Love Note #9: Rewind and Unwind

Wow! What a difference a month can make! May was absolutely insane. I was basically working non-stop to help my students get their art projects done, wrapping up my elementary school art classes and completing my own piece to ship to North Adams, MA. I probably got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep a night and my stress level was through the roof. And now... I'm living a stress free summer in Milwaukee kind of life! And it's magical. 

Now that all the stress has melted away, I can finally feel all the good feels that months of hard work produced. First, it was incredible to see five different groups of teens, with five different artists and site/community partners come together to create five meaningful works of art.

The first project was done in conjunction with a really cool initiative called Block Build MKE where volunteers are going block by block to revitalize and rebuild homes. This particular Block Build was happening in the South Side of Milwaukee and 30 homes were being worked on. Our students from the very first time I worked with them were extremely interested in making art with and for the community to celebrate the different cultures that make up Milwaukee and the South Side neighborhood specifically. So, that's exactly what we did! Lead by the incredibly talented artist, Jenie Gao, we used a steamroller (yeah, that's right a STEAMROLLER) and made triangular woodblock prints that fit together to make one giant print. 

When we arrived on site for this printmaking project, we foolishly thought and hoped the rain would hold off until the afternoon despite the overcast skies. Of course, it started pouring as soon as we set everything up. We rushed to put everything in a generous neighbor's garage and headed to lunch. Our first complete print was ruined, we were soaked, cold and unsure if we should just pack everything up and call it a day. That was when Jenie and I looked at each other and realized we were sitting under a huge tent and were completely dry. Once lunch wrapped up, we got a few volunteers to stack tables and make space for our materials - including the steamroller! I was most impressed by my students who did not complain once. In fact, I'm pretty sure I complained more about being cold than they did. They were such good sports and ended up having a great time engaging with their neighbors all day while making prints! Each teen got a chance to drive the steamroller and they must have made thirty t-shirts using smaller woodblocks and printing by hand. All and all, it was quite an awesome day! 

Next up was an awesome sign-painting and sculpture project with the teens at Our Next Generation lead by one of my Milwaukee faves, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt. This was an extremely ambitious project and was basically two projects in one. We were given the task by the owner of Amaranth Bakery & Cafe, Dave Boucher, to beautify the wooden structure on his property that provides shelter to Farmer's Market vendors. The students wanted to put an inspiring quote and after a lot of conversations, we finally decided on, "Change the World Bite by Bite." During one of our design days, one student came up with an idea to make a sculpture that spelled out "LIFE" with the letter "i" made out of a tree. Mikal spent a lot of time figuring out how we could get both projects done and while it was down to the hour (literally we were hanging the sign on the structure an hour before the ribbon cutting ceremony) it all got done! And while I'm totally biased, I have to say that both the sign and sculpture have totally transformed this space. So - go get a coffee and a delicious treat from Amaranth and then take a selfie with the LIFE sculpture - post it on Instagram and hashtag it #LIFEMKE - I'm pretty sure this is going to be an iconic Milwaukee landmark. Just saying...

And then it was on to complete a project with MIkal's brother, another fantastic artist, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, and the teens from COA Holton Teen Center. This group took on a pretty heavy topic as they wanted to create something to bring awareness to gun violence. Under Anwar's patient and incredible leadership, we created 125 flower sculptures out of old records and placed them in a vacant lot. The number represents the number of documented homicides due to gun violence in Milwaukee in 2016. Installing this temporary sculpture garden was a labor of love and I absolutely loved how it came out. 

Another sculpture to find in Milwaukee is the beautiful, larger-than-life, interactive puppet in Alice's Garden created by Gabrielle Tesfaye and the students at NeuLife Community. Each limb represents a different element: fire, wind, water and earth. In the belly, a short history of the underground railroad can be found. This, in my opinion, was the most important piece of this puppet. Johnson's Park, which Alice's Garden is a part of, is the site where the first "passenger" of the underground railroad arrived in Milwaukee in 1842. At just 16 years old, Caroline Quarlls' arrival inspired Abolitionists to organize to assist and protect even more fugitive slaves. The puppet is stunning and I think that the garden could use even more!

And finally, the last project was at Escuela Verde where the students, under the direction of George Jones, created a vending machine that dispensed uplifting and positive items like small pieces of art, seeds, and words of encouragement. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the finished product yet because I had to miss the celebration and revealing of the vending machine. I have no doubt it turned out awesome and I believe it may be traveling to a Night Market near you! ;) 

And the ONLY reason I missed the last project come together is because I didn't want to miss out on seeing my own work in an actual gallery! As I started this whole note, while I was busy helping all my students complete these great projects, I was making my own. The only other time my work has been in a traditional art gallery is in college so this was pretty exciting stuff! I was asked to be part of a group show called Babel's Bricks at MCLA Gallery 51 curated by a dear friend, Corwin Levi. When Corwin asked if I wanted to be in a building block themed show, I jumped at the opportunity. And Immediately, I knew I wanted to break things. You know, the exact opposite of building... ha! It has just been an incredibly tough year - the political nonsense, one of my best friends dealing with cancer, artistic rejection after artistic rejection, not feeling adequately valued (or paid) for work I was putting my entire heart and soul into... and the list goes on and on. It was time to let some aggression out. So I did just that with the help of my artistic partner in crime, Tracee Johnson. We smashed a bunch of plates out on Venice Blvd, in LA and filmed it. I came back to Milwaukee to create a 20 minute plate smashing complitation video and prep 100s of  broken shards to send to North Adams. And at the gallery, with instructions printed on a clipboard, I invited visitors to turn my aggression into art. And I have to say, I am completely in love with how this piece, Break·ing point turned out. 

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And just like that, it's JULY and it's time to relax and unwind. I'm intentionally taking it pretty easy this summer and hoping that I can keep my stress level close to ZERO percent. One, because I need a break after six crazy, amazing, inspiring, stressful, sleepless months! And two, Milwaukee summers - well, there's nothing like it! 

Til' next time... xoxo

Love Note #8: Approaching Year One, Facing What's Next?

As I wrote in my last post, things here in Milwaukee are really ramping up. There are a lot more events happening, opportunities to apply to and socializing to be had. Simultaneously, however, the end of my "money-making" teaching contracts are quickly approaching. While I'm trying to be present and focused to end these contracts and projects well, I'm also starting to the feel the pressure of trying to find "what's next" and prepping myself for this time of transition. 

This is the part of being an artist/freelancer that is quite frankly, really fucking hard. I trade in financial stability for flexibility. So sure, while people are always enamored and jealous of my travels - I need those vacations for all the time I spend freaking out that I will be jobless, penniless and hungry. At the end of the day, however, for me I'd much rather dictate my own schedule than be locked into a certain location 40+ hours a week and being told I can't take another vacation because I've used up all my PTO. Of course, freedom is never really free... but it sure felt like it when I was sitting in a pool on a beach in Mexico drinking Rose Champagne. Right now, however, I'd give anything to be on a beach instead of letting the panic set in as my last contracted days of work and last paycheck date gets closer and closer.

I've also had quite the few rejections as of late. Another aspect of an artist that isn't glamorous at all and consistently has me wondering: why did I choose this line of work and lifestyle? I'm always one to stay positive and most days I truly believe when one door closes another one will open. Sometimes, however, I wonder what it means when several doors slam in your face...

Perseverance is hard when you're consistently told no, no thank you and/or please apply again next year. And trust me, I often feel like giving up and doing anything else. You see, when I'm rejected from something it's hard not to take it personal because my work IS personal. My work is an extension of myself so when I hear "no" I have to somehow convince myself that my work, my story is still important and still worth making and sharing.   

Another issue I've been facing here in Milwaukee is explaining and advocating for the work I do. I joke I'm an artist that doesn't make anything but I probably should stop making that joke because I recently got a follow up email from a residency I applied to asking, 'How likely will it be for you to either create artwork or hire another artist to produce the artwork?' I don't apply for medical residencies because the likelihood of me practicing medicine is 0% but I do apply to writing and artist residencies because I want to write and make art! So this follow-up question really had me offended and in shock. 

So here is my PSA about art: NOT ALL ARTISTS PAINT. AND FURTHERMORE, NOT ALL ARTISTS WHO WORK IN THE COMMUNITY, MAKE MURALS.

I am an artist who tells stories through all different mediums - often that is writing, performance and video. That being said, I've also used a lot of 2D and 3D elements in my work! If I'm not an artist who makes artwork than I legit have no idea what to call myself. I think people get tripped up because I don't have that "go to medium." My work is often very investigative and journalistic in approach. I like to dive deep on my subject and then figure out how best to express what I've discovered. I'm a social practice artist and it's a term that people are really late in adopting even though it's been around for years and years and years and years. To make things more confusing, I'm not only an artist. I am also an educator and most recently a radio personality (haha but seriously check out my show We Heard We're Funny!). I truly think people need to try harder to keep up with the fact that people, particularly artists, can be, and I go ahead and say it, SHOULD BE dynamic.

It's hard to quiet everyone else's thoughts, questions and perceptions of your work negatively buzzing in your ear. But I was just reminded of the Andy Warhol quote I posted above. At the end of the day, I make art because I genuinely believe it's part of the reason I'm living and breathing. And even though there have been countless people who don't understand, appreciate or like my work, there have been plenty who do. And I create solely for the purpose that my creation can spark change at whatever level that may be.

Luckily, it doesn't take much to remind me why I continue to do what I do. As my high school students start to present, unveil and celebrate their art projects one by one, I am so excited by how their hard work is manifesting. Once they are all complete, I will write a love note dedicated solely to these amazing experiences and to show off all my students' work! 

It has been quite the journey these last six months and while I cant exactly say what is going to happen the second half of this year/beginning of my second year in Milwaukee, I am hopeful that it will continue to be rewarding, exciting and most importantly, fun.

'Til next time... xoxo

Love Note #7: From Winter to Spring

It’s officially Spring and the weather is showing some signs that it agrees. On Saturday, the sun came out after being on vacation for days and it was, get this, FIFTY degrees. I walked to my new favorite Saturday activity, an African Dance (with LIVE drumming) class at Danceworks. Afterward, I walked to Pleasant Kafe and enjoyed a lovely phone conversation at an outdoor table. And then I devoured an entire bowl of lobster mac and cheese. A lovely spring day indeed.

I’ve always like the season of Spring, at least when I’ve lived in cities where winter always seems to linger a little too long. For one, we’re always more grateful for sunny, warm days. Like Saturday, so many people were out and about and it really wasn’t that warm. By the time April rolls around, people are ready to come out of their houses. There’s a new energy and I think I feel it here more than I ever did on the east coast. This winter was actually pretty mild for Milwaukee but still things slowed way, way down in a way I just don't think Boston or NYC can. When I first got here in the summer, it was a  non-stop whirlwind of fun activities and then all of a sudden winter hit and at times it felt like things had completely stopped. Luckily, like I stated in my last love note, I started working a lot more so my days were busy and the weeks went by pretty fast. Yet social activities seemed few and far between. Which, to be honest, was actually pretty hard for me. The friends I’ve made in Milwaukee are fantastic but I just don’t have multiple groups of friends yet. So when people retreated inward this winter, it seemed I had no option but to follow suit. For a lot of reasons, it was nice to slow down and have more time for myself but I also thrive being social so I found myself a bit more homesick not just for my friends back home but all friends who live all over.

Love means never having to say anything because you are both on your cell phones... 

Love means never having to say anything because you are both on your cell phones... 

With all this extra time alone and the extra income from all my new jobs, I spent time scheming on how to see all the people I love and buying plane tickets. In March, I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with one of my NYC besties, AJ. It was originally supposed to be a group trip but due to too many factors - it was just us two. We joked it was our honeymoon. And I mean, honestly, if I never get married and hence never have a honeymoon, I think I can just count this trip. When we were out in public everyone thought we were an adorable married couple. Which is only hilarious because the staple of our friendship is bickering nonsensically. Plus, it’s not like we’re holding hands and kissing each other. Not sure how we gave the married vibe off. Granted, we were in the “gay-borhood” of Puerto Vallarta so I guess the gay community thinks straight couples only fight and don’t touch each other…? Thoughts to ponder. 

Knowing that Mexico would be a blast and that I’d immediately come home and have the post-vacation blues, I made sure my next trip was lined up soon after. And while I’ve only been back from Mexico for three weeks, at the end of this week, I head out to Santa Fe for four days and then straight to LA for five! I’ve only been to Santa Fe once and it was a quick stop made the first time I drove cross country. I’m excited to go this time around and visit one of my favorite people, Jenn, and see the life she’s made for herself in New Mexico. Jenn moved to Santa Fe literally the same time I moved to Milwaukee. I remember having a long conversation while I was in Detroit and she was on the road driving a huge ass truck. Even though we weren’t moving to the same place, it was nice to have somebody completely understand the excitement and anxiousness of another move. Now we’ve both been in our respective cities for 10 months and it will be really cool to see how she’s settled into hers.

Trips to Los Angeles have become a yearly trip since I moved away nearly three years ago. It’s crazy that I’ve been away from this place as long as I lived there. I don’t really miss my life there all that much but I do miss the people, particularly my favorite partner in crime, art and friendship, Tracee. It’s also just exciting to go back to LA and do things that I used to do when I lived there. It validates that LA was home and in a sense, always will be.

In May, I’ll be staying put but I’m hoping I might be able to convince some guests to come for my birthday (less than a month away now!). If that doesn’t work out it’s okay because I already convinced two awesome guests to come visit in May! My mom is coming for the first time for Mother’s Day weekend and then my former house-wife/roomie, Amanda, from Boston comes to town at the end of the month! In June, I head back to Boston for ten days for a family wedding. I was also invited to be a part of a group art show in western Massachusetts, so I’ll get to check that out as well. This Boston trip is coming up in only a couple of months but I can’t believe the last time I was home was in December. Somehow it felt like I got to go home more when I lived in LA - a 6 hour plane ride than I do here - only a 2.5 hour plane ride. There’s something about Milwaukee that makes me feel a little more rooted than I ever felt anywhere else. Maybe this makes my need to go home a little less strong...

Plotting escapes and looking forward to warmer times took up a lot of my time this winter. But that's not to say I didn’t do anything fun in Milwaukee this winter. There were a lot of cool things still happening! In January, there was FemFest, an amazing festival of music and art celebrating women/femmes. It was incredible to see so many talented people perform and share their work over 4 days. I was lucky to co-host a femTALK with my roommate Monica called What’s so Bad About the F word? to talk about the issues with the word feminism itself but also the movement. We had a great conversation and a pretty wonderful turnout.

In February, I had a couple friends visit and I got to see the Milwaukee through tourist eyes plus indulge at my favorite local joints: Cafe Corazon, Wolf Peach, Comet Cafe, Lakefront Brewery, Blu Bar and Lounge, Pleasant Kafe. I took advantage of being able to see plays for free at The Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Watched a lot of Netflix. And did yoga at a fairly new brewery called Third Space.

And finally, like I said at the start of this note, I found a new way to move and sweat that makes me feel really good. After the whole Cylebar debacle, I decided I needed to shake up my fitness routine. One of the reasons why I stay so active as an adult is that I danced my entire childhood. And with a dance studio that offers adult dance classes only a 15 minute walk/5 minute drive away, I thought it made the most sense to go back to my roots. I opted to try out classes I'd never taken before. I took a couple amazing hip hop classes and then African dance. I had no idea what to expect but it was super fun and when the instructor told me to keep coming, which I’m sure he says to everyone, I decided I would - I had to! The best thing about it is the group of people who show up are at all different skill levels, ages, genders and races but most importantly, everyone is nonjudgmental. It’s all about having fun and connecting with our bodies through movement. And live drumming to boot!

I guess it’s not fair to say that it’s completely dead here in Milwaukee in the winter but rather it takes on a different, slower energy. I do feel rested and I’m ready for whatever Spring has in store!

xoxo

Love Note #6: I'm Back!

You probably thought I was never writing a love note again. For a second there, I thought I might not either. My last post was emotional and personal so I was hoping to wait until I had more fun things to write about. Yet, we are in post-apocalyptic Trump era now and things continue to be emotional and personal. And I'm done being apologetic for having any emotion that is not just happy or positive. Besides, this my blog and if it can't be an outlet for my celebrations and my frustrations then what is the point?!

Of course, if anyone ever takes any issue with the things I write – I welcome open and honest dialogue. Living in Milwaukee, I have come to the not-so-surprising realization that I can be abrasive and aggressive. A great memory is when I was telling my boss-friend-collaborator over the summer that I thought I was being passive aggressive and he said, “I think that's just aggressive-aggressive.” So, I've learned to just embrace that's who I am. I'm not going to censor myself but I'm keeping myself accountable. I obviously don't want to be so honest or blunt that I'm completely horrible to the person on the receiving end of my aggressive-aggression. After eight months of living in Milwaukee, I've attributed this side of my personality to being a true East Coaster. For the most part where I come from, we tell it like it is and aren't very apologetic if your feelings are hurt in the process. Even still, I think our society, even on the East Coast, is getting further and further from being able to communicate directly with one another especially when it involves tough, complicated feelings. It's just easier to go third party about it. So, let's be better, y'all. Let's try harder. Let's talk, off the internet, even if it's hard. 

So what have I been up to since November?

After my project wrapped up on the Beerline Trail, I hit the ground running trying to find similar creative and rewarding work. There's quite a few arts education nonprofits here so I figured that would be a great place to start. By December, I got a job co-teaching art to 3rd - 5th graders at a Milwaukee Public School. In January, I started working with an organization called Artists Working in Education (AWE). Through AWE, I have been working with teens across Milwaukee to help them through the process of creating public art projects in their neighborhoods. The work so far, has been so incredible for so many reasons but I think learning the city through my student's eyes has been the most fascinating part of the process. It has been almost two years since I last taught and I forgot just how much I love it. The jobs are challenging but in the best sense of the word. I'm learning, I'm growing. That being said, these jobs are proving that I have a lot of the tools I need to succeed which is a pretty awesome feeling to have. Throughout my 20s, I was sort of flailing and when problems came up at work I was either not confident to know I had solutions or I actually didn't have solutions because I was too inexperienced to have them. I finally feel confident about my ability and experience and I feel like I've been given opportunities to let that all shine. And it feels pretty damn good.

And these new jobs (plus working at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and doing some freelance video editing) have really taken up most of my time. That and trying not to have full-blown panic attacks after reading the news every single day. This shit is exhausting, is it not? Thank goodness, for Saturday Night Live and comedic relief.

Speaking of comedic relief, I've been working myself up since I turned 31, to give stand up comedy a shot. During grad school, I had one professor who I'm pretty sure was telling me to quit the whole artist thing and take my show on the road, literally. Since then, many people have asked if I do stand up or would ever try it. While I love people giving me compliments and telling me I'm hilarious, I've always known stand up is a lot harder than it looks. Anytime you're a single person on stage and all eyes are on you – not easy! Add in that you're sole job is to make the audience laugh, well, that's terrifying because what if they don't?! I've been to the comedy show where the audience is not feeling the comedian and you can cut that awkward air with a knife. Anyway, my friend Mikal has also been encouraged by friends to try stand up. So we've been brainstorming ways to make the whole single person on stage thing a little less daunting. Our first idea was to do a comedy radio show or podcast. So we, along with Mikal's hilarious sister, went on my favorite local radio show, All the Things and did a demo of what we might do if we had our own radio show/podcast. It was a ton of fun! So take a listen and let me know what you think!

And while I love the radio/podcast format, I've really wanted to something live – a show! My comedy heroes right now are Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams – their show, 2 Dope Queens, is an inspiration. So my thought is why couldn't we do something like that? Mikal could be the Jessica to my Phoebe! It's still all in idea-phase but recently, I went to a Sex-Ed for Adults event where they had an open-mic style storytelling event to share dating stories. I was excited about going and was open to the idea of sharing a story but didn't really have anything prepared. There wasn't a ton of people signed up when I first arrived and since I know two of the lovely ladies who organize Sex-Ed for Adults, I was encouraged to sign on up. After listening to only a few stories, it was my turn! And I told a dating story gone very wrong when a guy who I barely knew came to visit me and overstayed his welcome. It was a story I had retold to many friends, always getting lots of laughs. So I got up on stage and improv-ed my way through. And when the people in the bar started laughing exactly when I wanted them to, I realized I have to do this more! It was such an adrenaline rush and a much needed validating boost of confidence that I can be funny on stage! So stay tuned – I'm hoping that more comedic adventures will take place in the near future.

This much needed boost of validation also came after an experience that left me feeling pretty invalidated. For those who know me, I'm a bit of a fitness junkie. Last year on my birthday, I decided I wanted to take all my friend to a spin class. That seemed like an amazing way to celebrate to me (and it was!). For the last year or so, yoga and spin studios have been really important places in my life. When I moved to Milwaukee, I was shocked to find out there wasn't one single studio that dedicated itself to spin. Although, there was one studio who offered spin classes, in addition to TRX and Crew. I tried it out and while I didn't love the spin classes, I stuck with it. I started to work the front desk to get classes for free and auditioned to become a spin instructor. I figured if I didn't love the classes, I could create classes I did love. Yet, being such a newbie to teaching, I really needed a focused training that I just wasn't getting. Working there also started to become a drag. I loved working front desk at The Handle Bar in Boston but something at this new studio in Milwaukee wasn't clicking for me. It started to become a place I dreaded going. At the end of the year, my plate became overly full and I was extremely stressed. I knew that something had to go and the only thing that made sense was to give up working and training at this studio. In the meantime, another woman opening up a spin-only studio called CycleBar in Mequon reached out to me. The auditions were in January which would give me time to see if I could give time and energy to new spin studio/instructor training program. After visiting Handle Bar in Boston over the holidays and taking some of my favorite instructors' classes I decided to go ahead and audition for CycleBar - and I got in! It all felt way more organized and I was encouraged by just the little feedback I got during my 8-10 minute audition. 

After rearranging my schedule and going to a happy hour to celebrate the opening of the new studio, I thought I was embarking on a 4 day training program and a new side-career as a spin instructor. And I was really excited to learn and work hard. On the first day, however, a bomb was dropped that while we might have made a 4 day commitment, they weren't making that same one back. We were told that cuts might be made before the 4 days were over. This wasn't what I signed up for and I can't say if I would have signed up for it if I knew this was just an extended audition but I would have had to consider it a lot more seriously. Long story short, I was cut. I've written a more in-depth essay about my experience that I won't go into here but I do hope to publish somewhere soon. Let's just say the lack of transparency about cuts being made was one of the many red flags that didn't sit well with me. CycleBar isn't a company I would have felt good about working for despite their attempt to have a philanthropic side. When a company sends an unprofessional, dare-I-say misogynist, white male to work with a slightly diverse, mostly female group, you're philanthropy and attempts at creating community are lost on me. I'm super sick of this big corporate trend of "giving" as if the general population will see this lame band-aid and forget that there is a deep, dark wound of institutionalized racism and sexism their company was built and continues to thrive on. CycleBar isn't the only fitness studio or company doing something like this but they are certainly not trying to create a new model that dismantles stereotypes and attempts to foster a true place of inclusivity. And maybe you're asking yourself, but what gym or fitness studio is, Katie? Yes, this shouldn't have been surprising but I believe something I love a lot can be better! And that's when I discovered Tammeca Rochester and Harlem Cycle. I haven't met her or been there (yet) but she's my new fitness hero! And until a studio like that opens up in Milwaukee, I'll be retiring my spin shoes for a little while and find other, better ways to work out that doesn't compromise my morals and values. 

That's all I've got for you now and while I can't promise when my next love note will be written, please know that it will be! 

xoxo

Love Note #5: Heartbroken...

It's November. In fact, it's the end of November. I missed writing a love note for October and given the amount of times I tried to write this one, I'm surprised I didn't miss a love note for November as well. It has been an incredibly difficult month. Hell, it has been an incredibly difficult year. It's about that time of year when we start to look back and reflect on the year we had. For me personally, it has been a rollercoaster – so many highs but unfortunately a lot of lows too. Which is life of course but no matter how many times I say that, the anger, sadness and pain of the lows doesn't magically go away. That being said, it doesn't take much to remember that things could be a lot worse. All I have to do is turn on or read the news to see just how horrible it is out there for others. I don't need to list all the horrendous things that happened this year, instead I'll just leave this video of John Oliver's season finale. Jump to the last 5 minutes for a comedic relief and recap on this insane year:

Out of all the horrible things that have happened over the last few weeks, I'm choosing to write about the election results. It has been very hard to process and for maybe the first time in my entire life, I have been at a complete loss for words. And it's not because the world or at least this country as I knew it was flipped upside down. That would mean I lived inside a naive protective bubble where everybody was great to each other and nobody was racist, homophobic, misogynist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, xenophobic - did I miss anything? I wish I lived inside that naive bubble but in reality, I don't. I wasn't shocked that there are hateful people out there who now feel empowered by a person who ran his campaign using similar tactics that the KKK and Hitler used and in turn, went out and voted for this candidate. I'm not shocked that people didn't like either option and didn't vote. I'm not even that shocked that some people thought that not voting for Hillary was a “fuck the system” kind of vote. I think the surprise is on my own misjudgment of just how many people there are who are privileged enough to be able to ignore the racist, misogynist, Islamaphobic, homophobic and xenophobic, etc. etc. etc. etc. comments and say things like “he won't be able to do the things he said he was going to do” or “let's give him a chance.”

When I hear these statements or ones like them, I sigh a heavy sigh and try to refrain from flipping over a table. No, this country, wasn't flipped upside down, it was flipped inside out. Not only can we see people driven by hate and fear waving their confederate flags prouder and more bodly than ever but we can also see all the people who, frankly, just don't get it. And sure, as Hillary's popular vote continues to rise, it has made me feel slightly better. Of those who voted, there are more people, more than 2 million in fact, who agree that someone who says and does hateful things to anyone who is not a rich, white man is probably not an awesome choice for president. Yet, I keep looking at that other number: 62,206,395. That's how many people who essentially condone the hate that Trump spews and represents or, because they aren't directly affected by it, can look the other way. I thought about this on election night - early on when I still had hope that Hillary would win. As the map of U.S. turned red, I realized no matter what happened, we still lost. Trump actually winning just felt like a good extra kick in the stomach when we already were down on the ground.

To back track a little, when I say or imply that people who voted for Trump or sat back and let Trump win by either voting third party or not voting at all don't get it, I mean it. It's not a Republican thing, it's the "ability to have compassion for other humans" thing. I had a family member, on Facebook, try to equate how "horrible Hillary is" to Trump and implied that he was less so in some way. It was unsettling. I will be the first to say that Hillary is flawed and she wasn't the candidate I wanted going into this election. I haven't agreed with a lot of the decisions that she's had to make over the years. Simply put though, I know that I could be in same room as her and she would acknowledge me, she would respect me and she would listen. I know this actually because I have been in the same room as her and she did all these things (well, besides listen, only because I didn't say anything, I just stared in awe because she also happened to be standing next to The Roots, I was 24, I was at an event for my fairly new job and my mind was exploding). I haven't been in the same room as Trump (THANK GOD) but literally this idea scares the shit out of me. I'm confident if he did acknowledge me it wouldn't be out of respect. Trump has made it clear through words and actions that he does not respect women. Therefore, I couldn't really handle the “I read Hillary's emails on wikileaks and boy, what an asshole" mentality. It doesn't make me upset that people voted for the Republican candidate, it makes me upset that people could vote for a man who has definitely sexually harassed women and has actually bragged about sexually assaulting and violating them.

It's hard to talk about it, it has been hard to admit, but one of the lows in my personal life this year was that someone I considered a friend, violated my trust and violated my body. It was a hard week and a confusing few months after it happened. I blamed myself for not knowing better. I blamed myself for not being able to say no. It took me days to understand that I had been sexually assaulted. It took me months to call it rape. Luckily and unfortunately, it didn't take me long to realize I'm not alone. And I still struggle trying to get back to feeling “better” or “stronger.” I was okay with this road of recovery being long but when Trump was elected, I had to comprehend all over again that most people do not understand rape culture and that too many don't even believe it is something that exists. Trump downplaying his comments about sexual violence was triggering. It reminded me of when the person who violated me told me that it was “bound to happen.” I questioned myself, not him. And now I can't help but wonder if all the people who heard what Trump said but still voted for him will question me instead of him too.

And this is just how Trump's words and actions affects one aspect of being a woman. I could write for days on how his words and actions affect the other parts of being a woman, or how it affects people of color, the LGBT community, immigrants – again, anyone who is not a rich, white man.

So yeah, on November 9th, I woke up feeling paralyzed. I had to start a new job that day and as I walked  to work in downtown Milwaukee, I stared at strangers on the streets thinking: DID YOU DO THIS? Did you vote for him? I was scared of everyone I saw. 

On Thursday after the election, I went to an Emergency March Against Trump rally. About 1,000 people gathered in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. In the first few moments it felt like we all were attending a funeral. It was somber. The air was heavy. Students and leaders from different organizations started to speak and as we all cheered for these young people, I started to feel a little better, I think we all did. We marched in the streets, again, together. We shouted cheers together: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA," “Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! “My body, my choice! Her body, her choice!” “Black lives matter!” and many more. This time in the streets of Milwaukee, I looked into strangers eyes and I mentally thanked them. I thanked them for understanding my pain, my fear, my hopelessness. I thanked for them for being there, for showing that they care and showing that they want to do something.

 

The last couple of weeks after the election have been particularly hard. Not just politically but personally as well. I oscillate between being heartbroken and enraged. And while everything this month, this year, has taken a huge emotional toll on me, I refuse to let these feelings be belittled or to let them go. It's not that I want to operate out of these raw emotions but I think it's important, more than ever, to not become desensitized now. I think being strong now, isn't the point. And I hope that somehow out of my vulnerability I can figure out how to teach compassion. To me, this is what 60 million people, probably more if we consider all those who didn't vote, are missing or don't truly understand. Luckily, there's 60 million who do and if you're one of them, which you probably are because I have the amazing fortune to have truly incredible human beings in my life, well, we have our jobs cut out for us. We always did but it's a lot more visible. We all have to be activists and teachers now – whatever that looks like to you. Maybe it's organizing, volunteering, raising money for organizations doing great work, maybe it's just having that hard conversation with somebody who doesn't understand why so many people are upset. Whatever it is, it's time to step up and speak out. For people who do this work already, I know it feels like we were walking up a steep hill and someone from the top threw down a boulder and now we have to walk up this crazy ass hill with a God damned boulder, but hey, together we can push that bad boy up. I don't know this for certain but it isn't going to stop me from trying.

If you got all the way through this post, thank you for reading. It was hard to write and I'm sure it was hard to read. And if anyone wants to talk more, let me know, I'm here. With all my love, from Milwaukee.