13 Reasons Why – A Pivotal Turning Point for Our Generation

I will shamelessly admit that when the release date for the Netflix Original show based on Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel “13 Reasons Why” was announced, I marked that date on all three planners and added it to my Netflix list.  Having read the book when I was in my mid-teens I was curious to see how they would make a book that contains so much hard-hitting, gritty, and dark material into a Netflix original and address all of those topics the way the book did.  I spent my entire weekend binging all 13 episodes and was upset when I finished the last episode.  For those of you who have not heard about this book/tv show or have and are unsure if this Netflix Original is for you, I do want to discuss this show in length and why this show could change the way we talk about suicide, rape, bullying, and complicated young adult emotions that are not being properly addressed.  If you do not mind SPOILERS keep reading.  I do think that if you are on the fence about watching this show, this post will hopefully help guide a decision on whether to invest your time into it.  So with this prequel being written, and my SPOILERS disclaimer addressed, let us get to the conversation.


To begin the conversation, I will add another disclaimer in regards to the rating that this show has.  It is rated TV-MA (mature audiences) for what I would consider a significant amount of language that includes: f***, g**d***, s***, b**** (and other derogatory female slang), d*** (and other derogatory male slang); brutal rape scenes, and a graphic suicide scene. I’m going to be also a little controversial in saying that I think the language and graphic scenes were necessary for this show to deliver the truth of it’s content.  I will explain this further later on.  I think the best way to discuss this show is to break it down in the overall themes that the show contains and to address them one by one.  I have included the book description in order to provide context for this post.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

13 Reasons Why

Suicide:

The most encapsulating topic this show revolves around is the suicide of Hannah Baker.  Her suicide is talked about every episode as Hannah narrates via cassette tapes, what lead to her decision to end her own life.  Throughout the beginning, Hannah almost seems to make a joke out of her death when she wrongfully uses a grammatical tense to address herself and back pedals reminding herself and the listener she is no longer alive.  Since the show is set two weeks after her suicide, the high school is still processing the loss of a fellow classmate.  Flowers are set in the hall, students memorialize her image, and provide condolences when Hannah’s parents come in to gather her things – but there is this sickening sense of normality that rings a little louder than the sound of a lost life.

In the very beginning, the viewer is aware of Hannah’s death, but the high school continues about business as usual – except for a group of people in which Hannah has incorporated their interactions with her into the reasons she committed suicide.  The idea of these pre-recorded tapes begins to weigh heavier on the viewer when you realize that she has given them to people who have inevitably pushed her so far, that she felt death was the only option – inevitably blaming them for her death.  The viewer watches each of these individual story’s unfold via Hannah’s interpretation as the episodes roll on.  The people Hannah has involved in the tapes begin to unravel as they realize that the next person to hear them, Clay, was not going to let her death go undiscussed any longer.

The hardest part to watch is how hard Hannah was struggling daily with everything and how unaware her parents were to her heartache.  Hannah’s parents loved her, which was clear throughout the entire season, but they kept missing the signs.  Their idea of their happy, bubbly daughter was so set, that they refused see the unhappy, heartbroken girl struggling just below the surface.  Since she was the new girl in town and her parents had just started a business, there were missed opportunities for her parents to check in with her and how she was doing at her new school.  What could have been a great opportunity for Hannah to start over, quickly became a beginning to an end that no one should resort to.  After her suicide, classmates seem to rave about what a wonderful person she was and how many friends she had, when the truth of it all pulls back to reveal a nasty mess of bullying, rape, sexual abuse and other serious forms of torment that Hannah’s peers put her and many others through.

Hannah, throughout the tapes, makes it obvious that she had tried several times to get help.  She went to fellow classmates she believe she could trust, who turned around and capitalized on her emotional vulnerability to them.  She even saw the school counselor after one of the most disturbing events happened and the school counselor lead her to believe it was her fault and that the only way to move past it was to ignore it.  This disturbing trend of Hannah reaching out and people dismissing her cries for “trivial”, “drama centered” or “selfish” resonates deeply with the viewer.  It pulls you, the viewer in, by getting you to question how many times someone may have been crying out for help, but you chose not to listen.  Or if you have ever dismissed someone’s traumatic events off as something that should not be as traumatic as they were.  The movie does this throughout the extent of it’s plot, causing the viewer to question what they might have missed in people’s lives and how that might have affected them.

One of the very last episodes shows Hannah’s suicide very explicitly, where she sits in a bathtub and slits her wrists until she bleeds out.  The filming of this scene creates a hard-hitting image of Hannah’s final struggle with what life has thrown at her, and how ending her life seems less painful then continuing on.  Besides the fact that this episode stirred up a very strong and very emotional response from myself, it does employ the viewer to challenge every interaction they may have ever had with someone – whether that was a good or bad experience.

The show ends with the announcement that another student has shot himself in the head and is in critical condition for his attempted suicide. This student had been in Hannah’s tape and the viewer is left questioning if Hannah’s tapes ended up doing more harm then good for the student body and if making the student’s aware of their impact on her death was worth the attempted suicide at the end.  Regardless if this was some sort of cliff hanger for a season 2, I think it brings a pivotal discussion that the things we do when interacting with people has a potentially lasting effect on their lives, emotions, and how they are treated by others.

Sexual Assault/Rape:

This part of the show is excruciatingly graphic and several scenes of unwanted groping and two intense rape scenes laid the groundwork for Hannah’s “reputation” at the school.  What began in the very first episode as an embarrassing picture of her underwear became an assumption of her sexuality and how easy she was.  Justin (an individual addressed in the tapes) inevitably lets his friend send the picture around the school and the rumors of Hannah’s “easiness” begin.  Hannah addresses the rumors of her first kiss with Justin right off the bat, when she challenges her listeners “if they heard that she had done more with Justin then just kissing”.

After this incident, things slide quickly down hill and a list is started by one of her “friends” who labels Hannah as having the best sophomore a**.  After this list goes public, guys walk up behind Hannah and follow her in groups making derogatory hand gestures and aggressive comments about her regarding the list.  Hannah puts on a strong face, ignoring the commentary, but the viewer watches her confidence slowly wane and flicker out.  The more Hannah goes throughout the school year, the more rumors that are started, and the more incidences occur in which guys try to take advantage of her.  She goes out with guys trusting that they have good intentions, but when they make physical passes at her, she realizes their intentions were only to see how far she would let them go.  This constant abuse cycle breaks Hannah down, especially after she witnesses a dear friend getting raped.  After watching her friend get brutally assaulted, Hannah could not process it.  She tried to tell someone multiple times, but found herself unable to share something so personal with people she did not know if she could trust.

Ultimately, the final straw to Hannah’s sexual abuse ends with her rape from a fellow classmate.  The classmate made comments regarding how she did not say “no” and how her sitting in the hot tub was her acceptance of his sexual advances.  After this scene is shown, she decides to give life one more try.  But when she tries to discuss her rape with her counselor, he dismisses  it because of her cautionary attitude towards providing him with detail.  Later that day, she takes her life.

Bullying:

All of these incidences tied together form a picture of brutal and unrelenting bullying inflicted on a girl, solely based on rumors and assumptions based on her character.  The sickening situations people put Hannah in, occur again and again and everyone refuses to take her seriously and assumes that she is just looking for drama.  No one tries to look past the surface of the lies and rumors except for Clay, but even he misses Hannah’s cries for help.

Conclusion:

I think there are a multitude of reasons, why this TV show could initiate a turning point in how our society approaches bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.  The show is heavy.  It’s dark.  It’s gritty.  There is excessive language. But I do believe it strongly plays out the reality of high school and how easy it is to overlook someone’s cries for help.  I think the reality of this weighs heavy on the viewers, and walking away from this show I can confirm that it doesn’t settle well.  It’s not easy to digest and it most definitely challenges your behaviors towards others.  I strongly believe that everyone should watch this but ESPECIALLY parents of high schoolers.  Not so far away from high school myself, I remember feeling as if adults never took me seriously, and that my feelings were not validated.  My own struggles with depression and anxiety in high school did lead me to suicidal thoughts.  I wish someone would have told me that the emotional rollercoaster was valid and I had every right to feel what I was feeling.  I learned to store away those feelings because I had been told I was dramatic or was wearing my heart on my sleeve too much. And this was not from one person, this was over a period of years by a multitude of people.

This show is needed by society.  Our culture craves change and this show can bring that.  This show brings a visual aspect to what people go through in high school, so I employ you with this: watch this show, allow it to challenge you, and be ready to emotionally carry weight away from it.  The emotional weight is necessary, I believe, to make an impact in how you are able to apply this moving forward.  Validate people’s feelings.  Whether it is because someone failed a test and looks at their life as a failure, or if someone gets sexually assaulted and can’t fully process the emotions.  Allow someone to feel what they feel and don’t dismiss it.  Just because it is not a reality for you, does not mean that it is not a very real emotion for someone else.  I encourage you, if you are a parent, to watch this with your kids and to talk through it, because you never know if they may be the victims of bullying or they very well could be the bullies themselves.  The conversation about these topics need to change.  And it starts with you.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.” – Thirteen Reasons Why

 

“Soul Alone” by Hannah Baker

I meet your eyes
you don’t even see me
You hardly respond
when I whisper
hello
Could be my soul mate
two kindred spirits
Maybe we’re not
I guess we’ll never
know

My own mother
you carried me in you
Now you see nothing
but what I wear
People ask you
how I’m doing
You smile and nod
don’t let it end
there

Put me
underneath God’s sky and
know me
don’t just see me with your eyes
Take away
this mask of flesh and bone and
See me
for my soul

alone”

– Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Things They Don’t Tell You About Senior Year

By Beth Winze

There are plenty of articles going around right now encouraging and preparing rising college freshman on everything to expect out of college and how to get involved and make the most of every second you have as a freshman – basically a “College Starter Survival Pack”, a “College for Beginners” guide.  But what I have yet to read or see is a “College Ending Survival Guide”.  So I decided to comprise a list of things that every college senior should know or prepare for, because before you know it, you will be sitting here like me, 60 some odd days from graduation, FREAKING the heck out because you have a senior capstone project, “big girl” job applications, classes to pass and 18 million things you feel like you have yet to accomplish before you step off campus for the last time.

  • Fall semester will feel like most other semesters, a bit more nostalgic, but heck – you have a full 8 months before you need to worry,
  • Spring semester you’ll move back in after Christmas break (enough of that “Winter” break bull crap….it’s CHRISTMAS for Pete’s sake), get your books, write out your semester schedule and commence as usual,
  • After syllabus week it starts to sink in….that was the last syllabus week you ever have to suffer through,
  • Second week you drown looking at all the work this semester holds and keep telling yourself you will complete it…like you have every other semester…but somehow your sub-conscious tells you otherwise,
  • Third week you will start getting grades back and you start to realize that if you mess up this semester and do not pass, you will have to explain to your family why the cap and gown gets to wait another semester (*insert yoga breathing here — deep breath in — deep breath out),
  • Fourth week you are ready to go home and see your family again, but you start to dread spending time away from campus and friends because you know…last semester,
  • Fifth week you start listing off everything you have wanted to do since freshman year and have not done yet because you told yourself you had plenty of time and you create a crammed timeline of how to fit it all in before May,
  • Sixth week, senior class professors start forcing you to learn about mortgages, student loans, insurance, 401k plans, resumes, cover letters and job applications and tell you how they really feel about being an adult, because they know that with only 10 weeks left of your college career they can be honest with you without you dropping out.  You order your cap, gown and tassel and try it on to make sure it fits every 20 minutes,
  • Seventh week, you begin to look at your friends differently.  Every time you hang out you feel your chest grow tighter and tighter because you realize that 11pm trips to Waffle House and late night movies 45 minutes away are not in your future.  A part of you wants to pull away from those friendships because you know how much it is going to rip your heart out to saying good-bye, but the other part of you is so determined to raise hell and memories with those friends that you only find yourself calling them at ungodly hours to sneak in as much time with them as possible,
  • Eighth week….you are days out from Spring Break, excited for a week off but clambering desperately to fill in as much time on campus with friends as possible.  You know that Spring Break means that you are halfway done with this semester and the day you moved back into your dorm/apartment in January feels so far away and you know how much you’ve lied to yourself, telling yourself you had enough time
  • Spring Break starts tomorrow, you do not want it to.  You do not like what it brings.  It means you are on the downhill slide towards graduation.  Doubt and uncertainty are a constant state you live in, but you also have this fearless excitement that forces you to push on.  You have worked so hard for this diploma and you know that you have made this life your own and you have discovered passions and friendships you never thought you would.  So the stress and anxiety are overshadowed by the persistence and the excitement you hold in your heart.  So you just keep praying and hoping that God adds sand to your hour glass so that you can fit in everything.  But you also hope that at the end of this all, you will walk away with something you did not come to college with…a discovered sense of self

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By Beth Winze

I wish I could remember the last moment when my reflection in the mirror was no longer my friend, but my worst enemy.  If I could pinpoint that exact moment, freeze it and talk to the little girl I once was, I don’t know what I would tell her.  Because if we’re being honest, I still don’t know how to tell her to love herself – how to let God’s Word scream louder than the deafening roar of the World.  The truth of the matter is, I still feel my heart painfully twist inside my chest every time I walk by a reflective surface.  I am 21 years old and I somehow still manage to be my own worse enemy.  I go longer between moments when I feel undeniably beautiful and absolutely free.

I could blame my painful lack of self-esteem on the girls in middle school who verbally reminded me of how unworthy I was of popularity or good looks; I could blame the guys I so deeply desired but never had; I could blame the tabloids I read in line at the grocery store that inform me that there are better ways to be a human than I am currently being – “21 Things You are Doing Wrong in Your Love Life.”  But as C.S. Lewis said, “The patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognizing there is a problem within himself.”

So the problem is within myself, sin nature.  Desiring something that others have, chasing worldly things over heavenly things, and abandoning the truth that I am good enough for Christ alone if no one else.  I think Jesus put a brick wall in my path in order for me to look up at Him just long enough to hear what He has to say to me.

“Here you are Beth, broken and falling apart, limping along.  I have offered you my help, love and healing touch, but you have convinced yourself that limping along in your brokenness is somehow better than walking whole and healed again.  So here I am offering you my hand, will you finally take it?”

So I tried.  I thought I was taking God’s helping hand.  I went makeup-less for days, ignoring the panic that rose every time someone made eye contact with me.  If I could just bring myself to make eye contact with a stranger and smile without having to be covered in Mary Kay then I could finally gain confidence. I bought Christian self-help books about building confidence and true beauty.  But those are only pretty bandages to help conceal the real injury.  The fact that I have a gaping hole in my soul that needs to be filled daily by Jesus alone.  No paraphrased Bible like Jesus Calling or self-help devotional on “10 ways to know you are beautiful” will help me exterminate the hatred towards to myself.  Because it begins with a broken Beth and a whole Cross.

But I have had to come to realize this.  I am tired of apologizing to people because I am not wearing makeup.  You apologize when you have made a mistake – and Christ didn’t make a mistake in giving me a skin complexion that houses more acne than some.  Why would I apologize for something My Creator has given me?  Is that not the highest offense I could offer Him?!  A mother doesn’t apologize to house guests for the out of line coloring page her three-year-old made her, because it doesn’t have to be announced that it was made with love, no matter the imperfections.

So if you, like me, apologize for how God made you, or shutter every time you think of your reflection, I urge you to deeply evaluate the way you treat yourself as an unfortunate effect of sin nature.  But also realize, that Christ died on the Cross so that we may live.  And living fully for Him doesn’t consist of living in shame of ourselves.  Living in Him is living in boldness and the knowledge that the world will never count us as enough, but we are enough for Him alone.

120 hours

By Beth Winze

The past few days have been heavy , actually the past few months.  Unfortunately, the world we are living in now is rocked by tragedy what feels like on a daily basis and it becomes emotionally taxing.  It’s not hard to open up any form of social media and see pictures and videos of disturbing footage of violent protests, people dying of gunshot wounds from an officer’s gun and mothers and fathers mourning the loss of their children.  It’s heavy stuff.

I recently returned from a summer internship with the Wichita Police Department.  I participated in 120+ hours of ride alongs, detective interviews, dispatch, and observing the majority of every moving part of an active police department.  80+ of those hours were spent in the passenger seat of a cop car.  I spent my summer watching and seeing firsthand what police work truly looks like.  And what I experienced in contrast to what people are saying about law enforcement is heartbreaking.

I witnessed a lot out there.  Some of which I am still processing and chewing on.  These officers see daily, the ugliest parts of human nature.  They see the violence, the bloodshed, the wounds, and the blatant disrespect people have for human lives.  Yet they continue to do their job to protect and serve their community.  Not once did I hear a single officer complain about their job.  In fact, when I asked them what encouraged them to become an officer, they informed me they had a deep desire to help others and this was the best way they knew how.  They loved to engage with the community and on several occasions stopped what they were doing to engage in a real and personal conversation with the people they were interacting with.

The part that hurts me the most in all of this massive uproar on social media is the fact that we are forgetting those people in blue.  It’s easy for us to sit at home behind our computers and rationally think of better ways that they should be doing their jobs. But it is incredibly easy to forget that we think we are looking at the bigger picture.  We are looking at these situations after they have happened, and we are condemning them for decisions that had to be made in milliseconds.  We forget that we were not there, we did not hear words exchanged before a video was thrown up on Facebook, and we forget that we are listening to only one side of the story and making our judgments, but we comment as if we were firsthand witnesses to a blatant violation of human life.

I urge you, if you are outraged with thoughts of police brutality and the belief that cops are out to disregard human life, that you spend some time in the passenger seat of a cop car.  When you watch a cop stand in a room with grieving parents who lost a child in the night and realize that they are the only one who can help, you will begin to understand.  When you watch them do traffic stops and stand behind the driver’s window because of the amount of opportunity someone might take in hurting the officer, you will begin to understand.  When you see them arrest a known drug abuser so they stop hurting themselves and jail is the only form of help, you will begin to understand.  When you hear officers yelling at people because it’s all they can do to take control of the dangerous situation, you will begin to understand.  When you hear the radio beep for and officer in trouble and watch as they drive to help their brother, you will begin to understand.

I am a Criminal Justice major, I have spent 120 hours doing an internship where I saw police work firsthand, and I only saw a portion of what they do and I feel as if I have a deeply rooted amount of respect for the amount of danger officers put themselves in everyday, because they have a desire to help others.

If you are angry at police departments, I beg you to walk a day in their boots.  It’s easy to condemn them for what they do, but when you see even a sliver of the calls they take and the amount of unknown factors, I think you will find it harder to be so harsh to judge them when it comes to situations like we see on Facebook.

Just some food for thought.

Stream of Consciousness: Coffee Shop Thoughts

By Beth Winze

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I have no idea what’s good here….the cute barista might have a recommendation.

Just kidding, he told me “Anything is good.”

Ummm….ummmm…ummm…..so many choices.  Anxiety is not my friend right now.

There’s a line.  I bet they all know what they want.

French Toast Latte?  Why not?

$6.76!!!!  I thought Starbucks was bad.

That was a 16 oz….why that much?

If I made 21 cups of coffee in my Keurig I could have paid it off at that price.

I just did math.  Why?

Here’s a seat….

I’m going to sit in the middle so I am equal distance from the strangers on either side of me.

Business man….should be quiet so I can study

Couple on a date.  Cool.

*sips coffee* 

Hot.

They’re on a blind date.  A setup.

EHarmony?  

Wait….they keep mentioning a common friend.  They were set up. 

I have no time for homework now.  I must listen.  They might teach me a thing or two about blind dates.

Should I make an EHarmony profile?

He bought her coffee.  They say chivalry is dead.  

They are talking so rapidly.  I’m uncomfortable.  

They look cute together.  

She just graduated college and he works at the Fire Department.  

I think Nicolas Sparks set them up.  

Oh no…..she just brought up her ex.  WHY? Sweetheart no.

He laughed it off.

This businessman can not get his Adobe to work.  I’m sorry sir.  I usually struggle with that program too.

No.  Don’t call the help line, you won’t understand them.  I tried.  

Call Geek Squad. 

DID HE JUST REACH FOR HER HAND?! 

Jk……his pastry fell apart on the table.  

She keeps talking rapidly.  Kind of like the thoughts in my brain right now. 

Is that the introvert in me cringing this hard, or is it really this awkward. 

He brought up the time he got wasted.  Oooooo…..I would back out of that teritory quickly Sir. 

She’s getting quiet.  

You did it.  

Did she say that sounds like her?

Okay maybe they will work out.

Am I an extra in a Nicolas Sparks movie?

He shot a bear?

Why is she impressed?  HE KILLED  BEAR.

This coffee was worth the $6.76.  

Or was it….I’m just so addicted to coffee I might just pay anything.

Is this a gateway drug to my future life of caffeine addictions?

*phone buzzes*

Not now my Friend, I’m so deep undercover I can’t talk.

She’s grabbing her purse.  The universal signal she’s done.

She saved face and tied it up nicely.

I actually think they are cute together.

You’d have cute babies.  

He’s taking her coffee cup to the trash. 

You go Sir!  

I (mentally) told you to call Geek Squad and not the help line.  Please stop raising your voice, Mr. Business.

Wow….my computer screen is filthy.  

She asked where he is parked….is she going to walk him to his car?  

21st-century dating.

I think this might be the script for an EHarmony commercial. 

My coffee’s gone…..

Bye adorable couple. I hope this turns into something!  

I wonder if they know what a fan of their blossoming relationship they have created in me.  

…….bye……

How much does EHarmony cost a month?   

Finding Fulfillment in Education

By Beth Winze

If you had stopped me three years ago and asked about my opinion of education, I would have thrown a stone into the pond of complete hatred.  Homework for hours, never ending assignments, and textbook reading drove me over the edge.  I dreaded waking up in the morning to find myself trudging through another day of school.

Fast forward to college, and my mentality has done a 180-degree flip.  I live for the academia setting.  No, I am no Ivy League, GRE conqueror, but I am a hard working student who loves my major and finds passion in learning.  College has pushed me towards breaking every box I ever put myself into.  I told myself I was not a public speaker, but I just spoke at the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association on Communications between Law Enforcement and the Media.  I told myself I could never learn a foreign language, but in one month’s time I had not only studied abroad but also learned Spanish to the extent of intermediate – high fluency.

This is not intended to be a brag fest about my accomplishments whatsoever.  I have just come to realize that when approached with the right attitude, education is an investment in yourself.  High school feels like a requirement because it is, but when you choose higher levels of academia, fulfillment can be found.  On the other hand, college is not for everyone, but unfortunately, today’s society pushes for college in order to get any sort of decent paying job.  Society and employers even push harder for graduate level work as well.

I found my calling in education at the moment.  I have an ideal plan for what I want to get out of my life in the future, but right now my future cradles itself in education.  My future plans are getting nourishment and care in what I learn.  It’s far too easy to take advantage of all that has been offered me and I feel that a lot of people who do not even give college a chance do just that.  They miss the opportunity to keep themselves outside of boxes that they put themselves in.  I truly believe that some professors have a sixth sense in helping bring out your character.  They tend to be carpenters that see the true potential in a piece of raw wood.  And as much as they sand you down, critique and push you out of your comfort zone, they are only chipping away at the piece they know you can become.

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know that you didn’t know.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

I truly believe that Boorstin is on to something here, besides a complex tongue twister.  When you allow yourself the opportunity to educate and push your mental boundaries, you open up playing fields in your mind that are waiting to be explored.  In non-hippie terms, I have learned that limiting yourself is the worse thing you can do.  Telling yourself you can’t do something is setting yourself up for failure.

The minute I learned that the boxes I was housing my mind stunted incredible growth, I got out.  Along with the professors sixth sense and “carpenter” skills, they also have a mean pair of box cutters that they help open up those boxes alongside you.

Education has yet to prove me wrong for choosing this path.  I do things I don’t want to, I gripe about my homework, I take out loans every year that make me cringe, but I’ve stopped allowing my “I can’t’s”,”I won’t’s'”, and “I don’t’s” (that was a grammar nazi’s nightmare just now) and have turned them into much more expansive ways to allow myself to grow.  You can find true fulfillment in educating yourself.  I am overjoyed with the person I have become; I know who I am more deeply; and I know where my passions lie.

If you are reading this and are considering college, are in college, or want nothing to do with college, at least consider yourself in a setting where growth is the only option.  I can promise you that you won’t be sorry with who you become in the end.

“Educating yourself does not mean that your were stupid in the first place.  It means that you were intelligent enough to know there is plenty left to learn.”  – Melanie Joy

Meeting a Murderer

By Beth Winze

I am currently away at a criminal justice conference and we had the opportunity to tour a women’s maximum security prison facility today.  I became a criminal justice major because – let’s be honest – I loved crime shows, and I have a fascination with understanding and figuring out the dark and twisty minds of humans.  As many times as I have done police ride-a-longs and been in contact with criminal justice professionals, I had never seen hands on what it means to be in this career field.

The walls were thick cinder blocks and speakers were every few feet in the ceiling constantly buzzing, letting inmates know where they needed to be and when.  Everything was brightly lit and carried an unwelcoming sterile feeling.  As we continued the tour we passed several women who either stared at us, or avoided eye contact all together.  I was clearly out of place, but looking at the women at work I felt something.  The more we toured the more I felt my heart go out to these women.  But why?  These women had done horrible things to strangers, friends, or even their own families, so I should be glad that I was seeing my tax paying dollars hard at work.  But the more I looked, the more I noticed that quite a few of the women were my age.  How could someone the same age as me have chosen such a different path in life that landed them with 20+ year sentences behind barbed wire fences?

We sat down in a room where two inmates faced us.  They started explaining what it was like to be incarcerated there and their experiences.  The second woman told us that she was there on a second-degree murder conviction.  She didn’t look like a killer, and heck at 19 when she had committed the crime, she probably didn’t see herself that way either.  She sat there and told us that the past 20 years she had spent in prison had reformed her.  She had such hope and faith in herself that it was hard not to feel excited for all her progress.

Here we were, a group of criminal justice students, who, like the older people in our intended career field were destined to help catch, convict, and incarcerate criminals like herself.  And if criminal behavior has biological tendencies like is being said, we might even be incarcerating her own relatives someday.  The hard thing I realized was that the only thing that separates me from these women, is that I have not been in situations where crime was an option.  I have the exact same capabilities these women do, yet I have not acted on anything.

As I left the prison, I felt a sense of relief, but also the heavy fact that some of those women were in the wrong place at the wrong time and now they serve time.  Needless to say, if it had not been for touring the prison, I don’t think I would have realized the extent of humanity in inmates.  They are so alike to me, they just acted in a way that landed themselves behind fences that I can leave.

I can conclude with the fact that I have a better understanding of how real the people are.  They’ve been stripped of everything, because they stripped someone of everything at one point in time.  No Orange is the New Black or Wentworth could have ever prepared me for what it would be like to meet a murderer.

Apology Letter to Myself

By Beth Winze

Dear Me,

I’ve wanted to say this for awhile now, but you know how horrible I am with apologies. But I love you, and love means making things right when they’ve been wrong for so long.

I’m sorry for all the times I cried in the mirror, thoroughly upset with myself over my “deficiencies”.  When I looked and allowed what the Vanity magazine on the counter next to me displayed to define my worth.

I’m sorry for when I limited you from your full potential. I should not have ever tried to force down what was supposed to grow into a passion, and it’s my fault that it took so long for those things to grow.

I’m sorry for all the times that you let boys break your heart. I knew they weren’t worth your time and would only cause you pain, but I let them get to you anyway.

I’m sorry for the times when I let you think that the only way to escape pain was through ending your life. I know better now and I know how wrong those thoughts were.

I’m sorry for when I allowed others around you to affect your self-esteem. Those girls and boys didn’t define your worth.

But most of all, I’m sorry for taking so long to write this letter. You’ve turned into an amazing individual who is driven and determined and successful. You are beautiful and so, so valuable. I was wrong. You were none of those things that I thought you were.  I severely stunted your growth by letting the world speak to you. I love you more than you can imagine and find joy that you proved me wrong and re-defined yourself regardless of what I did to prevent it.

Love,
Yourself

The Frustratingly Inconclusive Blog Post

By Beth Winze

I’ve wanted to blog since last Friday night.  I wanted to say something the minute I saw the news on the Paris attacks.  My heart was breaking as I watched the number of people involved climb into the numbers of deceased.  It made me sick to see replays of Paris police storming the theater and flashes from gun muzzles end lives.  I was a ball of odd emotions Friday night, sick to my stomach but also feeling it burn with acidic hate for a group of people who would do this to innocent lives.  When Facebook came out with the filters, I changed my profile picture as a way to show that I cared, but had no real way to reach out and help besides lift up the hurting country in prayer.  After the haze of the attack settled and facts began rolling out, so did the opinions of the multitudes.  This past week, my Facebook has consisted of argument after argument as to the real facts, kill lists, who is responsible, and emerging stories of heroism during the attacks.  But now while we are watching what seems to be the world falling apart at the seams, we are faced with another issue.  That of Syrian people coming into our country.  I hate blogging about politics because everyone has a difference of opinions and I don’t want to be a firestarter for pointless and exhaustive internet debates.  But throughout the week, I have again and again been confronted with my stance on Syrian refugees coming into the US.

The American in me screams “no”.  I feel for them, I do.  They are victims of a terrifying reign called ISIS, who is hell-bent on spreading terror.  But the importance of our national safety and protecting our country rings louder than protecting those who are not of United States citizenship.  I want to see the American citizens protected first and foremost.  Send aid to them overseas, provide shelter and protection for them in their homeland, but don’t open borders that cause a massive weakness in national security.  The Criminal Justice major in me also sees heavy flaws in allowing foreigners in here without being heavily vetted.  The very idea of them bringing even one or two terrorists in with them is enough to turn my knees weak with terror.

But….

The Christian in me, says bring them in.  They are a fleeing, scared, and hurting group of people who need shelter, food and a sense of peace to escape what they have been dealing with.  I, not even less than three months ago, reposted that picture of the Syrian boy who had died drowning while trying to seek refuge with his family.  I too felt my heart break as I looked over pictures of millions of lost Syrians seeking help.  Matthew 25: 35-40 speaks volumes into this issue; feed them, bathe them, reach out to them, love them.  These very people are a way to expose God’s grace and unrelenting love to the world.

This is where I’m at……

I’m stuck between the paralyzing fear of what opening our borders could do and the very realization that God calls us to rise up and care for those in need.  So now you may understand the title of this post.  I have no conclusion.  I’m on a weird journey of college essays, finals study guides, and finding the common ground in this Syrian refugee ordeal.  Not knowing answers is frustrating and exhausting.  I don’t know what I should feel.  This is where being a Christian in the world but not of it proves to be the hardest.  So I guess you could say I’m seeking out an affirmation on which feeling I should follow.  This is the reality of our society and this is the reality of Christianity.