I got a tattoo on the day I turned 18.

I'm 22 now, so I figure the real test of maturity is deciding whether or not you need to find someone to cover up/remove said-18-year-old-Maggie tattoo.

A little backstory here: my mother's favorite movie is "The Shawshank Redemption." I had seen this movie dozens of times throughout my adolescent years and into young adulthood. It's not exactly the jolliest movie to date, but the underlying theme of 'hope' was something I really appreciated and was captivated by.

I decided that, after serious deliberation between a Mumford & Son's song lyric & a quote from the film (I know, I know...), that my first tattoo would be a quote from my mom and I's favorite movie. I love my sweet mom, so it just seemed fitting. And the quote talked about hope, so I digress.

The tattoo reads:

"There's something inside, that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours."
"What are you talking about?"

It's dialogue between Andy & Red inside the cafeteria during a scene in the film. I figured it was a little different from the standard "get busy livin' or get busy dyin'", and having the full dialogue probably didn't make a whole lot of sense to others, but I liked it, and that was all that mattered.

It's rather easy to forget about tattoos once you've had them for X period of time. Especially if they're on your ribcage and you just, well, don't tend to come across it every day. But lately, this tattoo seems awfully relevant.

I took a trip to Los Angeles for my first time at the end of November/early part of December to watch a dear friend compete for her dream job as Miss California USA - and with no surprise, she won. During this trip, I remember speaking with her and another beautiful new friend about my platform of sexual assault education & prevention. Neither of them will know how crucial this trip, or our conversations were, to my mindset/how I view this platform and even more importantly, how I view my own trauma.

It's can be a little overwhelming to be friends with such talented, intelligent, beautiful, empathetic women. Overwhelming, but also just really cool. Several of my conversations with these two women talked about my future plans to compete for Miss Iowa, and eventually, Miss America. Both of these women stressed to me the importance of being a hopeful person with a platform like mine, and really emphasizing that as a part of what I could bring to the table. Sidenote: this trip to LA happened right before Miss America's ex-CEO stepped down for emails that degraded former titleholders. Shortly after, Gretchen Carlson (see "hero" in the dictionary) took over the organization as Chairwoman.

I hadn't thought about it much - being "hopeful." It never crossed my mind that hope needed to be a central component of everything I was preaching. It never crossed my mind because I wasn't sure I even had any. But, sometimes it just takes the right people to remind you of who you are and what you stand for. These unbelievable women probably thought they were just talking to me about Miss Iowa, but those conversations changed my life. I no longer felt like I had to feel despair about the fact that I was a victim of sexual violence. Instead, I could feel hope. Genuine, unapologetic hope.

On my flight home from LA, I felt something I hadn't felt in a really long time. It was a feeling similar to when you hear a really good quote from a movie. Or maybe how you loved a quote so much that you went and got it branded on your body. Faith restored, hope overflowing. It was a good day.

The truth is, when you're speaking to people about sexual violence, or really any violence, you can't forget the hope. Without hope, the conversation gets muddled & lost, or at least, that's what I've found in my experience. And as a survivor, for me, if I speak without a sense of hope, I might as well not speak at all. I've learned over the course of the last couple of months that having hope does not equate to apathy, just like having intense passion doesn't equate to lack of hope.

I am so indebted to those people who have made me remember the hope. It seems fitting to publish this on the day where we remember perhaps one of the most hopeful human beings of all time. It seems fitting to publish this during a time when I am reminded more and more everyday of how justice can be served and hope can be found. It seems fitting to publish this during a time where women from all over the globe are standing together to fight for equality. It all seems very fitting.

If you changed my thoughts on hope, and if you gave me a little more of it, you know who you are. Thank you for restoring the faith.

And thanks to 18-year-old Mags, who perhaps had a better head on her shoulders than I used to give her credit for. Nice choice.


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