How to Spot a Toxic Friendship: Things to Consider

Around this time last year, I realized that I was surrounded by several problematic, toxic people. I seemed to learn the same lesson over and over again—toxic, abusive relationships aren’t just limited to the people we’re romantically involved with and both can be equally as consequential and personally damaging.

I’ve written a lot about unhealthy relationships on this blog in the past, but today I think we should talk about something that’s often overlooked: toxic friendships.

I was friends with this guy all through high school and a little bit into college—and at times the friendship was really beneficial, and at times it was really, really bad. Stupid jokes were fine when we were fourteen, but through the years the friendship became more and more problematic. Whenever we would make plans, we would always end up doing what he wanted to do. Other times, he would leave little space for me in the conversation. I would text him that I was having a bad day and a message exchange later the conversation would have flipped to be about him. He would say mean things to me and then claim to be joking.

It wasn’t until the friendship ended that I looked back and wondered why it lasted so long.

There’s something about friendships—especially friendships between men and women that we excuse, somehow we think poor treatment is okay because you’re just friends and not romantically involved.

That’s not true.

That also doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean that unhealthy or even abusive behaviors can’t work their way into a relationship.

Here’s some things to think about if you think your friendship is toxic:

1) Are they always looking for you to be who you were at the beginning of the friendship?

If you’ve been friends with someone for a while or over a period years, it’s normal that you’ll grow as a person, learn new things, and mature (hopefully). These are positive things.

Think back to who you were in middle school. It’s tough, I know. I have a point, I promise.

You might have dyed your hair, you might have downloaded embarrassing songs onto your iPod, you might have been mean to kids in your class.

But you grew up, found new interests, and shed old habits. This is part of being a person.

People—especially women—are taught that being a good person means being a good friend, and being a good friend means being who their friends expect them to be. I encountered this a lot in high school and sometimes in college where I would act a certain way in front of some friends and then hide aspects of myself in front of others.

This comes from a need to accommodate others, but this isn’t healthy and it will make your relationships surface-level rather than fulfilling.

We are rarely taught to think about the ways we should—and deserve to—benefit from our friendships.

2) Can you be yourself unapologetically with them and express your thoughts and opinions?

It’s likely that you will come across people who you have differing opinions with. This can be a positive thing—they can open you to new ideas and ways of critical thinking. But this only positive if your friend doesn’t stifle your thoughts, opinions, and values that you bring to the table.

The same friend I was referring to before used to always challenge the way I felt and invalidate my thoughts—especially when it came to social justice issues I care about. Given that things like body image, healthy relationships, activism, etc. are things that I take the time to blog about and have conversations in my everyday life about, it clearly matters to me.

Your friends don’t have to share the same passions you have, but they do have to respect them.

3) Does the occasional bad outweigh the good?

Because we oftentimes receive false cultural messages about what respect looks like, it can be easy to minimize feelings of being disrespected as “overreacting.”

But here’s the deal: from time to time, friends might say or do things that hurt you—but this shouldn’t happen on regular basis.

A good exercise to do when thinking about how healthy the friendship is to think about how often you feel happy with this person. Do you genuinely enjoy your time together or do you always find yourself waiting for them to cancel plans or make an insulting comment?

If it’s the second, this friendship may be damaging to your well-being and anxiety and resentment can build up.

4) Do they feel entitled to your friendship?

This is a big one that I’ve encountered with a lot of past friends—especially male friends (speaking from my own experience). People who think they can behave however they want and say whatever they want and then feel as if you don’t have the right to take offense or expect an apology when they hurt you—even if it was unintentional—are not worth your energy.

Especially for women, it can be different to walk away from people who hurt us. Because oftentimes those exact people do an excellent job minimizing and invalidating our feelings.

I remember when I would call my friend out for things, he would later send me text messages explaining how he didn’t actually do anything wrong, that I had unrealistic expectations for him as a friend. In reality, I was expecting him to be a relatively decent person towards me. But he felt as if he could act in ways that upset me, and it was my job to get over it.

When our friendship came to its inevitable end and I told him to stop contacting me, I received text messages and Facebook messages telling me he didn’t do anything wrong, asking me why I wasn’t answering, and demanding that we start hanging out again.

I received these messages for an entire year after our friendship ended.

It wasn’t until I wrote about this friend awhile later for a writing exercise in class that I finally used words like “manipulation” and “harassment.”

It doesn’t matter if you appreciate their company and laugh and have a good time 40% of time if the other 60% involves that person making you feel inadequate. What you experience might not be abuse with a capital A—but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t toxic and that it doesn’t hurt.

Emotional pain is still pain no matter who’s inflicting it.

Either way—you deserve better.

You can love someone and care about someone, as a friend—and they can still treat you badly.

Being Different: Some Thoughts on Being “The Activist”

*Sorry for the delay in posting, please read some of my latest blogs for here.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my Dad we were talking about an altercation I’d gotten into with someone via Facebook on the importance of saying #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter and he said: “it seems like you have to deal with a lot of people who say ignorant things to you.”

Sadly, this is a reality for a lot of people who do social justice work. It’s common for people who express certain opinions to be boxed into being “the feminist” or “the activist,” instead of a person with valid thoughts and feelings.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say to me: you’re upset about x because you’re a feminist. As if the fact that I’m upset doesn’t matter anymore; suddenly, it’s my problem that I’m upset and I need to get over it.

Even though I spend a lot of time sifting through ignorant conversations and I’ve gotten better at tuning them out, it can still be draining.

Sometimes when you’re at a party and you mention to someone that you care about reproductive justice and someone starts drunkenly debating with you about where life begins—it can get old. Really old.

I recently got into a pretty heated argument with someone. I’ll leave the details out but let’s just say it wasn’t so much a conversation or debate but rather one person raising their voice at me when I wouldn’t suddenly change my values and opinions to match theirs. I wouldn’t cave and I kept responding to their claims; they got angrier. I left feeling frustrated and disrespected.

There’s nothing worse than conversations with people who don’t care about you, or learning, or having a productive discussion—their only concern is to control the way you think and feel.

You’re wrong. They’re right. The end.

People can have different opinions. People can disagree with each other. That’s all fine—what’s not okay is making someone feel like shit because they disagree with you.

Remember: it doesn’t matter if someone is a “feminist,” an “activist,” or any other kind of social justice person, they are also a human being who deserves respect and validation.

When I got in the car with my Mom soon after the argument happened, she could tell I was upset. She was upset for me.

“When you’re different like you are, and you have your own opinions, you’re going to run into people like that. It’s part of being different but it’s a good thing,” she told me.

She’s right.

Being different is a good thing—even when it’s difficult.

In those moments though, it can be easy to feel singled out. It can be easy to feel like you’re being punished for caring about the things you’re passionate about, for being different.

But in the end, it’s worth it to stand out.

At the end of the day, all that matters is knowing what you stand for and sticking to it. Knowing why you care your cause and fighting for it even when some people are against you. Knowing that for every stupid comment on a Facebook post or untimely debate at a college party, there are a whole bunch of people who are on your side.

Some Thoughts on Coming Home

I apologize for the small hiatus I took from writing, midterms were rough ya’ll and I really needed the break to recharge.

Let’s move on now to some quick life-updates now that I’m backing from visiting home.

During my first year of college, I had to take a personal essay writing class and the theme of one essay that we had to write was “home.” I remember having a hard time knowing what to write about and I struggled to come up with the right words to describe what home even meant to me. A year later, in an environmental politics course, we were asked to define home and community—and I still didn’t really have an answer.

I’m from a very small suburban area that’s mostly malls and chain restaurants. I’m not complaining about where I come from, that’s just what it is. I didn’t really like it. It didn’t feel very much like home.

My hometown sits between two bigger cities in upstate NY that people have heard of and I alternate between those two cities whenever people ask me where I’m from. I just started defaulting to what people would recognize.

There have been many spaces in my life that have actually felt like home. My college, my grandma’s house, the summer camp I used to work at. But all these homes have been at least a little bit temporary—unlike my home that has always stayed the same.

When I think about my hometown, I can point to the huge rock behind the staples where my high school friends and I used to on sit and talk, the long line I always waited in for the same Chipotle burrito I always ordered with the same ingredients every time, and the almost empty neighborhood where my Dad taught me how to drive.

I treated my hometown like a waiting room before I would finally leave and my Real Life would finally get going and I would make new friends and my weekend plans would be more than just deciding whose basement we should hang out in.

And I did head off to college and I did make new friends and go on adventures and change my major and make stupid mistakes like every college student does, but I spent most of that time waiting for what was next.

That was a really unhealthy way for me to live.

You may be wondering if I really took up all that space just to give you some You Should Live in the Moment speech. That’s not what I’m saying.

My point is that not every moment or memory you have is going to be wonderful and eventful and that’s okay. Don’t walk around feeling unfulfilled all the time. In fact, when you’re bored is oftentimes when you’re most creative and have the time to start new projects.

So to everyone out there who likes to work on a million things at once and engaged in a million social justice movements—take a quick break, go home (or to a place that feels like home)—if you can—and remember some of the things that shaped you.

All the best,


Things You Deserve in a Relationship

Last year I helped facilitate programs on healthy relationships for adults with developmental disabilities. Even though I was the one teaching, I felt like I was learning all these healthy relationship lessons for the first time too.

Over the past year, I’ve come quite a long way in terms of what I deserve and how I deserve to be treated by the people I surround myself with. That program helped me get there and that got me thinking that we need to talk about healthy relationships more. We need to have a dialogue on what is and what isn’t okay.

From my experience, the best place to start is to have an idea of what is and isn’t okay, what you deserve (ex. respect) and what you don’t (ex. being treated like crap).

Here are some things that you deserve in a relationship (any kind of relationship):

1) Someone who makes an effort

If you’re always texting someone first or always the only one to really put in effort to spend time together, walk away and find people who are genuinely excited about being around you. This seems straightforward but sometimes it can be easy to want to keep trying to cultivate a friendship or relationship, when in reality, the other person might not always feel the same way. Relationships should always be somewhat even and both people should be mutually excited to spend time together and build a connection.

2) A partner who doesn’t take up too much space

I feel like we’ve all met or spent significant time with a person who doesn’t leave much room for you in a conversation or validate your feelings and opinions. If someone is always talking over you or spinning conversations to be all about themselves and their thoughts, it’s typically a sign that your partner doesn’t respect you.

I spent a chunk of high school and part of college really close friends with this guy. We had a lot in common and we spent a lot of time together. Our mutual friends would often think that we would end up together. It seemed to make sense too—but something always stopped me. If I tried to have a deep conversation about something personal, it would become all about him. If I wanted to watch this movies, suddenly we’d be watching a movie he’d picked out even after I said I preferred the other movie. He would also get competitive with me about who had dated more people, who’d gotten better grades, who could run a faster mile.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t given consideration, validation, or respect. It left me feeling small. Big surprise, we’re no longer friends. I got tired of being treated like I didn’t even matter.

For my lady-identifying friends out there, this can be a common trend. We’re taught to be small, to keep quiet, so it might be hard to notice when someone is edging you out but do your best to shut it down because you deserve someone who validates you and your feelings and lets you take up an even amount of space.

Relationships involve two people, so should the conversations you have and the decisions you make.

3) Someone who doesn’t wield things over your head

Did you do something embarrassing one time? Make a mistake? Say the wrong thing? Probably. We all do these things.

Does your partner (or friends, relative, etc.) ever throw it back in your face?

If you said yes, you absolutely deserve better. Like I said, we all have made mistakes, done embarrassing or stupid things, and have private, personal experiences in our past. If you disclose these experiences to a partner and they start using it as a means to discredit you, embarrass you, or otherwise upset you, get out of that relationship ASAP.

If this is a repeating pattern of behavior, you most likely have an emotionally abusive and/or manipulative relationship unfolding.

4) Someone who doesn’t wield your level of (in) experience over your head

This is a semi-extension of previous paragraph, but it is an important conversation to have because I’ve seen this play out a lot in relationships—typically in relationships where one partner has more dating, sexual, or life experience than the other. This is tricky territory but it’s important to navigate.

If your partners shames you, mocks you, judges you, whatever, for the amount of sex you’ve had, people you’ve dated, etc. This is a gigantic red flag that your partner doesn’t respect you and that you genuinely deserve this disrespect simply because of personal choices you have the right to make.

One the other end of the spectrum, if your partner shames you, mocks you, judges you because you haven’t yet had a specific dating or sexual experience, this is also a red flag.

If a partner ever uses this as a means to pressure you to have these experiences or make you feel bad for saying no, that is one very large warning sign that should not be ignored. These kinds of behaviors are absolutely abusive and could very well be a pathway to sexual manipulation or coercion.

5) Someone who builds you up

I want to end on a more positive note than the previous section, so this last bit is all about how your relationships should be a positive one. I am adamantly against the widespread idea that boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners “complete people.” This just makes people without partners feel like they’re missing something or are less valuable and this concept only makes people put up with the horrible behaviors I described above.

However, your partner should absolutely make you feel good and help you grow (just like any non-romantic relationship. Don’t think your partner will complete you or fix flaws or anything, but remember that they should help you learn new things about yourself, offer new ways to look at the world, and encourage you while reminding you that you’re good enough the way you are.

Maybe this sounds difficult to find, but you’re worth it.

All the best,


My Planned Parenthood Story

I apologize for the little break I’ve taken from updating this website. In the meantime, I’ve posted a few blogs here:

This summer there were many ongoing attacks and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. The organization that serves over five million women, men, and teens worldwide and that has primarily supported low-income women is still under constant threat. The loss of such an organization would be devastating for women, their families, and for reproductive freedom.

In response to these ridiculous, ill-informed attacks, many have come forward sharing their stories and experiences with Planned Parenthood and explaining what it means to them. There is now even a Humans of Planned Parenthood page where people can share their stories.

Here’s mine.

My Planned Parenthood story is not the typical story that’s been cropping up. I’ve never really had to use their health care services (although everyone I know says they’re great). I’ve never had to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood has given me something different—a cause to care about, close friends, and confidence in making my own decisions.


Let me explain a little more:

When I first started my freshman year of college, it was a little lonely. I’d made some friends. I liked my class. It wasn’t terrible—but I didn’t love it. I felt very stuck and isolated on the hill of my college and overwhelmed by it. Then I went to a random, extra-credit presentation on Roe v. Wade.

Before starting college I knew almost nothing about reproductive health. I knew nothing about the attacks on women’s bodies and their right to have control over their bodies. I thought Planned Parenthood was just a place to get condoms. I had no idea that they were part of a much bigger, crucial fight for basic human rights and gender equality.

So I listened to the speaker, a former Ithaca College professor named Zillah Eisenstein, talk about women she knew who got “back alley” abortions and risked their lives because they couldn’t get the care they needed. It just seemed so fundamentally wrong to me that someone’s rights and bodily autonomy could be taken away from them because of their gender.

And I wanted to get involved.

After the presentation ended, there was a woman named Alicia from Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes tabling in the back. She was the current Director of Public Affairs, and she is now one of my dear friends. She was looking for people to table downtown with her during Applefest and since I really wanted to be part of something outside my college, I signed up.

The whole time when I was tabling, women kept walking up to us and telling us that PPSFL is the only reason why they can get their breast exams and basic, necessary health care needs. Alicia also told me that I should consider starting a Planned Parenthood VOX (now called Generation Action) chapter.


Photo Taken in October 2013-The First Time I Ever Volunteered with PPSFL

I agreed.

Because of Planned Parenthood, I was able to start building a home and community for myself on my campus and get involved in the community. I started working with other students to start a Planned Parenthood group and I would go off campus to phone bank and speak with legislators about bills that impact access to reproductive health.

Planned Parenthood gave me a home and something to care about.

Planned Parenthood gave me a cause to put my negative energy into to turn it into something good.

Planned Parenthood taught me the importance of body positivity and bodily autonomy and the way they intersect.

I owe the organization everything for that.

My whole life is different now. I floated through high school only doing things I thought would get me a scholarship to college. I never did things that actually mattered to me until college. I challenged myself. I stopped being so shy and started facilitating conversations on tough, necessary topics like bystander intervention, Title IX, reproductive health, and more. I started understanding the social forces like gender inequality, sexism, classism, and other power structures that shape the world we live in.

Planned Parenthood gave me the tools to start to do something about that. To stop being so uncomfortable with body and to learn how to take ownership of it. To find the courage to stand up and speak in front of a group of people, to write online, and to realize that my voice has value.

PP post

Thanks for everything PP,


Let’s Talk About Activist Burnout

Hi there, blog. Do you remember me?

I’ve missed you. I really have.

Each day I tell myself I want to blog. I tell myself that today will be the day that I post. I have lists of blog ideas in my notebook right now. I have written many blogs at my job. I have mostly-completed blogs just sitting on my desktop.

                                          Blog 2

But each time, something stops me.

A few days ago I read a passage in Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist that really seemed to describe what I’ve been feeling but never knew how to explain:

“We all have history. You can think you’re over your history. You can think the past is the past. And then something happens, often innocuous, that shows you just how far you are from being over it.”

Lately certain events and random occurrences in my life have dragged old, distressing memories to the forefront of my brain.

We all have moments that brought us to care about the things we do, to fight for the things we want to fight for. For me, a lot of what brought me to do the work I do—which mostly involves engaging people in conversations centered on equality, gender, healthy relationships, and activism—came from those memories which have me a strong desire to fight back, to take experiences that once brought me pain and use them to help people.

My drive to keep pushing forward for change came from those memories. But now my drive has been slowing drastically. And I hate it.

A few days ago I bought tickets to play inside the ball pit inside the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The ball pit was essentially a giant pit of balls exactly like you would see in McDonalds but bigger and deeper and kind of dangerous.


One moment you could be standing and totally fine and the next you could be slowly sinking, getting stuck and buried beneath a million tiny white balls. I would start to slip beneath the surface and then I would fight to break free.

That’s how I feel right now.

I feel like old memories and little things—that remind me how messed up the world still is and how much work there still is to do—keep piling up, threatening to bury me and I keep having to fight to break free to the surface again.

I know this post is metaphor-heavy but I think that’s what it needs to be.

The weird thing about the way I feel right now is that I don’t feel unhappy. I have many good things in my life and I’m aware that I have many good things. I feel more confident than I ever have before in my life.

But right now I also feel buried by all the things that still need to change.  

This weekend was rough. I realized how much I’m chained to my anger. Nothing huge happened. Instead, it was a collection of occurrences that added up.

I felt anger at  the men who cat called me outside my metro stop—just like they do every time I walk home alone. I felt disgusted by all the men who felt they were allowed to touch me because I was wearing a tank top. I felt gross and objectified by the men who grabbed me to get me to dance with them even when I screamed the word “Stop” over the loud, thudding music. I’m furious that this behavior is normalized and allowed—and I have the right to be. I’m having trouble letting myself take up that much space.

This is just one example of how backwards everything is. This is just one example of what I’ve been experiencing lately.This isn’t even close to the worst injustices out there—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

It just means that I can’t give up yet—or ever.

But the way I’m feeling right now is telling me that I need to make some changes. I’ve written advice blogs on staying motivated before, but I missed something very important—I never talked about how critical it is to validate and address the way you feel.

All too often, when I try to call out something problematic, I’m just the annoying feminist activist who needs to chill, who doesn’t understand that that’s just the way the world is. And this happens frequently to anyone who dares to object to sexism, racism, ableism, etc.

Being silenced will not change anything, staying silent will not allow you to help make things better.

When it comes to feeling burnt out, take a break if you need. Reflect on the way you feel. Talk to others who will understand.* Find an outlet. Realize that you have a right to feel the way you do. Let yourself feel it.

Then keep going when you’re ready.

My voice is one of the few things I have among all the things in my life that I can’t control. I’m not going to give it up.

I’m ready to keep going.

*Although it is sadly stigmatized, seeing a counselor or mental health professional is always a good option when it comes to self-care and burnout.

The American Constitution Society: A Reflection

This blog post was originally posted here on on June 26th, 2015.

About a week ago I walked twenty five minutes to the closest Forever 21 in pursuit of a professional-looking jacket at a reasonable price. I had to look extra-professional because I was going to be playing the part of law student at 9am the next morning.

As a part of my internship with Young People For (YP4) this summer, I’ll be helping to engage young people in the courts and raise awareness of the importance of judges and the judicial system to advance progressive causes. Because of this, I was given the opportunity to attend the American Constitution Society Convention, a conference for law students and lawyers so I could learn more about the courts and their impact on our everyday lives.


I was surrounded by people in suits. I was probably the only one there who was twenty and couldn’t legally drink at the reception. People were surprised—and impressed—to see that I was only a college student who was there to learn. I was given lots of advice on law school—that it’s worth it, that it’s the worst, that I should go, that I absolutely shouldn’t.

Courts Cohort

Despite receiving conflicting advice, I learned a lot—both in and out of the panel discussions and speeches. I attended panels on Title IX, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, mass incarceration, and I went to a workshop on writing Op-Eds. I listened to distinguished law professors from top law schools, I listened to Wendy Davis speak about reproductive freedom, economic inequality, women’s rights, and the ways in which these three issues intersect with each other, I attended a Q&A with—wait for it—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


It was awesome.

I learned so much. I learned from inspiring, knowledgeable individuals who had a real impact on addressing social issues and equality for marginalized groups within the legal system.

It made me think: would a law degree be a ticket to being one of these people?

But then other thoughts came to my mind: would I be smart enough? Then I looked around the room: most of the people there were white, and most of the people there were men. Most of the universities that were represented were Ivy League. Would I survive in a profession that only caters to a certain demographic of people? A law degree could cost upwards of $80,000 a year for three years. Then there are application fees, LSAT exams and preparation expenses on top of that.

Something that I thought was missing from the convention was addressing how we get people to go to law school so then they can become judges and fill spots in political offices, the Senate, and the Supreme Court in the first place. Because right now only a certain set of financially-able individuals are encouraged to go to law school and are put on track to get there.

If we truly want diversity on the bench and in the legal profession, then we need to start encouraging people of different backgrounds that they should and are capable of successfully receiving a law degree. We need to carve a space for those who belong to marginalized identity groups so then the space doesn’t seem to only belong to predominately white, upper class males.

Too many people get turned off if they feel like they’re going to be in a space where they won’t be valued, heard, or represented.

We need to start churning out lawyers and politicians and other professionals that can understand a wider demographic of people who are really committed to addressing inequalities.

Just a thought.

At the closing of the convention, I sat there and listened to Ruth Bader Ginsburg discuss the sexism she faced in the workplace and I listened to her tell the story of how she struggled to get her first job. Employers told her directly that they didn’t want to hire her because she’s a woman. It’s scary to think that that wasn’t that long ago.

But then they showed us pictures of t-shirts that Justice Ginsburg’s fans made and I thought about the incredible influence that she’s had on many lives and in many monumental court cases. Through all the adversity and discrimination, she made a real difference and that’s worth noticing and celebrating.

Now we just need to pave the way so that more people have the opportunity to get there.

A Letter to my Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve officially graduated from high school two years ago. Here are some thoughts that I’d like to share with my eighteen-year-old self.


Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Christina,

Congratulations, you’ve survived sitting there as the names of your 738 classmates were called and you finally walked across that stage and said goodbye to your high school life—trust me, this is a victory.

You’ve sent in a deposit to Ithaca College and you’re officially a part of the Class of 2017.


You don’t know it right now but the years to come are by far the happiest and most fulfilling so far.

During your first few weeks, you will be really homesick. That’s okay. You don’t know anyone yet and having to share a bathroom with fifteen other women kind of sucks. It’s an adjustment but things will turn around quickly. For the first time, you aren’t just going through the motions in school trying to get the highest grade, you actually enjoy your classes. You’re actually learning things and it’s wonderful.

For once, what you’re learning about matters. You’re talking about race and gender and economic status and the way these pieces of our identities fit together to inform the advantages and disadvantages we will have in life. Unfortunately, a college classroom will be the first time that you ever get the chance to learn what the word feminism actually means.

Ithaca College is relatively small so it no longer feels like you’re slipping through the cracks like it did at your ridiculously huge high school. The days of sitting on a carpet outside the cafeteria because there isn’t enough room for everyone are over. (Yes, my friends and I actually ate lunch on a rug senior year.)

Because of this, you’re able to really distinguish yourself from your peers—you’re able to focus on yourself instead of competing with and comparing yourself to others.

Freeing yourself from this pressure will allow you to excel in your classes, become a DJ, start a new student organization, and speak in front of state legislators all in your first semester. With everyone’s information and personal business available to you as soon as Facebook loads, it can be difficult to not feel like you need to be having as much fun and accomplishing just as much as those around you—but don’t worry about it.

You’ll be so much happier once you learn how to focus on what you love and how to do those things for yourself instead of a resume or because you feel like it will please someone else.

Here’s another secret, first-year college student ever knows what on earth they’re doing. So stop worrying so much about what you’re doing with your life. You don’t have to have everything mapped out. Instead, let yourself stumble into things that you didn’t know you loved. For example, that politics course you randomly selected because you didn’t know what else to take will turn into your second major. The random writing seminar that you actually shouldn’t have been allowed to take will be the place where you meet your best friend. The random talk on Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights hosted on your campus will turn into something that you actively fight for and organize around.

Unfortunately, you will also stumble into bad things and bad people too. A few months into your first semester, you will meet one of the worst people you’ve yet to meet. My advice is to not blame yourself as much as you do for the things that happen between you. It is not your fault that someone else made the decision to treat you like total crap. Realize that he’s inflicted pain on many people and not just you.

This experience will raise the bar for all future relationships—whether it be romantic, friendship, family, or otherwise.

Suddenly you will have no patience for people who don’t text you back or friends who don’t put in enough effort or family members who make constantly criticize you or people who text throughout dates. Walk away quickly from people who make don’t treat you with the respect that you know you deserve.

A year later you will find yourself facilitating programs on healthy relationships and starting peer education based bystander intervention program.

This will be one of the best things you ever do.

You’re sophomore year is going to be a tough one—parts of it are going to straight up suck. Sorry. But work hard through it anyways because even though it may be incredibly challenging it will be so much more rewarding and transformative.

You’ll realize who your real friends are—and who aren’t. You’ll feel lonely sometimes—but that’s only because you’re removing toxic people from your life. Through everything you’ll become connected with wonderful people. Blogging will become an outlet that will give you the opportunity to live in Washington, DC for a summer. The things that bring you pain with inspire you to take action and that action will direct you towards what you want to do in the future.

Here’s to the next great two years of your life,


Phoenix, U2 Concert, Moving to DC, and Craziness

A few days ago, someone called me the blogging expert. I smiled at the compliment but felt a twinge of guilt in my stomach as thought about how long it had been since I cracked open WordPress and hit the little green publish button. I took a much needed mental health blogging hiatus after finals week to give myself calm down from all the stress. Then I traveled to Phoenix with my family.

Then I moved to DC. In the span of two days I got on a plane at 4am in Phoenix, AZ, went back home, packed up my car, and then drove six hours to DC at 6am the very next day. It all happened so fast. Next thing I know at the white house and saying goodbye to my parents. Then I’m starting my first day as a Civic Engagement intern with Young People For.

For the first time in my life, I live outside the bubble of a college campus or my tiny upstate NY town. I live on my own. I buy groceries and cook dinner and make lunches that I take to work with me where I work forty hours a week. I go to work and attend meetings and say things like “please return to me by close of business today.” It’s all very weird. And amazing. And kind of scary.

It’s been great. But it’s made it hard for me to quiet all the noise and emotions that fill my life. It’s drowned out that voice that’s says: “You want to blog today.” And I do. I really want to blog.

So here I am.

I’m currently sitting at nearby park. My laptop is on airplane mode. The Wi-Fi is turned off on my cell phone. I can just write. Zero distractions.

I’m only in DC for ten weeks so that means that I’ve been trying to make sure that I’m having the best time I possibly can. And I’m having a great time. I’ve been to monuments, museums, farmer’s markets, cool parks and restaurants, and I even went to weird, underground ‘90s concert. But I still feel guilty every time I load another episode of Netflix or opt to spend a Saturday night in sweatpants after working all week. I need to remember that breaks are okay.

Right now I’m writing, listening to a live track of the U2 concert I went to in May (which was amazing, by the way) and watching a duck drink water from a nearby fountain. I need to take this in. I just need to appreciate where I am right now.

A few weeks from now it will be two years since I graduated from high school. I can’t tell you how much has changed since then. I saw high school as a long and crappy waiting room before college and life would suddenly become awesome and free of hall monitors who had the power to tell you when you could and couldn’t go to bathroom. For the most part, college has been wonderful and transformative. My shy eighteen-year-old self would never joined a radio station and spoke on air. I graduated high school with the idea that I wanted to “write stuff.” I had no idea that I would eventually publically blog online. I’d never thought critically about gender equality or reproductive justice and I never thought I’d ever speak to Senator about Title IX on a live panel.

None of this was planned. But I’m so wonderfully amazed and grateful that it happened.

I have very personal reasons for getting involved in these movements. It may seem far-fetched but I feel like none of these things would have happened if weren’t for all I’ve experienced before. I feel like every challenge, every piece of bad news, and all the feelings of confusion were just building me up to become the tough, confident, determined twenty-year-old I am today.

I’m sorry this blog is so all over the place. These are just a few things I need to say. It can be so easy to get tied up in everything that’s happening in your life, but I think it’s really important to stop and think about how you got to be where you are and to take it all in.

All the best,


PS. Many more blog posts to come. That’s a promise!

Meeting Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Hi everyone,

I apologize for the delay in posting! I have been blogging for my school’s newspaper online. If you would like to see more of my writing please click here:

Well, I finally survived April. I survived balancing school with homework with my internship with planning and attending a billion Sexual Assault Awareness Month events. It was crazy and completely worth it but I’m glad it’s May. DC is 22 days away!

April was stressful and challenging but on the first day of May something amazing happened: I met Kirsten Gillibrand and spoke on a panel with her about college sexual assault.

Sometimes working as an activist to educate others and end sexual violence is like fighting an uphill battle. People ask me what I’m doing with my life or say things like “oh, cool” when I tell them I intern at The Advocacy Center. I’ve facilitated education events where participants challenge everything I say. I once put on an event where a professional staff member at my college showed up, said nothing to me or any of the other organizers, and congratulated the all-male fraternity for attending such an event.

But then one of my fellow peer educators at The Advocacy Center invited me to drive to Elmira College with her to see Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and to speak on a roundtable on college sexual assault with her. It was an amazing opportunity. We drove up early in the morning and we were expecting to just listen to the Senator speak the entire time. What I was wasn’t expecting was to walk into to see my name on a lamented card surrounded by college officials, legal professionals, Title IX Coordinators, and other advocates. It was a combination of all the voices necessary to really start a productive conversation on this topic. If we want to make a change, we have to talk about the problem first.

Sometimes, when I follow political campaigns, it’s clear that some politicians make statements on issue in order to procure votes from a certain demographic. When I was listening to Kirsten Gillibrand speak on Friday, I could tell that she was truly passionate about the issue and implementing legislation that holds perpetrators and colleges accountable. In her new bill that is currently going through the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), seeks to create more transparency, establish confidential advisors who are properly trained for students to disclose to if there’s an assault.

Colleges and Universities have historically swept sexual assault under the rug by mishandling cases, deterring reporting, and downplaying the issue. The majority of schools are more likely to expel someone for cheating and dishonesty than for committing a violent crime. I think the important thing to remember about campus sexual violence is that perpetrators of these crimes would be committing these acts out in the “real world” so these perpetrators shouldn’t be protected just because they are in the bubble of a college community. Under Title IX, schools are required to protect students from any form of gender-based discrimination that might prevent a student from successfully completing their education. Walking around a small campus bubble in fear of running into your perpetrator and being pelted with personal questions by school officials about what happened to you, is enough to deter someone from coming forward. But colleges (that students are paying a ton of money to attend) have an obligation to do something about this. Students deserve to be kept safe and students who commit crimes deserve to face consequences for those crimes.

This year has come with many challenges but also many many rewards and speaking on that panel was one of them. The panel was short so when they announced that it was time for the last comment I raised my hand and Senator Gillibrand called me by my first name. I grabbed hold of a microphone and spoke about my experience as an activist at Ithaca College and the behavior of campus administrators. When I finished, Senator Gillibrand thanked me for sharing my story.

Lately, I’ve been having a semi-panic attack about being almost two years into college, turning twenty, moving away from home for the first time, etc. and I’ve been questioning a lot of things in my life. But meeting and speaking on a panel on college sexual violence seemed to bring everything from the past couple of years together and make it all worth it.

Here’s a couple of links and news clips of the event:

I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to speak up about this issue.