Year 2; 2014-2015
The week before my sophomore year began, Tim was excitedly attempting to assure me that my upcoming term would be enjoyable. I would be living in a sorority house after all! How could it not be fun? /sarcasm
Despite saving details of those stories for another time, I’ll spoil their endings: it was not fun. Sometimes I would joke that I felt like “Hannah Montana.” Sorority girl pledging to the rituals by day, hippie concert-lover listening to records with my more “granola” friends by evening. It wasn’t easy fitting in, because both communities knew I was overlapping. In particular, the sorority was especially upset that I didn’t invest all my time and attention to the group. Passive-aggressively, they never let me live that half-hearted alliance down.
It was rough being forced to spend my time at events I didn’t feel comfortable at, with a $100 fine over my head if I didn’t. However, living in the mansion it was actually the hardest. My prepaid room and meals were waiting for me there among people that disappointed my ethics code daily. I would take any opportunity I had to spend time elsewhere. Other friends’ homes became my refuges.
Unfortunately, these challenges made up for the bulk of my year. Despite all this, I was able to learn a lot about my capacities and how to manage troubling relationships. It also taught me to appreciate the friends that kept me inspired and positive.
At one fateful Tequila Tuesday, I met Melissa and Abby. Two unique women with a contagious laughter I instantly jived with. Melissa, in particular, helped me feel safe being myself– wholly and genuinely. From silly adventures at reggae concerts to celebrating Earth Day, Melissa was always a good time I could rely on. Her among several other friends kept me grounded, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that alone.
Throughout the year, I worked for the Organization Against Sexual Assault. This was my first official experience campaigning for effective institutionalized change in a community, past internships or smaller grassroots projects. I learned essential professional skills that have shaped the way I work today. I felt invigorated by the activist portion of the work: holding picket signs and chanting in the streets, rallying people to care for our collective safety. While I understood policy changes were more effective at the end of the day, I preferred to advocate for the policies on the streets instead of writing them.
Featured above is a campaign I spearheaded throughout my three years at UO, The PDA Project. PDA stands for, “Please Do Ask.” It was a photo-based campaign that advocated for healthy, consensual sexual relationships. Beside is The Siren Magazine, a feminist publication that I contributed articles and support for.
My advocacy course at the time was altered when one of my co-workers invited me to support her as she ran for student government president. Aiming to bolster her policies, which I strongly believed in, I began volunteering as their PR manager. I wasn’t interested in running for a political position myself; I had the negative impression that many of those who were involved focused on their resumes rather than the advocacy work.
That all changed when I met the woman running for ASUO president, Helena, for coffee one afternoon. She cut to the chase and told me that she thought I should run alongside her for ASUO Vice President, and apparently others on the team agreed. Completely shocked, I nearly flipped the table. Me, Vice President? They must have the wrong girl.
Helena reassured me that she had confidence in my abilities, and asked that I spent some time thinking about it. On the other hand, I severely questioned my abilities. I cared about student issues deeply and would do anything in my power to contribute to efforts, but Vice President entailed entirely more intimidating responsibilities. After researching the position and speaking to others with experience, I decided that I would be a fool not to try to run in the elections. Most students work for years to get to that point, and the opportunity opened like an unlocked door for me. Saving those details for another time– I frankly busted my ass and waited anxiously for the results after weeks of work.
By the time the elections were wrapping up, I was pretty checked out. Disillusioned, upset, and disappointed in the elections process, I needed some inspiration. That came in the form of a lineup: the Coachella 2015 setlist left my mouth agape. Multiple artists on my life’s bucket list, those that struck spiritual and emotional cords with me, glittered on the lineup.
I called my best friend, Tim, “I don’t know how we’re going to get there, but we’re going.” Unsure if the details would work out, and while I was already in a haze waiting to hear the election results, I assured him, “If I win the Vice Presidency and Coachella works out, it will be something so serendipitous that I will not be able to claim ownership to those accomplishments. Must be luck, or something bigger.”
Quite the adventure to tell another time, but to summarize: It all happened. I’ll never forget googling pictures of Coachella in my room, not wanting to look at election results because I was convinced we had lost. Suddenly, my friend, Natalie, came into my room proclaiming, “Congratulations, Ms. Vice President!” Initially, I was irked because I frankly didn’t believe her. She insisted I look up the results and it was true! A miracle, it honestly felt like.
Only a week later, I celebrated my newfound position at one of the top festivals in the world. Coachella changed my life– as “boppy” as that sounds. Prior to the festival, I once pledged I would never attend. I felt that it was too overrun by shallow motivations that took away from the musical experience. While that is true to some degree, Abby, Tim, our friend, Casey, and I made the perfect team to maneuver it all. It was there that for the first time I became confident in my capabilities to succeed in anything I set my mind to. The world was my playground; a liberating feeling I haven’t let go of since.
That following summer was the best of my life thus far. Adventures exploring as many natural wonders as possible kept me busy after classes every day. I lived in a beautiful home, titled “Highlyfe,” with lovely women who inspired me by art and the earth. My relationships on all sides were flourishing like the flowers that bloomed in our yard. I continued to grow into who I am today, slowly but surely, like the little carrots Katie planted in our front lawn. My summer was characterized by floating the river after class, stargazing on my roof, and opening my heart to a myriad of new experiences. What a beautiful time that I will always remember fondly.
On the happiest, yet most unexpected note I could’ve imagined, I concluded my sophomore year at UO. I knew there was a lot more ahead of me– a familiar sentiment from the beginning of that year. But with newfound resilience and passion, I finally felt prepared to tackle whatever could’ve come my way. This year became was a transformative process in itself, and I highly encourage others to take the time to reflect on the details and journeys of their past years. You may be pleasantly surprised to see how far you’ve come.