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.

The Importance of a Name

There would be no significance of each person; a person cannot live without a name.

One’s name is crucial in the representation of reputation. A name is one of the most valuable gifts a person is given by his or her parents. A name can only be given once, and a person just as not getting another name in life cannot have another life. People all have one chance, and their name is the basis of the genesis of life. The names of people are like the star ratings for a restaurant or hotel. It could be good or bad, and the way that people distinguish each hotel is by the name and if it is 3-star or 5-star. On day to day basis in this society, names are the only way each individual human being on earth is recognized.

The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, is heavily name based. For example, at the end of this play John Proctor, a local farmer who lives just outside of town, is accused along with several women of witchcraft. The irony here indeed however is the fact that people who are corrupt are not hung, and the people who are not corrupt are hung. John Proctor hates hypocrisy. He did not want to lie to anyone about being a witch even though he knew it would save his life and more importantly his reputation. He was worried that if he committed to witchcraft, then his innocent name in the community will be ruined. He doesn’t want his name on the church door and consequently to ruin his entire family reputation. He hesitates in front of Judge Danforth to give the false confession and crumples the paper he had and welcomes his own death. He considered his reputation and his name in society was more important than his life. Arthur Miller was unequivocally critical in writing this play. Moreover, he felt sympathetic towards some characters, such as Rebeca Nurse and John. The latter preferred to speak honestly so he wouldn’t have to live with a horrible reputation, which to him is equivalent of a death itself, in the community. The name of John Proctor was a noble one. It was an innocent one. And most importantly, his name was an honest one. He couldn’t bear ruining it further.

Likewise to the chaotic nature of the Salem witch trials in The Crucible was the Red Scare. The Red Scare was when people were unnecessarily being accused of being communists. In Majestic, a movie about the Red Scare, John Appleton was accused of being a communist. The most important evidence the court had in possession was his name signed on a document relating to communism. It was concluded that all the names in that specific document were linked with communism in general. Sadly, the court wanted the false truth from Appleton. Appleton had a statement ready to read in front of the court, but he hesitated and stopped at the last minute. He crumbled the paper and told the audience that he couldn’t lie anymore just to avoid going to the jail and that he indeed was a not communist. He wanted to save his nice reputation and name in the community. He did not want everyone going around society staying away from him because he himself said he was a communist. Like previously stated, he didn’t want to be living while dying; his life was in a limbo. He could tell a lie, save his life, and have a bad reputation tagged onto his name or he could tell the truth, save his reputation, and be put into jail. If he had lied, it’s true that he would still be living outside jail, but he wouldn’t have received any job opportunities or means to start a new life. No one would want him because his name is labeled as a “Communist”.

Generally speaking, getting honored and getting recognized in front of a big audience is a treasurable moment. A person is given a name to be recognized and to be unique. I have experienced such moments where my special name was celebrated for winning first place in the State Science and Engineering Fair. The moment they announced my name, the entire audience applauded and cheered for me. That one special moment changed my life and my reputation in society dramatically.  Now whenever I go out into that audience, most of them recognize me by the name and as the girl who won the grand prize at the competition. In this scenario, my reputation was as an intelligent and young girl. This positive reputation and the intelligence tagged onto my name motivates me to pursue greater heights to maintain my reputation. Moreover, this makes my family proud to have a child that is reputed to being “famous” at least in a state platform.

Names are the most prestigious aspect of one’s reputation. Names are the definition of people. A name belongs to one specific person and cannot have another. It attaches to the reputation of one self and it is crucial in the representation of reputation. Without names and without a certain identification of who each individual is, everyone would be like particles of dust. There would be no significance of each person; a person cannot live without a name. Names give the soul of a person and leave the audience with a mark of how and why the person is significant.

The Liebster Award

So here it goes in the hope that this award nomination thread continues and for virtually meeting more diverse and amazing bloggers!

Started blogging a little over a month ago, and to see all this love and support from bloggers around the world feels amazing! For this Liebster Award nomination, I want to give a huge shout out to my friend, Prathima, at Later Alligator. We may be 9, 000 miles apart, but our passion for blogging has kept us very much connected. She has a phenomenal blog, so to whoever’s reading this, be sure to check it out!

Very honestly speaking, I had no idea what this nomination was all about. The more posts I read of others who were nominated, I understood its power of connecting bloggers. It makes bloggers feel special about their writing, photography, and thoughts and encourages them to continue to do so.

So here it goes in the hope that this award nomination thread continues and for virtually meeting more diverse and amazing bloggers!

The rules for the Liebster Award nomination are pretty straightforward:

  • Thank the one(s) who nominated you
  • Answer 11 questions the blogger gives you
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 bloggers that you think deserve this award too
  • Give them 11 questions to answer
  • Let the bloggers know you nominated them

And, here are Prathima’s questions and my answers:

1. If you had to choose, what would it be – budget or luxury travel?

I absolutely love the challenge for travelling under a budget! To me, the richest and most luxurious travel experience is eating at a local roadside food stand as opposed to dressing up and dining at a 5-star hotel. It’s watching kids play street cricket at the park and joining them as opposed to heading to an expensive musical at some top-notch theater. I don’t want to be a tourist; I just want to experience it like a native in that country. And, most of the times, that takes a budget travel and nothing more.

2. What’s your biggest fear about travelling?

My biggest fear about travelling is not having a safe place to stay at night. As much fun nomad travelling sounds, as a girl, I just worry about a safe place to stay during the night. Doesn’t have to be super neat, have a complimentary breakfast, or anything fancy. Just needs to be safe.

3. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

One thing everyone about me knows… I’m not an adventurous eater AT all. But, one thing I ate at a Scouts camping trip in elementary school that still makes me puke just thinking about it is mashed and cooked canned brown beans. Looks like sh*t and probably tastes like sh*t. This is why I’m not a fan of Mexican food either.

4. What is your comfort food?

Hands down, that typical Madrasi breakfast (more like a meal, my bad) — that steamy and delicious idli, spicy vegetable-filled sambar, fresh coconut chutney, crispy medhu vada, and a hot filter coffee to top it off. Just typing this makes me hungry.

5. Have you ever been to India?

Yup, I was born in Chennai and lived there my first five years before moving here! But, my family’s very connected to our relatives there — the typical weekly calls where we all yell on the phone despite the service being so clear, FaceTiming during special occasions, sharing pictures and memes on that family WhatsApp group everyone has, and of course visiting them every other summer for 2-3 months.

6. Describe your blog in one word.

Positivity

7. What do you hate/dislike about blogging?

Honestly, I dislike it when I have a genuine piece freshly posted but there are no views on it. I post thoughts to see what others feel, but if others don’t see it, then I’m not quite sure what to do, haha.

8. What are the top five things on your bucket list?

  • Live in Bangalore, Chennai, and/or Hyderabad for at least 3 years of my life with my husband (not married yet lol) and travel all over India during my time there.
  • Teach students in underprivileged areas through the Peace Corps.
  • Meet the Indian Cricket team players that were part of the 2011 World Cup win.
  • Choreograph a dance routine for an Indian movie.
  • Have a cup of coffee with Dr. Abdul Kalam. I was too late with this one. 😦

9. Which is the one place in the world you wouldn’t mind visiting again and again?

Paris ❤

10. What did you want to be growing up?

I went through a lot of phases — top 3 I can think of now right away are: doctor, Indian actress, and chef with my own cooking show.

11. Are you what you wanted to be?

I am not yet in any of these professions, but I still could be. What is more important is that I am happy with where I am today and with all I’ve accomplished. Still got many years to come.

Okay, next step: 11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I am a trained Bharatnatyam dancer (for 16 years now).
  2. I can speak 4 languages fluently — English, Tamil, Telugu, and French.
  3. I have plenty of Indian actor crushes, but one by one they’re getting married away lol.
  4. My goal is to make at least one music cover by the end of the summer. Anyone want to collab? I’m a pretty decent singer.
  5. My grandpa used to own a stationary store in India in my name.
  6. Name any Tamil or Telugu movie. I’ve 90% watched it. That’s how much I love cinema.
  7. I’ve been playing the violin for 12+ years now.
  8. I have a weird craze over airports and airplanes. They make me so happy.
  9. I believe in horoscopes.
  10. My birthday is the same day as Rajnikanth and Yuvraj Singh. The former name usually excites all my Indian friends.
  11. I like Pepsi more than Coca Cola, and I’m from Atlanta…hmm.

Okay, your turn. My nominees for the Liebster Award are:

  1. The Evolutionary Mind
  2. Rijul Ballal
  3. The Aahir Entry
  4. Trickster Chase
  5. Lyf&Spice
  6. Divya Rao
  7. Asmi
  8. Passion to Color
  9. Rashminotes
  10. That’s So Taran
  11. Smileaheartoflove

My questions for the nominees are:

  1. Tell me the 3 best qualities about you.
  2. What are your 3 favorite movies?
  3. Name a celebrity you think is lame.
  4. Would you rather win an Olympic medal, an Academy Award or the Nobel Peace prize?
  5. What is your favorite family tradition?
  6. What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a trip?
  7. Would you rather be the best player on a horrible team or the worst player on a great team?
  8. If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?
  9. Who’s your celebrity crush?
  10. What is your favorite quote?
  11. If you could shop for free at one store, which one would you choose?

And, that concludes this post! Definitely a long post, but I had fun writing it. Hoping it’s just as fun for my nominees! Looking forward to getting to know y’all better! Cheers! 🙂

Be your own role model.

Ever since a child, we’ve all been asked in some way or the other who our role model is. At least with me, it was almost always, “Who’s your role model?” or “Who do you want to be like in the future?” Without any hesitation, I had a response ready — even if was different as the years went by. I remember saying my friend’s older sister who was a doctor. Then, it was some celebrity Tamil actor. And then, it was my mom and dad. And then, Shobana Pillai, Anoushka Shankar, Indra Nooyi, Marie Curie…the list goes on and on. I’m not against any of these people — clearly not if I named them as people I respect greatly. They are truly inspirational and have made their own marks in society. Without them or their achievements, society would not be the same. Let me repeat one important part of that: “made their own marks.”

Seriously, humans of the 21st century: we should encourage individuality. From giving elementary students freedom to approach a math problem in their own style to letting more college students design their own majors, these are just some simple ways to start making this happen. Why should we aspire to be like someone else in society? We should be the best of our ability. We need to aspire to be our own pioneers in our achievements. I want to be me and make my mark in the society. I want my name to be respected at any scale. Doesn’t need to global; it can be in my own neighborhood. I want to be and die a person who has stuck to her goals and has made a difference in her own way.

Some take this as being egotistical or narcissistic. So for those who think this, go ahead and just emulate someone else’s success and style of thinking. Chances are high that you’ll only be compared to your role models and expected to do everything like them. Societal pressure is not a joke, and you’ll just put yourself in the center of it. Try to do what your heart and mind say — not what society wants you to say and do. It is hard but worth it.

Make it happen. Do your own thing. Be YOU.

Feel free to share your thoughts about this with me. I am curious as to how others feel about role models and other sources of inspiration.