Relaxation for the Unrelaxed Person.

I am the opposite of a relaxed person, so the fact that I am writing this post is a little funny. I think, though, that doing so also makes this post more relatable. These are some tips that have helped me, a person who loves being “on the go” and whose mind never stops turning, regarding relaxation for those who struggle with it! For those of us who are not the most relaxed, we may need to actively do things in order to decompress fully. Due to this, some of these tips do require some movement, but others are very sedentary. Additionally, a few of these are pretty cliché, but I am hoping that some tips are new for you all as well. I also recognize that not everyone will have the ability to do all of these which is why I provided many options! Please do not try anything that you know will trigger you. These items are things that help me relax, but we are all different. in no particular order:

blankets
I arrived at this revelation the other day. I feel a lot more peaceful when I have a blanket over me. I cannot sit on a couch without automatically grabbing one. Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed, I’ll wrap myself in a blanket like a burrito and instantly feel better (working from home has been great for this as I can do it in between meetings or during my lunch break). At this point, I will honestly bring a blanket anywhere. During high school, my mom bought me a king sized sherpa blanket! I love it so much and I even have it spread over me as I am typing this. Over all, blankets have really been a game-changer over the past few months. I was also gifted a weighted blanket by my best friend for graduation, and in my experience, it really does alleviate anxiety. I recommend getting your hands on a sherpa, weighted, micro plush, or quilted blanket and feeling cozy. If someone you know, or someone in your community, is struggling this winter season, a blanket would be a great and affordable item to gift them as well!

quite literally cross items off of your to-do list
This is a common one. People are always recommending to-do lists, and people are always saying that they never end. I would have to agree. This being said, I suggest physically crossing tasks off of your bulleted list. Not only is it satisfying, but it keeps me on track.

visualize
Visualization is a common practice in many fields, but I first learned about it during high school swim season. We would lie on the bleachers and our coach would tell us to visualize a scene. I then experienced it more during yoga practices. It is common for folks to fall asleep while visualizing, and while it may not work for everyone, it can put your mind at peace before an intense meeting or event. I am not the best at visualizing, but I actually have been more successful at it when I am trying to fall asleep. As many know, insomnia is a close friend of mine, and visualization can help combat it. With a simple Google search, you’ll be able to find many guides regarding these techniques.

moisturize
If you know me, you know that I am an avid moisturizer. I cannot stand dry skin. I moisturize my hands every time I wash them, and I lather my entire body in lotion after every shower. I have sensitive skin, so I use medium to thick, unscented (often anti-itch) lotion vigorously. To feel refreshed, I moisturize my face throughout each day. Moisturizing is more important than you think!

find a body of water and sit next to it
This tip is pretty self explanatory. If a body of water is not accessible to you, I am sure a mountaintop, prairie, or grassy area would work too. I, personally, LOVE water and I fangirl over every body of water I see. Watching the waves, however large or small (clearly dependent on whether this body is a local lake or an ocean somewhere), is such a beautiful moment every time for me. On an unrelated note, water is not only healing to watch, but also to drink. Fuel your body with water often.

the Deep Sleep and Peaceful Meditation playlists on Spotify
How could I not mention music?! I love the Deep Sleep and Peaceful Meditation playlists on Spotify. I also recommend any lofi beats playlist (so many exist), and the All-Nighter playlist.
I created my own playlist to which I listen every time I need some grounding called Pause. Give it a listen!

yoga
We are in a pandemic, so you might not be able to attend a yoga class in person. In the mean time, if you are familiar with some poses, take some time out of your day to do them. If you are not, many YouTube videos and apps exist to guide you through a practice.

exercise
Movement can help when stillness cannot. Walk, run, ride a bike, play some tennis, or do an activity that suits you. If your environment is not conducive to your activity of choice, YouTube can come to your rescue with many at-home and/or no equipment workout routines. I exercise on most days of the week, and I feel as though I am not fully myself if I do not do so. If you would like some advice from me (I am not certified at all in this realm, so I would be advising you as a friend), I’d be happy to help!

let yourself feel
cry, punch something (without causing harm), laugh, dance around, curl into a ball

write
I love my journal. I journal every day, and even filling the pages makes me content. When I first started journaling, I told myself that I should write without any filter. I write in my journal for myself, and only myself. I do share some excerpts here and there, but for the most part, no one sees any of it. Get yourself a fun, comfortable writing utensil and give it a try!
Typing can also be fulfilling. Many actually find the sound of typing keys calming (ASMR). Sometimes, I just head to typeracer.com and mindlessly type.

play an instrument or sing
I am very passionate about music, and singing is actually one of my hobbies. You will find me singing all day, every day. I played the piano for twelve years before heading to college, and every time I was flustered, I would sit down at the piano and play. I remind myself of this when I have similar feelings now, and I will push myself to head over to the piano and spend some time there. I will often find instrumental versions of songs that I like to sing and learn them.

I would like to stress that one does not have to be skilled at singing or playing an instrument to do so. If you find this type of activity fun, just do it.

candles
You cannot go wrong with lighting a good candle. Something about looking at the warm light from the flame makes my heart glow. If you are not a fan of candles (I will acknowledge that they can be quite wasteful – please make sure to recycle/repurpose your candle jars instead of throwing them away), try essential oils/essential oil diffusers, salt rock lamps, or other low lighting such as string lights.

flip through the pages of a new, fresh notebook
THIS.

have your favorite snack without scrolling through your phone, watching a show, or working
We like to distract ourselves while we eat. When you can, eat alone, and remove these distractions. Choose a snack that fuels you and tastes great. some of my favorites are: pretzel crisps & hummus, goldfish & fruit punch/vitamin water/any juice, blueberries, grapes & cheese, a PB&J, biscuits & tea

cuddle with a stuffed animal or a person
as long as the person is within your immediate circle and you are being safe (feel free to cuddle with anyone once we are not in a pandemic)

clean your room, bathroom, or car
Is your environment clean? A cluttered environment can cause a cluttered mind. At the same time, organize your things in a way that is understandable to you.

look at or draw aesthetic/symmetrical/asymmetrical/abstract designs or paintings
Pinterest and even a general Google search can provide some great designs.

read a book
Want a recommendation? Let me know! I can also write a blog post about this if you all want one.

doodle
use fun pencils, pens, markers

paint your nails

comb out your hair
As someone with curly and thick hair, this is really satisfying. I try to do this at least once a week. Of course, I comb/brush my hair every time I wash it (most days of the week), but I also like to comb it when it is dry on a day that I do not wash it.

get fully dressed up, and then get fully unready
Wear your fanciest, cutest, coolest outfit, throw on some make up if you want, and do your hair. Sit in this, take a picture or two, and just have a good time. Once you are ready, throw on some comfy clothes and wash your face.

drive

listen to your body/mind & sleep or rest when you feel tired

call someone instead of FaceTiming/video calling them to avoid looking at your screen
As thankful as I am for FaceTime and video calling, I am prone to headaches. My headaches are more prevalent with screen time. I do miss my friends, and I do want to connect with them, so I have been trying to incorporate more phone calls rather than FaceTimes. If I am able to see them in person at a safe distance (usually in the form of a walk), even better! I threw this tip in here recognizing that many folks, like myself, are entering winter/colder months and seeing friends outside may not always be possible.

play a board game or do a puzzle with someone
My boyfriend and I have been playing a lot of board games recently, and I am loving it! I do not play board games often, so this has been really refreshing.

watch a YouTube video
I watch a lot of YouTubers/vloggers, and sometimes I find it nice to hear about someone else’s life and learn their tips rather than watching a show that has characters who are not real. I do watch shows as well, but if I have a few minutes to chill, YouTube videos are the perfect length.

do a handstand or a cartwheel
Be safe and have someone spot you if necessary! Unleash your inner kid.

mindlessly take notes on some random topic or on a book that you are reading
highlight, add tabs and sticky notes, annotate as much as you want

use your paid leave !!!
Seriously.

flip some pancakes on the stove
The way that pancakes fluff as you spread the mix across the pan is really nice to watch.

have a virtual game night with friends
Every couple weeks, I have a game night with my friends. We play a lot of trivia and codenames, and I actually played Among Us for the first time with them. Difficulty exists in always updating friends on your life (especially if not much is changing from day to day in this pandemic), so game night gives you the opportunity to still interact with your friends while focusing on something else. We used to have our game nights in person, but since March, we’ve moved them to Zoom. I cannot wait until we can all play in person again!

give someone a high-five
I just love high-fives. High-five someone and you will understand what I mean.

Processing History.

trigger warning for painful history // disclaimer: I write this from a place of privilege. I am not speaking for any communities, but rather on what I wish I would have learned while going through school. This post should encourage you to do your own research rather than having folks relive their traumas in telling you about historical events.

I understand that feeling of helplessness. We were not here when our friends and neighbors’ ancestors, and even our own ancestors, were met with horrific injustices. We cannot change the past. So many of us spend each waking minute trying to aid others and rectify it, but a handful of folks may ask why they have this responsibility when they, personally, did not cause pain in the first place.

The art of storytelling can be useful, but also harmful when used to desensitize and/or sensationalize historical events. Keeping this in mind, this is likely unintentional. In school, we were taught about wars, depressions, inventions, endemics/epidemics/pandemics, and more as though they were some faraway tales. Our teachers had us focusing on the pilgrims in their fight for freedom while they were committing Indigenous genocide. We were all taught that slavery was bad, and that racism is bad, but we were not provided with action steps to ensure that these atrocities did not continue. We sat next to our peers from different backgrounds, who could’ve had very different lives at home, and took notes on events that literally made their families suffer. Knowing what I know now, I wish that my classmates and I were pushed to question and be more critical of this.

Perhaps the worst part is that everything is processed from Americanized and western viewpoints, and the United States was always seen as the hero in events that happened both domestically and internationally. Every lesson had a heavy coat of sugar. Every issue was provided with a resolution as though it was eradicated completely in modern day. Influential people were placed on pedestals without addressing the involved nuances. Given all of this, can we really ponder why we expect every situation and person involved to be perfect?

Furthermore, little content regarding events that were happening in other parts of the world was included. Relations between countries to the East, refugee crises and displacement, and more were rarely mentioned. While this is disappointing, it is also relieving because these would have been explored from, again, an Americanized point of view. They would have been explored from a colonizer point of view. They would have been “othered.” Higher education allows for more opportunities, but these opportunities are choices. These topics are shaped by those who teach it. Like I have mentioned in previous posts, one can be grateful for the life they have here, or anywhere in the west, while understanding that this light is accompanied by a lot of dark.

We cannot occupy the spaces we do without recognizing the land on which we stand. I have spent too much of my life sitting inside of buildings learning about these events, playing outside, shopping, and eating at home and in restaurants to not be conscious of this now. Gender justice, reproductive justice, educational justice, environmental justice, medical justice, and so much more cannot be achieved without including every community. The Indigenous community is often forgotten. Indigenous women are often missing and murdered. The land on which Native folks live and treasure is constantly in danger for the sake of someone else (frequently corporate, frequently white). We must also recognize that these injustices have occurred worldwide. Indigenous folks are treated horribly wherever one might look.

Obviously, thoroughly processing history rather than overlooking it comes with painful pills to swallow. Feeling the joy one needs to feel, or taking a few moments to unwind one’s mind, is essential. Happiness does not need to be removed from awareness. A large part of processing history is reminding oneself to do their best to take care of someone else who has, and whose ancestors have, faced much worse when they are in the emotional, mental, physical, and financial space to do so.

Once you are ready to hold yourself and those around you accountable, I urge you to invest your time, money, and other resources into your BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities. Your pills are minuscule compared to the horrors that these folks have faced. This post is tailored to those who live in the United States for the most part, but I know that some readers may reside in other countries. Someone around you needs help. The time is long overdue to learn about it.

Most importantly, ask these communities what they need rather than assuming. The savior complex is very real and we should all be careful to not slip into it. I cannot speak for the Indigenous community, but I hope that what I have listed below helps. If any Indigenous folks read this and would like to add/remove/edit a resource, please reach out to me!

resources for Indigenous folks & those looking to help (thank you to those of you who assisted in compiling these resources – some were also shared by influencers on Instagram over the long weekend // this list is non-exhaustive, just a few ideas):
reminder to stay tuned to news and social media for mutual aid efforts
– donate to Honor the Earth and support them in their efforts to stop Line 3
Minneapolis American Indian Center has resources such as the Golden Eagles Program
Native American Community Clinic
– visit Pow Wow Grounds in Minneapolis (takeout currently available)
Urban Native Era
Birchbark Books
– Indigenous films & documentaries: Gather, Boy, Princess Ka’iulani, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open, Whale Rider, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Mi’kmaq), Angry Inuk, Mekko (Seminole-Muscogee), Indian Horse, Lorena, Light Footed Woman, Mahana, Smoke Signals
– books: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, Our History is the Future by Nick Estes, Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria (check out this list from Penguin as well on must-reads)
– music: search “Native American Music” on Spotify to support native artists along with these playlists called Indigenous Peoples’ Day is Every Day, Indigenous, and Native American Heritage Month (these are just *some* suggestions – so much more to find)

That Day.

As you closed the door behind you, I stood there for a moment, just staring at it, in shock.

I made myself mac & cheese, and I ate it in silence while sitting on my bed. I savored this simple meal after losing ten pounds over the past few weeks due to the anxiety. I was receiving tons of text messages and a few phone calls, but I did not have the energy or courage to respond. I still remember the outfit I was wearing. I even remember the outfit I wore the next day when I burst into tears in front of my discussion group while in class.

A weight had lifted off of my shoulders, but it had left a hole of emptiness. What was I supposed to do next?

I did not expect the healing process to last as long as it did, or for it to be ongoing. I did not expect myself to be able to love someone else as deeply. I am strong, and I no longer sacrifice my happiness for another’s ego, but I still feel powerless and broken from time to time. I still find myself hesitating before expressing exactly what I think or how I feel or sharing the most vulnerable parts of myself. The parts that might push away the people who mean the most to me.

My body split into two that day, and I still have a prominent scar.

Scars are beautiful. They tell stories, and remind me of how I was and who I am now. They make sure that I do not forget you and that I do not place you, or anyone else, on a pedestal. They tell me that I should love myself more than anyone else could ever possibly love me. For these reasons, I am okay with replaying this day over and over in my head.

This piece of my heart is very personal.

Sunshine.

your skin glows despite the rain drops
you seem perfectly dry
while I am soaked to the bone

your embrace gives me warmth
but I know that it cannot protect me from every single drop

your shower of love causes the drops to slow
or completely stop
but the moment that I walk away from you
my hair is a soppy mess
my extremities turn a little colder
and I can hear thunder in the distance

your presence has taught me that a world exists beyond these storms
and though I know that you can pull me into this world
your presence has given me the strength to create my own

I saw sunshine before I met you
I see sunshine while I am with you
and I push myself to create my own sunshine during moments that do not have you by my side

I finally realize that someone else’s warmth can add years onto my life
but I have to take it upon myself to create this life in the first place

even so, as I continue molding, I am glad that I am able to see you through these rain drops

The Fall After Graduating.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in May. I was more than ready to complete my college experience and I believe that I cultivated a wonderful one. At the same time, my excitement in graduating was accompanied by a lost feeling and a questioning of purpose.

For the past seventeen years, I have started the fall season with the first day of school. I was attending classes, studying, and participating in extra-curricular activities. My primary role was being a student. While I had many goals that were not directly related to school, an at times, uncomfortable, pressure existed to excel in academics. We all found commonalities between ourselves through discussing teachers, papers, assignments, projects, and exams. After running from class to class to meeting to meeting, we would get together in libraries for late-night study sessions.

Now, every day is consumed by my job with not much happening in the evenings. I am sure that we all expected the “what happens now” question to cross our minds as we (virtually) received our degrees, but I have not heard of many folks discussing the emotional experiences that come along with it. Regardless of the fact that the last couple months of my final semester and my commencement were online, I genuinely feel fulfilled by my college experience. Due to this, I was a bit taken aback by the feelings of emptiness that overcame me during the summer months leading into the fall.

I will openly admit that I have many qualms with the education system and definitely thrived more in the opportunities that I had outside of my classes, but the thrills and spices of being a student are no longer around after one graduates. I am not meeting other folks who are my age at any moment, and I do not have endless amounts of school work to do or deadlines to meet for classes and student groups. I know that school is quite different this fall given the pandemic, but based on what I knew through most of my college career, I am not running into friends around campus or making plans with them often. Based on this, I think a lot of the emotional emptiness has to do with the drastic change in social dynamics after graduating as well.

I have talked to a lot of friends about these weird, off-putting, empty, and lost feelings that have consumed me at times, and many of my friends who graduated before I did said that they experienced these same sentiments. They said that they felt this way their first falls after graduating, but that all of this disappeared with time. I am guessing that the same will happen with me and, of course, stepping into this new world is an adjustment, so I am more at ease.

What unnerves me is how greatly our lives are defined by these years of sitting in classrooms. Success being measured by skewed perceptions of productivity is pushed upon us from young ages, and this leads to feelings of purposelessness once our routines change completely (ie graduating). I always told myself that my existence is more than the exams that I take, the assignments that I complete, the grades that I receive, my grade point average, and the amount of commitments that I have piled on top of all of these things, but I do not know if I truly pushed myself to believe it until now.

Even with different, and possibly more “adult,” stressors and structured work days, finding a sense of purpose in this world is still a mission that has, in many ways, restarted. I am curious to see how I will be feeling a year from now. Until then, I will hang in there.

Why I Write.

I have been struggling to find inspiration given that every day seems the same, the state of the world is a whirlwind to process, and interaction with humans outside of my immediate circle does not happen often. I am growing tired of feeling uninspired, so I pushed myself to think about why I am here. Why do I enjoy writing? What do I hope to accomplish with my words? In the past, I have always told friends to hold onto their “whys,” so I figure I should do the same.

I write because doing so heals me. I am able to process my emotions and talk to whomever comes across my words without having to invest energy into explaining myself further. I write because I know that I am a good writer, and I know that I am helping others in addition to helping myself. I write when I feel upset at a person or a situation, and using this platform is a way, admittedly, in which I can passively share my opinions. I write because writing is a beautiful art form, and I have dreams of turning my passion for it into a profession.

As comfortable as I am with conversing face to face, I somehow find more safety in writing. I can take time to form my thoughts instead of being taken by surprise. Anyone in the world could be reading this, and this thought excites me. People choose to click on my links and spend time reading my posts. I am fulfilled by writing for myself, but when I learn that others are moved by my words, I am over the moon.

I feel as though I have so many thoughts running through my mind about everything. Over the past few months, I have found myself speechless more often than not, and considering how talkative I am, this is unsettling. I want to write about it. I want to draw on the points that I think others are missing and I want to write about uncomfortable topics. I want to channel my moments of frustration and joy in the pieces that I publish. My thoughts and feelings are difficult to organize, and I think that I refrain from writing about them because organizing them takes so much energy. I just need to remind myself that if I am going to invest my energy into anything, this should be it. This gives me joy and pushes me.

To those reading this and who follow my blog, you can expect more from me. I do not feel obligated to write; I love writing, and given my goals, I definitely owe these expectations to myself.

Apologies.

constantly apologizing for my existence is exhausting
for the words I speak
for the laughs I release
for being a little selfish once in a while

I do not think that anyone is forcing me to apologize
yet I feel as though society will tear me apart if I do not
this world has conditioned me to think that every move I make is equated to someone else’s expense
as though my happiness is not worthy of being experienced

sorry for folding that towel incorrectly
sorry for offering to fold the towel in the first place
sorry for sharing my opinion
sorry for remaining silent
sorry for holding you accountable
sorry for refusing to kiss the ground beneath your feet

I apologize to all of you for my existence
when I should really be apologizing to myself

Say Their Names.

they will never have their lives back
we will never see them smile
we will never see them fall in love with themselves and those around them

let that sink into your soul
the fact that they rest in power in hopes that no one else has to rest in pain

one is one too many
millions? universe-shattering

22nd Birthday Reflection.

(Birthday Reflections is a series on my blog.)

I really do not know where to begin. As someone who loves to talk, I have been struggling to find the words to process most of what has occurred in the past year. While this does trouble me, I also find a bit of peace within it. I can do nothing more than to take things as they come, and considering my impressive (if I do say so myself) knack for problem-solving, this approach is okay.

On a national and global scale, I think I have trouble processing because I constantly remind myself of the stark reality in which the issues that are prevalent now have always been prevalent in some form or another. Pandemics have passed, racism is the opposite of a newfangled concept, and the earth has frozen to the point of bones rattling and melted to the point of raging fires. While this is a personal reflection, I do not think I can post this without acknowledging events that affect all of us. I am not going to glide through my days acting as though racism, homelessness, policing, etc. do not hurt me because if my community is hurting, I am too. I have heard a lot of folks complain about how horrible 2020 is without realizing that the horrible things we see now have existed for centuries. People have always suffered; the times in which we live just allow for more things to be broadcasted across the world. I refuse to tolerate people who do not view others as worthy of (a quality) life and the planet as worthy of care. I have listed donation resources at the bottom of this post, and I hope that those reading this will utilize them.

On a personal note, the ways in which the age of twenty one pushed me are unbelievable. Imposter syndrome ate me alive at some points, and I was constantly questioning my leadership skills, my intelligence, my kindness, and my existence despite everyone’s attempts to positively affirm me. I definitely worry too much about what others think and, often times, root my happiness in how happy others are. Being a leader takes quite an emotional toll, and I definitely had trouble explaining this to those around me given how large my plate was this year. I have written about this in past posts, but I hold myself to a very high standard and I am quite hard on myself when I do not exceed it. I can project this onto those close to me as well, but I am aware of this and work tirelessly to give myself and my loved ones grace. I have been journaling consistently for over a year now (close to a year and a half), and I enjoy reading old entries to see how much has changed. I had a rough time with insomnia and seasonal allergies over the year as well, but I did my best to take steps in combatting both. I have also taken time to think critically about ensuring that I am only surrounding myself with people who add to my life. I give so much to everyone, and as time passes, this is hard to sustain. I will always wrap my heart around the world, but I think I can do a better job of wrapping my heart around myself too.

I had the honor of being the President of two student organizations over my senior year of college. The College of Liberal Arts Student Board has given me more than I could ever dream of receiving, and I think that being President of such a group was the perfect way to tie a bow on all of the experiences that I have had within it. I value accountability, and I wanted to make sure that we were building relationships with the student body through actions rather than saying words in our own little bubbles. This resulted in events such as People of Color in Politics & Law (a networking event) and the board’s first ever Sexual and Reproductive Health Fair as well as Sustainability Fair. We had our first cultural fair, CLA Takes Flight, and re-launched our mental health campaign: Pledge to Prioritize. My Vice President (and one of my best friends), Jamie, and I formed meaningful relationships with the Dean and other members of administration, and I cannot wait to see how these grow in the coming years. We collaborated with other student groups and I finally feel as though the board increased its presence in all facets of college life.

Additionally, I led the first full year of the Coalition for Progressive Change, and I’m happy to say that we established the credibility of the group throughout the year. We collaborated with other activist/advocacy groups on campus, and I was a representative in meetings with the university’s financial office and President’s office alongside UMN Climate Strike. We hosted town halls regarding housing and immigration, and we had a series of door knocks before the Primary in March. As draining as the political circle can be, the members of this group are my people. We understand our experiences and support one another through all of it. I know that these folks, and all of the true friends I’ve made through my advocacy work, will always have my back.

I worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Minnesota Population Center over my senior year as well, and I learned quite a bit. The work is very much individualistic, but the environment at the center is incredibly friendly and I felt supported. The first thing I read was the grant proposal for the project on which I was working to fully understand how my tasks, whether riveting or mundane, are a part of something greater. A job like this is the perfect reminder that every difference I make, regardless of how large, contributes to something bigger than myself.

Before the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to travel to a few places. I visited North Carolina in October of last year, and I saw Bon Iver in concert. Having this weekend getaway was a breath of fresh air (especially because I took a Public Economics midterm the day I flew there). Winter break did not disappoint. My family and I visited Spain! In addition to all of the sights that Barcelona has to offer, we took a day trip to Montserrat. The views were amazing. While the entire trip was interesting, the day we visited Montserrat was definitely my favorite day. The air was crisp, the views were impeccable, and we visited a really nice winery. Fortunately, my travels did not end here. My friends Claire, Harmanpreet, and I traveled to San Francisco for a few days in January. The weather in the bay area is perfect, and when the air mattress wasn’t sinking every night or we weren’t walking through Fisherman’s Wharf, we were driving along the coast and taking in the air on ocean cliffs. We love to see it. Traveling is a gift and as I visit more places, my list of where I want to go grows longer. I definitely do not condone traveling right now unless necessary, but in the future, I look forward to exploring new places.

Interestingly, the moment I stepped foot in Barcelona, I began coughing violently. We’re talking phlegm and wheezing. I could feel these coughs throughout my respiratory system, and they did not cease for months. They continued through my trip to San Francisco and well into my last semester of college. I definitely felt weak at times and I experienced a lot of congestion, but the doctors said that I did not have pneumonia or bronchitis. My ear was blocked for an entire week and I was actually prescribed an inhaler from a doctor who said that I had “some virus” and now have a chronic cough from it. My lungs were very irritated. I have not been able to breath as well since this experience and it’s prevalent when I’m running. This is disappointing since I run almost every day. I have not taken the antibody test, so I do not know whether I had COVID, but considering my travels (hours of layovers New York, Spain one week, San Francisco another week) and the violence of my coughs, I have a little bit of a suspicion. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of you who are reading this to wear your masks, practice social distancing (please stop partying…), and believe in the seriousness of this virus. Additionally, I had a root canal over winter break, and I am happy to say that it went smoothly. I am very particular about my teeth, but these things happen sometimes I guess. It’s frustrating, but it’s okay.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and minors in Economics and Public Health in May! I did not have the ceremony I expected to have, and my heart hurts especially for first generation students whose families were looking forward to the day, but I think that we should all remind ourselves that the accomplishment still stands. College is tough academically, mentally, financially, physically, and emotionally, and we did it. Senior year was a whirlwind. From football games, Homecoming court, concerts, birthdays, changing seasons, student groups, traveling, Harry Potter and election night watch parties, game nights, friendships, finals, and everything in between, I sometimes have trouble believing that my time in college has come to a close. The job search is tough, and it is even tougher in a pandemic, and I was juggling the weight of this with the internal dilemmas that I mentioned earlier. I felt as though I spent a lot of the past year looking for something and not knowing for what I was looking. I did not know where to turn or to whom to turn. I felt unsatisfied, and to some extent, being human, I still do. I think the lesson to learn from this resides in acceptance. Again, as someone who loves to problem solve, this is hard for me. I am constantly plaguing my mind with questions to which no one has definite answers, but the only person whom I am hurting by doing so is myself. Through conversations that I have had with different folks, this is one of my greatest takeaways from senior year. As I reflect on my college experience, I am proud of it. It encompasses the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and I would not change a single thing. I have so many stories to tell.

I found myself in a relationship with the most amazing person at the beginning of the summer. If you had told me four years ago that I would date him, I would have laughed. My mood feels infinitely better around him, and I feel as though I am taking a breath of fresh air when I think about him. We are so different from each other, but we push each other because of this. We are constantly learning from one another and growing together, and while relationships are terrifying, I cannot wait to see what the future holds. He values me because I value myself. We have so much fun, so much to discuss, and we’re always laughing. I feel a lot of love.

I found myself missing the comfort of my family this past year, and while I am pretty independent and outgoing, I wished for the genuine reassurance of familial banter at times. At the same time, I am ready to take on the world and build a life for myself, and I know that I am able to be at this point because I have such a strong support system within them.

I feel as though I could write pages and pages about each year of my life, but I would also find difficulty in running through all of the thoughts inside of my mind. I do not know much about what is to come, but I do know that the world is my oyster. Yes, all good things take time and the world is not at a point in which I can frolic freely wherever, but as I’ve stated in previous posts, we are only on this planet for so long. It is a scary thought, but it also pushes me to make my life meaningful. Every day might not have a cherry on top, but this does not mean that the cherry trees are not growing. I am grateful to you all for uplifting me throughout this year. Twenty-two, here I come!

I read these books this year (for joy & curiosity – this list does not include readings I had for classes):
– All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
– The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
– Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
– Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
– A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
– Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong
– Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
– Suite Française: Storm in June by Irène Némirovsky
– Electric Arches by Eve Ewing
– currently reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I saw these artists/groups in concert (PS – At this time last year, I had 217 Spotify followers and now I have 258! check out my Fall 2020 playlist here):
– Pink Sweat$
– Phoebe Ryan (UMN Homecoming)
– Lewis Capaldi
Bon Iver aka my favorite band
– Natasha Bedingfield

Donate to (check out my blog post on anti-Blackness for more links as well // this list is obviously not exhaustive // pay attention to what is happening in your community and help where you can):
– support Black youth by sending funds directly to them
– check out the MPLS Sanctuary Movement: https://minneapolissanctuary.org/
– GoFundMe for Jacob Blake: https://www.gofundme.com/f/justiceforjacobblake?fbclid=IwAR1Tj3Eg6gPUyJFSBnjW2Tman-tpWo3ga3iS8eptkPOU8peRmO6o38J0CX4
– Women for Political Change: https://secure.everyaction.com/ZNYnUikGcU2b9OAYFs1TeQ2
– Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (click “Donate” in the upper right corner): http://imaa.net/
– California Wildfire Relief: https://connect.calfund.org/give/wildfirerelief, https://secure.directrelief.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2924&mfc_pref=T&2924.donation=form1
– Groundswell Fund (reproductive justice especially for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community): https://groundswellfund.org/give/
– Planned Parenthood (click “DONATE” in the upper right corner): https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
– support those affected by the hurricane as well (states have their own funds through different organizations)
– follow Survivor Protection on Instagram (a GoFundMe will be created soon)

To Clarify.

Is my kindness my downfall? My toxic trait? My fatal flaw? Before being vocal about anything on my mind, I acknowledge the privileges that I have in doing so, but this bothers those around me. At the same time, the moment I share my concerns, and do not explicitly acknowledge the privileges that I have, I am met with: “Why are you so ungrateful?” “Do you not recognize your privilege?” “I have gone through worse than you have.” I cannot win.

I am allowed to have my own problems. I am allowed to care about other people. These are not mutually exclusive. I am lost as to why others are so quick to to shame me for being cognizant of the life I have while gaslighting me for expressing whatever is weighing on my mind. I also need to realize that those who are quick to misunderstand me and pinpoint (what they think are) my flaws do not know me. They do not know me at all, and I need to learn to be okay with that.

My interests are not mutually exclusive either. I do what I can to help my community and be on the front lines of justice. I strive to establish meaningful processes to eradicate public health issues in everything that I do professionally, and incorporate a healthy (this is in-progress) amount of activism into my personal life as well (using my social media platforms, having conversations within my circle, attending protests, doing mutual aid work etc.). I also love singing, making playlists, reading, writing, running, swimming, dancing, hammocking, practicing yoga, decorating, driving, watching YouTube videos, playing Catchphrase, painting, and spending time with folks who add to my life. I love animals and chocolate. I love fashion. I love laughing and making others laugh. I love water, record stores, and throat coat tea. Humans are multi-faceted, so do not place me in a cupboard.

I do not choose to care about others because I am pursuing work in a field that requires it. I care about others because I personally value doing so. I push the people around me to care about communities, issues, and systems larger than themselves because I care. I want them to be in my corner and I want them to understand why compassion is an essential quality to have. I am not rewarded for educating those who choose to be ignorant or choose to not care. I am not rewarded for taking time out of my day, for using my energy, and for using my voice to explain human rights issues to my loved ones. Asking me to separate “personal” from “professional” when I mention anything that is slightly uncomfortable or pushes one to think about something beyond themselves is insensitive to the cause and gaslights me. Wanting others to be treated well and live comfortably should be personal for everyone. I do not uplift communities because it is within my line of work. I want to do this work and I refuse to watch others suffer while I enhance my own life.

I have always been told that I have a big heart. I have also been told to prioritize myself more. Part of the reason why I do not outwardly prioritize myself is because I experience judgment when I do. People assume that I do not practice gratitude, but they say that I am too hard on myself when I am bursting at the seams through having to validate everything I say or ensuring that my concerns are not interpreted incorrectly by anyone. Having to explain myself is exhausting, so I decided to write about it. Maybe someone reading this post can relate to it, but honestly, I just hope that the people in my life learn from it. I am proud of my heart. I am proud of how much I care. I am not going to decrease the amount of love that I give to others just to satisfy someone else’s ego.