nothing happened | 10.19.18

When I was 19 years old, I worked for a hotel as a front desk agent. As you might expect, a lot of weird stuff went on in the hotel. There were undercover cops sent in to bust a bunch of prostitutes, a guest was arrested in the lobby as the suspected gunman in a shooting, a patient who had escaped a nearby psych ward had a breakdown in the at the desk… These all made for good stories, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. There was one guest in particular I want to tell you about – for the sake of this story let’s call him Mr. Tovar.

Now Mr. Tovar was a weird dude. He had an eccentric and loud personality. He was a 46 year old businessman from Virginia, often in the area for meetings at his company’s headquarters. And to spend time with his sugar baby, of course. As he was a regular and he liked to talk quite a bit, I learned some things about him. He was married and had two adolescent children. And yet he would spend way too much time at the front desk to flirt with all of the female staff members. He told the most immature, crude jokes and overall acted in wildly inappropriate ways. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t know how to react in uncomfortable situations like those he put me in. I didn’t even know I was “allowed” to. I did just what I – and many other women – believed was the way to act: look away, maybe smile or laugh, stay quiet but probably don’t say anything. You don’t want to come off as rude or offensive. Mr. Tovar often would suggest that I become his sugar baby, that we should spend time together when I’m not at work. I politely turned him down every time. He didn’t seem to get the message.

I usually worked the evening shift which was about 3 – 10 PM. Because he was a regular, Mr. Tovar was well aware of my closing shifts. I was wrapping up my shift late once, around 10:30 PM when he came down to the lobby. He stayed at the desk while I did all of my closing duties and tried to make conversation. I hardly engaged with him at all. I gathered my things to leave and he offered to walk me to my car. I said “No, thank you. Goodnight, Mr. Tovar” and got in the elevator. He slipped in right behind me as the doors closed. The employee break room and time clock were in the basement through a locked door. I told him again to go back to his room and to please leave me alone. He turned as if to leave, so I headed towards the employee-only area. I punched in the key code and he pushed past me and burst through the door. At this point I was really scared. It was late, no one was around, I didn’t even have cell service to call anyone. I was alone in the basement with this guy. I yelled at him to leave. He waltzed up and down the hallway saying that the “employee-only” rule didn’t apply to him. That he’s above that. I told him that there were security cameras and he said “I know”, looked right at one and waved. After I kept yelling at him he finally came around and I made him get into the elevator. Once the elevator doors closed, I clocked out and ran up the stairs to the parking lot. I got outside and started running to my car when I heard someone call my name. Mr. Tovar had come out of the side door from the lobby and started coming at me. I kept yelling “Leave me alone, get out, go away!” anything to try and get him to back off. I was fumbling around with my keys like an idiot and he got up really close to me. He smiled and said “I hope you have a good night, Caroline. I’ll see you tomorrow” and walked back to the lobby.

Similarly to the situation in my last post, I didn’t want to get myself or him into trouble for what happened. In hindsight, that just doesn’t seem logical at all but at the time it made sense. I didn’t tell anyone what happened until a few weeks later. I met with my manager and the HR director before my shift one day and explained everything. When I began to tell them of his behavior, all of their attention was focused on what I was saying. They showed true concern. When I told them that he ended up leaving and going back into the hotel, I feel like I got the biggest eye-roll from them. They said “well nothing happened did it? Did he touch you? Hurt you?” I said no. They told me to stop being melodramatic, to not waste their time and to get out of the office to start my shift.

I was horrified and embarrassed. I was a teenager and I had been really scared. But then here are three adults who all seemed to think that behavior was nothing to blink at. So I started to think that maybe I really was crazy. This was just another reason I didn’t speak up again about any harassment for a long time. It didn’t seem worth it. Why would I say something when I could spare myself the humiliation and stress. Maybe I really was just being dramatic. Maybe I just needed to toughen up. That’s what I was told and taught for so long.

Just because that behavior it may be has become so normal doesn’t make it okay. Something like this becomes normalized when we are passive to it. Not anymore. Women are speaking out. I want to speak out. People have acted passively towards sexual harassment, assault and various other aspects of rape culture for too long. They don’t seem to understand. If I have the opportunity to talk about it, I ask “What if it was your daughter?” I have found that more often than not the response is “I don’t have to worry about that. Things will be different by the time she grows up”. Will they? Do you really believe that? How will they be different? How could they possibly be different if you don’t do anything to make a change now. Each of us is responsible.

All I know I can do now is talk, learn, listen and do what I feel is right. Sharing my experiences and my thoughts is how I’m trying to make sense of it all. I want to talk and I want to start a discussion. How can we fix a problem if we won’t even face it?

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i believe women | 10.08.18

TW/CW: sexual assault/rape, mental health, self-harm

Continue reading “i believe women | 10.08.18”

film is not dead | 12.09.17

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I have always thought that photography was such a cool hobby. I never really took it up though. I was always able to find some excuse not to; it’s too expensive, everyone does photography – nothing I do will be unique, what if I’m bad at it… I don’t know what changed exactly but I eventually came around. I thought, “so what if I’m bad at it? That’s what practice is for. Who care if everyone does it? I’m not interested in it to be better than anyone anyways”. So when Bryant and I returned from Oregon, I picked up my dad’s old Minolta XG-M, got a couple rolls of film off Amazon and started messing around.

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My dad gave me the absolute basic, crash course on film photography and obviously it all went in one ear and out the other. I was just so excited to get started. I even signed up for a photography course on Udemy so I could learn DSLR skills too. It’s been a few months now and although I still don’t really have any idea what I’m doing, I’m still doing it. I had taken some of Bryant’s rolls of film to Ritz before to get them developed. It was always so exciting whenever we’d wait on getting them back. The only downside is that Ritz location is the only one left in the area and is pretty much the best option for getting film developed. It’s at least a half hour away depending on traffic and it costs upwards of $10 per roll. People don’t kid when they say film photography can get expensive.

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I started looking into home developing and soon realized that it was much more possible than I thought. I discovered The Film Photography Project to be a really great resource. I did lots of research to learn as much as I could about the process and the materials needed. When I realized what the startup cost would be, I almost entirely gave up on the idea. I decided, though, that the initial cost would be an investment that would allow me to pursue this new hobby. It was worth it. So I went ahead and bought myself a film negative scanner, the chemicals and other “starter kit” accessories to get myself started.

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I’m not going to lie, the process is definitely frustrating. I’ve sacrificed two rolls of film and way too many hours these past two days trying to figure this thing out. I developed and scanned two rolls of my own film so far. Of the 48 exposures from both, only 33 even developed enough to have some visible image. To be honest, that’s a way better result than I thought I would get the first couple of times around. Even though I wasn’t attached to or upset over losing certain shots, I do still wish they had all come out. I keep telling myself, practice makes perfect. When it comes to teaching myself skills on shooting better and on developing and processing film. Once I feel more confident in my skills, I’d love to start developing film for friends too. As frustrating as it is, I do still really enjoy the process. Hopefully in the New Year I’ll be doing better! I’ve been tracking my progress on my Facebook and Instagram. Check it out, let me know what you think!

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Has anyone else tried developing film at home? I’m all ears to any stories, tips or tricks!

luna & sōlis | 11.21.17

You may have noticed that I just recently added a logo for my blog; quick thanks and shoutout to the artist, Cassie O’Neal. I met Cassie at the 2016 Baltimore Tattoo Convention. She did one of my favorite pieces and since then, I’ve become a big fan of her art. I had come up with the general idea of what image I wanted to use for the blog and she was wonderful enough to be able to create it for me.

The sun and the moon have been of great fascination throughout human history. It has been found and described in just about every culture, belief system, etc. I have always really loved the images, simply on an aesthetic level. Only recently have I started looking into symbolism and meanings behind the images. Aside from the slight discrepancies in various interpretations, one trait can be found across the board – duality.

Whether the duality of the sun and moon is seen as a reflection of literally day and night, masculinity vs. femininity, strength and reliability vs. sense and emotion, yin vs. yang… Whichever exact meaning you want to go with, I feel like I identify with all of them in some way. Maybe being a Gemini has something to do with it? Regardless, I feel like there is a balance within myself that I always strive for. It’s something that we all experience. That balance and inner peace could be an example of the duality I see in myself. I also have little “arguments” with myself on opposing optimistic/pessimistic views. The way that I have thought and felt for so many years vs. how I am starting to feel and understand about myself; I feel like I am constantly trying to quiet the two sides of my mind. The negativity, self-hatred, the hopelessness stems from the years and years I have been depressed. That conditioning has led that thought process and behavior to become a sort of subconscious bad habit – my first thought is almost always something negative. I now am able to catch myself and switch it to something more reasonable. Now that I am more aware, I am learning to no longer identify with those feelings of depression or anxiety.

“Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself the worse it gets. “

–Anthony deMello, Awareness

So that’s a bit on why I chose the sun and moon image as the logo for my blog. I feel like I can relate and identify with the various meanings. That, and I still just think it’s really beautiful to look at. Again, thank you so so much to Cassie for designing this for me. She’s a great artist and a really cool person all-around. Definitely check her out on social media and all. I linked her website at the beginning of this post.

What do you all think about the logo?

minimalism | 11.16.17

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works”

– The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus 

I have found that there is a sort of stigma surrounding the word and lifestyle of minimalism. People hear “minimalism” and typically respond with a big eye roll and a “Okay, we get it, you don’t want things” while imagining an apartment with a single chair and a mattress on the ground maybe. While that could be defined as minimalism, for me it’s something else entirely.

My interpretation of the concept of minimalism is pretty simple. Live with more intention. That’s the most watered-down, basic foundation I have for it. I definitely do agree with the whole opposition of materialism (to a degree). This year I’ve donated probably a good 80% of my belongings and I still feel like I own too much stuff. Owning things isn’t inherently bad, though. That’s where a lot of confusion stems from, I think. In my opinion, you don’t have to strip everything down to the absolute bare minimum just to survive. Just simplify things. Get rid of the clutter. Of all of the things that you’re holding onto for “one day” or for “just in case”. It’s still hard for me, but I’m trying to keep only the things that genuinely bring value to my life. Whether it’s literally something functional – like a my desk or my laptop, or if it’s something that might bring me joy – a hobby-item, for example. I feel like I have been explaining why I feel this way more often lately – mostly to family who have been asking what gifts I might want since the holidays are coming up.

Aside from just the material goods side of minimalism, I believe that it also means minimizing and simplifying your mental state. I don’t think I really worded that quite right, but what I’m trying to say is that there is so much that goes on in our minds that I think everyone needs to just quiet it down every once and a while to reflect. Just take a minute to calm all those thoughts. To not worry about what’s coming up in the future or what happened in the past – all we have is this moment right now. Try to not get too occupied with other things. I’ve found that the Minimalists have a lot of messages that echo many ideas of various spiritual teachers and philosophers that I have been learning about lately – Anthony De Mello, Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alan Watts… These concepts are found everywhere – that’s got to mean something, right?

The documentary Minimalism (it’s streaming on Netflix!) was the first thing that I watched that sparked my interest in a change in lifestyle. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. There is so much that I could ramble on about because everything is connected and everything that I have learned so far is so intriguing. Don’t worry, I won’t talk your ears off. I’ll leave you all with this little post for today, though – I’m sure I’ll touch on this topic again in more depth in the future. Look into some of these peoples’ teachings – let me know your thoughts!

panacea | 11.06.17

panacea • [pan-uh-see-uh] • noun
1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all
2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties

Don’t you sometimes wish that there was some big red button to push, a magic spell that you could recite or that just a simple snap of the fingers could solve all of the world’s problems? Could you imagine? No more wars, no more poverty, no more waiting in line at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Never again would you have to experiences any depression or face any challenges in your life. Especially with everything that’s going on with the world right now? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for it.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure-all. There may be false panaceas, but those are only distractions. We only have so much time and so much energy. Spending it wistfully hoping for something that just doesn’t exist doesn’t make sense. Now that’s not to say that we should just give in and decide that the world is always going to be this dark dismal place or that things are always going to be unjust because “that’s life”. Why not take that energy and channel it constructively? Into ways that would incite change and conjure strength. I really do believe that we have the power to change the world.

“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”

Jim Morrison

I feel that if you focus on figuring out who you are and on learning to love yourself that you will wake up and see everything in a new light. Once you have that strong love radiating inward for yourself, I believe that it will naturally radiate outwards as well. And that it will spread and grow exponentially. Love and fear are the only two fundamental emotions. Love can change the world. I’m trying really hard to change myself and to further educate myself on various teachings and concepts of people who have already made the journey. I have spent the vast majority of my life being programmed to think and feel certain ways and let me tell you – breaking bad habits is so much harder than forming new ones and I never thought forming new habits was easy to begin with. You are the most important person in your life – it all starts with you.

Even though there’s no extraordinary cure or any way to never suffer from any disease – whether physical or otherwise – that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. Take the time for yourself and soon enough, I think that you will start to see that change that we all hope for.