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.

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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.

I’m 20 and Perfectly Happy with Being Single

By Beth Winze

The first time I told someone, I had no intention or future thought of getting married or having kids I got a blank stare.  Like I had tripped over a plug in their mind that disconnected them from what I had just said.  I shuffled my feet around for a second feeling uncomfortable waves roll between us.  “Okay then.” was all they said back.

At the age of sixteen I wanted nothing more than to plan my future wedding.  What flowers I would choose, the color of the bridesmaid dresses, the songs to dance to, the venue to have it at – all I needed was _________ (insert husband’s name here).  I grew up around girls who pinned our weddings away on Pinterest when we got together and dreamt about wife and motherhood.

Somewhere along the way I fell in love with the idea of marriage and motherhood and fell out of love with myself.  I was massively unhappy when my friend got a new boyfriend and yes (even at seventeen) started seeing my friends settle down with their future spouses.  All throughout high school I struggled with being single to the point where I thought something was seriously wrong with me.  I was told repeatedly that the right guy was out there for me, and God was preparing him, but it felt more like a pat on the head to an upset child, a band-aid covering a bullet hole.  It hurt and I allowed my obsession to find someone control the majority of my high school life.  I became terrified of being the single girl who would eventually become the dateless woman.  And in my mind, at that point, there was something horrific with that.

Now I’m in college.  The prime time for the dating pool to be jumped right into.  Males are more mature, and you refer to them more as men than boys.  Along with college comes the engagement posts you see on Facebook (or pregnancy) if they’re starting early.  I see something like this at least once a month through mutual friends and the surprising thing is, my mentality has taken a complete change.

I’ve had several opportunities to mix and mingle with men my age and learn more about them.  Interests are different and often times I find them asking me what I want in my future.  I tell them that after graduation I have plans to move to NYC and climb the job ladder quickly.  I have an idea of what I want for my life and for some reason that doesn’t have a wedding ring or a wedding planner in it.

Society pushes marriage and family into the face of most people.  There is nothing wrong with either of these things at all.  I think marriage and starting families are beautiful things, but I also believe that I’m not ready for that.  As much as my sixteen-year-old self craved that future, the now twenty-year-old me is busy falling in love with myself, my major and my friends to be worried about finding someone to settle down with permanently.

I have set massive goals for myself that I want to be able to accomplish on my own – traveling more, moving to a massive city, holding a job in the career path that I am happy with.  I guess some people could see this as selfish or the lonely life, but honestly, I am 100% happy about it.  Learning to love myself and everything that comes with being a college student is an amazing experience that I don’t want to cut short.  I want to be able to complete the goals I set and not have to worry about making sure that someone else is okay with it.

No, I’m not swearing off marriage or motherhood by any means, but for now, I am okay without a ring on my left hand or a wedding planner in my purse.  For some reason, when people hear this from me it comes as a shock and they tell me that the perfect guy is out there.  If he is, that’s fantastic, but if he’s not, I refuse to lay my hopes in another person to bring me happiness.  I don’t need another person to complete me, I need to complete myself.

…..now that I’m at the end of my post I feel like I had a massive purpose for writing this.  But as most of my posts, my train of thoughts derailed awhile ago.  I guess if there’s one takeaway, it’s this.  Don’t force yourself to believe that to be complete you have to get married and have a family at a young age.  Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself and get to know and fall in love with you.  I’m sure getting to fall asleep next to someone you love every night is a beautiful thing, but ultimately you have to love going to bed every night with the person you are individually.

Mutually Understood Situations in College

By Beth Winze

Regardless of what university you may attend, college students relate to each other across different campuses.  Whether it’s an Ivy League school or a community college, all of us are in the similar boat that seems to be caught between the waves of sleep deprivation and planning your schedule for the next semester.  Mutually understood situations are what brings us together and unites us as a collegiate front.  It’s the common thread that ties us together, and in recent weeks, I recognize more and more of my habits are not as uncommon as one would think.  It’s moments at the dinner table where “You do that too?!” bring us together.  So here are situations that I have run into over my experience in college and how not so uncommon they really are.

  1. Falling asleep on the school’s transit system, because you have the chance to sit still and not do anything for the next fifteen minutes back to your dorm
  2. Skipping a class so you can work on homework for that said class
  3. Ordering a double shot from Starbucks with an extra shot of espresso
  4. Adjusting your internal clock so that 9pm is actually only 4pm in the afternoon
  5. Walking out of a test, having tears in your eyes, and someone just silently passes you a tissue
  6. Reading an email addressed to your professor to your roommate because you want to make sure you don’t sound 100% desperate for extra credit
  7. Calculating the minimum grade you have to get on your exams to pass the rest of the class
  8. Getting frustrated when someone tells you that your schedule isn’t miserable at all and you should “see theirs”.
  9. Counting the amount of outfits you have left in your wardrobe and figuring how many more days you can avoid doing laundry
  10. Closing your eyes when you sneeze and accidentally falling asleep
  11. Getting excited to go to Goodwill, because you’re freezing cold for proper clothing and a trip home is several weeks away
  12. Avoiding people who you know will question what your future goals are after graduation
  13. Dividing the time you have left in a class into small chunks to make it more manageable
  14. Feeling behind when the friends that didn’t go to college are getting married and having babies and the only thing you are worried about raising is your GPA
  15. Praying at the dinner table for your GPA to pull through, your professors to cancel class tomorrow, and your mind to calm down enough for at least six hours of sleep
  16. Finishing your homework but still feeling as if there is a massive pile lurking somewhere
  17. Setting life goals for yourself that consist of a job someday that at least pays you $300 a month, because that’s rich compared to you now
  18. Desiring to be 21 so you can go out with your older friends, but also desperately wanting to be 6 again
  19. Stressing about the stress you will get in the near future
  20. Counting how many hours of sleep you will get before setting your alarm
  21. Questioning your life decisions at least 3x a day
  22. Constantly worrying about something being due that you may have forgotten about
  23. Writing an essay so last minute that if it was sent to a 3D printer, it would come out a piece of crap
  24. Feeling rich if more than $5 is in your bank account
  25. Ignoring the fact that you are taking out thousands of dollars in loans every year in hopes that they will go away
  26. Walking into class with sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt and feeling like you tried
  27. Feeling extremely sleep deprived when you don’t get in your daily nap
  28. The feeling that Tuesday is just a second Monday
  29. Justifying your procrastination

Because in the end, majority of us make it through.  But at least these situations allow us to bond and connect in a way most adults can’t.

100% Certain that I am 100% Uncertain

By Beth Winze

I have never been the type of person who is comfortable with a “fly by the seat of your pants” attitude.  I would like to think I am easy going and okay with anything that pops up unexpectedly, but my innate nature is to lean towards schedules, structure and rules.  College hardly fits my mentality though.  The only thing structured currently is classes and the consistent homework load I somehow keep up with, and that makes me completely uncomfortable. But more so this year than last I am slowly working on allowing myself to be okay with unplanned events.

I plan.  Take a look at my Lilly Pulitzer planner and you would find color coded scheduling…..

Yellow for my sorority events

Orange for my homework assignments

Pink for meetings with professors

And blue for random things…….

And those are just the highlights.  There is also post-it lists, pen marks that indicate side notes, and lists of emails and phone numbers of contacts for internships and scholarships.  Then there is the entire page of workout routines and time I carve out for an hour-a-day gym sessions.  I manage myself better when I have a schedule to follow.  I am a creature of habit if it’s not already obvious.  If the smallest thing slips into the schedule, I feel as if my entire day has gone to scrap.  I am the prime lab rat for an OCD experiment.  Take my planner away and I wander campus like a lost puppy.

But college does not allow for a 100% guaranteed schedule.  Things change on the whim, classes are cancelled, homework due dates are shortened or extended, and coffee spills on the fresh white pages you just spent $3.55 printing.  College causes a lot of uncertainty, and for someone who lives for certainty, you can see where there might be a problem.

I have now changed my major three times, joined a sorority after saying I would never be a sorority girl, fallen in love with a new passion, started my own research project without a professor requiring me to do it, and taking complete ownership of my future.  That was totally not in my plan. I was supposed to come to college, graduate with the major I came in with, and sprint into the future I had in mind for myself.

I’m going to take a pause here to let myself laugh hysterically…….

……

……

……

The fact that I even thought that would happen without anything changing is ridiculous.  But I am also learning that it is okay to be uncertain.  I used to see it as a sort of weakness, but when you start to talk to others going through the same “crisis” as you, you realize that maybe it’s not as horrible as you thought it might be.  That it’s natural to be unsure about things.  That no one looks at you as scrutinizingly as you thought they might.  And the more you talk to others, the more you realize they have gone/are going through the same thing you are.

So I “plan” on going through my college career 100% certain that I am 100% uncertain and being 100% okay with that.