I have digested a lot of words from a lot of different people about the changes we all may have seen during the pandemic. From newly developed social anxieties to newfound hobbies. Self-reflection and the changes those discoveries inspired to loneliness and in a lot of people, depression. I think we can all agree this time has been intense to say the least.
There is an odd comfort in being able to share a trauma with the rest of the world. Whether you were hit financially, emotionally, with grief or unwanted change, we all experienced hardships this year. But the ways in which we come out will be different. The ways in which we respond to a year of lockdowns, protests, spikes in violence, hate crimes, challenging discussions on racism, sexuality, health, politics, and everything else we endured will determine how this year molded us. As always with life, how we choose to respond to suffering will determine our success. I want to know what you learned about yourself through this pandemic. And what goals, if any, you have set coming out of it.
While we all lost during the pandemic, some of us were hit harder than others. Losing friends, family members, dignity, homes, food security, even opportunities to grieve in a way that might have offered comfort. I was lucky enough to be free from these life-altering losses this year. Privileged to come out on the other side of this pandemic gaining more than I have lost. The way I process all hard times is with their silver lining. Things happen to me, and then I happen to them. A skill I luckily learned pre-pandemic and has definitely come in handy. With all that being said, I am able to focus on what I’ve gained and who I’ve become.
I’ll start with what I believe to be the most important addition to my everyday life. I have become quite a social activist. It seems impossible to live in these times and not speak out. Far too many people burdened, suffering, dying because of circumstances out of their control. Ignorance, white supremacy, and hatred seem to be drowning innocence, equality and love. Skin color, race, sexuality, gender identity, we’re all human. What will it take for us to support one another? To encourage happy and healthy lives for all of our neighbors. I have felt a pull stronger than ever to make sure I help lift this weight. This heaviness simply doesn’t need to exist, but those burdened by these hindrances certainly should not be carrying it alone.
I have studied, researched and filled my brain with new knowledge. Listened more and argued less. Fought harder to demand what is right. I have become a more compassionate and understanding human being. I have learned how to pick and choose my battles wiser. How to protect my energy & balance empathy with my own well-being. The bare minimum won’t cut it. Donald Trump gave voices to damaging, discriminatory people. Voices of inclusivity and kindness need to pour back into this country. The only way to drown out hate is with love. Speaking out on matters of justice is urgent and necessary. Being good in silence simply isn’t enough. Social activism is not a movement or a phase, it is my calling and my duty.
On a personal note, I have become more vulnerable. While I have always shared intimate details of my struggles, my pain and my growth, I held back on certain matters. Social media got the best of me. Presenting my post-transformation selfies became less about sharing and more about showing. Creating an idea of who I wanted to share only meant I didn’t love myself the way I am. I got carried away with the idea that a “health and lifestyle influencer” must look the part. Just like you can’t trust a skinny chef, how can you trust a fitness trainer or nutritionist who didn’t look perfect?
That’s just it though. How can we trust a fitness trainer who does look perfect? Why do we envision flawless, smoothed skin, enhanced and edited versions of these goals when goals are made to be achieved? When did social media fry our minds to forget what’s real? While I have never photoshopped my posts, I played part in selecting only my best angles. Photographing only in the best light. I avoided sharing my cellulite, my scars, my fat and convinced myself it was for others. But real life comes first. The more these “perfected” photos circulate, the more people’s minds are rewired to believe these bodies and these faces are the norm. Real life past a screen is nothing but below average and unpleasant. We must normalize loving ourselves, in all light, in all angles, when our skin pops out of our clothing & when our scars & cellulite show. Raw and real.
Most of us would say self-reflection took a big role in how we survived the pandemic. For me, my biggest takeaway was allowing myself to be fully vulnerable. Admitting what I don’t yet know and truly putting in the work to learn. Spending less time preaching my confidence and more time getting comfortable with who I am. By stripping away the fabrications of our truths, we’re left with the freedom of being ourselves. Loving ourselves and each other more authentically. Peeling away layers of unnecessary negativity. I’ve always believed igniting more light is the key to ridding the darkness in this world. Inspiring more positive people, and in the process losing negativity. I now have a deeper understanding that unlocking insecurities and unleashing personal freedom will ultimately lead to a wave of freedom for all.
Photos taken at Boston protests by my best friend, my inspiration and my role model, Jackie Tayabji.