Forgiveness, can you imagine?

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-04 at 2.18.54 PM
There aren’t too many pictures of me from graduation, but I think this one – overwhelmed, holding way too many things, but so happy – is a pretty good summary of both graduation and my college life in general.

As of May 4th, 2018, I am the proud owner of a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs. If you’ve been following this blog since its very inception in 2010, then this might be tripping you up as much as it tripped me up. I still have vivid memories of giving college acceptance updates when this blog was still Neiha Thinks This. To be done, to have crossed out the erstwhile biggest item in the To-Do List of my life seems bizarre.

Of course, in the process, comparatively smaller items on my micro to-do list fell by the wayside (including my plans to put up a blog post every month), but it’s hard to give myself too much of a hard time about it when I am in possession of the most expensive piece of paper I will ever hold. It wouldn’t be very poetic to let my graduation month pass without a blog post reflecting, properly, on at least some facet of the past five years. (NOTE: It is now June 3rd. I let May slip by without finishing this blog. Ha ha.)

I’ve been afraid of my last semester of college since I first stepped foot in Northeastern’s campus and realized I was home. Which is weird – being afraid of a milestone seems absurd. I couldn’t wait for my high school graduation so that I could be done with that chapter of my life but at the same time, those two milestones aren’t even worth comparing. My high school experience was not great. I had friends, many of whom I’m still close to, and saw some successes but I was always held back either by teachers who called me “too passionate” or resource crunches. I could never pursue knowledge to the extent that I wanted to, short of fighting my way into taking an independent study A  Level. My interests were belittled. And when I tried to leave high school behind in favor of greener pastures, I had my character, intelligence, and values attacked by the one teacher I was still in contact with and looked up to. I have no qualms about discussing this now: that messed me up. After working through this with my therapist, it has been concluded that most of my impostor syndrome and self-flagellation can be attributed to That One Teacher. Which is upsetting, because said teacher is why this blog exists in the first place.

I guess that’s a good transition into what aspect of my college life I want to reflect on this time: forgiveness. Specifically, learning how to forgive myself. While at therapy the other day, talking about some or the other requisite self-image issues I still have, we hit upon a bit of a revelation. I still hold on to the naive belief that, at 23, I shouldn’t have body image issues anymore. It was a hope that persisted throughout my teenage years. With age, all of this would go away. And of course it doesn’t. In my particular case, we noted that a lot of my issues that have roots in childhood often get triggered by specific events. None of my issues are ever in isolation, and if they flare up, it’s because something else has flared up concurrently that exacerbates the former. And then the revelation: I immediately realized that these issues aren’t just disparate, they’re parts – “tendrils” is how I described them – of the same large behemoth: how I see myself in relation to where I want to be. Each tendril is situational, variables that act up and inform the central question: am I on my way to becoming the person I want to be? It seems silly, but after months and months of working through each tendril in isolation, having a larger framework to work against was a pretty major breakthrough.

And, of course, it all goes back to ambition. Sometimes I think mine has gone stale or has paled in comparison to the people around me. That’s not the case; my ambition is stronger than it’s ever been. The two biggest driving forces behind my ambition have always been service and spite. The former is decidedly more noble than the latter and will always be more important – nothing I do matters if it doesn’t help in some capacity. The latter grew in size and force over the years, reaching its peak in college, but it has always been there. It’s always played a bit of a tempering role to the complacent, afraid side of me. My successes in high school despite the odds? Spite: if I can’t succeed despite the odds, what’s the point? Fighting my way back from a D in economics? Spite: “he looked at me like I was stupid, I’m not stupid.” Deciding, once and for all, that I will get a PhD? Spite: no one ever gets to call me a pseudointellectual again. And I don’t get to believe it.

And here’s the thing, a lot of my spite is intrinsic too. I live to spite myself because at the end of the day, I’m my worst enemy for these things. I treat myself like absolute trash. I’m the one that allows myself to listen to people who want to put me down because in my heart, I believe that part of service is taking all criticism on face value and becoming “better” for it. The roots of that are in the one trait I fear most in myself, arrogance. A “trait” that came out of insecure teenage bravado – forgivable! And yet, unforgiven. If arrogance is self-assurance without limits, then I would strive to be the opposite of that.

I think spite is a necessary driving force. For me, it forces me to take what I judge as a failing on my part and reevaluate it. It forces me to for once in my life give myself a break, because I can actually do the things I am told I can’t do. I spite myself so as to learn to forgive myself. Arrogance is bad, yes, but I’ve never actually been arrogant, I was just called that by someone at the age of 13 and it stung enough to stick for ten whole years.

I have so much I still haven’t forgiven myself for, from the banal to the serious. The last five years I’ve been at college are pockmarked by those moments. I think back on them and my immediate urge is to rip my own skin off. To blame yourself so much that your instinct is violence towards yourself? The cruelty of it all.

I want more than anything to be of use. I don’t need to be lauded, I don’t need to be appreciated, I just want to help and create and cultivate and study. Any moment where I have been less than those things is paramount to failure in my book. And yet, I graduated and I graduated pretty dang well. I have made life-long friends, I have been a mentor, I have learned so much, and I have even been able to help in that process. More than any other time in my life, I did the best I could and now that it’s over, I’m so proud of myself.

I think that might make it easier for me to forgive myself one day.

On a lighter-ish note, what comes next after the above detailed milestone, you say? Waiting for the US government to get back to me about whether or not I can stay in this country for the next year! Finding a full-time job! I have a part-time gig as a research assistant which I am so excited for and which will help tide me over until I can get a full-time job with benefits. I’m also ~paranoid~ so I don’t want to give more details on that until I get said government approval.

Over the next year, I will be studying for and taking the GRE and applying to graduate programs in political science/international affairs with a focus on ethnic conflict and global governance…and I think most of them will be PhD programs. I’m about 80% sure on that. That’s the most sure I’ve been about anything with the letters P, H, and D in it! I will also be fine-tuning my research article on sex trafficking in the EU and hopefully getting it in front of a panel of academics to get feedback. I’ll try my best to add updates here but they might go to LinkedIn first.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, thank you for sticking with me despite my unreliable upload schedule. It means a lot to me!

Things we will never get back

This is dedicated to my high school graduating class. Also, note to Mehvash, keep tissues with you.

  • We will never get back borderline insulting banter and The Weakest Link outrages with Ms Glenda in Sociology
  • We will never get back the times we cooed and gushed over Ms Anna and her cuteness at something she said or admitted she couldn’t relate to in Crime & Deviance
  • We will never get back all our literature energizer-related injuries at the hands of sponge balls or dodging elbows in our race to the bell
  • We will never get back coconut juice and South Indian delicacies as we discussed the finer points of God of Small Things
  • We will never get back tense games of Jenga, or violent UNO rounds, or the rampant cheating that inevitably goes on during our Sixth Form games
  • We will never get back all the coffee we drank in our corner of the Sixth Form, or the breakfasts volunteered by someone or the other, or the gummy bears that were so violently ripped apart
  • We will never get back all the photobooth pictures taken. Well. Actually, we will. There’s a lot more where those came from
  • We will never get back our original reactions to Darren’s infamous “Bloody ****” story
  • We will never get back the various parties and get-togethers and birthday celebrations and the Christmas party
  • We will never get back the overwhelming and mixed feeling of seeing everyone in their graduation gowns for the first time
  • We will never get back how it felt to finally walk out of the back room to Carry On for the last time
  • We will never get back all the days that stupid One Direction song was stuck in our heads and the amount of times we had to perfect our dance to it and-
  • We will never get back how worth it all it was when we saw the final product.

But what we do still have are memories. Pictures. Videos. Inside jokes that will last us years. Facebooks and phone numbers and twitter archives. We’ll forget a lot, but we’ll have each other to fill in the gaps. We are Year 13 of 2013, the coolest “class of” title in history. And we’re small and tight knit but even if we do forget each other a few years down the line, I don’t think any of us is going to forget the good memories and hilarity of our last year of high school. I love you all to death and there’s so much more I would love to talk about but I might end up crying.


Here’s to us, Year 13.



It’s very important to take note of the music I’m listening to at any given change in my mood. In this particularly tearful – one might even say romantic – mood, I’ve got On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons on repeat. If you follow me on twitter – and I certainly hope for your sanity that you don’t – then you know I’ve been squealing about #gradfeels, a hashtag that accurately sums up my…well, feelings about graduation. Of which I have many.

I’m in my last year of high school and my graduation is a mere two months away. Although it’s been coming and although on paper it’s quite clear that, yeah, this is the end of my high school career…it’s astounding how realizing something that’s an inevitability can shatter your world.

It certainly is shaking my world with all the intensity of 35 excited and anxious 17-19 year olds who’ve been waiting a very long time to be done with school. I’ve been blessed enough to have had a good high school experience – though with a healthy dose of resentment, I assure you! – and the fact that it is ending is both exhilarating and saddening.

But more than anything else, I am anxiously looking forward to seeing where the future takes me and every single person in my graduating year. We’re reaching a point where all our efforts are coming to a head – be it exams, university offers, university applications, or just trying to get by. We celebrate our successes, support each other through the disappointments, and are just generally sticking together through these final few months.

We’re not a big batch. I’m thankful for that. To have such a tight-knit group of people to call my classmates is wonderful and I couldn’t be happier if I handpicked people to graduate with.

I can practically see the end. Sure, it’s bittersweet, but kind of like really good lemonade, where the bitterness is just a refreshing jolt.

This year truly flew. Faster than I could have believed possible. The next couple of weeks will tell if that’s something to be regretted, but until then, I have this excitement riding me out.

For now, it’s 4am and I’m delirious in my sleep-addled, sentimental, indie-fueled reverie. To bed it is.