2021 Contest Winners
Katelyn Belmore | 2021, UMassD Believes 1ST PLACE WINNER
Realizations of a Woman
I realized I was a woman when I was 14. Going into freshman year of high school, I noticed people becoming interested in me. Although I wasn’t used to this new attention, it felt nice to be called pretty. When people began to compliment the more intimate parts of my body, I didn’t think much about it. I liked being appreciated.
I realized I was a woman when I was asked for explicit pictures by boys I considered just friends and even by boys I did not know. I can’t count how many times I said “No,” or “I’m tired,” or “I really don’t want to, please stop asking.” None of these answers seemed to be the right one. They begged and pleaded, over and over again.
I realized I was a woman when someone took the opportunity to touch me inappropriately, even after I tried getting them to stop. Eventually, I pushed them away from me and I cried in the bathroom until they left.
I realized I was a woman when I kept getting touched in places I didn’t want to be touched by different people. I perceived this as normal, and I never openly objected to it because it felt as if nothing that I said would change the outcome anyway.
I realized I was a woman when I was pressured to be intimate with someone even after I clearly said no, and expressed my discomfort in the situation multiple times. They did not take no for an answer.
I realized I was a woman when a boy said to me, “If you don’t have sex with me, I will ruin your life.”
I realized I was a woman when I was wearing a jumpsuit with spaghetti straps and I was asked to put a sweater on because “it is my job to make sure a man does not think about me in a sexual way.”
I realized I was a woman when I was told it is my fault that I get treated the way I do.
I knew that I was a woman when talking to my friends, peers, and almost every woman I know, and learning they have all had similar experiences to mine.
The issue of sexual assault isn’t just confined to one gender, as one in three women and one in six men will have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. Sexual harassment happens to men more then we think.
I believe that sexual abuse is a battle that we have to fight together and raise awareness on.We should not continue to idolize people who have sexually harassed others. We need to believe the people who are courageous enough to share their stories, and to hold people accountable for the things they say, do, and share.
I encourage people who have been victims of sexual assault or harassment to seek help from a counselor or a parent and confide in a trusted friend, as I did. You are not alone. I believe through actively preventing sexual harassment as a community, we can change the definition of reaching womanhood from experiencing sexual harassment to becoming your own person, gaining independence, and unapologetically speaking your mind—no matter what others think.
Abigail Greenberg | 2021, UMASSD BELIEVES 2nd PLACE WINNER
Perfection is a Waste of Time
I have spent countless hours, days, years of my life chasing the goal of perfection. Little did I know that the longer I chased this elusive goal, the further away it would become. I challenged myself not just to be good, but to be the best. I crafted the perfect plan for success and followed every step. I piled my schedule with the hardest classes I could and refused to let my grades slip. My teachers praised my work ethic, but I was still dissatisfied. Despite all my hard work, perfection felt even further away, so I pushed myself to work even harder. At the time, I cringed at the very thought of a single grade not matching my perfectly drawn-out plan.
But in 2020, like many other things, my plan came to a crashing halt. The College Board canceled the SAT I had studied for every weekend for the last year, and altered the AP tests my teachers had prepared me for, turning them into something entirely different. I felt like my work had gone to waste. The uncertainty was overwhelming. For weeks I became a shell of myself as I refused to stop working and studying, even though it was unclear what I was studying for anymore. I worked and worked until one day, I took a moment to breathe. I recognized that the pursuit of perfection is an unsustainable way of life, and that perfection is an impossible goal to chase.
During those first weeks of the pandemic, when school was incredibly unclear and my once jam-packed schedule was left empty, I found myself with more free time than ever before. I have never been one to sit idly, so I started painting. Even when everything else seemed uncertain, I could always rely on the paint to dry. At first, I did not let myself experiment with my own ideas. I found references, but I often found the result to be disappointing. My floor became littered with failed attempts and miscellaneous supplies. My inability to replicate the works of artists with far more experience than me was frustrating. The activity I turned to as a way of escape had fallen victim to my need for perfection. I felt like I was holding my breath in order to meet my own impossible expectations. Before long, I needed to breathe.
I stopped using references. I stopped using brushes. When I painted with my fingers, I was able to distance myself from my need for perfection and become closer to the piece itself. I was able to find joy and freedom in painting again. Without being held to an impossible standard, the paintings became beautiful again. By overcoming perfection, a person can become the best version of themself.
Riley Rushton | 2021, UMASSD BELIEVES 3rd PLACE WINNER
What Does “Live in the Moment” Mean?
What does “live in the moment” even mean? On average, the life expectancy for humans is 72.81 years. That’s roughly 26,575.65 days. Between school, sleeping, and scrolling on our phones, imagine how much time we waste sitting around as the clock ticks by. But even when we aren’t stressed, when we are working, on vacation, hanging out with friends or family, our minds tend to wander. It’s in human nature for our minds to wander and think about the future, about what’s on the agenda tomorrow, or to dwell on the past and the decisions we regret. The goal is to be happy and content, and to live in the moment, instead of letting your mind wander off into a spiral of negativity and self-doubt.
Around a year ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Initially, I was devastated and had a really hard time wrapping my head around the news. Since then, I have been able to rationalize and remind myself that I’ve had a close relationship with my grandmother for my whole life, and that I am incredibly fond of the memories we have. My grandmother is kind, funny, beautiful, and a devout Christian who has always encouraged me to take pride in my faith. Although my grandmother has lived a long, fulfilled life thus far, it makes me wonder why such terrible things happen to good people. As the disease progresses, I watch as the lively woman I know continues to become confused, angry, and anxious with her thoughts and extreme confusion. Seeing this firsthand has given me a greater appreciation for the time I have left with my beloved grandmother.
While life can be very long, it can also be taken from us at any moment. With tragic illnesses and accidents, you truly never know which day is your last. This ideology has become more prevalent in my life than ever during this past year. With my grandmother’s diagnosis and the sudden death of my grandfather in March due to cancer, I have grown an appreciation for life as I have seen how quickly it can be taken away. My grandparents were two of many reasons I chose to pursue Nursing as a degree at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I hope to use my education to help others, make a difference in people’s lives, and be a source of happiness for others.
I guess the question we have to continuously ask ourselves is, “If you died tomorrow, would you be happy with where you are today?” My hope is to create a life for myself where the answer to that question is consistently and unequivocally YES. This life has so much to offer, and I believe that if you live in the moment and quit worrying about the past and stressing about the future, that is when you start living. If you love someone, tell them; if you miss someone, make time for them; if you want something, then work towards it. I BELIEVE that life is a blessing, and I don’t want to waste any time, I want to live in the present and make the most of every day despite the obstacles I’ll face.