The Vulnerability Collective

Stories Otherwise Not Told

Lauren Mittelman

Read the Stories Your Story

We are born in a day.
We die in one day.
We can change in one day.
And we can fall in love in one day.
Anything can happen in just one day.

—Gayle Forman

A year ago I embarked on collecting stories that are “otherwise not told”, meaning stories that are often kept quiet or private. Each contributing storyteller was provided the same instructions: tell any story of any theme on any topic or experience, so long as it is one in which you feel vulnerable sharing. I ensured each storyteller that their story would remain anonymous. I first politely approached friends in my circle to share the stories that I had been entrusted to hear in private life. Almost everyone that I had requested to share their story did so upon hearing about this project, and for that I am grateful to you all. However, after a bit of outreach, I got an influx of emails from strangers who longed to share their stories and who wanted their stories to be heard. Only then did I know that this project was headed somewhere. I had become a keeper of a plethora of stories, secrets and experiences, but who was I to have the privilege of being  this keeper? 

At that point, I started planning how to get these stories out to the greater community. Powerful moments and experiences or painful journeys are often easier buried. It goes against human nature to expose oneself during a time of vulnerability. However, that same amount of discomfort in sharing the experience can be embodied as hope for the next person experiencing something similar. All too often we only share the good, but by doing this we are doing a disservice to our peers, colleagues and friends. Some stories in this collective are ones that will resonate directly with you, while others will be from a universe of which you have no familiarity. It is your job to read with an open mind, realizing that no matter the content of a given story or experience, no matter how you might have handled a situation, the experience belongs to the storyteller. All feelings of vulnerability are valid within these pages. This is not a comparison of vulnerabilities, but rather an appreciation of the spectrum of all student vulnerabilities. We each are role models to one another, whether we know it or not. Sometimes this is blatant and known, but most of the time, we quietly onlook to someone we admire. If you have someone you quietly admire, then naturally someone is quietly admiring you. Realize this, and be more transparent about your journey. I hope you see a glimpse into the backside of the public facade in this collective. There are interesting, beautiful, painful things happening all the time that are so often kept quiet. I hope that this opens your eyes to the experiences that are “otherwise not told”. —LSM

About the Storytellers

Throughout this collective, you will see a short identity introducing each storyteller. Each identity, for the most part, has left out demographic markers. This was done on purpose to eliminate the feeling that if you do not align with that demographic, you couldn’t possibly associate with the experiences and feelings presented in each story. Instead, each storyteller wrote their own identity, of roughly ten quirky facts about themselves. Each is an attempt to introduce a more personal version of the storyteller.

Thank You

This project, quite literally, would not be possible without the many brave storytellers bound in this work. Thank you a million times. Your bravery and vulnerability is helping countless students who are reading your words.

Anne Browning, thank you for your endless support. From a mere idea to this final product, you were there each step of the way. Thank you for being a sounding board for the many ideas that flew through these pages and this year. The UW is infinitely lucky to have you.

Alison McCarty, Allison FitzGerald, ChristineStickler, Julie Larsen & Nani Vishwanath, I was overwhelmed with the amount of intense emotion that was exuded in these stories. You all so eloquently refined these stories and delicately helped prepare them for publication. You all are role models to me.

Luke McJunkin, you took my rough sketches and scribbles and made them into something beautiful. Your creative input was phenomenal. Remember me when you’re famous and designing for The New Yorker.

Katy DeRosier, Marisa Nickle and the Husky Experience Student Advisory Council, thank you for entrusting me and honoring me to bring this project to life as a recipient of the Husky Seed Fund. Your guidance was imperative to the success of The Vulnerability Collective. You gave me the privilege of creating a reputation for the inaugural fund. I hope this is just the start of many years of funding impactful student led projects.

Aleenah Ansari, thank you for helping me be a better researcher and story collector. Your confidence and calmness in Mary Gates Hall and Gerberding Hall was exactly what I needed on that day. Individual stories became this collective because of our actions in that moment - thank you.

Rachel Chapman and the UW Honors Program, Those initial ten weeks were vital for the success of getting this off the ground. Thank you for allowing me to start this project for academic credit.

The UW Resilience Lab, thank you for having me as the quirky undergraduate sitting in the back of the room. I was always amazed to see the plethora of ideas circulating each meeting. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms.

The Mary Gates Endowment for Students, your generosity makes student projects like this possible. I’m honored to be a Mary Gates Scholar and will continue to think of this work as just one of many special and moving as the amazing research and leadership works of my peers and colleagues.

MW, I am infinitely grateful for that one conversation in Barcelona, for providing the spark that lit the fire.

Worse than average parallel parker. Can walk on her hands. Lint rolls the carpet for small messes instead of vacuuming. Had elbow surgery with placement pins in 2004. Can’t sleep without earplugs. Once cried in front of a professor during office hours. Is a Public Health 5th year senior and still gets lost in the UW Health Sciences building. Won $250 on The Ellen Show when they filmed at UW. Gets a rush from coasting through yellow lights.

I sat in the UW Intellectual House in the Spring of 2015 at the Resilience Lab’s “Fail Forward” Panel, when two feelings grew inside me: inspiration and frustration. The panel consisted of five distinctly successful professors sharing their journeys to where they are now, specifically focusing on the bumps, failures, and mishaps. I was inspired and refreshed: it’s not everyday that the same people who mark your paper with red pen or who ask you for the answer in the exact moment you weren’t listening share that their paths too, were not perfect trajectories. Yet, I also had feelings of frustration and skepticism. Of course, I thought, it’s easy for these professors to share their vulnerabilities as they can back up their bumps in the road with the millions of dollars in grants they’ve acquired for their research, or their breakthrough scientific discoveries. (I most definitely thought wrong. Professor Rachel Chapman taught me being vulnerable is never easy.) I, a mere student in the audience, realized how much more powerful this event could be from students’ perspectives if they could see a bit of themselves up on stage.

During that same time, I committed to a job as an Au Pair in Sao Paulo, Brazil for 4 months in lieu of attending UW for my senior Fall quarter. An email from the family disclosed their safety precautions and I was immediately nervous that I would feel isolated living in Sao Paulo: “We have a 15-foot concrete wall surrounding our property with 1 meter of prison grade electric fencing […] Where there is no electric fencing there is razor wire  […] Both our cars are class C armored cars. They have the entire passenger compartment shielded by [bullet] proof glass and armor sheeting.” Although I learned that this type of security is the norm in big metropolitan areas of Brazil I still referred to the house as ‘the fortress’. Before I departed, the family requested that I bring pickles and 6 block of cheese, American treats that “just aren’t the same” in Brazil. So, with 12 pounds of frozen Costco cheddar cheese, two bubble-wrapped pickle jars and an intuitive feeling that these next few months might be a mistake*, I embarked on my grand adventure.

My free time was only during the kid’s school from 8am to 3pm, so I had my eyes on a Portuguese class at the University of Sao Paulo in order to make friends. I didn’t care what country anyone was from or how much English they spoke, I was going to befriend the heck out of them, knowing that my class was the only consistent social outlet I would have for the next 4 months.  I had the ‘first day of school’ gleam sporting my freshly Sharpie-labeled “Intro to Portuguese” notebook as I moseyed my way to the registration office to retrieve my course materials. I was in Brazil for an exciting and worldly experience and that was supposed to be the day that life outside the fortress was going to start. However, instead of giving me the class workbook, the admissions counselor gave me news that the class had been cancelled due to a lack of registrants. It could have been the cultural barrier or her general lack of enthusiasm, but her suggestion that I take it next semester felt more like a slap in the face rather than encouragement, as I would be long gone by then. I strolled out of the office flirting with the fine line between defeat and optimism and plopped myself on the least bird-poop covered bench I could find. Fittingly, I turned past the “Intro to Portuguese” cover to expose the first lined page to write my go-to mantra when things aren’t going my way:

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but in getting what you have, for once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted, had you known.” Garrison Keillor

That day was a foreshadowing of all the other times I would do my best to embody this phrase over the next 4 months.

I brainstormed how I could make friends from inside the fortress without night and weekend availability and quickly realized I had one very stark and theoretically effective option: the internet. I utilized and Tinder as best I could, explaining I was looking friendship and nothing more. After a few horribly awkward friend-dates, the final straw was Bruno whose only topic of interest was his own physique. Over beers he attempted to swoon me with his perfectly waxed arms and his rationale for doing so: when he lifts weights his bicep veins more noticeably bulge from his hairless skin. The cherry on top was that he always brings his sister to the waxing salon to hold his hand. I struggled to hold back eye rolls and thought ‘you can’t make this stuff up’. I started to agree with Harry from When Harry Met Sally that men and women can never just be friends.

I needed to widen my expectations for whom my friends would be if I wanted any at all. I had heard about a group of expatriate moms who taught English in a favela (slum) on the other side of the city. I got looped in on their email thread and started teaching with them. Thus began the point in my life where my main circle of friends was European middle-aged women with kids. On Tuesday and Thursday morning I used to trek to UW’s Health Sciences Building, but now I was slapping together PB&Js, waiting for my carpool and anticipating the bi-weekly mom gossip.

During one particular week, the parents planned to be out of town. Coincidentally, this was the week of the spaying appointment for the family dog. After the dog was delivered back to the house, the bi-lingual driver handed me the leash and a “goodie bag” from the vet’s office. I’m not sure if the vet or the driver first used the phrase “goodie bag” but it was a sick joke. I dug into it to find a spare doggy diaper, 3 bottles of medication, a tube of ointment, and a plastic syringe. Unsure of how to care for a newly-spayed dog with Brazilian medication and Portuguese instructions, I sent an SOS text to the driver for an English translation. Following it explicitly, three times a day for a full week I squirted a syringe of liquid antibiotic into her mouth and then put two pills far enough down the inside of her cheek that she couldn’t not swallow them. I also had to un-velcro her doggy diaper to apply ointment to her scar. There was nothing more disgusting to me than wiping doggy-Neosporin along ten lumpy stitches when I barely even eat meat. This dog had her ovaries and uterus removed to avoid any risque behavior, meanwhile I could hardly get out of the fortress to make friends and the most male interaction I had was with the mailman and arm-waxer Bruno.

As the end of October approached, I got roped into running a station at the kids’ school’s Halloween carnival. I had been assigned to “Bobbing for Spiders” where each kid got to plunge their arms into a trashcan full of Jell-O to retrieve a plastic spider. I was armed with a paper towel roll to my left and a “complimentary” water bottle to my right, but I still was unprepared and unenthused for what was about to ensue. As the bell rang, packs of children scampered towards my pre-school sized chair on which only the medial side of each my cheeks even fit. I looked down into the jiggling trashcan and saw a reflection of myself looking less-than-ecstatic with this precise moment of my life. Kids reached into my Jell-O trashcan and upon retrieving a spider would shake the excess off like a wet dog, splattering me each and every time. As the sun continued to beat down throughout the school day, I was left with snotty and sugar high kids reaching into melted Jell-O goop which now just resembled cellulite. Sticky, tired and a bit sunburned I thought to myself that I absolutely, positively, most definitely did not sign up for this. In that epiphanous moment, I decided that I needed to travel somewhere - anywhere - alone, before returning home. I needed to have the adventure that I so longed for during my time in Brazil, which instead had turned out the polar opposite.

People asked me if living in Brazil was the “time of my life”. If life is sometimes fun, sometimes lonely, sometimes regretful, and oftentimes full of lessons then yes it was the time of my life. It was by no means straight fun for months on end. I spent most of my time with the four children of the family. The highlights of my weeks used to be getting a good grade on a midterm or going to a concert on a Tuesday.  Now it was getting in and out of the grocery store navigating the Portuguese food labels in less than 45 minutes, or the kids falling asleep without needing three stories read to them, but just two.  

I’m usually a very upbeat person, but I feel like I lost that part of me while in Brazil. I was initially okay with that loss of self, as I assured myself that these strange feelings would be temporary. I assumed that upon returning to my old stomping grounds, The University District where I had my friends and roommates, Seattle where I knew the lay of the land, and the US where I felt at home, things would instantaneously snap back into place. I told myself that these feelings of loneliness, confusion and frustration were because I was in a situation in which I didn’t feel like I was thriving. I wouldn’t know until later that getting back to my old self would not align instantly at the moment the wheels hit the ground at LAX, but rather it would be a process.  

Caring yet pestering weekly phone calls from my parents reminded me that I had a huge decision to make: accept or decline my offer to become a 2016 corps member of Teach For America (TFA). Having been accepted in March of 2015, I pushed off thinking about my decision since deadline day in October seemed like months away. Originally, committing to Brazil meant pursuing a partial 5th year of undergrad, so the choice of sticking with that plan or joining TFA, moving to Philadelphia, and pursuing an MSEd at the University of Pennsylvania was weighing immensely on me. For a variety of reasons and an intuitive feeling that “there’s more to pursue in Seattle before rushing onto the next adventure” I declined. For months after that, I swung between the regret that I should’ve accepted the offer and the confidence that I had made the right choice. The main thing I knew was that I was not ready to move across the country; I had to get back to Seattle to get back to my old self.

Feeling utterly unsure about most things in my life, I spent three weeks and most of the money I earned in Brazil backpacking across Europe, the one goal I had set that came to fruition. With my overstuffed traveler’s backpack, I boarded my cross-Atlantic flight feeling like a pinball bumping every elbow and seatback side to side as I walked the aisle to seat 37F. Upon hearing that I was looking for couches and connections in Europe, an old friend of mine invited me to her Thanksgiving dinner in Barcelona. From the airport, I forged into the city with shoddy directions, no Spanish skills, and no cell service to navigate to her address in suburban Barcelona. Sweating and hoping I was actually at the right house, I was relieved to hear a familiar voice yell “Be right there!” from inside the house.

Over the next few hours, we caught up. We had been UW Resident Advisers together but we hadn’t talked in years. She had been a Neurobiology student and last thing I knew she had just taken the MCAT. Although none of that was in my plan or path, I had always admired her intelligence, grace and leadership on our team. So, when she confided in me that her first few months after graduating were frustrating, lonely and confusing, I was stunned. She told me the reason she was in Spain was because she had put her medical school applications on hold. This role model of mine had bumps along the way and feelings that seemed to mirror mine of the past four months. She wasn’t a professor with major professional successes that helped her feel confident about sharing these. She was a regular twenty-something, figuring it out day by day and month by month. I was inspired. Up until then no one had been so open about their undergraduate experiences. On that day in Barcelona, the idea came to me to build a collection of student stories and vulnerabilities. What if we all shared the stories that are otherwise not told? Why can’t we all be more honest and save everyone the trouble? So, seven countries and five months later, I was back in Seattle in January of 2016 switching around my academic schedule to pursue 5 credits of independent study which would eventually become this project. Researching university stories that are ‘otherwise not told’, thus began The Vulnerability Collective.

*I ignored my instinct because the regret of not going to Brazil would have been worse. I couldn’t have predicted how my experience in South America would be until I actually experienced it. I also know that myself as a 40 or 50 year old would regret not taking the opportunity when I had the chance. If you’re wondering if I regretted it? I didn’t. There’s no such thing as a waste of an experience.

Has dented a Toyota Prius with a butter knife. He is a proud momma's boy. Improv and amateur freestyle rapping are how he stays creative. Always has more room in the stomach for tater tots and pizza. Plays racquetball with fierce intensity. Fights the stigma of mental illness through conversation and action. Tutors people in public speaking. Has extremely poor body image. Thinks sexuality is a spectrum that changes from day to day. Sees opportunity in almost everything.

Two. That's the number of eyes I have, the number of gears on my chainwheel and the number of times I nearly committed suicide in college: once during my freshman year, and again during my senior year at UW. 

The first time was following my first test in college. I failed it. Calculus kicked my ass so hard even the curve couldn’t help me. I went back to my dorm room and cried. I called my parents telling them of how embarrassed I was and that I did not belong at the University of Washington. I told them that I was not nearly smart enough to be going to this school. Later that night, I stood in my room and opened a large bottle of Advil, pouring countless little red pills into my hand. I looked at my hand, then at the mirror and back down at my hand. After a moment my hand slowly slipped the pills back into the bottle. I didn’t bother to count how many, but I knew it was a lot. It would have done the job. I sat down on my bed and felt completely numb, my thoughts were scattered to the wind. 

The second time was on a Thursday, fall quarter of my senior year, after a long day of class. I found out that I had several tests as well as homework due on the following Tuesday. At that point, I already felt like I was drowning in my academic work, and this only added weight to my feet that made it harder to swim to the surface. On top of this, my anxiety was in full swing. The cause of this anxiety can be traced back to the beginning of 2015 when I began to question my sexuality, something that had crossed my mind before, but had never shaken me to my core like it did this time.

I began to question every decision I made.

How come I said that?

What is it like to be calm?

College was tough enough and had plenty of tests; I did not need any of these additional questions to answer, and didn’t have the answer key to know if I was right or wrong. It all came crashing down on that Thursday. I left my lab early saying I was sick and walked home, on the brink of hyperventilation the entire time. I had been having thoughts of suicide prior to that week, and that night they nearly became a reality. I got out a pair of scissors and laid them across my right wrist with the intent to cut till I hit a major blood vessel. Time stood still for a second time my life. The same pattern repeated. I looked at my hands, I looked in the mirror, and back down at my wrist, all appearing mottled through the tears in my eyes. I set the scissors down and wrote a letter explaining why I wanted to take my life, why I wanted to leave. I did not want to keep living my life if it meant I was constantly under so much stress. I wanted to have a full day of happiness.

Was that too much to ask for?

Did I not deserve it?

Was something wrong with me?

Was I doing something wrong?

Time has passed since then. I have talked about my feelings since then, have connected with friends new and old by talking about things like depression and anxiety and my journey with it. Until now, I have never shared the story of these two events with anyone: I’ve always held them in check and not allowed to slip past my lips. However I think now is the time to talk about them. If we can start the conversation here maybe we can help stop someone else, somewhere else, from ending their life.

Young professional who feels anything but. Experienced traveler who’s terrible at it. Family pleaser. Karaoke Enthusiast. From a town with more cows than people. Dad van driver. Tinder voyeur. Theoretically fluent in Spanish, but don’t try her.

I was studying abroad in India in a tradition homestay. IThere was no running water or typical bathroom but there was an outhouse structure. It was low, about 5 feet, with holes in the tin walls in which you can see into the outhouse. It only shut with a piece of yarn around a nail. For three weeks, this was the bathroom structure I used.
For my duration in India, I was eating a mixture of potatoes and Chapati (a simple form of Naan bread) and maybe a vegetable. The combination of Chapati and potatoes creates what I call emergency poop. When it happens, you just have to get to where you can relieve yourself as quickly as possible or else bad things happen, as I learned the hard way.

One particular morning I had gathered toilet paper, and realized I needed to at the bathroom right at that very moment. It was absolutely an emergency. I was probably about a 1 minute walk from the toilet, but that felt like an hour of holding it. My fellow homestay mates had already left to walk down to the outhouse just a few minutes be- fore me, so when I got there it was occupied by my friend Jen. I ran down there, pounded on the door and said “I need to go right now, it’s an emergency!”
By the time I got in there and squatted down in the hole it was too late. I was stuck in rural India with so much poop already in my pants and coming out of me. My in- testines must have been all poop that morning. At that moment, I was looking at the tin door and there was a spi- der crawling across the wall to make matters worse.

There are three things that make pooping your pants in rural India worse than pooping your pants anywhere else in the world.

1. It’s conservative. I couldn’t just take my pants off and walk up the hill. I would have just been sent home back to the US. I had to pull my pants back on and walk up the hill.

2. There’s not garbage infrastructure. Whatever toilet paper or baby wipes I was going to use to clean myself I had to pack it all up and carry it back home with me. I went back to my house to change my pants. We spent the weekdays with our homestays but the weekdays at an Indian resort which did, thankfully, have toilet paper and running water.

That was the last day of the work week, so we were headed to the resort later that day. I put on my backpack and hiked to our meetings place 3 miles away, feeling like poop, smelling like poop and carrying poop.

There were 13 of us in my program. On many occasions, they crammed all of us in a 6 person vehicle. I was sitting so close to people, with my poopy backpack in my


3. I only had one bucket - the same bucket that I use for laundry and I use to shower.

Luckily we had hot water that day. I washed myself and put on clean clothes. My roommate came into my room and was complaining that she had a paper to write, research to do, and I told her “Hey, I literally pooped my pants”. We laughed it off and went on with our day.


By the time I was born in Baja California Sur, Mexico, my dad had already migrated to California, where he planned to pick tomatoes to earn extra money and re- turn home when the season was over. Poverty in Mexico is pretty bad. While my mom, my two sisters and I were living in Baja, there was a hurricane; built of very weak material, our home couldn’t sustain the heavy winds and rain, so we had to leave to stay with my grandparents for a while. Eventually, my dad came back from California and fixed up an old house he had in Nayarit for us to live in. Nayarit is the type of town that makes you grow up too fast: by 10 years old, you are already 16. Men beat their wives, and the assumption is if you don’t beat your wife, you can’t really consider yourself a man. Luckily, a lot of our family was there. We didn’t have money, but we had family.

The first time my dad crossed the border, with 30 other men, he went through the “El Cullo”, also known as “The Devil’s Asshole”. It requires days of walking through the desert alongside snakes and other things. The group my dad was with that first time got caught twice. After the first time, there were only twenty of them; after the sec- ond, the border patrol caught all of them except my dad and the smuggler who tried to get them there. The smug- gler told my dad that he was really desperate, so they walked together for three or four days straight with very little water and just a little food. He got really lucky in the sense that he wasn't caught, but he didn't really know how to get back home. 

You need to have money to come to the U.S. and pay a smuggler, or you’ll just be deported. When you cross the border once, you already know what to expect. During the time my dad was in the U.S., my grandfather passed away. The house we were living in had been in his name. One of my uncles offered to transfer it to his own name, and explained that once my dad got back [from California], we could change it back. A couple of weeks after that, my uncle decided to kick us out. We stayed with some of my dad’s other family, but they weren’t welcoming at all; they didn’t like my mom, assuming city girls like her were ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’. At one point my sisters and I split up, and at one point we were literally homeless. It was at that point that my parents decided that if we didn’t come to the U.S. we literally would have nothing.

When we decided to try and get to the U.S., my siblings were 9 and 11, I was almost 5, and my dad was living in Vancouver, Washington. Along with at least 30 other people, we took a bus from Nayarit to the border to meet someone who would help us. The smugglers are trying to make money, but with a group of 30, there’s no way you’re all going to make it. I blocked out everything during that time, but have recently started writing spoken word po- etry to try to remember. I remember the thorny bushes we had to hide under. I remember telling my mom that it was hurting and she told me to be quiet. There was a helicopter above us, there were so many of us, we weren’t hard to spot. We crossed in Arizona and they took us to they took us to a detention center. They didn’t take the kids’ fingerprints, but they took my mom’s. They put us in a van and drove us across the border where somehow, we crossed paths again with the original smuggler. We tried again, and even though there were fewer than 30 of us this time, it still didn’t work out. My older sister got really sick. We didn’t have money for medicine, but she was so sick that we wondered whether we should go back home. My mom made the decision to continue. We finally crossed and got to a point in Arizona where we were somewhat safe. The smuggler told us to cross the street and head inside the Walmart to wash ourselves. It had been over a week since we last showered. We were cut up, sweaty and dirty. With mere minutes to cross the freeway, we were waiting for cars to stop driving to let us cross. There was an older lady who stopped in the middle of the freeway to let us cross, and she told us that there was a helicopter right above us. She knew exactly why we were there and why it was so important that we crossed fast.

In the WalMart, we met someone who drove us to Los Angeles. From there, my two cousins picked us up to drive us from Los Angeles to Vancouver. In Mexico, my parents told us that we had no money for toys, but I remember them saying that my dad had a doll for me once we made it to Vancouver. When we finally arrived, I had a lot of scratches, my older sister was really sick and my other sister had infected scratches, but when you’re undocu- mented, you can’t just go ask for help.

When we first got to Washington, we lived in a one bed- room apartment with eight people. The first question I can remember my mom asking was about us attending school. She went to a church that helped us get vaccines so I could get into school. I’m not religious at all, but have always had a huge respect for churches. I turned 5 when we arrived and was able to enter preschool in the US, but it was more difficult for my sisters in 3rd and 5th grade. I didn’t struggle too much learning English, but the other little kids already know how to speak English, so I wasn’t able to communicate with them. That made me really shy. You can’t speak to anyone – not even your teacher. You’re just sitting there and you don’t understand the posters or what the teacher is saying. When kids go off to kindergarten the first time, it’s scary enough. I was put in English Language Learning (ELL) classes starting in kindergarten, and by 2nd grade, I had one of the fastest ELL levels. I ended up switching schools twice because I was excelling in reading and math, and was eventually placed in a higher level math class.

I attribute a lot of my success to my parents. When I came home from school, I couldn’t say that I didn’t want to do my homework or complain about studying because I didn’t want to disappoint them. My mom is a huge pusher, and she drives the feminist in me. My dad works construction. I remember thinking, “If I get 100% on my spelling test, I can be proud to go home and show them.” My sisters and I shared a mentality of doing well in school because we didn’t want to let my parents down. My sisters weren’t able to go to college even though one of them was in the top 10% of her class, took AP classes, and was the drum major in band. She was accepted to a university, but both my sisters had to go straight into working and weren’t able to go to college. Today, we know about HB 1079 (a Washington state law that makes a college education much more affordable for certain undocumented students) but five years ago there were not any resources for students like my sisters.

In high school I was really frustrated, thinking, “why would I take all these hard classes if I can’t even go to a university?” My middle sister couldn’t work a minimum wage job because even at WalMart, you can’t work without a social security number. In high school, I was freshman class president and I also wrestled. I wanted the best experience that any student could get, and even ended up going to a leadership camp between my freshman and sophomore year. One of my camp counselors was an UW student studying business, and another, also undocumented, had earned a Master’s degree. I thought, “Oh my God, if these are two undocumented women who are really excelling, then I can too.” It was really that summer that clicked for me. I thought, “I’m definitely going to college.”

Everyone else in student government had an idea that they were going to college. My camp counselors told me that not only would I need scholarships, but I also needed to be an extremely high achieving student, involved in extracurriculars. My two sisters had to work and I didn’t and that’s what made all the difference for me. The message I got from my parents was that if you were going to be involved in something, you needed to be really involved. I ended up getting MVP my sophomore year in wrestling, I became vice president of the National Honor Society my junior year, and president my senior year. I took all the AP classes my school offered and I ended up getting 4.0s my senior year. Unfortunately I got injured, so my wrestling career came to an end. I remember breaking down a few times because there was so much pressure. My sisters and my parents were all working for me to succeed. I couldn’t say I was struggling because my struggle didn’t matter compared to theirs.

In high school, I was ashamed to tell anyone that I was undocumented. But in 2012, Obama passed DACA [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy] so that any undocumented student between the ages 15 and 30 who immigrated as a child and has no criminal record could get a social security number and work legally. It was really life changing for people: before DACA, you couldn’t tell anyone that you’re undocumented. When I was little, I was afraid to even speak because I didn’t want anyone to hear my accent and guess that I was undocumented. Every single time I worked on college applications, I waited until school was over for the day because I didn’t anyone to know. When I talked to the career counselor, she had never helped anyone undocumented get to college, but she said we were going to do it together.

I applied to UW and Western Washington University, and also to Brown University and Columbia University because I had the SAT scores to be considered. I went through interviews for Brown and Columbia, where they asked me to share where my passion comes from, but in order for me to explain my passion I needed much more time. So, I didn’t get into Brown or Columbia, but I did get into UW and Western Washington. Originally WWU was my top choice, but they didn’t offer me any financial assistance. When I first got in to UW, they said I wouldn’t receive any financial aid, so I figured I would end up at a community college. But since I had taken all seven AP classes, I applied to a few scholarships. Just a few weeks later, I received a UW Costco diversity scholarship worth $10,000 per year for four years, but I still needed a lot more money to live in Seattle. That $10,000 for the first year was my push. By the end of my senior year in high school, I had $16,500 for my freshman year. I couldn’t afford a laptop, so during the summer, my mom sold dinner to our friends so we were able to save the money for books and a laptop. My sister gave me her money that she was going to use for her college too. When my parents dropped me off in McMahon Hall they were crying and it just didn’t feel real. The first two months of college were a dream. Even walk- ing through the quad I would break down and cry once a week.

I got lucky that I was the youngest of my sisters, because my sisters always said, “Don’t get a job, we’ll work so you can go to school.” There’s a lot of guilt though. Students get their financial aid money and they go wild. I had $20 to spend per week, if that, and had to watch where every single dollar went. And even with my scholarship and savings, I didn’t have enough for winter quarter, and didn’t know where to turn. I got some help from UW’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD). My sisters filed their taxes with DACA and got $2,000 back. My parents had to sell one of their cars, and with that last $2,000, I finally had enough money. But then at the end of winter quarter, I didn’t have the money for Spring. I was so tired of being broke all the time, but I finished my first year. I was so stressed out about how I was going to cover my first year that I didn’t finish my second year. Luckily, that’s when Washington passed the REAL Hope Act and I qualified for state scholarships. I worked all summer as an orientation leader. I sometimes had $3 in my bank account. Sometimes people joke about living off ramen, but I really did live off ramen. I got another scholarship from OMAD and money from financial aid, but I’m still struggling financially. I’m grateful that my parents started making more money, but there’s always something going on, always a financial setback.

On top of the financial stress, now that I’m here, I have to help my community get here too. I had a couple students message me on Facebook about people who needed my help. There are so many people who need my help while I’m trying to help myself and keep my head above water. You’re put up on a pedestal and you’re forced to be there - you’re forced to help everyone. My freshman year, after I went back to visit my high school, I got emails and phone numbers from people who needed my help. Last year I got burned out because I felt like was always helping everyone; people volunteered me to help everyone. Compared to how I was doing during freshman and sophomore year, I’m doing a lot better now. It was like I was trying to save five people while I was drowning. Now I’m almost done and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I partici- pate in the Vancouver Undocumented Coalition, which answers questions about scholarships and financial aid. I still go back now to my high school to help others, but now I get paid to help them by giving out the HB 1079 form.

Now I’m at the point where I want to go to law school. There aren’t many resources for law school; it would be different if I was a regular student. But I’m going to try my hardest. Even if I have to work for a bit, I will be going to law school. Both my sisters are going back to college and we’re all making my parents proud.

Cuban. Sports Addicted. Loves his family to death. Loves to eat meat. Doesn’t like the texture of vegetables. Below average 3-point-shooter. Is a history buff. Grandpa and Father both played football at USC. Likes to play video games - 2K is his favorite. Loves Bruce Springsteen. Is very loyal to friends and family and everyone he loves. Finger got caught in a jersey and is now mangled.

My Dad and my Grandpa played in the PAC 12, so it was Msomething that I had always wanted to do. Since I was a little kid, it was my goal to play college football, but I had to wait until my Dad let me play when l was seven. I continued to play through high school, attending a private high school because of its competitive environment - not because I thought it would improve my chances for a scholarship, as some people thought. That all changed one day in January of my junior year.

I had started that year as a full varsity starter. Then I got a call from Colorado and one from the UW. I visited UW on a Saturday in April for Junior Day, the day student athletes who will be offered scholarships are invited to come to campus. I flew home on Sunday and decided to make the commitment to the UW. I had fallen in love with this place and I knew immediately that I wanted to play here.

I arrived in Seattle in July of 2013. I was nervous and excited but I don’t think I was ready for how homesick I would be. Freshman year was hell for me. I was redshirting, which basically means that you are the guy in practice getting the crap knocked out of you, but not getting to play in any games. During this time when I was really homesick, I started drinking a lot. My friends and I would sit in a circle of chairs in the middle of the dorm room drinking all night and then we’d go to practice in the morning. We would be hungover which obviously made everything worse.

Things improved during my sophomore year when I moved out of the dorms and into a house we called “Big Blue” with four other football players. I finally started focusing on football, taking care of my body and drinking less. I was getting used to living away from home. Everything was going better that year from my playing to my grades and relationships.

The summer before my junior year in 2015, my back began to hurt a lot and I knew I had a serious problem. I had been dealing with back issues since I was 16, and tried to do what I had always done: having an epidural injection, the same shot some women have for pain during childbirth. By October of 2015, I had received two injections and neither of them worked. I knew I couldn’t play anymore in that sea- son and decided to have surgery. I had surgery on October 12, and at that point, little did I know I would never put my pads back on again.

In December and January my coaches and trainers knew that something had gone very wrong with my surgery and recovery. I was set up with a 45 minute appointment with the doctors at Harborview Hospital; it was a long walk for a short drink of water. The trainer finally cut to the chase and asked “Is it smart or safe for him to play football?” and the doctor finally answered, “No.”

From that point on, football was over for me. I was very depressed about it in my own way though I didn’t show a lot of emotion. People were pretty awesome reaching out to me; friends and coaches I hadn’t talked to in years said really nice things, which definitely made things a little easier. The guy who coached my position asked me to come help recruit for Husky Football, and that’s what I do now.

It’s been an awesome nine months, but there’s no doubt it’s been the biggest adjustment of my life. My identity to myself and others has always been that I was “the football guy”. When that’s your identity and you lose it overnight it is scary as hell. It’s hard to feel that you have value when you lose what made you, or at least what you thought made you, valuable to other people.

When you fill your day with football from 6am to 11am and then back at night watching film and eating together, you can feel like a part of a large machine. So when that wasn’t my life anymore, and I had all this free time, it was liberating. As bitter as I can be about losing football, there was a sweetness to it. The sport had consumed my thoughts every day since high school, and now I had to find something else to take its place. Losing football really allowed me to learn about myself and how I work when it’s just me, without football.

Moving forward, I know that anything can be taken away at any time. I have learned to value relationships. It was very important to learn how many people are in my corner: it was a hell of a lot more than I had imagined.


Extremely driven, but lacks self-confidence. Loves animals more than a majority of society. Family oriented, but doesn’t want a family of her own. People pleaser to a fault. Self-conscious about her Spotify playlist. Business student who doesn’t want anything to do with business. Runs because she likes cheese not because she likes fitness.


For the past three years I’ve known that the only thing I want and need to do with my life is law. After working in the field, I’ve come to realize I am passionate about special assault cases. In my current work I am exposed to a lot of horrific cases, but so far I’ve always been able to separate myself from them and view them as a third party. Recently however, I was exposed to a case where I found myself identifying with the victim.
Although the facts of our lives were extremely different, as she had been sexually abused from a young age, and I have lived a relatively safe and sheltered life, she and I were the same age and I felt that our personalities were similar. As she spoke of the facts of the case, I began to see myself walking in her shoes. She mentioned an assault that occurred in Christmas of 2007, during the time I was in 8th grade. For the first time, I was shaken to my core by a victim.

I had never questioned what I wanted to do with my life. I always had the strength and stability to separate myself emotionally from these cases. While there’s always the human aspect when a horrific event has occurred, there’s also the professional ability to see it as a story and not as a person – objectively almost. While you sympathize with victims or family members of the victims, you never really empathize with them. For the first time I felt myself really empathizing with this particular victim.

When I spoke to my most trusted adviser about this, my mother, she was brutally honest. She questioned whether this was the right field for me as my intense emotions have historically gotten the better of me. This path that I had already seen myself on suddenly wasn’t clear to me anymore. But, I realized that having feelings as a prosecuting attorney is what makes you good. The reason why I want to work in special assault is because of the incredible attorneys I’ve met. Their intense desire to fight for people who have had their worlds destroyed is so inspiring.

You have to really fight for the victims of these cases and sometimes empathy can help you do that. But that total sense of not knowing what the hell I was doing, or if I had chosen the right path was terrifying. The moment of sheer doubt forced me to ask myself why this is what I want to do with my life. This wasn’t just a pretty dream anymore – it was gritty and real and I had to put into my own words why I want to do this. By doubting and questioning myself, I was forced to really look at the reasons why I’ve set myself on this path.


When we first came to the US from Mexico, my parents were working a lot. We lived in a one bedroom apartment, where I was sexually abused for several months because I got out of preschool earlier than my sisters and before my parents got home. That experience messed with my growing up. Sometimes I tell myself it helped me because I was never boy crazy and was always really focused on academics. I don’t get in relationships because I still don’t really trust men. Before, I was able to push it back, but when I came to college it resurfaced. My sophomore year, I met someone who shared their story with me: they said they were raped here. It’s been slowly eating away at me. As a college student, it seems that people are always sexually active. I am very social - I love to go out and recently turned 21. As an outgoing college student, it’s been very difficult. There are a lot of moments that make me feel uncomfortable. Some men here are really creepy. I almost had something happen to me, but somehow I was able to get out of that situation. It’s hard when your friends ask, “Why are you being so boring? Let’s go!" but you can’t really help when your body shuts down. I am a survivor, which is really hard to say. I can’t even see myself in a relationship.

Has an eye wiggle. A former gymnast for 10 years. Passionate about service & philanthropy. Aspiring doctor. Has broken 15 bones. Has 35 first cousins. Has always wanted to learn to drive stick shift. Is always cold. Has travelled all over the US but never outside the Americas. Is attending UW with 90 people from her high school graduating class.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was three months pregnant with me. She had had two or three miscarriages before me. She had already had my sister and was pretty set on having another baby. They found her breast cancer at stage two. At the time there were not treatment options that were approved for pregnant women. She refused treatment to protect the pregnancy. At that point she got connect- ed with the American Cancer Society in search of support groups. She went back in for a six month checkup and the doctors told her she could choose my life or hers because the cancer had progressed to stage four. She asked for a week to think about it. Within the week the American Cancer Society called her and mentioned a new clinical trial that she could enroll in that was for pregnant women. They weren’t 100% certain it would work, but in the end the clinical trial was extremely successful.

She recovered and she’s still with us today, but I was not fine. I breathed in too quickly when I was born and inhaled the amniotic fluid, which was considered a “trauma at birth”. I was in the NICU for the first week. About the time I started walking, they noticed I had nystagmus (eye wiggle). My mom’s brother is an optometrist and he wasn’t sure if it was a side effect of her cancer treatment during pregnancy or because of the trauma from the amniotic fluid inhalation. They realized I didn’t have any depth per- ception. I remember that we’d play a Beanie Baby game and if I could throw the Beanie Baby into a hat 3 times in a row, I got to keep it. I didn’t know at the time that I was training my eyes; I thought it was just a fun game. My sister and I never knew that at that time that my Mom had cancer again and was going through chemotherapy. She kept working and no one knew anything was wrong. Then she got pregnant again and had my brother.

When I was six, we were in Target buying watermelon for a family reunion, and my mom collapsed. She had to be taken into the ER. She had lost too much blood from radiation and chemotherapy. That same day, she had a hysterectomy (uterus removal) because the cancer had metastasized to her uterus. She still made sure that our Dad took us to the family reunion. She told us that she was getting a blood transfusion, and that’s all she told us.

Fast forward to when I was ten. My Mom had always had really long hair but then she cut it. She started wearing wigs and my sister and I, not understanding the purpose of the wigs, would make fun of her. Finally, she told us that she had cancer all these years and it had returned as stage three. Through all of the years she had never stopped working. She raised three kids and nobody ever knew. My sister Katie and I felt terrible for ever pok- ing fun at her wigs.

Over the years, she kept losing her friends to cancer and started feeling discouraged. When I was a freshman in high school the doctors told my mom that she was cancer free for the first time in fifteen years. Usually, at six months they are usually pretty confident that you are healthy, but they won’t tell you “you have beaten cancer” until you are two years healthy.

At that time my mom and others had been bringing my sister and I to Relay for Life events for years. At these events it was really hard to realize that so many of these people were affected by cancer. We did Relay For Life throughout high school, and my mom would cry every time. What was really the hardest for me was that every time she sees my eyes wiggle, it reminds her of her cancer. I don’t want to be a reminder to her of her cancer. I got involved in the American Cancer Society because I would rather be a force against cancer.

My sister Katie got involved in helping to organize the UW Relay for Life and I signed up to volunteer before I even came to campus as a freshmen. At my first event I organized speakers and when it was my turn up on the stage, I asked the crowd, “If you are a cancer survivor please stand up.” My mom was the only one who stood up. I was standing next to Katie on stage, and everyone started applauding and cheering. My mom looked at me and started crying. There’s a phrase in the Relay For Life community that “Your blood turns purple” for Relay and despite everything before that was my very special mo- ment. I wanted more people to be survivors and stand next to my mom.

Katie and I have both been involved in a variety of ways and recently Katie was asked to lead the event for next year and chose me as her co-chair. We got my little brother involved in Relay For Life too. Now it’s a big family event.

This year I’ve worked with a lot of people with cancer and a lot of people who are unbelievably passionate. It has been incredible. Cancer survivors approach us and cry and hug us and say how thankful they are. They even say that we’ve saved their lives, which is crazy. People come up to us and ask us how to get involved.

My mom’s cancer has really shaped everything I do. I want to be an oncologist. I want to do cancer research. I feel the need to live in a world where if I mention that my mom had cancer, there won’t be anyone who can relate to that fact.

Former Subway sandwich artist. Computer Science student. Jewish. Ran the full Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in 2015 hand in hand with his 50th year old father. Moved from California to Washington when he was 17. Speaks almost-fluent Russian and almost-fluent Hebrew. Gay and proud of it. Hates spicy foods. Oldest sibling in his family. Frequent Grindr user. Has yellow fever. Loves Avatar the Last Air Bender. Drumheller Fountain jumper. Has a rational fear of fire. Has solved a Rubik’s Cube in under 90 seconds.

When I was in 10th grade I started becoming depressed because I was gay and in the closet. I told myself back then that it was because I had a crush on a guy that didn’t like me back. Back then, that’s what my depression was like. I see it differently now than I did back then.
I went to a private Jewish high school, and there were only 30 people in my grade. Everyone knew each other, and I had been going to school with these people since kindergarten. Since I had no outlet to meet new people or express myself, I ended up falling in a routine of going to school, coming back home, locking myself in my room, and being lonely all the time. It was difficult for me when I realized such a big thing about my identity because I felt like I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand that part of me. The only thing I was involved in was swim team, and that was only because the guy I had a crush on was on the swim team.

My parents noticed that I was acting differently, and they started nagging me to get out of my room, which really bothered me. It drove me further into seclusion. I stopped doing homework and one day I got a bad grade on a math exam, which really upset my parents. This made me more upset. That became a back and forth cycle; they would be upset that I was doing poorly and that would make me even more upset.

One day, they said to me, “Come into the car, we are leaving the house!”

I got into the car and asked where we were going. They replied, “We are going to see a therapist.” I freaked out and ran away from the car.

They started chasing after me and my Dad started crying. I had never seen him cry before and that really struck me. I stopped running. I ended up going to the therapist with them, but I hated it. I remember that at the first therapy session I said nothing at all. I was silent the whole time. The therapist had a Rubik’s Cube so I did that the whole time; it was comforting because it was something I was good at. The therapist asked me questions and I just didn’t respond; I ignored her completely for that session and the second one too. By the third session I started talking but I never once told her what was actually on my mind.

On the last therapy session, I asked her “Have any of your therapy patients ever killed themselves?”

She replied, “No. Thank God no.”

I feel like if I had genuinely talked to the therapist it may have helped me, but because I was being so stubborn it just made it worse. I started smoking cigarettes as a form of rebellion. I made a new friend who would smoke with me. It was nice to have just one friend from outside of the circle of people I had known for so many years. My mom caught me smoking one day and that was the end of me talking to that person and smoking cigarettes.

After my mom caught me with cigarettes, I resorted to hurting myself and also started seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me Prozac. I started taking it and it was... unpleasant. It used to be almost painful. I used to take it and eat and my stomach would hurt the whole day. There was a really long time when I didn’t notice any change, but eventually it started helping me. However, there’s an edge to feeling depressed that is almost sort of satisfying; when you take an antidepressant, you lose that edge and are sort of stuck in between. You are not really sad, but you are definitely not happy. I did stop hurting myself though.

What really helped me a lot was coming out to a few people. By my senior year, I was feeling more confident, but since I was still with that group of people I had been going to school with for 13 years, I didn’t really feel free. I finally felt free when I was able to leave high school and meet new people at UW.

Has 5 bunnies and is a young homeowner. A caretaker for her boyfriend’s schizophrenic 23-year- old-brother. A CEO of a startup. Can’t public speak. Has Fibromyalgia. Moved out of her parents’ house before finishing high school. Addicted to The Kim Kardashian Game. Has been with her boyfriend for 7 years. Is currently a Behavioral Neuropharmacologist at a UW Lab. An aspiring doctor.

I was in an accident, but I don’t tell people what type of accident. People usually don’t ask more than that. And if I do tell them, I say an Obstetrician-Gynecologist had to come in. The 2015 snow season in Seattle was hot and there was little snow. Steven’s Pass was open infrequently. We knew our weekends at the mountain would be rare, and my boyfriend poked fun at me and said I needed to be a “brave little toaster”, so we decided to go down the backside of the mountain for our first run of the day. It was the first day the backside of the mountain was open and it was our first run down. We were the only two people on the run.

There was a patch of super soft, fresh snow that was untouched. We decided to go down it, but after only half a second I realized that my skis were not powder skis and started sinking. As I fell down, I sat straight down on the skis instead of tumbling sideways like skiers do, and hit my crotch on the middle edges of my skis. As soon as I came to a stop, I took off my skis because my pants felt really, really wet.

My first thought was that I peed myself, but everything was throbbing. I was wearing white pants but I didn’t see anything. Then, I started seeing blood dripping down from the bottom of my pants and everything was drenched. I immediately made a mound of snow to sit on because I didn’t know where it was coming from, and I knew that compression or ice would slow the bleeding. I really thought I had a gash down my leg. When I took off my ski boot, the entire boot lining was drenched in blood.

My boyfriend realized this was serious then, and that I wasn’t overreacting to the situation. He stopped laughing and called ski patrol, who they said they would be there soon. I was feeling down my legs to try to find where the gash came from. All of the sudden I felt like I had my period. Ladies out there - you know those moments when you have your period and you feel a gush? That was it.

I thought to myself “I must have hit my vagina. I might have an internal injury from the impact.” I think 10 or 15 minutes went by, and the adrenaline faded and everything started to really hurt. Ski patrol came and they sent a woman, thankfully. I got up off the snow chair I had made for myself and I realized I had bled through my waterproof pants; there was a bloody butt imprint in the snow when I got up. Everything you could see around us was pristine and white except for the huge pool of bright red blood soaking the snow.

To make matters worse, the woman who skied me down was training for the position – it was her first day so everything that was happening was a lesson for her. I felt like a guinea pig. I was ready to get to the UW Medical Center to get checked out, but Steven’s Pass wanted to examine me first.

The male doctor found that it wasn’t an internal injury, but there was a gash about an inch into my vaginal opening. It was the force of the impact that had busted the skin open, as my pants were never cut open by the skiis. They packed me up in literally 30 menstrual pads because it was the most absorbent thing they had. They put me in our new Subaru, and I sat on a BioHazard bag for the 2 hour drive from Stevens Pass to Seattle.

We finally made it to the UW Medical Center and they saw me right away. Four additional professionals looked at my vagina before I saw an Ob-Gyn. When the Ob-Gyn saw me, she made my boyfriend step out of the room and reminded me it was a “safe place” and that if I had anything to tell her, it was a no-judgement zone. Maybe it was because I wasn’t wearing my ski-pants anymore, but she was alluding to the fact that people get lacerations like mine from their abusive boyfriends or husbands. While being stitched up, I had to tell this Ob-Gyn that my boyfriend didn’t abuse me and that the injury was from a skiing accident. I ended up with 13 stitches, a prescription for pain killers, and instructions for no sex for a month.

A few weeks later, I had my boyfriend look up there with his phone flashlight, and when it healed I asked him to pull the stitches out. I haven’t gone skiing since; now I only snowboard. Now that same doctor is my current Ob-Gyn, and inserted my Mirena IUD a few months ago.


Sister, friend, daughter. Graduated from UW last spring. Television addict. Loving, stubborn, funny, fearful, loud, unapologetic. Treats her dog like a human. Trying to navigate post-college adult life.

High school was the worst. My friends seemed to have a decent time navigating adolescence but I knew there was something different about me from a young age. I couldn’t really figure out what exactly it was until I was 15 or 16. My friends started to have crushes on boys and go on dates when them. I pretended to feel the exact same way which caused the most extreme discomfort you could imagine. I dressed a certain way, wore my hair a certain way and acted how I thought I should, all to give off the impression that I was just like my friends. I finally figured it out that the suppression of my sexuality was leading me towards unbearable unhappiness. I hoped that my “wrong” feelings would magically go away. Gay kids were ridiculed at my high school. This played some role in my fear to accept how I felt because every gay kid that was made fun of in school was a boy. I didn’t know another lesbian until I was 21 and because of that I had no one to talk to or go to for guidance. I, like many gay kids, had a debilitating fear that my parents were going to somehow love me less and not be proud of me which in hindsight was absolutely ridiculous. No child should ever have to feel that way. I lied to myself, my family, and my friends throughout high school and when I finally figured out that this part of me wasn’t going to go away, even though I vehemently hoped it would.
The cripplingly awkward stages of middle and high school were finally over and it was time to move to Seattle and start my undergraduate experience at UW. I continued to lie to my friends and family until sophomore year of college. Strangely enough, I decided to join a sorority which one might say was an interesting decision for a closeted lesbian. I had thought that the Greek Community was not very gay-friendly, but I found this to be entirely untrue.

By my sophomore year in 2013, I couldn’t take it anymore, it was time to start living my life and giving myself the opportunity to be comfortable and happy. I came out to my childhood best friend. Once the first one was out of the way it was kind of like a snowball and I kept going and going. It felt so freeing that I couldn’t stop. I told my parents and my brothers and not surprisingly they were 100% loving and supportive. Later that same year, I came out to my entire sorority by giving a speech at our yearly retreat. My friends were crying tears of joy because they were so proud of how far I had come in being comfortable with myself and some girls who I had barely talked to before came up to me afterwards to give me a hug. I cannot begin to describe the before and after feelings of lying to yourself and everyone you know versus not hiding anything at all. It was agony and constant loneliness versus happiness and confidence. The biggest lesson I learned through my whole coming out process is that doubting yourself leads to doubting others and never being able to feel happy. Regardless of sexuality, people are more drawn towards people who are comfortable with themselves. I held my head up high and I am proud of the person I have become. Apparently life does go on and get better after high school. Who knew?


In high school I began working in a lab, a really good Icommunity where people were very receptive to my questions. Even though they were doing classical cellular biology, the researchers took the time to answer questions from a high school student - and they were one of the reasons I decided to attend university at all. Because they had such a positive impact on my learning and my self-worth, when I realized that I wanted to learn about other aspects of science in another lab, I was terrified to tell my PI (principal investigator). I couldn’t summon up the courage to tell her that I wanted to leave because I loved the community of the lab so much. However, I knew if I wanted to stay in research for the long-haul, I needed to learn in a different atmosphere than the one I was currently in.
At first, I didn’t even want to apply to any other lab job because I was so afraid to tell my PI about my desire to leave. But when I was accepted to another lab and finally told her she said, “The one thing I am disappointed about is that you were afraid to tell me.” She really did want to support me, saying, “I didn’t want a worker. I wanted you to gain the skill set to be a scientist.”

One day when shuffling through papers related to something that I had to research, it finally dawned on me that there are a ton of unknowns; that there always has to be something unknown. Until that point I thought “I’m a star student.” I have the textbook I can always refer to. But then, so many questions came up for me based on the literature that I was forced to open up. Now I had to open up to the people in my new lab that I didn’t know anything and that my whole career trajectory is based on these unknowns. But I also know that this isn’t a problem for just me: there’s uncertainty for the people in my lab and for people everywhere too.

UW Staff Member.

Freshman year I met a lot of people including this girl. I quickly developed a big crush. She started dating one of my friends and I was too much of a chicken shit to do anything. She lived in Albuquerque and we went on road trips to pick her up. She was very similar to a lot of girls who I fell for in high school. She had the ability to make you happy. I was upset to see her with other people.

After college I flew to Albuquerque to see her and hang out with her. I was just sort of there as a friend, but I never said anything. Many years went by with no contact. I went to Oregon for graduate school and felt that I sort of now had my shit together. I had a vision for how that would potentially help me in this world. It helped me grow up. But I couldn’t shake her from my mind. I had this feeling of “what if?”

I don’t know what compelled me, but I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity if it existed. In John Hughes movies, the underdog can get the girl, so why couldn’t I? I wrote her a heart felt letter and popped the question of marriage, even though we had never dated. I remember being so scared and nervous and then said, “Fuck it, I’ll do it.” I knew she would respond in some way.

She wrote a long letter back. She was appreciative, really nice, and thankfully her “No” didn’t destroy me. It was a tough pill to swallow when I’d been shooting for the moon. But I think it provided some closure for me. I needed to draw an end to the infatuation. I needed to get her off of a pedestal. I think that was a really big thing for me to do. It was me being brave. Ultimately it began the steps I needed to take for self-care. And really, it ended up being the next step to meeting new people. After that I went on a lot of blind dates and had really good experiences. It made me shake some rigid boundaries of what I thought I wanted. It helped me meet my current wife.

Petrol head. Wants to live in space. Has ADHD. Jumped from North America’s tallest bungee bridge in 2015. Was adopted from China when he was 4 1⁄2 years old. Thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie. Blames his farts on other people. Has a goal to be his own boss. Conspiracy nut. Has been with his girlfriend for 7 years. Young homeowner. Has 5 bunnies but is allergic to hay.


I was adopted from Chengdu, China when I was 4 1⁄2 years old by adoptive parents who were in their mid-60s at the time. I remember my first airplane flight; I was so excited. That very flight made me curious about how things are made, and was a catalyst for me studying to be an engineer today. When we were at the airport, I ran past the security guard and they had to put an alert out that a child was running loose in the airport. They asked me who my parents were and I automatically pointed to my adoptive parents. Since I was so young, I was pretty comfortable with being adopted, even though I didn’t know what adoption meant; I felt as if they were my real parents.

I had a good childhood - a spoiled childhood. I always got the Christmas presents I wanted. I always had food on the table and I was an only child for a couple years. My parents were planning on adopting another kid, so I told them about my best friend from the orphanage in China, Miao-Miao (who goes by Michael today). Since they were older, they weren’t allowed to adopt anyone younger than me. Michael was older than me, so he was eligible for adoption. My parents and I flew back to China to pick up Michael and brought him back home with us to San Mateo, California.

During the summer between 4th and 5th grade, our Mom passed away from liver cancer and we moved to Palo Alto. At first it was really hard to make new friends because I was so mad about what happened to my Mom. I coped with her death with anger, getting into a lot of fights at school, but was still a good student academically. I was also defiant of authority; this was the start of me being a troublemaker through my middle school and high school years.

In high school, I met my current girlfriend of 7 years, and she helped me shift my perspective on my future career: my juvenile dream of being a racecar driver or fighter pilot turned to a more traditional academic path, like going to college, which hadn’t been on my radar before I met her. Meanwhile, my Dad’s health had been declining. I found out later that at the had been on antidepressants and was probably under a lot of stress while taking care of us three kids, Michael, me, and my sister, who was adopted when I was in 3rd grade. During my freshman year of college, his heart gave out because of his poor health; he had a triple-bypass and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. His heart gave out again, and then he was on life support.

My siblings and I had many meetings with the hospital staff, but ultimately we decided that the best thing for everyone, including him, was to take him off life support. It was really hard on us. At that point my siblings and I were completely on our own; we were so used to having someone take care of us, and all of a sudden it was just us three.
Of course I wish I had more time with him. I regret the times I spent with my friends instead of with him. I regret going to an out-of-state college when he wanted me to stay close to home. At the time that he passed, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue in school. At that point everything fell apart. I was overwhelmed and depressed. I coped with all of this by drinking a lot, though I never drank alone, I always wanted people with me. I was hesitant to tell my friends what had happened - that my Dad had passed away.

Eventually I opened up to them. We huddled up outside my house one day and had a heart to heart conversation about my Dad’s passing. We talked about how I should move on and make him proud. They reminded me that he wouldn’t have wanted to me mope around and have his death affect me to this negative extent. He wouldn’t want me to destroy myself when he gave me so much. I think having a close group of friends at a time when I felt the most vulnerable, confused and depressed was the best and only thing that I needed because they gave me a new perspective in how to view really, really sad things. They showed me that when my Dad passed, I wasn’t alone.

Today, three years later, I’m on track to graduate with an engineering degree. Having a third of his inheritance, I had the option to blow it on fancy luxury things, or invest the money in things that would help me and future family have a good standard of living. I decided to invest in a duplex house in Seattle. The mortgage is paid by me renting the second unit that we don’t live in. I break even every month and I have a fixed asset. I live here with with my girlfriend and my brother, whom care for due to his schizophrenia.
When new people come to my house or I meet new people, I wonder if they think, “Oh, he’s a trust fund kid.” This life is something I never would have never asked for. I was given this life as a result of my father’s story. I chose to build a legacy of his hard work as part of my own life here in Seattle.

Extrinsic. Loud. Likes to goof off. Likes to sleep a lot. Optimistic. Progressive. The only lefty in her entire fami- ly. Is part of the fourth set of twins in her family. Fourth generation Husky. Geeky. Independent. Feminist. Athletic. Cinematographer.


It was around 2:30am and I was in my sorority’s lounge in the middle of Winter quarter during my sophomore year. I had just finished studying for my Computer Science exam and when I walked back into my room, I set my school bag and study materials down. I said goodnight to my roommate who had just come back from a night out and was getting ready for bed. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and maybe 2 or 3 minutes had passed until I tried to go back into my room, but the first thing I had noticed was that my room door was closed even though I had left it open. I thought maybe I was just tired and lethargic and I actually did close it, but when I tried to push it open, it wouldn’t budge. At first I thought it was a prank by someone who was still awake. I struggled against the door for a few seconds until it flew open and I saw that the person who was behind the door was not anyone in my sorority, and the person was a man. This was at 2am, so I was very worried and confused. I took an immediate step back and for 2 or 3 seconds I thought about what I should do next. I thought maybe it was one of my roommates’ friends - maybe a drunk guy that had made it upstairs even though they aren’t allowed into the bedroom areas. I wasn’t really that scared but more worried, and again thought it was a practical joke. I was still outside my room in the hallway after maybe half a minute had passed, and he came out of the room hunched below with a blanket over his head. He was growling and staring at me and was making noises. I still thought he was just drunk and didn’t know who he was. He angrily asked “Where’s Jessy?” We didn’t have a Jessy in our house at the time, so I knew at this point he was an intruder - a robber - a rapist? Who knew.

At that point he threw my blanket - my ironman blanket - on top of me, covering my eyes and head to distract me as I heard him run away down the stairs out of the house. Immediately after that I ran into our president Bailey’s room, and told her there was a man in our house. We ran downstairs and saw the kitchen doors and windows were open, even though the kitchen is always closed at night. At that moment, we realized he was a robber. The police were at the house within 2 minutes. The whole house was asleep so Bailey and I met the police outside. Once we met with them, they entered the house and did a full sweep. It was unsettling for the girls upstairs in the sleeping porch to wake up to flashlights and policemen telling everyone to get up and go outside so they could sweep the whole house.

When the adrenaline wore off and the cops gave the OK to go back inside, I went back to my room. He didn’t steal my laptop, but he did steal four laptops from another room. I look back and think how quickly that could have been my stuff. I don’t regret leaving my valuables out, I regret the fact that we could have prevented it by simple actions like closing and locking the windows of the house.

Self-reflective person. Trained for a STEM profession her whole life. Born at UW medical center and was here for her 18th birthday. Finds writing to be difficult for her but does it all the time. Not afraid to have tough conversations. Quick to affirm other people’s strengths. Has never been afraid of failure because everything is an opportunity to learn. Always dreamed of being a cheerleader, but is extremely inflexible. Orders a 12-ounce hazelnut latte with nonfat milk no matter where she is ordering it.

Over the years, the word “strength” has stood out to me more than any other. It started when, as a Muslim, I entered a Catholic high school and found myself wanting to glean meaning from the spiritual exercises from the prayer classes I had to take - even though they were focused on a faith other than my own. I wanted more peace in my life. I wanted to not feel so at odds with everything I was doing. I wanted to feel more secure that I was making the right decisions.
I wanted that sense of strength, but always feared that the day would come when I got to college and didn’t succeed. I remember specifically thinking I wasn’t going to make it. I thought I didn’t have the confidence or the technical skills to pursue something like journalism. But today, I try to live in the tension and do things that really scare me in order to make room for growth. I ended up applying for the development class for The Daily, the UW’s student newspaper, and was hired on as staff. I’ve completed over 100 interviews and written over 35 articles.

Journalism often requires some very specific skills such as the ability to interview people and capture their essence in 500 words or less so that it’s both interesting and accessible to the reader. As a journalist, I had to develop those skills so that I could act as a bridge between those I interviewed and the general public.

Even today, I think there is a disconnect between what I am good at, what I want to do, and what I think I want to do. As someone who is considering research and med- icine, I know that information isn’t really valuable unless it’s understood by those who are receiving it. I see what I learned through journalism - making important infor- mation relevant and accessible for the public - as a way to revolutionize medical care. As part of one class, I was assigned to write an 800 word story in 30 minutes. I re- member being so worried and afraid of what the scientist - who worked for The Seattle Times - would think about it, but he said that it was the best article he had read. That moment, which was so validating for me, could not have happened if all the other steps hadn’t happened along the way.

Fear and doubt are only a few emotions of many that I’ve had to deal with. I remember when the word anxiety was introduced to me. In third grade, I had stage fright. I remember my drama teacher saying she thought I had anxiety. From that moment on, it became not only part of my vocabulary, but also part of how I perceived myself. Whenever I felt myself becoming anxious, it was hard to break free: it felt so intrinsic, seeming to flood every part of me, as if it was only thing people could see in me - and yet, I never had a conversation about how to cure it. Instead, negative thoughts loomed over my head that “this will negatively impact you” and “you will have a hard time connecting with people.” That’s frightening at any age, and even today I feel echoes of that experience.

I get caught up in the way that people perceive me. To this day, I still struggle with this. There's a quotes I love: “The only way to acquire self confidence is to do what you are afraid to do”. There’s always the phrases that come and go, but that one has really stuck with me. When you force yourself to exude confidence and strength, they become part of your identity and others believe it too; they will no longer see the anxiety that we think we perpetuate. When you are creating a version of yourself that projects the positive emotions you want to possess, you form habits and it becomes a part of you.

Self-doubt is a definite part of our culture, and so is our need to impress others. I think anxiety is not just about you, but it is about being wrongly or negatively perceived by others. Judgment from others is never go- ing to go away, it will only increase. The surveillance and awareness of what other people are doing increases. In an environment in which people are seemingly always suc- ceeding, it is because people only share their highlights. We only see everyone’s show, we never see their back- stage in the struggle.

I feel like for me I can be obsessed with the struggle. I watched the movie “Straight Outta Compton” and it’s talking about how art reflects our reality. There were people really frustrated with NWA as an art group because they were talking about violence and the reality of where they lived, but I think the truth of the matter is that they were talking about things that were difficult and scary and no one wanted to address them because they weren’t comfortable.

At the same time, I know I’ve never had struggles like that in my own life. I’ve never grown up in major struggle because my family has always supported me, which is a blessing not many people have. In general, I think people are afraid to talk about the tough things, but those are the moments that you see people the most clearly. If we took the time to understand what others value and care about, our reality would be different. If people were anxious like me, they wouldn’t have to push it down and hide it away. There could be an opportunity to change.

Drives a 1987 Red Honda Civic Wagon. Her violin bow once went flying into the audience during an orchestra concert. Can beat anyone in basketball bump. Has a 5 foot tall stereotypical Jewish mom. Learned to play poker when she was 4 and would wake up her Dad to play poker before school. Both of her parents are counselors.

It was November of my sophomore year, and I was studying in the HUB on one of the couches. There was a man with a few of his friends on the couch across from me. He kept looking at me and we started chatting; it felt like he was flirting with me. Eventually he asked for my number and added me on Facebook. He seemed nice, but some- thing seemed off. He was friendly, so I ignored my gut instinct. When he handed me his phone to add myself to his Facebook, I noticed that one of my own friends was in his recent history of added friends. I asked him about it, and he said he had just met her a few minutes earlier in the HUB.
We texted for the next few days and I soon discovered that we had a lot in common. I opened up to him about not only my interests but also about my family and other personal things. It seemed like for every personal detail I shared he had experienced something extremely similar. It made me feel validated and like I had found someone who understood me. We soon had plans to go hiking and fishing and to eat falafel. A few days after I met him, he invited me to his friend’s house for a small party and I decided to go. When I showed up my heart was racing and I was very afraid to go in. He met me outside the house and he could tell I was nervous.

He looked at me and said “Don’t worry, you can feel comfortable around me, I won’t try anything. Plus, I have a rule for myself that I don’t sleep with anyone until I’ve been dating them for 3 months.” I was impressed by that and was put at ease. We went inside and I met his friends. We got to talking and he told me that he was in the military and started tearing up when he said he earned three Purple Hearts and that he had saved the life of one of his best friends. We took shots together, and I drank a lot more than I usually do. One thing led to another and before I knew it we were making out. After a while people started to leave and we were told we could sleep on the couch. We were cuddling and kissing, but everything was hazy. I remember thinking that I did not want to sleep with him. Neither of us had a condom, and I blatantly told him I didn’t want to. But, against my gut instinct, in the heat of the moment, the next thing I knew we were having sex.

I woke up the next morning on the couch with a piercing headache and stomachache. I hadn’t made a negative judgment about him but I still wanted to leave. I told him how sick I felt and that I was going to leave. He said “no” and pulled me to stay. We kissed again and his pants came down. We were just under a little blanket in the living room of this tiny apartment and I felt so uncomfortable. I told him I didn’t want to have sex. But, the next thing I knew we were having sex again.

I got dressed and he walked me outside and kissed me goodbye. We were planning on texting later. I got home and got ready for class. An hour later, on the bus, I got a call from my mom. A day earlier, I had excitedly called her and told her that I was going on a date with this guy and that he seemed really sweet.

When my mom called, she said, “You’re going to hate me for this, and I’m sorry. But, I found that guy through your Facebook and he is not the guy you think he is. You should never see or talk to him again.” She told me that she had done a Google search on him and found a blog dedicated to warning people about him but during that call on the bus, she couldn’t even tell me why because it was too upsetting for her. I sat through the next two hours of class wondering what she had found about him. Finally, I Googled him myself and found the blog. I found out that he lied about having cancer and that he had fundraised $10,000 for his treatment. I then read that he taken the money and fled the state he was previously living in. He had also fled from 3 other states. The blog had stories of other women that he had preyed on, including women with kids. He had a different story for most women he met and was exceptional at making people feel understood, as he was able to manipulate them.

I immediately felt disgusted and angry at myself for not listening to my gut and the warning signs. I was so ashamed that I had slept with him.

I know now that it was rape, or a sort-of-rape. I still don’t know what to call it. It took me months to come to terms with that and when I told people I brushed it off and downplayed it because who actually meets and dates a sociopath? I ended up contributing to the blog and reporting him to the police. This whole time my parents thought that I had just gone to dinner with him. It took me almost 8 months to tell my mom that I had actually had sex with him, and she’s the one who took me to get STI testing.

I know that none of this is my fault even if there had been warning signs. I’ve learned to trust my gut as soon as I get a bad feeling about someone.

Dog-lover. Proud French speaker. From a 5,000 person small town. Likes traveling. Plays forward on the soccer field. Fashion enthusiast. Has a pigment-less spot on her leg. Daydreamer. Slightly OCD. Has eaten cow intes- tine. Only child. Dream career is to be a police officer, and eventually an FBI agent. Criminal Minds enthusiast. Loves taking photographs.

Senior year of high school, I thought that I had most things figured out. I thought I was going to college in California and had this whole idea of what I wanted my life to be. When it came time for college applications to be submitted, I felt behind compared to my peers. Most of my free time in high school was spent working, so I didn’t do too many extracurriculars.

I applied to 7 colleges and got into 4. The two schools I really wanted to get into in California didn’t accept me. That changed the plan of my whole life. My direction changed completely. I thought, “I was going to go to school in California, I was going to graduate in California, I was going to get a job in California, I was going to live my life in California.” Then, suddenly it wasn’t an option, and I had to rethink the whole plan I had set out for myself at that time.

Coming to UW, I was a little disappointed. I knew it was really good school and it had good programs . It wasn’t by any means a lesser education. I was just disappointed that I didn’t get to live out the life I had wanted in California.

I came to UW a little skeptical. I really hadn’t visited the campus until my senior year during Greek Preview. That was the first time I had really seen Greek Life, and that immediately changed my perspective. After I saw the Greek community, I thought, “It’s going to be okay that I am here.”

Now in my second quarter, I’m realizing that everyone is super smart. I have to put a lot more effort in in general. I did really well in high school, but coming into UW where everyone is super smart was overwhelming. I’m a perfectionist and the idea of not getting 4.0s was hard for me to grasp. I quickly realized I couldn’t be the perfect student because it wasn’t realistic. It’s not possible to be the perfect student at the college level. Everyone can just do their best. Coming here I realized I was just average. It was a stark realization.

People obnoxiously warned me that the friends I had at the end of high school probably wouldn’t be there in 5 years. I didn’t want this to happen and I rejected the notion that “you probably won’t know these people in 5 years”. A lot of my closer friends went farther away to study and I felt very lonely for awhile. It was a scary idea to think that I’m going to have to make all new friends. Looking back, I’m so glad that I attended Greek Preview because I wouldn’t be that happy in the residence halls. I think would have felt alone.

In all of this soul searching, my parents were a huge help. My mom reminded me of all the opportunities and financially said it was the best option. I’ve met a bunch of new people and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Avid Bharatanatyan Dancer and on the UW Natya dance team. Prescribed introvert, but values being when she can be an extrovert. Loves to write, but sometimes writes like she’s a 5 year old. Dual-degree student in Biology and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies. Very pas- sionate which can lead to overloading. Doesn’t waste time on things she doesn’t like. Loves Thai food but doesn’t eat too much to get sick of it. Loves to read by a fireplace.

When I was 12 years I was sexually abused. I think I make jokes because that’s a defense mechanism. At the time, he was charged with child molestation. Because that was the charge, I agreed “Yeah, that’s what happened.” I didn’t know what rape was, as I didn’t even know what sex was. I couldn’t at the time comprehend this violation of my body. I’m still to this day as a college student trying to understand what happened to me. I’m still also trying to understand why this happened to me. Rape tends to make people invisible. Since I was 12 I have been trying to reclaim myself. I realize that I definitely been trying to put myself out there. I remember that my abuser always told me to be quiet. It was always either “be quiet right now” or “be quiet and don’t tell your parents.” Now I just want to scream out to the world. The human condition is vulnerability. Vulnerability is strength. For half my life I was trying to control my emotions by putting a wall up. It did not help at all. Going all out, being authentic, and telling people is the best way for me to not feel shitty.

My parents live not too far away, as I’m a Seattle local. It was like nobody knew me. I had just broken up with my boyfriend-at-the-time, and he was my best friend. He knew everything that had happened. I was totally dependent on the fact that he knew the whole story and losing that and coming here and feeling so alone at UW – meant that I had to make myself happy. I had to find a way to figure out why it happened to me, and what happened to me. And since it was college, I thought “Why is this also happening to everyone else?”

Right before Freshman year I went to India and lived in an ashram. I did a lot of meditation. Today, going back to India is my fall back plan. India is where I go to recuperate. During that time there wasn’t a night that I didn’t cry myself to sleep.

Each morning people are invited to share what had happened to them and how meditation had helped. I went up to the podium and told everyone “When I was 12 I was sexually abused”. At that time, I finally grasped what had happened to me, and the fact that I never want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t want anyone else to feel like I did. If it’s already happened to someone, I want to be there along the way. I found a purpose for myself.

When I was 16 we went through a court case and my abuser served 5 years in prison – which was not enough. He was charged with child molestation and not rape. If I had a friend who I could have told back then I would have told the entire truth. The prosecutor might have known that I wasn’t saying everything. There’s a boundary for how much you can ask a child to say. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that I wouldn’t have said everything. I wasn’t able to say the word rape. From the time I walked up to the podium in the ashram until now, 2 years have passed. I’ve grown more in those 2 years than in the past 18 years. I’m worth fighting for. Nothing inside is worth keeping a secret. I write a blog Keeper of Shanti (Keeper of Peace). I write every day – sometimes really scary things. Sometimes the raw truth, sometimes things that are empowering. I don’t think I’ve ever changed as much as I have in the past 2 years.

When I started putting my blog out there, I didn’t expect to have such a loving community. If I’m able to get it off my chest, for people who are able to listen, for how vul- nerable I am – it’s helpful for me to grow. I’m a tree, even if people scar me I keep growing.


First generation college student. Filipino- American who doesn’t do any Filipino-American things except for when his grandma yells at him in Tagalog. Generally optimistic.

Growing up I didn’t have a lot of teachers that looked like me. I grew up in a low income area of West Seattle known for its low achieving scores, low graduation rates and low achievement and also for its ethnic diversity. Through education classes at UW I was able to contextualize my public school experience growing up, and I quickly realized how unfair it was. Where I’m from, schools don’t get the same access to resources as other schools in Seattle. I told myself that I can make an impact, that I can give kids the opportunity to build a foundation to succeed academically and socially.

I became an Early Childhood and Family Studies major, which allowed me to do service learning in my community. I joined the Dream Project, which allowed me to support students in attaining higher education. I wanted to give back to my community because I don’t see a lot of people who look like me at my own institution; not many make it to a prestigious university like this.

Over time, my family has gone through a lot of financial difficulty. My dad lost his job during my junior year of high school. Although he got it back eventually, it set us back financially and our family had to split up. When he lost his job, my grandma was going to move in alone, so I decided to live with her in the upstairs attic.

Winter quarter of my freshman year, I was on academic probation and didn’t know what the fuck I was going to do. Would I still be here? I had imposter syndrome.

During my sophomore year, things picked back up; I was studying and working, and things were going well. Then my grandma was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My grandma had a lot of health setbacks so she couldn’t get to work sometimes, so I had to take care of her. Sometimes I had to skip teaching in the morning or skip class for a whole day just to be there for her. Fortunately, she retired and she’s living a much healthier life right now. But, pretty much all of that year and junior year was extremely tough.

The one thing that got me through it all was the sense of community I developed while at UW. My first year, I lived in the dorms and built a community of friends there. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived at UW and didn’t have a lot of outside support, so living in the dorms helped a lot. I also cultivated my community through the Dream Project and stayed in touch with people from high school. Through the support that I’ve received, I became a much more optimistic person. The communities I was involved with provided me with an overwhelming amount of confidence to succeed.

Tries to be a conflict-free person. Has one Ukrainian parent and one Russian parent. Has a cross-eyed albino cat but is allergic to cats. Is a beginning snowboarder. Decorates her room with a lava lamp. Hits the trash cans each time she backs down the driveway. Gets electrolysis treatment on her stomach. Uses men’s deodorant over women’s.

I was taking Organic Chemistry 224. The first midterm was approaching, but I didn’t put forth the energy to memorize the mechanisms. I tried to memorize the concepts and wished for the best. I’ll emphasize that I spent a lot of time studying and put a lot of effort into preparing but when I showed up for the test, it felt really, really hard. It was a fair mix of multiple choice, short answer and molecular drawings.

When I left the exam, I overheard people saying how they felt like they did poorly. I felt like I was on the same page and would have been happy doing just average.

I checked online each day to see if the exam scores had been inputted. Eventually, exam scores went up, and I saw that I had earned an 8 out of 125, which is literally a 6.4% in case you were wondering. I thought it must have been a mistake. I thought I might have done poorly but thought maybe they had missed a zero behind the 8 or some other digit in front of the 8. It must have been a mistake. After a few minutes went by, I realized I would have to wait until our next class to look over the exam. I was actually consoled by the fact that I was within 2 standard deviations from the mean; being 3 below would have been in the negatives. I was also consoled by the fact that the minimum grade earned by someone on the test was a 4 out of 125. That 4 later jumped up to a 7, after what I assume was a fight for points back with the professor.

When we got the exam back in class, I frantically checked for where the graders might have made a mistake and where I could earn points back to get into the double digits. I realized that the 8 points I earned were from 2 multiple choice questions, each of which was worth 4 points. And by multiple choice, it wasn’t even a, b, c, or d. The choic- es literally were a or b, so my 8 points earned were from 50/50 guessing.

I emailed the professor saying that I wanted to meet him to talk about the exam because I did so poorly. He was a stern, stoic professor who had literally earned his PhD from Harvard in Chemistry. I went in to talk to him, and assumed he would have already known what my grade was. But, he didn’t. The first thing he said was “You know, a lot of students struggled with this exam. And the average was in the upper 30s”.

I told him that I understood that the average was in the upper 30s, but that I still totally bombed it. 

He said, “You don’t understand, everyone bombed it”.

I responded, “No, I really bombed it.”
He asked what I my grade was and when I said “8”, he closed his eyes in dismay and said “Oh boy.”

He asked me what happened, as if something had happened out of the ordinary like a medical emergency or a death in the family. I told him that nothing had happened, and asked if there were any points I could get back. His response was a firm no; the molecule is either right or wrong. “This is Organic Chemistry. Change a ‘Bi’ for a ‘Mono’ or a ‘Tri’ and you have a bomb instead of toothpaste.”

I ended up getting a 2.0 in the class after earning an average score on the final exam. More than anything, I was happy to never have to take it again.

After the initial terror and some shed tears, I pinned the exam to the corkboard in my house that I shared with 7 other housemates. At that point there was nothing to do but laugh. Crying about it wouldn’t fix the situation. I learned my lesson. When people would come over it was a focal point of humor around the house. I still have the exam in my desk drawer.

Funny. Not funny. Risk-taker. YOLO attitude. Shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln. Has the same initials as MLK. Enjoys frisbee, tennis, soccer, and football. Competitive. Playwright who had his play “Open Mic Night” on stage. Misdiagnosed with arthritis for 8 years (turns out it was just runner’s knee). Has cortisone shots for that. Idiotic.

I’ve had Crohn’s Disease for 13 years, since I was 8. Two years ago, I really wanted to share this with people. I did something that I now realize was embarrassing and idiotic: I applied to be interviewed on NPR’s FreshAir. Terry Gross, the host, has interviewed Hillary Clinton and Steven Colbert, and for some reason I thought I lived up to their caliber of importance. I thought “wow, they’re very interesting and I’m very interesting so I should be on FreshAir.” This is where it gets really narcissistic.

I also thought bringing a listener on air would connect listeners better. So, I applied with my humble brags of my somewhat average, but better than average upbringing. I bragged about my YouTube channel, I bragged about a participation medal I once earned. And that was my pitch - it was so narcissistic of me to have thought that I was more interesting than every other average person out there. I think deep down I wanted to be. Or, I thought, if they really did select me, I would be set up to be one step above the very average person that I am.
Now I laugh - I tried to get on a National Public Radio program. The whole reason I started this is so narcissistic. I humble bragged my whole way through this. There’s some type of humble irony from me trying to get on this program. I can feel it in my cheeks and my ears getting red as I retell this story. I never heard back from them. I seriously regret doing it. I’m sure they read it and got a good laugh - oh man, this 19 year old kid thinks he’s better than his peers.

Born in Bakersfield, CA, which is known for 3 things: Cutie oranges, being the 2nd most polluted city in the US, and its high obesity and diabetes rates. Gave himself an 8th grade bio: wants to go into Gastroenterology and Cardiology and just reached 5 feet tall and 90 lbs. Has canyoned in New Zealand. Is trilingual; speaks Thai, Japanese and English. Great-grandfather was the former King of Thailand’s teacher. Grandfather’s step brother worked in the palace’s museum as a curator.

My grandparents were the first generation in my family to come to the US from Thailand. With great courage and the goal of ensuring the security of their family, they moved all across the country, building their lives here and sacrificing everything for the benefit of their kids and grandkids. So, making sure I have a successful career is very important to my grandparents and gives them a lot of stress. I feel an overwhelming pressure not to let them down, even though I’m having doubts about my path. Since before I can even remember, medicine has al- ways been the track laid out before me. Grandparents, parents, friends - they all knew that I wanted to become a doctor - they even called me “Doctor” from when I was a child. Coming into college, pre-med was the plan and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I am a pretty deter- mined person and pretty stubborn. I was always taught to focus on long-term gains, so it was easy for me to put it off spending time with friends because I thought “This is going to be for the benefit of my career, which is more important than my friends or myself right now.” It was easy for me to delay that gratification. I’m a psychology student, and a lot of studies have been done on successful people, and their number one trait is their ability to delay gratification, and so I thought I had to be the same way.

But last June, the suicide of a close friend made me rethink everything.

Losing the Vice President of our fraternity to depres- sion and suicide was easily the toughest hardship I’ve ever been through. I’m still going through it; my fraternity is still going through it. We are a small fraternity and ev- eryone is close. Our friend focused on brotherhood and internal activities in his leadership role. We all remember him as one of the most selfless guys. He was popular and good at sports, and even within those sports he was always selfless and went for assists and passes. He never wanted to take credit.

None of us saw it coming; none of us saw the signs of suicide. None of us chose to look into some of the signs that in hindsight we should have picked up on, like sub- stance abuse, changes in sleeping pattern, changes in eating habits, and Anhedonia, the loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed.

After his death, I started thinking about how my life reflects my values. One of my major values is family, and I considered him family. But, when I think about the amount of time I spent with some of the people I think of as family, my behavior incongruent with my values.

Going through all this has given me a clear idea of what I want to do in the big picture: address the stigma around mental illness and mental health. But I’m not sure exactly how to get there. That uncertainty is really stressful for me because medicine is a pretty clear cut path in terms of how long it takes and all the steps that need to be taken. My pursuit of medicine has already led me to taking pre-med classes, volunteering, shadowing and feeling like I have to do all of these things to go into this occupation. I also get a lot of nagging from my parents and grandpar- ents about the path I’m on partly because they didn’t have to take all these steps to pursue their careers.

When I think about the reasons I wanted to go into medicine in the past, my reasons weren’t very strong. I would say it had to do with empathy and caring for people, but I know that you could have those values and not go into medicine. In reality I think my ego and my my identity was tied to becoming a doctor. I also wonder if I really just want to pursue medicine because it was the first occupation that I was exposed to. I think exposure at a certain age really sets you on a certain path.

That’s a long way of saying that I regret not spending time with my friend when I had the chance to. That hit me really hard when he passed away - and he passed in a way that shook me to my core. I find myself questioning my beliefs and my actions as a person. Since last June, my focus has been on people; less on my own career and less on my drive for medicine. We are a very people-centered society, and whether it is designing programs for people or working with them directly, psychology’s focus on peo- ple aligns with my beliefs. I think that’s what originally sparked my interest in it. Although I’m majoring in psychology, I never intended on becoming a psychologist or pursuing it in grad school, but now my interest has shift- ed into a graduate program related to psychology (and mental health specifically) as a way of honoring my friend and a way of redeeming myself. The stigma around mental health is a huge barrier. I wasn’t there for my friend, but maybe I could be there for other people or teach people how to be there for others.

Speaks 3.5 languages (Taiwanese, Mandarin, English and some Spanish). Eats cereal without milk. Only eats 1⁄2 a piece of gum at a time. Can cut people’s hair. Likes the art of paper cutting. Has been practicing the Chinese Yo-Yo for more than 10 years. Passionate about social jus- tice. How To Get Away With Murder is her favorite show.

Five years ago, I moved from Taiwan to Bellevue with my mom, while my dad and brother stayed in Taiwan. We’ve always been family oriented, so my Dad did not like the idea of us moving across the world. My mom was really supportive of the idea that I wanted to get an American education. My brother followed us to Bellevue a year after we got here.

My Dad told us he was ‘sick’ but he didn’t tell us what was wrong because he didn’t want us to worry. His health was never good. We didn’t ask him for any details and he didn’t tell us much. He had a construction business and he was always busy. By the end of my junior year, my brother went back to Taiwan and found out that my Dad had liv- er cancer. We decided not to tell my Mom for a variety of reasons. One was that her family has a background of depression. We knew she would not have go back to Taiwan to take care of him because she would put her children and our education first. I never really faced the fact of how severe the situation was with my dad.

My Dad’s business was also in really bad shape. He needed to be there for every step of the way but because of his health he couldn’t do that, so my brother went back to Taiwan to take care of my Dad and the business.

I remember one day I was talking to him on Skype and he sounded really tired. It was shocking. I hadn’t seen my Dad in a year and a half. We had been communicating with my brother who had a tendency to make things sounds better than they were. Five months after my brother returned to Taiwan, he called us and said that we should come back. I didn’t want to miss prom or graduation, but I also didn’t want to miss seeing my Dad for the last time.

A week before prom, my brother said we really had to come back. I talked to my counselor and told her that I needed to go back. I left Bellevue two days after my brother called me and went back to Taiwan for a week. I was planning on coming back the day before prom.

My Dad had already been in the hospital for a month. He was only 60 but he had aged and looked so much older. He didn’t want my Mom and I to return to the states, so I stayed at the hotel for the whole week. My plane ticket had been scheduled go back on a Wednesday night. I was alone with my Dad in the hospital room when my brother and mom were out talking to the doctor when something went terribly wrong and he was transferred to the ICU.

All of the sudden I was alone in the room because his bed had been wheeled away and all of the doctors had followed him. I was in utter shock. I visited him twice in the ICU before I left the hospital and he was basically non-responsive. I talked to him. I said I love you and then I left and went to my flight. I was really sad during the flight, and when I turned my phone on after we landed, I saw the text message from my brother “Dad is gone.”

Two friends picked me up from SeaTac airport and I had collected myself enough to appear to be fine to my friends. But then the song “I’ll See You Again” came on the radio and I started crying. I continued to cry and my friends came to my house and stayed with me. I still went to the prom the next day and I enjoyed it but a part of me wished I could have enjoyed it more.

The next week was my graduation. My aunt flew up from California, and she was the only family member who came to my graduation. A part of me feels guilty for leaving Taiwan and coming back to Bellevue after a week, but one week was the most I could do. His funeral was during the summer two weeks after graduation. I stayed there for a month and a half. I came back for freshman orientation. I’m always appreciative that for at least 18 years of my life.

Like mountains and snow and skiing. Addictive personality. Has a roommate who is a pothead (but he learned from him). Doesn’t like working out. Prefers to stay up at night rather than the day. Wears Vans. Looks like his Dad. Has a good relationship with his parents. Lost contact with his sister. Wants to have a child without getting married.

I was walking to get food with my friends when we saw a Itree and decided to climb it. Once up the tree, I decided that jumping was the most efficient way to get down. I immediately regretted that, as I was crippled by the pain that ensued immediately thereafter. I thought it was just a sprained ankle. I tried to walk but it was an intense pain that I had never felt before. I had to call my old man to take me to the hospital. The doctor told me it was a hard-to-fix ankle break and referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. The days went on and I had a date scheduled for surgery. They had to cut my leg bone, twist it back to get back to my ankle bone, using two plates and 13 pins to hold ev- erything together. This all happened the weekend before I was supposed to return to UW after winter break.
In all honesty, I was happy to be at home and recovering with my parents. Recovering in Seattle without my parents would have been hard. It was a setback in schooling. I was behind in my sequencing. I study Oceanography and Math, and there are some classes that are only offered in certain sequences. Trying to work back from missing a quarter is tough.  

I fell out of contact with people and a big part of me wishes I could have stayed more involved with my friends’ lives here in Seattle. My roommates had to set up our apartment and they didn’t have me as a helping hand, but they were gracious about it. It was nice of them to set up the whole apartment without me.

I was in Utah doing physical therapy for 3 weeks after the surgery. I was on crutches for three months and had a cane for a month after returning to UW the following quarter, which was rough. I couldn’t ride my bike, so there was a lot of walking which was painful, even with the cane. The cane was another thing to worry about, like in chemistry labs when you can’t sit down. As if chemistry wasn’t already hard enough, it’s hard to be a college student with a cane.

Very bubbly personality. Eats all the time. Constantly has a Starbucks cup in her hand. Commuting senior. Usually obsessed with her hair being perfect. Stops for every dog she sees. Loves being in the sun. Loves to travel. Loves to explore new things. Diagnosed throughout all four years at UW with anxiety, depression and ADHD.

It was the end of summer of 2014, and I was in summer quarter classes at UW. It was the week before finals. I had been in a relationship with the same guy for almost a year at this point, and one night we went out to a fraternity party. We both got pretty drunk, and my boyfriend embarrassed me in front of my guy friends. I took a step away from the situation, and went downstairs to get a glass of water. When I came back upstairs, my boyfriend yelled at my friend to the point where I had to take him out of the house to remove him from the situation.

We walked toward my apartment, and I asked him to let us in because he had my key. He told me that I punched him in the face, which had not happened, and then he shoved me into my shoe rack. We quickly got into a physical fight in my apartment. He flipped my coffee table in my living room, and then choked me up against the wall. We ended up on the floor and I started punching him, then he started punching me. I was crying on the floor, and then I saw him in the kitchen.

I was really drunk and terrified. I walked into the kitchen and saw a bent knife. I asked him to leave and he told me were breaking up. He finally left and I called my ex, who was still one of my best friends at the time. He said I needed to call the police. I called another one of my friends, and then I called my sister. I told her not to tell my dad. She called my dad ignoring my request and the two of them came to my apartment at 1 am. My dad called the police.

The police came to my apartment and my boyfriend was texting me to come downstairs. The police had me lure him into my apartment and ended up arresting him that night. The following day, I wished for something I had never wished for before. I really wished that the whole day before just hadn’t happened.

The next day we went to court and I saw him and his mom. I realized at that moment that I had been drinking too much. I loved him, but I knew what he did wasn’t right. I knew that my behavior wasn’t perfect either.

The next quarter I could barely complete my classes and ended up dropping one; I couldn’t emotionally handle what had happened. I went from 5mg of Wellbutrin to 100mg in the course of 2 weeks. I couldn’t communicate with him at all. I had to just trust the fact that we both loved each other, but we that we had each made mistakes. In December of 2014 at the final court hearing, they charged him with a misdemeanor instead of trying him with a felony, with the condition that he went to domestic violence counseling for a year.

A lot of my friends judged me for getting back together with him. But all five of those friends have since apologized - people don’t get it, but you can’t judge until you’re in that position. 

Rebuilding my life was really hard. I had so many days that I just sat in my bed. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t function as a human being. I was seeing a psychiatrist two times a week. I was taking medication. I didn’t get it. A few of my professors told me that I should take time off and come back to UW when I was mentally better. One professor accused me of just being lazy.

During the spring quarter of 2015, I really tried to rebuild my life. It was really hard for his family and my family. One of his sisters refused to talk to me even though we used to talk often; there was a lot of rejection. I was in four leadership positions that year and I just trying to do all these things ‘right’. Even if things were going right on paper, things didn’t feel right.




I started feeling abdominal pain. I got a pap smear after my doctor suggested it, but it did not come back clear. I thought maybe there was an ulcer or something. My test results indicated that I was positive for cervical cancer. I remember my doctor saying “You’re at full stage cervical cancer”. I heard what she was saying but I couldn’t process anything, so I hung up the phone. I didn’t tell anyone in my family and I didn’t tell my boyfriend. My sister was about to get divorced and my parents were each getting surgery so I didn’t think it was my place to come in and share my problems.
I had one professor who made me still take my accounting exam even though I had just thrown up right before the exam.
I knew I wasn’t doing well in school. I was already failing that quarter and I couldn’t change that. By the end of that year, my junior year, I had officially failed two classes and finished my leadership positions. I had seen a doctor of homeopathic medicine to treat the cervical cancer cells. I finally told my family what was happening.

I switched my anxiety and depression medications, which was frustrating to see what was working and what wasn’t. I started classes again during the Fall of 2015, and I just took one Accounting class. I was told that I had to earn a 2.5 in that class to get off the Foster Business School’s probation list. At that point, there was a lot of financial stress on my family, and we ended up selling our house. I was forced to work about 40 hours a week. I ended up earning a 2.3 in that Accounting class and was dropped from the Accounting concentration officially.

I ended up submitting a petition for a hardship withdrawal. It was New Year’s Eve and the committee had rejected my petition for a hardship withdrawal for a “lack of documentation of debilitating circumstance” arising after the 14th day of the quarter. My pre-cancer diagnosis was there, but it had happened too soon; it had to have happened after 14 days from the start of the quarter. I sat and bawled my eyes out. I got up and got in my car and I left to the beach and cried the whole way there.

A man walked up to me as I was sitting and crying in my car at Kennydale Beach in Renton. I told him that I was kicked out of my major at UW. He walked up to the side of my car, and he said that he was sorry to bother me but noticed that I was crying. He then prayed with me, and though he prayed to Jesus and I’m a Sikh, I was so  appreciative that it didn’t matter. He suggested me to me that I should appeal.

I went back to all of my doctors and had each of my doctors write me a letter. I gave these back to the committee to appeal their denial of my hardship withdrawal. I told them the type of person I am and how committed I was to doing well.

This last quarter, Winter of 2016, I went back and got another pap smear, and it came back clear. I continued taking classes and now I meditate every morning and pray to God everyday. Now, I’m living a life that I love. Four months ago and 12 months before that, I was contemplating killing myself and contemplating if I should still be alive. Having gone through all of that, I’m so grateful to be where I am now.

I’m back in my concentration and I’ll be graduating a year after I planned, but with a double major in Accounting and Political Science. I learned that the answer “no” doesn’t always mean “no”. If other people - a committee of Foster professionals - say that I can’t study Accounting - that doesn’t mean anything.

Left handed. Loves crossword puzzles. Avoids revolving doors when there is another option possible. Fluent in Spanish. Has had nine cavities. Has never had a pet. Grows basil. Would eat every meal out of a bowl if she could. Stellar homemade brownie baker. Owned Birkenstocks since before they were cool.

The friends that I made when I first came to UW were not my close friends. I didn’t connect with them at all, but felt like it was already too late as friend groups were already forming. I didn’t really have anything in common with them. The first time that I left campus for a weekend and visited my parents, I started bawling as soon as I walked in the front door and I didn’t know why.

My freshman Fall quarter was unexpectedly hard, but overall it was manageable; everything was new and everyone was having an identity crisis. But winter quarter was the worst. My roommate hated me from the moment she met me and she was rude to my parents. I seriously looked into transferring or moving home to the not-so-good com- munity college near my parents’ house and working in a local restaurant. Looking back, I’m really not sure what stopped me from doing that. I remember being so unbearably unhappy.
I went home for spring break and again I cried a lot. I remember thinking “I’ve got to pick myself back up”; I knew I didn’t want to be miserable forever. The last day of spring break, I hung out with my friend from high school 

and she invited all of her close friends. We rode bikes to Gas Works Park where we had a BBQ. I almost had a panic attack realizing that I didn’t have a close group of friends like she did. It was almost too much to handle.

At the end of spring break, I realized that if I wasn’t going to have a social life I was going to work on myself and that’s when I decided to basically stop eating. During winter quarter I had eaten a lot and I felt gross. I remember that during Passover, which was my first week back to school, I wasn’t eating carbs. When Passover was over I continued “the Passover diet”. The gym was right next to the dorm I lived in, so I worked out for three hours a day. I probably lost 30 pounds during the quarter. In all hon- esty, it was weird that that had happened to me because I have never been a person who constantly worried about her weight or appearance. But nevertheless, I developed a weird mentality where I thought I would finally be thin enough and pretty enough to make friends. I remember running into acquaintances who I hadn’t seen in awhile and they said “You look so good!” and I thought to myself, “Yes, it’s working!”

Looking back, it was a weird time where I needed to feel in control of something because I felt powerless to control other aspects of my life.

I went to Israel the summer after my freshman year and I felt good in front of all these pretty sorority girls. But, when I got back home to Washington, I had a lot of anxiety about gaining all the weight back and making backward progress.

Coming back to UW in the fall, I was pretty happy. I moved back to Seattle with a few people I hadn’t known well, but we got really close. I started a job in my department that I really liked and college was finally the way I thought it would have been in the beginning. I did gain the weight back, but I was healthier mentally.

Although it was definitely the worst, I don’t think I regret the experiences of my first year of college. I saw a side of myself I hadn’t yet – a helpless, scared and defeated one. And I made it through. Never again will I let the fear of reaching out and saying I need help keep me from being happy. It also taught me to not be complacent. I’m more confident in my ability to care for myself, rather than to depend strictly on others to support me.

Energetic. Loves the dawgs. Listens to loud music. Big sister. Emotional. Loving. Yells a lot. ENFP. Mostly eats cheese.

When I came to UW, I was doing Early Fall Start and I was adjusting to college the same way in which I thought that everyone else was. One day I was going down to the Waterfront Activities Center with a bunch of Early Fall Start students and one of the men in the group was making a bunch of jokes. We were getting along pretty well until he laughed that he “didn’t know which way I went” or something along those lines. I didn’t really know how to react, so I just laughed it off, but silently it got to me – and I didn’t know why. It made me really upset, and once we got back I went back to my dorm room and cried for a while. I think that I didn’t know it then, but as time went on, I really didn’t know which way I went - If I liked guys or girls or both. Facing this became my biggest challenge. A few weeks later, I pledged a sorority – the same way a lot of girls do – and I started going out, making new friends, and making out with a lot of random fraternity boys. I was having a lot of fun with the people I had met the first quarter at UW. From there, things went what I considered normal, like any normal freshman year goes.

I made some friends and found some community. I started getting close to an older girl in my sorority and before I knew it we were seeing each other behind closed doors. We were keeping it a secret from other girls in the house. I don’t know what it was for me, but we had an emotional connection. It was overwhelming. We loved playing sports. We would run around and do dumb shit on Denny Field. I ended up really falling for her and she didn’t feel the same way. She still wanted to maintain a friendship, which was not good for me, but I’m not always so good at doing what’s best for me. I wanted the friendship, but what I really wanted was the relationship. I took what I could get.

That summer we spent everyday together. I even still slept in her bed but we wouldn’t do anything. Then towards the end, she started seeing another girl. That was really painful for me, so I just stopped talking to her entirely. I still didn’t want to tell anyone, but when it was too much for me to keep to myself, I would talk to a confidante or two. For a long time though, it was just me. My group of friends didn’t know what was going on, and I had to put on the “I’m okay” front, but I wasn’t okay.

People were confused why we weren’t friends anymore. She isn’t someone that would have a falling out with someone, because she is a good person and never talks poorly of anyone. Obviously something had happened and we couldn’t say anything. It was mostly friends in her Pledge Class that asked her and I don’t know what the hell she said. As soon as we stopped talking is really when shit hit the fan for me.

I went through a lot of self-hatred and was really depressed that next Fall. It was me and my identity more than the heartbreak. It is still hard for me to identify as a certain way – now I would say I’m gay-ish, but it’s hard for me to put a label on myself. I feel like labels just put me in a box.

I was sent on academic probation after doing so poorly that quarter. I literally received a 1.1 in Accounting 225. My parents are really hard on me about grades, so I when I had to tell them about my grades that quarter, it didn’t go well. I was crying and it was a super tough conversation. I said it was a hard quarter and when they asked me why, I danced around the truth. I had to take their heat and move on with it because I couldn’t tell them what was really happening. They are very conservative and I was terrified of what they might think. My dad had once said that he could “never have a gay child.”

Winter quarter of my sophomore year – I knew I had to get at least a 3.0 in all my classes or I would be kicked out of the business school. Things were still not going well, so I started seeing a counselor. I would go in for an hour and cry the whole time, every time. It was the worst hour of my week. My counselor wanted me to do art-therapy. She would have me color a circle a certain way and then she tried to make me paste magazine images to a box about how I felt. I hated looking at those magazine clips, but of course I felt bad and couldn’t tell her that I didn’t want to do her suggested therapy. I was pretty disappointed with my experience in counseling, but I did let out a lot of emotion, and processed some thoughts that I didn’t realize before. For that I am thankful.

I remember being so scared. If I was gay, how would I tell my family? What would my own future family look like? Trying to imagine raising kids with another woman... for some reason this thought would always make me upset.

A few months later, I got hired for a job. It was for the summer, but training started in the Spring. As I got to know my coworkers and supervisors, I started to form a new community. Once summer finally came around, I started getting close to them. I made some really true friendships that I feel like I really needed. It felt great to expand my friendships out of the Greek Community. Everyone had such love and respect for one another even though it was such a diverse group of people. We all came from differ- ent involvements and backgrounds, and I started to ask myself how I could hate myself for being gay when I was finding myself becoming friends with other LGBT folks on the team. Everything about that summer helped me to find value in my true self.

Now I’m doing a lot better – that summer saved me. By the end of that summer, I came out for the first time to my whole team. I was truly my biggest enemy through it all, because they were so supportive and showed me that you can be whoever you are and it will be okay. I am gaining confidence. I like who I am, and I could not be more excited about my future family now. I do want to fall in love, get married and have children. I can’t wait. This Fall I came out to my sorority and it was super positive.

The last people to tell now is family – I’m telling my Dad tomorrow actually. I’m ready for it to be over. Even if it goes poorly, it’s done and there’s no one else to tell, except siblings and cousins and grandparents. But parents, they really make it final.

Raised in a Navy household. Born with Spina Bifida, so one leg is shorter than the other. Unable to play sports when he was younger. To this day suffers from incontinence; people don’t know that he has to wear pads. Is a leftie. Likes to use his hands to create things - not just art, but also music. Plays viola and piano. Was born to a family of Christians, but has found his own identity in Christ.

I was born outside of the United States in the Philippines Iand was born with Spina Bifida, from a huge cyst that grew during my infancy. My dad was in the Navy, so we moved from the Philippines to the U.S., where I had surgery. We first lived in Hawaii and then moved to Washington. Most of my childhood was filled with physical therapy and hospital visits. My dad would be gone for months on end in different parts of the world, so I spent a lot of time with my sister. My mom was the main parental figure in my life and she was the one who worked while we were at school and got our family relatives to pick us up. Whenever my dad did come home, my sister and I would hold hands excitedly leaving elementary school, because we knew he was home. We would be hand in hand, him in uniform leaning down and run into his arms. When he was home it was the absolute best.
For most of my childhood, I was very dependent on my sister. Our parents were always away so I was always with her. She was one of the people that I trusted the most. It also helped that she knew about my Spina Bifida because not a lot of other people knew about it. I didn’t want to make any friends because they would know that I might wet my pants and embarrass myself. I tried to keep to myself, so I never had close friends because none of them were like my sister. Growing up, I still wore a diaper sometimes and didn’t play sports. I felt challenged, and I knew I couldn’t do the things everyone else did.

In college, I was away from my sister and away from home. It was a fresh start. I did have some tremendous artistic talent, and I could hide my Spina Bifida for the most part. But I quickly realized how empty it was to only be recognized for my artistic talent. No one really knew who I was. Sure, they knew what I could do with my art, but I didn’t really have anyone I could trust. I realized I wasn’t really believing in my own faith and spirituality in college. I felt lost in that I didn’t know how I was designed. I be- came a part of a Christian community here at UW, which helped me realize that I didn’t need to be so worried about what other people thought of me. This is what makes me, me.

I realized the more I tried to conceal myself, the more distant I became from other people. I didn’t want to feel alone. I felt that my identity and my own faith helped me recognize that I could use my story to help others. Not everyone can see right off the bat that I consider myself a devout Christian. Something about how I see God made me realize how messed up I am inside, and that I need to give over more control to the universe.

I never really spoke to my parents about religion or my challenges, but I wanted to. I was never incredibly open with them growing up. They speak some English, but I don’t really know Tagalog. My dad and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, and I can’t be open with him about my own political views. My mom is usually right behind him, and she’s not very vocal. My dad is hard-headed. Sometimes I can’t believe what he is saying, but I know that everything is going to be fine with him. There’s noth- ing that will ever tear me away from my dad. During my sophomore year, I was a resident adviser and it was the first time being vulnerable about my situation. My parents were less concerned about my mistakes and accomplishments, but were more concerned about my life. They did a prayer for me over the phone, and it helped me realize that they are there for me, and that they genuinely care for my sister and I.

From my Navy upbringing, I would always go away from friends because I was afraid of them knowing my condition. It is part of my story to recognize this narra- tive and the gifts that were given to me. If I didn’t have Spina Bifida, I don’t know if I would have found my interest in art, and my gifts in welcoming other people, of paying it forward. I feel that all I’ve experienced has helped me see what I want to do in the future, which is to pursue a career in medicine, and help those who feel insecure about their own physical inabilities and defects. Even though I may feel different, I can still pos- itively impact other people’s lives.

I view myself as more than just a guy with a cane or someone who wants to pursue medicine or my artistic talents. It comes down to: what am I doing all of this for? As part of my identity, I think of myself simply as a servant. I don’t want to worry about what I can do for others. I want to use the short time I have on this Earth to leave some sort of a legacy or impact.

Has never been stung by a bee despite being outdoorsy. Has never broken a bone. Has never left the Pacific Northwest. Oldest of 4 kids. Able to run 13 miles at any point. Has met Stan Lee, creator of Marvel. Has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Plays piano. Car enthusiast.


During my senior year of high school, I was captain of the cross county team. I had met a girl, Sophia, through cross county. She had hurt her left leg badly with a stress fracture, so she only competed in two or three races. I didn’t have many friends in my lunch period, but Sophia and her friends would often sit in the hallway where I ate and we became really good friends. During that time, I shared a phone with my brother who is two years younger than me and on top of that I didn’t have texting, so it was hard to communicate. Sophia developed a little crush on me, which I figured out, but we used Facebook messenger to communicate.
Sophia lived about four blocks east of my high school and I would walk to school. Her father had moved, so she lived with some church friends to finish out the semester. They lived even closer to me than she already was, so we saw each other a lot. We were messaging one night, and she started dropping some massive hints, ones that even a guy could pick up on. We had one classy dance of the school year coming up, called Winter Ball, so I asked her friends if I should ask her to go with me. They said that she was excited.

After that night, we knew that we liked each other. We played piano together and watched Star Trek together. We had officially started dating, even though she was on the fence for a long time. That was really hard, having to wait for her to figure out if she wanted to date me or not. One day we were in Ballard and she looked really pretty. We walked through the Majestic Bay theater and Sherlock Holmes was playing. She suggested we see a movie, but I didn’t have any money, because I thought we were just going for a walk.

So, on my first date ever, she payed for me - which is progressive, but I thought I had dropped the ball. So, I de- cided that if we are in a relationship, I have to make a few moves - of the physical affection sort. I grabbed her hand to try to hold it, but she wasn’t into it. She said “Not now, we’re in public!” Usually if I get shut down once, it takes awhile for me to try again. I had messed up the interlocking hand thing; my hand was sweaty, and she even said so. I was so nervous, I even asked her for clarification, “Did you mean my hand or yours?” and she said mine. And that was our first date.

Looking back, I have learned to be more upfront and express my emotions in a way that benefits both people. We ended up dating for a while and having a really great time together, so it also goes to show that even when you mess up, things can still work out.

UW Staff Member.

I was 18 years old when I started college at Western Washington University not knowing anybody. I lived in the residence halls where I met a lot of friends, and had some intense friendships evolve over the year. I met one guy named Scott whom I really liked. I didn’t know him before college, but we spent a year together. Fast forward to the summer right after my freshman year, I went home to Seattle. I got a call that my friend Scott had died in a car accident. I was pretty floored. A few friends and I road tripped over to Eastern Washington to attend his funeral. It was a sad moment, but we sort of bonded over the experience together of losing a friend.

When we got to Eastern Washington, we bought some beer from a gas station. I had a goatee and no ID even though I was under 21. Luckily they didn’t card me. The gas station attendant asked me what I was doing in this small town. I told him I was here for my friend’s funeral, and being the small town that it was, everyone knew my friend. He said, “Gosh, it’s such a tragedy how he died.” I replied, “I know, car wrecks are horrible.” In that moment the gas station attendant was the first person to be truthful to me, as he told me that my friend did not die in a car wreck, but suicide by a shotgun.

It changed the tone and the news of the night. There was a lot of confusion and anger toward the truth. Why didn’t we know the truth right away? His family welcomed us in right away. The Catholic Church didn’t recognize suicide as a legitimate way to die. My world was just turned upside down. I didn’t have any details about why he did it. I didn’t know why we had been told he died in a car accident, or why people weren’t honest about what had actually happened. I spent a summer with his picture in the back pocket of my jeans. I had to somehow keep him close to me.

I was living at home that summer after the funeral, and my job was pushing a cart around a warehouse. There wasn’t a lot of talking to other people and it was a lot of solitary time, so for the whole summer, out loud and in my mind, I would have conversations with him. It’s possi- ble it was a coping mechanism, but I was compelled to do it. Sometimes supportive coworkers picked up on the fact that I was down or different but I would usually get defensive and ask them if they had ever lost a friend.

I went back to school once the fall started. Besides “talking to” Scott over the summer, and talking about him a bit with my friends, I didn’t do anything to try to pro- cess or understand what had happened. My friends and I medicated ourselves with a lot of drinking and drugs. We smoked a lot of pot as a way to dull and ignore emotions and pain. It was such an easy outlet. I didn’t seek out counseling. My parents knew that this had happened, but their reactions were super negative to the suicide. My grades didn’t tank, but I was just going through the motions. I tried to be a good person for other people, but didn’t do anything to proactively take care of myself.

We found out later from his friend that he had a back medication from a rugby injury. He would mix his pain meds with alcohol. He thought he had killed his friend in a car wreck. We also found out that he got a girl pregnant the first time he had sex. He didn’t tell anyone any of this information, but it made it clear to us the mental state he was in. All the information we found out later made the picture more clear.

I graduated and distanced myself from that group of friends. It’s been a long time since that happened, but there was still a cloud that hung over me in my early 20s. I continued trying to understand if choices like that are intentional. I had a lot of internalized anger toward the choice he made. I used that anger as weird justification for self-defeating behaviors, avoiding intimate relationships, and substance abuse.

I’m older and it doesn’t really affect me now. The experience of having a friend not reach out for help has made me an open door. I’m non-judgmental. It took a long time for me, not until my early 30s, to start caring about my physical and mental wellbeing. It took me a while to realize I deserved happiness and a future I looked forward to. At that time in my late teens and early 20s I just filled up space and time with people who weren’t that important to me.

Now I have a full life and that feels very good. I sought out counseling and that was beneficial. I see mental health, self-esteem, confidence and resilience as such important topics on college campuses. Through a lot of bad choices, I feel like I’ve become a resilient person through some of the down moments.


When I was 13 and in 8th grade, I had sex for the first time. Whatever statistic is out there, you always think that it will never happen to you – that you are immune to it, but it happened. I got pregnant.

My mom was always working. I was born in Mexico and we came to the US in 2001 when I was 8. My mom was always strict. She always had too many expectations of me. I knew the fact that I was pregnant would shatter everything. I was so afraid to tell her that I didn’t even know what I would say.
I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t do this all on my own, that it was both of us and that we together have to tell her. So we did, but it really changed our relationship. My mother had a lot of anger and was belittling towards me. My doctors were firm in saying that mom might not want to be in the room for appointments; when you are 18 you become an adult, or if you are pregnant you become responsible for yourself. But she wanted to be part of the conversation. They told us, you have the option to keep it, terminate the pregnancy or give it up for adoption. For me it was a question of guilt. I committed this act. This is the consequence, and this is how I’m going to make this wrong a right. Once we left the office, my mom did bring up the adoption idea. She knew a couple who wanted kids. They were lawyers in Olympia. It would be a good situation for the baby but it offended me.

I had been at a normal middle school but then my mom put me in an alternative high school that had a teen pregnancy program. Most of the kids there had been ex- pelled from the district; it was a place for them to ‘kind of’ attend. There was a lot of fighting and a lot of weed smoking on the front steps. I was 13 and then 14, and felt so stupid during that phase. I felt like I was in the wrong place. I don’t mean to speak down on the students that were there, but these kids needed a push or a drive. I was always a strong academic student. It was a really depress- ing time. There were other girls that were pregnant, but most kids thought I was there for fighting and couldn’t be- lieve I was there for pregnancy.

By the time I was 7 months pregnant, I had left home and was not living with my mom. I was trying to allevi- ate her of the responsibility. One evening when I was 38 weeks pregnant, I was taking a shower and felt mucous coming out of me. The next day, my son’s father dropped me off at my mom’s house. I yelled to her, “I’m in labor!”

I was trying to have most of my labor at home, so I didn’t show up at UW Medical Center until I was 8 cm dilated. Everything happened really fast; it was really weird pain. They asked me if I wanted a epidural. I was more scared of the needle than of the pain. The pushing and the aftermath was and is still a blur. My legs were shaking and I couldn’t control it. Two hours later, I really wanted to push. My body really wanted me to push. I had a really good nurse named Angela who was joined by six other nurses, my mom, stepdad, and two doctors. It was still awkward with my mom there. Your privacy is taken when you give birth.

Oscar was born at 11:25am on Wednesday, May 16th.

All this time, the ultrasounds made it seem like I was going to have a girl. He looked just like his dad. I felt like having a baby was going to change things especially my relationship with my mom. It made things ‘real’ for me. I thought, “Okay. I am 14, I just gave birth, and my mom is upset with me.” I didn’t want to leave the hospital. Time was paused there; I had time to be with my son. I didn’t have to think about the troubles that would ensue upon leaving the hospital.

Oscar’s Dad didn’t show up until after work, around 6pm. I went home with my mom after three days. I was now responsible for a baby. My mom didn’t help at all. I was up all night. Nobody ever tells you that breastfeeding really hurts. And going to the bathroom after giving birth– Oh my God! I remember a lot of emotional and physical pain.

It was May, and my school had given me six weeks of maternity leave so I had the summer to myself. Soon my son was old enough to be at the daycare at three months old. At this point I was really serious about what I wanted to do with my life. I had disappointed myself enough.

It was during the transition between sophomore and junior year that I was thinking about going to college – and that’s when it hit me, “Oh hey, I’m undocumented.” I felt like everything happening to me was negative. But I wanted to take my education seriously. I had a great teacher my junior year who was a father figure to me, and we still talk now. My mom and I had to work a lot of our rela- tionship. As long as I went to school and took care of my son, she provided me with support.

I told the people at Seattle Education Access that I wanted to go to college but didn’t know how. No one in my family had ever been. That’s when I met Jason and Cristina. I felt like I was surrounding myself with people who really cared about me. It comes back to worrying about what other people want from me. Maybe it sounds bad now, but it really helped me. I had no vision and it really helped me. They helped me apply to the UW. A lot of people were wondering how I was going to go to UW. I didn’t have healthcare, I hadn’t applied to FAFSA yet. My backup plan was always to go back to Mexico and to see how that would go. My senior year I did running start to raise my grades and make myself sellable. I was always thinking, “How can I stand out?”

I found out that I had been accepted to the UW but still wondered how I was going to pay for it. There were a list of scholarships available for undocumented students, but I did not get any of them. It was March of my senior year when I got a letter from the Costco diversity scholarship. I had been granted a $40,000 scholarship to the UW. I thought, “What do I do with this?” I called the number on the letter and told them “I don’t understand why I’m getting this if I’m undocumented.” The voice at the other end of the line said, “You’ve been selected as a recipient. When you submitted your application and your personal essay to UW, you got funneled into different categories for scholarships.” They looked at my application and the essay I submitted. I learned that it is a privately funded scholarship from Costco. I called Cristina back and it was true. I felt from that point, “Oh, I’m going to college.” I graduated, went to orientation and started my freshman year.

My first year was really shitty: I was still so lost. Just like high school, you navigate through it and you get better everyday. In college, it felt better saying that I was a parent than it had in high school. I became more open as a person and as a mother. Lolie is the support system I have here: I go to vent to her.

Time at UW has been going really fast. Oscar is eight and a half now, and in third grade. When he was in kindergarten, we noticed he was struggling a lot. His teacher started to email me, saying “He’s not really getting it.” He was assessed in the Center for Human Development and Disability and had an evaluation for special education. We found out he has expressive receptive language disorder, which means whatever he hears, his brain interprets it differently. After that, I knew he needed further help for his learning. He was put on an individualized education plan (IEP). For me that was really hard. I felt like everything was out to get me. Why couldn’t I just get one thing right? As a mom, it was hard on me to know my son had challenges that I could not fix. Once he got older we decided to reassess him, and that’s when we finalized his IEP due to a learning disability. Though a lot of it is just stated as a development delay – Oscar’s challenges were consistent and his disabilities affect all subject areas. He’s going to be nine soon and is barely reading. It’s challenging for him as a boy to go to school where all the kids are so smart. For me it’s hard to see that. As a full time student, I haven’t given him the time he needs. People tell me that it’s worth it for both of our futures, but time is still running – I’m not getting any time back.

I started to realize that I’ve always been interested in teaching. As an undergrad, I was really focused on becoming an Elementary school teacher. I applied to the Costco Diversity Scholarship again and even though I wasn’t going to apply because a lot of the fellows are STEM majors, I thought, “If I don’t apply, it’s already a no.” I decided to go for it.

When I applied to the Master’s in Teaching, the College of Education granted me $5000, which covered summer quarter. I went ahead with it and said, “I’m just going to go with it.” It wasn’t until Early August or so that I was granted the scholarship, which would cover not only the remaining 3 quarters, but two full years. That meant that I had enough money to do what I really wanted to: special education. Things were finally falling into place. Now it’s Winter quarter, so I’m doing my student teaching. It feels good to finally be doing something on my own will. I spend so many hours at school or student teaching that I miss my son and am spending less and less time with him. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve had a lot of help along the way. I might be undocumented, but at least I am getting an education.

There’s a song in Spanish, “The Golden Cage”. A lot of my family in Mexico thinks, “Oh, it’s so great that I live in the US,” but I don’t have a lot of free time and I can never leave to go home to Mexico. That’s my golden cage. A lot of people are distracted by the gold of the cage, but it’s still a cage.

Has Megan Fox Thumbs (toe thumbs). Used to play soccer on the daily. Wants to step foot on every continent. Candy Corn Enthusiast. Working towards fluency in Spanish. Is the third out of four siblings, but teased like she was the youngest. Aims for a career working with children. Thinks social interactions are the most important thing in life. Secretly wants to become an expert hip-hop dancer. Former captain of a unicycle team.

When I went to the UW Cadiz Study Abroad Program in Spain in spring semester, I felt like for the first time in my life I was doing something for myself. It wasn’t something to build my resume or build my ca- reer, but something that I simply wanted to do. It was the sunsets I saw during my runs each day, the culture, the family centered lifestyle and the openness of the people that made me never want to leave Spain. I was lucky enough to stay with a host family that welcomed me with open arms from the moment I stepped off the train. They showed me that life doesn’t have to be centered on career success and a prestigious job, but that family is what really matters. Spaniards work to live, whereas I feel as if in the US we all live to work. Everything about Spain just felt right to me: I could walk through the streets and smile and say hello to everyone without strangers giving me weird looks. Whenever classes had me stressed, I simply had to look around and see the beauty that surrounded me both in the happy, easy-going Spaniards and in the beautiful views. Every day I woke up with a smile on my face, and being able to smell the salt water on my walk to class or hear the church bells every hour added to my little bubble of happiness. It helped that my host dad was an amazing cook; he used the simplest ingredients yet somehow it all tasted amazing. Who would have thought that I would look forward to lentil and sweet pepper salad? Without all the stress of having to get the perfect grades and building my resume to get into the best grad school which would in turn set me up for a successful career and so on, I was able to relax and focus on day to day life and what felt im- portant at the moment. It’s the little joys in life that really made me appreciate everything, and Spain is full of the little things I love. I had the time of my life and really got to know myself, which made leaving extremely difficult.

I cried on the plane ride home knowing that I was leaving my fairytale world behind. I slumped into a weird funk – I wouldn’t quite call it depression, but something close to it. I wasn’t motivated to do anything, even when I was surrounded by a beautiful Seattle summer. I lived in a house of 50 people for the summer, yet even being surrounded by all these people and a few of my closest friends, I couldn’t become motivated to do anything be- sides coming home from work and laying in bed. I didn’t feel like myself. I missed the easy-going lifestyle of the Spaniards, and the sound of the ocean or church bells in the old cathedral that helped relax me so much. In Seattle, I couldn’t say hi to every stranger I passed on the street without getting strange looks in return. The complete sense of ease and being in the right place at the right time was no longer with me. I felt like I didn’t have the right to be sad, to be feeling this way when I was so lucky to have the amazing people that surrounded me in Seattle. I felt like I left part of me back in Spain. Yet at the same time I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just wasn’t my old self. I didn’t know what to do to dig myself out of this hole. If it wasn’t for my unbelievable friends I don’t know that I would have ever truly felt like myself again, or how long it would have taken to find myself again without their help.

One of the biggest problems for me was feeling like I didn’t fit in in Seattle anymore. All my friends had formed new friend groups, and even when I was be- ing invited I still felt alone and like the outsider. The only thing that really got me out of the house was my job. Luckily my friends didn’t give up on me. I slowly worked my way back to normalcy. It took a lot of heart to hearts for my friends to help me realize that I was still a part of their lives here. Even though it was a slow and painful process, now that I look back on it I realize I felt this way because I learned that I wasn’t the same person the last time I lived in Seattle. I went on a true journey of self-discovery and I eventually found a place for this new me in Seattle.

Ever since I left Spain, I’ve been focusing on ways to get back. One of the first things I did was research post- grad jobs and I was ecstatic to find one that worked perfectly for me. Although it isn’t set in stone, I will be going back to Spain somehow. If all goes well, I will be teaching English in the country that stole my heart. I’m itching to get back, and I know I will go one way or another even if I have to figure out my plan once I have landed in Spain. A part of me worries that staying in Spain for even longer than my first trip will make leav- ing again that much harder, but even knowing this I still

Has an obnoxiously large sweet tooth. Wants to deny being girly but in reality is actually extremely girly. Has cracked her head open 4 times. Loves cats but has always wanted a dog. Is obsessed with color coordination and organization. Loves paperwork and forms. Wishes that she played an instrument. Is more concerned about others than herself. Tries to avoid texting and walking. Comes from a loving, but crude family. Is her grandfather’s favorite grandchild.

When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I was first exposed to pornography. In middle school it turned into an addiction. I have a strong Christian faith and in my faith pornography is a bigger deal than most of society might perceive it. I’ve always kept it to myself. Especially as a woman, I have always kept it very secretive. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I went to a big church event in Tennessee, and that’s when I came to terms with my addiction. I felt so foolish and stupid and silly because of it. My church group leader was really taken aback. I knew that women aren’t necessarily known for watching pornography, and for that reason I was completely disgusted with myself. That event in Tennessee was the most public I’ve ever been about it.

To this day, I still don’t tell anyone.

Since then, I’ve watched it a few times as a pick-me-up. It is not something I do continually, like in prior years when the addiction was at its worst. Being someone who has depression and anxiety, it really affects me. I haven’t watched pornography in a long time. I was sick and tired of feeling horrible about myself. I’ve never admitted my feelings regarding pornography to anyone. I’ve never felt like I could open up about it.

The reason that this is such a struggle is because I don’t believe a pornography addiction fits into society’s norms of what a struggle should be. I don’t go out and drink all the time, I’m not addicted to alcohol. I don’t go out and hook up with strangers, I’m not interested in the hook up scene. It feels like a problem that most people wouldn’t understand or be sympathetic about.

The stories you have just read, whether in order or not, whether over the course of a day or over the course of a month, deserved to be read. Thank you for being that audience. Each person who bravely contributed a story did so under the advisement that “if even one person” connected to their story, the vulnerability it took to share it will have paid off. Vulnerability is not an easy trait to embody. No one particularly likes sharing parts of themselves that make them feel exposed, shamed, or embarrassed. While not all stories in this collective had those three traits associated, many did, and those are the three that are often kept most private. I challenge you, reader, to be more honest with your peers, colleagues, family and friends. Follow lead of the brave souls that are bound in this collective, and realize that the same effect that you feel now, you can inspire upon another person. If you don’t know what that looks like, start by being a bit more transparent about the fight it took to get to where you are now. Whether you know it or not, someone is looking up to you. You have the power to expose a more true reality of your path and make someone else’s path seem more doable. 

Cheers, to the true power of vulnerability.