I have known for quite some time that I want to be working in mutual aid and uplifting marginalized communities. I want to be working with the people rather than solely educating those in power on why the people deserve basic human rights (I understand that, unfortunately, this is probably inevitable right now). I want to use a public health lens to construct, or deconstruct, tools meant for progress. I want to have a hand in all of these aspects because I know that I am willing to make the changes myself, however out of the box they may be, instead of just sitting on the sidelines and watching others hesitate.
I learned more about adverse childhood experiences and the ACEs study in high school. Intuitively, the idea that a child’s background is correlated to their wellbeing and success as an adult made perfect sense to me. The idea is quite literally based on social determinants of health, and I think about it every day.
The upsetting part is that people often expect college students to thrive even if they have experienced poverty, illness, abuse, and more throughout their childhoods. This isn’t discussed enough among those who have power and influence, and it certainly does not sit well with me. For example, legislators were apprehensive to the proposal of expanding free rides along the twin cities light rail to one more stop on either side around the University of Minnesota, which was proposed in hopes to alleviate some of the transportation issues that arise for students living in a food desert. They simply could not comprehend the notion that college students could be in massive amounts of debt from tuition, and have to pay for rent and food on top of it. The notion that college students who were raised in poverty or are parts of marginalized groups have an even more difficult time was beyond their ignorant to privilege, mostly old and white, scopes.
I love working with children. I just want to protect them from all of the unpleasant things in the world, and ensure that they see happiness in their futures. Their existence shows that human beings are valuable beyond the commodities that they can create and the money that they can provide because of said commodities. Children simply exist to live and learn and love, and I do not think that this blueprint for life should be skewed just because they grow older. The only way to prevent this from happening, though, is to combat all of those adverse experiences. People do not choose to be unhoused or go hungry. People do not choose to suffer, and these issues are not prevalent because of their lack of abilities to “work hard,” but rather because of a system that is built on greed and racism, and ultimately fails to address it.
As many probably know, I am hoping to obtain a graduate degree in public health with a focus on global health and/or social justice. I know that I am passionate about everything that I mentioned previously (I have been since I was a child) and I love working with people, but what specific jobs or positions exist in which I can combine all of this? I love leading, but I also want to be the person who is on the ground, getting to know children and families individually, and helping each of them. Graduate school will help, but I also need to be proactive in building relationships and seeking what fulfills me.
I had not really thought about how much I love interacting with kids until loved ones brought it to my attention on different occasions. They said that I should definitely incorporate this into my future career, and the idea made me happy. One afternoon, during last time I was in India (August 2019), my mom, brother, aunt, cousin, and I went to the nearby mall. We entered a store, and I saw a little boy playing a game with a paddle and a ball. He was all alone. I started playing with him and I asked him questions about his life, ranging from how many siblings he has to what languages he speaks to what his favorite school subjects are. That one moment brought me so much joy, and while I probably will never see him again, I was glad that I could make him feel valued and seen for even a few minutes. After observing this situation, I remember my aunt telling me that I am definitely meant to be in the field that intersects public health, mutual aid, social work, and policy.
I struggle to envision what I want from time to time because I am passionate about so many things. This does not always fly, though, because the world appreciates specifics. This is why I think that focusing on adverse childhood experiences and social determinants of health will allow me to tackle all of the other issues about which I am passionate. I’ve decided to reframe my focus and mindset to support this, and I am excited to see what comes next.
Amidst the bleak socio-political horizon on which we find ourselves, and the experiences that I have had thus far within the non-profit industrial complex, formulating specific must haves for my career is encouraging.