coffee date #25 with shivani srivastava
aka ‘shivdaballer’, lover of coffee-with-sugar-and-whipped-cream-and-way-too-much-milk, new body mist fanatic, master debater, certified EMT, non-blood donor, absolute crackhead, 1/4 of appt2303
key note: I think Small World Coffee should sponsor these coffee dates, please and thank you 🥰
me: nola w/ chicory milk | ‘shivdaballer’: hot chocolate
location: small world coffee, new jersey
Shivani Srivastava is an abnormal human. She’s a tall, anemic, big-eyed brown girl who makes even the sober ones around her feel drunk. Never in a million years did I think that I would gravitate towards her and form a friendship that has now gotten so deep that I consider Shivani to be one of my closest friends.
Though we’re close, we’re polar opposites.
- I like to be a punctual human being. Shivani shows up late to absolutely everything. Literally everything.
- I’m a planner. I like to know what I’m doing ages in advance. Shivani is incredibly spontaneous and decides what to do in the moment (which I’ve actually learned to love).
- I ~usually~ do not procrastinate, especially when it comes to academics. Shivani will complete her quizzes hours before they’re due while having intermittent panic attacks in front of me (but she still slays, so it’s fine). 🙈
I have never made so many memories with someone in such a short amount of time. When it isn’t “adventure time” with Shivani, we end up having deep conversations about our lives, the world, and random philosophical thoughts we may be having that day.
- Performance is a 50/50 relationship.
“Sometimes I look in the mirror and I’m like ‘damn, I’m so sexy.'” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
Shivani is one of those rare souls I’ve met who is genuinely so confident about her body and herself as a person.
“How you perform is 50% confidence and 50% hard-work.” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
She told me about the time she struggled in her middle school math classes. Shivani used to get not-so-great grades in math and subsequently believed that she sucked at the subject. Then, one day she got one of the highest grades in her eighth grade math class. Her teacher called her up to his desk and simply said, “Good job Shivani!”
That’s all she needed to hear to allow herself to believe that she can actually be good at math. Ever since then, her grades transformed and she never once failed a math exam again.
“To believe in yourself, you need other people to believe in you. Self-love is very fragile without a support system.” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
Though we’re often told that self-love and self-confidence is all we need to attain anything in life, I think that’s all we need to attain anything temporary in life. If we want to achieve something in the long-term, we need that support system, which can be composed of just 1 person or numerous people.
- Medicine shows us our privilege.
Shivani is a crackhead who works insane hours as an EMT (she’s almost at her goal of receiving a 100 calls! woot woot!). She goes home almost every weekend during college to go to her EMT shift.
EMT is not just a volunteer opportunity to add to her resume. Shivani says she does it because it helps her recognize her privilege. It humbles her and gives her a reality check every time she sees someone within her own community living with far less than she has.
This translates to the entirety of the medical field. Encountering patients from varying backgrounds transforms physicians into more empathetic individuals.
“Hearing patient’s stories helps me mature.” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
- Having the intent to learn can get us through any subject.
Recall Amir Khan’s character from 3 Idiots. He emphasizes the importance of curiosity and learning for the sole sake of learning – not for grades, not for prestige, not for superiority.
When Shivani talked about her love for just learning, it reminded me of that movie. Too often, we focus heavily on grades. Everything we do, we do so that we end with that A in that class. It’s just the way our educational system has been built. It’s how we’re measured on “success” and it is often what determines our future careers.
The point is, there was a time in our schooling (most probably in elementary school) where we enjoyed learning because we had not yet been exposed to the external pressures. As we enter higher education, a lot of us lose that spark. Shivani, though, has not and that is admirable.
She used to come home some days and talk so passionately about the stuff she learned in her Women, Gender, and Sexuality class. Sometimes she’d share the “cool” things she learned from Plants & People. She loves learning and she loves spreading that joy to other people 🙂
“Work hard because it’s fun. Do the work because it’s fun.” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
- Parents induce comparison amongst children.
Sometimes it’s the students and schools that create a competitive environment and force students to work solely for the grades. However, other times it is the parents of those students who are the culprits of demolishing their child’s curiosity and love for learning.
Parents, especially immigrant parents, often live vicariously through their children. Thus, many of them place an immense amount of pressure on their children to do better and be better in school, so that they can attend that top-notch university. Once they’re in the university, the child is again pressured so that they can get that top-notch job. Once they get that job, the child is pressured to buy that top-notch house, and on and on and on.
From Shivani’s experience, the parents who used to pressure their children so much to attend the most prestigious universities, could have taken a minute to look at their own lives. Our immigrant parents went to random colleges in India, names of which are practically unheard of. However, they still gained enough knowledge to receive a higher education, come to the U.S., and get amazing jobs. Aren’t our parents doing exceptionally well even if they didn’t go to the #1 college in India? So why is it that their children, all of a sudden, have to beat themselves up to get into the best of the best?
- What is beauty?
When we get complimented for something we work incredibly hard for, we often feel validated and seen. When we get complimented for something we didn’t work for at all, we still feel the same way. The latter type of compliments often have to do with the way we look – “you’re so pretty,” “he’s so handsome,” etc.
We all say it and there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it, but there is a hidden meaning behind these statements we make (which Glennon Doyle so brilliantly addresses, yet again, in one of her episodes).
When we tell a person that they look pretty, essentially we’re telling them “Don’t change your physical appearance because you’re only attractive when you look like this. So make sure you do everything in your power to remain the way you are.”
Our world’s perception of beauty, at least for women, is still largely based on Eurocentric women. Women who are thin, light-skinned, have full lips, a defined nose, etc. are “beautiful.” It’s an outdated mentality to have.
First of all, we literally have 0 control over what our face looks like. Secondly, no one should be defined solely by their physical features.
When I asked Shivani how she would define beauty, she replied:
“Physical attraction fades too quickly. True beauty is how you treat other people.” – Shivani Srivastava, 2021
A “pretty” face with an ass personality will significantly reduce that person’s attractiveness. Therefore, if so much of one’s self worth comes from their personality, then why not focus on that from the beginning?
- The relationship between immigrant parents and mental health
No matter how chill or “cool” my parents and many of my aunts/uncles are, we hit a brick wall when conversations about mental health arise.
When Shivani and I were talking about this we realized that along with the taboo surrounding mental illnesses, the Indian immigrant parents we know do not 100% support therapy or even the idea of having a mental illness (like depression or anxiety) because they may see it as a sign of their own failure.
Our parents worked so hard to move to the U.S. and build a better life for us, so when we approach them with the potential need for a therapist, they may internalize that need and believe that they haven’t done enough.
“So everytime we bring up the topic of therapy, why do our parents bring up this ‘lifestyle issue’ and insist that we don’t need one? Neha shared, “Some parents can be blind when faced with their own children’s issues. As parents we all love our children very much, so it can be confronting to be told that something is or could be ‘wrong’ with them. Also, we often don’t know what to expect… We can’t always differentiate between what behaviour is normal and what is not. When parents say things like ‘lifestyle issue’ they believe it’s your living style that needs to be corrected – nothing more. They may not realise it themselves but this is easier to believe and deal with than your child having mental health issues. Plus, the taboo around it doesn’t help either.” – Tracy Ann