Goodbye, College.

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

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.

New Year, Better Me

New year means reflections like never before.

The New Year means reflections like never before.

While I understand making resolutions doesn’t have to only happen on New Year’s, there is that extra motivational push to do so when others around you are reflecting during the same time. By having so much free time this winter break to reflect, the new year is my chance to sit down and prepare a list of important actionable lifestyle changes I want to make.

In the past, I have always made a list of things I want to change in my life every new year. When I think about them now, I realize how materialistic those goals have been. I particularly remember 2012’s one where I wanted to do anything I can to get into a prestigious Ivy League and 2014’s one where I wanted that 4.0 next semester. Yes – these resolutions motivated me to do well, but I realize now how narrow-minded these resolutions were. Ivy Leagues. 4.0s. I was missing the point of life. I was not understanding the importance of happiness, positivity, and peace. It was always a rush to succeed and never about enjoying the process.

Not sure what has been so different about me when thinking about this year’s resolutions (maybe I’m just feeling 22 haha), but when I began jotting my goals, I realized it could very easily be summarized as leading a happy life. There was no specific achievement I wanted. Rather, it was to enjoy every day of my life. Maybe this is the after-effect of close family friends’ untimely deaths. Or maybe this is the senior college student nostalgia kicking in already. Or maybe this is just me being more aware of society around me. Regardless, I am beginning to see the world and my role here in a different light.

My resolutions may seem vague to many reading this, but to me, this is exactly how I want them to be. We have all been taught to make SMART goals with the S standing for specific. As you’ll see, my resolutions are not specific whatsoever. Rather, they’re just how I want to lead life this year and for years to follow. I believe these resolutions are the door to happiness and eventually, my perseverance to make my mark in society.

Read More.

The last physical book I read was probably over four years ago. I still read the news, but that’s not really the same. I always blamed lack of time for this, but this year I really want to start reading more. With the endless amount of perspectives and lives we can read about, books can give us an opportunity to have experiences that we haven’t had the opportunity to and still allow us to learn the life skills they entail. Through reading more, I hope to discover more about myself.

Live More [Fully].

Yup, you read that right. Live more. I want to live my life more fully. I will pursue to live every day on a fresh new start. I do not want to be and will not be held back by what happened yesterday, the day before, the week before, the year before, and so on. This also means to be true to who I really am. Unintentionally, we all try to be someone we are not to impress someone or want everyone to like us. While I made this change last year, I really want to continue this as it has made me a more confident and independent person. I’d rather be an original version of myself than an exact duplicate of someone else. And, the third change I want to bring about is to stop complaining. I never understood how I much I complain until a friend recently pointed out. Call it venting, b****ing, or whatever, but I tend to do this during stressful times, and I need to turn it down a notch. While it is important to share your feelings with close friends, over-complaining or criticizing brings them down too even if they don’t express it. So 2017, get ready for the more positive me!

Breathe More [Fresh Air].

This past year, I have been indoors way too much. Classes, meetings, meals, and assignments are all inside. I want to explore more Atlanta spots and take my reading, studying, and chilling there. I spend way too much time in my apartment and have always wanted to go outside to work on things, but I was never proactive. With my Fridays off this semester, I will have a great opportunity to explore the city I have spent practically my entire life in. Not only that, fresh air busts stress and increases happiness. Research shows that spending time in fresh air increases energy in 90 percent of people. This seems like a good resolution to me. 🙂

Give More [to Society].

In five months, I will have received my undergraduate degree from one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation. Why was it that I worked so hard to get this degree? It is honestly more the process and the four years of learning that has shaped me to be who I am now. Taking those fun courses that were outside the biomedical engineering curriculum was very honestly my secret to new ideas and passion. No matter how tough we think our lives are, there is always someone who has to face challenges that are even tougher than ours. Taking classes like sociology and leveraging social networks gave me a fresh take on how I can make a sustainable difference as opposed to volunteering at one holiday event. As a Girl Scout for 13 years and active member of various service organizations, I have kept my promise of giving back to society. However, this year I want to give more. I want to start an initiative myself going off my Gold Award project that I was and am still passionate about in 2013 — autism awareness. With the connections I have made these past four years, with the new advances I have learned about in my courses, and with the passion to lead and serve my community, I am really excited in launching this idea sometime the first half of this year.

Love More.

If you can learn to love yourself and all the flaws, you can love other people so much better. And that makes you so happy. ~ Kristin Chenoweth

Enough said. Bringing more happiness and positivity to not only myself but to those around me is exactly what I will be doing starting now.

Smile More.

One smile can make all the difference in the world. One smile has the power to release stress, calm you down, make you attractive, make someone else happy, and can cause happiness. I want to continue smiling through ups and downs and see more positivity in any situation. After all, I do think smiling more is the way to mastering the art of positive thinking.

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.

Positivity of Death

Finding the positivity and meaning of life through death.

I couldn’t have watched a more inspiring speech on what a loved one’s death has taught someone. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, recently spoke at UC Berkeley’s Commencement Speech, and it was absolutely phenomenal. It was so evident that her words came straight from her heart and flowed so well that it is, hands down, the most powerful speech I have personally heard in recent times. She has learned about “the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss.”

But, she also “learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, find the surface, and breathe again.” She found positivity after her husband’s unexpected death from a freak accident when they were vacationing. She found even more confidence to achieve more and to support her two children through these tough times. She found peace following “the worst day of her life.” Her words brought an encouraging ambiance and inspired the new graduates to explore the world through their own visions. Despite setbacks, as cliché as this sounds, the goals will workout. Life will workout. The key to success and happiness is resilience.

“It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude—gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children,” Sandberg stated to the new graduates. She encouraged them and all of us to find “that gratitude — not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it.”

Her lessons to us from what she learned through her husband’s death has truly made a profound effect. It has given us hope, strength, and most importantly positivity to continue to handle the long journey of life — one filled with lessons, hardships, joys, and celebrations that will ultimately lead us to our destinations.

For those who are looking for some inspiration, please be sure to watch her speech here.

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