Oh, Brother.

Siblings are built-in best friends. We do not choose them, but for some reason, we decide to have their backs and they decide to have ours. I am extremely grateful for mine, and I do not think that I would be who I am without him. Obviously, having a baby brother arrive out of what seems like nowhere is a bit of an adjustment, but after 19.5 years, I would not want anything else.

My brother, Neil, is about three years younger than I am. He just completed his freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota, and I am so glad that I am able to spend time with him before heading to Boston. We have always been pretty close despite how different we are from each other, but I think that our somewhat opposite personalities is partly why we are close. For example, he is studying chemical engineering and one could, most definitely, not catch me taking a physics or chemistry class. He is quiet and more introverted, and I am talkative and extroverted.

As the older/oldest sibling, I feel as though I have a responsibility to protect Neil at all costs. I just want his life to be filled with joy. I do not want anyone to be mean to him and I want him to be as successful as possible in whichever ways success looks for him. He is one of the most intelligent people whom I know and I am so excited to see where his life takes him even if I am not right by his side through every moment.

At the same time, he grows annoyed with my protectiveness because he is an adult. While we are older, we still have our disagreements from time to time, and most of them stem from this. He does not appreciate when I play the “older sibling card” to have my way or to validate myself in making the final decisions (though I claim that I do not do so). He is not a baby or little kid anymore. I have a tendency to control how he approaches situations or the choices he makes because he deserves the very best and I worry that he cannot advocate for himself. I recognize that I need to let him live, and he will come to me when he needs something. I want him to know that I am always here and I want to be a role model for him. I experience everything first, which is not always fun, but these experiences ensure that I am prepared to help him through the same ones.

With Neil now being in college and attending the same university that I did, I do my best to ensure that he has as much fun and as many opportunities as I had. This is hard to do when he is in a completely different program and his future will be largely different from mine. I feel helpless at times because I do not always have all of the answers for him.

I often tell my brother that he does not need to worry about me and it is my job to worry about him. This upsets him because we should be on an equal playing field, and he can handle my hardships just as well. He is the “baby” of the family, so I think that my parents and I tend to shield him more than we should. We all grow older eventually. I will say that I have been able to have deeper and more serious conversations with him because of this. I find a lot of comfort in hearing his thoughts about social issues or sports or family matters. He explains ideas to me with little to no judgment.

I have always loved having someone else, non-parental, around the house with whom I can chat. We have a Bro & Sis playlist. We occasionally watch movies or drive around together. He shows me TikToks of puppies and we send each other YouTube videos. He quizzes me, a bit too much, on sports. We have the same values, and we are often in agreement regarding the things that our parents tell us. I can be as weird or silly as possible and he will embrace it. We are the only two people in the world who will ever understand one another to the extent that we do.

I know that many folks do not have the type of relationship with their siblings as I do with my brother. I know many folks do not even talk to their siblings. I wish that they all had someone like Neil because life is a little brighter with him in it.

Face.

you’ll hear someone say that they want their face to forever be the one that their partner sees as they open their eyes every morning
or the face that they see standing across from them on their wedding day

but i want more than that

i want my face to be the one that inspires you
the one that pushes you to climb that mountain or run that mile
the one that sparks your idea for the world’s next technological advancement
the one that writes your songs for you
the one that beams when you receive an award or promotion
the one that cheers when you quit your toxic job and smiles when you say that you do not have a plan
the one that kisses your cheeks at any given moment
the one that makes your pupils dilate
the one that stops your breathing and has you breathing deeply at the same time

my face should be the one crossing your mind at random moments
while you are eating that bagel
or washing that mug
or reading that book
or driving through that town
or eating your vitamin gummies

i do not want to leave any room for my face to be forgotten
and maybe it is selfish
but my i want my face to mean more than the clichés and the instagram comments
i want my face to change your life

A Million and One Flip Turns.

If we’re assessing speed, I was a pretty average swimmer. My technique was great, but I was never in a place to go for the gold. This being said, I would not have wanted to participate in anything else as my primary sport while I was growing.

A part of me is always hesitant in writing about swimming because I feel as though I am an imposter. I know plenty of folks who continued to swim in college, and plenty who participated in junior nationals and the Olympic trials. I did not do any of these things, and I was not even close to doing any of these things, but the sport still means a lot to me. One can see it in the way I talk about it or while I am teaching others how to swim. Swimming is a life sport, and I truly believe that everyone should at least know the basics. In my opinion, it is important for survival.

The resilience that swimming requires extensive. We’re talking a five am wake up to plunge yourself into cold water for three hours. Your goggles or cap breaks during a race and you keep swimming. You run into the lane line or, god forbid, smack heads or hands with another swimmer while doing backstroke and you keep swimming. Your hair freezes in the winter and all of your things may smell slightly of chlorine, but you are back at the pool the next day. You slip and fall on deck, you feel embarrassed, and then you stand up and keep walking (don’t run!). You swim thousands of yards, and then you swim thousands more. You have spun yourself into too many flip turns to count (and you’re, surprisingly, not at all dizzy), and then you flip too many more. For those of you who are wondering, yes, swimmers do sweat. Our cheeks can flush and our bodies can feel warm in the water if we’re working hard enough (which, as a competitive swimmer, was always). Though it may seem obvious, swimmers truly do understand the phrase “just keep swimming.” It holds a different meaning for us.

Although I run a lot more now, and do more dry land workouts in general, I still try to swim occasionally (at least pre-COVID pandemic). Every time I do, I realize how much I miss it. Every time I walk, drive, or fly past a body of water, all I want to do is swim. I think back to my swimming days with a lot of nostalgia. Even though swimming is an “individual” sport, one can never grow closer to a group of people. The energy at a swim practice or meet is unparalleled, and this makes sense as we all have to cheer a bit louder considering the races, well, happen in the water. You do an open turn during breaststroke or butterfly and you have friends screaming, practically in your face, to keep going.

Swimmers work their entire bodies. They can pull muscles and have severe injuries, and their shoulders are pretty broad. The sport can be scary to watch at times, but it is also beautiful. The ripples in the water and the perfect butterfly stroke can compensate for all of the negatives. Swimmers’ legs and feet work so much just under the surface of the water, and all of this is invisible to the standard eye. We had pancake tans from swimming outside in the summer, and we would always joke that the football team could not get through one of our practices.

The best part about swimming, though, is the fact that it taught me so many life lessons. I know that a lot of sports do this, but I learned to visualize, which is an important part of calming one’s mind and meditation, from swimming. Imagining oneself gliding through water provides a new level of tranquility. I exercised my math skills during every practice while counting laps or calculating time, and I could (and still can) do all of this quickly. Practices did, quite literally, consist of quick maths. The sport also pushed me in so many ways that I did not know I could be. I would be awake at five am and head over to the pool for a couple of hours. I would come back after school and swim even more. I would swim thousands of yards and then head to my next extra-curricular activities, and I would do my homework on top of all of that. Would I dive into a pool at five thirty or six am anymore? Probably not, but at least I know that my mind and my body can do it. The pool was the best, and my personal favorite, tissue. I could cry and no one would even notice because we were all immersed in water. I could be so angry at the world and express all of it through my strokes and kicks. My first job entailed teaching kids how to swim, and I learned that I really love doing so.

I learned that even though we were all participating in the same practices and meets, we all viewed success and felt pressure differently. I learned to be okay with not being the best, or anywhere near it, and I recognized that not being the fastest swimmer gave me so much opportunity to excel in other aspects of my life (and I think that I have!) while still holding the sport close to me.

Keep your pools cold and your hearts warm.

Don’t Worry, We’ve Seen the Data.

Why, after centuries of injustice and violence, are we still pulling up statistics and stories to explain the existence of said injustice and violence? Why do I have to find articles to explain that humans deserve to live and have basic human rights? I have literally sent friends and past partners articles, including graphs, because they did not believe that people of color experience racism or that white privilege exists. Apparently, my words, or the words of the community, are not enough. Apparently, a picture or video taken and seen by the masses is not enough. The “profits over people” squads asked us for the facts and figures, and now those are not enough. Is this not bizarre?

Why do folks find so much difficulty in believing us when we are screaming from the rooftops and asking for drastic change? How many people need to become statistics, how many books have to be published, how many films have to be created for folks to be convinced? We have repeatedly seen that tragedies have to occur and become commodified for our family members, let alone those in power, to even send a generic tweet.

I do not need to provide you with the facts when you have access to the internet and books. Marginalized groups do not have to defend their experiences by quantifying themselves when you could easily do the research on your own. At this point, an unfortunate plenty of people have relived their traumas just to send a message to those who will never understand, and their stories are easily discoverable. Beyond that, how many facts and figures do one need to realize that people are suffering, and we should be doing something about it?

I often think about the number of papers in which I have been required to discuss a human rights issue with the standard of “if you can support your claim, you will receive a good grade.” If one really thinks about this concept, does it not seem a bit twisted? Our first instinct is to question one’s credibility instead of simply believing them and finding a solution. At the end of the day, how much is the millionth dissertation on the prevalence of racism, for example, going to differ from the hundreds of thousands before it?

The dependency on research, when so much has already been conducted, to enact change is honestly disrespectful. It erases the experiences of so many people, let alone the people themselves, and only pushes them and their communities further into grief.

We are all exhausted and we do not have any more words. I have mulling with frustration over these thoughts for a while, and of course I know that folks do not believe us because they do not want to believe us. I feel as though a lot of you will relate.

contribute here:

Yadirah Martínez GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/get-yadhi-home?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer

COVID relief in India: https://twitter.com/Sherinapoyyail/status/1385478140261068804?s=20 & https://www.khalsaaid.org/

Speed Up to Slow Down.

When people refer to their 20s, they mention all of these wild adventures, moving failures and successes, lots of heartbreaks and falling in love. Regardless of what the past year has given us, this places a lot of pressure on those of us who are in our 20s currently. I always tell my friends, in addition to telling myself, to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. One will often hear me say that we are only alive for so long and we have to make the most of it.

At the same time, taking care of ourselves is just as essential. We cannot have a sleepless night every night, and we cannot always live out of suitcases or live without repercussions. Our bodies are, unfortunately, not invincible. They are strong and capable, but even the strongest items can break if we do not take good care of them. If money were not an object (in the sense that we, sadly, need it to even have a roof over our heads or food on the table), I am sure that we could do a lot more. I know that I would be traveling every second and I would invest in all of my passions without worrying about how successful they will be.

When we are younger, we envision ourselves having a well-paid and fulfilling job while having enough energy to go for happy hour drinks with our friends every evening. One might envision glowing skin, attending pilates and yoga classes, and going on romantic dates or getaways with the perfect partner. We may even be planning our weddings or buying our dream homes. We are content with this because we also spent a few years traveling with our friends, experiencing night life, and making spur of the moment decisions all while excelling in our college/grad school courses. An expectation exists to accomplish all of these things in our 20s so that we can have the rest of our lives to invest in our families.

We speed up so that we can slow down later, but we are unstable throughout all of it. The proper footing is never quite underneath us. We could be having fun, but we also could be struggling mentally with all of the events that are prompted by the world in which we live.

Would it not make more sense to just follow our own paths without feeling the pressure to do or not do something? Who says that one has to jump straight into more school right after undergrad? Who says we have to be in serious relationships by the time we are 25 or be married shortly after? Luckily, I think more folks are realizing all of this hence not abiding by cookie cutter norms.

We tell our loved ones to experience life at their own paces, but what we tell ourselves could be totally different. I have the expectations that I will run a marathon within the next year and climb Mount Kilimanjaro within the next two years. Why? If I did either of these in the next five or ten years, they would still be meaningful accomplishments. When I was younger (not in my 20s), I thought that I would be living in New York City and working at some big time organization like the New York Times. The reality is that I am still in Minnesota, working at a small, local non-profit, and will be going to grad school with not enough money in my pocket this fall.

I still have had amazing experiences, ones that I would have never imagined for myself, and seen a lot of the world. I still have my fair share of wild stories to tell. I have met people who have influenced my life and their communities in impactful ways. I am only 22, but my 20s are already shaping up to be more than I imagined – just not in the way I thought.

I would rather do a few wonderful things than rush through every experience that I “should” have. If I cannot stop to smell the roses, would my 20s really be the whirlwind that I want them to be? My stories may not match the person next to me, or a person who was in their 20s decades ago, but they are just as cool. We do not have to be on the go 24/7. We can sleep a lot some days or binge watch TV shows or read books instead of running through the streets if we want to do so. We can spend an entire day crying if that is what will help us in that moment. Our lives do not end when we turn 30. Decades of living still exist after that and we should be making the most of those as well. I have people in my grad school cohort who are younger than I am as well as many who are nearing their 30s. We have all chosen our own paces and decided what works best for each of us. A conventional life does not have to exist if we do not want it to do so.

This post is inspired by my best friend, Harmanpreet, as she was ranting to me the other day about how she is only 20, and she does not know what she should be doing right now, or whether she is doing anything correctly. I think we owe it to ourselves, to our families, to those who have passed, and to the earth to just do what we want whenever we want*.

*without harming anyone, of course

The 40 Hour Work Week.

Simply put, it needs to be abolished. The forty hour work week reinforces the idea that we are all commodities and our worth is based on how well we do our work or how much we produce. Even if one enjoys their career, they are laboring and being paid for this labor. We earn money to live comfortably and enjoy our lives, but we are not given adequate time to do so because we spend five out of seven days in a week at work. If one thinks about this deeply, they would probably realize that this occupies a very large chunk of our lives. We spend our days owing our lives to someone or something else because they are giving us the means that we need to survive (a lot to unpack here).

Many say that the happy medium is a four day work week with a three day weekend. I am sure that this is probably dependent on the job at hand. Of course, many professions are essential. If someone breaks their leg, a doctor has to be available to mend it. Even with these professions, though, an assortment of shifts are and can be taken. Even having flexibility in the work day is important because taking care of our minds, bodies, and loved ones is not a weekend task – doing so is an every day requirement. I value exercising, eating, sleeping, spending time with family or friends, and reading every day in addition to working, and I would like to have some time left over to just chill as well.

I personally think that if one can finish their work and meet every deadline in less than forty hours, then so be it. Anything that requires forty hours or more can wait. Do not launch or hire anyone for your company or organization if this is not the case. If you have to subject your employees to extensive hours or terrible working conditions, do you really think that your organization deserves to exist? I know so many individuals who worry about using their paid time off because of the amount of work that they have on their plates, or simply because of the fear of having tasks wait until they come back. Our brains are rarely able to quit the work browser even for a day, and this is because we have been conditioned to commodify ourselves and believe that we do not deserve a happy, safe, and healthy life otherwise.

I understand that abolishing the forty hour work week seems ~radical~ and, obviously, may not happen overnight, but so many organizations across the world are already doing it. These groups recognize that requiring their employees to spend the majority of their lives at work is not sustainable for their well beings (or the company’s well being). Additionally, many millennials and zoomers are turning to self-employment because they can control their own schedules and care for themselves. Of course, this does not mean that they are not working just as hard – they are able to do so more efficiently while making substantial livings.

Again, I do hope and wish for every human to enjoy their career. This is what I want for myself as well. I just do not think that they should consume our entire lives. People deserve to live comfortably and enjoy their lives regardless of how much they work. Too much of anything can turn out to be harmful, remember? Having a balance between work, hobbies, health, and loved ones is key. I genuinely think that we could possibly have a happier and more innovative world if we committed to this balance.

Friendship.

Over the past few years, and especially now as a college graduate, I have been grappling with the idea of sustainable, intentional friendships and what that means to me. This is even harder to implement in a pandemic. Whenever I talk to my parents about their childhoods or their college years, they mention names of individuals with whom they no longer have contact. I have listened to conversations between my mom and her friends in which they speculate about where certain people are. Before college, I never understood how one could lose all contact, or drift apart from someone in the sense that I thought that maintaining friendships was simple. Of course, mostly all of my friendships at that point resided in my hometown, so of course this was easy for me to think as a kid/tween/teen.

I feel as though growing apart from childhood or high school friends is relatively common, so I do not dwell on it too much. The grappling occurs more with relationships that I formed in college and how to maintain those. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I realized that I was surrounded by so many new people with their own stories, and many of these people were already rooting for me in ways that I had not experienced previously. I felt rejuvenated and ready to move forward with my life, and I have been satisfied with the small chunk friendships that I still do have from before I began college. I formed an amazing and large community for myself at the U of M, and I feel like I have met some of the best people in this world through doing so. Of course, throughout the years, I drifted apart from some individuals simply because we did not make the effort to see each other around campus after having a class together or something of the sort, and this is completely fine. Suddenly, though, you and your college friends are not necessarily living in the same place or within walking distance of each other, and you resort to texting, FaceTiming, and social media to keep up with them. This takes more energy than one might think, especially when your entire world turns virtual due to a pandemic.

Sometimes, I have also just had to accept that I have done everything I can to reach out to someone, and I have not received anything in return (this applies both ways). At the same time, graduating during this time and giving people grace must also be taken into consideration. Is someone not responding because they are struggling (this applies pandemic or otherwise)? I use the “baby in the backseat” mentality so much that I find difficulty in differentiating between letting someone go or keeping my door open for them. I also think that my feelings are valid in wanting to feel chosen and wanting to have friends who are truly in my corner.

I try to be as intentional as possible and text people when I think about them. I want my friends to know that I am always here, and our friendships mean so much to me even if I haven’t seen them in months or do not talk to them regularly. The issue lies in how draining this can be. At certain points, one has to give others the opportunity to choose them rather than living in the fear that they will not do so by not giving them the chance. I fight so hard to keep people in my life, and this past year has been challenging in that sense, but I have pushed myself to not think too deeply (as I am prone to doing) about certain people or relationships.

People always say that as we grow older, our circles become smaller. Friendships can fade even if nothing happens, and they might actually fade because nothing happened. The energy and effort were not there, and little communication took place. I am not writing this post because I have experienced this recently; this post actually resided in my drafts for months, and I am still mulling over this topic after all of this time. I always will because I do not think one “right” answer exists to how one can maintain all of their relationships in a healthy manner. I keep arriving at the realization that I am not going to run into friends while walking around campus or being in classes/meetings with them, and I am not living with a few of my friends in an apartment, so more effort will be needed to maintain these friendships that seemed to flow so easily. We could all be states or countries away from each other if we are not already, and keeping these relationships alive will take lots of care. I also remind myself that I probably have not met even half of the people I will meet in my life, and being in a new place allows for this which excites me.

All we can do is ask ourselves whether we are happy in a relationship, and whether this person is still adding to our lives. In an ideal world, friendships would be as simple as asking someone to play in the sandbox or swing on the swing set with us, but unfortunately we are not currently in that world, and we cannot help growing older. We learn that time is fleeting, and we desire to surround ourselves with people who make us forget this fact for a moment. Feeling sad, or even heartbroken, about a lost friendship is okay, and so is moving forward without them. We can still cheer for people who are no longer in our lives and this is something that we all need to remember.

Headaches.

I’ve mentioned this often to those in my life, but I am extremely prone to headaches. I have chronic headaches, and pushing through them can be tough. At this point, they are so engrained in my life that I almost could not picture a week (or recently, even a day) without receiving one.

One might be thinking that I should just avoid what triggers them, and this is definitely true. I actually do my best to do so, but sometimes this can be difficult due to what my triggers are. Screens, vehicles or other moving machines (such as rollercoasters), caffeinated coffee, and scents prompt my headaches.

I believe that I have been experiencing more migraines recently because of the screen time required for work and engaging with friends during a pandemic. I depend on my blue light glasses heavily, and I could honestly have a headache within the hour if I do not wear them. I even wear them when I’m looking at something on my phone for an extended period of time (the smaller the screen, the more likely I am to have a headache), or watching a show or movie on a television screen. I can have severe headaches from watching reality TV shows or vlogs. If I read something on my phone that makes me anxious (a confrontational email or text – not that I receive these a ton, but the couple of times), my head starts pounding and the room spins. At this point, I know that I’ll have a headache for the rest of the day.

I dealt with some unpleasant bouts of airsickness as a child, and even though I can manage it better now when flying, I still avoid inhaling (I solely breathe through my mouth if I can help it, which is why my breath can be ~off~ after exiting the aircraft) and I cannot bring myself to drink the water that the airplanes serve (regardless of the bottle brand). I cannot read in airplanes or cars, and as much as I love rollercoasters and other amusement park rides, I am left with a strong headache at the end of the day. If I smell anything for too long, even if I enjoy the scent, I will have a headache, though I think headaches from scents might be an experience that many people have.

I had a migraine most of last week, and I felt terrible. I felt nauseous, I had to lay down a lot, and I had to lower the volume of the music while driving. With my migraines, I frequently see flashes of light as well. My dad experiences chronic headaches, so I might have them because of genetics. We both just live with them, but when I am really having a hard time, I break down and cry. I am sure that mental health plays a role in these headaches too. This is another case of a condition (or whatever you would like to call it) that isn’t visible by simply looking at someone. I have attended, and led, countless meetings, classes, exercised, and spent time with friends while having mild to severe headaches, but I know that even if I had not done these things and just took a nap, my experiences would still be valid. I do my best to break through this barrier because I want to live my life and keep my word.

I actually wanted to write this post a week ago, but my head was hurting so much that after the work day, I just wanted a break from looking at a screen. I feel better this week and I thought that I would hop on here to reflect. I know that having a headache might not seem as though it is a big deal to some who are reading this, but for me, the migraines that I receive are painful. At the very least, this post can just be a reminder that more exists than what meets the eye and everyone deserves a bit of grace.

link to my blue light glasses (I have the Hardwire Mini in a translucent, light pink color, but it looks as though this color is no longer available. The glasses are cute and extremely effective nonetheless!)

Healing.

note: Some trauma is well outside of one’s control, and I recognize that one could be stuck in situations of trauma because of this. This post should be read with this in mind, and any reader should feel free to take what they can from it and leave the rest.

The weight that seems to enter through your shoulders and your mind and your heart and your stomach at the same time is suddenly lighter.

That day in which you no longer feel it, whatever “it” is, could happen tomorrow. We keep telling ourselves that we will be completely healed when we no longer feel anything toward a situation, person, or place. The truth is, trauma, problems, and pain will recur, but the healing will as well.

The healed state of being is not a destination to reach, but rather a moment that arrives with a new day and disappears with another. You should do whatever you need to do to feel like your best self as this happens. Not everyone in your life will support you or show up for you in the way that you need, and some will reprimand you for your hurting or “taking a long time” to recover. You have every right to take space (whether for a day or forever) away from these folks. You have every right to distance yourself from places, writings, songs, photos, and foods that hurt you. You have every right to express how you feel (in a safe way). Acknowledging that the process could be lifelong is a necessity. You should never be expected to simply forgive or forget, or to thrive every second after something happens. One cannot wash away a moment or person.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to heal from yourself. As I stated previously, we focus on healing from external situations, but your own mind is what reinforces the pain. We keep reliving these moments to find answers or to pinpoint where we made mistakes, even if the situation did not occur because of us. I was reminded recently that I might still feel achy because this is what keeps me tied to situations, and prevents me from letting go of them. I tweeted this back in June 2019: “you search for your own healing in someone else (often the one who tore you apart in the first place) only to discover that this healing is found within yourself.” While I know exactly to what these words were referring, I still find it helpful to view things this way now.

Honestly, I still feel like I am healing from situations that happened months or even years ago. A part of this is because some moments feel as though they occurred just yesterday, and I find difficulty in processing how much time has passed. These situations range between relationships, work, health, and much more. I still feel frustrated and hurt, and sometimes I just want to hide. In most ways, I am in a much better place than I was during some periods of time in the past, but I cannot completely shake some emotional scar tissue even so. I have spent so much time trying to reach a destination, but now I just try to coexist with the bumps in the road.

check out my healing playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1CWVBiLHgtjSxqtq9xKpXQ?si=mYruuANGSeeJ94DMO97Hnw

Reframing.

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.