Being An Odyssey Creator Did More Than Just Improve My Writing

Being An Odyssey Creator Did More Than Just Improve My Writing

It challenged me to share Survivor stories, to open up about my own struggles, and gave me my voice back.

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When I joined this platform, I had one mission: to share my friend's story of surviving a severely abusive relationship and emphasize the need for discussion about domestic violence in small-town America.

Writing that series has been my greatest accomplishment because Mae Matthews and Lynn Mitchell deserved to have their stories told. I just wish they could have shared their own stories with their real names without fearing for their lives.

I don't believe Cody Smtih, the abuser at the center of "Small Towns, Big Secrets," will ever stop doing things that get him arrested. Whether it be assault, drugs, or the litany of other low life practices he engages in, I don't believe he is capable of not being a delinquent. But I'm not convinced he will ever be brought to justice. He's gotten away with too many things, too many times, for me to have any faith in that county's justice system.

I pray that I'm wrong and that he'll see a prison sentence he deserves. But I'm not holding my breath.

Sharing Mae and Lynn's stories gave me the courage to share my own Survivor story.

When that first article was published, it had been eight months since I recovered memories of being sexually abused. I wasn't ready to share my struggles, but I was ready to start speaking out and standing up for survivors of abuse.

This building passion for giving a voice to the voiceless caused three things to happen:

1. I became very unhappy in my job. I felt completely unfulfilled.

2. I created an online support group for survivors of abuse.

3. Writing became my outlet (in more ways than one).

Odyssey helped me land a job.

I had gone through the interview process for a job I really wanted, working to address child abuse in my state. It was my dream job, the perfect fit, everything I could have wanted and more. I didn't get the job, and I was absolutely crushed.

Flash forward to three months later, I'm in a job that I never thought I'd be able to have again. I'm a reporter for the radio station I interned and worked for two years ago. I'm learning things I didn't do before and I go to work every day thinking, "I get paid to do this?!"

I have no idea where the future will take me, but I know at this current moment I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Odyssey helped me find new communities.

I wrote about this last week, so I won't harp on it but this online community of true crime lovin' Survivors has been instrumental to my healing. Check out the Survivorinos Facebook group to connect with us.

Odyssey helped me improve my writing.

I received my first diary at seven years old. Although I only have a few memories from the time of my abuse, staying up late to write in my journal is a memory that always stands out. Happy, sad, mad, anxious, I wrote it all down. I periodically journaled throughout high school and journaling saved me during my third and final time in an inpatient program.

And now, I write to discuss topics like abuse and mental health (with some lighthearted pieces in the mix too, because heavy stuff can get, well, heavy). It's come full circle, and it's reenergized a coping skill I desperately need.

And then I was finally ready to share my own story. It was completely liberating.

Although coming up with an article (or two) a week can be a bit daunting at times, I've never had a more rewarding experience than creating content on Odyssey. In 25 articles I've grown more than just my writing skills, I've grown as a person.

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To The Girl Who Had A Plan

A letter to the girl whose life is not going according to her plan.
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“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” - William Ernest Henley

Since we were little girls we have been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We responded with astronauts, teachers, presidents, nurses, etc. Then we start growing up, and our plans change.

In middle school, our plans were molded based on our friends and whatever was cool at the time. Eventually, we went to high school and this question became serious, along with some others: “What are your plans for college?” “What are you going to major in?” “When do you think you’ll get married?” “Are you going to stay friends with your friends?” We are bombarded with these questions we are supposed to have answers to, so we start making plans.

Plans, like going to college with our best friends and getting a degree we’ve been dreaming about. Plans, to get married as soon as we can. We make plans for how to lose weight and get healthy. We make plans for our weddings and children.

SEE ALSO: 19 Pieces Of Advice From A Soon-To-Be 20-Year-Old

We fill our Pinterest boards with these dreams and hopes that we have, which are really great things to do, but what happens when you don’t get into that college? What happens when your best friend chooses to go somewhere else? Or, what if you don’t get the scholarship you need or the awards you thought you deserved. Maybe, the guy you thought you would marry breaks your heart. You might gain a few pounds instead of losing them. Your parents get divorced. Someone you love gets cancer. You don’t get the grades you need. You don’t make that collegiate sports team. The sorority you’re a legacy to, drops you. You didn’t get the job or internship you applied for. What happens to you when this plan doesn’t go your way?

I’ve been there.

The answer for that is “I have this hope that is an anchor for my soul.” Soon we all realize we are not the captain of our fate. We don’t have everything under control nor will we ever have control of every situation in our lives. But, there is someone who is working all things together for the good of those who love him, who has a plan and a purpose for the lives of his children. His name is Jesus. When life takes a turn you aren’t expecting, those are the times you have to cling to Him the tightest, trusting that His plan is what is best. That is easier said than done, but keep pursuing Him. I have found in my life that His plans were always better than mine, and slowly He’s revealing that to me.

The end of your plan isn’t the end of your life. There is more out there. You may not be the captain of your fate, but you can be the master of your soul. You can choose to be happy despite your circumstances. You can change directions at any point and go a different way. You can take the bad and make something beautiful out of it, if you allow God to work in your heart.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Patiently Waiting With An Impatient Heart

So, make the best of that school you did get in to. Own it. Make new friends- you may find they are better than the old ones. Apply for more scholarships, or get a job. Move on from the guy that broke your heart; he does not deserve you. God has a guy lined up for you who will love you completely. Spend all the time you can with the loved one with cancer. Pray, pray hard for healing. Study more. Apply for more jobs, or try to spend your summer serving others instead. Join a different club or get involved in other organizations on campus. Find your delight first in God and then pursue other activities that make you happy; He will give you the desires of your heart.

My friend, it is going to be OK.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Beavers Photography

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I'm Not Feelin' 22, But I'll Make The Most Of It

The reality of becoming another year older and the stress that it may bring.

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Birthdays are all about being the center of attention, - birthday wishes from friends and family, and celebrating another milestone in your life. People go out of their way to buy party favors, set up parties, and buy gifts just to make someone feel special on their birthday. However, some people dread their special day because of anxiety and depression. This past weekend was my 22ndbirthday, and although I'm usually excited for my birthday, this was the birthday I had been dreading.

Birthdays are inevitable. Once you reach past the age of 21, everything seems to go downhill, or at least I think so. Once I realized I was going to be 22 last Sunday, I realized the new responsibilities and norms that come with turning this age. I am a Junior at the University of Arizona, should be a senior, and most of my friends are younger than me. With most of my friends graduating this year at the age of 22, I can't help but feel bad that I will be graduating at the age of 23. After being at a large university for three years, I have felt "behind" because of my age and academic standing. Being the oldest of my friends brings a sense of anxiety out in me and pressure that I should be graduated by now.

Another issue I have with birthdays at this age is the expectation of certain milestones that I have not accomplished yet. With social media being such a large part of our society today, seeing so many different people on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posting pictures of what they are doing every second of the day, it's hard not to feel bad if you are not up to par with others lives. Some people are having babies, while others are going to medical school, where do I fit in?

Although birthdays bring some sense of negativity to me, I think that they should be celebrated in a positive light. My best friend, Colleen, knew I was feeling down about my birthday and wanted to help me feel better about turning the big 2-2. She bought balloons, silly string, and letter banners just to decorate our apartment to make me feel excited about the day. She bought me the most unique presents that only a best friend would know I would have wanted. At the end of the day, we went to my favorite restaurant and with the help of Colleen, my day had turned around.

While you may catch the birthday blues at some point in your lifetime, there are ways to change your attitude on the day. You may hear from someone from the past wishing you a happy birthday that can make you smile, or receive a gift from a family or friend that you had your eye on in the store and they knew you had to have it. Don't compare yourself to others when it comes to birthday plans, live the day how you would like and spend it with the people that matter most to you.

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