Becoming the woman of my dreams [alternatively: women like [us] drown oceans] | July 13, 2018

For so long, I thought that my impact would exist in the future. I would have to wait until I become an author, mentor, activist, and badass women in tech.

I know realize that I am the woman of my dreams – and I always have been.

This is evidenced by the fact that I write things that people actually read (something I’ve dreamed up since I read of this goal in “The Help”). I mentor women and people of color who are early in the career and tell them how they can advocate for themselves.  I tell them that if they feel like they’re being underestimated, they don’t have to brush it off. They can make it a conversation and talk about how that comment has reinforced all of the negative comments from their past that say they won’t make it.

The way that I’ve been vulnerable about being queer or my sense of impostor syndrome has led to a conversation, and not all of it is positive. I hear whispers of their judgment and the way they apologize to my mother, as if she should be ashamed of who I am. But the thing is, I’m allowed to be free.

So, I chose to be free in my queerness, which means that I can love unconditionally and authentically.

I choose to be a writer who shouts the truth from the mountains and doesn’t leave it in the margins of deep love for women. This kind of love is what makes me authentic, and I didn’t truly love myself until I came out.

This is what it means to be a woman of color. We fight every day to be seen and heard. We tell stories about ourselves over steaming cups of chai and on porch benches and in between meetings in the hopes that we can be heard.

This is what it means to be an anomaly – you show up, blaze trails, and break the mold because you can be seen for that way of thinking. I am so lucky that people like Asta, a research designer and de facto wonder woman will take time out of their day to meet with me, and that she sees potential in my interests as a storyteller in the tech industry. I hope that I can be as fearless as her and continue to draw inspiration from people who break the rules. It reminds me that I can be known for doing something unconventional – I just have to own it and believe that I have something valuable to bring to the table.

Writing about my identity has destroyed me or enabled me to share the most vulnerable parts of myself. For all of this, I am grateful.

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Disentangling love from all the advice I received about it | July 9, 2018

My pals, we live a precious life but it is certainly crazy (and I’m not surprised that this is the case). In between seeing my childhood best friend, jumping from dating app to dating app, watching Bazzi perform live, many scoops of ice cream and a bit of bubble tea, and a few tear-stricken conversations with people who mean the world to me, I’m glad to report that we are cruising at the halfway point of summer 2018.

Let’s start with dating apps – I know they’re pretty popular these days, especially in college. Most people have downloaded them at some point whether it’s to do a few swipes in honor of being newly single or in a committed effort to find the right person. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that I could meet someone organically given my broad involvement on campus.

Now, I’m reminded that fate may need a little guidance and that this is a sign that I am truly moving on and being open to new love. Although it’s certainly vulnerable to put myself out there, I’m proud that I bring my authentic self to every conversation, and that my manager and I can talk about what it means to make excuses about not moving on and what it means to do it anyway

So, my friends, take care of yourself and create space for yourself to move on.

If you need to, shed the old birthday cards, journal pages full of love for them, or text messages and threads that take you back to place you never want to revisit. This is the way to make things a little lighter & and create room for new memories, and this goes for every relationship – toxic friends, former significant others, old flames, or whoever else doesn’t want to see you grow.

Smile – you know that you’re a fighter and that things will get brighter.  It’s OK if you can’t grow with someone else by your side.

I’m finally giving myself permission to shed any love that isn’t unconditional and grounding. I don’t want to fill the air with gossip and my mind with doubts about if I’m worthy of love.

I went to an event that featured women in C-suite positions at Microsoft. We talked about how it’s significant to work at a place that enables me to learn (and maybe even land a C-suite position if all goes well). I’m still trying to decide if Microsoft is the place I want to work forever, but maybe I need to leave it all behind so I can return with a newfound appreciation for all the resources and mentorship I could receive. Other lessons learned from the event nclude 1) know what you stand for 2) innovation is deviation from the norm, and 3) good things happen when you try.

In other news, I attended an event today about how newsrooms can reflect the diversity of classrooms. The event was inspiring because I was surrounded by people who want to see journalists lead with respect to covering stories about communities of color. I smiled brightly knowing that there were people who were dedicated to this work and want to see newsrooms reflect the diversity in our communities, and I’m still trying to figure out what my role is. Also, I accidentally networked to the point that I got someone’s business card! I told her about my desire to learn how to tell a story with audio since I’m so used to print stories, and she told me that we could work together to whip up something I’m interested in! I’m still crafting the email but I hope that I can walk the walk of my rhetoric to be a multimedia storyteller who leads with inclusion, empathy, and vulnerability in mind. I’m excited for the challenge of crafting a story for the ear.

On a lighter note, I discovered my new favorite restaurant!

It’s called Xi’an Noodles and it’s located in the U-District (in case any of my Seattleite readers were interested!). A Yelp reviewer described the noodles as “gloriously fresh” and I can definitely agree! I had the dry noodles with lamb and my friend got them with beef, and I wanted 2.5 more servings because it was so delicious. Every other restaurant within a five-mile radius, step aside!

Here’s to glowing and growing in familiar places, career advice in dive bars, photoshoots with succulents and roses, dahlia tattoos, and mentors who challenge you to be a better version of yourself in workplaces that weren’t made for you.

Songs of the Moment:

  • “Mine” and “Star” by Bazzi (thanks to a recent concert)
  • “In my Feelings” by Drake
  • “Ain’t it Fun” by Paramore
  • “My Love” by Wale, Major Lazer, WizKid, and Dua Lipa

Everything in the periphery | July 8, 2018

Yesterday, I reunited with my childhood best friend that I hadn’t seen in at least 9 years. We talked about how we’ve been blooming, but we’ll always be seedlings in each others’ lives. It reminded me that even the most familiar places and people will look different over time, but it’s a sign that you’re growing. Even when I return to my hometown, I think about how the landscape of the city is changing to make the city more walkable with the crosswalks across the main road or the addition of modern eateries that to entice people to stick around.

We also talked about third places, which are the places where people spend their time other than school/work and the home. I think my third place would be Capitol Hill because I find myself there to take photos next to colorful murals, catch up with friends at Unicorn or Oddfellows, dance at Rhino Room, and sample ice cream at Salt and Straw Ice Cream, a place with more variety than the experiences on my resume. I dream of the day where I can claim this city of rainbow roads as my final resting point, all while knowing that I need to grow somewhere else.

I wish that I had taken notes because everything she said was so insightful. We talked about how when you’re in love, you have to love who the other person is becoming. That’s interesting, right? I think that part of the reason relationships fall apart or people break up is that people change or we realize that we can’t grow with them anymore. But how do you know if you should keep trying or not? It’s a tough line to walk, I think. At the very least, college and its short timeline enabled me to shed every relationship that doesn’t help me grow, and I try to remember that some people come into my life for a reason or a season and I have to thank them for whatever they give me in that short time.

My friend reminded me that when you’re in love, it will always look different and you have to ask yourself, “do I love this person, the way they love me, or the way loving them makes me feel?” This was particularly fitting because I went on a date after and quickly realized that chemistry is both rare and undeniable, so you hold onto it if you find it. I’m hoping that all the chemistry will back into my life in one form or another, but the wait is also challenging.

In other news, I decided that it’s time to get loud about who I am, as evidenced by the fact that I finally hit “publish” on an article about what it means to be a queer person of color where stories like mine often go untold.

I’m realizing that I need to tell my story as loudly as possible because there aren’t a lot of other ones. I mean, I rarely see queer people of color writing about the struggle of their love being at war with the love of their family, so I decided to shoot my shot and put it into the universe. Here’s to putting my voice out there more than ever, even if I don’t know how it will turn out.

In other news, I know have a dahlia on my shoulder and she’s blooming beautifully if I do say so myself and all good things like her have she/her pronouns. I’m leveling up into my final form of a flourishing queer brown pal who’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

Song of the moment: “My Love” by Wale feat. Major Lazer, WizKid, and Dua Lipa

Summer 2018 feat. Microsoft, curated Spotify playlists, and a whole lot of drip coffee

It’s been a wild ride. I’m still learning about how to advocate for myself as one of the few people of color in this organization that’s built on legacy like Microsoft.

Finding my voice has been a lifetime work in progress, but I’m proud to say that I’ve found some of it here. I talked with the leader of my organization at Microsoft about what it was like being a queer person of color at this company, and we talked about the importance of 1) asking people how they self-identify and 2) being open to conversation. Even if he can’t empathize with me since we couldn’t be more different (he is a middle-aged white man from Britain, and I’m a queer young female from Seattle/Pakistan), he still wants to learn from me. For example, we talked about what the term “queer” means and how this label has always been safe for me, whereas the word “lesbian” often had negative connotations when used by family members as a joke.

My boss and I talked about how I’m learning to advocate for my content. This has been a bit challenging for me because I’ve always believed that the stories I write are inherently valuable – after all, stories are one of the most effective ways to create connections with people! My boss reminded me that with increasing influence and visibility (i.e. a byline associated with Microsoft) comes more responsibility, which means that I have to convince everybody that we need tell stories that focus on people, not just the products or devices they use. When faced with pushback, he encouraged me to ask “why?” and understand what story they want to tell or expectations they must meet.

Another leader in the company and I talked about the importance of telling human-centered stories, especially in a world that focuses on the importance of STEM.

He was telling me that sales is all about making a connection with a person, not just closing the deal. Additionally, he talked about how he likes being at Microsoft because he feels like we’re doing the right thing here. I think that people here at the company do want to learn fro me. being asked to call people out when they’re not inclusive or not creating things in a forward-looking way, and I hope to start conversations about how we can do these things better. Like anything, it’s a journey and I am certainly on the come- up. Also, I’ve been spending my breaks looking at Spotify jobs and making curated playlists, so I think that counts as living my best life.

I listened in on a talk from Amy Nelson, CEO of The Riveter. She talked about being a female entrepreneur, raising $750,000 in a world where women get 2% of venture capital funding, and her desire to create a female-forward workplace where women hire and empower each other. Her talk had a brief anecdote about how she doesn’t think her identity as a woman could hold her back. Can sheer will and brute force and believing that you aren’t judged for your identity enough? Because there is real systemic oppression in existence and you can’t just say no to racism or sexism or ableism if people see you this way, particularly if multiple aspects of your identity make you a minority.

Sometimes, I resent the fact that I go to such a large public institution where I have to thrive all the time just to be seen in a sea of 40,000 people. Now, I realize that this environment has taught me to advocate for myself and tell a clear story about where I’m going, and I’m getting better than ever at telling it. I can confidently self-identify as a storyteller and now a story-listener. I’m proud to be a queer woman of color in the tech industry who wants to amplify other people’s voices. I feel like I’m doing that at Microsoft, as evidenced by my encouragement to support my co-workers as they work towards writing LinkedIn articles or think about negotiating their salary next time around.

So, my first three weeks were a bit exhausting, but I’m also excited about what’s to come. Here’s to strong writing samples, vulnerable conversations, and stories that make people think.

Always I’m going on a date next week so pray for me. LOL

 

Musings: On the search for something more grounding

I know that I want deep, compassionate, and fulfilling love – I guess it’s been a while. But I can’t keep misplacing love in people who don’t give it back to me. These people are well-meaning with the way they entertain, but they never plan to stay for long. But ai also realize that love requires both time and timing, and neither of those things are right. I know that I want something deeper – something that grounds me.

I’m realizing that I don’t want to be mad. I don’t want to feel anger for those who would never spend a moment trying to see me clearly. Instead, I want to be soft and open to everything the universe is giving me while letting go of the feelings that way me down.

The problem is that your maybe’s and assertions of “we’ll see” take me back to a place that I don’t really like to go anymore. Because I’m not an option that you can pick up when it’s convenient for you. My feelings cannot wait for someone who doesn’t see the oceans and dynasty and galaxies that rest in my love. I can’t give you anything, let alone everything, if you have no intention of giving it back.

Maybe I’m embarrassed because I don’t really put myself out there. And when I do, it’s because I think that it’ll work out. But the act of being brace and authentic is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m learning to be the most authentic version of myself, even if I never get the “why’s” behind the “no’s.” We don’t always get the answers we’re looking for, but maybe it’s because these truths can’t really give us any peace. So, cheers to me taking the no but not taking myself down a peg for someone who can’t see everything I am.

This feels like a chapter that I don’t want to revisit. I need to set my intentions and be a bit kinder to myself. Love is on the come-up, and I’ve always been made of it.

Reasons to be hopeful anyway:

  1. I’m interning at Microsoft
  2. I have bright tulips that know how to go purple be gold
  3. The music in my ears reminds me that it’s hard to dance with a devil on my back, so I must shake it off.
  4. Flavored chapstick
  5. Free coffee (the real blessing)
  6. Exhilarating children’s movies
  7. Friends who do really love me
  8. Word documents full of meaningful reflection about who I’ve become
  9. The realization that growth will happen with or without a place or person

The bottom line:  don’t settle for anything less than you deserve. I’ve always been saved for exactly what I need, even if it’s a terrible experience that lends itself to a great story of triumph. I can’t dim my light for people who don’t know how to see my clearly, you know?

Misplaced gratitude:

  • Thanks for saying I love you and meaning it
  • Thanks for teaching me that I love myself and others all at once
  • Thanks for breaking my heart and teaching me that I can put it back together
  • Thanks for reminding me that I have everything I need to bloom.

Musings: Falling in love with my life | June 17, 2018

I’ve been on the hunt for moments when I fall in love with my life. I’ve found it in small ways – when I interview woman of color who are powerful educators and find ways to lift while they rise; when I spend time with myself and feel a sense of gratitude for every moment that has brought me to the present; when I talk to underclassmen and help them find ways to bridge their passion in music, writing, and critical thinking; and when I realize that love has always been within me.

Most recently, I discovered Jane Shin – she is everything I want to be. You know the RapCaviar playlist on Spotify that has 9 million followers? Turns out that Jane curates that playlist, creates the video clips, and works with artists to amplify their stories and content. Hopefully I’ll make my way to San Francisco or New York – or perhaps something in between – and make something that becomes a part of people’s everyday lives or inspires them to sing a little more every day.

I hope that I find my way to Spotify to work as a writer.

It seems like a lot of people there have at least 5 years of experience, so I’ll need to figure out ways to engage more deeply with my passion for music so I can tell stories of creators and changemakers in the industry. I dream of a day when I  can create things that inspire people to take charge of their own life. I hope all is well on your end! Thanks for putting your voice into the world.

The other day, I was talking to my friend and said “if I write a book …” Before I could get any further, she corrected me by saying “when you write a book, can I get an autographed copy?” which made me smile because I realized that I could make my dreams come true and there were people that would be right there with me.

A love letter to those who cannot love me

I’ve recently realized that I haven’t always valued myself

Instead, I have poured every ounce of myself into others

Seeking nothing but sunshine in their smile

I think it became part of mine too

I used to think that this is what it means to be whole

But wholeness has come from loving myself

But where does love go when it’s not felt

What to hearts do when they’re threatening to burst

Who are you and me if it’ll never be us anymore

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. At any rate, I know I have love in any form. I get to join my pals for meet-ups at new intern orientation, grad parties, dive bars, and every place under the sun and around Seattle. I’m grateful that life has given me the opportunity to make mistakes that have led to better stories, even if they involve a 1:45 a.m. call on the dance floor, tutorials on sealing the deal on the first kiss (remember to commit to it), and the challenge of being at home when you’ve grown in other ways.

In other news, my mother told me that my Dad and her are getter closer, something that seems surprising since they’ve been empty nesters for 4 years and people usually grow apart when they’re empty nesters. But she said that she misses him after gesturing to the pathway where they take walks during lunch.  It’s nice to know that love is alive even after 26 years of marriage, 2 kids, and a wild life that took them from Pakistan to New York to their home in Washington State. If this isn’t adventure, I’m not sure what is.

 

My intentions for the week, and the summer at large, include:

  • Reading more books by women of color
  • Spent more time with myself
  • Write gratitude posts at least 3 times a week
  • Publish posts on LinkedIn and articles on Medium
  • Go hiking and be in awe of how beautiful the world is
  • Make no little plans

 

Musings: My beauty has never been mine

I hear people talk about how they’ve internalized ideas about beauty as if more melanin is something to be ashamed of. Beauty was looking light-skinned with big eyes and lashes that’s complemented by tan skin (something that was taken from my people, but I’d like to point out that the richness of my skin is not something your fake tan can ever replicate, thank you very mas).

But when I was young, I didn’t think much of my own beauty. As a child, no one ever told me that I could be pretty just the way I was, which is either deeply hurtful or liberating. As a result, I spent all my time was focused on school. I would wake up at 6 a.m. so I could get to the library to tutor my peers, not curl my hair or apply makeup that’d slide off by the of the day.

But even when I started to care about my appearance as I began to model for a photography company as a high school senior, I didn’t really see myself as beautiful. It was a word reserved for my peers, the ones who fulfilled all these Western standards of beauty, who were frequently the conversation topic of bleacher side chitchat at football games and lunchtime debates about who to ask to Prom.

But even when I learned to see my beauty, to not feel shameful in an off-the-shoulder top or skirt without tights, the attention I received from men was often negative. I remember listening to Mumford And Sons on the bus to a photoshoot for a workshop. I had gotten up at 6 a.m. just to curl my hair and feather blush on my cheeks and bronze my forehead in an effort to recreate highlights and shadows I’d never had. I descended the public bus and quickly referenced my phone for directions. One ear was filled with “proceed to the route” and the lyrics “I will wait for you” while the other was met with catcalls from the people at the bus stop. I remember feeling horrified as I blinked through my contacts, the ones I rarely wore. I ran my hand over my forearm and my leggings. Surely I wasn’t showing too much skin? I posited. The only skin that was be seen was my face and collarbone peeking out of my t-shirt. Was this enough to warrant this attention that’d leave me hot red with embarrassment? But a part of whispered, this attention just means that you’re beautiful. Isn’t that what you wanted?

Maybe not.

Because their attention didn’t come from a place of respect or kindness. Because I never asked for their gaze, their attention, this commentary. They only saw me for my body, as if my mind and intellect and perspective was something separate.

What does this mean now? Am I saying that beauty and intellect only exist as a binary. Absolutely not. But I’m saying that it’s exhausting to be both when neither of these things feel intrinsic.

I’m saying that neither my body nor my beauty has ever been mine. I understand the narrative of reclaiming it, of being confident as a way to take back what’s ostensibly mine. But until my beauty isn’t for consumption, until I’m no longer sold tan skin and highlighted cheekbones on a silver platter that promises something that’ll never fully be mine, I’m not sure I believe it. When will radical self-acceptance come my way and stay?