How bizarre is it that a moment of pure joy could result in a barrage of tears? Especially, when there’s no reason for it. I wasn’t particularly sad about anything in that moment. In fact, I’ve finally rested after quite some time and laughed so openly. Yet, immediately upon recognizing that level of happiness I broke into tears.
As I think about it, it might have been the fact that I get to be so openly happy because I’m free. There was a time and a place where I was terrified to openly express how I was feeling or to express the extent I felt something because it wasn’t accepted. I wasn’t accepted. Because of that, I held back my laughter. I held back my smiles. I held back my love. I held back the best of what I had to offer the world because the people who should have loved it the most were the ones that didn’t want it and reprimanded me for it. If I laughed too hard, I was told I was being fake. If I smiled too big, I was being too childish. If I loved too much, with compliments and hugs, I was trying too hard. The people that I put my love and trust in, and were supposed to love and accept me, were the same people that didn’t want me to be who I was, as I was.
It was like being trapped in my own body. A slave in my home already, and now a slave in my body. People often forget that freedom is not just the ability to move in the world with your own intentions. It is also the ability to live true to who you are. The moment others try and succeed in controlling the way you are, you are enslaved to their perspective of how you should be. This is similar to being enslaved to a place they determine you should be in. The difference is that if you’re confined to a space, you can still be yourself in that space. If you’re confined to a way of thinking and being, there is no room for your true self to exist. It is something I liken to being murdered while you’re still alive. It is such an unfortunate way to live, to know you’re dead inside, but all the while being able to watch life continue to play out from the confines of your seemingly living body.
The worst part is, you don’t fully realize that you’re dead because you’re technically still moving. You’re going about the world, living it the way your oppressors want you to. You’re doing the things you’re supposed to do, all the while knowing this is not your life. You’re not living it. You’re just observing it. A fate worse than death is living a life completely out of your control. It makes you wonder why you’re still alive at all. Why do they keep you alive? Why is this acceptable? Do they not realize that they killed you already? And yet they don’t. They continue living and acting and believing that you’re happy in this life, the way they are. Yes, they are happy, even though they know they’ve murdered every ounce of your being except your physical presence.
Maybe that’s why when I catch myself feeling things freely or recognize a moment where I’m doing something I couldn’t before, it overwhelms me. I feel all of the things I kept inside during my enslavement. I feel all the pain that I didn’t express or share. I unwillingly remember that the person I was had died, and the person I am now is my chance to live. I’m alive. I’m alive, not just because I am breathing and moving, but because I’m moving through life as me. I’m making my choices. I’m laughing as largely and as loudly as I do. I’m smiling as broadly and as childishly happy as I do. And I’m loving, as openly and repeatedly as only I can and do. I’m sharing my truest self with the world every day because I get to be alive and be me, and that’s the most freeing thing I can choose to do and be.
So, yes, I cry when I feel overwhelmingly happy because I recall my death and it makes me grateful that I’m alive. I am alive and I am finally, freely me.
I laughed Then I cried And at first I didn’t know why The past had came forth And it made me feel All the pain I’d hidden The pain that made me keel
I had died once I was no longer here Everyone saw me But didn’t see my fear My fear to be me My fear to live All because they controlled me Controlled the me I could give
What a way to be Alive and yet dead Seeing it all Yet nothing could be said I stayed confined Physically and inside Moving as they wanted Not a thought could be mine
They had taken everything Every ounce of my life Leaving a shell, a puppet Just a thing without life I was truly dead Moving, but not there Showing a smile And hiding the dread
Now when I’m free I know what that means I get to be alive I get to be me I make my choices I make my mistakes I choose my life One I’m free to make
When people talk about love, it is usually in the romantic sense of the term. I want to remind y’all that love is a term of endearment and it has many forms. Of those forms, the most beautiful love is the one you grow to have for yourself. This year will be known for many things – the year of the pandemic, the year of the global lockdown, the virtual year, and so much more – but what all of the horrible things this year did was give us time at home and time with ourselves. I hope that the time you had to reflect on your life and yourself was fruitful and I want to celebrate what you learned to love about you.
Without pause, quickly list 5 things you learned to love about you in 2020. Here’s what I love about me!
1. My Heart
2. My Humanity
3. My Mind
4. My Body
5. My Strength
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 you for you!
Growing up I was bullied and isolated for being Indian, being different, or being the big nerd that I am, so I didn’t really see myself as beautiful or worthy in any regard. It became more of an issue as I grew older because I was forever friend-zoned by guys because I get along so well with the opposite sex, but was never approached by anyone romantically. It made me think maybe I just wasn’t attractive in any way to anyone. My family and friends all found it shocking because they told me I’m beautiful and am such a catch for any guy with my looks and personality. Many acquaintances attributed it to my being intimidating, but I never liked that concept because I don’t want to have to limit myself or bring myself down just to be attractive to someone. I thought I was cute and smart and someone would eventually like that, so I just continued on with my life never really loving my looks, just accepting them.
It was only after my ex-husband courted me that I started feeling and seeing myself as pretty, which isn’t really a great reason because it was external validation. That meant that it could be taken away, and that’s exactly what happened. During my marriage he and his family made a ton of comments about my looks, judging me and putting me down constantly by telling me how I should try and look and dress like other girls they’d talk about. When they chased me out of our house (essentially ending our marriage), they said the didn’t want a girl like me and they would find a more suitable girl for him. This shattered me. It was hurtful not only because they had been looking for girls for him (that’s a whole other issue), but because he didn’t want me anymore and my mind immediately went to thinking maybe it was because I wasn’t good enough. It was wrong of me to think this, and anyone who has survived abuse knows how unfortunate it is that our minds take us to that place immediately. The reality is that it didn’t matter how I looked or acted, they didn’t want me to begin with and that’s why it was easy for them to throw me away. That’s the problem with finding external validation for ourselves. When it doesn’t come from within, anyone can take it away, and that leaves us without a basis to love ourselves for who we are, as we are.
While working through my trauma, there came a day when I looked in the mirror and finally saw how beautiful I was and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I had been working on accepting who I was at the core of my being and it was in that process that I realized my own beauty – mind and body. I will be sure to explain that process one day for you all, but the result of me seeing my true beauty was phenomenal, and since then I take every opportunity to remind myself how amazing I am. It’s not to say that I am conceded or am bragging about myself, in fact I despise that society expects one to belittle themselves in the name of humility. Everyone should love themselves and celebrate themselves, and there is nothing wrong with recognizing how amazing you are and celebrating it. In 2020, my love for myself grew immensely and I want to share it with you all in hopes that it inspires you to love yourselves as well.
Since I have seen a lot of trauma in my life, at home and otherwise, and I never wanted anyone else to feel that way. In an effort to save others from that pain, I vowed at a very young age to always be a smiling face for others and spread the immense love I felt everyone deserved. At the time I just thought it was the right thing to do – to be kind and loving to all – but in 2020 I realized just how much the world needs more of that. The world needs more people to be kind, to be loving, and to want to spread love because the warmth from it is healing. I love that I have a big enough heart to genuinely care and love so hard on my people and the people I come across that it brings such beautiful smiles to their faces. It’s one of my favorite things about me.
I have always been caring to others, so much so that many of my friends referred to me as “Mama Keets” in high school for taking care of everyone – friends and strangers – in such a motherly fashion (also, because I drove a mini van, aka a momma van, that everyone loved!). I am this way because I always saw my parents display such care for everyone in their lives and strangers as well because they believed that respecting people as people first was important, not just based on their relation to you, their societal status, or their culture. It is why I wanted to be a lawyer growing up and studied different languages, diplomacy, international relations, and philosophy. I wanted to understand people and protect them.
I didn’t continue to pursue law, but I never stopped standing up for humanity and playing my part as an activist where possible. When the Black Lives Matter Movement and Farmer’s Protests erupted in 2020, I didn’t shy away from vocalizing my thoughts on the subjects and continue to support the causes where and when possible. I love that I feel so strongly for people and have this sense of urgency to support them even if I have no direct relation or reason why. I do it because it feels right and I appreciate that about myself very much so.
I am a super nerd. I accept that wholeheartedly, whether it has negative connotations or not, it is who I am and I love it! I love learning about everything, having intellectual conversations, philosophizing about the world and the unknowns, and dreaming about the possibilities. I experience so much joy from the amount of knowledge there is in this universe to absorb and how much beauty there is to explore that I have no shame in sharing it and expressing it to others. I was bullied for being a teacher’s pet in school, for always raising my hand to engage in the classroom or for doing random extra credit assignments (like balancing equations for fun). I did those things because I love learning and challenging my mind, not because I wanted the teacher’s attention (I loved my teachers, but I have zero interest in the concept of playing favorites). Beyond that, I am genuinely amazed at what my mind can do. It is such a beautiful thing and mine is such an anomaly to me. I retain almost all the information I come across so long as I fully comprehend it and I am really good at recalling it for productive use in my work and my daily life. I never realized how amazing this was until one of my really good friends in the corporate world pointed it out this year. I’ve learned to really appreciate the endless possibilities of my mind and love that I’ve created this platform to share my thoughts with you all as well!
As aforementioned, I struggled a lot with loving my body. It has truly been a process, but I am finally in a place that I love it and this year took that love to another level entirely. With the pandemic forcing us to spend so much time at home and being expected to interact with everyone virtually, we were really pressed to think about our health and physical appearances with all the pressure you find in the virtual space. I actually went on a journey with natural products because I have many adverse reactions to chemicals and medicines that I wanted to give the natural, Ayurvedic route a try. I moved to essential oils for my skin, hair, and household products. I became consistent with yoga and finally found a workout plan that works for me.
These were all immensely successful for my body and overall health this year, which led me to fall even more deeply in love with the body I have been given and how beautiful it is to me. After all the work I put in to caring for my body in 2020, I am ending the year with healthy glowing skin, beautiful hair I am enjoying a ton, my asthma and other health issues under control, and not having had a severe illness all year. For that I am extremely grateful, and love my body the way it is.
This year I began sharing my life story a bit more and many have told me that they never would have known that I had been through so much had I not told them. The reason they say this is because they always see my smiling, enjoying life, or being super productive in my work space. I don’t express my pain openly because I believe it adds no value to let it affect my daily activities and, more so, I don’t want others to feel what I feel. I don’t like the idea of releasing those painful vibes to anyone because that’s not what I want for others. That’s why I choose to deal with my traumas on my own time and in my own way, and that works really well for me. I never thought of that as strength, but this year I’ve learned just how amazing that is. There are many people who I met virtually that really struggle with their traumas and expressed to me just how admirable and inspiring it is that I am able to look past all of the pain and live a loving life. And I love that! I love that my strength has inspired others in so many ways and I intend on continuing to display that strength and sharing my story to help others however I can.
You are the epitome Of so much of the beyond Your beauty is to be cherished One no being can abscond A tragedy it would be If your value is ignored Not by others, they are busy Love yourself, you are yours