I Refuse to Give into It.

I find difficulty in avoiding “uncomfortable” topics and the discussion of social issues in any setting. I think that these values are central to the pleasures that we all enjoy, and I would rather cease to exist than live in ignorance. I have been made to feel small when I mention something serious while everyone else is having fun, but I simply cannot unsee the things that I know to be true.

This world depends on the ignorance of its inhabitants. People in power, within these systems of power, do not want us to know the truth. We become comfortable with this because the truth is hard to stomach, but I urge all of us to value our integrity more than having fun as a product of someone else’s suffering. We cannot depend on the history lessons taught in schools to inform our perceptions of right and wrong. We must question, read, and research as much as possible outside of this. I’ve learned more about human rights atrocities and systemic issues from my own reading and (well-resourced) social media consumption than I have inside the classroom. We made cornucopias and hand turkeys instead of acknowledging Thanksgiving for what it really is: genocide. We were pushed to assume that slavery ended with Lincoln’s presidency and the year 1865 when the suffering and trauma is still seen within the Black community today. We were taught about the world from an Americanized, westernized viewpoint as though “winning” wars makes the killing of Black and brown people valid.

We blame each other instead of blaming agents of the state. We gaslight ourselves into believing that our opinions are “extreme” and “radical” and “too woke” because the white man laughed away our concerns. Having basic human rights is too large of an ask. It inconveniences those in power, and everyone who isn’t in power did not work hard enough to get there.

I recognize the frustration in constantly having to think about hard things. We cannot avoid every problematic brand or be 100% progressive in our language, but acknowledging the history and the current actions of ourselves and those around us is an important step. Avoiding Amazon purchases as much as possible or boycotting an abuser’s music may seem minuscule, but human apathy perpetuates violence. For every problematic artist, plenty of unproblematic ones exist who are just as talented, if not more. I recognize that one may not want to discuss systemic issues at the pregame or while watching a television show, but I refuse to laugh away my thoughts. I refuse to give into exactly what this world wants. I have the privileges of having fun with my friends and taking time away from my stressors, so it is my responsibility to do my part in moving us toward a world in which everyone can have these privileges.

As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the state of the world does not rest on any one person’s shoulders, and we all deserve to have fun and smile and love as much as we can. I do think that this idea can coexist with being as cognizant and critical as possible of the systems in which we participate.

He Came, He Conquered.

he came and he saw and he conquered
your body
you are beautiful when you are his
when you are not, you are just another nameless face

you wrap him in your thoughts and emotions
while he wraps you in objectivity
you wonder if this is what you deserve
are you difficult to love?

the sad songs play
and the romance novels have you desperate for the moon

but the reality is
you have a patch of grass
large enough for him to come and see and conquer
your body
and then leave

24th Birthday Reflection.

(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. ❤

DONATE HERE:
abortion funds
pakistan flood relief
jackson, mississippi water crisis relief

Boundaries.

I frequently feel so emotionally exhausted from the ways in which people expect me to extend myself for them. I have struggled with establishing boundaries my entire life, and this results in me compromising my own happiness for the sake of others without any reciprocation. In previous posts, I have mentioned that I often feel like a doormat, and while I do think that I am better able to advocate for myself now, the weight of everyone else’s experiences, issues, and emotions has consumed me recently.

I visited Minnesota for about a week in July, and I was able to stay with Neeraj, whom I had not seen in two months, attend a best friend’s wedding, and see my family. Going into the trip, I felt a lot of pressure because I knew that I would not be able to see all of my friends despite their expectations. I value and care about my Minnesota friends deeply. They are some of the best people whom I have ever met, but I also do not live in the Twin Cities anymore. I cannot alter my schedule as easily to accommodate everyone, especially in the timespan of a week, when I want to spend quality time with my family and my boyfriend as well.

I have a fear of losing loved ones or being excluded, so I feel as though I always need to say yes to plans, help my friends when I am low on time and need to take care of myself, and be a shoulder for others. I love making people smile. I just do not know how meaningful this is if I, myself, do not feel valued by these people. I have discovered that people love to guilt me into things because I am nice and they always expect me to say yes. I need to avoid placing my worth in others’ hands. If people do not respect me enough to understand my time and experiences, I should not want them in my life anyway.

Overextending myself is one aspect, but what upsets me the most is that I know that some of my friends would probably not do the same for me. I should not feel such a strong sense of responsibility when these individuals will not even meet me halfway when I need them. I invest so much, physically and emotionally, into everyone and I really do not think that I could depend on a lot of people to be there for me if I asked for similar favors. This realization has pushed me to create more boundaries, which is what most folks need to do as they grow older, regardless.

Boundaries can be tough because those around you may not receive yours well. Humans become butt hurt over these pillars of interpersonal relationships, and in doing so, they vilify the establishment of boundaries and true self care. I think that we have all been guilty of this at some points, but I try to be more cognizant of how I react to boundaries since I am now working on my own.

I should not have to be less of myself, or avoid leaning into my heart, to protect myself from being hurt. My heart is an act of protest in a world that values individualism. I know that the amount of love and effort that I give is a choice, but I have so much trouble giving less than 100%+ to everything. In an ideal world, this would be okay. In an ideal world, we would all receive what we exude. We do not live in (at least, my version of) an ideal world, and boundaries are necessary to adjust to its conditions.

no tea, no shade, just growth xo

Culturally Incompatible.

The end of the semester and the beginning of my summer in Boston prompted lots of reflection regarding my time here so far. I truly believe that Boston is where I am supposed to be right now, but this does not mean that I love every second of my life in this city. For the longest time, I struggled to verbalize my thoughts about Boston, but I have come to realize that Boston and I clash culturally.

I associate pretense, rudeness, and individualism with Boston culture. A negative energy engulfs me in many spaces. The people here, as well as the design of the city, are individualistic and aggressive, and both of these qualities are incompatible with who I am. So much value is placed in the material. The concept of community is important to me, but I have noticed that people do not value it as much here. People seem to only think of themselves despite the harm that this can cause those around them. This creates a cycle because the rest of us are prompted to protect ourselves as well since we know that no one else will. Vulnerability, kindness, empathy, love, hope, joy, and support are hard to find and this is a challenge for someone, like myself, who does their best to lead their life with these values at the forefront.

The day before I flew home to Minnesota for a couple weeks after the semester ended, I was sitting in my bed and I thought, “wow, I feel absolutely terrible about myself here.” I do not think that Boston encourages me to be the best version of myself, and I do not feel beautiful or intelligent or capable. I feel as though I do not have room to falter or be completely myself. I always have to be on my “A Game.” I recognize that much of this could be within my control and I, of course, do my best to make my life here as fulfilling as possible. I ground myself whenever I can and I think that I am improving at the skill of setting boundaries. I do not want to paint Boston as a dark pit of hopelessness because it is not. It can be fun and it can be rewarding. Happiness does exist here, but I do believe that this depends on whom you ask and when you ask them.

As an outgoing person, I find myself feeling afraid or hesitating to enter stores because I do not know how the people will be inside of them. I do not find a lot of warmth in the people here, and I admit that this unsettles me. Yes, I am from the Midwest and I understand how that plays a role into how I perceive things (and, believe me, the Midwest is far from perfect as well). I have just noticed that even in other parts of the world, and other cities in the United States (including places like NYC) to that extent, people are more welcoming than they are here in Boston. I am sure that a lot of people jive with the iciness, but I am just not one of those people.

I acknowledge that other factors such as graduate school and adulting after college could also contribute to how I am feeling here. These are my observations and opinions of Boston culture, and I am just one person. I know plenty of people who love this city and I am happy for them. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Boston has its gems and I do my best to take advantage of as many as I can. The lack of empathy in this city shocks me and the competitive, somewhat fake culture unnerves me, but I would not trade the experiences that I have had because I am where I am because of them. I will continue to be my genuine self in every situation and if this is incompatible with Boston culture, then so be it. It really is just a part of growing older and having a backbone.

A Fulfilling Life.

The Sohnis took a family trip to Alaska a couple of weeks ago now, and the post-semester peace as well as the breathtaking landscape inspired some thoughts in my mind. One of my greatest fears is that I will not do everything that I can possibly do to ensure a fulfilling life for myself before it ends. Fulfillment looks different for everyone and difficulty can be found in deciphering how it looks for oneself, removed from everyone else’s noise.

As my family was driving down Seward Highway, hiking mountains, and taking in the piercingly blue waters that Alaska has to offer, I thought about all of the places that I have had the privilege of visiting over my lifetime thus far and all of the people whom I have met because of these opportunities. I realized that my fulfilling life is right in front of me. I am living it. I have lived an eventful life for a typical twenty three year old. If the world were to stop today, I could be content with my experiences and proud of my accomplishments. I could find solace in the relationships that I have built.

My life is uniquely mine, and no one else is living inside of me. I can take this concept and run with it in the moments of uncertainty. I have days during which I feel as though I am not making the most of my time. I fixate on every second “wasted” and ask myself how lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, or scrolling through my phone are taking advantage of the life that I was given. I think that these moments are necessary as well because they make us human. They remind us that living a full life does not occur in each passing second, but rather in the experience as a whole. I can rest if it equates to giving my friends the energy that they deserve when I meet them later in the day. I can scroll through my phone if if means that I will be fully present when I’m exploring a new pocket of the world with my family.

This post is a measure of gratitude. While I do my best to live every day with appreciation, moments like the ones that I had on this family trip reinforce the feeling. We were sitting in coffee shops and restaurants, and happened to meet people who were also from Minnesota. We happened to run into my dream dog, as well as my brother’s dream dog, within the same hour. We met a famous Bollywood playback singer at our hotel, and my dad exchanged numbers with him. We took a boat cruise to Portage Glacier with enough space to move around on the top deck because we visited Alaska before the peak visiting season. We ate dinner at the restaurant across the street from the hotel, and they happened to have karaoke that night. I was able to sing “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 to a crowd full of strangers. All of these moments made me feel as though we were meant to visit Alaska during this time. We were meant to be here, with these people, at these exact moments. Funnily enough, my family was originally planning on visiting Iceland, but my brother’s passport expired during this time, so I suggested Alaska instead. The stars aligned, and for this reason alone, I know that I am doing all of the right things to ensure that my life is full.

I Am My Mother’s Daughter.

I never thought that I would write this post because I did not see it. I did not see how inexplicably similar I am to my mother until a couple of years ago.

The mother-daughter relationship has many highs and many lows, and we’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. I now see that this was necessary to be as close as we are now. I’ve always loved and admired my mother, but these feelings were not exempt from the clashes and disagreements that we had with each other while I was growing into the person I am now. I felt misunderstood by her when I was in high school, and while I believed that this was because we were too different, I now realize that this actually happened because we are so similar.

We are both go-getters and natural born leaders. We love being busy and we love having opinions on everything. We have high standards for ourselves and those around us, and we expect people to keep up with us in every situation. We did not realize it, but we projected these assets (which are sometimes, admittedly, downfalls) onto each other. I cannot blame my mother for expecting the world out of me because that is what I want for myself. I am where I am because of her. I am who I am because she is who she is.

In April of 2019, my mom and I semi-spontaneously took a trip to London for the weekend. We had not traveled anywhere, just us two, for a while. This trip was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. We became closer with every passing moment. We both appreciate traveling in the same way, and the weekend progressed seamlessly because of this. I needed support and healing during this time in my life, and I could not have asked for a better person to be there with me.

I could write endlessly about all of the things that my mom has done for me, but I want to acknowledge that her presence on this earth is in itself a blessing. She could simply exist and do whatever she wants to do. Her intelligence and drive are inspiring. Her beauty is captivating. She is an avid reader and a skilled crossword puzzler. I aspire to be even half of the woman she is.

We know that mothers do a lot. They sacrifice a lot, but they smile and love those around them throughout all of it. My mom taught me how to advocate for myself and I know that the success that I have seen in both my personal and professional lives is due to her hard work and encouragement. She never breaks her promises, and her loyalty to her friends and family is unparalleled. She can be hard on people, but this is because she sees potential. She is a true matriarch and all around iconic woman.

My mother is not perfect. She has her flaws, but she handles them so gracefully. I understand her more now that I am older. I understand her more now because I know more about myself. I know why she approaches situations the way that she does. I believe that I have inherited some of her best qualities and this is an honor. She will always be my mom, but she is also one of my best friends. I sent her flowers for Mother’s Day, but an entire botanical garden cannot even reflect how much she means to me. I am who I am because of her.

After Death.

I wish that I could know what actually happens after we die. I spend a little bit of every day thinking through different theories and deciding which one seems the most plausible. If heaven exists, who would meet the criteria to reside there? If reincarnation exists, what do I hope that I will be in my next life? Do we just use these concepts because we need to rationalize this daunting, inevitable event called death? What scares people most is the idea that nothing happens when we die. We are simply placed in the ground, cremated, or disposed in some way, and the world continues.

Death scares me because I do not want to imagine a world in which I do not know what happens. One could say that this exemplifies an extreme case of FOMO (fear of missing out). The billions of years that encompass earth’s existence already overwhelm me, so I find difficulty in picturing billions more. I struggle to picture something that has no end. This is only compounded by the fact that all of this is completely based on our interpretations and beliefs. We do not know what is true, and we cannot ask the ones who do. We will only know when we reach the moment ourselves, and we do not want to rush into that.

I struggle to understand how others can be so confident in the idea of heaven or reincarnation or whatever else they believe, but I do respect it. I really do hope that one of these beliefs is the truth. At the same time, I wonder if a semblance of comfort can be found in the idea of nothingness after death. Would we feel less pressured as a society to follow certain, often archaic rules or perform in certain ways? Would we approach our days differently if we know that these are the only lives we will ever have?

My mind spins as I ask myself and those around me these questions. It spins as I ask about their own beliefs or to describe their dreams for life after death. It is unsettling and this post does not push any of us closer to an answer. I also do not know if I would want an afterlife that is void of the people whom I love, music, books, raindrops, and soft blankets. At the very least, this thought encourages me to appreciate all of these things a little bit more now.

A Glimpse of My Journal.

with minor edits

When I think about the future, I feel afraid. I don’t know what it holds, but I know that life comes to an end. Everything felt so safe and certain when I was a kid. I didn’t think about things beyond my bubble. I had my family right there with me. College students seemed old and far away, and now they seem young and far away. I say that as a twenty three year old, so it sounds a little dramatic.

I feel like I cannot catch a break. In 2020, I was worried about the pandemic, graduating, and job applications. In 2021, I was working full time and preparing for graduate school along with a cross country move. Now, I worry about doing well in my classes and finding an internship for the summer, and I know that I’ll be preoccupied with the stress of job applications in the fall. I balance this alongside my relationships, my health, and our ever burning world. I’m spiraling. I know that we all are, so I feel guilty if I lean on others. We regurgitate the same words of encouragement and advice to each other, but I do not know why or if we are hoping to see different results.

I realize that I am most bothered by people who claim that they do not care about anything. I feel small and silly when I care so much and the other person cares so little. How is it possible for someone to not care about a single thing? It isn’t. That being said, they bother me more because I can see through them, but they will retort with denial if I say so. In my opinion, not caring is not cool. Cool people care.

Am I happy with this version of myself? What can I change? How do I steady my heartbeat when I am alone? I still believe that people do not change, but I will admit that I feel different, and react differently to situations, at this point in time – in graduate school, in Boston, in the year 2022 – than I did previously.

Are the circumstances in which we find ourselves truly that staggering compared to previous generations? We have always known that the world is not perfect, or even good, on most days, but we continue to feign surprise. I turn on the TVs at the gym every morning and see “Breaking News” flash across the screen, but is the content actually breaking? Is it actually news? I do not want to undermine the gravity of any situation. Sometimes, I just wonder why we did not see any of this coming when we should have (or at least believed the people who did).

He Surprises Me.

As many know, Neeraj and I could not see each other in person this year for Valentine’s Day, so we sent each other care packages. As much as I wish I could have been in his arms, the personal touches included in his package made me smile so much. Everything that he does for me encapsulates our relationship perfectly. We find so much joy in surprising each other and doing small activities like this, and they make every day in our relationship feel like an adventure.

As I have mentioned previously, I have never experienced a relationship that is so secure and mature. He will say the things that I need him to say even when I do not know that I need to hear them, and even though we are just a few months away from two years of dating, I still find myself in shock. In the past, I spent more time panicking in my relationships than actually enjoying them, and I was often anxiety ridden for good reason. I was always ready to fight for my relationship when my partner would claim that he cannot do or be enough to make me happy. I was always ready to hear him say that I deserve more and better. My fear of these situations manifests itself even now, and every time Neeraj and I have a disagreement, I find myself rebuilding my walls. I brace myself for abandoned hope. I take deep breaths and prepare myself for the worst, but then he surprises me.

He surprises me by meeting me where I am. Leaving me does not cross his mind in difficult times. I am always prepared for the situation to erupt, but he will respond in the most constructive and kindest way possible. He is willing to be the best version of himself for me because he knows that I will always give him 100% of my energy and love.

I thought that I knew how it felt to be in love with your best friend based on my past relationships, but I really did not know this feeling until I found myself inside Neeraj’s embrace. In many ways, a bit of sadness exists in the fact that I am startled by the amount of respect that my partner has for me. I am startled by our abilities to work through any issues that arise rather than quitting on each other. I could pinch myself, but I would still be surprised.

Obviously, discussing anything over FaceTime or text is not ideal, but long distance has made me feel even more connected to him. I value his presence in my life so much and I know that he feels the same way, which is the best part. His silliness and whimsicality make me feel so light, but he is also present during the more important and serious moments. I have mentioned this many times already, but being in love with someone who has all of these characteristics, and is willing to work through heavy times, bewilders me.

I know that the blossoming of our relationship was a surprise to practically everyone, but its formation was a surprise to us as well. It was so unexpected, but he was the best surprise. This relationship was (and still is) the best surprise that I have ever received.

see you in less than two weeks, nee xo