Goodbye College.

This is the place that made me lose sleep, but it is also the place that became home.

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I feel like I have said “these past four years went by so quickly” close to a million times within the past few weeks, but honestly there are no other words to describe how insanely fast my college chapter has flown by. The people I met, the ones who stayed, the ones I did not get to keep, and even the ones that came back in the end to finish what they started.

My college has had such a huge impact on my life. This is the place that made me lose sleep, but it is also the place that became home. Some are good memories, and some are ones I probably wish never happened. Regardless of what has happened to me here, I will always love this place.

My college is where I met amazing people from all walks of life; all the stories I heard and the things they taught me. This is where roommates became best friends, and friends became family. This is the place where I have fallen in love at one point — either with my future goals or simply with my daily life here. This is the place where I slowly figured out what I want to do in life and to be accepting of change. After all, we are forever discovering ourselves. This is the place that showed me what I am capable of. This is the place that showed all of us a world outside of our hometowns — no matter how big or small they might be. This is the place that has become my home.

While I will miss the late night studying (more like cramming) and running to an early morning class, the hardest part might not be leaving this place or the academics, but leaving the people. My friends were there when I missed my family. My friends were there when I was going through a helluva stressful week. My friends were also there on the good days, celebrating small accomplishments, like doing well on a presentation, or the big accomplishments.

There are three primary organizations and the people I met through that who have made a positive mark on my life here on campus. I was really nervous about the thought of joining new organizations on campus and making my mark. All three of these organizations and the people have pushed me to achieve feats that I, four years ago, never thought I could possibly do. I’m eternally grateful to have met these people who convey new ideas and an open-mind. I’m grateful to have met these people who are patient and kind. I’m lucky to have grown with such genuine people. It’s hard to find those who truly mean what they say, but I was lucky to find them.

We’re all so different in personalities, majors, goals, and aspirations, but at the same time we are all so similar. We all have rough days. We all sing at the top of our lungs to throwback songs — even if my friends and I don’t harmonize one bit. We all miss our families — love you dad and ma. And, we all have disagreements — but there are no judgments abound. We’re all different but in the best way possible.

These last few months have been extremely busy. It feels like life is running on an hourglass. The anxiety has been real — trying to get in all the good memories, creating as many as you can before it is all over, and trying to do the things you have been wanting to do since freshmen year. I wish this did not have to end. I wish we all did not have to go our own separate ways. I wish I could just take all of my favorite people and places to my next chapter, but life moves on.

Once I get into my car Sunday afternoon and start to drive away, the final chapter of the life I made for four years will be closing. I will leave this place but I know I will always have the memories and photos to look back on, smiling to myself as I think of these days. But for now, before we leave, I wish I could slow down time, just to savor and cherish every last second before the last grain of sand falls and this chapter closes completely.

Written May 2, 2017 before my Bachelor’s Commencement on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Jump. Twist. Relax. Breathe.

My name, Abhinaya, is translated as dance expressions in Sanskrit; indeed, it is in dance that I find my fullest identity.

Jump. Twist. Relax. Breathe. The art of dance for me represents the intersection of these most elementary of movements with incredible elegance and sophistication. Back straight. Head held high. Smiling. It is at once the most complex, yet the simplest and most expressive activities I perform in any day; it is poetry in motion. As my body adjusts to the challenges of specific movements and gestures, my mind is free to drift, to sift through whatever needs organizing—the next day’s tasks, discord with a friend, or stress. As my arm and calf muscles loosen and my labored breathing relaxes, I am able to release that stress, forget that argument, and set my mind in order. In the middle of my routine, I stop and stare at myself in the mirror to admire my Bharathanatyam posture. I pause to feel my own strong heartbeat. Then, I dance again.

Sixteen years ago, my amma (as I call my sweet mother) dragged me to a dance class to introduce me to Bharathanatyam. I recall that day with a smile, for my first impression was – shall we say – less than positive. I confess my condescending glances at the Indian classical dancers, who looked so different, sitting in half-squats with their arms extended. But yielding to amma’s enthusiasm, I committed to give it a try. I couldn’t have imagined then how this beautiful ancient art would shape the way I experience the world and nurture my appreciation for expressions of love and beauty. Originating from South India, Bharathanatyam is one of the most cherished and popular classical Indian dance forms. This epitome of Indian cultural expression has been a bridge between my American and Indian lifestyles.

Over the years, I have gained much more from Bharathanatyam than just a dance education. While the study focuses on physical techniques, I have also learned the essence of diligence, patience, and perseverance. The strict discipline of Bharathanatyam has taught me to work very diligently, a trait that has served me well in all my pursuits.

I smile now remembering my little five-year-old self choosing to dance on a whim. What began as an activity I had to do every Sunday has become something that is a part of me. My name, Abhinaya, is translated as dance expressions in Sanskrit; indeed, it is in dance that I find my fullest identity. Bharathanatyam has given me the courage, confidence, and unique charisma to become the person I am today.

The Power of Sisterhood

Without a sister, I would not be who I am today.

My little sister graduated from high school recently and what an occasion it was for my family. As an older sister (only by three years), it was the first time I was tearing up. Yeah, I’ve graduated myself (no tears then), seen my friends graduate after me (no tears then either), and even been to my sister’s other award ceremonies (still no tears). And this girl has been honored at a wide range of events — from academics to extracurriculars. But this graduation was different.

It was a day that I’ll never forget. It was a day I was excited about since she was about to start her next chapter in life. It was a day I truly felt proud to be her older sister. I was not hesitant to scream my lungs out when her name was called to the stage to pick up her diploma. I was not hesitant to tear up in front of hundreds. Most importantly, I was not hesitant to call her my biggest joy in life.

It’s such a weird feeling. Seeing her with all her special cords, medals, tassel, and graduation robe just immediately made me nostalgic. Three years ago, when I was in her shoes, she was there to support me, to yell when my name was called on stage, to take pictures of me and my friends with our diplomas, and to stand up for me whenever someone tried to say anything disrespectful behind or in front of me. It took me 18 years to realize the true power of sisterhood and its importance in my family.

My sister and I are known opposites. Three examples right here: I’m loud, absolutely adore cricket, and dislike Mexican food. She’s quiet, hates watching cricket, and eats nothing but quesadillas. But what connects us is our love for our culture whether that be music, dance, or cinema and our love for each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean we never fight. In fact, we used to and still fight — a lot. But these fights have brought us even closer to each other.

When I was young, I’ve wished to be the only child just so all my parents’ love is towards me. But man, was I wrong. Without someone to share things with, without someone to fight with or even blame things on, without someone to apologize to after making a mistake, without someone to play games with, without someone my age at home with me to share my feelings with — without a sister, I would not be who I am today. And, this graduation just took me through this reminiscing ride of appreciating my sister’s love and support for me always.

Love ya sis and can’t wait for more memories.

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