TV saved my life last fall

This post is going to be deeply personal for me, I just want to preface. I may cover topics such as implied sexual harassment, and mental health so I want to warn readers that I will try my best as to not be overtly detailed as to cause triggers. But I will let you know I do cover those topics. Also I have omitted names, as well as some other fine details because they’re too sensitive or not in my place to speak of.

So I started my first year of college last year. This drastically impacted me being across the country from home, being in a large city, and being alone from all my friends. It’s no surprise I felt depressed at times, or I struggled with opening myself up to making new friends. But something that really hindered this was my living situation at the time. I’ve opened up to close friends who know exactly what happened as I told them in real time because some of what I witnessed or lived through is quite honestly something so bizarre and unspoken about it could be a tv pilot.

But I do want to say that in that time Television was my solace. I had several moments inside my apartment where I did not feel safe. It was during this time that I sought out using the tv as a distraction. Thing is I would binge 30 Rock, and eventually completed the series last fall because it was all my distracted mind could focus on. That and Grey’s Anatomy. Which I had finished the year before and can basically recite like the back of my hand.

Now when I say I didn’t feel safe in my apartment you have to understand some things.

First, I shared a bedroom and a bunk bed with another girl. I was on the top bunk. She over the time spent in our room was a terrible roommate. And no it wasn’t that she was just loud. There’s really no excuse for doing laundry only twice from August 31st to October 28th. She would let her hamper overflow to the point where she began to leave laundry on her bed, she never put away clean clothes so they laid with the soiled ones, and then it became a large pile that stacked all the way up to our window sill. Once I climbed out of bed and found she had thrown a thong onto my chair. This was not all though of course it couldn’t be.

I told you I wasn’t safe.

See as the laundry accumulated, she had also moved out of our room. She began sleeping in our living room next to the couch on the floor, which she littered with instant noodles and chocolate pudding cups. She did not tell us why.  I, being a shy and timid person, had not really interacted with her much. Through all this she had boyfriend troubles so every few nights we all pitched in and did damage control for her emotionally. So as things progressed she just grew angry and agitated, coming back home from spending the night at her boyfriend’s dorm and slamming the bedroom door as she came in while I ‘slept’ (or pretended to be asleep so she wouldn’t talk to me). Throughout this time she had been coming in and out with her boyfriend through the days and there were a lot of moments where they had sex in the bathroom and we all could hear it. There wasn’t so much of a group text to let us know to leave. I was locked out of my bedroom without my phone once. But then she broke up with this boyfriend. There was a period of time where she would bring home random guys.

There is nothing wrong with a woman having a lot of sexual interaction, but when it puts other girls at risk that’s where it’s a problem. Not only was my roommate putting herself in danger with a stranger, she put us in danger as well. One such time when she was agitated if I remember correctly, I did what any logical person would have done. I went to the room next to mine, closed the door, sat on the floor with my other roommates and I made them watch the Grey’s Anatomy pilot.

Watching the pilot made me feel so at peace in a time where I did not know what was going to happen to me. I think what made such an impact on me was that I was watching characters who didn’t have a firm grasp on life as I did in that moment. They felt lost, they felt unsure of the world they had just stepped foot in and so did I. We felt safe for 43 minutes.

Then the random guys brought alcohol into the mix as well. So the girl I shared a bedroom with would bring men we both did not know home, while intoxicated and underage, and not tell any of us. I guess I slept through a few nights where my other roommate walked some of the men out of the apartment in the middle of the night because this girl was too drunk. So as this was happening I was sleeping.

I can not tell this story without mentioning that she sexually harassed my other roommate while drunk however that story is not mine to tell but I will say my story comes back into this because she and I discussed it a few days after.

I felt guilty over it because that was one night when this girl came home very drunk, crying and she eventually called her mom and she was very loud. It was 11 or 12 at night and I had an 8:30 the next morning so I closed our door, and tried to block out the noise. That was when the harassment occurred and I wish that I hadn’t shut down and knew what to do in the situation but I didn’t.

So the victim and I were talking about what happened and about reporting her when she tells me that the girl had been bragging to her the night before about having sex in her bunk with a random guy while I slept.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel safe, my privacy had been violated. The worst part of all of that is that I do not know exactly what occurred and I do not know if I myself was touched by them at any point in time. My sense of self was so out of place from then because I truly do not know. I woke up clothed that is all knew.

We eventually reported her and that was when my other roommate and I began to binge Grey’s Anatomy together because it was something that took our mind off of what was happening. Suddenly we were afraid to come home at times we knew she was there.  The process of deciding to report her and to who was a messy blur. I remember hiding at our starbucks around the corner and then in our lobby until I knew she wasn’t there.

But once it came to the time where the sexual harassment offices got involved I did not report, although my roommate reported and then I went with her to follow up meetings with officials to verify her story with my own. It was because of this that the biggest incident happened.

I was sitting, doing homework on a Thursday afternoon where I didn’t have class. Everyone was having class. Or so I thought. She had been taken into the title ix offices and told of the accusations against her. I got a phone call from her that I stupidly picked up.

I heard “Why are you lying,” and I automatically responded by saying that it wasn’t me filing a claim against her that it was the other roommate and it was confidential so I could not discuss the case with her before hanging up.

I felt my heart racing to the point of I felt faint. My face was blushed, I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I had no choice, I didn’t know when she was coming home. I did NOT want to see her. I felt in danger. I closed my laptop. I sent an email to my RA, I told her I didn’t feel safe and I also let my other roommate know. She asked me to come to her room. At this point I felt very weak. My heart was pounding in my ears, I felt the need to pack everything up because every bad thing I could think of raced through my head. What if she came back and broke my camera? My laptop? What if she stole my clothes? What if she…what if she-?

I eventually grabbed my purse and made my way down the hall. I knocked on my RA’s door. While I waited the elevator dinged multiple times, and each time I jumped with panic that it was this girl coming back to our apartment. Once inside my RA’s room she led me to her couch while she went to make a phone call to her adviser to tell her the situation.

I found myself on her couch watching whatever she had turned the TV to.

It was Grey’s Anatomy.

I didn’t touch anything, I didn’t even realize until my heart had slowed down and I heard that voice that made my days so much better.

Grey’s Anatomy actually saved my life. Hearing just the familiar voice of Meredith Grey that I had developed a connection to over 13 seasons actually ended my panic attack. At that moment nothing mattered. I watched for those five minutes before my RA came back in and talked to me. Those five minutes took me away from the emotional hell I had been living in for weeks. It took me to a hospital where I knew everyone’s name, and I didn’t feel at fear for what could happen to me. That’s all that mattered. Grey’s Anatomy made me feel safe. I will always be in debt to Shonda Rhimes, and to the cast, to Ellen Pompeo- for making a show so full of heart that it became the light in my dark.

and to my RA for  having it on. She didn’t know. She was catching up on some studying with it on as background noise when I came to her. TV transcends itself by being such a staple we live on and for me it was such a sign. TV came to me when I needed it the most. I needed it for an escape and it provided that. I don’t know what would have happened had it not been playing when I came over because it was such a terrifying situation. This girl was also bipolar and off her medication and had been for weeks. Her behavior was erratic and extreme which made me fear for my safety a lot and knowing she was angry at me led me to a lot of anxious thoughts.

Now that she’s gone, Grey’s doesn’t leave our TV often. After having binged the entire show my roommate promptly started again. It’s on when we eat, it’s on while we study- it brings peace to us because we had to make our apartment our safe space again. We didn’t move out, she did. But the places where she hurt us were still there.

“When something bad happens there’s always a handful of beautiful things that come out of it “- Ellen Pompeo

I write this because I was just diagnosed with anxiety/depression and I made a promise to myself. If Greys can last this long, why can’t I? Obviously my livelihood does not depend on the show but understanding that I have over 300 options of episodes to calm me down during the worst of times is comforting. It is time that I stop blaming myself, or questioning why this happened to me but to put myself forward to not be prisoner to my anxiety anymore. So what, something bad happened to me but I found beauty in how I was saved.

“What’s broken can be mended, what’s hurt can be healed. No matter how dark it gets, the sun’s gonna rise again”- Meredith Grey.

TV will always be there next year too.

It’ll be there and it’ll be safe.

tea: wildberry zinger 

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Coincidence

Life is kind of a series of coincidences. I’ve lived through many of coincidences, and I’ve reflected on them a lot but there’s one that just blew me away.I mean it’s something significant when just days before you officially change your concentration to something, one of your role models breaks the news they’re pursuing it too.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve always kind of separated my interests from career to the point where I don’t actively search out people to idolize with my same exact goals in my career because I don’t want my story to be me trying to be a carbon copy of them. I am my own person under a realm of influence by the people I look up to and interact with. My want to go to ‘film school’ was that I already knew I wanted to create media within the cinematic elements, not because I idolized anyone.

So like let’s fast forward here to my first year of college, and I’m in this TV program because around sophomore year of highschool I realized I don’t want to make movies, I want to make TV. My sort of goal for TV has always been a way to bring stories to screen that made my classmates feel represented. I will always have a young white woman to represent me, I’ve found several. But I had started to realize my friends didn’t watch TV as much as me because they felt disconnected as POC, or lgbtq+ members and so on. Anyway so that’s why I’m in TV. I also, not to brag, have a real skill in it and have had background training starting from a highschool level ( I was broadcast director & won a few film festivals). I made sure to get into a TV program versus a film program because I knew that the specifics would benefit me, but I originally was in a editing concentration. I love editing but my school combined it with a lot of graphic and visual design, which I have played with and learned I don’t enjoy. So time came around and I changed my concentration this year. I had been planning for months. Then the news broke.

 “It took 13 years, but Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo will boldly follow in several of her co-stars’ footsteps when she directs an episode of the ABC medical drama this spring, TVLine has learned.”
Hold up…you’re telling me I changed my concentration just before I learned Ellen Pompeo, someone whom I’ve looked up to for a few years now, and have always dreamed of seeing what her production company does…actually became a director which is what I changed my concentration to?
I changed from an editing concentration to directing/producing concentration.
My mind was made up before I my appointment time with my counselor, so the actual timing is officially after Ellen’s announcement. I was stunned. As a creative person who over analyzes, seeing someone you look up to or idolize and seeing how their creative mind works is honestly a fever dream. There is nothing better than the rush that comes when trying to analyze someone’s work, that you feel so connected to. I’ve never met Ellen, probably never will; but the life that comes from interviews, and from social media influences how I view her work obviously. Fast forward to now and I got to screen the episode at Paley Fest (side note here, many people met the cast at Paley, my seats were in the balcony and security did not allow anyone from those seats down to orchestra where the cast was signing and taking selfies).  I already talked about the episode and it’s meaningful impact to me last post, how I watched with my mother, so I’m going to talk more about directing here.
First off its a beautiful episode and I don’t only want Ellen to continue to direct Grey’s Anatomy, but this only made me more excited for her production company. Not many people know but Ellen has her own production company, Calamity Jane and she’s bought the rights to multiple movies and mini series. As a media person myself I’m so excited to see her career develop, and I think that’s what made me so excited about all of this. I’m very young and going to college for my dreams, but I see that my dreams can come true at any age. I could discuss more but I’ll just mention here about Ellen’s career, that it didn’t start until she was in her 30’s as an actress that when she moved beyond the Law&Order guest star phase into her first movie role, Moonlight Mile. Quickly after that she was cast in Grey’s Anatomy after Shonda Rhimes suggested to Betsy Beers, “Can we get someone like the girl from Moonlight Mile?” to which Betsy replied they could actually get that girl.
For an actress 30 is considered by majority of Hollywood to be too old, and Ellen felt the backlash of that by being cast as a mother, girlfriend, and love interest in several of her other films. She saw that Meredith Grey was more than the idea of someone’s lover, and a very complex character which is why she’s played her for over 13 years now. So Ellen broke that boundary on TV in 2004 when Grey’s first aired but she didn’t stop there. We can’t mention her directing without talking about the numbers. The number of women directors.
I don’t have numbers for television, and I think they are slightly more than the numbers I have for film alone but the statistic that I go to the most is that there’s only 13% of directors that are women.
13%
Shondaland has made progress with this number for years, for example co-star Chandra Wilson, has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy herself, as has Debbie Allen who helped coach Ellen Pompeo on her journey to directing. But the reason for me that Ellen’s episode is such a big deal is because she’s much more visible by viewers, known for this role she plays,  and the influence of this one episode is so great. Because it tells her fans, it tells these young girls, that you can do more. Besides acting Ellen’s always been an activist as well, and really put forward the notion that celebrities are real people. It is so easy to knock away all of her big fancy things because she’s very down to earth in the outlets she uses to interact with people. So that combined with directing is basically a show stopper.
There will probably never be a clear way for me to express the joy I feel knowing someone I adore so much, I can sympathize with in terms of struggles job wise but this is me trying.
This is an open letter to Ellen saying you did amazing, you have such a talent you probably had no idea you had, thank you for listening to Debbie when she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thank you for documenting it over social media, thank you for being so open at Paley Fest about your process, the vulnerability of your story being told, the personal touch that needed to be shared. Thank you for giving a young aspiring director like me hope, and thank you for breaking barriers.
Love Danielle, a TV student with a directing producing concentration.