In Search of a Killer

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I first found out about my cousin’s disappearance from a random post one of my Facebook friends shared.  It was one of those things people like to share without really thinking about who the subject was, and the prettier they were, the more it was likely to to be noticed.  I did a double-take when I really looked at the picture because I realized I knew that missing girl.  That girl was my family.  I had just seen her at another family member’s birthday party last month.  And here was this picture of her saying she was missing.  I was dumbfounded that this was happening.  This happened to other people, but not to us, and we hoped that perhaps it wasn’t true.

When your loved one is missing and you’re faced with the options, you will pick anything over death.  You want them to be missing.  You want them to be stupid and careless like I was once when I was her age, not caring about my parents and making rash decisions because I didn’t know any better.  We thought maybe she was trafficked.  Perhaps she did run away.  Anything other than the idea that she was dead.  It’s hard to imagine a mother hoping that her daughter is trafficked instead of being dead because the first leaves room for her daughter to be alive, and the other doesn’t.  However, when you’re in that situation, you’ll take any  shred of hope that you can hold on to.

As the days slipped away and the circumstances of her disappearance came to light, we realized that things did not add up.  The way she went missing seemed very suspicious as her mother was the last to see her late Wednesday night.  By early Thursday morning, she simply vanished without a trace.  She left behind her phone, her money, and everything else that mattered to her.  It was as if she never existed.  How do you track down a ghost?  Someone who simply isn’t there anymore.  You start to question if you really even knew them.  With each day, we tortured ourselves with the details and re-examined what little we knew over and over until the items themselves didn’t make sense anymore.  How do you make sense out of a life that vanishes into thin air?  What do you have to hold on to except for the memories?

Then we heard the police pulled a body from the Fox River and we waited for what seemed an eternity for the news.  Some of us suspected it was her.  Some of us hoped for the best up until the very moment the words escaped the detective’s lips.  It was her.  There is a strange sense in knowing.  In not knowing, you could imagine she could be out there somewhere, alive. In knowing, we knew that her last moments would’ve been hell.  We knew she suffered.  We knew she was gone.  But we also knew that some families never get their loved ones back, and at least we did.  The investigation is ongoing, but there is a killer out there and we are looking for them.  Who the killer is is anyone’s guess.  It could’ve been herself.  It could’ve been someone she knew and trusted to leave in the dead of the night without her phone.  It could’ve been a stranger that abducted her from her room.

Caitlyn Xiong was a kind and gentle soul who loved children and wanted to be a teacher.  She hated bullies and wanted to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.  She was an underdog and rooted for people just like her.  She was also very strong-willed and independent.  Although she and her boyfriend had just broken up a few days prior, her mother said she didn’t think she was suicidal.  She wasn’t planning her departure from this earth.  She was planning for a future.  She had gotten a job so she could save money for a car and attend school.  She was on the verge of becoming an adult and reaching her full potential, but that was all taken away from her.  She will never fulfill those plans and we will never see them come to fruition because she was taken.

We are looking for a killer.  A killer of hopes and dreams. A killer of family relationships and bonds.  A killer of possibilities.  Because when she was taken, all of these things were also taken.  What happens to a life that is unexpectedly stopped?  Do the answers also stop?  In reality, what we really need to come to terms with is that once we do finally get the truth, it may come with justice, but no comfort, for it will not bring her back.

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Get Comfortable with Rape

Rape, molestation, and sexual misconduct thrive in our culture because we all choose to remain silent about it.  We stay silent in the name of ‘protecting the victims,’ but all it does is enables the predators to continue to prey.  Silence comes in many forms.  After a rape occurs, we do not talk about it, which causes a veil of shame to form around the victim.  When something is not talked about, the issue festers and the blame is internalized, causing the victim to question their own beliefs, while the perpetrator counts on the silence for their conscience to be free.  However, there is a silence most are not aware of.  We do not talk about what to do before a rape occurs.  Because we do not, there is shame involved with being raped and those who are raped are less apt to come forward.

When we start a new job, they tell you about what to do if you are not able to come in, but not what to do if you are sexually assaulted. When our children attend school, they teach them how to add, but not how to report being molested.  We do not talk about this subject because it is unsavory and hope that it does not occur, which causes more harm than good because in the end, it creates a culture of silence, where no one really acknowledges that these things happen and sweep them under the rug instead.  From before being raped to after being raped, we as a society do not talk about it.  We’ve got to realize that after centuries of experience, this is not working.  Being silent does nothing.

Every time a foster child is placed, we must talk about rape.  Every time we have a new wave of incoming freshmen at college, we must talk about rape.  Every time we we start a new summer camp, we must talk about rape.  Every time we start a new job, we must talk about rape.  The more comfortable we get with the notion that rape exists and occurs openly, the more we will allow victims to open up about it because they know they will be believed.  When perpetrators know that there is no more silence, they will also realize that they will face consequences, but if we continue not to talk about it, everything will remain exactly the same.

I’ve known many of my friends and family who have been raped or attempted to be raped, and rape is everywhere, but no one talks about it because we’ve been conditioned not to.   It is not up to the victim to report the crime.  It is up the society they live in to make it a welcoming enough environment for them to talk about. When you realize that you can be the difference in changing rape culture, you realize the importance of knowledge.  The more we can accept that rape happens and should be talked about BEFORE it happens, the less rape will become foreign and out of our lexicon.  We as a society need to acknowledge that rape is a very uncomfortable subject to bring up, but that what we’ve been doing has not been working.  Get comfortable with rape.  Get comfortable about talking about it and know change starts with you.

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Those who can’t create destroy.

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To create and bring forth is to harness a sort of power.  When you create something from nothing, you gain a sense of godliness because you have made something.  There is power in creating and power is always sought after.  I really came to understand this when I read The Girl with the Pearl Earring.  The artist in the book holds power because he creates, but his wife also wanted power, so she created children.  To give life to someone is the greatest power of all.  And if you can’t create, you destroy, because there is power in that as well.  Those who take a life also feel the power that they hold when they decide to do so.  Those who tear down what others build learn they can be just as powerful as those who create.  We remember creators and destroyers alike, for they have bled into our lexicon and world.  If it were not for Ed Gein, there would be no Pyscho, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Silence of the Lamb.

The Next Level

We’re all looking for the next level, whether it be personal or for all of mankind.  What is the next level?  It’s the perceived idea of where we should be.  There is no real next level.  It simply exists in our minds as an ideal.  And yet, we reach for it because we know we must do better.  It is this notion that separates us from other species, for we aspire to more.  Ambition is our strength and weakness, for we seek it without knowing how to get there.  Personally, many of us are wondering what our lives mean.  Not on a grand scale, but just our individual lives.  On a whole, we want to know ‘when are we going to get flying cars?’  Many people speak of the next level, but very few know how to get there.

On a personal level, I’ve heard people ask before what it all means.  How their life fits into this?  They want to know answers.  The questions always differ, but in the end, they want answers.  I can give you an answer:  nobody can answer it and help you but yourself.  Honestly, it is not the answer you are truly seeking for it will bring you no joy.  What you should seek is who you are and what you want out of this life.  If no one can help you in this journey, that means you only have yourself, and if you do not build yourself, then you will not reach the end.  Once you have worked on who you are, you will come to realize that it was you you were searching for all along.  Everything else is secondary.  When you find yourself, you find your place in the world and see how it all fits.  When you haven’t found yourself, you feel like an outsider.

On a global scale, people want to know when our lives will resemble that of a science fiction movie or novel.  I can tell you when: when there is no more hunger and homelessness.  If we cannot take care of societies’s most basic needs, we will never progress as a people.  The only way you can judge a nation’s success is between the gap between the poor and the rich.  Once people have found themselves, they are more apt to see their role in society and help others.  Once they see how society functions, they will realize that we must all work as one and that we are no better than the poorest among us.  When you have eliminated these basic needs, people will be able to function better and contribute more to society.  Once they contribute more, society as a whole becomes more enlightened.  So you see, the next level is about being selfless and that is where change comes from.

Failure’s Purpose is to Humble You

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When you encounter a setback or a stumbling block in life, know that life is not trying to ruin you.  The purpose of failure is to humble you.  What happens when you become humble?  You see beyond yourself.  You see how your life fits in the world and how it is intertwined with the fate of those around you and those you will never meet.  Being humble means crying about someone dying in a bar and having an acquaintance tell you that it’s not as bad as you think because they have no idea why you are crying, but you simply accept it because you know they are trying their best without trying to inflict pain.  Being humble means showing compassion to those who never showed you any.  Being humble means being thankful for all the good and bad things that have ever happened to you.

A funny thing happens when you become humble.  You shed your skin of vulnerability, for you no longer fear defeat.  Defeat becomes your friend and you find you are capable of the impossible suddenly.  There are those who will continue to lament the very real tragedies in their lives, but when they refuse to see the good in the tragedy, they still open themselves up to the rift of pain that exists and they can never escape that cycle of self-inflicted pain.  How do you see the good?  Realize that the world does not revolve around you, but that instead, you exist to make the world a better place.  If you let yourself be defeated by defeat, you wallow in a kind of selfish pity that threatens you with only more defeat.  But if you’ve become immune to defeat, you can become selfless.

You should never court failure, but if it does happen, welcome it as the humbling agent it is.  For only those who have tasted defeat knows how sweet success does taste.

The Loneliness of not being Authentic

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I recently read a newspaper article detailing how today’s society is reporting many more people feeling lonely than ever before.  I find it hard to believe that people feel so lonely in a time where we are more connected than ever.  You can find your niche and people with the touch of the keyboard.  Mobile phones, social media, and the internet allow us to be in touch with others like no other time in history, so why is that we are reporting more loneliness?  Many say it’s because we’re having more superficial interactions with others, but no one quite knows how to deal with it.  Here’s a thought: stop being superficial.  That’s probably harder than you think, though.

The reality is that we live in a society that prizes success and as such, many shy away from speaking about what has gone wrong in their lives.  We build our social medias to portray the best that we have to offer, rarely speaking of what is really lurking behind the mask.  It is expected that we put our best foot forward.  When someone asks how your day is going, the correct response is ‘good,’ no matter if it is or not.  We expect only to hear about the good things from others and they start to show only the success they’ve had in their life, which causes a rift between reality and polite niceties that are required.  What is happening is that we are not having authentic connections with each other because we expect each other to always be positive.  When we filter our conversations, our pictures, and our posts, we filter our authenticity.

Loneliness can occur from many things such as moving somewhere new or having someone leave our lives that we were once close to, but there is a different kind of loneliness that is creeping into our lives in the present day.  It leaves us unsatisfied with ourselves and with who we are, so we seek it out in the outside world, never realizing we can’t fill the hole that is within us.  We’ve learned to politely lie so well to the world that we have begun lying to ourselves.  We crave success and acceptance so much that we forgo our failures.  Failure is what can bring you to authenticity.  When you speak about your failure, you become vulnerable and allow others to become vulnerable as well.  They then allow themselves to speak about their failures and connect with you.  You can always strive to reach success, but you must connect with failure, for that’s when we are truly authentic: when we have nothing left to lose.

The Art of Settling