If someone asked me what the most important lesson I've learned since graduating high school is, I honestly couldn't tell them. I know. That's probably not what you were expecting me to say, but it's the truth. The last two years (holy heck it's literally been almost two years since graduation!!!) of my life have been pretty whirlwind. It's one of those things where you don't really notice how far you've come until you see someone you used to know and they ask the loaded question, "how've you been?" and you're like, "did you want the five minute version or are you gonna buy me a meal or something while I talk at you for three hours?"

Most people only want the former. But not you guys!! You guys have been with me through it all, even when I kinda forget you exist (I mean, do you? Maybe you're just ghost readers, I'm not discriminating). But because it's been on my mind lately, I'm going to try really hard to pinpoint the single most important thing I've learned since I left the cocoon of high school.

I'm also a very firm user of visual / tactile learning, so I made you this thing to look at while I blabber on. It's inspired by this cool thing that Maci made!

I want to say this is a mantra I've believed in my whole life. But I fully know that that's a lie. In elementary school, I begged my mom to let me Cinderella for halloween for like, three years straight. Now, I'm a firm believer in diversity and that Cinderella doesn't need to be a blonde girl just cause the books and movies say so, yadda yadda yadda. But the important point is that I wanted to be her because all my friends were being disney princesses, and I really wanted to fit in. Never mind the cool costumes that could've utilized all the beautiful Indian clothing my grandparents always bestowed upon me.

In middle school, I totally perpetuated the guy's girl stereotype. I was intentionally contrary to the girly girl, because I thought early on I would never really fit the "girly" stereotype and I didn't want to be in the middle of the spectrum. I never wore makeup, I only wore vans (and they were from the boys section, because I was just. that. cool.), and sports were my number one lunch discussion topic of choice. In a way, it molded me into the person I am today because I learned I had a genuine interest in the world of sports, and I can still get ready in 5 minutes if I need to (sneakers are SO easy to put on). But now that I'm older and more mature, if you will (please pronounce that ma-tyuer), I realize that it's kinda fun to put on makeup and girls' shoes are infinitely better than boys'.

In high school, I didn't interact with Indian people at all. I realize part of this comes from the fact that there simply weren't a lot of us. But I didn't really make an effort to know the ones who were around me. I never practiced traditional dance, I never sang like all my cousins and family friends, and there was even a point I was ashamed to be categorized as Indian. (Can you say tragic?)

When I graduated, I realized that no one knew me as the person I had created meticulously over my 13+ years of schooling. In fact, no one knew me at all. It was strangely freeing, but maybe worse, disappointing? Who was I if not the person I had sought to become with every purchase, every carefully placed word, every decision? Leaving my little world made me realize I was whoever I wanted to be. I know. This is literally the cheesiest thing I've ever written, but it's the truth. I had to think really hard about the new person I was going to become. And the first, most important decision I made was that I wasn't going to be ashamed of being Indian, or being girly, or being kinda nuts. I was going to own every part of myself.

Part of coming to college, part of moving to another country at 17, part of being an adult, was realizing that if I didnt question my identity, no one else would either. I came to the understanding that if I had full confidence in the person I was showing the world, everything else would matter a little less. So I still wear sneakers, I still don't really know how to put on makeup, and sports are still my ~lifeblood~. But I'm proud to say I'm just that much more immersed into Indian culture than I was before (shoutout to my roommates), I love being girly when I want to, and my favorite disney princess is blonde, but that's not why I like her.

So. There it is. The number one lesson I learned. Confidence is not "they will like me," Confidence is "I'll be okay if they don't." No matter what person I put in front of them, I will be confident in her. It took a long time to be able to say that, but there's no going back now!