coffee date #31 with akash patel
tcnj alum!, ex-frat bro, ‘homie,’ philly resident, avid storyteller, professional gardener, potential philosopher, talented artist, investigative analyst
me: orange juice | akash: latte
location: pj’s pancake house, new jersey
Akash Patel bears a jubilant personality, making those around him feel all the warmth. Akash will greet you with a “what’s up chief” or a “hello lil’ homie.” He’ll take some spontaneous trips to Ewing to put everyone on some No. 1 China, randomly drunk text (and manage to convince) you to drive to Philly with coffee date #25 to watch the sunrise, or other times he’ll simply lose his credit card at random bars and proceed to regret his life decisions.
Akash is ‘that’ person who can talk his way out of anything and everything. When Akash Patel begins a story, you’re immediately looped in. He sits with one leg crossed on top of the other, a cup of wine in one hand, and the other arm rested on the couch as he narrates the story. How can one have had that many life experiences that you cannot run out of stories?
Inviting ya’ll into the world of Akash Patel as we dig a tiny bit deeper with this coffee date….
- The art of meditation
The beauty of meditation, from what I’ve heard, is it lets us tap into ourselves. It allows us to sit with our own thoughts instead of running away from them. Thus, any activity that forces us to be present and be nonjudgemental towards our thoughts should count as a meditative practice.
As an incredible artist, Akash’s meditative practice is displayed through his art. Sitting down for an intentional amount of time to draw enables him to recenter and ground himself further. In fact, lots of research supports and introduces art therapy as a way to significantly better one’s emotional well being.
“When I draw, I just forget about it all. It clears my mind instantly and that’s why I feel so completely refreshed afterwards.” – Akash Patel, 2022
“A study in which women with cancer were encouraged to engage in various visual arts exercises and techniques found that the participants benefited in four key ways. While the women initially experienced a number of illness-related challenges such as loss of confidence, loss of sleep, and altered social relationships, after the study they reported an increased focus on positive life experiences, increased self-worth, maintenance of social identity (as opposed to being defined by cancer), and an increased ability to express their feelings in a symbolic manner.” – GoodTherapy
- If done right, 24 hours is all we really need.
Akash had the wildest stories from college, making me wonder how he even managed to find the time to balance everything. He proceeded to break down the 24 hours we all have every single day.
- 8 hours to sleep (the fact that he even attempted to get 8 hours while in college is astonishing)
- 2 hours to eat throughout the day
- 6 hours of classes
- 4 hours for homework
- 2 hours to just do nothing
- 2 hours of unaccounted time to do anything you want
Akash explained that it is during the 2 hours of unaccounted time that he is the most productive (outside of his designated time for academics). It is this time that he spends with himself, in whatever way he needs to – whether that be drawing, running, or just thinking.
Even if one is an extrovert and loves spending time with other people, it is of utmost importance that they also incorporate some alone time into their daily routine. According to Sevan Basil, Ph.D., “The main difference is that solitude doesn’t feel vital to the daily emotional survival of an extrovert the way it does to an introvert.” However, it is still very much needed for the long-term existence of extroverts because it is during those alone moments that they can create the space needed to process their emotions and learn how to human throughout their lives.
- Using time to cultivate incredible relationships
“I told myself to stop thinking of reasons not to do something and think of all the things that could come if I did that.” – Akash Patel, 2022
As discussed with numerous coffee dates in the past, college and even life, in general, can be a complete shit-show. We’re dragged around by so many different responsibilities and sometimes we may end up sacrificing parts of our lives as a result. One of those areas of sacrifice can be our social lives. How many times were we dead exhausted or ‘weren’t in the mood’ to go spend time with someone? It’s okay if we decide to not spend time with someone when we’re truly not feeling well. But when we’re constantly making excuses, then we either a) need to figure out if that relationship is healthy or not, b) if it is healthy, then maybe put in a bit more effort.
“You can either have time or you can have money. You can never have both. For me, 10 times out of 10, I’ll always take time because that in and of itself is priceless.” – Akash Patel, 2022
Based on what Akash said, spending time with people we like should be looked at as invaluable time. This new perspective makes cherishing relationships that much easier and even more valuable. This man literally survived a ~9 hour workday, drove an hour back to his house, picked up a friend, dropped off that friend, and then proceeded to drive to Ewing to meet me for the coffee date. He could’ve easily came up with an excuse to reschedule the date. Sometimes, when we have the right amount of energy, showing up and being present for the people in our lives can be an incredibly precious and wholesome feeling.
“Every single interaction I have with another individual is priceless. That’s time you can’t get back.” – Akash Patel, 2022
- The space that a father should create….
A huge aspect of Akash that I admire is his ability to show love and take the time to connect with the people he adores. Society often tries to eliminate such qualities in an effort to make the men more ‘masculine’ and the women more ‘feminine.’ But what does being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ even mean?
I’ve observed that, according to society, showing any signs of emotional weakness (or even physical weakness) is supposedly a ‘feminine’ quality. I’ve literally seen this unfold with my own brother (aka coffee date #13). Arya was also taught, like many other young boys, to always appear to be ‘strong’ – emotionally & physically. However, with the help of coffee date #5, we were able to help him unlearn and redefine what masculinity means to the point where he is now so much more in touch with his emotions than he was before.
Therefore, I was taken aback and filled with appreciation when Akash told me that during a difficult time in their family’s life, his father told him that:
“Weakness is still a sign of love.”
😭🥺 Tell me that isn’t the most wholesome conversation/one-liner between a father and son.
Parents, especially for those who do have a safe father figure, have the ability to transform their child’s life by preventing them from falling into the societal construct of masculinity and femininity. Parents can and should prioritize creating that emotional safety net for their children.
- Life – a path of what?
When children first enter this world, their first sign of life and emotion is displayed through crying. From then on, Akash explained, that we all just experience fleeting moments of happiness and temporary satisfaction. As life goes on, we begin to lose more and more – we may break off friendships, lose connections, and endure significant losses. It is because of this suffering that we, as human beings, can learn to be more appreciative of those fleeting moments of happiness.
“Life is a long path of suffering. If everything in life was great, we would never be able to tell what is truly great. Those difficult moments allows us to differentiate what makes us truly happy inside.” – Akash Patel, 2022
Understanding that life is built on suffering can also help us empathize better. A therapist once told me that “everybody has suffering.” When we realize that everyone has some sort of pain, we see that everyone is constantly carrying some sort of emotional baggage. It almost unites all of us and shows us that everyone is on their own path of healing and we are all learning to navigate through life together.
“Everything happens, not just for any reason, but always for a good reason.” – Akash Patel, 2022
- Changing careers and still having it all work out
“You never really know what life has in store for you, so there’s no point in trying to control it.” – Akash Patel, 2022
I have the utmost admiration for people who welcome big life changes, especially with their careers. Akash started and essentially ended his entire 4 years of undergrad as a premed student. He explained that he took all his premed requisites, finished his MCAT, wrote up his med school application, and all he had to do was hit ‘send.’ Two weeks after graduation, he realized that medicine was no longer his passion. Thus, he swiftly began applying to other jobs and is now doing dope work that he otherwise would have never been able to do if he hadn’t followed his gut feeling.
I think the reason why I find people like Akash and coffee dates #10, #11, and #17 so intriguing and kickass is because they all had a routine – a plan – to kickstart their lives. But once they realized that that routine was taking away crucial moments from their lives, they took life back into control by deciding to end one journey to begin another one. It’s daring, invigorating, and beautiful.
“I want to make it to 85 and be exhausted because I have been alive and awake every single day.” – Jedidiah Jenkins
I watched this gem of a video the other day and it just reminded me to chase curiosity and memories – even if that means I have to stray away from the ‘plan’ I created for myself.