she did. I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me, and started pursuing the things that made me happy. I’m sure I speak for so many young women when I say that Hermione Granger is one of my heroes. The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, has always been a big part of my life. I feel like I grew up with the kids at Hogwarts, and that has been so beneficial to me. Hermione excelled in her classes despite the fact that neither of her parents were wizards, something that most wizards saw as a disadvantage. She faced scrutiny from her peers and succeeded anyway. She protected her friends with a vigor matched only by her determination to defend what is right. Hermione is a hero in every sense of the word, putting the greater good above her own safety, and standing up for the defenseless. She is often overshadowed by her friends, Harry Potter and Ron Weasely, but she is a force to be reckoned with. The trio would not have survived if not for Hermione’s intelligence and grace under pressure. Hermione’s impact on me extends past the universe that exists within the Harry Potter books. In the movies, she is played by Emma Watson, a dedicated feminist and co-founder of He For She, an organization created by UN Women to promote gender equality across the globe. Emma, like Hermione, is unbelievably intelligent. While filming the Harry Potter movies, she attended Brown University and received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She continues to work closely with the UN, and is an advocate for women’s rights. Her passion for education and activism inspires me daily and makes me strive to achieve the things she has. Scout Finch taught me how to challenge societal norms. Hermione Granger taught me bravery, and encouraged me to take my education seriously. Emma Watson continues to pave the way so that young women like me can make real, positive changes as activists and feminists. There is a strength inside me that only exists because of Scout and Hermione, and I will forever be indebted to Harper Lee and J.K. Rowling for bringing them to life. My passion for reading exists because I have been able to find myself inside the pages of these books, and that is something I will always be grateful for.