I am an educator.

I remember my mom sitting next to me at the kitchen island in tears. We finally talked out me being gay, choosing to be me instead of hiding among the other faces in the crowds, giving myself the best chance at finding love. She knew I wouldn’t be a silent gay, she knew I wouldn’t be shaken by ignorance, and she knew I would be a voice for the queer community. She never said those things, but she knows what kind of person I am. I have always been unable to be silenced, I have always been passionate. I stand up for what’s right. Being gay is an extra step in everything I do – from holding my girlfriend’s hand at Target to renting a townhouse in a conservative community or trusting new friends, colleagues, students with my true identity.

It’s an extra thought behind almost everything… like today, I am meeting a landlord to look at a townhouse and it’s a townhouse for my girlfriend Jessy and me. I called her a roommate over the phone. Not because I am an inch ashamed of her and our love, it’s for safety, it’s for a nonjudgmental chance at this property, and frankly, it’s none of his business.

It’s an extra step in life and it will be. It’ll get better, I hope, depending on which community, city, state, neighborhood we choose long term. All of these decisions will be made intentionally. It was advised to me by other gay couples who have bought houses, moved to several states, and have lived through different legislation on their lives. It’s a part of my reality.

So when my mom cried, she was not upset about me being gay. She is proud of me for being me and wants happiness for me. She cried because it adds a layer to the bullshit society layers on people who buck the norm. The white, straight, Christian male norm. If you aren’t all of those things, you’re marginalized. You, in some cases, are a “pre-existing condition” under the new healthcare plan set by our presidential administration. #womenunite

I looked at my mom and told her that I will never be silenced, I will never not be myself, I will never ever not love who I want to love or get where I want to be in life. Being gay isn’t a symptom of a harder life. Being gay is a part of making me happy. The LGBTQ community needs my voice, it needs my passion.

I am an educator in Des Moines; in one of the most diverse districts in Iowa. I am also an educator in my friend group; a very straight friend group. I am an educator to my acquaintances; a both close- and open-minded group. Every single person is an educator. It is my job to educate my students on English and journalism. It is also my responsibility to make them see their peers as their brothers and sisters, teammates, and supporters. Although I teach many of my family and friends about proper grammar in a fun sense, when they want to learn more about LGBTQ topics (not ‘issues’ because I am not an ‘issue’), I am their educator, pointing them to what I know and then referencing articles, laws, and resources to help them understand further.

I will be educating the people around me until the day I die, hopefully not so intensely in a few years when the younger generation takes over in the government. But I knew damn well once I came out as gay, I would be accepting that role. I knew damn well I would be challenged with hard and honest questions. I knew I would be discriminated against, bullied, misunderstood. It’s hard for anyone not to be anymore. But I knew this going in, so when my mom in tears voiced her concern, I hugged her and told her it will all be okay and I will rise above.

I will always rise above.

So even though many people don’t understand how this year has been brutal to my identity and have been too busy with their own lives to clue into the reality of our nation, I will always be here to educate them on what actually is happening with the queer community. I will take it with as much grace and patience as I can. I will walk away and come back refreshed when needed. I will research more to help them understand. I will sleep on it and then come back with answers. I will create visuals, words, essays, to help them see what’s fact… and what is, well, alternate facts.

Why don’t I just ignore it all? Why don’t I “let it go?” Why don’t I “just live and stop pushing my beliefs on everyone else?” Why don’t I just support our nation’s leaders? Why don’t I just show more grace?

Because the moment I do, I might as well stop living all together. I am a person. I am a woman. I am a gay woman. And until people don’t feel shook to say the word “gay” out loud in any venue; until “gay” isn’t an insult; and until I can have the rights that straight couples have, I will not be silenced. I will fight harder, louder, and with more passion than I’ve expressed yet. I am unshakable. I am loud.

I am an educator.


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My catch makes me a good one

Someone recently asked me what my catch was. They had thought I would be scooped up by now from what they know of me. My answer?

“I don’t think there is a catch.”

I asked a few friends and they all shook their heads in thought and said something to the effect of “well… you work a lot.” Their voices raised in question at the end of that statement.

One friend joked that “well…you ARE crazy.” Then laughed, patting me on the shoulder.

Those are both true, but I define my kind of crazy as being passionate and driven in something a person puts time and energy in. For example, I’m crazy about my journalism program at North. I’m crazy about Taylor Swift. I’m crazy about teens and their infinite potential. And if you pay any attention to me on any platform, that shouldn’t be a shock.

So after washing this through the many filters of my brain, I decided those weren’t catches. Being passionate and driven in your career should be an asset to a relationship, and to a person in general. It shouldn’t be something to block out goodness or create stress. It shouldn’t stop someone from loving me. It shows commitment to something, it shows success. And in my profession, teaching, it shows unconditional love for young people who need someone who’s crazy about them.

So when someone who is becoming more and more important to me asked in awe what my catch was, and my friends determined it was my work ethic and being a little crazy, I had to disagree.

I disagree, wholeheartedly.

My heart is full in the sense of all the kids who live there and continue to move in. My job is what I’m passionate about, in most definitions of the word passionate. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have room for someone special. It doesn’t mean I can’t be crazy about them as well. It doesn’t mean I can’t have more priorities. It doesn’t mean I’m unlovable. It means quite the opposite.

There’s no catch. But can I twist those words and say that I’m a catch? Because without being too modest, I am. Call me crazy!

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Gay means happy, and other synonyms people don’t talk about


By Jennifer Dryden
Written: March 6, 2016

I can remember sitting in the audience at dance dress rehearsals watching girls dance on the stage in full makeup, tights and sparkles. I remember being in full makeup, tights and sparkles myself waiting for my class’s number to be called to go line up backstage. It was all such a rush at four, five, six up to 15 years old. When I reached adolescence, my mom and I started calling this week “Hell Week” because juggling rehearsals and school was hell. Probably literally for her.

But I remember always being excited for this one girl’s routine and it was because she was beautiful, and she was so good at dancing, front and center every time. I remember watching all the routines and cheering with whoops and hollers because innocently I loved dance class. And I lived for the recitals because we all were a big dancing family. My dance class became my friend group in my single digit years and as I grew up and away from many of those same girls in school, we would always stay on pretty even ground because of our childhood dancing together.

I never thought I was gay because I admired the girl on the front and center mark in the dance routine, nor did I think the fact that I always singled her and a couple other girls out was an sign of being gay. I figured I just admired them, I wanted to be like them; I wanted to be their friend. But looking back, these were some of my first crushes.

Innocent crushes like the ones you’d laugh at about your son and the little girl next door who ride bikes together after school. “They’ll get married some day,” parents like to say over a glass of probably well-deserved wine on a playdate.

I remember the heat in my chest and the giggles I’d let slip when she did an even more amazing job than before. I remember my smile, how wide it was. I remember running into her backstage or seeing her in the audience. I remember taking a picture with her and then keeping it in a safe place, showing all my friends my new friend I met at my dance recital. “Look, she’s my friend!”

Why wasn’t this a sign I was gay? And if I felt this way, why didn’t I come out early on?

Because in the 90s, I didn’t know what gay was. I didn’t know it was a thing. I didn’t know people could like the same gender, nobody talked about it. And certainly it wasn’t talked about in health or relationships class because we were a small, hugely Catholic community. Public school or not, it wasn’t something anyone talked about and thus, I didn’t know what it was until high school and a classmate came out as gay. By then I was committed to a boyfriend. That was enough evidence to prove I wasn’t gay because “I’m dating a guy”.

I said that to myself a lot.

I remember the Disney Channel movie “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century”. Zenon was my first celebrity crush. And it was a deep crush: her florescent clothes, her hair, her fierceness to be herself, the way her voice sounded. I mean she was definition of hot major. I remember singing, “zoom zoom zoom, make my heart go boom boom, my supernova girl!” about her. But I didn’t think anything of it because, again, I was too young to know what gay was.

The only thing I knew about the word gay was a lyric in a Christmas song and when I asked, like every other kid, what gay meant, my parents said, “It means happy”. Cool. Alright, gay means happy. Got it.

Even though adults knew damn well “gay” had other synonyms, they weren’t shared with me. Kids back then were sheltered to this, and maybe you can make an argument that kids these days need to be more sheltered from the horrible Internet or technology, but if someone would have explained to me “gay also means liking the same gender” maybe I would have been able to ask questions. Or, maybe I would have said, “Okay!” giggled and ran off to play again. I mean, kids are kids… but I was a thoughtful kid. I wish I would have had an opportunity to ask questions.

I never put two and two together about Zenon Carr, AKA Kirsten Storms, until I watched it recently, and I found myself still in awe of her, and I flashed back as a preteen crushing on her. I remembered my heart doing the same flip it did back at dance recitals – it burned and I smiled and giggled a little too much when Zenon put on a new outfit or sang, “Zoom zoom zoom…” I remembered thinking how lucky those pop stars were in the movie to get to dance with her, yet probably every other girl was crushing on Proto Zoa.

I was gay then.

It baffles me still. Even as a 28-year-old adult – who is still trying to learn how to exactly adult – I find myself aware of times in my past I could have spotted my gay. But again, I didn’t know what gay was for a long time. And as an adult who came out a lot later than she should have, it makes me mad. Kids aren’t dumb, and thankfully nowadays, especially in urban communities, “gay” is a buzzword and there’s a community for support and encouragement. There are Gay-Straight Alliances in schools as early as middle school to help kids know what being gay is and that being gay is okay. I advise North’s GSA and the kids are stronger and more comfortable than I ever have been in my gay. They give me excitement for being gay. And that’s pretty important for society as a whole.

Eventually, I knew that gay didn’t only mean happy because I was older and aware, and because a couple friends came out.

I remember when a good friend told me she needed to tell me something after a daycare training on Universal Precautions. She sat in my car and looked nervous, then said, “Jenn, I’m gay.” I had no idea she was gay, and now it makes me laugh because shoot, I could spot a lesbian from across a room these days. But back then my “gaydar” was blind, even on myself. I was dating a guy for well over a year and she just came out to me, just like that. I was mad at myself for not knowing, and she laughed and said it was okay, but also joked “how didn’t you know?” because apparently “it is so obvious”. When she came out to me, I questioned myself immediately. Then quickly repeated “I’m dating a guy” in my head, repealing the thought.

She told me about this girl she was dating and how it wasn’t going great and I pictured them together, holding hands, being gay. I asked about her highly Catholic family and their reactions. I asked questions and we became closer. She confided in me something that not many people talked about in our community. Looking back, that was when she became a safe zone for me asking questions about my own sexuality later on.

I remember texting her about crushing on one of my girl friends. “So I think I might be gay…” and then I would wait for a reply in blush, and my heart would beat fast and I’d start sweating because whoosh, I just threw it out there like that… What if my friends saw this text? She replied with “Why do you think that?” and I told her the truth. “I kind of really want to just kiss her. Like when she talks to me I just look at her lips and I want to kiss her. I picture myself walking up to her and just kissing her.”

I was gay then too. Super gay because it took real patience to be her friend and to hold such a secret at the same time. We’re actually really good friends now and hilariously, I bet all of my girl friends are wondering if it’s them, which is pretty funny to me right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever tell her. Meh, maybe.

But the thing with that is I’ve crushed on a few friends. And never acted on them because we were friends and just… no. They were clearly straight and as I’ve found out, one doesn’t just have a fling with a straight girl. It’s a whole wad of crazy waiting to blow up in your face and shatter your heart. And plus, they were all too important to me to bring something up that I knew wouldn’t happen and might hinder our friendship. Their friendship mattered more.

These were adult crushes, like post-college crushes. I knew that I was at least bi by then. And being bi was a comfort zone that let me like girls and yet not commit to being gay. Still, no one knew. I started to come out to close friends as bi. Even my mom. And I’m ashamed because I should have been more honest with myself from the get-go and came out as gay, but I was testing the waters with people I could not imagine leaving me. These were essential people; those people you wouldn’t be yourself without.

Then I met Her.

And we kissed. And we were a type of thing for a while. And after meeting Her, I started calling everyone to come out as gay. “I’m gay,” I remember saying out loud on the ride home from meeting Her out of nowhere. I hadn’t said it out loud yet. I was 27.

Let that sink in. Twenty-seven. I’d been living in the dark either from not knowing what gay was or from my nerves in labeling myself for a long time.

Even though she wasn’t “the one”, she was a type of one. She was the girl I came out for. And she doesn’t even know this. Even though we aren’t a couple and things didn’t work out, she played a vital role in my life. She was the girl that convinced me I was gay and in no way bi. She was the one I had the guts for, to start telling my friends, family and coworkers. She helped me become more of myself. And I think that has something to do with how important she remains to me today. She probably doesn’t know that either…

I had been praying for a long time, months, for a sign to declare myself gay or not. (And in hindsight, if I was doing that, I was pretty gay.) I remember every night before I’d go to bed, I’d pray these words, “God, I know you love me because you made me, so please please lead me to someone who will make me know for sure. I think I’m gay, but I’m scared. Just give me a sign.” I met Her and knew. She was my sign.

I was gay then. Not bi. Not hiding. Not questioning. I was gay.

I am gay.

So I just stopped being not gay. I stopped caring if I slipped a ‘she’ pronoun when talking about a date or someone I liked. I stopped caring about what people thought of me. I stopped using the non-gendered pronoun “they” with my students, coworkers, friends of friends, etc. I am gay, and more myself than any other time in my life.

I don’t whisper the word gay when I need to use it, I am honest with my students about their questions, and support GSA because I wish I had something like that when I was in high school. I wish I had a safe adult I could have turned to and asked questions. I wish I had a nonjudgmental place to go as a preteen or teen. I wish I had a community to be safe in. I wish I had known what gay was. I really wish that last one.

So, I am gay. I was gay at those dance recitals. I was gay backstage when taking a picture with the dancer. I was gay while watching a 90s Disney Channel movie and declaring Zenon Carr my supernova girl. I was gay in college and in New York. I was gay during text conversations, trying to figure out my sexuality. I was gay when I told people I was bi. I was gay while praying. I was gay when I met Her, the one who confirmed it all. I’ve always been gay.

And ya know, my mom was right. Gay does mean happy because I’ve never before felt freer, more myself or happier. But gay does mean liking the same gender too, and I hope you’re not afraid to tell the kids in your life that, if they ever ask you. It’s honest, and sometimes being honest allows people to be more of themselves.

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Big city therapy

chicago 1The city has always been a place of refuge for me. When things get tight in my chest and my fists ball up, I know the only cure is to drive to the nearest city, climb to the roof of the highest skyscraper, and release. I release through deep breaths and simply looking. The eyes are the gateway to our hearts, or so I’ve learned, and my eyes are in love with building after building mashed together to create a chaos filled with possibilities and diversity.

Down on the sidewalks, I’m among strangers who don’t care who I am, they don’t want to talk to me, they don’t want anything from me. Some look like me, some don’t. Some love like me, some don’t and most don’t mind. Some I can understand, some I cannot. It’s the only time in my life I don’t have to worry what my face looks like and what emotions display there. It’s a place I can be completely, 100 percent me. The city lets me live in oblivion. I exist only to myself and the people I choose to acknowledge.

I can crane my neck until it can’t go back any farther and turn in a circle and still not see everything. It’s the journey that brings me lessons about myself I never knew. As I’m are curious, I make memories, I discover a different part of myself. The stars only exist atop roofs high in the sky and yet the city streets hold so much magic. I’m in love with its vastness and its ability to be chaotic in such an organized way.

Standing among skyscrapers is the only time I like to feel inferior. My superiority complex goes away and I become human again. I’m not worried about traffic, or being first or the best. I’m not thinking about next week or tomorrow. I’m just present. That’s important to be a well-rounded person, I think. It’s a reminder that even though you move mountains at your job and your influence changes lives with kids, you are still just another piece to this world we all live in. You simply exist.

A city doesn’t care about any of this; the city doesn’t care that it’s my therapy. It’s concrete, brick, cobblestone pathways, and glass windows overlooking millions of people. It’s rooftops with water towers, and it’s bike paths next to a lake. It’s parks surrounded by buildings and clock towers. It’s food trucks outside corporations and your favorite breakfast joint that only seats 20, and reminds you of home. It’s the doorman who greets you the same way each day. It’s the subway and bus systems that allow you to touch every part of the city. It’s chaotic consistency and it’s what my heart loves.

So when I step foot in Chicago next week, I will make sure to simply exist. I will let myself feel inferior. I will stand and look, take it all in. Soak up enough city love to bring back with me to a smaller city. I’ll allow it to mold me into whomever I am supposed to be there.

chicago 2 roof

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If money wasn’t a factor, I’d change the book industry

If money wasn’t a life requirement in this world, I would set a path that stretches myself into dreams I know I’m way capable of just by the fact that I’m driven. My inspiration? Teens.

If you have drive you can accomplish anything and if you have confidence in your skills, you will accomplish anything. If money wasn’t a factor, I’d live in New York or LA and work at a book publishing company. I’d commit my life to work and building myself into a successful, ethical and wonderful businesswoman who raises the ceilings on a company that fits my passion and vision. I’d work with a team who trusts and looks to me for what passionate work looks like. I’d teach them by example just like I do at school with my journalism students; I’d show them that success is teamwork and to be a solid team you need to form a type of family. Yet not a family that takes away from time with their real one. I’d respect their vision for their own personal lives and understand when kids are sick and when a second honeymoon is required. My expectations would be high, undoubtedly, but my appreciation for them would exceed everything.

If money wasn’t a factor, I’d publish all the books that move me or my team, and those that would move the teens who struggle each day to simply survive mentally. I’d find perfect strategies to bring books to teens in an affordable way and listen to the teens for their responses. Why don’t book publishers reach out to teens for young adult literature? And if they do, why not publicly, so we know who really approves of the book? Why not send ARCs to teens and have them write reviews?

Well, because an author gets more books sold just by putting famous authors’ one-sentence reviews on the covers. I bet more teens would read if they saw an average Joe or Jane on the cover revealing their love and emotional connection with the characters and plot. Why aren’t they talking to teens? Even though they aren’t the greatest at making life decisions yet, they know what they like and deep down, they know what they need – mostly consistent love and human connection. Bring those characters off the shelves, show them to them face-to-face, connection-to-connection.

Young adult literature is all I read because for me as an adult, it’s an escape from adulthood, from the bills (again money-based), from work stress, and relationship decisions. Teens live in a dramatic world, trust me, but they’re dynamic, always changing, always growing and seeking connection. Yet they are the most ignored and judged demographic. Give them the benefit of the doubt. I highly doubt a 15-year-old looking for a book to relate to his father-in-jail situation really cares that XYZ famous author rates this book five stars and says “It’s better than his competitors”. That 15-year-old young man is looking for help, release, and relationships with people, fictional or not. He needs that. Why isn’t that the purpose of publishing? Why isn’t it to bring worlds to readers no matter how much they cost? Why do budgets at various sized publishing houses dictate what art the world reads?

This is all an ideology, I’m fully aware, but this stems back to my original point, money dictates everything whether it be a budget or the impression from someone famous (someone who has money), and the world wonders why people are hostile, hateful, and judgmental in business or otherwise.

What would you do if money wasn’t a factor?

I’d bring more books teens need in their life to the forefront and work hard to lead a team who feels the same way. We’d work hard for the funding and for the kids and for the oftentimes unbearableness of being a teen. People should be embracing this audience, not assuming publishers know what’s best based off of numbers and what Nicholas Sparks says about an author. Ask the kids, trust the kids, invest in them… and I’ll bet anything that more kids will read and have a better outlook on their situations. When someone fights for kids’ best interests, they commit to success so much easier, more consistently, and with more passion. They turn into confident leaders with drive.

Give me that job.

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I let my heart lead

I don’t even know what to say. I feel my heart inside my body. And I can’t determine if I’m just being dramatic, because everyone who reads this might think that’s it. It’s not. It burns and it makes my face warm. Its radiance travels to my stomach and creates bubbling acid. It hurts. All of me. My eyes blur easily because I stare off too long. I have to blink at least twice to clear it, to refocus across the room at the clock.

That damn clock. It taunts me. It knows it’s the one thing holding my sanity together because it still reads 12:33 a.m. I can still fall asleep in time to feel okay tomorrow. Work is tomorrow. It’s Monday; we all know how that feels. So I roll over and let the feelings simmer into loneliness. I let myself feel, but only for the next 27 minutes, because 1:00 a.m. is exhausting to think about. I need to be asleep by then.

I need an empty brain by then.

My eyes never leak though, I can hold it together that much. I don’t have too much to realize that makes me cry. I am a realist, I know the situation. I know her feelings aren’t a match with mine. She said so. And it’s fine. It’s what is.

It is what it fucking is.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that out loud. Probably at least ten. More if you count in my head. It’s pretty ridiculous, I’d roll my eyes too. Go ahead, roll them. Thanks.

1:02. I’d turn the clock off but then I probably wouldn’t sleep, in worry that my phone alarm wouldn’t work, even though it’s worked every other day. I’ll fall asleep soon. Just breathe and listen to that sleep app that plays ocean sounds. Seriously, this is where I’m at?

She’s a great person. She’s become the main person I talk to, text, and snap with. WE WEREN’T ANYTHING OFFICIAL ANYWAY! Just stop.

Just. stop.

I fall asleep around 1:46, or at least after that because that’s the last time I see. I wake up to my clock alarm, five minutes fast. And hit the snooze. Five minutes later, the real 5:55 a.m. phone alarm goes off. I swipe left to snooze it. Five minute intervals of alarms go off until I growl into the silence, “okay, okay, just relax!” like the alarms are real. Mornings aren’t my thing. 

I look at my phone, and then her “goodnight” text. She’ll text something when she wakes up and I’ll get it during my plan period, or if I get a chance to check it before that. I’m always waiting to hear from her, and like a routine that I need to break, she’s reliable. I can depend on a constant conversation from her every day, all day. I’ll also see her face every day, all day through Snapchat. My heart reacts every time.

My heart reacts.

But this time, my entire body reacts. It’s not just flirtation or easy fun like before because I know I should be stepping back. I know she sees me as a friend, more than anything else. I know that her words mean friendship now. I know this.

I fucking know!

And it’s my fault that I can’t let go. Or step back. Or pull it together. You know how I know? Because I’ve been telling my friends this for years. I have always been the one with the calm, rational voice that breaks through their insanity and sadness of a breakup or ending to something revolutionary. I’ve always been there to give them the harsh reality, to give them the strength they need to stop crying, to shine a light on why this is overall a good move. I’m the one who thinks logically and not with her heart.

I can’t think logically so I know it’s my fault. My heart got in the way. I didn’t silence it like before. I let it do its thing for once. I thought “You go heart! Follow yourself!” So I let my guard down. And now I can’t function. I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe!

So I’ll listen to my independent woman mix and drown myself in books that don’t relate. I’ll throw myself into work even though I’m so distracted by her. I’ll eventually let her go. It’ll eventually fade away and we’ll be back to before we met, hopefully with a friend-ship. But for the record, I hate this.

I hate it.

She did nothing wrong. She’s amazingly great. I just can’t control my feelings, and sometimes that has consequences. I’m totally immersed in my heart and trying to get out of it to return to my head where I’ve been happy for so many years. People say that’s not healthy. People believe the heart should direct traffic for my life. They might be right, but I’m braking because I’m a driver under the influence.

I can’t be trusted to navigate the roads that lead me to make decisions. I’m not happy. I never wanted this. I don’t see how it didn’t work out. I do give a shit. I always have given a shit. But sometimes you can’t make the other person meet your heart in the crossroads, no matter how true to your heart you are.

Written: September 2015

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It’s True: Everything we needed to know we learned in kindergarten


4-5 year old Jennifer

Maybe everything we needed to know we did learn in kindergarten…

When trauma comes into our lives, we turn into children, most likely a five-year-old. We tell ourselves, “it’s okay”, we call our Mom or Dad, and sing our favorite songs to get our minds off whatever has us twisted.

First, we go into shock and freeze. We stand still, blink when our vision goes blurry, and figure out what hurts. Then we react accordingly, and usually irrationally. Many of us go hide in a corner until our thoughts make sense again. We spit out words that we normally wouldn’t like, “Oh my god!” or “Why me?” then we go look for help, like we were taught in kindergarten.

If you are scared, lost, or hurt, look for an adult you trust.

So naturally, we find one. We tell them what happened, even the scariest of details, or we point to what hurts. Sometimes it’s our hearts that hurt. They always have told us that “telling the story helps get it out of your head”. Although I believed that as a kid, nowadays as a 28-year-old, that’s harder to do sometimes.

But as kids we recite the experience, the trauma replays in our minds, and the adult gives us a hug, a glass of milk and sends us back to play – even if the thing we are scared of still exists. The adult essentially listens, reassures that we are strong, and sends us back into the world that remains a haunting place filled with traumatic events.

Your friends will have your back.

They approach so smoothly and at the exact right time we need them. We identify who our truest friends are. They ask “what’s wrong?” and comfort us. We learn what friendship is, what kind of people we need to be ourselves, and how to be happy in kindergarten. They also learn how to bring us to a smile in a bad time. No kindergartener is fake; quite the opposite. Five-year-olds are building their public foundation on who they are outside of their mother’s eyesight. It’s the first independent move of one’s life.

Get your mind off of the trauma.

“Why don’t you lie down and take a nap? You’ll feel better after you rest.” You know what? They are right. Naps give us time to digest what happened, get ahold of reality, and awake to a new start. It’s a chance to refresh.

“Get your mind off of it.” This usually means I turn on Disney Channel so that nothing scary or relative to the traumatic event comes on the screen. It’s bright colored, usually cheesy, and will make me think about happier things. The same effect happens when I sing my go-to happy songs. This works for me. Every time. Just like it did in kindergarten.

After experiencing trauma as an adult, I always resort to these coping mechanisms. I always call my mom, I always reach out to a friend who wants to help and means it, and I always refresh somehow, usually through quiet time with a book or a nap. It’s a three-step process, really. Kindergarten should really be renamed as “How do deal with adult situations: a beginner’s manual.”

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