Musings: A love letter to 2017

12/11/17

Today, I’m doing something a little different: I’m showing myself a little love, and it’s not just because my top song of 2017 was Show Me Love and I’ve been jamming to it ever since. I’m deciding to listen to the input that I have something valuable to give to the people in my life – I think everything might change because of this.

Dear me,

Well, we made it through (most of) 2017. I’d say that everything has changed, but most things are better. What’s stayed the same is my love of stories, passion for working with students, and desire to do something new every day – after all, why would I switch disciplines if this wasn’t the case? I made the jump into Human Centered Design & Engineering and then Microsoft and then working as a course assistant and researcher, all while retaining my identity as a writing tutor. I get to make thing that I’m proud of share them with the whole wide world and on my portfolio – and what’s better, I get to share it with people who really love me.

Few of us get to have a dream like this, one that is lived out. I’m lucky that I do what I love every single day: how often do people get to make a living and a life all at once? I feel profoundly connected to my work because I get to talk to students about their goals & identity in the hopes that I can help them craft an authentic narrative about why they should get a job or internship or spot in a competitive major. And I hope that seeing a brown woman, one who changed her major and is doing a fifth year because the right major is always worth it, inspires all those little brown girls who come in looking for someone like them, even if it’s only for 45 minutes. I hope that my existence is resistance that proves why I deserve to be in a higher education system that never made for me, all while humbling myself to recognize that I will never fully understand what it means to be fully excluded from these spaces. I will never stop learning this lesson, and I hope to keep fighting for those that deserve to be here the most.

But even as I’ve nurtured others throughout this quarter, I haven’t always taken care of myself – in fact, I sometimes take of everyone else except me. And this works for the most part because I strive to make a life through service, but it’s hard when I’m not remembering what I need. I don’t know what it really takes to actually choose myself, but at least I’m closer to recognizing my own worth. At the very least I’m grateful for the things I’m making.

I learned to tell stories that needed to be shared the most urgently, trust others with the most vulnerable parts of myself, and thank people for what they’ve given me even if they have to leave. I live with the pretense that I have something important to say, so I seek out people who really listen and care about me all the time, not just when it’s convenient.

2017 has been a year of blooming & growing & recognizing that I deserve the love I give to others. It’s realizing that I’m not a reflection of those who can’t love me no matter what they tell.

a poem that I keep in mind when reflecting on this year:

there are feelings

you haven’t felt yet

give them time

they are almost here

I hope to keep these things in mind as I reflect on love and loss.

One day, I’ll find the right words for the turn and churn of this year, and they will be simple. For now, I’m glad to make it out on the other side in one piece. So, current/future/past (?) me, you’re making my dreams happen so never stop fighting for what deserves to be mine. And my capacity to love doesn’t diminish, even when my faith in love does.

So when I’m told that I don’t matter, that my perspective isn’t necessary, that I’m not worthy of love and listening, I’ll remember to love myself first. I’m blessed to survive another day even though OChem and being pre-med and meanies from my past almost knocked me out.  I hope to make the products I’ve envisioned (so don’t wait for developers to make the user-centered product of your dreams) / work at companies that value my work / hone in on my identity as a storyteller / surround myself with people who love me – really, really love me.

Things I’ve done this quarter:

  • Worked on an end-to-end design project and learned how to use design software like Balsamiq and Figma
  • Worked in a 10 week DRG to conduct exploratory data science research (and made some cool friends in the process)
  • Worked at two different writing centers and as a course assistant for an HCDE class
  • Visited my favorite cousin in Chicago
  • Met some friends who challenged me to see the impact of my attitude
  • Took a coding class and helped some peers in the process
  • Lived with roomies who said they loved me and meant it
  • Told 2 digital stories and shared them prominently on my website
  • Applied to namebrand internships and dreamed I could get them
  • Realized that I deserved to be valued in my workplace
  • Celebrated 21 years of life
  • Lived out my dream of making & doing things all the time

And what about the rest of this year:

  • Interned at Microsoft and achieved the most financial independence of my entire life
  • Performed in the Blank Monologues and told my story on stage
  • Told stories of struggle and survival every single day
  • Honed in my love for teaching
  • Fell in and out of love in a few different ways
  • Listened to over 107,000 of music (Spotify, plz hire me)
  • Saw some of my favorite bands – namely Bad Suns, Young the Giant, J. Cole, Chainsmokers, Coldplay, and Two Door Cinema Club!! – in concert
  • Celebrated my birthday with the most important people in my life
  • Wrote about the things that kept me up at night

+ many more! As always cheers to this precious life where I get to live my dream of serving others every single day.

Cool things I’ve learned recently:

  • Wizards never lose their power as long as they practice it.
  • Remind teams to push the bar and not just with PowerPoints.
  • The person I have grown into recognizes the impact of silence within academic, personal, social, and professional spaces.

Song in my ear: Adore You by Miley Cyrus

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Musings: On being a tutor

I’m not sure who I was before I was a writing tutor – I don’t say this to be dramatic, but because working as a writing tutor has profoundly transformed my life. Now, I identify first and foremost as a storyteller, but shortly after as an educator who wants to help people tell their stories as vividly as possible. I am so privileged that I get the opportunity to do this every single day, and that students take the time to ask for my schedule, wait 1.5 hours just to work with me, and bless me with their vulnerable reflections and personal statements and revisions for an English 131 assignment.

For starters, writing is one of the most vulnerable mediums in existence, and it takes a lot of courage to ask for help, particularly at a university like UW that often seems very “sink or swim.” Tutoring centers like CLUE can make the whole process a little bit better, even if it’s just one person who looks you in the eye and says, “I’m happy to help.” I think effective applications, especially personal statements, tell a story that only you can, one that’s genuine and rooted in moments of fuzziness followed by clarity and efforts to get closer and closer to a career and life that’s fulfilling every single day. I want people to understand their own motivations and goals because, at the end of the day, they are the writer and merely facilitating a conversation about how to frame that narrative. Understanding our own motivations can help us understand why we’ve been drawn to certain activities or dedicated years to things that seem ostensibly “unrelated” to our linear career paths. I have always needed people in my own life to be this present to me and whether I’m an engineer or doctor or educator, I will always try to be the person I needed when I was younger.

It’s a blessing to facilitate their growth because not everyone gets the opportunity to learn from others every single day. This happens in a lot of different ways. When students come in and tell me that they’re the first person in their family to go to college and that no one in their hometown dreams of being a college graduate, I am reminded how lucky I am to serve them. When students come in every week for a month because they’ve finally found an area of study that aligns with their passion, I’m excited by the prospect of helping them put the pieces together for a personal statement, even if it’s a little messy. When a young woman of color comes in and says she’s inspired by me, I look back and thank her for inspiring me to believe in the power of unabashedly telling your story.

These are just a series of moments of my 4 quarters at CLUE, and it only begins to scratch the surface of the ~350 sessions I’ve had. Every single person teaches me something different, but the most important thing I’ve learned is the power of listening. I don’t really think I’m am amazing tutor – I just think that my work as a journalist has taught me to take a step back and see people for who they are. I think the world would be a lot different if everyone did this.

I am brought to tears at the thought that I won’t be spending my Monday nights in Mary Gates Hall anymore. My friend recently asked me what I think I’ll regret when I’m older. I told her that I would regret not having enough fun because I never got the chance to just “be a kid.” Instead, I spend my nights and mornings reading cover letters and applications and essays in the hopes that I can do my small act of good for students, even if it’s just for 45 minutes. I spent my days as a journalist and designer and user researcher in the hopes that I can create fundamentally better solutions through UX.  I’m now realizing that I don’t want to be a kid because I’m called to be something much great: I’m called to be an educator and a servant to others, and that won’t end with this role. I hope to keep serving students through OWRC and HCDE among other outlets. Still, I’m deeply saddened that I don’t get to return to the first job that really felt like home, the one where my students and co-workers taught me something new every day.

If I’m measuring my life by what I give, I hope toprovide but empathy, unconditional support, and hope to the students I’ve worked with – after all, they’ve never stopped giving this to me. Maybe I really am the tutor / writer / engineer / interdisciplinary communicator with a passion for social impact that I’ve always dreamed of being. Through my work, I hope to keep helping people weave narratives about their goals with intentionality and demonstrated values,

I’ve written a lot about CLUE, so I want to take this space to highlight some of the most important moments:

  • I worked 5 hours at CLUE and helped people navigate some essay and cover letter writing, and I was able to leverage my public health and medical background to cite specific language necessary for each student’s needs. My varied academic and personal background helps me talk about student’s subjects in greater detail and help them contextualize their own experiences for the job in question. I use active listening and information seeking strategies to help students make connections between their past work and their role in new positions, and I am so proud of what I’ve done!
  • Students at CLUE are requesting me and thanking me for my feedback and advice and support on their personal statements and PhD dissertations. My friends are thanking me for sharing my story and encouraging them to keep fighting every single day. I can’t believe that I get to bridge engineering and writing and accessibility through mentorship and higher education, which is what I have always wanted to do. Now, I get to take classes like “Intro to User-Centered Research” and say yes to my dream internship and learn how to be a better writer and designer and mentor and friend, which is something that I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life. I get to be somebody that I needed when I was younger, and I think third-grade me, the one who wondered if I would ever find my passion, would be proud to see who I’ve become. I think I’m very proud too ❤
  • Afterward, they handed me a stack of evaluations that students I tutored had filled out throughout the quarter, and I had to stop myself from crying as my eyes read over sentences about how I was “perfect,” had genuine energy, cared about their needs and provided specific strategies for improvement. And then they read the feedback from my peers about how I spend time trying to make relationships with my peers, am curious and strive to establish rapport, validate student’s concerns about writing, and clearly value my work and wowwowowow I strive to embody all of these qualities but I didn’t realize that anyone would actually feel this way about me? It’s yet another reminder that I am in the right field and do what I love every single day
  • I can have an impactful career/life by using my gifts of writing and communication, maybe by writing an article for The Daily to create space for someone to share their story or being a tutor to help someone feel more confident in their writing. Impact and help can come in a lot of different forms, I think, and it doesn’t have to come in the form of a certification or 10-year track to medical school – of course, it can be manifested

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for reading & listening & letting me tell this story. It’s been a blessing to serve this community – this one’s for all the POCs and little brown girls who are still learning to value themselves.

Musings: Chance encounters, connections, and getting what I need

(11/27/17) Today, I’m remembering that I see people for their potential and my ability to love them unconditionally, even if they can’t do the same for me. But I’m glad to know that things really do fall in place when they need to – I was in the right place to run into people who teach about the things they love most. I saw my friend, the one who continues to teach me about the value of vulnerability (and that taking 2 extra quarters can be worth it if you love what you do!) and an old pal who reminds me that dreams require hard work and significant relationships require efforts from both parties. I’m recognizing that good can come from what I’ve lost, and I don’t have to blame myself when things go wrong. After all, what is this life but an exercise in being patient & kind to myself (I think it’s the least I deserve). I now see that I’m much more available to my loved ones than I used to be, and it makes more spontaneous and giving to friends & family & strangers because I’m not always trying to leave to be present to one person.

I think all of these chance encounters and sidewalk conversations were exactly what I needed, even if I didn’t know it all the time. Lately, I’ve been hurting & reflecting & wondering if I’ve lost things I won’t get back in this lifetime. I wonder if people are better off without me in their life – and if they aren’t, would they let me know? Perhaps I’m used to getting my way on this front: I’m lucky to have friends who remind me that I’m significant and special to them, and that I’m blazing my own trail as a designer turned storyteller with a passion for inclusion and empowerment. But even if the right people don’t come back into my life. we’re all running our courses and as long as I’m thankful for who comes and goes, I can’t ask anything else of myself.

On another note, I am diving straight into the user-centered design process and making screens for a future high fidelity prototype, all with the goal of supporting pre-engineering students. This is how you turn your weaknesses into your strengths: you do what you’re afraid to do, even if that means making mistakes (read: learning) through the process.

How lucky am I that people ask me, “what are you making?” more than any other question. It’s a blessing to make a life out of serving others, whether that’s through tutoring or mentoring or telling stories that empower people. Even though 8 hours of wireframing is exhausting more than anything, I get to do work that I’ve never done before. Sometimes, this requires some pixel pushing and attentiveness to alignment (hard for someone who’s not very detail oriented!), but I’m working toward a final product that I’m proud to put my name on.

High standards and hustling have taken on a whole new meaning, but I get to see the fruit of my work during each step of the process. And what’s even better, being a better designer will make me a better writer and source of support for people who want to do the same.

Cool quotes:

  • Every time you love, it’ll look a little different – and that’s OK.
  • Our capacity to love continues even if our faith in love doesn’t
  • Listening is a service you can do for others
  • She had what you can’t teach and you can’t learn

[4 a.m.] Musings

Guess what time it is? Well, I can’t sleep and I just spent the last 3 hours making wireframes for my deisgn class – but even though it’s my best, I’m fully prepared to get roasted because we never seem to get it quite right.

Usually, I can anticipate if I’m not going to get it right. But lately, I’ve been fucking up in too many ways to count, and it’s leaving me feeling vastly out of control of my life. I wonder if I’ll keep getting it wrong forever, if I’m not meant to do the things I’ve dreamed of.

It’s 4 am and I’m wondering if any of the hurting will heal. I wonder why I misplace trust in things that aren’t worth it. I wonder why we learn what we deserve at the hands of people who can’t love us fully. I wonder when it’s right to walk again or try harder.

I’m sure none of this makes a lot of sense because I’m keeping it broad. I’ve spent so long trying to get it right (in reference to school and friendships and everything in between), so I live with the goal of serving others. But I’m realizing that this quarter, I’ve taken care of everyone except me.

If I measure life by what I give, what’s left for me? Am I really proud of myself, or just proud of how other can bloom even though it takes everything out of me? These aren’t questions I know how to answer. I want everyone in my life to bloom and find love and achieve their wildest dreams – but I want that for me too. Maybe it’s just a matter of time and the universe knows what I need better than me. So, like a broken promise, I’m letting it all go.

11/27/17 (so the same day but later): Can I just say that 4 hours of sleep has never looked so fly, as evidenced by a mock turtleneck and leather skirt with Mac’s Persistence because that’s exactly what we’re doing honeyyyy. Today, I’m remembering that a little bit of sleep can make every day a little bit easier to face. As Rupi Kaur reminds me,

I swear you will get through this.

The hurt will pass

As it always does

If you give it time and let

So let it go

Slowly

Like a broken promise

Let it go

It will be okay because it’s not the end & I’m still here & there’s too much to live for to slow down now. My ears are bumping with old music with some new headphones, and I think that this is what healing is meant to feel like.

Song in my ears: “Wild Ones” by Flo Rida featuring Sia

Musings: Bones

This is an old post, one I wrote over a year ago when I was in a significantly worse place. Sometimes I discover pieces of writing like this and tremble a little bit – is this really how I saw myself? It wasn’t until I found radical self-acceptance and unconditional love from others that I started to overcome some of these feelings, but looking back is a reminder of how far I’ve come – I don’t just want to be bones anymore.

5/19/16:

I have always wanted to be a ballerina
Ever since I watched them lean over the bar
As their bones bent into delicate shapes

Peaking out of the crevices you never let yourself see

Reminding you that you are a shape, a form of moving parts

Strung together in the perfect shape, a blend of form function

Of complexity in design but simple in execution

And I could feel their breath

As soft as their movement

Always in the gaze of an  instructor’s watchful eye

I swear it’d make anyone quake in fear 

Because perfect is the only goal

And standing out is the only choice

When you’re on the edge of pursuing the thing

That has the capacity to break you down

And let you fly

I am tired of hiding this body from the world. Yes, I know it’s not perfect and I wish, every day, that I could set aside my sweet tooth in pursuit of Westernized ideals of body with bones peeking out of skin, alluring the promise of the soul that’s kept inside by the seams of skin that are itching to burst at the themes but stay together because sometimes, remaining whole is the only thing I can promise myself when everything else falls apart, that my physical being and my well-being can mirror each other once again. If my body is a temple than I decide who gets in because I was not made to fear the gaze of others as if the attention of someone else if my fault or worthy of shame. And in a culture of being conservative, it can be hard to reconcile values of “modesty” since the focus is on deflecting the gaze of others rather than doing it for yourself. But I long to be strong and powerful and I shouldn’t be afraid to share with the world because I am not here waiting around for others to prepare, I’m in this race for myself and I get to decide how I run it.

Musings: A reunion

What would happen if the old me, the one who was quiet & and shy and soft-spoken, collided with current me? I’ve imagined this meeting over and over in my mind, not really sure if these two would like each other. The younger me (image me circa 2014 who was fresh out of high school and didn’t know what I was doing) would probably send out an email with a subject line in sentence case, probably something friendly like “Available to Meet for Coffee?” even though I wouldn’t ask for a coffee meeting nowadays because I’m not a big fan of overpriced aesthetic coffee cups with bizarre flavor combos like lavender chai or honey cardamom and coffee– alright, I’m actually a huge fan of lavender chai so that last one was said in a failed attempt to prove that I’m a little less of Seattle hipster

Where was I? Right, back to the meeting. I wonder what it’d be like to have old and new me in a room for this coffee date. The old me would screenshot the navigation directions just in case I didn’t have data, get there 2 hours early to reserve the perfect title, and fidget nervously as I mulled over potential questions in my mind: So, what have you been up to? Do you think about me still? Are you the doctor & bioengineer you were meant to be? Current me would roll up after running (read: brisk walking) from some faraway meeting because I didn’t put this meeting in my planner, but I remembered it in time to make it.

And then, the meeting itself:

I walk in with a pink cable knit sweater with shoulder cut-outs that show off my collarbone and lacy tank top. The old me stares back in a strange combination of awe and confusion, wondering how I mustered up the confidence to show off so much skin. I sit down in front of the younger me and grin sheepishly,

“Surprised I never succumbed to the pressure of getting contacts to show off my brown eyes?” I offer in response to this look.

The younger me looks back with a puzzled look before standing up a little bit straighter.

“Oh no, I really like your glasses!” the old me offers politely. “So, what’s going on with you these days?’

I swing my legs over the side of the chair. “Mostly good, but it’s been a tougher quarter than I anticipated. Guess that’s what comes with entering a completely new discipline, you know?”

The conversation continues, but the old me still can’t fathom who I’ve become, but in the best way possible. I’m not sure I always believe it either.

The younger me would be surprised that I’m not pursuing medicine anymore. She’d be surprised that I do no harm but take no shit, live with people who make my life a little bit better every single day, and focus on developing my identity as a maker & creative problem solver every single day. So, a lot of things have changed, but most things are better. I just hope that the younger version of me would be proud.

[National Novel Writing Month] Musings: Becoming someone I’d be proud to know

[For once in my life, I’m trying to be a student first. Unfortunately, this mean that I’ll be writing a lot less, but I wanted to share a little bit of my efforts to participate in National Novel Writing Month, which requires writing 1,700 words a day. Not sure if any of this will make it to the novel I intend to write, but here are snippets of my story.]

My name is Aleenah, and I was born and trained to tell stories. I believe that as a person of color, stories are an essential means of survival. After all, stories are the things that we get to keep when they take everything else way. When our bindhis and mehndi and thick eyebrows and thicker hair are being selectively appropriated as standards of beauty, but only when they’re on bodies that aren’t ours, all we can do is tell them about the origin of these things in our colorful culture. That mehndi is part of an elaborate celebration of marriage and union. It’s a way for us to wear our culture so whenever we fold up our sleeves, you can see the intricate patterns on our skin – the skin we’re taught to hate most of the time.

It’s hard to remember a time when I actually loved my body – I know if such a time existed because I’ve always been told to hate it. Sometimes, I long the day when I can step on a scale and be 115 pounds and slip into my old pair of size 0 jeans. Because in this moment, I was skinny which meant that I actually beautiful, and this was all I ever wanted. I’m learning to see myself as beautiful for my work and contribution to my community as a writer and educator and friend, but sometimes numbers feel like the only things that matter.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, I’m a Pakistani Muslim woman who’s living my 20’s in Trump’s America. I’m trying to make as an engineer (and I will become a college graduate one way or another), but I’m also trying to own my identity as a writer. See, writing is my best form of expression, I think. It’s the greatest gift I can give to others because it’s always honest, never filtered, and tells a really good story. But how do I balance every part of myself when I often feel like I have to choose the parts of myself to share in any given moment?

Let’s start from the present: College has been really, really difficult. This isn’t something that I say out loud a lot, but it’s true. I’ve been on a windy road to figure out how I can become someone that’d I would be proud to know. My first two years of college, I was pre-med. I was supposed to go to medical school, take the MCAT, and make my parents proud. Luckily, I’ve found Human Centered Design & Engineering and UX writing and journalism, so I get to pave my way as a brown person who loves all of these things at once!

A lot of things have changed since I got to college, but most things are better.

I feel significantly more secure in my long-term goals – no, I don’t necessarily know what I’ll do with the rest of my life, but I hope that it will involve writing, storytelling, and empowering other people through my work. I hope that I’ll take time to make curated Spotify playlists and takes pictures themed according to the season and meet people who make me better every day.

But what combination of moments led me here? That’s the question that I’m still trying to answer.

See, writing is the one place where I’m always honest – maybe it’s because I want writing to be accurate reflections of me, so I don’t want to hold back. After all, a blank page has never judged me, and I owe it to my future self to share the most authentic version of myself.

Being a writer and loving stories has always come easy to me. I grew up hearing the tales of my grandmother during her life in India and Pakistan – these were stories of sibling pranks and mango trees and haunted houses that give me a glimpse into the life of the woman who raised me for most of my life. She taught me to lead with kindness and give people the best version of myself. She had patience unlike anyone else, and I think her guidance is the reason that I always give 100% of myself as a student, tutor, and friend – people deserve all of me at the table, so I try to give that.

Although my grandma has played a significant role in my life, I don’t often talk about family. Even writing this feels hard, as if I should hide this part of me because it’s often hard to say aloud. But I’m here to be real, so I’ll give it to you:

My family is a weird little unit. There’s my dad, who’s easily the funniest person I’ve ever met. We frequently discuss our more modern views of Islam and Pakistani culture in between whispers of “don’t tell Mom.” My dad has taught me to be an empowered young woman who fights for what is right – and once when I was telling him that I deserved to be valued and have a seat at the table, he looked at me and said, “when did you get so strong?”

Family aside, I’m still trying to figure out how to make it as an individual, especially because self-confidence has evaded me during most of my adolescent and young adult life. I’m still learning how to believe in myself, which comes from moments when I get internships at Microsoft, help people get into their major, or find myself developing skills as UX designer, storyteller, or future educator.

I’m writing this story in the hopes that I can learn more about myself. In a way, this feels extremely selfish, but it’s important for me. I don’t really know who I want to be or what I want to be known for, but writing always gets me closer to my goals. I want to write words that people will actually read, and make a genuine connection with my reader, whether you’ve known me for the last 15 years or find this through a stream of queries on WordPress.

For a long time, I’ve searched for home. I lifted up the corners of my sheets and peered around corners looking for a place that would accept me exactly as I was. I looked for people who would love me for who I was, not because I could give them some kind of benefit in return. I searched for real genuine love that could build me up, promises that were lived out, and people who showed up every single time, not just when others were watching.

But home is hard to find in a physical place, let alone a person. When things are in constant turnover. I struggle to find a starting place. How did I become someone I actually like, someone that I could look at in the mirror without turning away, someone who is known and loved by their community? This comes with finding moments where I get closer and closer to the person I’ve always wanted to be: someone who is confident and driven and inspired to achieve their goals.

[Not sure where this novel is headed, but it’s a start. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for everything ❤]

when one of us rises, we all rise: an evening with rupi kaur

10/16/17 – It’s 1:10 a.m. and (40 seconds), and today & yesterday & tomorrow are all about healing. Right now, I’m sitting on the floor of my Federal Way home with my live/laugh/love blanket, space heater,  and a copy of the sun and her flowers while my Jamz playlist full of hits is blasting so I can reminisce on the summer when I saw both Coldplay and the Chainsmokers perform “Something Just Like This” – they never let me down 😉

Earlier today, I slept 13 hours because I was really sick, saw my grandma, drank a lot of soup, ventured to Portland in a giant Ford Flex, almost got pulled over for speeding, and made it to the Newmark Theater and sat in a room full of resilient women & men & non-binary people who listened to Rupi Kaur tell her story.

 

2015-01-20-tumblr_nglu2s8Qlo1sn0z5fo1_1280
A poem from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey

For those of you who don’t know, Rupi Kaur is a Punjabi poet who writes about love, resilience, survival, and a multitude of other topics in her books milk and honey (which remained on the New York Bestseller list for over a year) & the sun and her flowers. Today, she was in Portland for her book tour to celebrate the recent release of the sun and her flowers, which meant that we all got to watch her perform live!

 

Honestly, Rupi’s even more of a regal queen in person, and it was nice to see my favorite words performed by the person who crafted them. Her readings followed the succession of her book from writing & falling to blooming. As a brown woman, I was practically beaming with pride as the whole audience erupted in applause, sighs, and snaps that followed the cadence of her readings. So, this is what happens when brown women aren’t afraid to speak out – people resonate & respond & listen. Why should I ever be silent again?

Let me tell you, seeing her perform was a bucket list item in the making and it was absolutely worth the drive/missed classes/covered work shifts (and if you know me at all, you know that I never miss classes or work unless the situation demands it). As I sat there, I wondered if I will ever write a book that people will actually read- maybe I could sell out theaters in my hometown and beyond because the things I wrote were so raw and real.

One sentiment that stood out to me was, “when one of us rises, we all rise” – this was in reference to how empowering women can empower others, and how Rupi wants to create enough milk and honey for other women in her life. I’m trying to spend as much as time as possible empowering the women in my life, especially the ones who inspire me to be great & hustle harder & have patience for those who are doing their best. I’ve always been thankful to have an amazing support group of friends, but I’m lucky to be reminded of this every day.

Side note, I recently read an article with the following words, and I wanted to share them here:

We get so fixated on the job we want or the person we’re dating because we don’t think there will be another. But there’s always another.

Crazy, right? I think I forget that sometimes, the best is yet to come. So, here’s to remembering that some of my fondest memories & best relationships might be just around the corner, all while honoring the empowering relationships I currently have. Thanks to everyone and everything who have helped me in this journey to healing, especially Rupi – it’s a blessing to be graced with her presence ❤

Musings: List the ways you think someone you love would describe you

Wow, this is such a sweet prompt. I think someone who loved me would describe as a hustler because I am relentless in pursuit of my dreams. I want to be a jack-of-all trades when it comes to UX design, storytelling, advising, and higher education, and I want it all to be set to really good music, preferably Drake circa 2009 (and maybe even some Fall Out Boy if I’m willing to acknowledge my emo side). I think I would be described as someone who comes of as tough even though I’m really a softie who wants to spend the rest of my life building others up through affirming words (and sometimes articles). 

I love to share and talk and ask questions, but only because I believe in giving a little piece of myself to every person I meet. After all, what is life but a series of intentional interactions that help us grow? I like to share stories of my past,  mostly to create connections or get other people to laugh – and if someone ever calls me funny, I’ll grin from ear to ear because nothing means more. 

The right people will say that I’m honest and authentic and demand respect from people in my life because it’s my promise to everyone else. So, here’s to recognizing my own worth and surround myself with people who care about me and my time.

But I can be selfish too – sometimes, I put my schoolwork or jobs above everyone else, but if you ever call me in need of a pep talk, I will trek across campus to make it happen. Sometimes, I forget to go easy on myself because I feel like I need to hustle harder every single day just to be seen. But still, I will drop everything in a heartbeat when someone I love needs me. 

I hope the people I love would say I would have a kind heart and a good head above my shoulders, and I make their lives a little bit happier, sweeter, or more positive.

I love this question – it’s a reminder that I am valuable to my friends and people I interact with. It’s really important to engage in a little bit of self-love, I think, so cheers to that. We’re wrapping up week 2 of this academic quarter (if we’re using zero-based indexing – can you tell that I’m taking a coding class?) and I feel fine. I’m lucky to be creating community through my major and spending 14 hours a week reading people’s essays and helping them tell their story a little bit more vividly.

Reminders of the week: Love doesn’t stop or leave when people leave us, and that’s the beauty of it all. This is a reminder to me that waiting doesn’t have to be sad or lonely – we’re all waiting for the right moment and series of opportunities and people, and all of these things occur in due time and at times that make sense. It’s amazing and wonderful and awesome to be surrounded by people who tell me this. It’s good to know that I really am doing my best – taking 19 credits, diving into research, working 3 jobs, jumping into UCD and group projects and 1:1s with people in tech because I want to make the most of my career and life. One day, I’ll find a life partner who’s willing to go through it all with me – but for now, I’m thankful for love that occurs in every form: my friends, tutees, group members, and co-workers. As long as we’re doing our best, what else could we ask of ourselves?

There’s so much love to talk about, and I get to have it all with green tea and soft blankets and oversized turtlenecks.

Song of the moment: Therapy by Khalid (always good) and goosebumps by Travis Scott

Musings: How do you move on?

Take a deep breath and survey your surroundings – you’re going to lose a few things in the process, and that’s OK. You have to trust the process, and yourself, and this one

Ready? you ask yourself silently. Nod and proceed.

Start by scrubbing them from every corner of your life. Lift up the tablecloths, grab the dustpan (maybe even the Swiffer), and remove the traces of whatever isn’t yours anymore. Ask a friend to come (they’ll be good for the company) and tell authentic stories of trial and tribulations. Put on some music, preferably something that feels like home. Sing along softly and try not to think too far back- don’t fall into moments that aren’t real anymore. Don’t glorify or magnify people and make them into something they’re not. If the hurt comes, pause and acknowledge it. Be grateful for what was yours, and with the next breath, let it go. Cry if you need to, delete the photos that don’t add to your life, and leave your place to go somewhere new, something free of memories except the ones you’ll make today.

Now, keep moving. Strike up conversation, write in a new journal, and practice the art of smiling until it feels real again. Go to that coffee shop you’ve been dying to try. Get a double scoop of Molly Moon’s ice cream with the chocolate shell sauce you love, even though it’s a dollar extra. Step cautiously back into old places and remember you can reclaim them as yours.  Love deeply and be thankful for whoever stays because those are the people who matter most.

This is how I feel today. I find myself staring at the window and turning the phrase “I love you” to past tense and wondering why the universe ever let me lose something so precious. I think about the combination of moments that led to our downfall and try to put them back together in a way where you stick around.

But that’s not my reality. Still, what was I supposed to do? I had to be honest when it all fell apart – what else could I ask of myself? Today is tough, but I am tougher. I am grateful and resilient and heartbroken all at once, but I know that this is a part of the process.

One day, this hurt will be a thing of the past. Even as I say that, I wonder if this is a cycle: I fear that I will keep losing people who matter, keep fucking it up, keep forgetting to tell people how much they mean to me because I don’t want to be wrong about us. But some things are a risk worth taking, and I can’t get mad at myself for feeling this so deeply. It’s the truth, after all, and I am nothing if not honest with myself

Today, I’m hurting (does this sound familiar?). I’m resisting the urge to power up my old phone and resurface all the photos and texts that I had scrubbed from every inch of my life. I’m trying not to close my eyes in the hopes that I can make it all feel real, even if it’s for a moment.

but I know that’s not healthy or fair to me. I need to take care of myself and recognize that this is a thing of the past, but I don’t have to forget what you taught me:

Love feels beautiful and unconditional, but not as beautiful as you in the flesh and blood, the one who’s showing me how powerful it can be. Love feels like companionship that makes me feel safe and secure, whether I’m running down the steps to a new place with you or precariously perching on murals that block a construction site. Love feels like the kind of fire that keeps you warm and cozy all day, something that I want around forever.

But love doesn’t leave so easily or too early because it doesn’t want to – love wants to stay with me because that alone is enough. Love feels like vulnerability that stays the night and drips into the next morning because there’s no better way to be woken up than by you.

You will always feel like love to me.

But luckily,

Love didn’t stop with you:

Love is in everyone around me, the ones who stuck around when it hard and when I needed their kind words and shoulders and homes because it was all too much for me.

Real love,

the kind of love I need,

persists.

Today hurts, but I won’t forget that times when you and others loved me oh so well. I hope I can do the same for others – maybe I’ll make you proud in the process ❤