(Birthday Reflections is a series on my blog.)

I really do not know where to begin. As someone who loves to talk, I have been struggling to find the words to process most of what has occurred in the past year. While this does trouble me, I also find a bit of peace within it. I can do nothing more than to take things as they come, and considering my impressive (if I do say so myself) knack for problem-solving, this approach is okay.

On a national and global scale, I think I have trouble processing because I constantly remind myself of the stark reality in which the issues that are prevalent now have always been prevalent in some form or another. Pandemics have passed, racism is the opposite of a newfangled concept, and the earth has frozen to the point of bones rattling and melted to the point of raging fires. While this is a personal reflection, I do not think I can post this without acknowledging events that affect all of us. I am not going to glide through my days acting as though racism, homelessness, policing, etc. do not hurt me because if my community is hurting, I am too. I have heard a lot of folks complain about how horrible 2020 is without realizing that the horrible things we see now have existed for centuries. People have always suffered; the times in which we live just allow for more things to be broadcasted across the world. I refuse to tolerate people who do not view others as worthy of (a quality) life and the planet as worthy of care. I have listed donation resources at the bottom of this post, and I hope that those reading this will utilize them.

On a personal note, the ways in which the age of twenty one pushed me are unbelievable. Imposter syndrome ate me alive at some points, and I was constantly questioning my leadership skills, my intelligence, my kindness, and my existence despite everyone’s attempts to positively affirm me. I definitely worry too much about what others think and, often times, root my happiness in how happy others are. Being a leader takes quite an emotional toll, and I definitely had trouble explaining this to those around me given how large my plate was this year. I have written about this in past posts, but I hold myself to a very high standard and I am quite hard on myself when I do not exceed it. I can project this onto those close to me as well, but I am aware of this and work tirelessly to give myself and my loved ones grace. I have been journaling consistently for over a year now (close to a year and a half), and I enjoy reading old entries to see how much has changed. I had a rough time with insomnia and seasonal allergies over the year as well, but I did my best to take steps in combatting both. I have also taken time to think critically about ensuring that I am only surrounding myself with people who add to my life. I give so much to everyone, and as time passes, this is hard to sustain. I will always wrap my heart around the world, but I think I can do a better job of wrapping my heart around myself too.

I had the honor of being the President of two student organizations over my senior year of college. The College of Liberal Arts Student Board has given me more than I could ever dream of receiving, and I think that being President of such a group was the perfect way to tie a bow on all of the experiences that I have had within it. I value accountability, and I wanted to make sure that we were building relationships with the student body through actions rather than saying words in our own little bubbles. This resulted in events such as People of Color in Politics & Law (a networking event) and the board’s first ever Sexual and Reproductive Health Fair as well as Sustainability Fair. We had our first cultural fair, CLA Takes Flight, and re-launched our mental health campaign: Pledge to Prioritize. My Vice President (and one of my best friends), Jamie, and I formed meaningful relationships with the Dean and other members of administration, and I cannot wait to see how these grow in the coming years. We collaborated with other student groups and I finally feel as though the board increased its presence in all facets of college life.

Additionally, I led the first full year of the Coalition for Progressive Change, and I’m happy to say that we established the credibility of the group throughout the year. We collaborated with other activist/advocacy groups on campus, and I was a representative in meetings with the university’s financial office and President’s office alongside UMN Climate Strike. We hosted town halls regarding housing and immigration, and we had a series of door knocks before the Primary in March. As draining as the political circle can be, the members of this group are my people. We understand our experiences and support one another through all of it. I know that these folks, and all of the true friends I’ve made through my advocacy work, will always have my back.

I worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Minnesota Population Center over my senior year as well, and I learned quite a bit. The work is very much individualistic, but the environment at the center is incredibly friendly and I felt supported. The first thing I read was the grant proposal for the project on which I was working to fully understand how my tasks, whether riveting or mundane, are a part of something greater. A job like this is the perfect reminder that every difference I make, regardless of how large, contributes to something bigger than myself.

Before the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to travel to a few places. I visited North Carolina in October of last year, and I saw Bon Iver in concert. Having this weekend getaway was a breath of fresh air (especially because I took a Public Economics midterm the day I flew there). Winter break did not disappoint. My family and I visited Spain! In addition to all of the sights that Barcelona has to offer, we took a day trip to Montserrat. The views were amazing. While the entire trip was interesting, the day we visited Montserrat was definitely my favorite day. The air was crisp, the views were impeccable, and we visited a really nice winery. Fortunately, my travels did not end here. My friends Claire, Harmanpreet, and I traveled to San Francisco for a few days in January. The weather in the bay area is perfect, and when the air mattress wasn’t sinking every night or we weren’t walking through Fisherman’s Wharf, we were driving along the coast and taking in the air on ocean cliffs. We love to see it. Traveling is a gift and as I visit more places, my list of where I want to go grows longer. I definitely do not condone traveling right now unless necessary, but in the future, I look forward to exploring new places.

Interestingly, the moment I stepped foot in Barcelona, I began coughing violently. We’re talking phlegm and wheezing. I could feel these coughs throughout my respiratory system, and they did not cease for months. They continued through my trip to San Francisco and well into my last semester of college. I definitely felt weak at times and I experienced a lot of congestion, but the doctors said that I did not have pneumonia or bronchitis. My ear was blocked for an entire week and I was actually prescribed an inhaler from a doctor who said that I had “some virus” and now have a chronic cough from it. My lungs were very irritated. I have not been able to breath as well since this experience and it’s prevalent when I’m running. This is disappointing since I run almost every day. I have not taken the antibody test, so I do not know whether I had COVID, but considering my travels (hours of layovers New York, Spain one week, San Francisco another week) and the violence of my coughs, I have a little bit of a suspicion. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of you who are reading this to wear your masks, practice social distancing (please stop partying…), and believe in the seriousness of this virus. Additionally, I had a root canal over winter break, and I am happy to say that it went smoothly. I am very particular about my teeth, but these things happen sometimes I guess. It’s frustrating, but it’s okay.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and minors in Economics and Public Health in May! I did not have the ceremony I expected to have, and my heart hurts especially for first generation students whose families were looking forward to the day, but I think that we should all remind ourselves that the accomplishment still stands. College is tough academically, mentally, financially, physically, and emotionally, and we did it. Senior year was a whirlwind. From football games, Homecoming court, concerts, birthdays, changing seasons, student groups, traveling, Harry Potter and election night watch parties, game nights, friendships, finals, and everything in between, I sometimes have trouble believing that my time in college has come to a close. The job search is tough, and it is even tougher in a pandemic, and I was juggling the weight of this with the internal dilemmas that I mentioned earlier. I felt as though I spent a lot of the past year looking for something and not knowing for what I was looking. I did not know where to turn or to whom to turn. I felt unsatisfied, and to some extent, being human, I still do. I think the lesson to learn from this resides in acceptance. Again, as someone who loves to problem solve, this is hard for me. I am constantly plaguing my mind with questions to which no one has definite answers, but the only person whom I am hurting by doing so is myself. Through conversations that I have had with different folks, this is one of my greatest takeaways from senior year. As I reflect on my college experience, I am proud of it. It encompasses the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and I would not change a single thing. I have so many stories to tell.

I found myself in a relationship with the most amazing person at the beginning of the summer. If you had told me four years ago that I would date him, I would have laughed. My mood feels infinitely better around him, and I feel as though I am taking a breath of fresh air when I think about him. We are so different from each other, but we push each other because of this. We are constantly learning from one another and growing together, and while relationships are terrifying, I cannot wait to see what the future holds. He values me because I value myself. We have so much fun, so much to discuss, and we’re always laughing. I feel a lot of love.

I found myself missing the comfort of my family this past year, and while I am pretty independent and outgoing, I wished for the genuine reassurance of familial banter at times. At the same time, I am ready to take on the world and build a life for myself, and I know that I am able to be at this point because I have such a strong support system within them.

I feel as though I could write pages and pages about each year of my life, but I would also find difficulty in running through all of the thoughts inside of my mind. I do not know much about what is to come, but I do know that the world is my oyster. Yes, all good things take time and the world is not at a point in which I can frolic freely wherever, but as I’ve stated in previous posts, we are only on this planet for so long. It is a scary thought, but it also pushes me to make my life meaningful. Every day might not have a cherry on top, but this does not mean that the cherry trees are not growing. I am grateful to you all for uplifting me throughout this year. Twenty-two, here I come!

I read these books this year (for joy & curiosity – this list does not include readings I had for classes):
– All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
– The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
– Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
– Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
– A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
– Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong
– Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
– Suite Française: Storm in June by Irène Némirovsky
– Electric Arches by Eve Ewing
– currently reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I saw these artists/groups in concert (PS – At this time last year, I had 217 Spotify followers and now I have 258! check out my Fall 2020 playlist here):
– Pink Sweat$
– Phoebe Ryan (UMN Homecoming)
– Lewis Capaldi
Bon Iver aka my favorite band
– Natasha Bedingfield

Donate to (check out my blog post on anti-Blackness for more links as well // this list is obviously not exhaustive // pay attention to what is happening in your community and help where you can):
– support Black youth by sending funds directly to them
– check out the MPLS Sanctuary Movement: https://minneapolissanctuary.org/
– GoFundMe for Jacob Blake: https://www.gofundme.com/f/justiceforjacobblake?fbclid=IwAR1Tj3Eg6gPUyJFSBnjW2Tman-tpWo3ga3iS8eptkPOU8peRmO6o38J0CX4
– Women for Political Change: https://secure.everyaction.com/ZNYnUikGcU2b9OAYFs1TeQ2
– Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (click “Donate” in the upper right corner): http://imaa.net/
– California Wildfire Relief: https://connect.calfund.org/give/wildfirerelief, https://secure.directrelief.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2924&mfc_pref=T&2924.donation=form1
– Groundswell Fund (reproductive justice especially for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community): https://groundswellfund.org/give/
– Planned Parenthood (click “DONATE” in the upper right corner): https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
– support those affected by the hurricane as well (states have their own funds through different organizations)
– follow Survivor Protection on Instagram (a GoFundMe will be created soon)

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