Am I Real.

I often wonder whether my opinions of myself are just a culmination of the opinions that others have of me. Is my perception of myself and my value based on how I am perceived? We have all been taught to not care about what others think of us, but what if what we think of ourselves is exactly that?

Let’s simplify this idea for a moment. If I were the only person to exist on planet earth, I would probably love myself one hundred percent of the time. I would be so proud of and impressed with myself. I would believe that every word that I speak and action that I do is correct. I would assume that the way I look is the best and only way for a person to look. Obviously, I do appreciate myself now and I do believe that my existence is special, but I must acknowledge that billions of people on this planet likely operate in a completely different, or even opposite, way than I do. Multiple truths can exist at the same time, but we will always have opinions on which truths are right and which are not. At the very least, the opinions that we have of ourselves are based on the opinions that we have of others.

I would love to believe that I am indestructible. I would love to believe that the value that I place in myself is unwavering, but I would be lying if I said that this were the case. Thankfully, I am surrounded by the best people, and for the most part, they do uplift me. At the same time, I cannot always control what I read and whom I meet. Some people will be rude or judgmental, and while their words could be bred from insecurities, they still hurt. We are not protected from the expressions that we see on another person’s face as we are talking to them, and we cannot control what is said about us behind closed doors. People say upsetting things when they are angry or jealous or confused, and we can internalize these sentiments within the blink of an eye.

The internal battle stems from this: I know that I am a kind person, but do I only know that because others have told me that I am? Am I only pretty or attractive because other people decided that I am? If, God forbid, everyone told me that I am worthless, would I still believe that I have value? In many ways, we have seen this type of nurturing, or lack thereof, manifest through the wonderful and horrible things that human beings have done.

I do not really have an answer to the questions that I have posed and I also do not have a solidified conclusion as to whether my perception of myself is rooted in how others perceive me. I will likely never know, and maybe we are supposed to spend our lives working toward indestructible self acceptance. Maybe we should just believe whatever helps us sleep at night.

The Happy Medium.

If one were to ask me how I envisioned my ideal relationship five years ago, I would have said that I dream of a whirlwind romance similar to those in romantic and drama-filled movies. I wanted the rush and the suspense and the heartbreak and the tension alongside the ultimate happy ending. I wanted the most soul crushing song to play as I yearned for the love of my life in desperation, and I wanted the textbook, cheesy moves to cushion the scene.

In many respects, I have experienced this type of fire and ice relationship, and as riveting as the stories are to hear, they are not always the most fun to tell. For the most part, the romances that we see in our favorite movies, television shows, and books are toxic and unhealthy regardless of their positive endings. As much as I remark about the cinematic nature of some of the experiences that I have had, I also remind myself that we watch movies for entertainment. Love looks and feels different for everyone, and sparks can still fly even when a relationship has a calmness to it. A little bit of peace exists in knowing that your relationship is not the latest gossip or does not to be unpacked.

People will ask me how my current relationship is going and other than saying that everything is going well, I do not have much else to report. I have noticed that people usually have more to say about their relationships when they have concerns or worries about them. I could write novels about the relationships that I have had before this one and they would probably be bestsellers, but I feel so much better now. My relationship encompasses reason and accountability, and the love that we have for each other places our individual happinesses at its foundation. I do not feel like I have to fight for the happy ending; the happy ending will naturally arrive. Obviously, my relationship is not perfect and the seas can be a little bumpy at times, but I am always able to maintain my balance.

My past experiences have definitely influenced the way that I handle or react to things that happen now. For the most part, I am just better at knowing myself and what I need from my partner. I am better at communicating these needs as well. I value myself and I advocate for myself. In the past, I always felt as though my partner and I were on opposing teams and it was unpleasant. I now genuinely believe that Neeraj and I strive to achieve the best possible outcome for our relationship.

I have grown to value the quiet moments and the happy medium. Instead of writing from pain, I write from joy. I still find myself dreaming about that whirlwind romance from the movies, but then I remember how grateful I am to have the relationship that I have. I blanket myself in the ease of my relationship and shudder at the thought of the past version of myself crumpled on the floor. I still have the flowers and the cute dates and mushy moments despite no longer having the drama and the heartbreak and the manipulation. My relationship is exactly where it should be.

Too Proud to be Homesick.

A lot of people have told me that they “love” Boston, but honestly, I do not fully understand it. I do not feel the love. While I experience the occasional gem, I often feel frustration. This city glorifies the idea of having highs and lows, but I think that one could learn a lot from living in it.

Many know that I was excited to move away from Minnesota and I have always felt that my purpose extends further than my home state. I love traveling and exploring new places. I love meeting new people. I am still excited to be here, but I really do miss home. I miss the familiarity. I miss my friends and family. I feel a strange sense of nostalgia for knowing a place, as though it is the back of my hand, even though I have been looking forward to learning about a new one. Given that I am in graduate school and have only lived here for about five weeks, I have not had that many opportunities to explore the area. I look forward to doing so as the fall season unfolds, and I hope to find some pockets of joy or solace here.

I have met a lot of amazing people so far, but I feel like they do not fully know me right now. The ways in which I connect with folks in Minnesota are so different than how I do here. I enjoy vulnerability and I want that to run deeply within all of my new friendships, but I know that all good things take time. I also know that my environment is influenced by the people whom I have around me and I want to flourish socially while I am here. I find so much beauty in the differing life experiences that my friends have, and I just hope that we all continue to root for each other throughout the next couple of years. A part of me still feels as though I am making first impressions and I want to ensure that I am making stellar ones. In graduate school, and especially in Boston, everyone is at a different stage in their life, and this can allow for some snap judgments rather than giving each person the benefit of the doubt. The transition is very different from undergrad as we do not have a welcome week or plethora of student groups, live in residence halls, or are given time to acclimate. Collectively, we are all lost over ninety percent of the time (literally and figuratively) and we just take swings with the hope that we see some home runs.

I think that the University of Minnesota, and living in the Twin Cities generally, spoiled me with the view of the Minneapolis/St. Paul skylines. One can see them from almost any location. I used to walk to class and remark at how thankful I am to see Minneapolis skyline every day. When I step outside of my Boston apartment, I do not have this same feeling. I do see a lot of babies and dogs, both of whom I love, but one has to either be intentional about seeing amazing views in Boston or spend a lot of money to live in a prime location. I have had moments that remind me of why I am here and how wonderful life is, but these moments do not happen as frequently as I would like. I would argue that this city is not super navigable or accessible for walking, driving, and taking public transportation (really just any form of movement that gets someone from point A to point B), so energy is required to view and experience the “gems” that I mentioned previously.

I have been feeling pretty ashamed of my homesickness. I am embarrassed to admit it because of the pride that I felt in starting a new chapter. I still feel proud and hopeful, but I do not thrive every day. Graduate school work is time consuming, sometimes the bus is thirty minutes late, and money is emptied from your pockets in the blink of an eye. I yearned to push myself outside of my comfort zone and I have, so I definitely do not have regrets. I just hope that, over time, I fall in love with where I am.

I do not know if Boston is the city for me, and I do think that those who do love it have only been exposed to parts of it, but it is my city for now. I am sure that my perspective will change with time, and I look forward to updating everyone as this occurs. Despite all of the confusion, I trust myself and my intuition more than anything, and this provides me with a little bit of comfort while I am discovering my place here.

A Love Letter to Minnesota.

I have been in Boston for a few weeks now! While I have been taking time to adjust to my new home, I have also had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences prior to my arrival on the East coast. For the most part, I was born and raised in the state of Minnesota. I completed my undergraduate degree there. I had my first full time job after college in Minnesota, and now I have moved away from it. While I have traveled plenty and seen much of the world, settling in a new city is an entirely different ball game. The following paragraphs entail just a few thoughts regarding my home state. I am sure that I could say much more, but these are the first points that come to mind.

I think that Minnesota is a great place for children to grow if they have the right resources. In my case, I did, and I was able to live in a relatively safe environment. The state is home to some of the best education, and educational standards as a result, in the country, but also has some of the greatest disparities between communities regarding these standards. My high school was one of the best in Minnesota and living in Rochester, with access to the Mayo Clinic and other amazing organizations, provided a lot of opportunities. Of course, not every day encompassed sunshine and rainbows, and I think we would see some interesting results regarding mental health and the pressures that children feel to pursue certain careers (Rochester is a very STEM based town, and my high school definitely channeled this energy). Over all, raising a family there is a pretty safe bet.

I have alluded to this previously, but I was dead set on attending a university outside of Minnesota. I did apply to a couple of schools within Minnesota (obviously including the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities) just for the sake of doing so. I applied to ten places in total, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted to most of them, but for some reason, I had so much trouble deciding on the best path for myself. I felt a sort of comfort as I was walking around the UMN campus; the people and the energy of the area felt familiar to me. The university felt like home. Looking back, I am guessing that this is partly why I had so much trouble committing anywhere else. If we fast forward to late August of 2016, we will see a seventeen year old Natasha moving into her freshman residence hall on the west bank of the UMN campus.

Honestly, I loved my time at the U of M. I thrived (mostly). I accomplished so much more than I imagined that I would and this is because I made the decision to make the most of my college experience. I think that I grew even more grateful for this pocket of the world. Looking at the Minneapolis skyline while walking across the Washington Avenue or Stone Arch bridges still takes my breath away (even after looking at it multiple times every single day for the past few years) and I enjoyed exploring the nooks of St. Paul when I had the chance.

I have mentioned this in previous posts, but love and accountability coexist. I think that Minnesotans have a lot of history and trauma to address in relation to the last couple of years as well as in a general sense of history. I also think that an ease exists in ignoring all of this under the guise of Midwest niceties. Saying “ope, sorry” every five seconds or even having the highest voter turnout rate in the country does not wash away the injustices that marginalized populations face. Black people are still being murdered, Indigenous women are still missing, and pipelines are still being built. I urge my Minnesotan readers to step outside of their comfort zones and ask themselves how they can redistribute their time, energy, and/or wealth.

I also urge my non-Minnesotan readers to consciously negate the assumption that Minnesota is a monolith. Yes, Minnesota is snowy and cold, but the state can also be very hot in the summers. Minnesota does not have earthquakes or hurricanes. It is a home for many different refugee and immigrant communities and offers some of the best healthcare (again, not to everyone). It has produced amazing artists, and the art and music scenes are only growing. It is a land of second chances and wilderness and rivers hot dish and flannel. The state has some of the best women’s sports teams and athletes in the country.

As excited as I was to leave and as much as I believe that my purpose transcends Minnesota’s state lines, I do miss it. I do love it. It has its faults and its charms, and I definitely think that the state, and the people within it, could use a lot of growth. Minnesota will always provide a bit of comfort for me and while I do not envision myself living there permanently, I will always be more than happy to visit.

Sending lots of love to my home state.

23rd Birthday Reflection.

(Birthday Reflections is a series on my blog.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thank you for holding mine as I turn twenty three ❤

donate here:


I am referring to all types of relationships in the following paragraphs: romantic, friendly, familial, professional, and more.

We have such a hard time with saying goodbye to toxic people. We are encouraged to use pleasantries and always say “yes,” and we often lose ourselves and our own happiness within that. As an extrovert who is generally pretty bubbly and positive, I have morphed into a doormat in too many relationships. This only results in hurting myself and causing a lot of anxiety. I have never really had a friendship falling out, but like anyone else, I have gradually drifted away from people. I realized that these individuals did not add to my life and did not value me in the way that I valued them only months or years after the drift.

We are all aware of the following points, but we hesitate to reflect and act upon them. I think that this is partly due to how we frame them, so I have done my best to define them in a way that works for me. I have only listed a few here, but I think that a lot of other points could stem from these. (in no particular order)
– While some viewpoints may differ, your overarching morals should align. I know that many people can somehow skirt around this, but this is not as easy to do if your relationships have depth to them.
– I have listed a few questions to ask yourself in relation to the first point. What would those around you say if you chose to get an abortion, join a union, attend a protest, quit your job and pursue your art, or accidentally pee your pants?
Even if they would not do these things personally, they should support your agency. This being said, your loved ones do have the right to tell you if they think that your decision is going to cause harm to yourself, them, or the over all community. Support and accountability go hand in hand. If your decisions are causing harm or making others uncomfortable, those individuals have the right to leave (both the situation and your friendship).
What would they say if you told them that you experienced racism, sexism, homophobia, or harassment? Would they support you or would they make you feel worse? Would they be willing to avoid visiting a place, or stop supporting a person or cause for your wellbeing and safety?
– You should be able to spend time apart. Boundaries are so important in all types of relationships, and one person cannot be another person’s saving grace. Loved ones can take part in your healing, but they cannot be responsible for its existence. You have to want to be helped to be helped.
– You should be growing along side one another and be happy for each other’s accomplishments.
– If they schedule a time to spend with you, you should be their priority. They should not be scrolling through their phone.
Pay attention to who shows up for you in your times of need and in your times of celebration.
– The people in your life should be honest with you, and their honesty should come from a place of love rather than hate or envy. I think that insecurities and jealousy are normal, but being transparent about them is better than projecting them onto those around you. Additionally, if your relationship is having issues, be willing to talk through them rather than brushing them under the rug.
– You should feel your best around your friends and partners and after leaving them. In the moment, I might feel okay around certain people, but after I leave the hangouts, I often have uneasy and anxious feelings weighing on me. You should ask yourself if you feel lighter and happier after interacting with the people in your life. The moment that this changes, do not be afraid to ask yourself why.

From an outside perspective, we are all able to recognize toxicity in an instant, but this is harder to do when you have to consider the relationship that you have built and the history that you have with someone else. Necessity exists in recognizing that toxicity is a state of being; one may not be a toxic person just because they play a toxic role in your life specifically. It might even be fair to say that both people contribute to the toxic energy or were toxic at points in the relationship, and this does not make either individual a “bad” person.

We also worry about losing the connections. Just remember that you do not need to maintain a connection with every person you meet because enough room exists for you, and everyone else, to succeed without it. We pressure ourselves with the idea of competition and we push ourselves to accept toxicity because of it. We have been fed that some will make it and others will not, and we do not know who our bosses could be one day. This is just frustrating. What do bosses matter if you are jeopardizing your peace? Is working at that one specific organization really worth it if you could have just as much, or even more, success at another? As I stated previously, your entire life cannot sit in the hands of one person as that one person alone will not be able to carry it. While a lot of injustices exist in this world, I do think that we are also guilty of using the excuse that our hands are tied when we could take the initiative and leave what is not serving us.

Growth is not a bad thing, so do not make it out to be. Some paths diverge and some join. We do not have to be close with everyone, and we do not have to put ourselves through the discomfort of trying to do so. I write all of this as someone who falls into this mindset often, but I also have learned to trust my intuition. The only person who can tell me whether a situation or person adds to my life is myself.

What a World.

Despite a pandemic from which millions of people have suffered and are suffering, oceans on fire and ice caps melting, people being murdered, racism remaining rampant, pipelines being built, young and poor folks in never-ending debt, and technological vortexes swallowing us wholly, we are expected to wake up every morning and sit in a classroom or at our nine to five jobs. If we do not have either, we experience sleepless nights during due to unemployment. We are expected to perform our tasks well and respond to every email in a respectable amount of time. We are expected to do all of this while making sure that we eat, exercise, and look our best. We are expected to have amazing relationships and form picture perfect memories every weekend. We are expected to be well-read (whatever this means) and keep up with pop culture. We are expected to check in on our friends and be there for them in their downfalls. We are expected to do all of this with sound minds. Couple this with any health problems, disabilities, or having vaginas and everything becomes a little more lemony.

If we reduce, reuse, and recycle, the ocean will stop burning, right? Right, because the day that I forgot to compost my banana peels is why we are in this predicament – not the corporations exploiting the environment and their workers while their CEOs sit atop billions of dollars. Personal responsibility is important, but the collective is too. Collective consumption from brands that market everything as cheap and affordable is commonplace in the cyclical pursuit of survival.

This same thought process is given to everything else. If everyone shares the same Instagram infographic, the world will be absolved of racism. If our resumes are formatted well, we will be hired immediately. If we exercise for thirty minutes every day and eat some fruit, our mental illnesses will be cured with the snap of our fingers. We tell ourselves to journal, tweet, or podcast away all of these worries because these will all be great stories to tell when we’re in better places.

With parts of the world opening themselves to the public again, I find myself overwhelmed (and I am an extrovert!). The virus and its variants are still present, but we are suddenly thrown back into society as though the pandemic did not exist. Obviously, we have to move forward, but are we approaching the matter in the safest way possible? I do not know how I am supposed to respond to emails while this is looming over me, in addition to the never-ending news regarding our planet and the violence it, and its inhabitants, face. One would probably recommend that I take a break from all of the things that cause my anxiety, but how does one take a break from this world? Even if I did not read it on the news, I would see it in the streets.

Of course, this is not about me or any one specific person. We all have tough days or even months or years, but we forget this and, like I have stated in previous posts, view each other as commodities. We expect so much from one another and internalize it so deeply that we expect twice as much from ourselves. On a personal note, I am doing as much as I can to prepare for my move to Boston while also seeing as many friends as possible before I depart. On a global note, I am constantly in panic regarding the state of our earth. Everyone is worried about this, but nothing changes. I know that people and corporations with power and money see the same disasters that I see, but I also know that they are comfortable, likely not as young as I am, and enjoy “circling back” and “following up” and “workshopping the language” rather than actually acting.

I just think, after the past year and a half, that we should be better at giving each other grace than we currently are. So much suffering is happening right before our eyes, but we are expected to submit our timesheets without any accessible support to keep going. We fold into the darkest parts of ourselves, but plaster smiles on our faces when the Zoom meeting starts.

This post might be all over the place, but it is just a tiny reflection of how I (and I assume a lot of others) am feeling. Humans can handle a lot of stress and trauma, but we should not have to do so every single day. We all deserve the very best.

I Feel Small.

I share my thoughts and opinions, often based in fact, and they are invalidated. As soon as he shares the same thoughts and opinions, everyone is ready to adopt them. They are even considered revolutionary, but I expressed the same takes last week. I am never right, but if he repeats exactly what I say in a louder voice, he is praised. My research is diminished to meaningless letters and numbers, and my feelings do not matter, so I spend more time wondering which aspects of myself do matter.

I am always interrupted. Apparently, I need to be opinionated, but not opinionated enough to have bodily autonomy. I cannot be too fat or too skinny. My hair is too thick or too curly. My legs and my hips have to be “just right,” but I do not know what “right” is. They will honk when I run or whistle when I walk because I am viewed as an opportunity rather than a human being.

I cannot be smart, but I cannot be dumb. My music taste is not cool enough, or is too cool to be acknowledged. I cannot be too emotional, but I am a bitch if I do not cry at my wedding or refuse to share a laugh and smile with every man who has taken advantage of me. Cookie cutter femininity is desired, but I am teased and told to shut my mouth when I do not know anything about the football game on the television screen.

I ask what I can be and I am told that I can be nothing. I can make myself as small as possible. I feel as though I do not deserve to exist as I am, all that I am, in this world.

And they will tell you that they are feminists. They will tell you that they admire strong women. What they really mean to say is that they admire strong women as long as they are weaker than their counterparts, and they are only feminists for straight white women who choose to stay at home. They grow angry when we start demanding compensation. They run away from sex workers and trans women and bisexual women and women of color, but will exoticize these groups when they grab beers with the boys.

The patriarchy bleeds into misogyny. It is so subtle, but it is there when you exit the meeting room with an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. It is there when you feel the slightest touch in the wrong place. It is there when they give him the check or the tool box or the car keys.

But we can do everything that they can do and more. Enjoy the show (as long as you pay us).

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.


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