The Thing You Think You Cannot Do

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve never been sure about the ROYALS. I’ve never been sure about applying for a grant that would fund the event that we did for Denim Day and creating the website you are looking at right now. I’m never sure that I know I will be helpful when a young lady comes up to me and says “Ms. Conant, can I talk to you?”.

Why? For one, I’m afraid. I don’t want to revisit my own trauma. There’s a part of me that says “enough already”. There’s a part of me that says “you’re the teacher. What will the kids think if they know? Better maintain some distance.” And there’s the part of me that is tired, that has a hundred papers to grade, and three classes to prepare for and really wants to do a better job teaching English, and knows this will probably derail the rest of the day. So what do I do?

I think of the ROYALS. And I am inspired.

I think of the young ladies who stepped through the veils of their own suffering to start this movement last year. I think of the senior who spent hours of her own time finding activities for us to do during our CPSs. I think of the hours the ROYALS spent making pins and shooting video and cutting the Denim Day film together even though they had their own papers and test and colds and what-have-yous to dead with. Because of all of them, I find the strength. I find the confidence. I find the courage.

Maybe we didn’t do all we initially set out to do, but we did accomplish much. We have a website that has been viewed by people as far away as the Ukraine and China! Students in all four academies know that we exist, and we have a plan to move forward next year. We have an Instagram. We have activities that we can share with students. And we have each other.

Watching Christine Blasey-Ford testify, knowing how many young men and women experienced exactly what she experienced at the hands of peers, family members. Watching her relive the shame, confusion, fear, and guilt that comes with sexual assault — that was hard. It seems that it is one step forward, two steps back for those of us who are survivors. Sometimes I wonder how or why we carry on. Then I recall an interview with one of the founders of Black Lives Matter in which she said “We don’t have the luxury of giving up.” And we don’t.

Thank you ROYALS for reminding me that strength, courage, and confidence are infinite — especially when we combine our resources. You are some of the best humans I know, and I am grateful to have spent this year with you. And thank you to Ms. Evans, my dear sister at ArTES, to Mr. Massey, and to the staff at ArTES who always supported us, and to Girls Build LA for inspiring us.

To you, fellow survivors — we take it day by day. One breath at a time. Some days are easier than others. That’s ok. In fact, that’s exactly right. The shame and the guilt is not yours. Return it to the one who did this to you. Let him or her live with it. Your strength, beauty, and power are still there. It never left you. We are here for you. We love you and believe you. We walk with you.

Ms. Coco, Sponsor, ROYALS