coffee date #43 with morgan keyt
U.S. Programs Coordinator for the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, UCONN alum, human rights activist, environmentalist, #mentalhealthadvocate, photography/videography queen, creatively-driven, traveler/explorer, a certified lifeguard, a fellow Bal Ashram fan
side note: we had to pause this date 3 times because we were interrupted by eager Bal Ashram boys who wanted to chat with us in between – wholesome 🥺
me: chai | morgan: chai
location: bal ashram, viratnagar, rajasthan
Morgan Keyt is. a. freaking. star.
As a KSCF and 100 Million U.S. intern, I report to Morgan. We’ve had our weekly check-ins ever since I’ve rejoined the organization last summer. On every call, Morgan has this inspiring aura that makes me feel like whatever I am doing – however little it is – is changing the world and is helping people. Though she is literally my boss, she never created that power dynamic between us. This ability to make others feel whole and seen is a gift and Morgan is one of those rare souls who has that gift.
Aside from our weekly check-ins, I met her for the first time in September 2022 for the Laureates & Leaders for Children event that Morgan astoundingly put together. However, we didn’t get to interact or build on our relationship much at that time because everyone had their own roles during that event.
I feel like our relationship actually solidified recently after we spent 2 back-to-back Fridays together in New York City, had a little sleepover at her apartment in D.C., and proceeded to travel for HOURS together while traveling to India.
It was during those Fridays in NYC that I realized that Morgan Keyt will be someone special in some sort of way in my life. Firstly, the purpose of those NYC trips was to deliver the Justice for Africa report to all of the UN Missionary Headquarters located in the city. Step 1 of this task was placing a report and a letter into an envelope and then labeling it with its respective country’s ambassador. Step 2 was the actual delivery.
Step 1 of the task took us AGES because there were an ungodly number of reports and once we packed them, we then had to figure out how to organize them to make it the most efficient for delivery. We spread out over the entirety of a long, yellow table at wework, and chaotically began alphabetizing & packing the reports while sipping on our coffees. During this time, Morgan and I began to converse. It was so easy!!!! Again, she has a gift. She instantly made me feel so comfortable in her presence and we chatted about literally everything and anything.
Evidence of the space we took over at wework.
We executed step 2 the following Friday. This day was an adventure, to say the least. Firstly, Morgan rented a car. Let me repeat. She rented a car, meaning we were driving in New York City! I can barely walk my way through the city, so driving in that chaos was soul-sucking.
The goal of this step was to try to find missionary buildings that were near each other, so we could deliver a bunch at the same time. We’d both look for country flags hanging from buildings and would shriek as soon as we’d see one. Then, we’d attempt to shift through our alphabetized piles of reports in the backseat of the car to find the Ambassador representing that country and would take turns delivering the reports. It may not sound chaotic, but trust me it was chaotic. Imagine two 5’7ish+ women, who despise the city, driving in the rain, locating reports, running around blocks to deliver those reports, and repeating that process until it hit 5:00pm.
I remember 15 minutes into our car ride, Morgan said “I feel like we’re similar in so many ways.” After getting to spend a hefty amount of time with her recently, I agree. We’re both definitely empaths (may be a result of us both being older sisters as well). We’re big cursers (#eastcoastslang). We’re both also deeply passionate about our causes (and watch out people, Morgan Keyt is and will continue to be changing the world in her own creative, talented way).
Note: Morgan broke her foot a few weeks ago, didn’t know it was broken, went to Nicaragua and climbed a few volcanoes, came back to the U.S. and was diagnosed with a fracture & a sprain and was given a boot to wear. After all this, she still made it to India with me (which entailed a 14 hour flight to Dubai, a 3 hour flight to Delhi, and a 5 hour drive to Viratnagar, Rajasthan). The foot and Morgan made it and they thrived as we all spent time with the boys and girls at the Bal Ashram and Balika Ashram, respectively.
This was a coffee date that I’ve wanted to do for so long! Finally diving into the world of Morgan Keyt…..
- Combining social circles
I know a bunch of people from different walks of life. One thing I’ve been hella cautious of is keeping those many groups of people I know separate from each other. Dance friends stay as dance friends. Family friends as family friends. Arya Dance Academy friends as Arya friends. College pals stay as college pals. Sorority sistas stay as sorority sistas. Pageant peeps stay as pageant peeps.
I don’t like mixing different groups or even individual people from those groups with each other because I’m worried that they won’t be able to gel together. I remember the few times I have mixed a couple friends from different groups, I was on edge the whole time, being hyper-vigilant about everyone’s emotions, making sure everyone was extra comfortable and having fun. This would take the life out of me and was extremely anxiety provoking.
I see people like Morgan (and even coffee date #25) so effortlessly bring people together. For example, Morgan offered me to sleepover at her apartment, which she shares with 2 of her college besties, the day before we were flying out to India. This is something that I probably would have hesitated to do because I would have ran through 100 different scenarios as to how uncomfortable Morgan would feel if she were staying with me and my 3 (very amazing) roommates. Therefore, I asked her how she does it – how does she combine friend groups and not become an anxious pool during it?
Morgan shared that she used to be anxious over mixing groups of her friends together back in high school. But, then in college, after hosting a successful wine night with a bunch of her friends from different parts of her life, Morgan received a compliment that she has since never forgotten: “Morgan, you have a gift for finding good people.”
100% agree. I haven’t known Morgan for long, but I just know that’s true. For instance, during that sleepover at Morgan’s, I met her two roommates (one of which was Morgan’s college roommate!), who are simply incredible! I literally only spent maybe 1.5 hours with them, but they were such genuine, pure, wholehearted souls who welcomed me into their home and made me feel so freaking comfortable. Finding people like them is Morgan’s gift.
“All of my friends, I know inherently and completely are good people. I think when the anxiety went away was when I decided that I am only going to give my time and energy to people that I really love and are really good.” – Morgan Keyt, 2023
A queen ^ The most mind-boggling part, though, is when she said:
“When you bring good people together, they also get along. If you are 100% confident that these people are kind and good and you know they love you, then you know that they will be comfortable in a space that you’re in.” – Morgan Keyt, 2023
Mind = blown. This is the root of my problem. All of my friends from those different groups, I know are inherently and wholly good people. Thus, I need to change my mindset from “Oh, will they have fun? Will they mingle? Will they be bored?” to “All of these people are my people and I know that they are deeply kind and passionate souls, so even if their personalities vary, they’ll still be comfortable enough to share that space with me.”
As I reflect now, there have been a few times at my birthday celebrations or NYC get-togethers, where my friends did come together and they all did have a blast. Maybe it’s finally time to let all of these good people in my life find each other.
Wholesome wine nights coming soon 👀🍷
- Bodies, Bodies, and more Bodies
You know why I cherish these dates so much? Because they create space – space for topics and feelings that are so often attached with shame, and as Brené Brown says: shame is one of the most powerful tools used to silence. Through these dates, we’re peeling past that layer of shame and speaking from the heart.
Something that has been attached with shame for me, personally, is my body. Ever since college opened back up after the pandemic, my body has changed and I have noticed that change. I’ve attached that change with shame. Thus, I wanted to re-chat about bodies with Morgan and how many of us rely so much on our bodies to determine our external worth.
Morgan talked me through her own journey and she reminded me of Camila Cabello. Both Morgan and Camila shared that to them, it doesn’t really matter what they look like on the outside. Their bodies mean much more to them. They appreciate their living, beautiful bodies for what they can do for them and find strength in knowing that it’s their bodies that help them move around all day and live freely.
The best part of the entire date.
Morgan described to me that she does this thing called ‘GM!’ with her friends. When they are all together and Morgan feels a sheer amount of thankfulness and presence, she pauses and announces “I’m having a grateful moment! Everyone I am having a grateful moment!” This causes everyone else to pause and also lean in to that moment of gratitude and chip in by saying “I’m also having a grateful moment!”
The ‘grateful moment’ was soon shortened to ‘GM!’ and then ever since then, whenever she and her friends have those feelings of gratitude, they just say ‘GM!’
Calling out these ‘GM!’ moments also makes us see the number of grateful moments that we have every day. It’s almost like we’re sending a DM to the Universe by acknowledging that grateful moment in the actual moment. Gratitude journals and other gratitude practices often force us to reflect on those moments after the fact. But with ‘GM!’ we’re noticing that grateful moment right then and there; and you’re also making it a shared experience, making it an even more wholesome and gratifying moment.
- Anxiety can differ for everyone.
Anxiety is so uniquely personal for every individual.
My anxiety manifests itself on almost a day-to-day basis. I find it difficult on some days to take normal breaths while doing something as simple as sitting at my desk, cooking, or even sleeping. My chest feels heavy and my throat feels like it’s clogging up. My armpits get insanely sweaty (tmi) and continuing to sip on my coffee doesn’t necessarily help these symptoms (oops).
Morgan described that her anxiety isn’t really day-to-day, but more so appears in the form of panic attacks.
What was shocking to me was the lack of support she had from counselors and teachers at her high school. There wasn’t much awareness about panic attacks, so Morgan didn’t even have the vocabulary to understand what she was experiencing. She noted that she used to call them ‘heart attacks’ until she finally received the resources and information to know that she wasn’t having a heart attack, but was, in fact, having a panic attack.
“I talk about panic attacks and anxiety all the time because nobody talked about them to me.” – Morgan Keyt, 2023
I remember I didn’t know that I had anxiety until I was a sophomore in high school. I was chilling at my dining table doing my Calc homework when I felt the anxiety creep in – my throat was clogging, my heart was palpitating ridiculously fast, and my pits started collecting sweat. Because of a few workshops/emphasis on mental health that I was exposed to in high school, I had an ‘aha!’ moment and was able to identify that what I was experiencing in that given moment was anxiety. It took me nearly 10 years to give some words to what I was feeling for as long as I could remember and that made a whole lot of difference.
This is why awareness is so freaking important. When people like Morgan speak about these things it gives people the words to describe what they’re feeling and it also provides them with some sort of solace knowing that what they are feeling is not abnormal. It unites us in a way.
- Nature feels like home
One of the many beauties of Bal Ashram is how it forces you to be in tune with nature. Bal Ashram is filled with plants, that the boys have planted themselves, surrounded by vast mountains, and is engulfed with several trees. Most of the classes are also conducted outside, and a lot of the boys even eat their meals on the steps outside the dining hall. Thus, nature plays a massive role in the life of these Bal Ashram boys. In fact, one of them asked me once “Esha Didi, does the air here feel different?” Taken aback by the sudden question, I just paused as I didn’t know what to respond. He helped me out and said “There’s less pollution here right? It feels fresher and purer?” I smiled and nodded as I replied, “Yes, yes it does.”
I know nature heals, but I don’t know why it heals. Thus, while sitting outside at Bal Ashram’s ‘Sunrise Point,’ I asked Morgan, a fellow nature lover and an environmentalist, why nature heals. She said that nature heals because it feels like we’re coming back home. Wow.
“Nature makes us feel better because we are nature. It’s like coming back to our roots. Everything is alive around us.” – Morgan Keyt, 2023
Think about it. Before modernization, our ancestors all lived in nature. They hunted and gathered in nature; they lived in the mountains, the woods, and the caves. They weren’t caged into tall, boujee buildings wearing ‘fashionable’ clothes, sitting in their offices/schools/college classrooms all day. Our ancestors lived amongst the other living things.
“Why are we living the way we’re living? We live in these buildings and cities and follow rules made up by somebody we don’t even know.” – Morgan Keyt, 2023
This is why nature heals. We’re coming back home – coming back to us.
Morgan also mentioned that she’s passionate about ensuring that youth everywhere have access to experience nature on the same-scale as the Bal Ashram boys do, for example. I hadn’t even thought about the lack of access to nature as being an inequality because I’ve only thought of food, shelter, and financial instability as ‘true’ inequality. Now, thanks to Morgan, I realize that unfortunately me being able to experience the beauty and stillness of nature whenever I want is yet another privilege that I have. She taught me that fighting for equal access to nature should also be a crucial part of our advocacy.
Also, it showed me that I need to think critically about my privilege because privilege, similar to feminism and identities, is intersectional.
Intersectional Privilege – to be continued…
- The Rule of 3
Majority of us suffer from negative self-talk. We love to nitpick everything that went wrong on a given day and rip ourselves apart.
Morgan shared a cure for this self-negativity. She calls it the ‘Rule of 3.’
For every one negative self thought (i.e. I woke up so late today and now my whole day will be thrown off), she would think of 3 positive things about herself (i.e. I needed sleep. My hair looks nice. I like to rest).
This may sound trivial, but with consistent practice Morgan mentioned that it changed the entire way she speaks to herself.
- Be Courageous 🙂
Morgan taught me to be courageous.
Courage doesn’t necessarily mean pulling off stunts like Tom Cruise. For me, courage means leading and living in tune with our gut feeling.
I find Morgan to be courageous because:
a) She allowed herself to stumble in college. She mentioned that she knew she wanted to help people, but had no idea what major or career path she was going to end up on. She went from journalism to communications to a brief stint in pre-med to now, an incredible activist inspiring so many other people.
b) The woman is a Connecticut native, but had the courage to move across the country to Catalina Island in California where she was a professional zip-liner. Hell freaking yeah.
c) She is deeply passionate about making the world a better place and vocalizes that in a way that inspires people and makes them feel as though they too can change the world. This is courage because it takes a lot for someone to stand for a cause and actually bring people together for that same cause.
Overall, Morgan Keyt is a gem of a human that I am grateful for having met and now have in my life.