You can imagine my surprise when I walked into an upperclassman’s house my freshman year and heard a girl talking about a bike ride she would be doing the upcoming summer where she would ride 1,700 miles from Seattle to San Diego. Instantly, I thought she was crazy, and I wondered what she could possibly do to fight against sex trafficking with a bike. But after months of watching that upperclassman (Grace Hodo, if you’re reading this, please know that you’re my inspiration) inspire the community around her and raise up a conversation in Waco about what we could to do help the individuals who are being exploited day after day, I knew that Pedal the Pacific was an organization I wanted to be a part of.
Fast forward to the fall semester of my sophomore year and I was given the opportunity to create an infographic for a graphic design class I was taking. While I worked alongside other students designing our infographics, I was able to start those same conversations that Grace had shared with me months before.
While we were critiquing the design portion of my project, I was also inevitably sharing the shocking statistics about the sex trafficking industry all while telling my peers about an organization they could support that was fighting against this issue. And that project was just the beginning of my journey with Pedal the Pacific.
Months after I designed that infographic, Emma Black (Team 2020) reached out to me with an amazing opportunity to design merchandise for her Pedal the Pacific team. Arguably, my favorite project that I have ever worked on has been the bandana I designed for the community team this past summer. As I designed, I began to listen to podcasts, Ted Talks, I even joined the team in reading Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger and tried to get a better understanding as to what sex trafficking truly looked like in today’s world. Listening to the stories of girls and women who had experienced this industry first-hand only made me want to get more involved and use whatever creativity my brain could muster up to create this project that loomed in front of me. At the time, I was not sure if making a bandana was even in my creative ability, but the idea that I was working for a cause that was bigger than myself was what allowed me to finish something that has sparked many conversations about the anti-trafficking movement. And my hope is that people will see that same idea in our ride: that we are fighting for something so much bigger than ourselves even though it’s not necessarily comfortable. Even though my designs were just a tiny percent of the work that the 2020 Team had in the fight against sex trafficking, the lessons I learned were enough to inspire me to apply and get on a bike.
Far too often, I find myself staying in my little comfort zone instead of reaching out and trying new things. I go to the same restaurants, eat the same meals, shop at the same stores, and stick to the same schedule every week. But even in the short time I have been a part of this team, I have already been pushed in the best way possible to get out of my comfort zone, talk about issues that matter, and have conversations that are bigger than myself. Because at the end of the day, we should be striving to be a part of the uncomfortable: the weird, cringe-worthy, makes-your-stomach-churn, kind of uncomfortable that makes you a better version of yourself who cares for others and is willing to fight for people who are overlooked by the society we find ourselves in. Even if I am the last one to cross the finish line or if this ride can’t happen the way we are expecting it to look on the Pacific coast, I know that this organization will always push me to become a better version of myself and allow me to be a part of a movement that is not just fighting against injustice, but actually pursuing justice and providing hope for the individuals who are being exploited day after day. To Grace Hodo, Emma Black, and whoever thought I could design a bandana even though I couldn’t, thank you for planting those seeds in my heart and igniting this flame inside of me that has caused me to finally get out of my comfort zone and fight for the people who have been affected by such a horrific industry.
My hope is that anyone who hears my story will be able to find a way to use their gifts and talents so that they too can be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself biking 1,700 miles with a group of girls you’ve never met before too! In whatever capacity you are meant to work towards this cause, we all can have a part in this anti-trafficking movement, whether your gift is public speaking, accounting, singing, dancing, painting, you name it. Every single person on this earth has the ability to fight in this movement and speak out, design something, paint a picture, crunch the numbers, host an event, start a conversation, etc. Whatever it may look like, our actions can spark change in our communities to continue the fight against sex trafficking.