What the world does to you as a woman is something to ponder. As a young girl, I was soft and sweet. It was what society expected of me, but it was also my sensitive personality. As time went by, I had to fight, even though I didn’t always want to. It became necessary to survival. When I was sexually abused as a child, a part of my soul was silenced. When I went to college and learned to drive at the same time, after already working for many years, I had to stand on my own. When I left my cult religion, I had to leave everything I had ever known behind. When I became a mother, I had to face the world that considered me and my beautiful gift illegitimate. When I worked to raise my daughter, and balance the world on my shoulders, I also had to teach her how to survive this life as a woman. When I finally escaped every controlling and abusive situation, and there were many, I had to rebel against the system at hand. When I became an advocate, I had to use my own voice, even though people didn’t understand it – so I often spoke alone, though knowing there were others out there who were hearing me and knew they weren’t alone. When I have had to fight because society doesn’t understand how to deal with traumatized, depressed, grieving survivors, I had to know I was enough even though I was told that I was broken. And now as a scarred, tested, wise woman, still not even old, I am this. I will not let anyone beat me into submission, fuck with my mind, tell me what I can’t do, strip me of my dignity, steal my rights, or hush me with their ignorance. I am a woman who has been through the alleys and the valleys, and I may be tired and heartbroken, but I will not be owned. I will not be owned by you for any reason, especially not your desire to kill my spirit as a woman and mother, disabled person, or survivor of poverty and violence. I will not be owned.
A chain of paper suns decorated the perimeter of my apartment near the ceiling. They smiled down on me. I had picked them up in a party supply store. They didn’t exactly fit, but they made me happy. I guess I didn’t really care if anything matched. I had my own little space – a studio apartment in Uptown Minneapolis. There I was, in the middle of an artistic, urban Mecca. I could do anything I wanted! So I decorated my apartment with paper suns. I had never had this kind of freedom before – nobody to tell me what to do, how to dress, what language was appropriate or not, and if I was allowed to pierce my nose on not one, but both sides. My giant water bed, with a regular mattress, took up most of the main room in my studio. A picture of myself as a child was propped up on the top of the built-in dresser in the short hallway from the main room to the bathroom. I didn’t have anywhere to hang my clothes, but I didn’t have many. And they fit in the drawers, with room to spare. Over the summer, I would dump my mail into one of the lower cupboards and neglect it in favor of beer, rollerblading, and exploring without restrictions or parental complaints. On the top, I placed things that I liked to look at: my Little Bo Peep porcelain doll, doilies that I collected, perfume bottles (some empty), a porcelain Cinderella figurine that I got from Disneyland, a wooden frame that my great-grandfather had made (without a picture), a few textbooks that I couldn’t bear to sell back to my college at the end of the semester, and a rough poem I wrote from the heart. This gap between being in the church, caring for my younger siblings, and living at home under strict rules, and becoming a single mother would last approximately three months. I was 18, shifting from one world to another. Moving between walls of definition, I twirled, and I transformed – so quickly it was like riding a wobbly unicorn on a carousel in the middle of the night, as it flew off its base into an improvised scene from Alice in Wonderland.