Pre- Post-Graduate Perplexity

As I approach my final semester at Saint Louis University, I am nearly constantly pestered with the question of what my post-graduate plans are. Add to that the fact that my first major is in Women’s and Gender Studies, a widely misunderstood and unknown area of study, and that I also have a major in French and a minor in Political Science. At this point, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “So what are you going to do after you graduate?” I probably wouldn’t have to do anything after I graduate, and I could jump right into retirement. Or, at the least, I could pay off some of my student loans. Alas, I do not have those dollars. And the question remains: what am I going to do with my hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars degree?

Honestly, I am slightly appalled that our society wants and expects people in their early 20s to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. (This is even more appalling when I consider that the same is expected of 17-year-old high schoolers.) Further, why do I have to choose just one thing? Why can’t I change the world in many ways over the course of my life?

My girlfriend recently introduced me to the term “multipotentialite.” A multipotentialite is just what it sounds like – someone with many potentials. Truly, I think that all of us are multipotentialites in some way or another. How can we expect our lives to be defined by one aspect of our lives: our “one career”? We are all multi-faceted people with many, differing interests. This should be celebrated.

What do I want to do with my degree? Change the world, of course. And pay off the debt that my degree has so graciously left with me. Who knows if the two will ever work well together.

I want to dismantle the racist, capitalist patriarchy.

I want to teach people in places of privilege to listen to those people whose oppression is benefiting them.

I want to advocate for queer rights, for a world in which people with queer sexualities and non-conforming genders are safe and happy, always. I want racial justice. I need to work for racial justice and understanding within the deeply divided queer community.

I want to work for racial justice in greater society. For equal access to education, housing, food, protection. For an end to racial profiling and stereotyping.

I want an end to gentrification, and its replacement with integration of communities and inclusion of their long-time inhabitants.

I want peace. I want an end of gun violence. I want to work for the rights of prisoners, some of the least-valued and least-respected members of our society. I need to see an end to the racist and unjust criminal justice system and its use of inhumane capital punishment.

I want gender justice. And the end of a society in which I am (horrifyingly) no longer surprised to learn that a loved one has been sexually assaulted or abused. I need to work towards an end to catcalling as a daily, living perpetuation of power structures, and of men’s complete ignorance of this reality.

I will continue to live a hairy life. And I will work to see the day when humans aren’t openly and immediately disgusted by seeing natural body hair on women.

I want to inspire others to change the world, too. I want to help people recognize the great deal of injustice in our society, and to not dismiss feminism as something needed only in other nations.

I want to stand in solidarity with all of those who are denied fair and equal treatment in our world. To me, this can mean so many things that I simply cannot choose one. I cannot tell anyone what I want to do in one sentence, because I cannot choose a group of people among this list (and not listed) for which I choose to advocate more than the others.

So, what will I do with my degree?

I will make the world a better place. Maybe I will teach, or be a public defender, or a community organizer, or a blogger, or a big-shot deliverer of speeches. Maybe not. Time will tell. In the mean time, I’m going to get through school, and try to make the best of that time. And when graduation day rolls around, I will celebrate. And then I will figure out what is to come next. I will live my life in a way that fulfills me and uplifts others, taking each step one at a time, using what I have learned thus far in life, and learning more all along the way.

After graduation, I will live my life. And that should be all that matters.

Reflections on Hate and Ignorance at SLU

It has been a long, trying, and draining few days, for myself and for so many others on SLU’s campus. We have seen incidents of not only bias, but of hatred, oppression, ignorance, and disgusting human indecency. From a swastika formed to racist cultural appropriation to a giant, public display of anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic slurs, our campus community has been faced with an indescribable amount of pain. The core beings of all of us have been destroyed with hurt, and I cannot describe the rollercoaster of emotions that we have all been through. I say rollercoaster because, through the hurt, we have banded together to speak out against such atrocity, and the community of solidarity that we have created amongst ourselves is the greatest thing that I have experienced throughout my four years at SLU. It makes me so indescribably joyous that people are taking action, coming together, uniting as we fight multiple battles in this war against ignorance and hatred, to use an analogy of some of my peers. I am especially grateful and proud of the work of the Black Student Alliance in their ability to quickly assemble and enact change. However, I am also devastated, as many people have stated, that it has taken such intense acts of hatred to bring us together.

For me personally, the ups and downs have been some of the most extreme I have lived. I have been hurt, as we all were, by the incidents of bias and hatred themselves. But I have also felt hurt and dismissed by my own friends and members of the family I have created for myself here. And I have made reparations with those people, only through finding the strength to discuss extremely difficult topics with them and to overcome the rough times together. I have also had the privilege to address my peers, as a leader in Rainbow Alliance, alongside a group of amazing and strong individuals from BSA, HALO, JSA, and other identity groups at the rally that was held in Gries at the midnight breakfast. I spoke from my heart about my experiences, and was met with nothing but love and support from the entire room. When I was forced to pause and was overcome with emotion, the entire room applauded. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to every person there who participated. And I was humbled by the amount of people who were touched by my words – those who hugged me afterwards and listened to me cry, who were both close friends and complete strangers. My heart could not have been more full in those moments.

During this address to my classmates, I spoke on my experience of feeling afraid on campus for the first time in four years. On Saturday night, May 3rd, the night of the incident, I walked across campus and was sincerely nervous for my well being, because I knew that whoever wrote such horrid things was also walking on our campus. I am so deeply saddened that this was suddenly a truth to me, while I know it to be a constant problem for many others because of their identities. The thing is, it shouldn’t be a problem for the place that we call home.

Tonight, I overheard a pair of white men sitting on campus and discussing these words of mine. These people were so unbelievably unaware, in many aspects of the word. One man was discounting the “speech” I made, mentioning something about shootings near campus – so, duh, she should be afraid! I then heard mention of “yeah, racism is gonna happen,” or something along those lines. I am appalled that, repeatedly, the people with the privilege of not having to care about these issues are so blatantly disregarding and discounting the experiences of those who are forced on a daily basis to think about these problems. And, again, I am set back and realize the size of the war we are fighting.

I am disheartened over and over again by these people. As a white woman, I am fully aware that the color of my skin and the origins of my ancestors give me great privilege in this country and on this campus. And that makes me motivated to strive to learn from my peers and friends who are people of color – to learn about their experiences, and to learn how I can be the best ally to them in this struggle. And I challenge others to do the same.

I am also a queer woman, among a community of people who are marginalized and oppressed because of who we inherently are. Because of whom we love, and because of the norms we defy. Half of the bias-related incidents – 5 of 10 – reported and logged this semester alone have been based on sex or sexual orientation. This is despicable, and it is only the number of reported incidents. I can only imagine, painfully so, the number of unreported incidents that have occurred between students on this campus over the past year. The number of microaggressions that occur daily that are derogatory to my community. People calling each other the f word, or saying “that’s so gay” to mean “that’s stupid.” My sexual identity is not below those of straight people. This is not acceptable. This campus can do better, and my community and all oppressed communities deserve so much better.

I am putting these words out here simply because I can find no other outlet for my emotions over the past few days. I will end with what I believe to be the most important thoughts I have: to all of you who think that these events don’t matter, start paying attention. And to those have shown support, organized events last minute under recognition of time sensitivity, been present at these events, and who have worked to actively fight against these actions and show that they are unacceptable – thank you. Thank you a million times. Never stop fighting. Your words and actions are making a difference to many, now and in times to come. Thank you, and I stand in solidarity with all of you.