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I'm 23

I turned 23 this week. From 21 to 22, I lived in New York, finished my senior year of college, got a job, turned down that job, got another job, and moved to San Francisco. From 22 to 23, I mostly worked, learned to enjoy running, got to know San Francisco (for about 6 months), started writing this newsletter again, joined Apple, and got to know my own bedroom a lot better. Of all of those, the running and the writing seem most relevant. 

I wrote about my return to Splash in a recent letter, so let’s talk running. Running is something that I’ve always struggled with. I started running in high school when I realized that I never went outside and that I wasn’t in great shape. I found a trail by my house and would basically sprint for a minute and then walk the rest of the way. I didn’t know how to pace myself and I didn’t know how to get better. I continued this style of running intermittently up until this year when I found an app that would tell me exactly how far and how fast to run every day. Since I was able to take my brain out of the equation, I managed to run further and more consistently than I ever have before. This has gotten especially important during quarantine, as my runs have become the only times I go outside or get any sort of movement into my days. But beyond the standard exercise benefits, running is important since it’s the only task I regularly do that I have no natural talent at. I’m objectively a bad runner and probably always will be, but it’s empowering to be able to do something without the desire to be good at it. I’m happy to do it just for the sake of doing it.

In popular culture, 23 is what is known as your Jordan Year. It’s named after one of the most successful basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan, who sported number 23, and inspired a generation of basketball players idolizing him. The year is considered by Urban Dictionary to be “the best year of your life.” That sounds pretty good to me, so I might as well try to make that an accurate definition.

I’ve been trying to set intentions rather than expectations for milestones since I’ve discovered that I’m remarkably bad at resolutions of any kind. The intention that I’m interested in this year is vulnerability. As a man raised in a gendered society, I’ve always faced implicit masculinity that implores me to avoid showing feelings or be vulnerable in general. But, through caring friends and loving family, I’ve worked to find room for vulnerability whenever possible. In the last year of my life, I found myself in an unfamiliar city, far from my friends that had been my confidants, the ones I could pour my heart out to. It’s a lot harder to talk about your feelings over tea when you’re three timezones apart. It’s hard for your feelings to feel relevant when the world’s problems are hovering over everyone’s heads. It’s hard to get too involved in your feelings when you have work to do five days a week. So, I’ve noticed myself closing myself off more. In the process, I’ve felt like a different person, more distant than I am usually, less empathetic than I used to be. This isn’t a change that I want to be permanent.

I don’t fully know what setting an intention of vulnerability looks like, but maybe it starts with being more honest, with others and with myself. Every “how are you” doesn’t need a “good” and sometimes heavy conversations feel better than light ones. There can be more phone calls and fewer text messages, more conversations, and fewer memes. I could be more vulnerable in my writing too, not only with what I share but also how much I put myself out there. I want to try and get a piece of writing published, but I’ve been afraid of the uncertainty of submitting and the possibility that maybe I’m not as good as I think I am. And maybe that’s the point. 

I want to push back against my fears and refuse to let them decide everything. I want to see vulnerability as a strength that binds me to others. Hopefully, I’ll succeed, but if not, there’s always 24.
The fight against systemic racism continues. With each day, we move closer to a more equitable world. Reminders:

Ways you can help

Anti-racism resources

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Vulnerably yours,

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Nikhil · 325327 Georgia Tech Station · Atlanta, GA 30332 · USA

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