20th Birthday Reflection.

(Birthday reflections will be a series on my blog.)

Frankly, when I reflect on the majority of this past year, I am met with negativity. When reading this, please keep in mind that I am grateful for all I have. I will never forget that. I had some of the most amazing and fun experiences of my life, but the highs were so high and the lows were incredibly low. Most of the memories I have from this year contain certain people and it hurts to think about them, but I have reached the point in which I can think of these memories happily as well. I am going to be brutally honest in this blog post and I think I deserve to be. I am finally learning to love myself and I will not apologize for it.

One lesson that I have learned from this past year and what stands out to me the most is the importance of one’s environment. During the past few years of my life, I have worked diligently to ensure that my surroundings uplift me, so this year was extremely disappointing due to the negative (and often sarcastic) environment in which I often resided. I frequently felt excluded and misunderstood, and I think I finally snapped. I once tweeted, “do you ever just wait for the day when you don’t have to interact with certain people anymore” and I stand by that even more so now. Certain people in your life may be great, but maybe they’re only great in small doses.

Academically, I had some hard classes, but I feel as though my work ethic and studying habits improved lots over the course of the year. My fall semester GPA was atrocious, but my spring semester GPA was fantastic and I am so proud of myself for working that hard. I often prioritize extra-curricular activities and friends over my academics because of how extroverted I am, but I was able to balance everything so well despite the issues I faced.

This is going to be heavy. This summer was probably the worst summer I have ever experienced, but I also learned so much and had amazing opportunities. I feel as though this period of time clouds my judgment on this past year as a whole, but I think that the past school year led to this breaking point. Due to the constant stressors I faced over the school year, my mental health deteriorated. I have struggled for many years, but a point arose in which my ex-boyfriend pushed me to receive help because it was impacting my mood, my health, and my relationship with him. I am so thankful for his push. In April, I visited the mental health clinic at my University and was met with scary news. I scored red, or extreme, for suicidal ideation and was diagnosed with Major Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorder. I expected the first two, but not the latter. Additionally, I have terrible insomnia, frequent headaches, dermatitis and cysts on my scalp, and warts on my foot, so I feel even more overwhelmed sometimes. I am grateful to those who love me and support me despite all of this, and I hope that others can learn to accept me for who I am. My mental illnesses are very much so a part of me, but they do not define me, and I think I have proven myself capable and strong despite all of it. While meeting with the therapist, I emphasized my fear of my mental illnesses affecting my relationship greatly, but I know that I should not have examined them in this way. I prioritized saving my relationship over taking care of myself when I should have done the opposite. I was living an unhealthy lifestyle and maybe things have improved since then, or maybe they have not, but I am now working on improving my habits for myself and only myself.

I think I have learned quite a bit about relationships of all kinds over this past year. Not all friendships will stay. Not all friendships will remain the same. Last fall, I became very close with three amazing people. We studied for a class together almost every day and I would like to think that we were best friends at the time. These individuals had my back and I had never felt so supported. I fell in love with one of them, things became busier, and we drifted apart as a group, but still remained close with each other individually throughout the spring. Relationships change and this is okay. We often think of heartbreak in a romantic sense, but I have been hurt by so many of my friends throughout the past few years as well. Usually, being a light for others makes me happy and as an extrovert, I thrive by being surrounded by others constantly, but I just feel so drained. I am so tired of investing in people when they do not do the same. I am tired of being gaslighted and adjusting to what others want because I am expected to be “okay” with everything, and I am tired of being a doormat. One of the three folks I mentioned earlier once said to me, “Nat, nothing matters more to me than your happiness. You need to make sure you are happy before anyone else.” I think about this every day because he said this to me at one of my lowest points. Further, he is one of my only friends to ever tell me this. On that same token, I have realized how little most of my friends care. I know that not everyone is outgoing or is nearly as extroverted as I am, but I cannot help how hurt I feel. I just have to remember that if people choose to remove themselves, the decision to do so is not necessarily my fault. If people care, they will show it. We tend to over complicate situations and justify actions, but ultimately, things are this simple.

I am pretty frustrated and angry with some things and some people. I am pretty hurt. All I have ever done is try, though, and I know I deserve better. I stand by what I’ve said in the past: do not give up on those you love, but sometimes letting things run their courses is better than draining oneself.

I want to be careful with my heart, but I also know that doing so is not who I am. I love spreading love, I love sharing my heart, and I am open with others so that they can feel comfortable and open with me. I am often heartbroken and hurt, but if my light makes a difference in at least one person’s life, investing in others is worth it for me. I am proud of how vulnerable I am. I am proud of the love I give to others. I have a lot of faith in people and I know it. I probably always will.

I can name less than five people who truly understand me. I am an open book, but knowing everything about me is not the same as knowing who I am. I do not think that how long one has known another plays a role in how well one knows another. I have only recently met people who know and love me for all I am. I feel so disconnected and removed from certain people and this is difficult and frustrating, but everything happens for a reason (as annoying as this is).

Some recent situations have also led me to a life crisis in terms of career. I despise competition, I am not cutthroat, I want everyone to be happy with their lives and with me every single second, I have a Type A personality, but I want to be a politician? I had to do a lot of reflecting this summer over what being involved in politics means to me. I reminded myself that I chose this path purely, and only, because I want to help others. I am blessed and have quite a lot of privilege, so I want to use the resources and opportunities available to me to assist those who have less. I value transparency and authenticity, and I think the political realm could use a lot more of both. I vow to remain clean and genuine, and if I ever lose a race because of this, then so be it. One does not have to have a title to make a difference and the issues I want to tackle are much larger than myself and my own goals.

On a more positive note, I have had some AMAZING experiences this past year. I am working on Ilhan Omar’s campaign for Congress (!!!), interned at the Children’s Defense Fund, traveled to Washington D.C., Israel, Palestine, and Canada, worked on some beautiful initiatives in student government and am excited for my role as Ranking At-Large Representative this year, am the Director of Events and Programming for first-year and transfer students in the College of Liberal Arts, have sixty Spotify followers and have made some really great playlists (in my opinion), attended two fraternity formals and a couple wedding receptions, learned lots from a relationship, sang at multiple events, attended football games and concerts, tried new restaurants, lived in my first apartment, obtained some pretty cool Chaco tan lines, and have met a few wonderful people who have added so much to my life. I have laughed just as much as I have cried. This past year produced a lot of great music. Most importantly, after losing myself, I finally feel as though I am finding myself once again. In general, I am high strung and do not have much peace of mind, but I also know who and what grounds me and I am working to have more of those people and things in my life. Sometimes we have to break down in order to break through our issues.

I credit music (follow me on Spotify @natsohni or Natasha Sohni), running, my pillow pet Willie, elephants, puppies, blueberries, sunrises, hugs, water, caramel lattes with almond milk, Twitter, Snapchat stories, and around ten people for helping me through this year. Just know that I am thinking of all of you while writing this blog post at midnight on my birthday. I could write so much more, but I will be expanding on all of this in my blogs to come.

Here’s to no longer being a teenager. Here’s to twenty.