Yaksha Gummadapu

coffee date #32 with yaksha gummadapu

mass media & journalism major, freshie!!!, writer, chirec alum, a-bad-shopping-influence, first hyderabad friend, taekwondo black belt, walking addict

me: vanilla sweet cream cold brew w/ oat milk | yaksha: vanilla sweet cream cold brew w/ almond milk
location: starbucks, new jersey


My family and I would travel to India almost every other year before COVID hit. I remember my brother and I absolutely despising those India trips because we’d only be allowed to meet our grandparents, aunts & uncles, and a whole bunch of more relatives. When we weren’t meeting the ‘old people,’ coffee date #13 and I would just sit at my grandparents’ house and watch random Telugu TV in an effort to not want to rip our hair out.

The last few times we went to India, however, were starkly different from our previous experiences because of the new relationships that we cultivated. When I first met Yaksha, she was like a breath of fresh air. She was and still is a very social person, so she immediately made me feel seen and validated. Meeting her family and friends introduced me to a side of India that I never knew existed. Ever since then, our family trips to India were significantly less painful thanks to my first Hyderabad friend – Yaksha Gummadapu ☺️

Here’s a little quote to kickstart this incredibly introspective and enlightening coffee date:

“Look at changes in life as adventures, not as adversity.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

I wanna preface the epiphanies from this coffee date by saying that the Gummadapu’s have such an incredibly cute relationship with each other. They radiate that love to everyone they meet. For those of you who may not have the best or healthiest relationships with your parents/family, then some of the epiphanies may be a bit triggering. Just skip over them if you want and read through all the other wonderful thoughts that Yaksha shared with me! Enjoy πŸ™‚

Epiphanies

  • Saying ‘ily‘ to our parents

Growing up in a white town, it was very normal for my white friends to end a phone call with an “i love you” to their parents. I’d squirm a little every time I heard them hang up their phone like that. During playdates, every time we left the house, my white friends’ parents would give their child a little peck on the cheek and say “i love you.” I’d squirm yet again as I stepped out of the house.

I learned very early on that there was a difference in the way American culture shows love versus the way Indian culture shows love. “I love you” is simply never uttered in our household. Coffee date #13 and I do often get smothered with wet, sloppy kisses from my mom or receive a “I miss you both” from my dad when he’s traveling, but very rarely do we exchange those holy three words with each other.

I thought this was a Kode family thing, but through my coffee dates, I found that it is largely an Indian household thing. However, there are a few of those Indian households that somehow were not impacted by those squeamish feelings and are able to utter those 3 words to each other on a regular basis. The Gummadapu’s are one of them.

There are several reasons why it might be difficult for many Indian families to say “i love you” to each other. Here are just a couple (this article describes these reasons in more depth):

  1. Talking back to elders is a big ‘no-no’ in Indian culture, so maybe being so direct with affection and saying ‘i love you’ is a bit much for many of us.
  2. Actions speak much louder than words for us. We touch elderly people’s feet as a sign of respect, but it can also be seen as a sign of ‘i love you.’ My parents often bring me food directly to my desk when I’m busy studying – this too can be a sign of ‘i love you.’

The point is to show your love in whatever way YOU need to show it. If you’re like the Gummadapu’s, and can say ‘i love you’ to each other, then say it. If you’re like the Kode’s, and you would much rather cut up some strawberries and deliver it to each other, then do that. Whatever works and whatever makes your heart feel whole ❀

  • The pressure that comes with being a privileged child of parents who did not have the same privileged upbringing.

Yaksha and I are blessed to have parents who never put any sort of academic stress/pressure on us. We’re both incredibly passionate people who work for our own goals, so there was never a need to have that external pressure placed on us.

However, Yaksha explained that even without her parents placing any pressure on her, she internalized the idea of giving back to her parents for all that they have done for her. Obviously our parents never had the opportunities that Yaksha and I were inherently born with thanks to them. They worked so incredibly hard to reach the point that they are at right now in life. Thus, sometimes when we fail, we assume that we immediately failed our parents EVEN WHEN our parents do not think of it as their failures.

“I felt like an investment that wasn’t returning enough.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

I saw this video a few years ago and remember just sobbing uncontrollably for days.

For those of us who have parents who don’t place that extreme amount of pressure on us, I think it’s crucial to communicate such feelings with our parents. Sometimes hearing our parents say, “You are not a failure and you surely have not failed us” is all we need to understand that we are doing enough and we are enough.

  • What is the secret to communicating with our parents?

For those of us who have a healthy relationship with our parents, one way we could strengthen that bond even more is by setting up good communication skills with them.

“If there’s one bond that can survive a lot of trauma, it’s the parent-child relationship.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

The We Are Yuvaa video linked below was really powerful and evoked all sorts of emotions for me when I first watched it years ago. Again, this might be triggering to some who do not have a relationship with their parents, so just skip on over to the next paragraph πŸ™‚ Sending ya’ll every ounce of love that I have.

Yaksha’s advice on communication with parents was amazing.

“It’s more important to talk about how we feel with our parents rather than telling them what happened.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

When we go to our parents with our feelings, they can relate to us more. Every parent must have also felt lonely, sad, anxious, and insecure. Thus, when we speak our own feelings of loneliness or insecurity, they can associate those feelings with their own experiences and automatically be able to help us in the way that we need.

On the flip side, if we tell our parents the actual situation that happened that is making us feel the way we are, it makes it harder for them to relate. Back in their days maybe dating wasn’t a thing, so maybe they don’t understand what breakups are and how that affects us. They may have never understood what eating disorders are, so maybe they don’t understand why so many of us struggle within our own bodies. Maybe they didn’t go to the best of the best high schools, so they don’t understand the ridiculous pressure of academics. Sometimes explaining the situation might also cause our parents to fixate on the situation and not focus on the way we’re feeling. It’s hard for them to relate to an experience that they’ve never had!

Therefore, Yaksha explained that starting the conversation with feelings is much more effective than discussing the situation itself.

Honestly this was one of the most enriching conversations I’ve ever had with somebody about bodies and the ridiculous amount of pressure to look a certain way.

Once upon a time, I used to follow every single Victoria Secret model on Instagram, all the Kardashian-Jenner clans, and every ‘fitness influencer.’ I’d adopt their fitness routines and try to eat the same way they claim that they do. It was a never ending cycle of trying to look like a certain someone because that’s just how media stamped a woman’s body ‘should’ look like and society further reinforced it.

Yaksha shared this little message that her parents told her and I thought it was the most beautiful dialogue ever.

“As a woman, your body will go through a lot of changes. You might get pregnant and have kids. You’re gonna eat. You’re gonna not eat. Work will sometimes make it hard for you to have 3 meals a day. There will also be a point in your life where you’ll be on vacation and you’ll be eating a lot. You will go through so many phases in your life and your body will change all the time, so what’s really important is to focus on the things that will not change – who you are will not change. You can learn to love the way you look right now, but what’s the point if your body will change again in the next 6 months? You have to learn to be okay with who you are.”

I love this so much. People often say to ‘love yourself the way you are’ and I used to think that this was the right mentality to have. However, I now realize that this often means to just focus on our external selves. It makes us associate too much of our self-worth with our physical appearance when our physical appearance should not have that much power over us.

“My body should be able to change and it shouldn’t be the end of the world. I should be able to say ‘okay’ and then move on. I want my body to not matter to me as much – that’s what I want for myself.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

Learning to love ourselves should be focused on our internal selves. If I learn to love my body the way it is now, I’ll be happy – but for how long? My body will change again within the next few weeks and then I’ll have to do the emotional labor all over again to love my new body again. It’s a tiring cycle that will inevitably make us feel as though our entire existence is based on the way we look.

Instead if we focus on developing our core values and bettering ourselves as human beings, then the way we look won’t matter to us as much and we’ll be happy regardless of how much our bodies will change.

  • My regular dose of therapy reminding….

Another casual reminder to try therapy. Therapy isn’t just for the ‘sick.’ Therapy is for anyone who is willing to learn more about themselves.

Therapy is also so similar to shopping. It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all.’ We have to keep ‘shopping’ until we find that right fit or that particular therapist that makes us understand that we are not messed up – the world just made us feel as though we are messed up.

  • SOCIAL MEDIA

I was first introduced to the idea of unfollowing people on Instagram by Sorelle Amore.

I’m the type of person who will accept anyone on social media if they have at least a few mutual friends – I don’t even have to know the person for me to accept their requests. Once I do accept it, months later I might realize that I’m not comfortable with people I don’t know anything about seeing my pictures. I begin to wonder if I should unfollow and remove them from my list of followers. However, I very rarely follow through on that because it just ‘feels rude.’

When Sorelle posted about how she needed to unfollow literally every single person on her account just to kinda cleanse her account, I was shook. She explained, very directly, on her page that unfollowing someone is by no means her trying to offend them. She even created the space to say “if you’re not comfortable with my unfollow, then you too are free to unfollow me.” This sounds so trivial and stupid, but it was much needed for me.

“Don’t follow anybody who makes you feel like shit.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

I began to unfollow the folks I didn’t feel comfortable following me. I also unfollowed the celebrities that I didn’t care much about (aka the Kardashian-Jenners) because what some of them post just does not align with what I want to see on my feed. It’s freeing to be able to follow people who you connect with more than just wanting their ‘aesthetic feeds’ to pop up on your page.

“My attitude towards social media is that it’s mine.” – Yaksha Gummadapu, 2022

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