In My Own Skin

“I think it’s the exact opposite. I think those are the reasons I can do it.”

Produced by Carmen Vincent

Transcript for In My Own Skin

I was born in Texarkana in Texas. It’s a city near where Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana come together. And then when I was two we moved to Northwest Arkansas which was a big change because it was a big city lots of different cultures. And then when I was 12, we moved back to Texarkana. And so me coming in as a seventh grader, it was difficult to make friends and feel like I belong. By the time I graduated high school, I still felt like I didn’t fully fit in.

When I first came to Valpo, I was really excited to be in a new place and to start college and, out of all my friends, I went the farthest away and I was proud of that decision and I owned it and then on the first day of class, freshman year, I wore my cowboy hat and my boots and by the end of the day I just felt so discouraged and I just wanted to go home so bad because I got inappropriate comments about, “Oh so you’re a cowgirl, you must like to ride.” They assumed that I was automatically uneducated or racist, homophobic, sexist, all of these other things just because I was from the south which felt like an unfair judgment to me because I came to a new place not trying to judge anybody and I got a bunch of judgment.

I really had to work to be confident in my own skin and I even had a sorority recruitment counselor tell me not to wear my cowboy hat to sorority recruitment events because it might make other people uncomfortable. But I luckily had a kind upperclassmen who said, “Be yourself, we want to see that, and any sorority that’s worthy of you will accept you.”

I definitely get a lot that I am an emotional woman. I think because we don’t talk about mental health things, people fear emotion. And it’s also so easy to write someone off as emotional when we don’t want to acknowledge that their points are valid. If one of my friends or one of the younger women I mentor came to me and said that something upset them, if I would tell them that they’re justified in their emotions then I have to allow myself to be justified too and I can’t let anyone else tell me that being emotional is a bad thing because I don’t think it is.

Even though sometimes I still feel like people look at me funny for wearing my hat or when my accent slips out or when I talk about my small-town Southern experiences, I know that there are places on campus I can find and groups of people who do cherish me and value me for me.

I would say I really feel like I belong when I’m working with animals because rehabilitating animals is one of my passions. The animals don’t care who I’m friends with or what grade I’ve gotten on a test or what group I’m in, what my accent sounds like, what I wear. All they care about is that I feed them and take care of them and meet their needs in whatever way I can.

My career goal is to be a state game warden which is a conservation officer and so basically the police of the woods and the water. And then we also help with injured animals, injured wildlife, if they can be rehabilitated. Sometimes you just have to put the animal out of its misery. I definitely heard when I started pursuing this career field that I can’t do it. I can’t do it because I’m a woman. I can’t do it because I’m too emotional and soft-hearted and I think it’s the exact opposite. I think those are the reasons I can do it. If you care about animals, you’re going to do what’s best for them and if it’s the choice of you having to suffer a little so that they don’t have to suffer at all anymore, or them suffering a lot and you having to watch that, the obvious choice is ending their suffering.

I don’t think of emotions as a bad thing. Sure, there are officers who aren’t emotional and that’s fine. I was told as a senior in high school that all you need to do the job of a police officer well is passion for the job. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are. There are people who think I can do it and I know I can do it and then there are always going to be those people who think that emotions are bad and make me unstable and mean that I’m gonna be crying in the middle of an arrest or something like that and that’s not true.

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