I will go there with you.

In my last few posts, I’ve mentioned going back to the school for the first time in seventeen years. I’ve mentioned how much I learned in my two classes, and how much I absolutely loved taking them.

What I haven’t mentioned is something ever-so-critical affirmed for me outside of my classes.

In order to sign up for classes last semester, I had to take my school’s online intro-to-studying-here course. One section of that course was on violence against women;

this section included specific, explicit mention of stalking:

One in six American women is or will be stalked.

Since I’m studying public health, this was relevant to my studies. It was, however, more than that, relevant to my life:

In August 2019, I wrote here about telling a well-to-do woman I was being stalked. I wrote about her reality-denying response: “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!”

What she really meant was that she didn’t want it to be real, or common. By the magic of her wishing and her wealth, she could–for that moment–pretend it was not.

Attempting to protect herself alone, she failed to understand how her brand of (in)action is

exactly
how
stalking
keeps
happening.

(“It
just
couldn’t
be! Because
I don’t
want
it to
be”)

Some weeks ago, tears streamed down my face as I wrote an assignment for one of my classes.

Half-quipping, my husband asked, “How you gon’ help others heal if you start crying every time they talk?!”

I paused typing and looked over the lid of my laptop before replying, calmly and without tears,

“I am crying now,
so I can listen, later,
without crying,
when someone else
needs me to believe
and simply hear
her.

(My husband, bless him, Got It.)

One of the amazing gifts of studying public health is the company:

Students of public health tend to have some level of structural competency. Unlike many currently structurally-incompetent people who are personally and/or professionally sheltered from the often-devastating impacts of living relatively unsheltered in the real world, and who thus see only the tip of the iceberg that is “personal responsibility,” public health students understand that “personal choice” is but a fraction of the total landscape faced by any one person.

And also understand: Structurally, some people routinely face much, much scarier landscapes than others.

I, having grown up a preyed-upon girl raised in deep poverty–which travesties almost inevitably run together–and thus faced horrors that many currently structurally incompetent/hugely financially privileged people can’t fathom, am grateful to walk with those who implicitly Get It;

so many of us public health students have been forced, always, to see reality as it is,

not as we’d prefer it to be.

Before I understood the field of public health existed,

I always. felt. so. alone.

(Except among professionals such as
teachers and nurses, who cannot possibly escape reality and,
indeed, tend to run toward it, just in case their running-toward might
catch someone who would otherwise
simply
fall
away.)

Before I began officially studying public health, I was so caught up in being believed.

Now, I don’t care so much about being believed, personally. I care about restructuring systems so that “belief” is far, far less important than the pragmatic support that eventually makes flimsy constructs such as “belief” superfluous.

And I care about letting my someday-students know, when I am blessed enough to have such students, that:

Not only do I believe you, but: 
Those hard, jagged places where you fear to go alone?
You don’t have to go alone:

For all I have done unskillfully in my life so far, my one great strength is this:
Not only am I not afraid to go, but– 
having nothing to gain from pretending reality is other than it is,

I will go there with you.

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