Month: November 2012

obligation into opportunity

I never considered whether I would go to school or not, it simply wasn’t a choice. While other students faked sick, or left school early to finish a paper, I never had that option, my parents made sure I was in school 100% of the time. It was just part of the routine, and often felt like a chore. Some days it didn’t feel fair that I had to be there, forced to try and absorb information that didn’t always feel relevant to me. Forced to follow strict bathroom policies, and consume lukewarm cafeteria pizza. Even after high school the next logical step was college, not a choice but an obligation.

It’s easy to complain about the overwhelming amounts of school work that never cease. It’s easy to make excuses and look for a way out of going to that 8 am class. But what if class wasn’t seen as an obligation but an opportunity? What if you didn’t have the convenience to read deeply, discuss freely, and write intellectually? What if as a female you were banned from obtaining an education? What if you had an opportunity to write and learn in spite of the law; to express what it was like as an oppressed female, seeking education. Knowing you had a story to tell, awareness to enforce, but if you were caught you would be killed. What would you do?

In 2009 at just 11, Malala, partnered with the BBC and wrote under a pseudonym, about her experiences living under Taliban rule. It started as she was banned from acting as a part of the school thus stripping her of her privilege to wear a school uniform, to being banned from attending school at all as many were closed down and destroyed. But she continued to write, continued to show courage and share her stories. She continued to live with hope, learn with desire, and lead with strength.
Due to a growing popularity, she was approached by the New York Times to film a documentary, to better tell her story. At 12 years old she became a known activist for female education. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, and soon after awarded Pakistan’s first National Children’s Peace Prize.Yet despite her success, the looming fear of being found by the Taliban continued:

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”

Last month her nightmares came true, the Taliban attacked a van carrying her and friends home from school. Shooting several, Malala was left with life threatening wounds being struck in the neck and head. But she lives; walking, reading, singing, laughing, she lives. In a time of desperation it appears Malala received a miracle.

I can’t help but feel ashamed. Ashamed for taking the easy way out at times, for not adding value and appreciation to my education each and everyday. For not taking advantage of every opportunity given. I’ve taken freedom for granted. Education for granted. Malala stood up for a right she deserves. She encourages others to stand up for that same right. And she encourages me to optimize today, this project, this class, this degree.

I write because I can, she wrote because she had to.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”

– Anthony J. D’Angelo.


love is patient, love is kind

I was blessed to have witnessed the marriage of Chris and Dora Barton this past weekend. A love story in its truest form. Chris grew up as childhood friends with my boyfriend, Brandon, which allowed me to join for the celebration as Brandon stood as the best man. Arriving in Maryland the night before, Brandon and I joined the festivities at the Barton’s family home, allowing us to meet Dora and enjoy their final night before the wedding.

It was the first evening I had met them both. Chris warmly greeted us at the door and led us to the group as he slipped an arm around Dora, joining his fiance. The couple met during the summer of 2011 in Ocean City, Maryland while Chris was a beach life guard and Dora, visiting from Romania, was working as a beach stand attendant. It was a friendship that lasted merely days as their love grew fast and strong. As the summer neared an end, their relationship became long distance putting the Atlantic ocean and 4742 miles between them. The next time they would see each other would be Chris’s visit to her home town of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, to meet her family and ask for her hand in marriage. At the age of 22, the couple no longer remained individuals, but were united as one. Their “I” became an “us”, and Dora found a new home here in the states.

I’ve noticed that recently when I get on Facebook, a new engagement or marriage has been announced. Another high school classmate or college friend is embarking on the next adventure, finding their “one” to share their lives together. My own childhood best friend, Meredith, shared the news of her engagement, to fiance Mike, with me just 8 months ago with a wedding to follow this summer. I can’t help but feel as if they are rushing into things, hurrying to get to the next step, maybe even making a mistake. But the second I saw Chris and Dora together, just as I saw Meredith and Mike, there is no mistake in trusting in love. Marriage is having faith in love, and acting on that feeling. A feeling so powerful all you have to do is see it to know, to experience it. A feeling that washed away any judgement or doubt in my mind, and left me with hope. Hope that Chris and Dora’s future will be filled with joy, faith, passion, and adventure, each and everyday.

Their story became a true life fairytale, without the distractions of Disney, but the simple pleasures of love.

“The most beautiful things in life are not seen, but felt with the heart.”

I wish you two the best.

❤ Erin.