Recently, I've become more observant of myself and my surroundings as I go about my daily business. The little things that tend to be overlooked have begun to stick out to me like a sore thumb. In case you're interested in a whole bunch of random facts about Keli, here's a list I've compiled thus-far:
1. I always button my shirts top to bottom.
2. I never use the bathroom stall closest to the door.
3. Even though I'm left-handed, I almost always put my pants on right leg first.
4. I flare my nostrils when I'm nervous or uncomfortable.
5. I snort louder than average when laughing around a cute boy.
6. I have to push down all the little bubbles on my drinks every single time.
7. Without fail, I always pick out the ugliest, brightest, most colorful, patterned thing on the rack because I'm the only person ever that would wear it and absolutely love it.
8. I talk about my best friend literally every single day. I just love bragging about how amazing she is.
9. I take compliments from friends and strangers with grace now when I used to combat positive remarks with rebuttals explaining why they were wrong. I've noticed there is a direct correlation between this and my self-confidence and body image.
10. I touch people without their consent more often than I care to admit.
Now, this last not-so-fun fact about me is what I need to address today. I have a bad habit. It is a problem I have had basically my entire life, and I was too ignorant to realize it was indeed an issue until this last year. I have a problem with consent.
I have always been a physical person. My love language is physical touch; the way I express my love for others is physical touch. I like to touch and be touched. I like the feeling of being close to another human being. Every time I touch someone, even if it's slightly more abusive like a punch on the shoulder, I'm doing it because I care about that person. I know this might not make sense to a lot of people, but that's just how I am. When words fail me, I'll reach out a hand to show you I'm there. When words fail you, I'll reach out a hand to convince myself you're there.
I sound like a sappy poet right now.
All I know is physical contact = the stuff I like. But where the problem comes into play is when I take what I want without permission from the other parties involved. And I do that. A lot. So, when I say I have an issue with consent, what that means is I frequently engage physically with other people without verbal permission. That is the definition of physical assault. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say I have assaulted people.
This happens more often than you would expect, because many people do not know what all consent truly entails. Let's make one thing clear: consent is not the absence of a no. Consent is only given when there is a confirmed "yes" statement. Implied consent is not a thing; even Wikipedia admits such an idea is controversial. So, if express consent is not given before engaging in any physical contact with someone, That. Is. Assault. If you don't ask, how do you know whether or not the other party is okay with said physical contact? You don't. Not everyone is going to be able to say no if you don't give them the opportunity to do so. I myself know how difficult it can be to speak up and say "no." But that doesn't mean I ever said yes.
I'm writing all this with the very real knowledge that I often do not follow my own advice. Literally every day, I catch myself touching someone without giving them an opportunity to consent. But at least I'm aware of it now and as hard as it is, I'm trying to change my own patterns. I know this doesn't even begin to make up for the physical and sexual assault I've committed in my lifetime. It's hard for me to admit publicly that I've done such things, but I feel it's necessary in my journey to make things right.
To all the people in middle school, in high school, at church, at college, or anywhere else; to anyone I've made feel uncomfortable or invaded your personal space or assaulted: I am soo so sorry. I know what I've done is not okay. I know I made your safe spaces unsafe. In many cases, I've lost your trust. That is deserved. I don't think I can ever apologize enough to make it right, but I say again: I am truly and deeply mortified at my own actions. I wish I could take them back. I wish I had understood consent years ago. I wish, after learning about consent, I had actually applied it to my life right away.
I'm sorry to anyone I've hurt. I'm sorry for acting like I don't care about other people. I'm sorry I have not censored my actions in order to protect those around me. I want you to know that I really, truly and deeply do care about you and people in general. I know my actions have not shown that, and again I am so very sorry. I am doing my best to correct that and not repeat the same mistakes.
I'm sorry for my choices that have hurt and endangered others. I apologize to those who have tried to help me that I ignored and did not appreciate. I wish I would have listened. Please know how much I really do appreciate what you've done for me when I didn't deserve it.
I've lost many of my good friends' trust because of these and all my sins done toward them. I don't deserve your trust, but I hope someday I can earn it back. I want to be trusted. I want to be caring and considerate like I know I can be. I'm trying. I'm changing. Bad habits are hard to break, but no good thing in life is easy. This is something I'm going to have to always be conscious of and I'll probably slip up from time to time. Please call me out on it. I can't do this without you.
To those of you reading this, I care about you. I love you. I respect you. And because you deserve the utmost respect, I promise to work on this struggle of mine. I promise to listen when you call me out. I promise to be humble and admit my mistakes. I promise to be responsible for my actions. I promise to put others' safety before my own. I promise to think about the people around me. I promise to be less selfish. And most important of all, I promise to do my best in following the rules of consent.
Thank you to those who have stuck around. Thank you to those who have been honest with me. Thank you to those who have called me out on my shit. It really is what I needed. And the next time I see you, I'll say, "Hi, I've missed you. Thank you for all you have done for me. May I give you a hug?"
I hope you say yes.