11 years ago, I was at the beginning of my Victim's Advocate career. I was young, determined and eager to take on all the battles of social justice for the names of those files that came across my desk. These people were victims of horrible things: rape, domestic violence, hate crimes, you name it. I felt their pain. I wiped their tears. I stood by them through medical and legal reliving of their worst nightmares. I fought to get them justice. I was their voice during times they had none. And I was determined to save them all.
But the horrible reality came crashing down on me time and time again: I couldn't save them all. I couldn't fix the system. I was only one tiny piece in a raging sea of injustice, violence, pain and trauma. I couldn't change everything. I couldn't win every battle. And most importantly, I couldn't do it alone. These truths became almost too much to bear.
I was lucky enough to find a mentor during that same year: A decorated law enforcement officer that had been working with victims for nearly 20 years. His devotion to his community, and to the integrity of his badge was rivaled only by his faith and belief in people. I watched him, time and time again, handle some of the worst situations a law enforcement officer could see with an overwhelming calm, strength and discernment that to this day, I strive to obtain. I found myself pouring my heart out about a particularly painful case I had where the system was blatantly failing MY victim and he told me this story.
I have carried The Starfish Story with me since that day. Over the years, my offices have been adorned in starfish as the reminder that I can make a difference to each starfish that ends up in my hands. If I can remember to be present; If I can remember that the small differences are the ones that matter most to my starfish; If I can find joy in the little differences I can make.....then I will know I've made a difference.
Recently, I left my vanilla career to dedicate myself to my Leather and Kink Communities. I have been privileged to be a presenter at a number of BDSM conventions, workshops and work with venues around the country. I saw a need within Portland for play parties offered in safe spaces and years later, my Fetish Night events are going strong. I saw a need for education workshops, both ones I could offer on my own, and those I offered in service to a number of organizations. I've lost count at the number of workshops I have filled, sold out and presented.
And while my resume has grown and my name well-known, what has remained far more important to me is that my heart has been happy. I've watched countless numbers of people (and couples) grow, learn, and find themselves. I've been honored to help so many "earn" their leather. I've helped leaders succeed. I've helped fight away predators. I've helped victims find the courage to come back to BDSM stronger.
With every experience, my number of starfish safely placed back in the water grows. Each one is remembered. Each one sees a new day and a new way of seeing their world. Each one means something to me, and will forever be a part of who I am.
And for that, my heart is happy.