I have always felt that I am an old soul, ever since 5-year-old me couldn’t relate to my peers and was more concerned with life philosophies than toys (although I did and still love my toys!). As such, in these 30 years of life I have learned many things through introspection, observation, education, and most of all, experience. On my 30th birthday today, I share with you 30 things that I have learned and I will elaborate on each one throughout my birthday month. Join me in a conversation on the learnings listed here and the philosophies behind them!
30 at 30
“Where there is love there is life” – Mahatma Gandhi
I am my greatest love story.
Life can change DRASTICALLY in seconds.
Blood may be thicker than water, but even your blood can betray and leave you.
Hustle hard and early in life because it pays off BIG later in more ways than you think.
Never stop learning because that’s when you stop growing.
Never give up!
Follow your heart, it knows the way.
Love freely and openly – it’s too beautiful not to express!
Be YOU because you were made this way for a beautiful reason.
Know your flaws. Accept your flaws. Love your flaws. They make you beautiful.
Your greatest obstacle is your mindset.
Breed positivity and you’ll have an abundance of good people at your side.
Time does not determine value in a relationship, respect does.
Life is a result of our choices.
Other people’s opinions are great for reflection, but remember to walk away from the mirror and decide for yourself.
Perception is reality in the minds of others, but reality always makes itself known when it matters.
Be approachable, not accessible.
Never be afraid to be as fabulous as you are – the world needs more of it.
Smile and smile often – for you, for your people, and for the people who just need to see the world smile some more.
Fight for what’s right even when the world is against you – it’s not about them, it’s not about karma, it’s about doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do.
Believing in yourself is the best investment you can make.
Love your people and love on them often.
Life really is short, so do what you can today because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.
Prepare yourself for the life you want because you never know when it will become real.
There are habits you can change and there are habits that are actually characteristics. Know the difference and train yourself accordingly.
The foundations of ANY relationship (friend, family, intimate) are Trust and Respect.
You’ll never regret trying.
Fear is the world’s way of testing you. You have to decide when you’re ready to pass and level up.
This is YOUR life. Live it your way.
Aaj ho mere saath Toh yaad zaroor rakhna ye baat Izzat doge toh mein hoon saath Varna chune ke liye bhi na hoga yeh haath
Yeh zamana mera hai Abhi main kabool karti hoon Saara jahan dekha ga Main kis duniya ki bani hoon
Translation (adjusted for meaning): Today if you’re with me Please remember what I say Respect me and I’m with you Otherwise even my hand will be too far away
This season is mine I accept it and manifest it The whole world will see From which realm I may be
People often continue through life in the expectations of society and the community they are surrounded by, and spend all their time living up to those expectations. In fact, we are conditioned to believe that there is a set path we need to follow in order for life to be “successful” or “complete”. What is forgotten in this conditioning is that everyone is unique and has their own path to follow. Each individual gets to decide how they shape their life and success is defined by them and no one else. If there is anything to glean from this year, it is that life is unpredictable, so rather than waiting for society’s expected life moments to be happy or do the things we want to do, we should do those things now. We should make time for and design our life around what our hearts say our life needs. Most people wait to do that when they ‘retire’, but you don’t know what life will look like after 40 years, let alone tomorrow, so why wait to live it until then?
Holding back your passions or waiting to do the things you want to do in life is just preventing you from living your life to the fullest. In an effort to encourage y’all to live your best life, let’s recognize and celebrate what you gave time to in 2020. I want you to recognize what’s important to you and aim to give more time to those things in 2021.
For the last day of 2020, and Day 1 of Fast 5 of the Last 5, let us celebrate the time we gave to what was important to us.
Without pause, quickly list 5 things or people that you made time for in 2020.
1. The People I Love
2. My Passions
4. My Personal Growth
5. Life Goals
Share your 5 things in the comments and on social media, and be sure to use the hashtags #Fast5oftheLast5 #F5L5 #2020F5L5 and tag me (@__akiti__) so we can celebrate the value of what you gave time to.
This had to be the fastest yet slowest year we have experienced. It felt like life was slipping away and we were not able to make use of it as we originally intended and yet it was moving so torturously slow that it felt like the shenanigans of the year would never end. For those familiar with the game Jumanji, it definitely felt like someone started the game in the first quarter and each stage of the game was a new kind of crazy that we couldn’t wait to get past. Well it’s finally the last day of 2020, and I join everyone in the hopes that today runs smoothly and we just make it to tomorrow without anything falling apart. When the 31st of December comes each year, we tend to reminisce about all the things we’ve done this year – the good and the bad – as well as all the possibilities of the year to come. Since we tend to make time for the things we truly enjoy, and we spend time frivolously on everything else, I want to spend this last day thinking about the hours and days I spent on the things that I truly valued.
One of my greatest accomplishments this year was that I did make time for the life I love and the one I have wanted to live. Even before the pandemic hit, I had envisioned this year as one that I would spend building the foundation for the life I deserve. I initiated a lot of that work in the first few months, and when the pandemic hit, I actively chose to allocate time focusing on the tasks and lifestyle choices that aligned to that life. It was a struggle, as much of this year was, but I am proud that I was able to make some amazing strides and succeeded in making time for what mattered most to me.
To continue the theme of making time for the things that matter, I am not going to go into deeper reflections on my 5 things in hopes that you all spend today making time for what matters to you. Let’s spend the last day of 2020 celebrating not just the end of this year and the beginning of the next, but celebrating life itself and the fact that we get to live it!
In this life of mine The unknown is time To live life accordingly Is the main goal of mine
We are often asked what we are grateful for and there are some usual suspects that folks answer with, as is customary, because we are expected to be grateful for certain things like family. Gratitude, by definition, is the willingness to be thankful for or show appreciation or kindness towards something or someone. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are not equally blessed with people or experiences that we can be thankful for, and so we should be gracious to those who are grateful for other things in life because of what those things mean to them and their life. For example, not everyone has family or even should be expected to be grateful for them if that “family” has been abusive or disruptive to their life or peace of mind. Therefore, those individuals may be grateful for a great many things or other people in their life and that is absolutely, unquestioningly acceptable and I am grateful if you prioritize yourself and your peace of mind enough to recognize what is okay for you.
And so, with an open mind and an open heart, I welcome you to Day 5 of the Fast 5 of the Last 5 of 2020 as we count down to the new year! If you’re joining for the first time, please visit the introduction to this new year-end tradition, and then return here for the first activity below.
Without pause, quickly list 5 things, people, or experiences you are grateful for in 2020. Here are mine:
2. My Crew: Mommy & the Boys
3. The Family I Choose
4. My Health
5. My Freedom
Share your 5 things in the comments and on social media, and be sure to use the hashtags #Fast5oftheLast5 #F5L5 #2020F5L5 and tag me (@__akiti__) so we can be grateful together!
My list actually rolled off the tongue quite expeditiously because I realized what truly mattered to me after a traumatic period in my life. I often refer to that period as a previous life because it genuinely feels as though I died and was reborn with a second chance at the life I want and deserve to live. That’s not to say my list is not specific to 2020, but it just so happens that the pandemic reaffirmed for me the importance of these 5 things and why I am grateful for them.
Often people offhandedly mention they are grateful for life as a general act of respect for all that life encompasses. My appreciation for life is a bit different though because I have been close enough to death, had multiple near-death experiences, and experienced the loss of literally everything in my life to truly recognize that every ounce of life I get to live is a blessing. Every person, every object, every sense I get to experience is beautiful to me and I actually wake up thankful for this opportunity daily. This year in particular reminded me how quickly these things can be taken away and reignited my desire to live my best life, so I’m grateful for that realization and the opportunity to exist here.
My Crew: Mommy & the Boys
As a result of the 2020 pandemic, we were confined to our homes to be left only with those living with us. For many this was difficult, dangerous even, and an unexpected sentence the world delivered them – and I feel for you all deeply. Fortunately for me, I could not have been more ecstatic to get to spend all of my time with just my Mom and my boys (my fur babies – Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy, Sparky, Sonic, and Shadow – learn more about them here!). Outside of the pandemic, the world had become so focused on the activities and people we needed to engage with to feel like life was being lived, but I have known and was beyond grateful to get to engage with the ones I love most in this world because they deserve my time the most. They are the core of my being, the why for my existence, and the ones I would venture to the ends of the universe for. There is nothing that makes me happier or brings me more peace in this world than being with my crew and seeing them happy, so I’m grateful for the time I had and continue to have with them because each moment is a blessing.
The Family I Choose
Everyone is born into a family (biologically), whether you know them or not, are close to them or not, or in whatever form that may be. Society tends to promote the expectation that everyone should strive for and hold onto the “nuclear family” because that is the “right” way to live. In 2020, I believe we’ve progressed enough to realize that the modern family is what you make of it. Your family is the culmination of the people who choose you and with whom you reciprocate that choice because there is mutual respect, trust, and love in those relationships. If those three elements do not exist, then quite frankly, you have every right to not want to maintain the relationship and should not have to.
I learned this the hard way in life, but have come out with a strong family I choose that is a combination of biological relations and beautiful souls that made their way into my life, both of whom choose every day to be active and supportive parts of my life, and I in theirs. I got to spend beautiful moments with most of these people (all within the context of the safety protocols of this year), and we made memories for life that I truly cherish. The pandemic also showed me the true colors of many individuals I thought to be a part of that family and had to let go of in honor of my self-respect, and so I am even more grateful for realizing who is meant to be here and chooses to be.
Over the past 6 years, there was an onset of many random and life-induced medical conditions that I struggle with even today. In 2020, whilst the world was battling a health condition that has taken the lives of so many and continues to bring strife, I learned to appreciate my state of wellbeing more than ever. I am an asthmatic and Covid-19 has been a particularly high risk for me, so coming to the end of the year without having Covid-19 and remaining in generally good health for the greater part of the year outside of a few natural hiccups, is astounding for me and something I am truly grateful for. I’ve realized the importance of healthy practices and intend to continue the activities I engaged in this year to build my immunity and strength to remain well in the coming year.
In America especially, we speak of freedom as our right but take it for granted more often than not, especially if you are privileged enough to not experience freedom-hindering actions against you. I have lived a generally privileged life as it pertains to my freedom because my parents maintained a liberal mindset by which I was allowed and encouraged to explore the world and myself with their full support. Even coming from an Indian background where the culture does not always support such liberal lives, my family has always been this way and are loud and proud of it. It is probably due to us being of Punjabi descent (from the northern state of Punjab, India), in which such liberal nature is quite common compared to other parts of India. That being so, I ended up in a very traumatic marriage where that freedom was stripped away entirely and I was a modern-day slave in a life I never could have imagined for myself. After being freed of that entrapment, I realized the value of freedom and recognized that one cannot fully appreciate it until that freedom is taken away.
In 2020, as we were forced to remain in the confines of our homes and the Black Lives Matter Movement exploded with the attempted eradication of an entire peoples’ freedom, much of the trauma from that torturous time resurfaced in the form of thoughts of what life would have been like if I was not thrust out of that life. In revisiting those experiences and working through that trauma, I realized that freedom is not just political with regard to what you can and cannot do in society. Freedom is the inherent right you have to live life the way in which is true to you without any impediment by others or in any way that harms another’s freedom or life. That being said, in 2020 I am eternally grateful for the freedom I have to wake up every day when I want, how I want, and to live the life I want.
Life is what you make it If you are able to do so Let us all be gracious For we reap what we sow
Unread messages. Overflowing inbox. Work piling up. Wanting to respond, follow-through, and catch-up, but needing to close the door and make all the noise stop. The fear of taking action overpowering the love for family, friends, and the life you’ve worked towards or desire. Anxiety isn’t just heart thumping panic attacks, it’s every minute thought that crosses your mind before taking any action or making any choice, and fighting to keep those thoughts away. There are ways to combat those feelings and I’m going to walk you through the ones I find to be the most effective to continue through this game we call life.
It’s common to assume that because someone is doing well, looks well, and isn’t having public episodes they couldn’t possibly be struggling with mental health issues. I’m here to inform you that such an assumption is both incorrect and harmful. I am a successful entrepreneur who continues to push others to excel, the first & last person on the dance floor, and someone who makes it a point to be a smiling, loving face for all. And that’s all you would see and know unless you found me hiding in a bathroom or if I didn’t outrightly tell you that I struggle with the aforementioned inner thought battle on a daily basis. After abuse and gaslighting from my marriage, I was left questioning every thought, every choice, and every action 100 times over. There are days when I am productive or outgoing beyond belief, and then those days are almost always followed by days where I don’t want to move at all, or see or speak to anyone, even if it’s digitally. The very thought of interacting with anyone or even posting on social media from a digital distance is abhorrent and has me wondering if anyone even cares what I have to say or think, or worse – that they’ll belittle me for what I share.
Lucky for me (albeit debatably so), I’m considered to be someone with high-functioning anxiety because although there are days where the anxiety takes over and I can’t bring myself to move past it, more often than not I persevere beyond what I’m experiencing because I convince myself that what I need to do or say is more important. Many do not acknowledge the concept of high-functioning anxiety on the basis that they believe the anxiety is not as bad as it is for those who are completely numbed by it.
What they do not comprehend is the extent of that crippling, numbing feeling of the anxiety I, or others like me, have and the amount of courage and strength it takes to move past those feelings every moment of every day. It’s not that the anxiety isn’t bad, it’s that high-functioning anxious individuals like myself either have no choice but to keep moving on with life or they have found the courage to do it anyway. That does not mean we’re not dealing with the same or possibly worse anxiety symptoms. It just means we are not willing to let it cripple our lives permanently and have chosen to do something about it.
I choose every moment of every day to build a life I love and one with purpose, and I want others struggling with anxiety to be able to do the same. Here are 5 tactics that help me find & maintain the courage and willpower to push past my anxiety when I need to, and I hope they help you do the same.
1. Acknowledging Your Anxiety
They say the first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem, and that most definitely applies to anxiety as well. The difference is that you must not only accept that you have anxiety, but also the ways in which it impacts you and the extent of the impact. One thing many assume about mental health issues is that, like physical illnesses, they probably impact people the same exact way – if you have a paper cut, it means your skin broke, there is probably blood, and the solution is a bandaid irrespective of how the paper cut you. That assumption is very much incorrect for mental health issues because although the anxiety symptoms may be similar, the extent to which they impact you are entirely dependent upon who you are as a person and the experiences you’ve had.
For example, Person A and Person B both have anxiety. Person A has experienced a traumatic event that triggered anxiety symptoms. Person B has always had anxious thoughts and reacts to the world accordingly. Both Person A and Person B have recurring thoughts questioning their value in life, prefer not to interact with other people if they don’t have to, and have insomnia. Person B has these thoughts because they are trying to find value and purpose in themselves and replaying events helps them do that, but any mistakes torture them and keep them awake at night. Person A, having gone through a traumatic experience, has recurring thoughts because the trauma replays in their mind and tries to convince them that they are of no value, and these thoughts numb them completely if they let them in; making sleep next to impossible because they cannot sit still with their thoughts and need to keep doing something. They have similar anxiety symptoms, but the effect of the anxiety is very different and requires unique care to manage it.
Acknowledging your anxiety and how it impacts you allows you to find a way to accept it, understand how it influences you to act or react in certain ways, and find techniques that uniquely suit your impacts or triggers. It’s about managing the symptoms by trying to understand the root cause or triggers of those symptoms, and that may eventually help you heal past certain symptoms entirely like it has for me.
2. Having a Why
Every individual strives for a purpose in life, a reason or why for existing, and it’s important to look for and know yours because it acts as a guiding force when obstacles come your way. Especially in the case of anxiety, having a why helps push past the anxious thoughts/feelings because you know you have to do what you have to do to fulfill your why.
For example, when I was thrust out of my marriage and freed from my abusers, I was left with nothing – truly hit rock bottom because I was broke and homeless and lost everything I had built until that point in life. It was then that I realized through self-reflection that my why has nothing to do with material things people strive for in life, but rather the basic principle that I deserve to be alive, to be free, and to be loved. Therefore, my why is to never let myself be in a position where I’m not living fully, freely, and in love with who I am and what I do daily. Every time an obstacle comes my way, I’m now able to remind myself of this and it grants me the ability to focus on the part the required action plays in the life I want for myself and push through because I know what I’m working towards is worth it and no anxious thought is worse than letting myself return to a life like my past.
Having a why gives you a base to return to and ground yourself with to reset your focus. I find that this is 90% effective in anxious situations – the 10% being triggered events that require a bit more assistance.
3. Using Tools to Focus
When anxiety hits and attempts to derail you, it can be extremely difficult to catch yourself in the moment and break free. Using your why is a great start because it invigorates you to push through by reminding you of what trumps your anxious thoughts, but sometimes the thoughts or triggers have a stronger impact. In those cases, there are a few tools that can help relax your mind and body to make it easier to reset and focus to break free.
Breathing exercises. There are a variety of breathing methods that stabilize the body and grant the mind more focus. I recommend starting with researching different yoga breathing practices to find the one that best suits you. My go-to method is inhaling through your nose and out through your mouth because it requires you to focus on the breathing method which grounds your mind on something other than what is triggering your anxiety. I usually take 10 of these deep breaths or until I feel like I’m back in control. It immediately reduces my heart rate, releases the clenching symptoms, and relaxes any breathing spasms (for those who are also asthmatic like me). Practice any of the breathing exercises outside of anxious moments so that you are prepared with how to use the tool rather than adding more tension during an anxious moment or attack to try and figure the exercise out.
Movement.Physically changing your position resets the mind and brings back a sense of reality. If you’re sitting, then stand up, walk around, or stretch. Initially, this breaks the train of thought you are in, which is especially helpful if you’re able to recognize that the thought track you’re starting has numbed you in the past. It takes practice to catch this, but once you are able to recognize it and move as soon as you acknowledge it’s starting, you can change the course of that moment. I usually go straight into surya namaskar (a yoga stretch) because it is a combination of breathing and stretching that feels like a fresh start since I do this every morning as well to kickstart my day. By making it a part of my morning routine, I’ve trained my mind and body to consider it as a starting point. I’ll go through the movements 5 times or until I feel centered again. Find the movement that best resets you and practice using it every time a triggering thought crosses your mind or build it into your daily routine. Eventually, it becomes second nature to do this and begins to create a healthy comfort zone to retreat to and reset from.
Thought Diversion.This is a mind exercise that breaks the anxious thought as soon as it comes through and trains your mind to stop the train of thought entirely. Essentially, when an anxious thought crosses your mind, and you recognize it, immediately shift your focus to a completely random thought flow. For example, I tend to experience anxiety during still moments in my day when I’m alone like in the shower. As soon as I recognize an anxiety-inducing thought come through, I pickup a shampoo bottle and start reading the packaging label. This immediately breaks the anxious thought flow and grounds my thoughts on something physically real in my hands and mentally engaging to divert my mind. It is important to note that I do not dismiss the thought, but rather acknowledge that it is going to send me down an anxiously numbing path and I am choosing to break that moment and address the thought later in a more controlled environment. This method works best if you’ve already acknowledged your anxiety trigger, made peace with the thoughts that are creeping in, and have recognized that allow them to flow freely is not going to add any value. It is best at that point to revisit the thoughts and work through them properly in the manner that suits you.
Medicinal/Herbal Elements. There are a variety of medications and herbal/natural remedies to assist in resetting the chemical imbalance that occurs when anxiety hits. If you’re currently seeing a medical professional about your anxiety, it is best to speak to them about what is appropriate and available to you for the best treatment plan. I personally prefer herbal or natural remedies, and rely on the following:
1. Herbal Tea: Each culture has different concoctions under the umbrella of herbal tea, but I specifically recommend Indian Chai with the addition of specific herbs. I use Brooke Bond’s Red Label Natural Care loose tea and add a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of ginger, 1 drop of Young Living’s Thieves Vitality essential oil, and occasionally a spoon of honey. This blend reduces inflammation in the body and relaxes the mind with the herbal ingredients that enhance brain functionality, while also building immunity.
2. Essential Oils. These are plant extracts, not greasy oils like many assume, and have many benefits for the mind and body. I recommend you use 100% pure essential oils that are targeted towards physical and mental relaxation to combat both the symptoms of anxiety and to ignite focus. I use Young Living essential oils because they have a Seed to Seal guarantee of purity and their potency is immediately effective. I apply their Stress Away blend daily on my wrists to start the day off relaxed, and use Frankincense to increase mental acuity. Stress Away is also effective in the moment anxious thoughts arise – I find immediate physical relief and mental focus return within seconds of applying it. For more details, please visit my wellness page.
3. Mehndi/Henna. Many do not know this, but the properties of mehndi (referred to as henna in the western world) include cooling and relaxing the body. It is one of the reasons it is applied to brides before their wedding day to bring a sense of calm to the mind and body before such a stress-inducing life event. You can apply mehndi anywhere on the body and many use it as a hair mask for a natural reddish-brown hue along with the cooling sensation directly on the cranium. Mehndi is one of my favorite things in this world, so I take any chance I can get to get my hands covered with it. For those looking to be more subtle, find a good mehndi artist to make small tattoo-like designs wherever you want or buy a cone and play with it on your own!
4. Having an Outlet
One of my favorite philosophies is that you should have 3 hobbies in life: one to keep you in shape, one to make you money, and one to keep you creative. I love this philosophy because it’s about finding useful applications for your passions. Every anxious individual knows there is a lot of pent up energy in anxious moments, and directing that into a hobby or passion as an outlet is a healthy release. Many choose workouts as a combination outlet for physical release and mental redirection to the physical task. This is an extremely effective outlet if you are consistent with it and enjoy it. Journaling is another tried and tested outlet that acts as a safe space to release or work through your thoughts, and the act of writing requires physical engagement as well. Personally, I use dancing and writing as my outlets. I dance as my workout method because it has all the benefits of physical movement with the added benefit of bringing me immense joy! I then also write in a few formats: blogging for intellectual release, journaling to work through my thoughts and inspire myself, and poetry for emotional release. Identify your passions and see how they can work for you.
5. Rationalizing Your Thoughts
This is one of the most effective yet most difficult tactics. It leverages some of the aforementioned methods, but requires the courage and willpower to convince yourself that you do not need to be hindered by the anxious thoughts and reason your way out of the derailment. It starts with breaking down your anxious thoughts one-by-one, understanding where the fear/worry is stemming from, and then analyzing the outcome or worst case scenario of taking or not taking the expected action.
For example, when I’m feeling anxious about opening a message or responding to it, I walk through these thoughts.
Anxious source: Overall my fear is failure because if someone is messaging me, they likely need something and I don’t want to let them down.
Analysis:I then rationalize that 1) not everyone who messages me needs or wants something – they may want to just say hello, and 2) even if someone does need something then all I can do is provide what I do know or a direction for what they need because 3) I can’t possibly have the solution for everyone.
Weighing the Outcome: It’s the third point of analysis that really checks me out of my anxious moment because I’ve convinced myself that if I can’t have the solution for everyone, then the worst thing that will happen is that I won’t have a solution for this individual and they will have to find help elsewhere. On the positive side, if it’s something I can help with, then I would have been able to help, which is something that makes me very happy! Either way, it’s not the end of the world. In scenarios where the message is from a known individual for a mutual need, I also use my why to recognize that I need to engage in order to move forward with my why. This takes courage because I risk my fear for the sake of my why because I’ve convinced myself that the action is in the direction of my life goals, and that’s more important than any potential negative outcome.
Rationalization diffuses the thought and helps heal the anxiety pertaining to certain actions entirely once you get comfortable with that rationalization and fully accept it so it doesn’t trigger you anymore.
Anxiety is hard, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Life is a combination of the cards you’re handed and how you choose to play them. You may have been handed the anxiety card, but how you play that card is entirely up to you. You can let it run its course (and your life), or you can use these tools and/or professional help to manage it so you can live your life on your terms. The choice is yours alone, but know that you’re not playing by yourself. We’re all in this game together, and I’m betting you can play the game just fine.
Doing the needful Is extremely fearful A message, a call Anything at all That creeping thought Internally fought Tensions awry Just wanting to cry A hug or embrace A loving space Is the only need To be truly freed This game of life Is full of strife But I am there In this game to share Every smile & every tear You’re not alone, never fear
We hear you. We see you. We stand with you. No amount of empathic notions could amount to understanding the depth of the pain you feel. Centuries in the making, days in the breaking – it is a pain so deep and one we know you should no longer endure because your patience has been tried more than it ever should have been. The deaths of the past few months have been brutal, uncalled for, and yet are only the ones we got to see because we are in a world of technology where this brutality can now be captured for the world to truly know what you’ve been experiencing for far too long.
This past week’s tragedy and the loss of George Floyd is only one of the many that contribute to your fear of living truly free and fulfilled lives. You are deserving of liberation from this modern captivity – the seemingly “free”, yet manipulatively limiting existence this country has created for you post the Civil Rights Movement. You are deserving of the inalienable rights your very existence in this world grants you – rights that no other individual, let alone the nation in which you reside, should be allowed to infringe upon.
Our nation helped found an entire governing body for the acknowledgement and protection of those very rights, and yet that very nation has not abided by those declarations for your sake. I call upon those declarations now to empower you with the assurance that we stand with you – in full action, not words alone – and to remind all the naysayers that they do not get to choose when and how these declarations apply.
Your rights exist with your existence.
Let us begin unpacking this with that which all undersigning nations agreed to in the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It’s important to note that this proclamation was 72 years ago – before the Civil Rights Movement, and well before the murder of George Floyd. For whatever reason, we still need to educate our signing nation and its people on what these rights entail.
I start with this, not because it is in the Preamble, but because it is the first point I’d like to address. It has now been a week since the inhumane and blatant murder of George Floyd, and you have set ablaze the grounds of your oppressors. Good – we stand with you. As much as we agree with those who say “two wrongs do not make a right,” we also know that it has not been an equivalent comparison of “wrongs” to allow that statement to apply. The corrupt officials and individuals that have shuddered in your presence without cause, accused you of crimes without reason, unjustly incarcerated you for years without precedence, and murdered you blatantly under the guise of “defense” without evidence of your supposed brutality have wronged you in such ways for YEARS.
In those years, you have responded with peaceful protests, as is within your human, and constitutional, right. These wrongs upon you by these people have stolen from you that universally declared “freedom from fear” because you cannot walk this nation without the fear of what these people may decide they are allowed to do to you next without reason. You have spoken, you have silently kneeled, you have politically presented, and you have peacefully continued on. And it has been years. If this is not a last resort to protect yourselves from oppression, than I would like some of those people to please explain what is the definition of “last resort” since obviously the other, more peaceful, forms of protest were not enough to relieve you of their knees upon your necks.
So now let’s break down the last part of this Preamble excerpt a bit more. It essentially states that in order to prevent man from being “compelled” to act in the way you have now, which is considered a “rebellion”, against oppression, that it is essential “that human rights should be protected” by the laws of this nation. If that was not clear enough, let me clarify again. If this nation and the people that are upset with your acts of rebellion did not want you to resort to these acts, then those very people should have protected your rights in the first place.
Now let’s talk about those rights.
I love this first Article because it speaks volumes. Not only does it proclaim that all of us are “born free & equal in dignity and rights” – literally stating that our existence is proof enough of that – but it also declares that we have “reason and conscience” enough to treat each other “in a spirit of brotherhood.” It is unfortunate that this declaration assumes everyone is endowed with such characteristics because, clearly, that is not the case, but when the people who support the oppressors quote religion(s), the same religion(s) that encourage such brotherhood as well, I am appalled that they do not apply these beliefs accordingly in their actions. I do believe the readings of Sunday sermons are supposed to applied in life and not left at the altar.
For my oppressed Brothers and Sisters, you are entitled to your rights and your freedom IRRESPECTIVE of the color of your skin (you know this, and we know this). For everyone who does not know this or understand this, let me take you through a mini science lesson. The skin on a human body is an organ, the largest organ in fact. Everyone’s skin is unique to them, as defined by their DNA and impacted by environmental factors over time. If you didn’t notice, you have this organ as well (Congratulations! You are human and have rights). You didn’t have a choice in the color of your organ because, frankly, no one does. The same way you don’t have a choice in the color of your heart, your lungs, or your brain. Now I’d like to know if any of you confused folks have checked the color of these latter organs before deciding your level of fear of another human. No? You haven’t?! How absurd. Yet, you appear to be afraid, sorry I mean TERRIFIED, of someone simply because their largest organ that is visible to you is of a darker shade than yours. It is beyond my comprehension as to why the mere color of this organ compels you to disregard the aforementioned and shortly mentioned rights that are granted simply by a human’s existence, and you continue to allow the murder, abuse, unjust incarceration, and modern slavery of people accordingly. The color of your organ does not grant you the audacity to presume you have any such right to gaslight people on your whim or fantasized superiority.
As with the other Articles, let me break this down further. This states that as humans, we are granted the innate right to remain alive, to be free from oppression, and to be protected. I ask now of anyone that sits in silence during this horrific time – why do you not feel compelled to actively stand by our Brothers and Sisters of color at a time when those who have sworn to protect all of us and those rights, are the very same to have brought such brutality against them? Not all officers are bad, in fact some are amazing and carry their badge with the honor it deserves in the service and protection of the common people. BUT there are officers who irrationally believe they have the authority to eradicate the rights set forth in this Article for our Brothers and Sisters of color on a whim and in whatever capacity they see fit. It is because we have allowed them to continue to act in such a manner, without just repercussions, that we are in the state of rebellion we see today. Know that it is silence and inaction against such people that has led to this.
As most of us recall, slavery supposedly ended in 1865 with the end of the Civil War, but that was just one “form” of slavery, which most people do not acknowledge because the word has not been defined as such. So let’s get literal here. Slavery is formally defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a) the practice of slaveholding; b) submission to a dominating influence.” Intriguing, I know. Although the practice of holding people of color in such a manner was stopped in 1865, I submit that the latter definition still applies. The “dominating influence” is clear by instances we have now seen and by the accounts of our Brothers and Sisters, which indicate that when they are in the presence of any governing authority such as police officers, they have no choice but to submit because even the slightest hint (or even lack) of resistance results in abuse, incarceration, or murder. By definition, “dominance” is the “exercise of control,” which the case of George Floyd, as with the others before him and even today, showed these dishonorable officers exercise UNDUE control over their passive captives, without just repercussions for the same. So I ask, is this not a “form” of slavery, all of which are supposedly prohibited by the aforementioned Declaration? By definition, a “slave” is “a person owned or entrapped by another” – are our Brothers and Sisters not trapped by the manipulation of the system, and thereby limited in their ability to live freely, let alone remain alive, as Article 2 supposes?
I’m already embarrassed to have to explain this one, but I will because it is obviously needed seeing the state that we are in. The manner in which the officer who murdered George Floyd acted was undeniably inhumane and cruel and was very clearly undue punishment for the un-convicted crime at hand. We have witnessed a cruel murder at the hands of the very badge that swore to protect this community. To protect the George Floyd’s of the world, even in the face of a crime. To ensure they receive due justice before the law, and NOT to take the law into one’s own hands and deliver such cruel punishment.
It is not just in this Universal Declaration, but even in our Constitution that we have granted such rights to all people of this nation. Even in the face of a criminal act, you are to be treated as a human, to be respected as such, and to be brought before the law to be justly tried accordingly. In no instance is it or has it been written that officers of the law are granted the right to murder a man for the color of his visible organ, and take the law into their own hands to decide what is the punishment for the accused – not even convicted – before the law is even applied. It’s basic. But apparently it is necessary that we explain it over and over again because a man of color will be treated like a pest to be battered or killed when accused of a crime with no visible causation, while others are dutifully detained and supplied hydration by the arresting officer’s hand when blatantly caught in the act of murder. Where is the justice in that?
This rebellion is not just for the acts against George Floyd, but also for the many who made it alive to the point of being presented before the law. They somehow made it to that point, but then have been, and continue to be, discriminated against because of the color of their visible organ to receive the utmost, and unnecessary, terms of punishment and years of incarceration. As aforementioned, slavery in its literal sense has not ended. Formally announcing the end of the sale, trade, and ownership of people does not end ALL forms of slavery. This Declaration was clear in indicating in Article 4 that “slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” and it does not seem that all forms have been accounted for. Isn’t unjust incarceration of a person for most, if not all, of their lifespan slaveholding in a form of itself? Especially when such instances seem to only apply to persons of color since there are many cases, identically comparable, in which a person not of a colored organ is given significantly less, if not minimal, punishment.
We stand with you.
I call upon this Declaration because I want my Brothers and Sisters of color to know that we stand with you because you are human. You have rights for being human. You are to be respected in the face of any governing law for being human. And your rights come with your existence alone, irrespective of the land or nation you call your home.
To anyone who thinks otherwise, I offer you this: If you believe these rights are in fact granted to our Brothers and Sisters of color, then ask your officers and the law to treat you the same as they are treated. As Jane Elliot once said to a room of people just like you, if you want to be treated the same as they are, then stand up. And if you find that you cannot do this, then you have proven to yourself that you are consciously aware of what is happening, how they are treated, and how bad it is – so much so that you do not choose to ask for that same treatment for yourself. You should be ashamed. You should be uncomfortable. And now that you have acknowledged those feelings, you should ACT to change what is happening.
We need to act today in order to stop this treatment against the people of today, but more importantly, to stop the treatment altogether to prevent future generations from having to live in this fear and without the freedom and rights they deserve and are entitled to by their very existence. I implore you all to recognize that this is the hidden form of slavery in our world today, and if we chose to abolish one form, it is our duty as fellow humans to abolish all forms and truly grant freedom to all.
Stand with our Brothers and Sisters.
Stand for their rights.
Stand because today it is them and tomorrow it could be you.
Stand because, at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do.
Hum mein jitna gham hain Pyaar usse bhi zyaada hai Humko maar kar jeet kahan Sirf unki haar hai
Shuruwaad hai yeh ek aise jang ka Jisko sadiyon se intezaar tha Ab aaya hai waqt muqadme ka Khauf se darne ka waqt chalagaya
Translation (adjusted for meaning): As much as there is sadness within us There is that much more love There is no winning in killing us Loss for them is what this path is made of
This is the beginning of a type of battle That for ages has been on the brink Now it’s time the outcome is decided Gone is the time for fear, don’t shrink
– Akiti –
For the full Universal Declaration of Human Rights, please visit the United Nations main page for the same. Only the first 7 Articles have been quoted here.
What does it mean to actually follow your heart? What does it mean to allow others to do that? What does the world look like in which people follow a path lead from the heart and built by the mind? Well, let’s break it down.
From my perspective, following the heart is the act of making choices based on that “gut” feeling – that inner voice we refer to as our heart strings tugging us in a particular direction or for a particular option. I have been fortunate in my life to have been able to explore those choices because my parents were supportive of that and my mom always encouraged it. The result of those decisions, whether delightful or painful, have always brought me all the things I’ve ever wanted in life, even if they weren’t always in the ways that I had expected they would be. I suppose that’s what people fear – following the heart, that tug, and risking the experience of pain, of loss, of the unknown.
My experiences have shown me that even if you experience those things, they are always followed by joy, growth, and abundance. It’s hard to see that when you can’t see the future – completely understandable – but should that stop us from following the paths that feel right in our hearts? Would you stop studying in school because of the risk of the job market being down when you graduate? No. The difference is that in the latter scenario, society has told us that studying in school is valuable irrespective of the job availability upon graduating because of the knowledge we gain along the way, which will become applicable to life eventually.
Does the same not apply to following your heart? The risk exists with every choice, and every choice comes with its own set of lessons that will be of value in life. The difference is simply in how we perceive the choice.
In order to feel comfortable with making choices by following our hearts, it often needs to be the case that we have others that support us and our choices. Now there are those who are able to make those choices without any support, and I must say those are the some of the strongest people out there. The reality, unfortunately, is that most people do not want to make choices that go outside of the support of those within their circle – be it family, friends, partners, etc. – because making those choices would or could possibly mean losing those people. But if we know that following our hearts is meant to take us on a path unique to us and meant for us, then why wouldn’t our circle support that? Well, as of right now, society in the broad sense appears to function on the assumption that certain life choices are “right” and certain ones are “wrong”, so the support one receives is entirely dependent upon one’s circle’s perspective of what exists in that duality. The moment we propose the idea of making a choice that is deemed “wrong”, even if it is the choice that we feel a ‘tug’ for, the circle of support wavers. Therefore, there is a shift that must occur in how we perceive what is a “right” or “wrong” life choice before we expect more people to feel comfortable enough to make those choices.
Another point of consideration is why we as a society, again in the broad sense of the term, feel that we even have a supposed right to “allow” people to make their own choices. The assumption that we even have such a right is preposterous because we also believe we live in a free society. How can one be free if one does not have the freedom of choice in its truest form? We can say all we want that everyone has that freedom, but if we are judging and outrightly labelling folks based on those decisions, which inherently means we are not supporting them, then how can someone make such decisions openly? Physically they can, but the pressure we place upon them mentally and emotionally by forcing them to battle the perspective of their loved ones, limits their freedom of choice and ability to listen to that inner tug, that inner voice.
People often talk about that tug as a voice, and as with any form of communication, it cannot be heard if there is noise disrupting its path. Picture a child running towards a group of toys and clearly aiming for a toy car and then hearing from their parents, “oh no, don’t you like the bear more? Isn’t that the one you want? It’s so much better!” Suddenly, the child questions whether they truly wanted the car in the first place because the choice that was initially clear upon seeing all of their options has been displaced by the insertion of these perspectives that the bear is a supposedly better option.
A better option for who though? For the child’s parents? Why do we feel that what we feel is “better” in our opinion, “right” in our opinion, would or should apply for our loved ones or even anyone for that matter? The truth is that those determinations are unique and subjective to an individual and should be left for that individual to determine. True freedom comes from leaving each to their own determinations, to their own choices, and to their own path. In supporting that freedom, we will see a change in society, and a change in how people begin to make choices.
Follow your heart Let others do the same Every heart beats differently Playing its own game
Each path is its own It bears no weight on another’s Listen to that voice To choose one from the other