when you feel like the world is ending…

inspired by Lana Blakely’s video.

writing this post to remind myself of all the things that keep me sane – it’s a never-ending list and something that I can always refer to on the days I feel gloomy 🙂

when you feel like the world is ending, think of these:

the soggy, muddy grass against your feet after the sprinklers have just turned off.

the smell of your morning cup of coffee as the warmth of it spreads across your face.

the sinking feeling of your heart when you’re at the top of the swing on the playground.

the way your brother smothers you with his entire body when you just want to lay down and Netflix.

the way your cousin sits and listens to every one of your words when you need someone the most.

the view of the sky connecting with the height of the trees during your long car rides.

the smell of your brother’s fart in the car prompting you to roll all the windows down and let the smell of nature fill the air.

the way you wake up to the annoying, yet soothing chirps of the birds.

the sound of shawn mendes or b praak making you want to release all that you have bottled up for weeks.

the feeling of the spring wind against your skin causing your little hairs to shoot up.

the redness and pulsing of your heart after a challenging and invigorating workout.

the tears and wholeheartedness you feel after watching dear zindagi for the millionth time.

the random hugs, slaps, and spicy fries sponsored by shivdaballer.

the kind souls you’ve met because of the fifty coffees.

the bubble tea in princeton.

the love the family in houston showered you with.

the dream of saving so many lives once you become a surgeon.

the sound of glennon doyle in your ear telling you to just sit still and find your ‘knowing.’

the fierce eyes of a lion on top of a mountain.

the smelly armpits of your brother and ravali that suffocate you during a movie night in the basement.

the idea that life is very vast, but you live day by day.

the average life span is around 80 years and you’re only 20. only 20.

the fact that you have a blog and you pour your heart out in these posts and coffee dates.

the taste of nani’s warm rasam rice mixed with spicy chicken curry.

the understanding that you are enough and everything happens for a good reason.

Physical Touch

I was known for being the “Touch Me Not” child while growing up. When all our relatives used to visit, they’d squeeze my cheeks, bring me in for a hug, and hold my hand while speaking. I remember never really liking that physical touch. I was never a hugger nor a fan of physical touch. Many of my coffee dates can attest to that.

This past weekend, however, I somehow enjoyed the hugs, kisses, and the touch.

This weekend, I met new faces and rekindled relationships with so many of my family members. This environment was unlike any other family environment I’ve been in. These people were just exuding so much love and had no other ulterior motives other than to just shower me with as much kindness as possible. Not a single person was toxic and no one gave off any sort of negative vibes.

Many of these people were grandparents and aunts & uncles I met when I was just a kid. They held my hand affectionately in their hands as they spoke about their lives – some would even go on to speak about their own marriages, life trajectory, and their kids. My heart was jumping in joy as I reconnected with so many of these wonderful souls and learning that love can be a very beautiful feeling.

Now, as I am reflecting, I realize that the reason why I was never a fan of touch was because my parents never showed their love through physical touch. I wasn’t used to it and I didn’t understand it, which is why when others prefer this love language, I oftentimes have no idea how to react.

I will now no longer avoid those intimate moments with people I love because I realize that I enjoy this kind of love – the love that doesn’t need to be shown through words or money or large actions. It makes my heart giggle and makes me wanna say ‘ily‘ to the people in my life who make my world so happy.

A Colored Person’s Invisible Insecurity

There’s a familiar lump in my throat and weird squiggles in my stomach as I am writing this post. The content in this post has been largely unspoken about or said to any of my friends or family. Thus, knowing that once I finish, I’ll hit the “Publish” button is absolutely terrifying.

This post is about a colored person’s insecurities.

The insecurities that arise when you’re in a public place, such as your workplace, and you start having pounding palpitations when it’s time to open your Tupperware because you’re worried that the smell of the warm, cozy rasam rice will ‘offend’ the white folks near you.

The insecurities that arise when you’re at a restaurant with your white friends and you notice how their body language is different from yours, so you change yourself. You notice the perfect angle at which they placed their napkins on their lap, so you abide by the same ‘rules.’ You notice their eloquent nature when using a knife and fork, and force yourself to not use your hands to eat that taco.

The insecurities that arise when one of your white colleagues asks to see your Spotify because you’re almost embarrassed that your Spotify is only filled with ‘brown’ music.

The insecurities that arise when you pronounce a word wrong and fall deep into a pit assuming that the white people around you will ultimately blame your color and ancestral origin for your failed attempt at pronouncing a word the ‘American way.’

It’s as if the country expects you to erase your non-American culture and only embrace the American culture.

It’s suffocating.

These insecurities can be largely subconscious or conscious for many of us. For others, the lucky few, these insecurities simply may not exist.

The point is though that the burden to acclimate to the environment and society is placed on colored people. Instead, there should be no such burden. People, specifically white people, should be educated about the way colored people MAY feel around them and it is naturally their duty to ensure that they do not continue to uphold such stereotypical notions and ideas of minority groups.

For the longest time I thought it was my fault that I wasn’t as comfortable around white people as I was around colored people.

“It wasn’t until I was in PoC-only spaces that I realized how much of myself I had cut off to fit into white culture,” one person of color in Shambhala recently told me. “So being in PoC spaces allows me to reclaim those forgotten parts of myself.” – Citation

Thank God for the way media has allowed for more space amongst marginalized communities. Organizations and companies like Live Tinted are changing the face of diversity in the U.S. and knowing that children are growing up during such a revolutionary time is encouraging and comforting.

‘Empty’ Time

My Dad is currently in India on a work trip. When he calls me to check-in, he often asks “What are you doing? What are you up to?”

My go-to reply, with actually anyone who asks a similar question, is “Nothing.”

However, I’m never actually doing ‘nothing’ because doing ‘nothing’ starkly goes against the American Dream: the idea that one must keep hustling in order to achieve their goals and dreams. Doing ‘nothing’ is also terrifying because then that means all the thoughts that I’ve locked away can come back – with full force. Thinking about those thoughts is emotionally draining, so the best solution would be to just go-go-go.

Once you’ve been go-go-go-ing for quite some time, you start to notice how depleted and overloaded you feel. Many define this as ‘burnout.’ A lot of people (and information on the Internet) claim that the cure to burnout is to do things that bring joy. The thing is, though, many people actively schedule those joyful things into their day-to-day lives. The act of scheduling joy may be helpful for some, but I found that it was actually more detrimental for me.

“According to the Western perspective, filling every moment with “value added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance….The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our societal mind-set that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” – Martha Beck

When I schedule joy, I start to look at joy as a task that I need to check off. For example, let’s say I schedule “write a blog post at 2:00pm.” Writing and posting on this site is one of my creative passions that brings me lots of joy. However, it only brings me joy when it’s not a structured part of my life. Therefore, when I try to structure this passion of mine into my day-to-day To-Do list, I found that I actually begin to not like writing as much as I used to.

The key to prevent such backward healing is to schedule ’empty time.’

“Empty time is a powerful medicine that can make us more joyful and resilient, but it’s strangely hard to swallow.” – Martha Beck

Schedule ’empty time’ into your calendars. Do not title that block of time with anything – just write ’empty time.’ When you reach that period of time, then decide what you want to do. Do you want to just sit on your ass and stare at the walls? Do you want to journal all your crippling thoughts? Do you want to go out for lunch with your best friend? Do you want to go downstairs and chat with your family? Decide what to do in that moment. Lean in to the things that feel like home. For someone who likes to be in control and plans everything well in advance, this idea of being spontaneous during her ’empty time’ is an uncomfortable, but refreshing feeling.

Martha Beck does an incredible job of conveying the importance of having empty time here.

ily

i struggle to say the the words that hold such deep meaning in our world. i feel the feelings associated with those three words and yet the war inside my head ultimately prevents me from verbalizing those feelings. but, i feel it all and i love it all and i want to share it all.

“i love you” is beautiful. it’s a phrase that eloquently puts into words the feelings that twist and flutter our hearts. it’s a phrase that can break someone out of their trance and make them believe that they are enough. it’s a phrase that makes one feel protected.

it’s a phrase used for all kinds of relationships.

the “i love you” friendship: it’s meant for the friends who make us feel seen. the ones who will run to you when you’re in agonizing pain. the ones who will slap your face to bring you back to the world of the living. the ones who will force themselves to lie down next to you and not feel the need to fill the silence. the friends who are by no means ‘clingy’ – they are the ones who care. it is when you encounter friends like this that you have to compile all your emotions for that person in the most meaningful way possible and say “i love you” for who they are, for how they are, and for who they make you become.

the “i love you” romantic relationship: it’s meant for the partner(s) who makes our hearts a bit fluttery. it might take a minute to notice our hearts skipping some beats, feeling warm & fuzzy, and causing our bodies and souls to feel whole. it’s meant for the one who accepts you – completely and utterly. the partner who never ever judges you for your ever changing appearance and the one who stays no matter how much your appearance does and will change. it’s meant for the partner that makes you feel like your ambitions and hard work matter. it’s that partner who deserves the “i love you” because it is impossible to say anything else that can perfectly encapsulate everything that you’re feeling.

the “i love you” family: it’s meant for the familial members who are on a life-long learning path. the members who never judge you for who you are and how you have evolved. it’s meant for the members who are there when you’re rich and there when you’re poor. it’s for the members who make you feel rich with emotions and generosity. it’s meant for the members who let you live the way you need to live. these members will be by your side until your very last breath. say it to them. tell them “i love you.”

“i love you” is powerful, bold, and authentic.

“i love you” is not discriminatory, prejudiced, or racist.

“i love you” is gentle, wholesome, and sweet.

i love you.

A New Anxious Discovery

Every time I sit down to begin a project, MCAT practice, or even to write an exam, I begin excessively yawning. In the moment, I used to wonder why I was suddenly overcome with fatigue when I’m actually shitting myself and extremely nervous to complete whatever task I’m about to begin. Yesterday, I was fine all morning and then the excessive yawning began again when I tried to an MCAT practice passage. Curious to see if yawning was somehow related to anxiety, I swiftly googled it. To my surprise, yawning can be a result of nervousness, stress, and anxiety (Wired).

This behavior of excessive yawning is common to almost all of us living beings (i.e. reptiles, animals, humans, fish). According to the article Big Question: Why Do I Yawn When I’m Nervous or Stressed?, researchers found many studies that link yawning to stress. They believe that our hypothalamus, a part of the brain that maintain’s our body’s homeostasis, triggers the behavior of yawning during such stressful situations.

“In one study, male Siamese fighting fish were observed yawning multiple times during different aggressive encounters with one another. Similarly, numerous studies have shown that macaques will yawn in response to various male threats, bouts of sexual jealousy, and anxiety. In a recent study published in Neuroscience Letters, Japanese researchers used classic fear conditioning to successfully induce yawning in rats.” – Wired

One specific reason for this behavior that I found particularly interesting is that yawning can act as a mechanism to maintain our body’s temperature. Under stressful or anxiety provoking situations, we tend to sweat more because of our rising body temperature. Therefore, yawning helps to combat this temperature increase by keeping “the brain at its optimal 98.6 degree temperature.”

“In a 2010 study on the impact of yawning on brain temperature, Gallup implanted probes in the brains of rats and found that even a rise in temperature of 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit triggered yawning. He also found that the skull temperature fell immediately after the rats finished their yawns—sometimes by as much as 0.7 degrees.” – Wired

The next time you catch yourself excessively yawning, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee (like I naively used to do), just check in with your body and note any signs of stress, anxiety, or nervousness.

Fifty Coffees: Why Black & White?

The other day, coffee date #25 asked me “Why do you only use black and white pictures for your coffee dates?” I actually put a lot of thought into this before beginning my Fifty Coffees project. Lindsay Ratowksy, the woman who inspired this project, uses black and white pictures for only a few of her dates. But I decided to use black and white for all of my dates. Here’s why:

  • The black and white filter is mysterious.

My main goal of going on these coffee dates with people is to understand the depth and dimensionality of human beings. My coffee dates are with varying people, from those I’ve grown up with to people I’ve connected with randomly on social media. The common theme, though, of every date is learning that every single one of them has so many different layers. Black and white pictures convey this message of dimensionality and depth.

  • People are less self-conscious with black and white pictures.

I found this ^^^ on Instagram and it perfectly encapsulates my desire to go fully black and white with pictures.

When I whip out my phone and ask my coffee dates to post with their drinks, almost every one of them suddenly feels the need to fix their hair, straighten their backs, plump their lips, and ask for validation. This is natural; there’s nothing wrong with cleaning yourself up to look good for the pictures.

However, those same coffee dates also request me to take another picture because they look at their picture and all they see are their acne scars, bad posture, frizzy hair, tired eyes. They don’t see what I see: their rawness, warmth, kindness, wisdom, and gentle smiles. After they tear themselves apart looking at their picture, I tell them “Relax. The picture will be in black & white.” That’s when they calm down and return to their normal and raw selves.

Black & white images tend to hide whatever one believes are their imperfections because it adds that extra layer of mysteriousness (as mentioned above). Additionally, I believe black and white images also evoke some type of warmth that I don’t really know how to describe. With color photos, I feel like pictures of people are not uniform. For instance, say I have a coffee date in a super cute cafe. The color photo of my coffee date will have cute lighting, the unique background of the cafe, and anything else that can make the picture more appealing. On the other hand, if I have another coffee date in the dirty living room of my house, the color photo will have messy paperwork in the background, terrible lighting on the person, and won’t have the same aesthetic appeal.

With black and white pictures, though, every image is equal and uniform. It doesn’t matter what the lighting is or what the background looks like or what the aesthetic appeal is because every image is the same, placing every person on the same pedestal. This removes the chances of people thinking that one’s picture is better or worse than another’s. It forces them to focus on the content more than the picture itself.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

In all honesty, I was terrified to draft and publish this blog post because it’s forcing me to write down and reflect on my CURRENT thoughts. All my other posts are generally things that I’ve dealt with and thought about in the past, so it’s easier to reflect because I moved past that stage already. This topic, on the other hand, seems to always be a part of me no matter how hard I try to move past it. Thus, I was prompted to draft this post because I’ve been feeling this way since the beginning of this year. I hope it resonates with those of you who feel a similar way.

TW: body image issues, eating disorders

To begin, my first exposure to the Eurocentric ideas of a woman’s body began in eighth grade (which is, unfortunately, extremely late compared to children today). Up until eighth grade, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted to. I balanced nutritious food with possibly less nutritious food. I didn’t spend so much time thinking about food, my body, or anything related to my appearance.

Once in eighth grade, my athletic friends began to speak about how they have to go for a run to burn the calories from their unhealthy lunch or my aunts would comment on my supposedly ‘large love handles’ or I’d only see certain types of bodies being represented on TV shows I’d watch. Being around such stimuli began my so-called ‘fitness journey.’

I’d stop eating an actual meal during lunch and would rely on a pack of spicy Doritos or an ice cream bar to sustain me throughout the day. Once I came home at 4:00pm, instead of feeding my starving body, I’d force myself to run 2 miles on the treadmill nearly every day. On the days I skipped the running, I’d brutally criticize myself and would even sometimes punish myself by not eating dinner. When my mother would ask or try to force me to eat, I’d brilliantly win our arguments and claim that I was full and could not eat anything.

This same mindset trickled into my freshman year of high school. I’d eat an ice cream bar for lunch and proceed to go home and run a couple miles on the treadmill. Starting sophomore year, I started sharing my lunches with my friends, which worked out better for me because I was actually eating proper meals (chicken tenders, french toast, wraps, etc.). However, I kept trying to run every day.

Moving onto junior year of high school, the first few months I’d wake up at 4:45am to go to the gym with my dad. I’d do some cardio and abs while my dad did his own routine. We’d make it back home by 6:00, and then I’d stuff my face with some breakfast and hop on the bus to go to school. Though this time of my life taught me how to set a disciplined routine, I wasn’t able to stick with it for a long time because I was getting so drained while at school. I still remained pretty inconsistent with my ‘workouts’ during this phase.

Starting senior year, I was sick of my inconsistent running and bored of doing the same thing all the time and still seeing no results. That’s when I began getting more involved with fitness. I added some resistance training, Youtube workouts, and attempted to eat ‘healthier.’ I believe this is when I started to become more strict with labeling food as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Therefore, my body image was still nowhere near perfect because I’d continue to get tempted and eat the ‘bad’ food. I’d binge on food and would proceed to absolutely hate myself and my decision making after.

Finally in August 2020, during the pandemic, I begged and convinced my mom to get me a personal trainer. My trainer’s name was Harrison James and he singlehandedly changed my life. He changed my perception of food, fitness, and bodies. I spent a year training with him for about 3-4 times a week and that will forever be one the most important and life-changing parts of my life.

He taught me that food is fuel. Food is essential to ensure our bodies function the way they’re supposed to. Most importantly, he taught me to eat until I was actually full. Before, I used to eat for the sake of eating or not eat anything at all. With Harrison, I began eating 3-4 eggs every day for breakfast, added more brown rice for lunch, drank a smoothie every day, AND also continued eating the ‘bad food’ when I wanted to. My labeling of food began to dissipate. I ate until I was full and that was such a unique and satisfying feeling.

Harrison also taught me that fitness is not about becoming skinny. It’s about feeling strong. Before, my goal was to look like a stick. With Harrison, my goal became to tone up my body to be able to survive my days for a longer period of time, lift things with more ease, and overall, appear to have a bigger personality so that I could radiate my confidence better.

Unfortunately, once in-person college began, I could no longer continue training with him. Therefore, I transitioned to working out in my college dorm room throughout the fall semester. I would say that I was consistent enough and also maintained a pretty balanced diet.

It’s when spring semester began that I started to revert back to pre-personal trainer days. I became so much busier with extra-curriculars, academics, and social events that I no longer had the time or energy to workout or eat with as much balance as I used to. I was eating random food at random times, sleeping at wack times, barely working out. Even when I did workout, I’d get tired so much more easily and lacked the normal amount of motivation that I used to have. I noticed how my body changed (and in my eyes, it was not in a good way). I’d spend so much time thinking about my food consumption and waste so much more time hating myself for the way I looked.

At the time of me writing this post, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin because I’ve spent years trying to undo the damage that I and society have caused to it. However, I’m in this constant seesaw battle where I hate the way I look, BUT I also hate that I’m reverting back to defining myself based on my appearance. I want to go back to the times when I would be able to consistently work out because my goal, at the time, was to feel strong and release those endorphins. I was not focused on getting chiseled and looking a certain way. I want to go back to the time I could eat whatever I want and still respect my skin, my body, and myself. I want to go back, but in order to do so, I need to move forward and understand that bodies change. Bodies change so much throughout a single day, so imagine how much they’ll change throughout the years.

Camila Cabello does a much better job of putting my exact feelings into words here:

I want to end this reflection with a note to myself and all of you:

Let’s work tirelessly to replace all of the teachings of our patriarchal world. Let’s just be kind to our strong, beautiful, curvy bodies. Let’s not let anyone (including our parents, best friends, significant others, and anyone else) make us feel as though we are only defined by the way we look. Let’s give ourselves as much permission as needed to eat – whatever we need to fuel our bodies. Let’s make a vow to ourselves to seek for resources to help us heal because we are worthy of healing. Let’s love and allow ourselves to be loved. ❤️

Dear FutureMe…

It was my birthday on April 8th. I just turned 20 and I’m still feeling a bit lost and unworthy of a lot of things. New insecurities have manifested, some of the old ones are still present. It’s a work in progress.

I opened my email today and found this note I wrote to myself on my 19th birthday to give to my future 20 year old self. It warmed my soul <3.