(Birthday reflections will be a series on my blog.)

Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the organizations, representatives, or folks mentioned in this post. Additionally, I am aware of my privilege and thankful for the opportunities I have had. This post is going to be long, but please read all of it.

Wow. I keep thinking about the words that are about to flow into this post and I feel so much pain. I am choosing to be candid because how do I, or any of you reading this, benefit from this post if I am not? I probably will not sugarcoat too much. This is hard for me to write.

I feel as though I share a lot on my blog, and even more in real life, and I’ve only grown to be more open and vulnerable within the past year. Every time I post something, I’m completely terrified. Every time I share a piece of myself with someone, I’m completely terrified. So many of my friends ask me how I do it. Honestly, I do not know if I have the “right” answer in terms of how to practice vulnerability. I think a lot of this is just who I am and my personality, but my thought process has always centered around reminding myself, often, that I will never regret being vulnerable. I can never be blamed for withholding how I feel.

Every year, on my birthday, I go on a sunrise run. I do this to show myself that even though sunsets exist, sunrises do too. Additionally, joy exists in looking forward to a beautiful view.

Much of this past year has been beautiful. I held leadership positions at my university and worked on meaningful initiatives. In the past, I had always dreamed of speaking at a rally because I saw so many of my role models within the political field do the same. I accomplished this goal and spoke at a Planned Parenthood Get Out the Vote rally last fall alongside a good friend and amazing advocate, US Senator Tina Smith, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, and at-large Minneapolis School Board Member Kimberly Caprini. Events like these pave the way for women in politics, and I am honored to be a part of this movement.

During election season, our team increased voter turnout in student precincts by over one hundred percent. We worked to have so many progressive candidates elected and while these times may be daunting politically, I think we can all acknowledge that they are exciting as well. I had an amazing experience last November and spoke on a BBC international radio show, and I still cannot believe that this happened. A mentor of mine once told me that importance exists in just buckling down and doing good work. If you do good work, regardless of where you are, people will notice and honor it.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Tina Smith’s Senate office. The work environment was fun and I had a lot of interesting conversations with my fellow interns. We all got along super well, and I think, being in an office where the work, at times, can be mundane (scanning documents, answering constituent calls, writing letters), having great people alongside oneself is essential. I had a cool boss and us interns were paired with staffers based on our interests, so I was paired with the Diversity & Inclusion Outreach staffer and Healthcare & Aging Outreach staffer. Both of them are incredible women and I learned lots just by having conversations with them. I was able to partake in meetings and visit fascinating places such as the Federal Reserve. I learned a lot about what the work is like in a senate office as well as a lot about myself.

Over the past year, I have been fortunate to travel a fair amount. Last fall, I attended a national student government conference in New Orleans, and I could say a lot about the experiences I had there, but I think I will just say that it was interesting for sure. We were there over the weekend of Brett Kavanaugh’s unfortunate and scary, in my opinion, confirmation to the Supreme Court, and I heard some discouraging viewpoints regarding the matter. I am not sure how I managed to accomplish this given my packed schedule (take a look at my Google calendar), but I was able to fly to London for a weekend in April with my mom. To be honest, I thrived. I lived. I know that not everyone can afford to travel like this and I am so blessed to have a mother who would think of me when booking trips like this, but I needed it. I needed to clear my head and escape from the environment that was breaking me. I feel as though this trip also contributed positively to the relationship I have with my mom. I think that we have become closer throughout my time in college, but we became that even closer over this trip as well. I admire her so much.

I recently visited my family in India. We travel there every couple of years, and I enjoyed seeing my family. At the same time, I struggled quite a bit because I am constantly on the go, but I spent a lot of time sitting with my own thoughts while I was there. I felt anxious because my thoughts consumed me, and while I had fulfilling conversations with family members and read a couple books, I like to be moving. I really hope some of my family members in India visit us here at some point soon because I would love to show them a little bit of my world as well. Easy and comfortable living is not common in India. If you’re reading this, I urge you to visit the country at some point in your life because while it is beautiful, everyday life is not anything like how it is here in the United States. I am reminded of this every time I visit, and I am glad that I am. If you’d love to discuss India’s social and political climate with me sometime, let me know and we can grab coffee or take a walk.

This next part is going to be tough to write. As many know, I was in a long-term relationship that ended in February. I felt as though my soul had been sucked out of me and I had been shattered into an infinite amount of pieces. I still feel so much pain just from remembering the pain that this Natasha was feeling. Out of respect for him, I will not be sharing specific details, but we had gotten back together after breaking up once in May 2018, and I do not think either of us had healed from that previous breakup when we decided to do so. He is not toxic, but the relationship was. I can say that I deserve better, but I do not mean that I deserve a better person; I just deserve better treatment. I spent more time crying than I did smiling when I was with him. I would miss him when he was lying right next to me. I know that I showered him with as much love as I could muster, but if I have learned anything over time, it is that love is not enough to make a relationship work. I threw love at every problem, but the problems were never resolved. I just broke a little bit more with every single one. I will always have love for him, but I deserve someone who will respect not only me, but my love and my time. As Lewis Capaldi sings in Bruises, “it’s your love I’m lost in, and I’m tired of being so exhausted.” He struggled to treat me well and he admitted that he did. He did not have it in him because he did not love himself and was not secure in his life here, and how you treat others is often reflected in how you treat yourself.

I have noticed that my mental health is infinitely worse over breaks. My depression and anxiety were much worse over the winter, spring, and summer breaks. Winter break was especially troubling because I had moved out of my apartment due to a tough roommate situation and I spent most of it in Rochester. I love spending time with my family, but I do not like residing in a town that has not grown with me. I started 2019 and spring semester on a sad note, was trying to mend a broken relationship, and I actually lost an incredible amount of weight on top of already facing eating disorder (I have gained most of it back). My anxiety and depression were so horrible that, even as a high-functioning person, I started missing classes (I did alright academically despite this) and was too sad or anxious to make food and eat it. I still struggle with eating disorder, but I do my best to work through it. I have an immense amount of cysts on my scalp due to stress, most likely, and had a few of them removed at the beginning of the semester. The surgery was kind of horrible and this did not help my anxiety.

I started consistently attending therapy during this time, and I am glad that I am now taking steps to better my mental health. Growth is not linear, and I still struggle, but after my breakup, I felt lighter. I am more outspoken, and I love and appreciate my existence. I pay so much attention to where I place my energy. I have always had high emotional intelligence, but I am more forward about verbalizing how I feel, and have done so especially in the romantic experiences I have had since my relationship. All good things take time, and I continue to put myself out there and share my heart because I know that the relationships I have with other people are formative for my personality type. I am who I am because of others. I can be hurt a million times, but I will never close myself off to new experiences, or love, or the risk of heartache. If I know that I have given something or someone all that I can, I do not need to blame myself for whatever happens next. Building walls is the easy option, but relationships, dating, and loving in general is hard. The easy option will not work in the long run. My friends and family have told me in the past to stop investing so much into others because I am hurt so often, but why should I change myself because of how others treat me? I am going to be exactly who I am, and I would want the men I date, and especially whoever my life partner is, to value this. We will see what happens in the coming days.

For some reason, I was unable to cry for about four months over this past year. I might have cried so much before then that I did not have any tears left, but I often had the urge to cry because I am such an emotional person and could not bring myself to do it. Luckily, this has been resolved and I have cried a fair amount recently. Crying can be therapeutic and I do not think that anyone should ever be afraid to shed a few tears. I have realized that driving, running, singing, and yoga are also very therapeutic for me, and I know that I mentioned this months ago on my blog, but I might invest in a yoga membership. I would like to have a more consistent practice.

On a spiritual and religious note, as I grow older, I question religion more and more. I have always had an existential mind, but religion, frankly, makes me angry. I respect the concept of religion because I think having faith in oneself and the future is important, but in my opinion, it is socially constructed and this should be recognized just the same. I find so much frustration in the fact that religion causes so much hate in this world. We have folks dying at the hands of it coupled with other concepts such as power. While I like to believe in a greater being and do pray occasionally (always thanking, never asking), I think a lot of folks are hypocritical when it comes to practicing their respective religions (based on what they preach). I am Hindu by birth, and do celebrate the cultural holidays we have when possible, but I am careful about letting it guide me or believing in it so much that I lose myself to it. I would rather decide my own morals and values, and follow them “religiously” (nice word play there, Nat) if that makes sense.

In other news, I decided to finally have my ears pierced this past year and now have double piercings. I really like it. Last year, at this time, I had sixty (60) Spotify followers. I now have two hundred and seventeen (217)!!! I appreciate the support and if you do not follow me on Spotify, I recommend that you do. I saw Aminé and 6LACK in concert and saw Rupi Kaur speak last fall, and I really needed to hear a lot of what she said. I am now the President of the College of Liberal Arts Student Board as well as the Coalition for Progressive Change, and I am a Research Assistant at the Minnesota Population Center on the IPUMS-DHS project. I am also on the University of Minnesota Homecoming Royalty court, and the other royals are awesome. I have a few concerts scheduled in the coming months as well including Pink Sweat$, Lewis Capaldi, and my favorite band of all time (FBOAT, if you will) Bon Iver. I will be seeing Bon Iver in North Carolina and my mother is attending the concert with me. I cannot wait. My travel bug bite is large, so I have some other trips in the works too. I have really fun roommates and, given that I do, I know that I will have a really fun senior year of college.

I have grappled a bit with imposter syndrome over the past year (and my entire life), and I think my accomplishments and the leadership positions I have acquired have contributed to this. I know that I work hard, but I am well aware of my privileges and I often question whether I am really qualified in that regard. I feel as though I am floating and drowning and internally screaming all at once. I do not think most folks understand what it is like to be inside of my head, but my mind overwhelms me.

I think a few folks deserve to be mentioned in this post. I would like to thank my mother, father, and brother for every family lunch, hug, and gossip session. We may have the occasional disagreement, but they always tell me that they are proud of me and this means the world. Many do not have intact family units and I will never take mine for granted. Family, when you’re reading this, I love you and appreciate you. I (literally and figuratively) would not be here without all of you. My successes do not mean much without acknowledging the ladder you built for me.

I do not know how I would have gotten through this year without my best friend and future maid of honor, Harmanpreet. She has wiped my tears too many times to count and she knows exactly what I need to hear. I am probably too protective of her, but she deserves all of the success and happiness in the world, and I will do everything I can to contribute to this.

I have set a few goals. I plan on running a marathon before I am thirty, desire to improve my posture, and I *will* have a job upon graduation in May. I am looking to work for a non-profit, or some government or politically related department for a couple years before attending graduate school for a Master’s degree in Public Policy/Global Health Policy. Additionally, I have the dream of working for Spotify, so if the opportunity arises, that’d be cool.

The world can be scary personally, professionally, domestically, and globally. I am terrified. I do not like uncertainty. I do not like feeling alone or feeling lost. I am terrified, but music exists. Sunrises exist. Love exists. Google Calendar exists. While I bask in my uncertainty and existential crises, I am going to be proactive. I am going to blast my favorite songs, fall in love with myself and those around me, stay organized, and simply just live. My heart is often enveloped in pain, but pain is how one grows. I know that energy is contagious, and I will always do my best to exude it positively.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure we call life over the past year and for reading this post. I am blessed to be here. We all are. If you’ll excuse me, I am going to drink a glass of rosé as I am now twenty one.

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