Reasons to Smile: Community

I woke up this morning, still in shattering disbelief of the events that have transpired here in the “land of the free”. It feels like a punch in the gut to know that soon, some of the most important rights and principles that we have fought for will be ripped away from us. Truth be told, I am scared.

More than that, I am hurt. I have always identified myself as an Indian American, and I am privileged enough to be able to straddle that line between Indian and American because of the sacrifices my parents made to create a better life here. It kills me that it feels so insignificant now. What did they do it all for if this is what we have become as a nation?

My dad worked –and still works– to put a roof over my head. He works, hard day in and day out, to put me through good schooling, so that I can get a better job as a woman here in the United States than if we had lived in India. This is an opportunity that he and my mom hoped for: The American Dream. Now I wonder, will it still be a valid opportunity in a couple of months?

How did we let ourselves get to this place where every victory we ever celebrated will be ripped away, as though it never happened? As I myself struggle to grasp how this happened, I find that a lot of parents are struggling to answer their children as they also ask: Why? 

Wading in a pool of my own anger and mourning, shaken by this existential question, my dad sent me a text:

“Do not make decisions or act without thinking while you are depressed.”

Funnily enough, he knew exactly how I was feeling. It was comforting to know that he felt the same, and still he had wise words to say in response to these unexplainable outcomes. It will always be strange to me how much strength and wisdom parents have, even in such moments of confusion. Miles away from me and he still had a read on how I was feeling.

Living on a college campus –particularly, a liberal one– the emotions are running high and the atmosphere is tense with disappointment and anxiety. Still, there is beauty amidst this chaos. We are adults, navigating this situation to the best of our ability, trying to find the laughter in the here and now. I see people hugging each other, crying out against all that has happened, but finding some measure of comfort in one another. I see open offers of company and consolation as we all attempt to accept this reality in some way. I see pursuits of blissful distraction through video games, loud music, and movies.

I am amazed and grateful to the people who surround me. My parents, my friends, my floormates, my community– they spread strength and positivity in the smallest of actions. And so to all of you out there who are high on emotions at this time, please, continue to do good, because that is something that no one gets to vote on. And to those grown ups who have to look at their small ones who are asking “Why?”, I am telling you that your presence and your words are essential today in the lives of your children. Educate them in the ways you can. Help them keep their emotions in check. Spend positive time together. Jump on the bed. Go for a walk. Dance around to a song. Show them what love looks like.


Additionally, to all my friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, women, survivors of sexual assault, and anyone in between– stay strong and please use the resources around you as needed.

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+): 1-866-488-7386

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15 Simple Ways to Minimize the Stress in Your Life

15 Simple Ways to Relax

Some time back, I talked about how we live our lives on the edge of our seat, too stressed out and busy to really enjoy the world around us. I hope you accomplished your goal of becoming aware of your posture. I hope you learned to lean back and relax a little. However, there are always more steps you can take to reduce the stress in your life. In my experience, some of the best ways include some alone time and indulging in something that you take pleasure in. Sometimes, it requires you to reflect upon yourself and your world. More still, you can spend time around the people you love doing little (money-free) activities. Remember, it’s all about the small things! So, here are 15 of my favorite, simple ways to minimize the stress in your life, and maximize the happiness:

  1. Light a candle in your favorite scent. (Bonus points for aromatherapy scents.)
  2. Curl up with your favorite book, magazine, tv show, or movie. (F.R.I.E.N.D.S for me!)
  3. Drink a hot cup of herbal tea. I’m relaxed just thinking about it.
  4. Sit with a friend and just chat. Two is great company.
  5. Take a stroll by yourself. Enjoy the alone time.
  6. Put on some music and dance. Good vibes only around here.
  7. Color! Grab one of those adult coloring books, or even a children’s one and pretend you’re 4 again.
  8. Read poetry. There’s something relaxing about the beautiful way poets pull their words together so artistically.
  9. Write down your emotions. Having to slow down and articulate the way you feel often lets you release a lot of your tensions.
  10. Take deep belly breaths. Meditation is the oldest trick in the book for relaxation.
  11. Clean your environment. I, personally, turn into a ball of stress if my room is messy. So, this is a great step!
  12. Do something that will make you laugh! I love watching comedians. My favorite right now is Trevor Noah.
  13. Indulge yourself in a relaxing bath or hot shower. What better way to avoid your responsibilities and bring down those stress levels?
  14. Sing your favorite songs. Nothing is better than releasing different emotions through song.
  15. Look at art. Museums, online galleries, anything!

 

Now, it’s your turn! What are your favorite ways of relaxing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Reasons to Smile: Concerts

Live concerts are a beautiful thing, and I’ll tell you why. I know normally people think of concerts as places where you just go and enjoy music. You like the sound, you like the artist, you’re in it for a good time. That’s all true, but there’s usually more to the story.

IMG_6702Back in July, I went to the Future Now concert with my best friend. If you did not already know, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas are two of my favorite artists ever, so going to this concert was unforgettable for me.

For these artists, they are simply playing another show amidst a plethora of shows already played, singing their songs over and over. For the audience, however, it’s a completely different experience. Everybody is piling in to this one stadium or arena to listen to the same songs by the same people, but everybody’s story there is different. The artist sings for thousands of people and hears it sung back for a thousand different reasons. For me, listening to Nick perform was fun and upbeat. It was a jam from start to finish. His music makes me happy, and he as an artist serves as a memory of my childhood when I was oh so in love with the Jonas Brothers on Disney Channel.

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Demi Lovato

On the other hand, I connect with Demi and her story and her music far deeper. While she too reminds me of my childhood, I feel as though I grew up right there with her. When she slowed it down with “Skyscraper” I was crying as I sang along remembering all the times when I was younger and felt ashamed of who I was or where I came from. Her story and her music helped me through many points in my life. I was singing to relive and heal those moments, and what was beautiful was that there were people around me holding each other or waving their flashlights and suddenly the entirety of the TD Garden was lit up with people who felt the same in one way or another: connected.

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Nick Jonas

Concerts give you a rush, a high, almost. Not the kind that makes you come crashing down right afterwards, but the kind that stays with you forever. It leaves you inspired and full of memories. When you think of the best concert you’ve been to, you see the magic in front of your eyes again. You feel the adrenaline pump through for just a flash. That wave of happiness washes over you and you’re exhilarated all over again.

Even now, when I think of this concert I get shivers of joy all over. I remember taking the Green line the wrong way when trying to get home. I remember not having enough money to get water after all that screaming because I could not control myself at the merchandise table. I remember staying up with my best friend until 3am gushing about the whole thing.

By now, I hope you realize that a concert is not just a concert. I hope you find that there’s beauty in the connections, in the memories. And next time you reluctantly hover your mouse over the link to buy tickets to a concert, click it! Whether it’s classical music, or pop music, or even country music: go to one concert, go to a million. It’s food for the soul, I tell you.

 

Reasons to Smile: Making Friends

Friends are a really interesting phenomenon. Out of the billions of people in this world, we pick and choose the ones we like the most. Our lives and characters are influenced greatly by those who we choose to surround ourselves with. The tone of our thoughts, the choices we make, all are deeply intertwined with the people we care for most. In fact we even pick up habits and sayings of our close friends, and several studies report that this so called “peer effect” can have a large impact on our lives, from the way we spend our money to the food we put in our bodies.

The concept of friendship is, for this reason, truly amazing. The human connections created through friendships, and the strength and resilience proved in that relationship when obstacles come up, are magnificent forces of influence in our lives. It is in this dynamic that the two friends grow and both learn things like forgiveness and building trust, and so on. This is the type of friendship that encourages personal development and overall positivity.

After starting college, I realized that sometimes people forget how to make new friends again. When you see the word “friend,” surely you are thinking of your own friends. The people in your life who make you smile, who you enjoy spending time with. But we all have many friends, and they all have different roles in our lives. Some are our therapists, some are our shopping buddies, some are our diaries, some are literal reflections of ourselves, and some are different combinations of all these things and more.

Moving to college often changes that. It’s hard to suddenly live apart from the people you spent years creating foundations of relationships with, only to try and create new ones, while still craving for people who already know everything about you. I can tell you that it is certainly an experience to start all over again, and to pick and choose which significant (or seemingly insignificant) experiences you are going to share with the people around you. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful thing to build relationships and create connections. It is even more beautiful to see how many people are willing and welcoming to such wonders.

As I have talked about before, these relationships may not be permanent, and they are certainly not unchanging, but still, to have these strong bonds at any point in our lives is a privilege. So be thankful for those friends. Be thankful to have them around. Be thankful that they make you laugh and most of all, don’t forget to actually thank them and appreciate them for the role they play in your life. 

 

 

Reasons to Smile: Family Friends

There is not really a set definition for a “family friend”, but we hear people use this term all the time. Often times, a family friend is a person who is simply an acquaintance to the rest of the family, or they might also be treated exactly like any other member of the family.

For me, a family friend is someone who you have grown to know as both your friend and your family member. There is a different dynamic in the relationship with such a person. Like any friend, you have to maintain a healthy relationship with them because unlike a family member they are not always going to be in your life unless you consciously preserve the relationship. Yet like any family member, you can confide in them and trust that no circumstances will cause you to drift apart.

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Janaki (L) and I (R) – forever partners in crime

Surely there a person that comes to mind for you. For me, the first person I think about is Janaki. She is both a family friend, and my best friend. We have known each other for our entire lives, literally, (seriously, she was there at 4-ish months old when I was born) and as we have grown into completely different people throughout the years, we still maintain the ability to make each other laugh until our sides hurt. Though we will continue to grow in the years the come, it will never change the fact that thus far, we have grown together side by side. Our roots are entangled and we will forever remain friends since childhood, and for this, I am glad. It is more than just having a friend who knows me more profoundly than I know myself. Rather, I have a person with whom I can share every important moment with. From our preschool graduation to our high school ones, we have accomplished everything in the same stride. So, here’s to family, here’s to friends, but most importantly, here’s to the family friends who take on the role of both.

 

Reasons to Smile: Adventure

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

–Unknown

In September/October of 2015, I did something incredible: I travelled to Italy. Going to Italy has always been a true dream of mine, and I was finally able to cross it off my bucket list. To be able to spend a whole week abroad in an exchange program was life changing and it was a roller coaster ride from start to finish.

Eighteen American students were paired with eighteen Italian students; it is truly marvelous how quickly teenagers are able to put trust in one another. It did not take more than two days for everyone to get comfortable with one another. The Italian families were incredibly accommodating, but so was Italy itself. I woke up every morning to a refreshingly chilly breeze that smelled of apples and a view of snow-dusted mountains rising not far in the distance, peaking in the crystal blue sky.

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The town’s economy thrives on the production of the apple and every stretch of land was covered in apple trees. In my one week in Italy, I was blown away by the breathtaking landscapes of Milan, and the sights of Venice (which, I must say, are not done justice by the photos). Through this trip, I met amazing people who took me into their home and showed me true kindness. I learned that people love to learn about each other, despite the fronts we put up. My Italian host family was beyond excited to learn about both my American and Indian cultures. My host mom even tried to make chicken curry and french fries for me!

Over the course of that week, our exchange partners and their families became close friends of ours. More than that, all thirty six of us became a family. We were hugging and crying by the time we had to leave Italy. What started as blank stares and awkward hugs quickly became genuine smiles and warm embraces.

Then, a very long-awaited couple months later, most of our Italian students returned. We explored parts of Boston and showed them our very own beautiful historical sites and showered them in the same love they showed us. But somehow the week passed without us even knowing and everyone was sobbing and hugging again, because this time, there was no guarantee that we would see each other again.

Now, whenever I walk around Boston, or ride a bus, or hear a whisper of Italian, I will be reminded of the emptiness that I feel from knowing and loving amazing people from around the globe. Still, this story ends on a happy note.

I nearly backed out of the entire exchange, worried that it might be too uncomfortable or too scary. I freaked myself out with every possible worst-case scenario. But, like I said, Italy was a dream of mine and I wanted to go there, so I ignored all the worst cases, and thought of the best ones, and indeed those were the ones that I saw with my own eyes. So rather than enduring a week of school, I went to Italy and  learned that discovering other cultures in the world is something truly eye-opening. Enjoying the limitless kindness of strangers while admiring the beauties of their land, human connection, falling in love with the world– this is what we live for.

Adventures and risk taking are the best ways to learn, and it doesn’t take a trip across the world to do that. (That being said, should you ever come across the opportunity to travel, grab it and don’t you dare let go.)

So take a chance today –on anything– because you’ll never know how absolutely perfect it could turn out to be.

 

Reasons to Smile: Mothers

“Mothers of teens know why some animals eat their young.”

–Anonymous

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommies out there*! Firstly, I would like to note that of the 6,500 languages spoken in the world, no single one could ever express the power of mothers: their love, their sacrifice, their heroism. These things are infinite in magnitude for mothers and could never be trapped or contained by something so simple as our words.

A mother’s love teaches us that we are more than we ever perceive in our heads. Mothers believe in us despite all the evidence to the contrary (and there is always a lot of evidence). Her love has no bounds, and she pours her heart into every little thing that she does for us. It is overwhelming when you think about it. We spend so much money on our mothers on mother’s day, but how could such materialistic things truly show them our love? How do we let her know how much we love her and to just what extent? It is difficult. It is nearly impossible.

There are guardian angels on this earth for each of us, and they come in the form of mothers. They walk through life beside us, holding our hand and keeping us in their hearts. They do heroic things every day for us (like clean our rooms).

my beautiful mother

my beautiful mother

My mother has guided me through so many aspects of my life –many of which I probably am not even aware of. She has imprinted in me a moral compass and has gifted me with the ability to love wholeheartedly, as she does. Perhaps it is from her that I get my tendency to love with my every fiber. She taught me this love and for that I am immensely grateful. I have a brother and sister and to be able to raise three people as crazy, as messy, as loud, and as dependent on ours mother as we are, well – I’m truly surprised that she hasn’t eaten us yet. Happy Mother’s Day, Amma! I love you ❤

*Happy Mother’s Day also to the single fathers or other guardians out there who act also as a mother figure to their children, this day is for you all the same.