(Birthday Reflections is a series on my blog.)
Have you ever had a sneeze that is so visceral that you literally felt as though a weight had lifted off of your shoulders? This is the feeling that I am attempting to channel as I head into the next year of my life. Embodying the age of twenty three was unpleasant at times, and mundane at best. I am very grateful for my life and I had some fun experiences this past year, but I am ready to leave the feelings and thoughts that I associate with twenty three in the past. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I feel as though I have lost myself in some ways over the past year and I am unsure as to whether this is due to living in Boston, graduate school, world events, growth, or a combination of these.
I turned twenty three one day after my first semester of graduate school started here in Boston. I am thrilled to say that, despite some stressors, I successfully made it through my first year and managed to swing an early graduation! I only have one semester left and I will officially be Natasha Sohni, MPH come December. The Spring semester was definitely more challenging than the Fall, but I also felt more passionate about my classes and actively participated in discussions. Some highlights include writing a lengthy health care plan, including extensive budgets and policy proposals, for reducing harm from family homelessness in Los Angeles County (the final product was very far from perfect, but I learned lots throughout the process) and expanding my knowledge on substance use in Oregon. To my dismay, this past school year was also flooded by an abundance of problem sets in both quantitative methods (essentially, the basics of epidemiology and biostatistics) and health care finance. I did well in both classes, but this did not happen without frustration and ranting.
I started the last school year as First Year Representative for the Students of Color for Public Health (SCPH) and am now Vice President. I am happy to be involved on campus in a more relaxed fashion than I was in undergrad, and I have met some of the best people through SCPH. In addition to social events, I want to use my role to tackle hard hitting issues that people of color face and advocate for students’ needs. Our group is definitely a bridge to administration and I do not take that lightly. We have both Instagram and Twitter accounts, so feel free to give us a follow! Additionally, all BUSPH students are required to complete a practicum, and I just finished my internship with the Impact Center this past week to fulfill this requirement. My schedule was very flexible and along with drafting social media posts and newsletters, I gave feedback on the organization’s curriculum and audited their content through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens. I am glad that I was able to build connections with some really great people while interning there. This fall, I am going to be a fellow on the Fair Share MA campaign which advocates for a four percent tax on millionaires in Massachusetts. I enjoy voter turnout work and fostering relationships, so I am excited to get started.
While I am not in love with Boston, I do believe that I am meant to be here at this moment in my life, and having the ability to familiarize myself with a new city is a privilege that I would not trade. Boston is a very ~interesting~ place, to say the least, and while the inefficiency of the roads and the transit system scares unsettle me, it does have its gems. Sure, I had a minor bus accident during which I was flung to the front of the bus and hit the windshield, Boston rent is taking all of my money, and Deepa (my fun, hilarious roommate) and I experienced a bit of a mice problem in our apartment, but at least I have stories to tell. I have had the pleasure of meeting some awesome people during my time here so far and, surprisingly, a few friends from both my hometown and the U of M have moved here as well. I spend a lot of time going on walks and runs to Jamaica Pond, which is a nice 4.6 mile loop from my apartment. I am surrounded by so many babies and puppies, and I could not have lived in a better location because of this. Reading a book by the Charles River at sunset or eating a bagel by the water in Seaport are experiences that cannot be traded. The winters in Minnesota are way more severe, in my opinion, than the winter that I experienced this past year in Boston purely due to the amount of snow and freezing windchill that Minnesota provides for us without fail. In a twisted way, I kind of missed the Minnesota winter.
Through sheer luck, I happened to land a job at the gym right below my apartment last Fall, and I have been working there since. As someone who values health and fitness, I am very grateful to have a health club that is accessible to me. I have definitely had some story time worthy interactions while working there, but these interactions make a potentially mundane job riveting.
Recently, my best friend, Kaitlyn, came to visit me in Boston after we had not seen each other for a little over one year. Having her here, in my space, was a piece of comfort for me and I only wish that we had more time together. I wish that we still lived in the same place and I could just walk down the street to her apartment like I could during undergrad. Harmanpreet was also visiting Boston at the same time, and having both of my best friends with me in the same place was wonderful. I do not know where I would be without either of them.
I am thrilled to say that my relationship with Neeraj is going well. While we have certainly had our fair share of lows, I am just glad that our relationship has survived long distance and we both envision a future together. I love him so much and I cannot wait to give him the biggest hug when he comes to visit me in 1.5(!!!) weeks.
In a world riddled with COVID and monkeypox and so much more, these past couple of years have been bleak regarding travel and concerts. Excitingly, after not attending any concerts for two years, I was able to hear lots of great artists live in 2022. These include Dua Saleh, UMI, LÉON, Vansire (my friends from high school went on a national tour!), and Leon Bridges. I have Noah Kahan, Novo Amor, and Jacob Banks on deck for this fall (this list might grow, haha). In addition to a fun camping trip at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire this Summer, hiking Mount Major in New Hampshire this past Spring, NYC and New Haven, Connecticut with my mom for her birthday in April, and roadtripping to Milwaukee with Neeraj over winter break, my family took a trip to Alaska in May! Alaska is a MUST SEE and I appreciated the natural landscape, interacting with people, and hiking. I even sang karaoke to a restaurant full of strangers while I was there. As a vegetarian, a variety in food options was difficult to find, but we did not visit the state for the cuisine, obviously. I will never forget this trip, and my time at home in Minnesota both before and after our Alaska travels was also peaceful. In some ways, I was sad to come back to Boston, but it was nice to get into a routine again.
One of my best friends from college, Erica, wedded her fiancé, Tom, in July! I shed a few tears during the night and I felt so happy being surrounded by so many of my friends. This was also my first wedding with Neeraj, which was special. Weddings will only grow more common over the next set of years of my life and while I am overwhelmed with shock because I am at this point, I am looking forward to all of the celebrations (including my own).
My mental health saw a lot of highs and a plethora of lows. While some may disagree, I feel like I am in my “flop” era in most facets of my life right now. I’ve mentioned this before, but I do not feel like the best version of myself in Boston. I find myself more upset, more annoyed, and more insecure. I have always struggled with body image, but the concept has been eating away at me over the past year. I want to write more about this, but I not emotionally ready to do so yet. Generally, I have reflected on the idea of good stress versus bad stress during the past few months, and it helps to just remind myself that while everything may not be perfect right now, I am able to attend graduate school, live in a new city, meet people often, and move my body in so many ways. Studying for exams, waking up at 5:15 am to open the gym, training for my REI Women’s 10K next month, and waiting for delayed buses may be pains at times, but at least I have the opportunity to experience these things.
In addition to my blog growth (every view counts, so thank you! remember to sign up to receive email notifications for when I post), at this time last year, I had 277 Spotify followers. I have now crossed the threshold into 300, rounding out at 305 currently! You can follow me here.
I do not think that I could live in a world without books. Some of my happiest places are bookstores and libraries. these are the books that I read this past year (in order of when I read them, asterisk = definitely recommend!):
– Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi*
– The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
– The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein*
– The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
– Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa*
– The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
– Paradise by Toni Morrison
– The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
– See No Stranger by Valarie Kaur*
– It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
– All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Harper Nichols
– The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi*
– The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
– Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
– The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
– The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas*
– People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry*
– The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman*
– The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
– Book Lovers by Emily Henry
– The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich*
– Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
– The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
– In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
– Normal People by Sally Rooney*
– Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
– Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
– All About Love by bell hooks
– Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli
– LaRose by Louise Erdrich
– The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
– Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave
– The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
– And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini*
– Anxious People by Fredrik Backman*
– White Rage by Carol Anderson* (required reading for white and non-Black POC!)
– currently reading: Writers and Lovers by Lily King
I have a feeling that twenty four will be enlightening and exciting and a lot of other good things. I have gotten a lot better at establishing my boundaries and protecting my peace, and I have improved a bit in advocating for myself. Flop era or otherwise, I can honestly say that I am proud of myself and my growth. If I am anything, I am brave, and the culmination of several events in my life thus far have proven this to me.
As always, I am glad that you all are witnessing me step into the age of twenty four. Being alive and making it to another year is a blessing in itself – shoutout to my parents for my existence and shoutout to all of you for getting me to where I am. ❤