Rude Assumptions

Over the past week or two I have had on multiple occasions the wonderful pleasure —- yes pleasure because education of others is always a positive— of being questioned condescendingly, shouted at, and passive aggressively laughed at about Zelda. For those of you that do not know, Zelda is being trained as a Service Animal, and I am happy to say her core task that is required of her she is already capable of and getting more receptive each day (even surprising me).


I do attribute that to her training classes, but also my early bonding with her from the time she was about 6-8 weeks old after she unfortunately lost her mother a day after birth— she is attached to me and receptive. However I still say “In Training” because she is young and all dogs need consistent training & refreshers and I plan on training her to do more service animal tasks.

As a precursor to the following I will acknowledge that there are many “fake” service animals put forth that serve no purpose besides companionship, never will and these people are often able to get away with it. Is it right? No. HOWEVER—- in the United States there is no set formal training for a service animal (each dog is different and each handler has their own needs), nor is there a required/regulated certificate as people claim on the internet, and lastly while service animals are usually wearing a vest they are NOT required to. What does this mean? This means on one hand it makes people who need service animals able to more easily afford their partner (formally trained animals can cost 10k or sometimes more to purchase) and choose a partner that fits their lifestyle/needs better. On the other hand it also leaves the door open for those just trying to game the system. My view is this: Are fake service animals wrong? Yes- if they are misbehaving and run around biting, growling, defecating and showing destructive behavior you are harming the reputation of service animals who would never behave that way. Should you assume every service animal you see is fake? No. I would much rather assume that you are genuine and truthful with your needs for a service animal until you (or rather your dog) prove otherwise, than embarrass you and cause you further stress which could even trigger your disability that you have the service animal for! If a dog is not being disruptive (also keep in mind depending on the disability the dog’s task could be to disrupt the person’s negative behavior, bark to alert for help or help their owner) and especially if it is not your place of business— mind your manners and keep your mouth shut. Pretty much: Live and Let Live is a good policy to have. Do not yell, feed, touch or play with a service animal even if “only in training” without speaking to the handler— more than likely they will deny your request if the dog is wearing their vest. It’s not a reflection of you, it’s the standard to help the dog focus and keep their training intact.

IMG_0850Okay, moving on. Overall I have had such positive experiences with Zelda in public, please do not misunderstand. Businesses like Costco, Walmart, Target, the mall, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, 24-hr fitness, Restaurants etc all welcome her, smile and wave— some associates even know her by name but politely resist the urge to pet her. Legally a place of business can ask you, “Is that a service animal? What tasks can he/she perform?”…they CANNOT ask you why you require a service animal. Many businesses choose to use the good faith method to avoid their employees asking inappropriate questions and opening the door for lawsuits. I am lucky enough to reside in California, specifically Los Angeles, where people (and businesses) just seem more progressive when it comes to service animals, service animals in training, and letting others “be” in general. Here places honestly don’t even ask me further than “is she a service dog?”. I know it is not the same in other states and can be quite difficult.

IMG_1699The negative experiences I have received have ALL been from individuals who I must assume have minimal knowledge of service animal rights, appropriate questioning or are just rude. It is okay to not be knowledgable about something foreign to you. Its is NOT okay to be ignorant and disparage the efforts or lifestyle of a service animal— it does more harm than you realize.


I don’t need to provide an extensive medical history for you, however I pride myself on being open when it is warranted or could assist in education. This is one of those times. Disabilities (although I dislike that word) are not always visible. I experience extreme anxiety, bouts of depression, and panic attacks. My panic attacks have been so severe in the past that it is not rare for my arms and legs to go numb causing paralysis. The first time this happened I was hospitalized for a week and had no warning or trigger for the event— I was unable to move my arms or legs for about 6 hours. IMG_1700Since then I have learned to understand the initial sensations when it is coming on and am able to sit or lay down for a period— drawing little attention to myself until it passes. It has never lasted as long as it did the first time. Over the course of the past year I learned about the help that a service animal can provide for these conditions. I proceeded to quietly research and then I found Zelda. She is my beautiful, smart, saving grace each day when I wake up. I have put so much time, love, energy, and (a lot of) money into my partner. So yes, it is very hurtful when people act ignorantly.

Here is a real-life perfect example of inappropriate behaviors in relation to service animals::


Yesterday evening I was at the off-leash dog park I often frequent with Zelda. She loves being able to run with the other dogs, take a break from “work” (surprise! Just like the rest of us— its her version of Friday happy hour if you will!) without her vest on, and lay around outside in the sun. We usually go to the large dog area and see the same people and dogs almost everyday. Its awesome and she has tons of friends. Yesterday we were meeting up with another dog for a playdate— this dog has been with Zelda through obedience training and they love each other, but the other dog is quite shy around other dogs besides Zelda and is still learning confidence. Because of this we went to the “timid” dog area. These dogs still play but not so rough and tumble, which is fine with Zelda— she is just happy to be with her friend. I was having a private conversation with the mom of Zelda’s play date about service animal training, needs, and tasks. She asked to genuinely try to gain knowledge and since I have known her for awhile I felt open to sharing my experience honestly. At this point a woman about 20 feet or more away from me (I am not exaggerating) proceeded to yell out “So you have a Fake service animal? You know they have to be well behaved for that?” in the MOST condescending tone. Keep in mind at this point, Zelda is simply walking around the dog park with her friend and wagging her tail and has done nothing to be labeled misbehaved by anyone’s standards. I will hence forth refer to this woman as “Rude Lady”. The dialogue continued as follows:

Me: “She is not fake, she is being trained…and she is very well behaved.”

My Friend: “Zelda is really well behaved!”

Rude Lady: “Okay well why do you need her??”

Me: “I’m sorry….are you asking me what my disability is or did you mean to ask what tasks she performs?” (at this point in an annoyed, corrective tone. I’m hardly going to shout across a public park what is “wrong” with me.)

Rude Lady: “Oh, right right. Yes, what does she do?” (still condescending, but clearly taken aback that I corrected her)

Me: “She performs Tactile Stimulation and is in training to perform Deep Pressure Therapy currently, and also Balance Assistance once large enough.”

Rude Lady: “Oh….well…okay, but I have worked with service dogs in the past and she doesn’t look like one.”

Me: “As someone who claims to have worked with service animals you have quite a disregard for how your inappropriate questioning here could effect me…..even possibly triggering an issue for which the service animal is here to help with. It’s pretty disappointing. Also….we are at a DOG PARK. Service animals come in all shapes and sizes— even giant breeds.”

Rude Lady: “Okay, just saying I couldn’t tell why you had her.” (with a smirk on her face.)

Me: “Again- Inappropriate. Have a great day— Im going to head to the other lot where people are less judgmental.”

IMG_0825I then let Zelda enjoy herself for another half hour at the other lot and reflected on my experience. On one hand it was terrible— genuinely triggering major anxiety. On the other hand I was able to first hand show my friend and everyone else at that park (since the woman screamed it) what it is like when you treat a service animal team so negatively….all while hopefully reminding this woman of her place. If she truly did previously work with service animals I am embarrassed that she is a member of our community with such little regard for others. So I suppose the lesson is….think before you speak!

Next week I will be in Florida with Zelda….wish me luck!

Make sure to follow Zelda on IG to keep up with her adventures:  @zelda_clermont

To learn more about service animal laws in your state click here.

To learn the difference between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs click here. 

If you are interested in donating time, money, or resources to help someone receive a service animal reach out to local organizations in your community.

If you have questions about Zelda or how I work with her— I will do my best to answer openly.

I Cried

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 at 11pm I cried.

I don’t like to cry— who does I suppose? But, further than that I don’t often let myself cry anymore. I’m not sure yet if this is a positive quality or not, but regardless it speaks to the magnitude of that evening. My body was tense, my heart pounding and as someone who has had several major panic attacks in the past I felt it rushing towards me like a train. I began breathing exercises and closed my eyes. When I finally opened them, there they were: tears. Inconspicuous at first, unsure of themselves and hesitant. Then I felt myself surrender to them— the rush of weight leaving your shoulders and the bittersweetness of crying honestly when no one else is near. I cried until my eyes were swollen, until my supply had run out, until my body was exhausted, until my heart picked itself up again and reminded me that there is work to be done now. So cry. Cry for what we potentially lost on election night, for the struggles to come, for our people who are bullied and targeted, for our environment. Get it all out now because ladies and gentlemen the next four years will require our strength, solidarity, love, and our will to fight— and that starts now. No change is immediate, so we must persevere.

When you protest do it peacefully and with poise. When you engage in discussions do it strongly, but without degradation. When you are confused, use meditation. When you are weary, find your strength in those around you— we will hold each other up. Darlings, this is not naive hope; this is not youthful misunderstanding. This, is the continuation of a beautiful revolution in the world around us.
I urge you to decide to be well-educated and not use social media as a sole source of information. I urge you to project Love & Light into this world with all that you do. I urge you to feel the world around you within your soul. I urge you to create networks of those you trust if times get bad. Have empathy, give kindness freely, do not be discouraged by the hate around you, and stand up. We all have our parts to give, from those in the streets with signs- to those donating money- to those using their knowledge for good.

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-7-29-47-pmI am not afraid of Donald Trump & you shouldn’t be either. I am, however, concerned that his rhetoric has given encouragement  and confidence to the wrong people. No, it’s not about him “hurting my feelings”– that he has not done, because I will not allow it. I don’t need to rant about his unconscionable actions & beliefs– we all know it, even if some choose to turn a blind eye. Together we are strong and because of passion in our hearts we are stronger than they can ever hope to be. To those of you in the past few days who have already experienced destruction, name-calling, physical violence– I am so sorry. So very sorry and I want you to know you have so innumerable allies who will continue to help you fight these injustices. Love trumps Hate.

Stand up for your friends, co-workers, strangers and future generations.  Things are not yet at their worst, and if we begin now they won’t get there, but we have to make a change. I want you to know that the rights violations being proposed will not stand because WE will not allow them. Do not be fearful, be active.

Love & Light,


Welcome to Los Angeles

For months I’ve been anticipating this move. Before we left for tour Dan and I sold  all our furniture, donated everything except for just a few boxes to Goodwill, and packed sentimental momtextitems and clothes away in preparation for when tour was over. My free time on tour was spent looking at houses on the computer, looking at new cars, discussing options with the guys and getting so excited to decorate our new place in LA. After tour,
we stayed in LA for a week to look at homes, cars, and locations. We fell even more in love with LA and the excitement built more. This past week in FL saying goodbye to our families and friends was bittersweet, but we were still ready to get back to LA. Now— as I sit here in the truck packed in next to the boxes, I find myself immediately feeling emotional— LITERALLY only 2 minutes after driving away. Staring out the window I feel tiny tears run silently down my cheeks. One at a time, then faster and faster until I’m pretty positive my eyes are now red and my makeup ruined. Thank the Universe for big sunglasses.

planeDon’t get me wrong— I am still SO incredibly anxious to get to LA and start this new adventure. Although I’ve spent so much time away from home traveling and branching out— I was always coming back to Florida, near our family, after however long. Now, this is different. This isn’t a trip, this is our new home. This is where our belongings stay when everyone is gone. This is where our car and bills and driver licenses point to. This is where we will be starting a whole new chapter.

Mom & Dad: Thank you for everything you’ve done.
momanddadThank you for your love & support over the years and especially these last few months while we have been gone on tour. Mom, I’m so proud of you for staying strong during chemo and radiation this summer. You’re so beautiful inside and out & words cannot express how thankful I am that you’re a fighter. I cannot wait to share these coming adventures with you— I promise I’ll call. Dad, Thank you for taking care of mom every day, but especially while I was gone. The love and strength you have given her during all of this does not go unnoticed.

Dan and I are opening our arms to life and keeping our faces tilted to the sun. This will not always be easy, but I believe it will be worth it and I’m so thankful we have each other to lean on. To all our friends in LA who have helped us move and find a place and of course put up with us— you’re all so very much appreciated— moving across the country is….hard. The page is officially turned: Here we go Cali! Time to make some memories….

Version 3


Sixteen Yr Old Me in the Crowd


16 year old Sydney

One of the first shows I ever went to was actually a Set It Off show— when I was in high school. It was when they were first starting out and at a small venue in our hometown. I was just a 16-year-old girl in her vans and her favorite T-shirt jumping around with her friends. You could feel the atmosphere around you hang heavy with the weight of our youth and our whole lives ahead of us. The future was unknown, but all that mattered was feeling the music and mentally escaping for the night. I remember us holding each other close and screaming the lyrics back with giant smiles on our faces. There is no better feeling than bonding with a crowd of people and letting go. I think so many people forget what that is like as they get older or especially when they start dating someone in the music industry.

I love watching Set It Off play & am so proud of them. Seeing my love and my friends up there doing what they love—and doing it so well— always makes me so happy. Seeing the crowd line up outside the venue for hours rain or shine and showing me all their tattoos and laughing— bringing people together— its a wonderful feeling. I attend a lot of shows with Dan and also tour with them in general, but I rarely go out into the crowd and usually watch from side-stage because it’s easier & I’m normally alone.

The Beacham 2016At the Orlando show on the Fight for Something Tour I decided to stand in the crowd with my girlfriends rather than stand side-stage like we usually do. As I was standing there with my best friend Crystal— singing every word, falling over laughing, jumping around and having such a wonderful time— it reminded me of why I first started going to shows and brought back so many memories. It was honestly very sentimental for me because we had friends and family there and here I am getting reminded of something that used to be so important to my sanity. When I heard Dan over the mic mention me, my heart stopped and I thought, “Dear Universe, thank you for giving me what I never knew I was asking for all this time. Thank you for giving me the gift of this man who brings such love and music to my life every single day. And thank you for putting me in this crowd to remind me of who I am.” I realized halfway through the show as I looked down at my feet and saw my dirty black vans:: that no matter where life takes us I am proud to still be that girl in the crowd who can let loose and let the music lift me up. We live in a world that is constantly trying to tell us what is supposed to be important & as we grow up we start to listen– make time to clear your head and find what lifts you up . Things have changed and I know they are only going to keep changing, but it’s important to remember who you are. I never in a million years expected to be on this insane journey with Dan, but here we are. Life is not easy and there is no way to tell what is coming next, but staying grounded is the only way to make it through successfully.

I really love all of you that come to the shows and are always so kind & wonderful when you see me— I really appreciate it– it’s so uplifting to meet you and feel your support for the guys. I get a lot of messages on Facebook or Instagram saying that some of you see me at shows and wanted to say hi or take a picture, but didn’t know if I would care or be annoyed. Honestly, I love meeting you guys and taking pictures. To those of you that I saw in the crowd on Saturday: Thanks for letting me jump around, sing, and be uplifted along-side you— see you next time!

Every Month

CrampsAs I was laying in bed crying and on the verge of selling my soul to escape the pain….I realized I’m probably not the only one who experiences this. One- because it would be really ridiculous to assume I’m the only person in the world who feel this & Two- because I also know from my education that this type of cruel agony is actually a medical condition. I realized pretty quickly this should be my next blog post.

Now, even if you don’t have these symptoms to this extreme or even often, we can all benefit from a little girl knowledge about our bodies and how to feel better…because…who doesn’t like to feel better?


Heat!  Menstrual cramps are usually caused when the uterus contracts (to help shed the lining) and the blood vessels in the uterus become constricted. Heat is believed to open up blood vessels & relax the muscles to help relieve pain in general and this time is no exception. Heat has also been shown in studies to block the effect of the chemical messengers that alert the body to pain. Using a heating pad on your lower abdomen, right below your belly button is a great way to relieve the pain especially at night while trying to fall asleep and it’s my go to. Taking a hot bath or shower is also a great option.

Over the counter meds! For the best chance of relieving your pain choose medicines that container-advil-tablets-62422860contain Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc). Ibuprofen is an example of an NSAID medication (NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) that works by blocking the inflammatory reactions that cause cramps. It works best if you begin taking it as soon as you start to feel symptoms coming on, rather than waiting for it to get worse.

Cut back on caffeine! Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor- it constricts blood vessels and raises tension levels. Instead of drinking coffee try herbal teas with low caffeine levels. Herbal teas can also help relieve pain and relax the body. One of my personal favorites is the Blueberry SlimLife green tea by Yogi Teas….plus they have cute little quotes on every tea bag— which of course you know I love. Make sure to also get plenty of water, because it will help prevent acne, bloating, and help your body run more efficiently.

EAT…well! Try your best not to give in to bad food cravings…I know, it’s hard. If you’re like me chocolateand love chocolate, try eating dark chocolate instead. It will help relax your body, satisfy the craving and keep you happy. Grab a banana as a snack to help reduce bloating and assist with reducing painful symptoms. Spinach and other dark green veggies are also superfoods to help relieve cramps and make sure you’re getting all the vitamins you need.

Endorphins! These little babies are our bodies own way of fighting stress,  relieving pain, and enhancing pleasure. Endorphins work by interacting with receptors in our brain to reduce our body’s perception of pain and cause feelings of happiness. They work similarly to drugs as strong as morphine, but are all natural and don’t lead to negative dependance the way drugs can. So how can you get Endorphins? Eating dark chocolate, eating spicy foods with cayenne or jalapeño peppers, ginseng consumption, and laughing (yes laughing, so Netflix those comedy specials girl) can all release endorphins. You can also get a nice boost of endorphins by exercising (even basic movements like walking, swimming, or yoga). One common recommended way to relax and get a boost is to have an orgasm. Yep, I said it. Whether with your partner or by yourself, having an orgasm can give you that rush of endorphins needed to help manage your pain symptoms (practice safety ladies!).


More To Offer

bod·y im·age


  1. the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body.

“Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies.”

When sitting own to write this blog post, as I began really thinking and considering viewpoints, I became very torn on the subject. On one hand I am a firm believer that we should be trying to break the rules that have us, as women, thinking our looks are the most important thing we have to offer— on the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the fact that negative body image is a prevalent issue. I’m going to focus this post on overall body image and feeling good about yourself. But I want to go on record first to say::

Inside each of you is something so much more important than what you see in the mirror. Inside each of you is a beautiful miracle in and of itself. Your capabilities to be a  thinking, hard working, kind, hopeful, learning, emotional being that impacts this world are so far above and so much more valid to define you than the size of your waist. That is what makes you beautiful.

After the incident last year the positive body image I hard worked so hard to achieve took a dive. I began to see my body as a dirty or inappropriate thing and no longer felt like my confident self.  I stopped caring about my health. I didn’t feel beautiful or sexy because I didn’t feel like I deserved to & that my previous confidence somehow made the incident my fault. I began to hate my body and that’s wrong. Our bodies are beautiful amazing things, especially as women. As someone whose college degree focused heavily on science, even without talking about aesthetics or physical looks— the female body is an amazing thing. We are beautiful inside and out and until we begin to truly believe that we will not be happy. With the help from my significant other and meditation I am starting to be back to my old self and refusing to be ashamed of my body because of someone else’s misconduct. Loving yourself and your body is a daily choice and it’s worth it. People always say to choose your battles wisely and this battle is worth fighting.

We cannot change the world over-night. But we CAN change our outlook and refuse to internalize these negative feelings about our bodies. We are all guilty of focusing on the physical traits about ourselves that we dislike or letting others make us feel badly, every single one of us. So my take on body image is this: there will always be negative things out there— people preying on our deepest insecurities & ready to point them out– so why do we do it for them? Let’s project out enough love, enough kindness, enough joy, enough acceptance— that it comes right back to us. At the end of the day happiness is an internal journey, not a result of our surroundings.

I want to encourage you to pause reading this and do the following::

  1. Look in the mirror or selfie camera from your phone.
  2. Find 3 things about yourself that you love. Three positive things and make one of them not something about your looks. Be honest and don’t try to just get it over with. Really consider yourself and then compliment yourself on these three things.

For some people this may be very easy, but for others it may have been a bit of a challenge. Keeping that in mind I want you to consider how often you genuinely give compliments. How often do you honestly and sincerely compliment yourself, friends and family on positive traits? I am of the belief that kindness and love are contagious. There are a lot of negative things in this world and we should get in the habit of counteracting those negative experiences any way we can— spreading love and giving thanks is a start. The mantra is simple, Love & Light, but the daily practice can be hard— so here’s a little help…

Alright, Love & Light Challenge, time to help uplift!


My Daily Alarms

I want you to set a new silent daily repeating alarm on your phone (so you’ll get the notification, but not the sounds) for about 3 hours into your daily routine. This alarm title should be “Compliment.” Whenever this alarm goes off during your day I want you to stop and give a fellow woman nearby a genuine compliment— it can be about anything— and then give yourself one too! I also want you to set a second silent daily repeating alarm (towards the end of your day, maybe near dinner time) with the instructions “Thank You”. When this alarm goes off I want you to verbally give thanks for something. You can tell your mom thanks for cooking. You can say I’m really thankful that I passed my math test today. Literally anything you are thankful for that day— but make it genuine and make sure you verbalize it to someone else. These two simple actions will help you form positive habits that help ensure you don’t become focused on negative feelings— I know it helps me.

I rSydney4065eally want to make Love & Light challenges a consistent thing. I want to make them spontaneous, random, uplifting and fun— so make sure to follow me on snapchat to stay in the loop:: Sydney4065. We can make this world a better place and it all starts right here. You can always message me anonymously through the Wondr App if you need some extra motivation.
Remember— there is so much more to you than what the world expects you to look like— positive body image happens when you stop focusing so much on trying to be something you’re not and focus on loving yourself & who you are. At the end of your days it won’t be how “perfect” you were that matters. It will be the things you experienced, the lives you positively affected, and the love you gave that matters. Laugh with friends, read a good book, enjoy the sun on your face, eat good food, and get some exercise so you can stick around on this Earth as long as possible. Stop worrying about being thin or looking like your favorite celebrity and instead make health your goal— mind and body both.

Ps. Don’t forget that all blog post requests are still welcome!

A Year

It’s been a full year now. 1 year. 52 weeks since my world was turned upside down and 52 weeks since the thing that you think could never happen to you….happened to me. When I decided to start a blog, I’ll admit, this instantly came to mind as the topic for my first post. Not because I necessarily intend my blog to focus on incidents like this but, because I want my blog to be honest. Desperately honest. And this was honestly the most jarring thing to ever effect my life as an adult. I want this blog to be a safe space. I want readers to feel that they are not alone, and on top of that….welcomed with kindness and understanding….regardless of the topic we are discussing.

I will not be revealing names or personal specifics like that within this post for two reasons: the person isn’t worth my time (they have already taken up enough of it this past year) & I don’t mean for this post to be about them, it’s about my experience and being open about it. This is me closing the door on them. By finally being open about my experience and refusing to let my anxiety keep it bottled up I am releasing the negative energy that has been weighing me down.

So here it goes: I am going to type the sentence that I have been avoiding at all cost for an entire year — “I was sexually assaulted.

Simply typing the sentence genuinely makes my skin crawl. I am not the type to be a victim of anything. I am a feminist. I am a leader at work. I am the person everyone runs to when trouble strikes and for advice. I’m optimistic and smiling. I’m Sydney— these things don’t happen to me. Until it did happen and I questioned almost every part of myself. This past year I have worked and struggled to get back to myself, to who I am, to the me that I worked so hard to become before the incident. I don’t know if I will ever view things the same as before— I will likely never be that person again. In some ways that is terrifying. In other ways, it has allowed me to truly find myself and decide what my priorities are in this life.

As a society we teach our women not to dress a certain way, not to drink too much, not to be alone with people we don’t know…in order to prevent these incidents. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t dressed inappropriately (I was wearing a bathing suit), I was not wasted (had a few glasses of champagne over the course of several hours), and unfortunately I was with someone I thought was trustworthy and nice. And yet here I am— writing a post about my sexual assault. And to be perfectly clear: even if I was naked, wasted, and in ill company…I still would not have deserved it or been asking for it. That’s the most absurd thing society teaches women today and I hope maybe this post can make even one person see that. It could happen regardless of who you are or how you behave. Victims are not to blame. Ever. Yet it’s completely common for victims to feel guilty afterwards and be too scared to tell anyone— even their significant other or family. Even knowing I did nothing wrong I still felt ashamed and conflicted.

There are several things that stick in my mind about the incident. I remember having a nice time and then all of a sudden it wasn’t nice anymore. I vividly remember my arms being held by one individual, while another touched me inappropriately, trying to remove my bathing suit. I remember tears and a feeling of panic that Dan would think I cheated on him and wouldn’t believe that I didn’t choose this. I remember wishing he were there to save me, instead of gone on tour overseas. I remember saying “Please, I don’t want to cheat. Please.” and I’m honestly still not sure why I thought sexual assault would be cheating— another example of why we need to change the way our society views these occurrences. I remember their responses of “This isn’t cheating, no one will tell him right? He will never know. This doesn’t count.” I remember thinking, Please, let me wake up. This isn’t real. I’m going to wake up now. Wake up. I remember the breath on my skin and the tightness on my arms. I remember hearing them negotiating over my body as if I didn’t matter— “What do I get if I do this while you watch? A weekend vacation?” I also remember a moment of resignation — and closing my eyes tight in hopes I could just pretend I was elsewhere — I gave up, the thing we, as strong women, always tell ourselves we would never do…but eventually you do.  Then, most importantly— I remember a sudden, desperate moment of determination — and kicking & screaming until they released me. I tried contacting everyone and anyone I could think of, but it was late and Dan was overseas without service. Looking back at the texts, I know I was going through shock…they were simple and made no sense: “Help. Im scared. Please help me. I want to go home. What do I do?”–things that make no sense out of context. I’ve been asked before why I didn’t call the police— and I honestly don’t have a clear answer for that. I remember thinking: Sydney, don’t make them angry or let them know you’re not okay. Pretend. You got away and they are leaving you alone now so just make it home and it will be fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. Just go. So I went. I sat in the car with one of them as they drove me home and they tried to make light conversation— clearly testing the waters to see if I would tell anyone. I sat quietly, terrified, and couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.

My face was swollen from crying, I had bruises down my thighs and on my arms— I cried to the point that I physically threw up. When Dan had cell service and received my messages, he was there for me, as were my two closest friends. He did not blame me as I oddly feared during the incident— nor did he break up with me. He told me he loved me. He asked me details. He told me I was crazy for thinking he would leave me. He supported me and was there for me, as did the rest of our friend group. I am so grateful to have a group of individuals— they know who they are— who were there for me, no questions asked. Not everyone is so lucky.

Throughout this past year, I have had moments where I felt strong and felt that I was healed. I have then in the very next breath started to cry simply because that person showed up in my Facebook newsfeed and I couldn’t fathom how they continued to exist. I have had moments where I lashed out at others for seemingly no reason. I have had moments where I terribly pre-judged others based on shared qualities with the person in question. I have had days where I felt depressed and hopeless. I have had nightmares about it that felt so real I woke up sobbing and waking Dan, next to me. I have had moments where I mistrusted and alienated someone from my friendship based on no fault of their own—but out of distrust for new people.

I have also however had good days. I have had days where I look at my loving partner and cannot stop telling him how much I love him and appreciate his ongoing support for me. I have had days where I don’t think about the incident at all. I have started doing the things I love again. I have had moments of determination to help others going through this, like now. I have had thoughts of a future where this will almost seem like a story I read somewhere— instead of something that I experienced. I have days where I feel like myself.

One thing that especially changed was my outlook on how I present myself. I was always a very open, carefree, and social person. This incident made me suddenly question my feminist views. I began to blame myself for what happened, thinking: “Do I seem like I deserve that? I mean, did I deserve it?” It took me some time to get back to myself and re-aquaint myself with the true nature of things. And I want to stress the importance of, as women especially, not listening to the constant stream of insults, judgements, and ridiculous expectations people throw at you (and that at times we are all guilty of subjecting others to). It doesn’t matter what you wear, how subdued you are, how much makeup you choose to put on, or if you choose to be friends with mostly guys. What matters is your character; how you treat yourself and others. Be your genuine self and try your best to extend a bit of kindness to others every day–because you don’t know what they may be struggling with. One of my next posts will address this more in depth, as this is something that is a constant work in progress for us all, especially as women– we should be uplifting one another, carrying each other through these hard times– we have enough working against us already.

What has gotten me through this past year is this mantra: Love & Light. Wherever I go—whatever happens to me: I will trust and focus my energies on kindness, goodness, and positivity. I will not be a victim in any sense & I  will not allow others to determine how I live. I will take each day at a time and focus on my goals. We can overcome anything in this life with Love & Light. As Rumi said: If light is in your heart, you will find your way home. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Join me?