>> 25 July 2014

Ten years ago, I was sexually assaulted by my college professor. I was 17, a summer freshman, and new in a town where I didn't know many people yet. I'm not exactly sure why I decided that I needed to write about this right now, but it may be in response to the feelings that have been stirred up by this post. If I could talk to myself ten years ago, I would say similar things. Don't feel bad for being scared. Don't tell yourself to let it go, because it won't go away. You're going to be ok someday. The classroom will be a safe haven for you again.

The details leading up to the event don't really matter that much. He was young and cool, but married with a family, and in my youth I thought that meant he was safe. He stayed after class to chit chat with us and smoke cigarettes and in my naiveté I just thought that meant he was friendly. I don't remember anything he ever said apart from during the event, nor even the sound of his voice. I remember the papers I wrote for his class, but not what happened during class. I blamed myself for every outfit I'd worn, every conversation we'd had, every time I had smiled or laughed, or tried to put something clever in my papers.

The aftermath is what I remember the most. I cried and cried and cried. I threw up a few times for no reason. I had to sit in our small class every single day and face him. I told a few of my classmates, who formed a sort of protective barrier around me. I partied really hard with complete strangers; I got drunk and let a guy cut all my hair off with clippers. In the back of my mind, I thought that maybe he would stop looking a me like that in class if I was uglier. But the worst part came when I told my boyfriend. I had waited a few days, and I was convinced that he was going to be furious and break up with me. In my guilt, self-blame and self-loathing, I had construed the event as 'cheating', but my boyfriend nailed it for what it was: sexual predation on an underage girl. He was furious alright, but not with me.

Even then, it didn't stop me from blaming myself. I worked harder than anyone on the rest of my assignments to make absolutely sure that the grade I got in the class was the grade I had earned. I already considered myself a good writer, but when I got that A, I still didn't feel better. I questioned myself and the whole institution of college and wondered if the rest of academia was like this. For a while, I tried to take classes with female professors. Two years after the event, when I was failing Latin, I contemplated how much easier it would be to earn my grade in other ways (I had also just seen The Life of David Gale, which was set at my university and had similar themes). I realized that I was still not okay, and dropped Latin (and my Classics major) that very day.

Nowadays, I hardly ever think about what happened to me ten years ago, and when I do, it shocks me just how fresh that wound still is. I wish I had been brave enough to report him. I wish I would have known then how wonderful academia would be for me someday. I wish I had believed the people around me who said that it wasn't my fault, and that it didn't change who I was. I did change, but in good ways. I became more cautious, more watchful, and more caring, but I remained myself, which is who I still am.


Overwhelmed, but ok.

>> 18 July 2014

I had a lot of realizations in 2012. I realized that I cared deeply about what was happening to the languages in East Timor. I realized that I needed to learn more about the development of curriculum, educational policies, language policies and the intersection of all these things. I realized that I had married someone that I was not in love with, and my choices in life were pulling me even further from finding that love. I realized that I needed to start seeing a therapist to deal with what was becoming a critical inability to deal with my anxiety.

Fast forward to today. I see my therapist when I reach the point that turning on the coffee maker before schedule gives me a panic attack, and I'm not the least bit ashamed. I'm divorced, and it only bothers me sometimes.  I have worked to learn everything I can about what is happening in East Timor, and what it means for the future of that country and others. And I'm temporarily leaving my PhD program to go work in the Ministry of Education in Timor-Leste, collect data for my dissertation, and continue being present in my life.


Am I an expat in training?

>> 05 December 2013

The other night I got an overwhelming wave of wanderlust, and wanted to go somewhere- anywhere. I consoled myself by remembering that I was *just* in Thailand last month and that I'm about to spend a glorious three weeks in the Promised Land (Texas). The next morning I realized it wasn't a travel itch, it's that I'm ready to go back to Timor. There's something about that country that draws me back almost as soon as I've left. When I'm in the US I feel like I left something really important behind and I need to go back and figure out what it was. I read Timor blogs about *everything*, even things that I don't particularly care about. I have google alerts set for all things Timor and language. I read about Timor all the time, I think about Timor all the time, and all I want to do is get back there and work. On my first trip, I thought expats that I met in Dili were nuts and I largely ignored them. On my second trip, *they* embraced *me* and while I loved living with my Timorese family, I was very grateful. I think they recognized me as a future member of their weird club.... we'll see!