(Birthday Reflections is a series on my blog.)

This year, I am celebrating my twenty third birthday in a new home surrounded by mostly new people. I did not expect to see myself in Boston when I turned twenty two last year, but here I am. I am glad that I am here, and I am glad that so many people could take part in my last trip around the sun.

I will not dwell on it much, but this past year was obviously impacted by the COVID pandemic. I am still here and I am grateful to be able to say that. I think that we all experienced a lot of loss and health scares, COVID-related and otherwise, and I am not going to try and sugarcoat this acknowledgement. I just hope that my readers (and non-readers, of course) are doing well.

Over the past year, I had the pleasure of working at a non-profit, called the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, as its Diversity & Inclusion Specialist. Naturally, every job has highs and lows, but I think that I can reflect on my first job post-graduation with a lot of gratitude. The IMAA staff makeup is primarily people of color, and I learned so much through engaging with so many different cultures, histories, and experiences. I spent many days educating individuals and organizations on diversity and inclusion practices, and while this was draining at times, it was also fulfilling to see the results of my work. For example, organizations changed the ways in which they recruit and hire, the language that they use, and the ways in which they show support for their marginalized staff. Many tears were shed and hard conversations were had, but I do not think that I would have been successful at my job otherwise. I met some amazing people through this opportunity and I will never forget how much they impacted me. I was able to learn so much about myself and what I wanted in my future. While educating is inevitable and important, this position only confirmed my desire to focus more on working with marginalized populations and practicing mutual aid rather than listening to the grievances of those in power. The hardest part of this job was having conversations with those who voted differently than I did or refused to support basic human rights, but I think that I was able to change a lot of minds through doing so. I will say that compensation is essential and one should not have to explain themselves or tell their stories without it.

During this time, I decided to apply to graduate school. I knew that I wanted to take the next step in my career and, at the very least, move to a new place. As much as I love Minnesota, I have wanted to leave the state for a while. I felt as though everyone was just too comfortable and this made me uncomfortable. I was tired of living within my familiar box. I told myself that if I did not get into graduate school, I would apply to jobs in other cities that align more with where I envision myself in the future and move regardless. I applied to Boston University and a couple of other schools for my Master’s in Public Health (though I wish that I had applied to more for curiosity’s sake), and I ultimately decided that BU would be the best fit for me. I am so happy with my choice and I am honored to be attending such a reputable public health school. Everyone within the school truly wants everyone else to succeed. I plan on pursuing the Health Policy & Law and Human Rights & Social Justice certificates, and these certificates are a part of what drew me to BU. I am now writing this blog post in Boston (in my new apartment!) and I will have had my first day of class by the time my birthday arrives. As excited and ready as I am to live in a new state, I also feel nervous. I am not really around anything that makes me feel at home or comfortable quite yet, but I keep reminding myself that I want to be uncomfortable. I keep reminding myself that I have been through so many hard situations. I keep reminding myself that I have myself.

As I mentioned in last year’s post, I am in a relationship. Neeraj and I are approaching one year and three months together and I am thrilled. We are so different, but we complement each other in necessary ways. Every day is not sunshine, but I am thankful to have the privilege of watching the rain fall while in his arms. I am not really sure how someone can be as adorable and silly and interesting as he is, and I am definitely not complaining. Long distance is going to be a challenge (I already miss him so much), but I fully believe that if two people want to make a relationship work, they will. I cannot wait to show him around my new home. I am sending you lots of “X”s and “O”s, Neeraj.

I am so grateful for all of the new friends whom I have made over the course of year twenty two. I did not expect to meet so many people, both virtually and in person (safely), but I have been able to understand myself and the way that other people view me in their lives more than ever before. My time and my priorities become more valuable to me as I grow older, and I try my best to protect my peace. I do think that people show you, over time, how much you matter to them, and I have learned to accept that I may not matter as much to certain individuals as I do to others or as I think I should. This is okay. As an extrovert, I can over-extend myself, and I now appreciate the quiet moments just as much as the energizing ones. I took more bubble baths and watched Wheel of Fortune with my parents quite often. I watched a lot of new shows and read a lot of books. I spent a lot of time driving to the cities and to Rochester which equated to a lot of time for music and podcasts. I did all of this and was still able to spend lots of time surrounded by loved ones. While I avoided traveling internationally, I was able to make a trip to Chicago with Neeraj and a couple of other friends as well as visit Door County, Wisconsin with my family.

Fortunately, I did not have COVID at all during this past year. I did not even have a prominent cold and I credit this to the vaccine (Pfizer crew!), masks, sanitizer, and avid hand washing. I urge everyone who is reading this to receive the vaccine. I know that people are afraid, but the numbers do show that the vaccine is helpful and does not have adverse side effects. I have seen, and still do see, other countries struggling to acquire vaccines and I think that if we have them at our fingertips, we should take advantage of them. We are helping other people in addition to helping ourselves.
In other news, my headaches are still as strong as ever, but I am trying my best to manage them. Some triggers are difficult to avoid given the nature of our world, but at least I am able to recognize the signs. Despite the increase in screen time due to the pandemic and working remotely, my eyesight actually improved! I was so surprised and excited when the doctor told me this news. My new glasses will be coming in the mail some time soon.
I have been hesitant to share this, but like many others, I did gain some weight over the past year. As someone who is passionate about health and fitness, this bothers me, but I do my best to avoid letting it discourage me. I just happened to eat some more ice cream during this time, but at least I was here to eat it.

I am thrilled to announce that I have my own domain now! My website is simply natashasohni.com (you are on it!). I am so grateful for all of my readers. Your views do help me so much. In addition to my posts, I have tabs for my favorite items/artists/shows/movies as well as organizations to support. This time last year, I had 258 Spotify followers, and now I have 277! listen to my Fall 2021 playlist here

I had the honor of being a guest on a few different podcasts over the past year! I appreciate how much people care about the things that I have to say, and I hope that I can open the door for other people and shed some light on the issues about which I care. take a listen here (these are available on all platforms):
Feed That Nation: How Does University Student Government Work?
Water Cooler Talk: Critical Location Theory
Resistance in Color: Part 10

Books are gems that we do not deserve. these are my reads from the past year:
– Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
– Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
– Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
– American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
– Becoming by Michelle Obama
– Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
– I Would Leave Me If I Could: A Collection of Poetry by Halsey
– Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
– Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
– Room by Emma Donoghue
– The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo
– The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
– The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
– Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
– Bunny by Mona Awad
– Beach Read by Emily Henry
– currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I would consider myself an emotionally intelligent person. This being said, I feel like I have grown emotionally numb to some situations during this past year. I think that I am just exhausted. Prior to my move to Boston, days were starting to blur together, and the world was quite literally hopping from one fire to the next. It still is. As much as all of this, frankly, sucks, we can also use it to reinvigorate ourselves. So many people are fighting for their lives, and all of our lives, every single day. A defeatist mentality does not always help because we are still here. We are still alive and the need for activism is only growing. With twenty three at my fingertips, I feel excitement and fear and everything in between these two. I hug my family, friends, and stuffed animals even more tightly. I put so much pressure on myself to wake up every single day and save the world, but I am here to remind myself and my readers that the entire world does not rest on one person’s shoulders. Others will always be there to hold our hands.

thank you for holding mine as I turn twenty three ❤

donate here:
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-greater-texas
https://namimn.org/get-involved/donate_now/
miles4migrants.org

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