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.

Anti-Blackness within the Indian Community.

This message may apply to many communities, but I can only speak from my perspective as an Indian who was born and raised in Minnesota.

Finding the words for this post has been difficult, but I know that importance exists in being as frank as possible. Many of you need to read this. I am tired of having social or political discussions with aunties and uncles who make me feel small, and who are comfortable in their moderate ways. Many of them use the excuse that they worked hard to immigrate to this country, and had to build their lives here with little support, as a way to argue that other communities should be able to do the same. They do not recognize that others may not have the same resources or may not be treated the same way. Their hard work is appreciated and admired, but it does not excuse them from being racist or hiding behind the walls of the privileges that they do have.

As many know, George Floyd was murdered by the police a little over a month ago right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and while he is not the first person to fall victim to police brutality, his murder has instilled an awakening that, I hope, does not fade in the same way that it has in the past. This should go without saying, but Black lives are more than a way to fill your social media timelines for a week to exude your awareness. We care because we are all people, and liberation for oneself cannot occur without the liberation of every community.

While people of color face challenges that our white counterparts will never know or understand, I never consciously worried about my Indian friends, my family, or myself being beaten by the police here in the United States as I was growing in my bubble of a hometown. From an early age, Black children are instructed on how to act around police, white folks, and in professional settings not only because of how people in these situations will perceive them, but because their lives depend on it.

I have heard a lot of Indians complain about protests and looting over the past few weeks. I have heard a lot of “those people” statements. I have heard many say that the changes being requested and made are “too radical” (because, apparently, wanting to live and be treated well is a radical notion). The folks who are quick to say how hard they have worked are the same ones who are quick to judge the Black community for “not doing the same.” I have also heard an overwhelming amount of silence. Many Indians live comfortably, drive nice cars, have extravagant weddings, pay for their children to partake in as many extra-curricular activities as they desire (among other things), but have failed to donate even a single cent to the Black Lives Matter movement. In other words, they have failed to assist their own communities. Many of my Indian family friends are doctors. How can they work in healthcare and fail to address the harm that the Black community faces? Silence is harmful. The comments that you make behind close doors are harmful. Your inactivity is harmful.

One may find everything that I have written in this post thus far troubling or hard to digest, but let’s take the concept of anti-Blackness within the Indian community a step further. For as long as I can remember, fascination with lighter skin tones has consumed much of Indian media, Bollywood, and social situations in general. Black folks are viewed as less than even in India, and many of them have written about their experiences regarding their treatment. This is sad. This is a problem. This most certainly is a human rights and race issue. Whether conscious or subconscious, these judgments stay with those who immigrate to the United States, and Indians are quick to view themselves as superior without fully examining the history of how Black people have been treated in this country (let alone on a global scale). Furthermore, while glorifying lighter skin, I’ve seen many Indians appropriate Black culture at the same time. You are not Black just because you are brown. You are not Black just because you are a person of color. One cannot pick and choose what they like and dislike from other cultures and use these qualities to make themselves funnier or more attractive or cooler or however it makes them feel.

The opportunities that other communities of color, and particularly we as Indians, enjoy in this country lie on the activism and suffering of the Black community. While this is true, fighting for Black lives is not transactional. One should not need to validate the Black community’s existence to care. One should not feel obligated to care. We care about the Black community because Black folks deserve to live and prosper without fear flowing through their bodies. Black people deserve support because they are human beings. I cannot believe that I even have to write any of this, but again, some of you have still failed to comprehend something that should just be a given.

This post may have an angry tone. That being said, I am angry and those who read this should be too. I refuse to be surrounded by Indians who cannot acknowledge that the Black community matters. If you are Indian and you stereotype and appropriate Black culture, and/or you do not actively care about Black lives, you should be aware that your ignorance is showing. You are being disrespectful. You are being selfish. Do better. I could write pages about all of this, but hopefully this post has an impact on some and encourages them to improve.

Whether you are Indian or not, I urge you to ask yourself this question: Are you participating in this movement because you actually care or are you just participating because of how you would look if you refused to acknowledge it?

a small list of resources & donation links (please remember that you could have researched all of this yourself…now that I have done it for you, you do not have an excuse to avoid expanding your minds and opening your purses):
– Black Lives Matter donation page: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
– a list of Black-owned businesses to support in the Twin Cities: http://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/black-owned-businesses-in-the-twin-cities/
– a list of Black-owned businesses & brands (that can be found at stores near you) across the United States: https://www.glamour.com/story/support-black-owned-business // https://nymag.com/strategist/article/black-owned-businesses-support-shop.html
– donating to the Black trans community: https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a32839834/black-trans-lgbtq-organizations/
– the FIRST Black-owned bookstore in Minnesota (I’m excited!): https://www.blackgarnetbooks.com/
– Reclaim the Block has a list of community groups that need support: https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/donate // bit.ly/fundthecommunity
– article written by Ezeugo Nnmadi Lawrence on being a Black man in India: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/let-s-talk-about-racism-kallu-was-the-first-word-this-african-man-learnt-in-india/story-f04HSkREMwyIBh3GlO3DDM.html

Manifestation, Karma, and Questions.

I cannot help but believe strongly in manifestation. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I think that the energy we give to our dreams and fears has a direct impact on what happens to us. I am so careful about the thoughts that I channel, and while this can eat away at me, I would rather not risk having one sour outlook or idea influence the course of my life. My conscience can overwhelm me so much that I question every action I have ever made. This balancing act can be hard, and I also just need to loosen up from time and remind myself that I am a great person and that my heart is in the right place. I think that I struggle with all of this because I feel as though I have to prove myself, but to whom? Those in my life see me as a great person (or so I have been told), and after a logical assessment, I believe this about myself as well.

While I am not particularly religious (I have qualms with organized religion at the very least and how much religion dictates people’s actions at the very most), I do center myself around some aspects of spirituality. This being said, I still have not arrived at any conclusions as to whether I believe that a higher being exists or karma exists or whether I should just accept things as they are, no strings attached. I feel as though I am waiting for an answer to appear in front of me, but with every answer arises a loophole. I have collected a couple of my journal entries over the past year that address these battles within my mind.

“The idea of innocence is quite interesting because in one’s eyes, you could be fighting for what is right, but in another’s you could be incorrect. How do you know? Or does it matter? It might matter if you believe in karma or God or heaven, but maybe accepting every happenstance at face value is better. What do you say to people who are sacrificing their lives for others’ lives or a greater cause? Does the act only matter if it is successful? How do you define success? I think, given that the human life is so short, deciding what movements or sacrifices are worth one’s life can be difficult. Why shorten our lives more? I guess this also depends on whether we live for ourselves or for the greater good…whether we exist to give back.” – a part of my April 4th journal entry

“People say that the energy one exudes is what they receive (including myself), but how far does this venture? It does not explain losing someone, death, or why bad things happen to good people. I spend so much time analyzing the human condition and fate and spirituality, but I am never any closer to reaching answers.” – a part of my October 11th journal entry

Due to the lack of clarity in my own mind, I try to err on the side of safety. Of course, this is not difficult for me because I already do my best to live my life with kindness and compassion at its forefront, but I do experience negative or harsh thoughts about a situation or person just like everyone else does. Altruism at its core has an air of selfishness and we would be kidding ourselves if we believed otherwise. At the very least, the love that we give to others makes us feel great in turn.

Additionally, gratitude is a huge component of my previously mentioned points. We all have complaints, and we all wish for some aspect of our lives to be better, even if we are content. To do either of these is not necessarily bad, but I do think that if we fixate on them, our lives will never be how we want them to be. I am hesitant to complain, or feel guilty when doing so, because I am always thinking about the ideas that I am manifesting, and I worry that if I do complain, the world will find some way to make my current issue more unpleasant for me. In many stories, when a character is granted a wish, and they eagerly make one, the wish comes back to them in some unpleasant way later. This may be fictional, but I personally try to wish for people or for someone who needs help more than I do because I, once again, am erring on the side of caution, and I know that I can find joy as long as those around me are happy and healthy.

Of course I feel as though my life is falling apart from time to time. I have been struggling greatly with this recently. I spend each day scrambling to gather the pieces and I find myself drowning within my lows. I have projected this onto myself and others, and even find myself internally fixating on all that is wrong. At the same time, I put myself under lots of pressure to think and act “better,” because if I have this mindset, good things will come. With this, I am back to reminding myself that positivity is a privilege, and I must remain realistic and aware along with being hopeful. My mind keeps running in circles while my life whizzes past me. As I mentioned, the balancing act is difficult and I am not sure it can be mastered as long as I think this existentially. I have to come to terms with this, though, and manifest, act, and focus on whatever makes me the best version of myself (not that I always have to be).

(I am a very existential person, so I have plenty more more to say regarding the topics discussed here. Let me know if you’d like to see more of this content!)

With All Due Respect.

why do men think that they can disrespect me
when I am the one who has shouldered their falls
when I am the one who built them into the humans whom their children will aspire to be
when I am the one who carried their bags and left mine on the side of the road
when I am the one who wiped their tears while rivers were flowing out of my own eyes
when I am the one who sacrificed so much of my life just to see them smile

they tell me that I am a powerful woman
that they are honored to know me
that they told their mothers and best friends about me
only to avoid committing to me the next day

frankly
I have labored too greatly to be cheated
to be ghosted
to be viewed as the problem
to be used
to be heartbroken

frankly
I have given too much
to deal with someone who acts as though he does not care about me
or views me as an option

and with all due respect
none of them would be successful or loved where they are now
without me
but they will not admit it

even after all of this time
I only encounter disrespect



Get it Together, Natasha.

Admittedly, I have been very angry and disappointed with myself this year. Most of my journal entries entail me telling myself that I need to be a better person. Do I not have my life together? Am I a toxic friend, leader, and human being? Am I welcome in this space? Am I too loud? Are my friends going to leave me? Do people enjoy my presence? Why am I not prettier? Why can’t I look better in pictures? Why do I not have a six pack yet? Why am I not a better advocate? Why do I not know more about this elected official or that situation? Why am I not rising at five in the morning every day to run? Why am I late? Why did I make a snappy comment? Why have I not answered more questions in class? Why are my Spotify playlists lacking? Why am I not publishing a blog post every few days? Why am I not helping my community more? Why did I allow this person to speak over me or for me? Why was my tone a little flat while singing that note? Am I qualified for this position? Am I qualified for this job? Am I too selfish? Why do I have such high standards for everyone in my life? Should I push everyone away to avoid being hurt? I focus so greatly on spreading love, but should I stop? Do I love too much? Do I feel too deeply?

I feel guilty for being positive because I keep reminding myself that positivity is a privilege. I feel guilty for practicing self-care or self-love because, in my mind, I have not had the experiences or accomplished enough to deserve it. I have not overcome enough to deserve it. How can I take time for myself or recharge myself when so many are suffering in ways that I cannot imagine?

I am always telling everyone else that everything will be okay. Our communities come together, especially in situations as difficult as the COVID-19 crisis, and we will push through every obstacle. I tell others this while shouldering their worries, and I feel exhausted and guilty from doing so. Who am I to say that everything will be okay? Is this just easy for me to say because I have a roof over my head and food on the table, or do I actually believe that everything will be? At the same time, I am so tired of repeatedly having to be a beacon of light when I am also concerned about the state of our world and my personal worries. I spend hours every day contemplating how I can use my connections, positions, and channels to assist those who are struggling right now and acquiring resources, but I still feel upset with myself. I should be doing more.

While these thoughts are especially prevalent now, I have noticed that these have been stirring in my mind well before a virus knowingly existed, or a pandemic was on the horizon. I have had the privilege and honor of serving as the President of two student organizations this past school year, and I am constantly worried as to whether I am doing enough to support their members, our initiatives, and our advocacy. I try to balance this work while doing my best to fulfill my job requirements as a research assistant, succeed academically, and complete job applications for employment post-graduation (please hire me!!!). I try to be an emotional support for my family and friends. I maintain my exercise routine. My plate has many pancakes on it, but I still feel as though I am not doing enough. I could be sleeping less or have responded to that email within a few hours rather than a couple days. I could be calling and texting more people, and ensuring that those within my immediate surroundings are doing well on a more frequent basis.

While all of this is heavy, I still want every single person to be happy with my work. I want every single person to come to me and I want to be able to carry their weight. I always feel as though I have to focus on saving the world and I think this stems from my intense need to solve problems, whether my own or someone else’s, immediately and constantly. I need to fix things. I need to fix people. Often times, I am too proactive for my own good; I am always thinking five steps ahead of everyone else because I want to be able to catch my mistakes before they take shape. I want everyone to be included. Every task has to be perfect and whole. Due to this, I have a pain in my heart that I am unable to place. I feel a sense of emptiness, and I do not know how to fill it.

One day, I was speaking to my friend about how I was afraid that someone was going to hurt me (emotionally), and she told me that she thinks the person who is hurting me the most right now is myself. I have thought a lot about this since then, and I know that she is right. I am very harsh with myself, and I feel as though I am constantly angry at myself for simply smiling, or being happy, or scheduling time for myself rather than using those few hours to pour my soul into others.

I recognize that the only person who can gather my peace of mind, and the only person who can cut me some slack, is myself. I respect my high standards, and I respect how deeply I care about everything and everyone. I do not think that these are necessarily bad things, but I cannot allow them to consume me to an unhealthy degree. I can care about myself just as much as I care about everyone else.

I am going to take this moment to remind myself that I love and feel as much as I should. The world may not be ready to accept what I am willing to give, but this does not mean that I am a burden or that I am incorrect. I am organizing and advocating as much as I can right now (and always), and I think that many of us can be proud of ourselves for actually caring while so many do not. I know that I would tell anyone else these things, and I would affirm them because I genuinely believe in them. I would not allow them to question themselves in the way that I questioned myself in the first paragraph because they deserve to believe that their existence is a positive force.

A few snowflakes are gliding past my window now, and I think back to the long run on which I went earlier today. I took some time to sit on this dock along the Mississippi River and breathe. I can breathe. My existence is worth the space it occupies. I may not be the perfect version of myself every second of every day, but at least I am always trying to be so. While a lot of these reminders and realizations are important, I will probably still struggle to remember them during the times in which I am scolding myself. I will be patient and I will not give into the unhealthy criticism.

You do not need to get it together, Natasha, if doing so is only going to hurt you. You are doing a wonderful job.

Overwhelmed.

I feel like a heartbreaker and I feel like a girl who gets her heart broken repeatedly and I feel like I cannot catch a breath and I feel like I have too much room to breathe and I feel empty and I feel whole and I feel lost and I feel found and I feel like a failure but also a successful woman and I feel like I need to tell someone something but I feel as though I cannot find the words and I feel like I am not the best version of myself but I do not even know what that version is when I feel better than I have ever felt but maybe I just feel broken and my soul is looking for some type of monster glue. But I keep settling for tape.

The Less of You, the Better.

you love your body enough to criticize it
the piece of chocolate settled at the bottom of your stomach will not dissolve without running a few miles
or twenty
and is your stomach flat enough for your liking? did your arm look too large in that photograph?

the amount of times during which you have cried while looking at yourself in the mirror is only equated by the amount of dinners you have skipped to compensate for the tears

but you should ask yourself
will you ever be “skinny” enough? your standards rise as your body disappears
a million people will say that you are beautiful
that your body is a gift
but the validation is still not enough
because these compliments are not valid if you do not believe them yourself

so you run until you struggle to breathe and you track your calories and you scold yourself for eating a slice of pizza
and you tell your best friends that their bodies are perfect while you tell yourself to work harder

and one day, you step on a scale and you have lost more weight than you could ever imagine
you should feel happy, but you feel afraid
you feel weak
and you question whether you can ever win
but you will not because you are the only person competing in this race
and you can only succeed if you withdraw from it

Nightmares.

Your fists are clenched, tears are streaming down your cheeks, and you are yelling. You can hear yourself yelling, but you cannot help doing so. You have a pain in your chest that resembles heartbreak, and you feel helpless. Your slumber should be peaceful, but your mind torments you.

I would say that I have nightmares fairly often. I had some painful ones last night, so here I am writing about them. I close my eyes every night hoping to recharge, but I feel as though so much is taken from me emotionally when the next morning arrives. As many know, I struggle with fairly severe insomnia, so I do not even know if I can classify these encounters as nightmares because they feel so real. I am balancing within my consciousness. Due to this, I think the reality of it is the scariest part. My nightmares are mostly realistic and shed light on traumas that I have been fortunate enough to avoid thus far. This confuses me. I rarely have dreams that I enjoy, and if I do enjoy them, I find myself disappointed to an excessive degree the next day.

I guess this is pretty vulnerable of me to mention, but when I experience a troubling nightmare, and awake to tears pouring out of my eyes, I want nothing more in that moment than to have someone holding me. I want to hear that everything is okay, and I want to squeeze a hand. This being said, my nightmares are my own, and even if I find the strength to relive them and explain them to others, they do not fully understand the fear that caused my body to become rigid in the midst of them.

In some senses, I would be interested in exploring how to control my dreams fully, but given my insomnia, I feel as though I would focus so much on controlling them that I would not be able to fall asleep.

Nightmares make me uncomfortable during a time in which I desire nothing but comfort. They cause me distress and I spend hours, days, or even weeks thinking about them. I try to exhale the triggers that arise within them with each breath I take, and I will say that some of the tension escapes through the tears I shed as well, but I need a bit of time for my emotions to completely settle.

I want to tell myself that I should not be afraid of something as trivial as a nightmare, but I cannot help how I feel in these moments during which harsh and disturbing thoughts enter my mind. Sometimes, fear is okay. I wish I had more answers and more words of encouragement for myself, but I know that I can handle this. For me, sleep is a work in progress. I will continue to exhale the negativity that arises with it as much as I can.

He Should Be.

he may be so many things
that sound lovely on paper or when you tell your friends about him for the first time

but is he bear hugs and hand holds
is he a doer
does he push you rather than break you
does he empower you rather than belittle you

does he resolve rather than run

do not give into it
do not let him into you
until he is
until he does