Taking Back the Streets

Throughout this past summer I endured countless uncomfortable experiences with strangers. Last year, I wrote about similar experiences while running in my town, but unlike last summer it wasn’t their words; the catcalls from a distance that struck my sense of welfare and intensified my fervor to write pieces such as this. It was the stares, the eyes that pierced my soul and took me captive. This happened on the streets where I sought to run and escape my anxieties. This happened where I worked, a place I worked at for over 4 years, a place that felt like a second home. This happened at my own college campus, where I am meant to feel free and respected. Throughout the summer, my relationships with these places shifted. I did not feel safe, I did not feel free, and I did not feel like I belonged. These streets, this workplace, this campus was not mine anymore, it belonged to them. It belonged to the shadows of the stares and I was their hostage. 

To be honest, I wanted so badly just to beat the shit out of them…..but also conduct well-mannered conversation. Some people told me it wasn’t worth the effort to stand up for myself and I really had to pick my battles. And at one point this summer I picked a battle, I gave a well-mannered, partly truculent, talk to a group of men who I felt had crossed some lines at my work. They had been staring and laughing at me throughout the night and when I confronted them about it they told me I was beautiful expected me to take it as a “compliment”. Never thought a “compliment” would make me feel so unsafe in a place that always felt like home. After standing up to them I felt empowered and fearless, but I also felt a strong sense of anger. I hated them, I hated them so much, I hated their stares and I hated what they represented. They represented the oppression and captivity that I endured the whole summer. But the truth is I don’t hate them, I pity them. I pity that they had to succumb to poor education that made them think that actions like that were okay, an education that never properly taught them right from wrong. 

At the end of the day we have the right to feel safe on our own on our own campus, in our own workplace, in our own streets, but we also have a right to a proper education. I don’t mean learning how to multiply or what year Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I mean learning how to treat people with respect and dignity and of course not commit genocides @ Christopher Columbus. My mom always tells me that kindness amazing, but its better if shared. I think people have forgotten how to be kind, how to be really kind, or were never given the chance to learn how to be kind. It is my mission this year to help people such as myself  take back the streets and radiate kindness wherever I can and I hope you do the same.