Jordan Shearer | Staff Writer | 2-24-2012
College is a time for exploration and experimentation. It is a time when people find out who they really are, and, more importantly, who they really want to be. This can be a positive experience, but it can also go drastically wrong. As Julia Garcia has said, “In college, you either lose yourself or you find yourself.”
As a part of sexual responsibility week, Garcia spoke to students in Hagg-Sauer about her own college life. Or, perhaps it would be more fitting to say that she warned students from her own experiences. Describing how she plunged into the party scene in college that resulted in severe alcoholism, Garcia urged students to be “TRU” (The Real U) to themselves by learning how to take control of their habits and, ultimately, their lives.
As a story within a story, Garcia introduced herself through spoken-word poetry. The poem told in rhythmic language of the control alcohol had over her, the horror of being sexually abused, and how she was eventually sent to rehab to deal with her problems.
Although college is where all of her problems manifested themselves, Garcia explained how her issues had begun long before when she became the daughter of a broken home. This was exasperated later by the deaths of three people close to her within the same year, each one related to drugs and alcohol. All of this accumulated and festered until she began to drink to the point of losing all self-worth and respect.
She did more than tell her own story, though. She related it back to the students, first by showing a number of pictures which she asked everyone to classify as either “classy” or “trashy.” Many of them consisted of passed out, drunken students and people throwing up into toilets. She made students reflect on these pictures and asked them if the images were really the way they would want to be portrayed. “It affects your reputation, and most importantly, how you feel about yourself,” Garcia said.
She used this point to lead into the facts about sexual responsibility, saying how easy it is to be put in compromising situations when intoxicated to such a severe extent. “I was drinking to the point of blacking out and didn’t even know what kind of positions I was putting myself in or who I was going into a room with,” Garcia said. She stated the fact that one in three women and one in six men are sexually assaulted, an alarming fact in and of itself, but Garcia gave it deeper significance by having the students stand up if they had known anyone that had been sexually assaulted.
Garcia was adamant that being wise about alcohol does not mean the party life has to be abandoned altogether. Instead, she proposed a number of ways in which students can still enjoy themselves while not putting themselves at as much risk. Some of these ways include having a designated driver, having a “buddy system,” making one’s own drinks, and drinking water periodically throughout the night.
Towards the end of the evening, Garcia asked students their reasons for being in college, challenging them to become more than who they are now. She challenged them to change their perceptions with which they look at impossible situations, saying, “When you walk out of here tonight, I want you to look at yourself with confidence and with pride and with courage.”
She modeled this herself through a second poem which spoke of overcoming obstacles and dictating the future through one’s goals, saying, “We dream with our eyes wide open, and we are doing more than just hoping that they will come true.”
She has more than a beautiful poem to back up her words. Garcia has left her old lifestyle behind and is currently working towards her PhD while speaking across the country about being TRU. On top of that, she has recently released a book entitled Somewhere In-Between. Through all of this, she hopes to continue to share her story and help people to fulfill their potential.