coffee date #5 with ravali kodali
bold & opinionated, Software Developer @ USAA Bank, professional ‘fasaker,’ music lover, almost-fluent Korean speaker, fellow cheesecake indulger
fun fact: Ravs came to visit me in February 2020 and was only going to stay for 2 weeks before going back home, but then COVID came. So, she got stuck in my house and stayed with us for almost a year and boy, was that a fun a year!
me: caramel black coffee | rako: java chip frappuccino
both: a slice of plain cheesecake
I honestly don’t know where to start this post because my relationship with Ravali goes far too deep for me to capture in a few paragraphs.
I remember my Mom telling me a couple of years ago that one of her relative’s daughter is a graduate student at NJIT and she will come stay with us for a few days. I didn’t think much of that conversation because we tend to always have cousins come over to the Kode household and then they proceed to move on with their lives. However, Ravali’s stay was different.
It’s best to flashback to my first impression of her and understand how our relationship has evolved from that day.
Ravali walked in to our house wearing the same jacket she’s wearing in the above picture as she laboriously tried to move her multiple suitcases into our family room. When my family and I said ‘hi,’ she replied in the faintest voice possible and blushed like a crushed tomato (get it Ravs? 😂). I sat next to her during dinner that night and asked her random, superficial questions to get our conversation rolling in an effort to make her feel less uncomfortable (because it was evident that she was extremely uncomfortable being at our home). Ravali replied to my questions with vague answers and barely made any eye contact with me the whole time. The following couple of days remained the same way, but later on, we started easing up with each other more and more. We went on walks in my neighborhood, watched movies in the basement, and went to the routine weekend family get-togethers at various people’s homes.
It was when she visited again, I believe, when I realized that Ravali isn’t that random cousin who will pit-stop at my house and then we’ll lose connection years later. She’s someone who has become my confidante, teacher, and above all, someone who I can be my most authentic self with (a side of me that I believe only Ravali and my brother have seen).
If Ravali was born in the last century, she would’ve been one of the historic women who have paved the path for women today because that’s how bold, brave, and empathetic she is (Ravs – I know you’re cringing while reading this right now, but I don’t care because this is the truth! and people need to know, so….cringe away). Her Instagram bio itself shows how bold and empowering she is:
One of the most precious things about our relationship is how much Ravali has changed my perspective on life. For example, one of the things that Ravali believes in is the fact that our educational systems are unfair and innately prejudiced (hence the bio^). Embarrassingly, I never even thought of that point of view regarding universities because I was always taught that after high school, my only destination is college. This falls under one of our simpler “intellectual” conversations, and yet, each time we have a conversation like this, I gain so much insight about the world, the people around me, and even myself.
“Even emotional needs are needs too.” – Rako, 2021
It’s impossible for me to write everything that Ravali embodies and all the ways in which she has impacted me, but hopefully I can hone down on the most important realizations below.
- Not everyone will run away from you.
I would say that both Ravali and I have or even are still struggling with being vulnerable. We both believed that the more open we are with someone, the faster that person will leave our lives. In my opinion, this probably comes from a lack of self-love and can clearly be toxic with relationships.
Over the course of my relationship with Ravali, one of the major things she has always emphasized was allowing myself to be vulnerable with her. She told me to not be afraid to let my heart out to her because she will never leave my life.
“Let people in. Be more aware of the love we get.” – Rako, 2021
As mentioned in my coffee date #3’s conversation, human connection is so important to us. In fact, there is an amazing TED talk that I love, in which the speaker mentions that by simply meeting other people and sharing your thoughts with them significantly reduces our stress levels: “Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel, instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other” (TED, McGonigal, 2013).
Vulnerability also enables us to build trust in our relationships.
“When you’re feeling some emotion for them, let them know.” – Rako, 2021
Instead of overthinking and assuming the worst possible outcome, simply convey your feelings to the other person with the utmost sincerity. After all, if they are meant to be in your life, then they will understand your emotions (anger, envy, happiness, love).
- Self-love should be our #1 priority.
Basing our self-worth off of the opinions of other people is probably a primitive quality that every human being possessed and continues to possess. Luckily, a rare few are able to block out the noise and create a loving environment, in which they only need to depend on themselves for happiness.
When someone compliments me about something, I become ecstatic because it’s a wonderful feeling to have been noticed and validated for an action of mine. At the same time, if another person degrades that same action, I plummet into a dark hole in my head. So what do I really feel about my action? Was I proud of it or was I only proud because someone complimented me? Was I not content with it only because someone else wasn’t content with it? You can see how this back-and-forth mind game can lead to a temporary, maybe even permanent, identity crisis.
This is why Ravali has always made it a point to call me out on something if she notices me feeling some way only because of someone else – whether it be severe happiness or sadness.
“Love yourself so much that even if someone leaves, you’re happy.” – Rako, 2021
It is okay to feel good after receiving a compliment, but it is not okay if it is only after receiving the compliment that you feel good. Having the ability to please ourselves with our own hard work and skill is something that I hope to achieve one day.
- Social hierarchy exists because of our materialistic mentalities.
My family always used to joke that when I was a kid, my life goal was to become a maid because I absolutely adored cleaning. I have laughed along with them and have even said, “Oh my god. I can’t believe that I wanted to be a maid.”
Then, Ravali came along. During one of our lengthy, intense basement conversations, she talked about how it’s sad that we appoint people to a specific hierarchal space based on their educational background and profession. Simply put, why is a maid not given as much respect or acceptance as a top-notch lawyer? Aren’t they both in professions that puts money on their table and enables their survival in this money-minded world?
As more and more occupations emerged, our brains arranged them into a snugly fit pyramid. The tip of the pyramid is solely for those who make a ton of money and are in “respectable” fields (lawyers, doctors, government officials, etc.) and the bottom of the pyramid is reserved for the “unwanted jobs.” Don’t get me wrong, professions like doctors, lawyers, cops, firefighters, etc, are all crucial for our survival and those professionals are often selfless and caring towards others, but their profession should not outweigh any other profession. When we regard one job with higher esteem, we automatically regard another with lower esteem and that is what creates and perpetuates inequality, oppression, and privilege.
- Showing emotions is not a sign of weakness.
In my house, similar to many of my friends’ and cousins’ houses, parents unknowingly create an environment that disapproves of being an emotional person.
For example, whenever my parents used to scold my brother and me when we were younger, we both tended to get teary-eyed and have even cried depending on what we were getting yelled at for. When my parents saw us cry, they used to say, “Why are you guys crying? There is no need to cry.” My parents, like many others, weren’t aware that every time they made us pent up our emotional energy, they weren’t teaching us how to be “strong,” they were teaching us that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. In other words, “crying is for the weak.”
There’s a beautiful quote from one of my favorite movies, Dear Zindagi:
“As kids, when we’re sad, our elders tell us not to cry. When we’re angry, they tell us to smile. Sadness, anger, hate…we’re not allowed to express anything. So, how do we express love?” – Dear Zindagi, 2016
I just teared up as I was hunting to find that ^ quote. This is so true and it’s something that Ravali has repeatedly told me about.
“If you don’t cry wholeheartedly, how will you laugh wholeheartedly?” – Dear Zindagi, 2016
- Don’t be so one-sided. Think about everyone’s perspectives before forming an opinion.
Ravali is the most empathetic person I have ever met! Whenever someone does something wrong or unjust, she thinks about the situation from their perspective and manages to forgive them. We’ve always been taught, all throughout elementary school, the importance of empathy. Yet, not many of us imbibe this quality when the time comes. Watching someone else embody empathy has helped me understand that I need to do the same, rather than merely believing that I am empathetic.