Well hello there again.

I know, I know. This website is more for me than anyone else. I know, I know. I promised myself I would do this a lot more than I have been.

School has absolutely been kicking my butt and won't be in a week. Thank goodness. I can and will be back to semi-regular posts. Hopefully one to two a week (that would make my inner stress-bug less stressed).

I absolutely cannot wait for this finals week to be over, because it will mark the beginning of my last firsts for my undergraduate career. And, if I'm being frank I could not be more excited about that. So here's to new times, political confusion, and well growing the heck up.

Best,

Kir

Doubts and Dreams

I feel like this is a recurring topic in my life. And frankly, I think this might forever be a recurring theme for me.

For the longest time, my dreams have been everything for me. Absolutely everything. And I was lucky. For a large portion of my life, I never had to compromise. Now I'm going to factor a lot of that to sheer dumb luck and work, but, honestly, it could be neither.

Recently I have felt less lucky. I feel like my dreams are just fever dreams, things that are purely unattainable.

In the grand scheme of things, my self-doubt is petty. This much is true. There are larger things to worry about and focus on, self-doubt being none of them. That much I understand. But, it (like all harsh feelings) still sucks.

Doubt is real. Doubt is strong. Doubt is vain. Doubt is not vain. Doubt is anything. Doubt is nothing. 

How the hell can something so variegated be something so powerful?

Doubt has made me an insomniac. Heck, it's made me someone who wakes up in the morning sad that her dreams are now over.

And yes, doubt can be empowering. But it's one hard thing to shake. I know it will go away soon, but until then I'll be counting down until it does. (Well, I'll do that and then also focus my attention on 

Not My President

Where do I even begin?! I'm honestly not even sure if I should put this in thoughts or if I should put this in newsfiction. But I guess, because this is all my personal opinion I will not. Also, I'm not planning on going through all the information and the news pieces that have caused me to feel this way. I'm not even sure any of this is going to come out as something comprehensible.

I will not feel safe if a man like Donald Trump gets elected to the highest office of the United States. 

I'm talking about a man who both simultaneously says he's being honest and truthful while also speaking out of his butt. I'm talking about a man who is willing to say he did not do or say sexist and racist things when video and audio would prove differently. I'm talking about a man whose rallies make me feel like parts of America do not want to celebrate diversity or openness.

Donald Trump in the past few weeks to me has become synonymous with feelings that are not warm and fuzzy, feelings that are not even indifferent, but feelings that are full of disgust and hatred. 

His incident with Billy Bush, his inability to talk candidly in the second presidential debate, and all of his controversies that keep coming out of the woodwork are quite frankly disgusting. This is not something that my future presidents should ever be implicated in. It is by no means okay.

(I apologize if I sound like I do not have the right words to describe what I'm feeling. It's because I don't. There are no words to describe how much I feel this election has turned into a farce. Regardless of the outcome, the 2016 election has done irreparable damage to the US political atmosphere and status domestically and internationally).

For lack of better words or the ability to properly formulate sentences to describe my disappointment: Donald Trump, in my opinion, is not worthy of the presidency. He is not worthy of any national spotlight.

That is all.

When Life Gets Hectic

I'm going to make this entry right here really brief (well in comparison to some of the past).

Life has gone from snail-paced to cheetah-speedy in seemingly no time whatsoever. I feel like it came out of nowhere, even though I've known this week was coming for weeks, months even. Why, why I feel so overwhelmed is a little beyond me.

I'm moving into a new place, well an old place. Technically, I've been semi-permanently living in my city now for two plus years. But this, this is the first time that I have left the safety net of others being in charge of me. This moment shall become a precedent for the rest of my life. I am moving out of that lovely and loving shell that is college.

In a sense I'm super excited but I'm also super scared. I'm not exactly the strongest person when it comes to taking care of myself (and that's including the time I spent living quasi-on-my-own in my first years of college). I get super focused on my job and my studies that I tend to neglect the rest of the parts of my life. I mean, come on, as long as I love what I do right?

So yea, this week is going to drive me insane. With all the chaos of moving into a new apartment, getting my senior year of college started, and beginning my jobs, I just hope that I maintain the slightest bit of logic and contentment. I feel like I just have to continuously remind myself that this week is temporary and that my life will get back to normal.

But normal is boring. So maybe I'll embrace the chaos and learn to love it. At least for the better part of next year, I won't have to move in again. So there's that?

Gadget Craze

I'm going to be real honest here: I don't know understand why people and society are obsessed with the newest tech.

I get it, we live in an era of exponential electronic growth. Technology is developing at a rate unseen by any other generation. But why are we so obsessed with quickening the obsolescence of what we have.

With the growth of tech seems to be coming the constant replacement of the previous versions. I find this to suck more than a little. I mean why has the world come to such a level of consumerism that we have to buy all new versions of the same basic thing because the technology specifications are simply better than prior versions? Has consumerism come to such a state that businesses build their devices so that we can't simply advance what we have?

It just seems wasteful. I like to think that I don't fall into this trap but I know I do. I've had my iPhone for only a couple years now, but the screen has already bent almost out of its position. So what do I do? I search for new phones. How wasteful is that though? I'm planning on wasting perfectly good technology, perfectly good metal, glass, and plastic hardware, why? All because my phone costs more to fix than it does to replace. And, that, that is the most irksome thing of it all.

My confusion as to this gadget craze also derives from the fact that I really don't understand why my current technology is considered outdated. My computer I've only had for a couple years. Yet, there are already multiple new versions on the market that make fixing my computer (if it was ever to break) near impossible to get the right parts. Moreover, it makes people who love technology think my computer is some kind of dinosaur. This is just weird. My computer is HD and with enough ram and programs to do everything I need and more. So then why is it obsolete? It's a perfectly functional, high powered piece of technology?

Obsolescence, at least, to me at this point in time seems wasteful, with constant recycling and updates. It just feels so artificial, like it's all just some big form of capitalist propaganda. But then again, who really knows right?

Avengers: Age of Adulthood

Aging. It happens to everyone. But why on earth does it feel so defeating?

This is the first time I’m actually not looking forward to my birthday. I know, I know. I’m young and I have my whole life ahead of me.

You know what. That’s exactly why I’m not looking forward to my birthday.

(Side note: I seriously want to get this T-Shirt)

(Side note: I seriously want to get this T-Shirt)

Labor Day Weekend is going to come around and I am going to no longer to be a kid, no longer a teenager. Instead, I am going to be a young adult. It feels like after this birthday, everything changes. And that is kind of true. Everything does change. Slowly but surely, from here on out, I am no longer going to be able to blame naiveté for my idiocy. I am going to start taking more and more responsibility for me and my actions.

Yes, I was in charge of my life since I moved from the East to West Coast for college. I understand that college is when you actions and consequences start feeling more concrete.

But, college in and of itself is a microcosm. College tries its hardest to shield you from the realities of being an adult for as long as it can. Going to undergraduate straight out of high school, at least for me, was my way of pretending that I wasn’t an adult for a couple more years. Doing so meant that I could pretend that reality was not coming like a freight train and instead focus on my academics.

I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. Sometimes growing up is something that happens in high school. And for that I am fortunate to have been delayed into a graduated program to adulthood.

This milestone, the milestone of hitting adulthood happens to hit for everyone at different points in time and in varying stages.

Mine first hit me when I moved across the country for school. My support network was off near the Hudson Bay and I lived near the Pacific Ocean and the Mexican border. That was when I first had to buck up and learn that growing up meant sometimes having a support network of one.

This is my second phase, the phase that I’m sure is going to continue throughout the last year of my undergraduate career.

Growing up. I’ve come to define it as growing into your own, the process of gaining more and more control and responsibility.

Funnily enough, I’m trying to get a career in academia, the very thing I have used as a lifeline for years to my childhood.

This time next year, I’ll be even more of an adult than I am currently. I’ll be looking for an apartment for myself wherever my pursuit of higher education may take me. I’ll have even more responsibility. Yes, I’ll be able to always talk to and ask my parents for help. But the way parents are able to help you shrinks as the years go on.

 

My twenties are most definitely going to be full of more moments of growth. I can only hope that eventually in my twenties I’ll finally get the feeling that I’m no longer playing dress up; that instead of pretending to be an adult I’ll actually be on. Because I know for a fact as I start the chaos that is reaching life after-undergrad, I’m most definitely feeling like I’m putting on one damn elaborate costume.

My Friend Family

I grew up as only child. Heck I grew up as an only child who went to her first six to seven years of school an hour away.

Over the years I've learnt a valuable lesson: friendship is truly beautiful. It's raw human connection. And no matter how often or how infrequently you make and lose friends, each friendship is beautiful (a beautiful display of either a point in your life or a display compassion and love).

The friend I was basically inseparable with, from middle school until senior year, well I barely talk to her anymore. We were so close she and I spent a day almost every week at each other's houses. We'd have multiple day sleepovers. We had so many inside jokes that I couldn't honestly tell you them all, let alone remember them years later. Heck, my friends used to use our names as a compound noun. In retrospect, super weird.

It was from being super close to her that I learnt that sometimes the people you love and care about, you grow apart. Halfway through senior year, I was finally starting to learn about myself, about the kind of person I wanted to become. In a sense, I was tired of being a crowd-pleaser, tired of being this person that always had to put on a front and try to be nice to as many people as possible. In short, I was trying to figure out what made me happy, who made me happy, and how everything fit in.

Now don't get me wrong, my high school best friend, she meant the world to me. And she most definitely made me happy. I love her to death and wish her nothing but the best in this world.

But, as I was going through this crazy journey of finding myself (a journey I honestly had started when I went to Ecuador before my Junior Year of High School), we drifted. I was focusing on myself more. And at the time it felt a bit selfish, and it hurt me to see myself without my best friend all the time. But, the time by myself, helped me to grow, to realize the kind of person I am and the kind of people I want to surround myself with. Unfortunately for me, I did that at the expense of one of my strongest friendships.

Every once in a while I fill with regret over how we just drifted apart, with no real goodbye. But I've come to love what the friendship is and was. It taught me more than I could have imagined about myself. It was a center of support and contentment through a really weird point in my life.

I didn't fully learn the true meaning of friendship yet. I did learn very quickly my freshman year of college though what it means to be a true friend.

I had spent the second half of senior year slowly pushing away from the kids of my magnet program, pushing away from all the people who came to expect things of me (the people who I used to consider friend but now often feel retrospectively manipulated by). 

By freshman year, I learnt that the friends I made in high school were much less than the people I talked to in high school. I started my freshman year of college, feeling truly loved and supported by three people outside of my parents. At the risk of sounding like a silly teenager, they were my ride or dies. They never held ill will for me, were there for the good and the bad, and never had expectations.

Even though we all live in different states and different time zones now, I know for a fact that no amount of distance can stop us from laughing, loving, and living. We'll always text and call and celebrate each other's accomplishments and laugh/learn over each other's disappointments. We'll grow together in a way that is just so harmonious, forgetting all the while the obstacles that may exist.

It is an unconditional kind of love, one that feels familial to me.

I started off college with a slightly cynical mindset, that the people I met would not always be friends. And that rang true. The people I hung out with the beginning of my freshman year are not the people I have come to love and care for in similar ways to my high school trio. (That doesn't mean I don't care for them and don't wish them the best. I personally like to consider them as important parts of my life that eroded away by the chaos of life and growing up.)

Heck, the people I used to hang out with in parts of college and the people I want to hang out with my senior year are two different groups. 

But that's what college life, outside of academics, is about. It's about learning how to meet people, how to find friends, how to find family: how to make your life the way you want it to be. Outside of academics, college is about finding and making life-long connections, as cheesy as that may sound.

It took me most of my second year of college to find the people I trust ultimately. It took a while, but I finally have my confidants, my college family.

It always feels silly to me to say that the other friends I have made in college are insignificant. Because well, they're not. They're my friends and I love them so much. The friends I make and continue to make are wonderful people, but I have come to realize that some, some friends, are family.

If anything, I've come to learn from college, that being a friend does not fall under a singular definition. To be a friend to someone could mean weekly study dates, but to someone else it could mean Thursday night TGIT and pizza. Friendship by definition varies. It's up to you to figure out what each particular friendship means to you.

From travelling and living abroad, I learnt an important lesson about friendship that I hope to never forget. Friendship is not based on if you live in the same state or country. It's not based on how long you spend around each other. It's based on an ability to, for however long or short of a period, open up your heart and share happiness. Friendship should not be dependent on if you live near one another. It should depend on the positive impact you have on one another and the growth, experiences, and fun you share.

People come and people go. People grow, sometimes into people you no longer recognize. People laugh and love but sometimes geographic distance is just too much. Sometimes the people you spend the most time around grow on you. Sometimes you spend a year or two getting to know a person only to learn their heart and brain are close-minded, revealing some form of bigotry you just weren't expecting. Sometimes you get manipulated. Heck, sometimes you manipulate.

That's just life, a series of hellos and goodbyes.

But then again, sometimes a person or group of people comes around and none of the negatives phase your relationship. Sometimes a person or group of people comes around and they don't have an alternative agenda. Sometimes, they're just those people that are so warm, so open, and so lovely that you want to bask in their collective awesome, regardless of how short or long that time frame may be.

(I would like to note here that showing love and warmth also comes in different ways. One of my closest friends and I to the rest of the world seem very cold to each other, but in truth, that's just how we function)

These are just those people that I meet, get to know, truly know. These are the people who are open and loving and caring. These are the people I know for a fact I can call at 3 am, make last minute plans with, complain and laugh, scream and cry, and anything else my heart desires. These are the people that love my hyper and are willing to go along with the stupidest of my ideas. These are the people who have helped me grow and learn about myself and the world around me. These are the people that I hope know that I would do the same for them. 

Those, those are the people you never want to say goodbye to.

My family growing up was super small. I know of my cousins. While once upon a time little baby me wanted nothing more than to become close with my cousins and aunts and uncles, grown-up me is okay with never having that opportunity. 

My family is mine, my precious treasure, something I have cultivated and hand-picked. And well, it's more than just my mom, my dad, and me. It's my mom, my dad, and my closest and most caring friends. My family is more than just biological; it's built from friendship.

The one thing I know for certain rings true for my family: I may be a wary person (and sometimes even I'm not sure why I close myself off that much) but once I give my loyalty out, there is nothing in this world I wouldn't do for my family member.

But also know, know that if we don't talk as often as we used to or if we stopped altogether, it does not by any means mean that I do not truly care for you and that you are not in my heart. You had and have a profound impact on my life. You're still, forever and always, my friend. 

 

My Social Media-Based Short Attention Span

Guess what. I'm about to turn 20 and I am not capable of focusing.

I was told for years and years that as you get older you get more and more patient. If anything, I learnt something else. I learn that as I got older the world got more and more instant gratification. This instant gratification and constant connection to the world around me became my demise. 

When I was younger I would spend from dusk until dawn reading, or hiking, or simply just doing one activity.

And then, as I got older, the internet became more and more popular. And social media, well that started growing and becoming a thing.

My generation was at a moldable age.

And I, I was stubborn. For years I liked to pretend that social media wasn't a thing that I was ever going to get into. And then the end of high school and the beginning of college happened.

Social media quickly became an easy way to communicate with old friends and new acquaintances. It was a way to share my life events without talking to everyone individually. (For a person like me who likes to take time by herself to recharge, this helped ease some anxiety). In short, it became a constant.

I told myself constantly that I wasn't going to become one of those people. I wasn't going to be the girl who sat on facebook/instagram/twitter. I did allow myself tumblr (and always have since middle school if I'm being honest), because I absolutely adore staring at people's creativity in gifs, photoshop, sketching, and otherwise.

I didn't realize how much of a slow burn social media was for me until recently. Now that I'm abroad, social media has become a lifeline for me. But to be honest, I don't spend more time on it than I did at home. And that realization, that is what I find intriguing and frankly disturbing.

I know for a fact I was a busier person back home in the states. I was constantly always doing something. But then, how did I manage to keep up with all this social media and regularly post while juggling school, work, friends, family, and whatever else?

I've come to realize, that I might be better at time management than I thought, but that I have one fatal flaw: social media.

The more I stay on facebook or twitter or even tumblr, the less time I have to relax and get other stuff done. 

The weirdest part of this all is that my social media has made it hard for me to focus on anything. I can't focus on one task for more than 30 minutes now, as if every 30 minutes a 5 minute social media break is warranted. Now, that's just sad.

Heck, I even do it for things that I find relaxing. If I'm watching television, unfortunately even if it is Game of Thrones or Scandal, I will still check my social media religiously.

It's weird, honestly ritualistic of me. 

My attention span has shortened so as to instill in me social media breaks. And that is something I plan on fixing. I refuse to let weird stuff like this dictate my life.

Books are meant to be long. Their intricacies can't be consolidated into 140 characters. 

Memories are meant to be your own, to be shared briefly to acquaintances but in full to your closest friends and family.

And television and relaxing, well things like that are not built to be regimented with these annoyingly pesky social media breaks.

I'm not guaranteeing that this is going to be an easy thing for me to achieve. Heck, I'm not even going to guarantee that I won't fail miserably at this. But now that I am self-aware of the issue, I can and will try my hardest to rectify it. I mean, what else can I do?

Growing Up American

Growing up in and of itself is a stressful experience. When you're little you grow up trying to figure out how to walk, talk, make friends, and play. You learn quickly if you're introverted or extroverted, outdoorsy or indoor-inclined, book-inclined or hands on. What takes a process sometimes is figuring out your gender, sexuality, and cultural identity. I'm not trying to say that growing up isn't hard for everybody. Our emotions are all valid and I like to think that when I speak up here I am not ostracizing any party, whether they be the majority or minority. I just believe in sharing my own experience.

I grew up lucky enough to not have to question whether I was female or not. I never had to question my sexuality. The part of my identity that I have had to fight most with is my cultural one. This isn't because I find myself to not be who I am. This is because I found it hard trying to explain to the rest of the world my culture without being judged.

So here goes. Hi. I'm Kirti and I'm American.

Now, if you're reading this and you're from other parts of the world besides the United States of America, this might seem like a self-explanatory statement. But, somehow it wasn't when I was growing up.

When I was little I would constantly get slight comments from the girls at soccer or the private school girls on my skin, how I was different. I came to realize early on that I wasn't white. But, it never occurred to me that that fact would make me less American. I should also note that when I graduated elementary school, there was a grand old total of three girls of color that I can recollect (that and I want to say 90% of my graduating class white with a lot of them being second or third generation American)

In fact, it wasn't until a couple years after 9/11 that I realized that to some my skin shade made me inherently un-American.

Now, growing up, I grew up in an Indian American household. There was always curry, rice, yogurt, and chutney in the fridge. I grew up loving Indian food. Hell, I grew up bringing Indian food to school for a long time.

When I was seven though, a girl at lunch made a comment about how my food was smelly and how it made me smelly. As the way of elementary school social norms, no one would sit next to me. 

I don't remember too much about elementary school to be honest, except for those moments that made me cry or at least want to hysterically cry. This was one of those moments. I refused to bring the food my mom packed me to school after that.

Still, despite the fact that every kid in my school found the parts of my parent's culture that I cherish weird, I was still American.

In middle school I came upon the question that I still get to this day, "But, where are you really from?"

Let me start this off by giving the answer I always want to, without the swearing of course.

"I'm from America. Like I'm from freaking New Jersey, exit 117A or 120 on the Garden State Parkway. I live less than a half hour from the shore. But where am I really from? Columbus freaking Ohio. OHIO. Round on the outside, high in the middle. Buckeyes territory. Where are you really from? I'm assuming you want some quote unquote exotic answer from me. So I guess I'll accept nothing less from you."

Yup, insert about 10-20 expletives in that and you've got the answer I always wish I could give. Most people that ask the question are really well-meaning. But unfortunately, that question brings up so so many internal issues for me.

It became clear to me in middle school why people asked that. People in my middle school grouped themselves based on their heritage. I'm not going to lie. I can't explain this social phenomenon. I've got no clue. It did lead to the unfortunate question that haunts me. And it did lead me to realize that I'm not considered truly American by a lot of people.

To me, American means growing up in America, in an assimilated home that embraces all the different customs and traditions of all the different cultures of the area. Somehow, though, it feels like sometimes to those around me that being American means my family has to have lived here for more than a generation. As a first-generation kid, it's almost like I'm still considered an immigrant.

My family never pushed my heritage on me. My parents actually made it a point to allow me to choose to be more or less involved in my culture and my family's religion. The lack of pressure and the enforcement of self-exploration made my childhood a very open-minded experience at home. It did however make it a confusing time for me when people tried to identify me as Indian. I wasn't purely Indian. I love my heritage. I love the way my parents raised me. But I don't identify as Indian.

I am American, clear as day. I grew up, experiencing the Christian and Judaic traditions of my friends' families. I grew up experiencing a historical education in the thirteen colonies and the Civil War, not an education about Mughals and sultans. I eat curry but also sushi and tacos and pasta. I grew up, never actually learning Hindi, only Telugu, Spanish, and English.

Despite what my skin color or heritage may be, I identify as American.

It may seem weird to identify as such when my parents identify with such a rich culture, but America's culture is rich and diverse as well. I couldn't imagine being from anywhere else.

Higher Education Onwards

This summer marks a weirdly pivotal point in my life. I'm about to start my senior year of my undergraduate degree. Heck, come next June I'm going to have my degrees and be free to explore the world and my career. 

But I have to admit, that is incredibly daunting, especially once I consider that fact that my entire life I have only ever seen myself as two things: following in my parents' footsteps or becoming an academic. I am clearly not following in my parents' footsteps. I'm too far into my undergraduate career to switch into engineering or pre-medicine (and I sure as hell would be miserable if I ever switched into those). That leaves the latter, academic.

This summer is the summer that I look into graduate school, the ever imposing added year to three years of education that will lead to a mastery in my field and the ability to be competitive in applications for a pHD. But with the territory comes things like the lack of a common app, the absence of safety schools, and the dreadful GRE. 

I feel the same as I did back when I was in my senior year of high school. I feel like a hot mess. Applying to schools is single-handedly one of the most stressful academic experiences. You have to market yourself and your credentials in order to be picked from hundreds of other applications for just a select few slots. It's ego-shattering if I'm being quite frank.

I have this gnawing sense of fear that I may not get in to any of the schools I apply to. Yet, I'm also thrilled at the prospect of possibly getting into one. I have learnt I just have to take what will come with grace. And if all else fails a gap year between undergraduate and graduate school is not bad. It's a way to mature myself as an individual and learn more about myself than I ever could.

So here's to hoping that I find references, my personal statements are fine, my GPA doesn't crumble, and my sanity stays strong (at least until March or April).

Feminist and Proud

Feminism is the sociocultural and political movement that consistently makes strides globally for women's empowerment. Feminism is also the movement that consistently takes heat for being too aggressive. Feminism is also the movement against sexism that essentially always gets pin-holed by sexism?

Now, I know I could write pages upon pages about feminist theory, the intersectional discourse between it and other minority movements, Gloria Steinem, and Roxane Gay. But, that's not what this is about. This is about my personal experience with the word feminism and why that word was such a process for me.

When I was younger, I went to private school (a place that proved too stuffy and stifling for me, but that's a different story). The girls I went to school with were the first people to open up my eyes to typical gender roles. On the playground, we weren't supposed to play with the boys in the jungle gym. We were supposed to leisurely hang around on the grass. We weren't supposed to run in skirts because it wasn't ladylike. Heck, we weren't supposed to speak out of turn or get to aggressive because it wasn't proper.

(I never felt like I was in the middle of pureblood society more than I did there. I mean, come on. I bet even Draco Malfoy grew up to figure out posh society had stupid stupid rules)

Feminism still wasn't a word to me yet. No one had bothered to explain it to me.

It became too much for ten year old me as I came home crying one day, begging my parents to let me go to public school. I thought that that would be the place I would be accepted (I later realized the reason I wanted to leave was so I felt less isolated thanks to culture, gender, and heritage stereotypes). Instead, I found another layer of the sexist puzzle. In middle school, I didn't really fit into any particular group. I was the awkwardly smart kid who transferred schools late in the game. The only friends I had were family friends my parents knew from temple or mutual friends of temple friends. Needless to say, that was a disaster. I learnt then that girls, especially in the Indian American community in my town, had a whole new level of expectations.

For girls in my town's Indian American community it was as follows:

Strike one: You can't be opinionated.

Strike two: You can't hang out with too many boys.

Strike three: You can't think about anything other than academics. Friends, boys, movies, anything. It's taboo if it doesn't affect your report card.

Strike four: You can't wear shorts or skirts like normal kids because they're slutty.

Strike five: You can't be smarter than any of the other girls or boys. You have to hide it.

Yup. I was screwed in middle school. All these stupid rules for me destroyed my soul. Middle school became an even darker place for me than elementary school. Growing up was proving to be an increasingly lonely experience for me. I didn't fit in with the expectations in elementary school, so I would come home crying weekly because I would get teased or because I would simply just be invisible. Middle school I would come home crying once again because I didn't fit into the expectations. But I also would come home crying because I was known in my classes for not fitting the mold. It was the cause of constant mocking. The boys in my classes thought I was an annoying swot who shouldn't be there. The girls all thought I didn't belong. And my few friends there seemed scared to say anything. Granted, middle school for everyone is always just a terrible time.

Throughout it all, my parents were my rocks. They constantly told me everything I was doing was okay. While they grew up in what I consider sexist environments (in India where it was culturally appropriate), they tried their best to not make me feel weird. They have always been the most supportive and loving people (even though sometimes we argue to the point of not talking for a while).

In middle school, I was vaguely aware of the word feminism, but I knew that it was a word that would get me mocked and teased. I did not understand its true definition.

High school: a place where you're supposed to find yourself, but, instead, the place where I ended up getting lost. On the bright side, sexist comments were at an all time low for me. Well, that is, if you don't include all the joking comments one of my now best friends would make. (Yes you Tage, you lovable moron)

High school turned out to be the place I truly learnt what feminism was. I never really had a label for what I was. I just knew that I did not believe in gender norms. Hell, I was a girl who liked to play fight with her friends, who regularly explored the woods, who liked power tools, who actively hated skirts, who didn't and still doesn't believe in the concept of dating, who is never planning on getting married. I have zero maternal instinct, for now. In so many stereotypical aspects for my gender, I fail. High school taught me that that is okay. It's okay to just grow up and be your own person.

Unfortunately, high school also made it blatantly obvious that sexism occurred in other ways. In my magnet school, two boys and I were up against each other for everything. And at times, it felt like I had to fight three times as hard. After a while, I just gave up and took my own alternative method for everything. I mean, it worked out in the end for me right? 

One of the worst moments though was in sophomore year when my dad and I got into an argument about my summer plans (I wanted to go volunteer in Ecuador and my dad was just having a crappy week). We got into an argument that was essentially inconsequential, but because he was already in a terrible mood. He attacked my shorts and used a word that I hadn't been called since middle school: slut. I immediately burst into tears, slammed my door, and threw my desk chair into it. Aggressive I know. My door still has the break in it to prove it unfortunately. I learnt in that moment that no matter how much love my dad has, he still grew up in an environment starkly different than the one I was. His perception of things would never be like mine. I just never expected him to say that word. Neither did he because he proceeded to sit outside my door and sleep outside it until I finally came out (something that took more than 24 hours because I forgot to eat lunch at school that day and had my backpack). When I got out, his face looked just as horrible as mine, as if the two of us had spent all those hours continuously crying. 

From that moment, my dad actively tried to be an open person, trying his hardest to make sure that any inkling of sexism stayed hidden.

I almost forgot the way the world works until college applications. My parents were hell bent on me being a science major because the humanities was apparently the expensive way to becoming a permanent housewife. That destroyed me. I always loved politics, journalism, and anthropology way more than I ever loved biology or physics. I did do as they wished and eventually went into my freshman year of college as a bio-engineering, biotechnology, student. 

After four years in an environment that let me explore what it meant to be me and be a feminist, I was in for some culture shock yet again. 

My first week of college ever, I met a girl who actively tells everyone she doesn't believe in feminism. Growing up with all the experiences I had, that was just not a person I wanted to get to know. Somehow though, she was just around. So I tried to become friends, well I tried and failed. I tried to give up my inhibitions, but I can honestly say I will never bother to remember her once I graduate. She's just not worth it. I to this day can't understand how a person can not believe in equality for everyone. Equality is a basic human right, and a tenet of every major social revolution for as long as I can possibly tell.

Apparently, feminists were too aggressive, too demeaning, and a bad example of female. Well, shoot. What am I then, an example of the scum of the earth? Oops, call me one of Satan's gatekeepers then because it sure as heck sounds better than being a good example of female.

As I go through undergrad, I keep meeting more and more people who say stuff like that. Feminism has somehow been warped to "feminazism", a term I find horrible, demeaning, and criminal. Just because a sect of feminists believe the way to equality is through verbal aggression does not mean we can put them on the same plane as Nazis.

For everyone lost on what feminism is, here's the definition.

See, normal? Not full of misandry in the damn slightest.

A super pivotal moment for me in undergraduate was the week or two before I went back for my second year. I had changed my major spring quarter of freshman year to Economics and was planning on double majoring in Political Science. My parents really couldn't say anything because my grades were going up and I was no longer the miserable sod I was when I was majoring in bio-engineering. I was also becoming less dependent on my extra-curriculars for happiness, something they were absolutely ecstatic for.

Anyways, we were talking about the possibilities of the 2016 election. Somehow that moved onto my classes for the next quarter. My mom, who I love and I know is trying really hard to accept the fact that I am picking an extremely tough career path, made the comment that I was never going to make it in my profession. My dad, being the ever-opinionated human that he is, proceeded to then make comments about how my career path was stupid, using words like stupid girl and comments about partying and hopeless, feminine tendencies. In that moment, I reverted back to the little girl from sophomore year of high school, the girl who couldn't stand the fact her father had an ingrained sexism, something that she couldn't just argue out. 

I did something rash, that to this day, I am not proud of. I refused to talk or acknowledge my father for 3 months. Hell, I almost didn't go home for winter break until my mother called me upset, multiple times actually, and helped buy my plane ticket. My dad I like to say is my rock, but I only recently learnt that my rock waivers thanks to feminism. I believed that regardless of my gender and ethnicity, I could make a name for myself in my chosen field. And well, my father chose to doubt that, citing female stupidity. I get it now though, he just puts his foot in his mouth. But he really is trying. I had to forgive him, partially because I love him and not talking to him for months was really messing with my head and emotions.

Feminism became a fluid concept, one where my beliefs while steadfast were not necessarily applicable to everyone else.

My mom and I, a couple months ago, had a conversation about dating. I was hanging out with a guy and he wanted to know if it deserved a label. It was then that I decided my mother should know the details. She proved to be extremely upset at the concept of dating. Having never dated herself, I think she believed dating to be a commitment that was a decision a daughter shouldn't make herself. Somehow, because I was female I had to be protected. I couldn't protect myself. Feminism in that moment became me slowly pushing my mother to believing that I am a strong, capable woman and that women don't need their parents to make their decisions until they were married. I had to prove that I was more dangerous than any man who could come near me.

In those months, I came to revisit my love for Emma Watson's work with the UN. The way she dealt with feminist issues for the past couple years was just so strong in a subdued manner. Emma Watson became a role model of epic proportions in a way that she previously wasn't. Don't get me wrong, Emma Watson has always been a role model for me. But the character she played in Harry Potter, Hermione was my true role model. Granger was how I learnt aggression, action, strategy, and so much more. Emma Watson though was quickly become a fan favorite of mine with her rhetoric: classic, formal, and forceful.

Now that I'm living in Nepal, I'm learning that Western Feminism is far different than global feminism. Working in women's rights here is powerful. Global feminism is about basic human rights simply not being given to women because they are women. Global feminism is a movement against the injustices women face daily on the international stage. From rape to child marriages and arrests, women face problems far graver than the ones I ever have. In fact, global feminism and the issues it takes to battle are so powerful that I feel ridiculously stupid for not being a proud feminist for my entire life. 

Feminism has now become a way of life, a way of ensuring that we all have our inalienable rights, a way to be a global patriot, a mantra of sorts.

I know for a fact I am going to continue to have crazy stories about sexism. I know growing up me with my identity is going to be a process for my feminist evolution. But I also know that no matter what, feminism means the world to me. It is one of my most important identifiers and I would feel damn stupid without it. Feminism has gone from a word I've never known to a word and revolution I will fight for until I'm ash, regardless of how small my contributions may be. So whatever happens and whatever stupid words are thrown my way, I'm feminist and proud. Like Mystique and her mutants, I will fight the good fight. Hopefully I won't go the quasi-villain route though.

Half Way Through My Time in the Himalayas

In June, right after my undergraduate quarter finals, I packed all my belongings into a storage unit and got on a plane with some old tee shirts, some cargo pants, and a travel journal. It was time for me to find myself, figure out my life paths, and what my greatest motivation was. It was time to go abroad and hope to learn more about myself than I ever could at home or in San Diego.

The first step on that journey: Nepal, to volunteer in women's and children's rights.

With a couple hundred dollars to my name and a backpack full of clothes, I proved beyond excited and also beyond scared. 

My first week in Nepal was a culture shock for sure. I have visited India plenty of times in my life, but I guess the cultures of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are nowhere similar to the culture of Nepal. If I'm being honest, the smog had started to get to me instantaneously but what was getting to me more was the way everyone here seemed to think I spoke Nepali.

I have always been ashamed of the fact that I basically can't speak Hindi. My Hindi is so sub-par that the words and sentences I do understand I wouldn't dare ever say out loud. Because of this, my first few days in Nepal held a lot of culture shock.

After the first three days of getting over myself and all my stupid Western developed expectations, I have grown to love the way of life and how Nepal works.

In fact, 7 weeks in, I can't imagine not living in a house and situation like this. It's absolutely insane how quickly you can find yourself adjusting to a culture. (I will however never get over the fact that no one in this country is capable of calling me by my given name. My name is Kirti not Kitty or Kriti. I AM FAME AND GLORY NOT ACTION. Also, sorry for the mini rant).

Nepal has been such an open and welcoming place for me. The house I live in is full of some of the most passionate and loving minds I have ever had the fortune of meeting. It's been bittersweet watching everyone I am proud to now call friends come and go. But what I do know is that hearts as pure as the ones I've lived with here will always be welcoming and with open arms.

I came to Nepal to work at a child development center as well as a women's nonprofit. I thought that working with the kids would be a fun and helpful way to get used to the culture. I absolutely was not expecting that the CDC would be the place I learnt the most about myself.

In my life, I've seen and experienced physical discipline. I'm not a proponent of beating your children, but I have seen how smaller actions like swatting and tough love had a positive influence on myself. The CDC, I was told would have basic physical discipline. (It's a culturally accepted practice in Nepal.) I however was not expecting the CDC to break my heart. On occasion, the teachers would slap the kids' hands with sticks or slam down on the tables. That was fine.

However, we are talking little children who are three to five years old. And the teachers would simply not allow them to play or get rowdy. Then the violence would increase to resounding slams on the backs and slaps in the face. Because of this, I physically saw children burst into tears. There were moments in class where I knew it was about to happen and would rush over to the kid or kids in question and try to use myself as a physical barrier.

These children also come from unfortunate and underprivileged circumstances. Their home lives according to the teachers could be good or could be really bad. 

The violence really got to me. And at times I would leave the CDC devastated.

The more time I spend in the CDC I've also come to learn of the impermanence of my role in their lives. Volunteers come in and out of the school all the time. The cycle repeats. The kids get attached, the teachers get less violent. But what really happens when we leave? And am I even really making a difference working there? I don't have these answers and I don't know if any amount of thinking them through will reveal anymore truth.

My other work, my work in women's rights at Women For Women Forum, is an experience I am most proud of. One of the reasons I chose Nepal over America for the summer was the fact that I felt the work I was getting to do in the States was busy work. I may be naive but I wanted to and still want to make the biggest difference possible with any amount of time I have. Because of this, I decided to intern in Nepal.

WFWF has been so wonderful. They understand that I still have not actually received my undergraduate degrees. Yet, they were willing to give me work that I would have had to have graduated and probably be in graduate school to receive in the US of A. 

At first it felt like I was getting thrown to the sharks, but the fact that I get to work constantly on grant proposals, research papers, and growth plans is just too amazing of an opportunity. I did not think that I would have been given the chance to write a grant proposal on my own with minimal supervision. Yes, it was hard and involved a lot of trial-and-error. But now, it is an invaluable skill in my repertoire. Moreover, growth reports and research papers are aspects of my professional life that I always feel like I need to work on.

WFWF has not just been a great educational experience for me. It also feels incredibly fulfilling. Knowing that my research and grants are going directly to help this nonprofit I've come to love means the world to me.

I know this is not a nonprofit spotlight (and I will probably do one on Women For Women before I leave Nepal in September) but here's a little information about WFWF. WFWF is a women'r rights nonprofit based in Kathmandu that focuses on the economic and political empowerment of women in the valley. It does so by helping form women's groups and creating political and economic cooperatives that then work together to achieve their goals. It is similar to unionization. Moreover WFWF also holds training and literacy programs and gives supplies to ensure that these groups are capable of the best success possible. WFWF's track record is quite spectacular, proving to be an increasingly helpful and crucial asset for the women of the greater Kathmandu Valley.

Because of this, I know that the work I do for WFWF is going to doing amazing projects and helping amazing women. Further, in a nation like Nepal, working for women's rights is super important. This is a country where illegal child marriages still occurs, where women are still treated worse, where domestic abuse and rape is at a higher rate than other nations, and where men feel they still have more legal rights than women. Women need to band together and work their way to a better future. And that is exactly what WFWF fights for.

As a whole culturally, Nepal has thus far been an absolute pleasure. I get chills when I enter every single temple. Every time I travel somewhere I feel like I am entering a different realm, one where the best of culture has risen to the top. At the same time I find myself heartbroken that such beautiful generations of culture were destroyed by the earthquake in 2015.

Nepal has officially joined my small list of places I've lived, but it is no less important than any of its counterparts. Nepal taught me to delve into my spirituality, delve into my identity, and delve into my purpose. And without that, I would just have remained a lost, tired, stressed, confused college student for god knows how long.

Characters in Cafes

As she sits in the corner seat at the cafe, drinking whatever warm drink lies within that coffee cup, she wonders. She wonders about the possibilities, the limits of her world.

Scoffing at her inner child, the young woman begins to scribble. What started off as seemingly meaningless jots on paper develop into furious scratches. The speed of her fingers and wrist could not match the whirlwind of her thoughts and ideas. The pen, grasped desperately, begins to quiver. Even it could not withstand the woman’s power.

Diagrams and notes overtake her worn notebook. Patterns start to appear. Her smile grows wider, remaining a permanent smirk as she continues onward in this great journey.

Days and days pass. Dutifully, the young woman returns after work daily and continues to fill her pages with vigor.

Months go by until she finally closes the notebook. A gleaming smile develops on her face as she hands the barista a hefty tip. She walks out of the cafe, coffee in hand, with the confidence of a thousand celebrities and politicians.

She commutes home. After opening her door, she beelines to her couch. Flopping down, the woman stretches and for the first time in months, relaxes. Allowing the animated silence to fill her surroundings, the woman holds a conversation with absent and invisible faces.

Congratulating her new friends, she laughs and begins to open her computer. The first edit of her world is done. Now comes the hard part, spreading the world she loves to her other friends and peers.

It is the least she feels her characters deserve, especially since they toiled with her all those days at the cafe, sharing their lovely and poignant story.

It is now up to her to spread their words, to become their literary warrior, to transform into their author.

Accio Extraordinary

What is magic? To me, it is what makes the mundane days extraordinary. 

Since I was a child there has been one constant magic: the world of Harry Potter. While witches and wizards, ghosts and goblins, and centaurs and phoenixes may seem absurd, they are some of the most meaningful creatures in the world for me. 

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter have taught me countless lessons formative for my being. Each and every character from the series has had a lasting impact on my life. Without Harry, I wouldn’t know the meaning of courage, even in times of great risk. Without Fred and George, I wouldn’t know how to relax and have fun. My most important character within the series is Hermione Granger. Despite her fictional status, Hermione taught me what it means to be a strong, amazing woman. I can only hope and strive to be the woman she was written to be.
 

The fictional seven years I spent in Hogwarts have been some of the best of my literary life. While the magic can be fantastical, the books also hold magic more enticing. Harry’s end-of-year battles in each book were remarkable, no doubt; but the crazy shenanigans his friend group would get into daily were that much more appealing. The magic of the series is within the relatability of its characters and themes. 

Looking onwards, the magic of Harry Potter lies in the words consumed during each read. The magic of Harry Potter also resides in those who read it. For me, it established my love of reading, something that makes the boring and gloomy days worthwhile.

And now, the magic of Harry Potter is what makes me, a person entering her twenties, relive the childlike enthusiasm and happiness the movies and books brought and will always bring me. Always.