“As a little girl, I’ve always wanted to grow up fast, to be able to experience the luxuries of adulthood, to be a powerful woman, with a confident stride in heels, sporting a bold smirk of success, radiating not only beauty, but courage to take on anything and anyone. Little did I know, the shiny shoes barely scratched the surface of what truly is the essence of maturity.”
I am Aastha Sarin, and this is my story. I am no star. I am not an inspiration. I am just a 20 year old college student, struggling to get her grip in a world where the realities of adulthood go far and beyond good shoes, good friends, and good times. My world, for eighteen odd years, protected me from the harsh realities that I was bound to face once I stepped out of the comforts of my house. When I entered college, little did I expect such a grinding sense of truth. I had no idea that society had the means to treat some with all the luxuries in the world, while depriving some the basic ability to stand on their own two feet. I knew, then and there, that I had to let go of the privilege that I was blessed with, and make my own way from scratch. I didn’t want the inequalities of society define my efforts into building my career.
This obvious polarity of opportunities led me to drive all my forces towards social work. I started volunteering my time and efforts in organisations such as Rotaract, NSS, GirlUp, and Enactus and the social entrepreneurship society of Jesus and Mary College. Here I was able to experience the lack of basic resources, such as education, sanitation, and gender inequality. I went to slums, spoke to the women working day in and day out to feed their children, and knew in my heart that I had to do something. The more I got to know about the unfairness of society, the more I was determined to do my bit. I organised and participated in fundraisers to buy educational supplies for underprivileged kids, sustainable pad-donation drives for menstruating women, hygiene drives in slums for better sanitation facilities. I am an ardent supporter of education for all, and I did my bit in reforming education for disadvantaged students, by volunteering my time, knowledge, and creative talents to make learning fun at various NGOs, through Project Kaagaz and World Youth Council.
But, are materialistic resources enough? What about mental health? What about integrative knowledge? What about mainstream education and media content which barely shed light on important social issues? As a psychology student, I always felt that the ever-so-stigmatized topic of mental health was ignored for far too long, and it was time to do something for my field as well. I knew that in a society that neglected mental health, bringing immediate action was far too idealistic a dream. I had to start with creating awareness on various social issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, feminism and intersectionality, that have an impact on mental health. This inspired me to co-found Taabiir, an online youth organization aiming to highlight the nexus between mental health and law, sociology, economics and other aligning social disciplines. Taabiir, meaning interpretation of dreams, was born from my dream to normalize mental health in all aspects of life. As an aspiring clinical psychologist, it is my ambition to help people deal with their mental state in a manner similar to how people perceive their physical health, i.e. with utmost regard and respect for themselves, and through this personal project, I aim to take the first step of this long journey.
I am also a feminist at heart, and I strongly condemn the notion that women need men for ‘financial support’. Women are highly capable of being financially independent, they just need the right opportunity. I was glad when I found an opportunity to turn my artistic hobbies into a side business. With the support of my friends and family, I co-founded my small business, Kalopsia, where I sell handmade, custom artwork – from portraits, to quirky posters, to useful yet elegant bookmarks. However, being a small business owner comes with its highs and lows. Some days go by when there are multiple orders, it becomes difficult to juggle studies and volunteer work. On the other hand, weeks go by without any orders, which take a blow at my confidence and motivation. The instagram algorithm isn’t always forgiving either, but in these trying times, what really pushes through is the immense support I get from those around me.
None of this work makes me great, it doesn’t make me inspirational. It just makes me, me. And that’s what I understand adulthood to be. It’s not the nice clothes, and the shiny shoes. It's the little things you do, the little difference you make in this world, the little place you make for yourself, despite lack of room, the little efforts you put in daily, it’s the dreams that manage to take a flight, only because you took control of the plane. You’re not too young, you’re not too old, you’re perfect the way you are. Don’t hesitate, ladies. The sky is your limit.
"Don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you're the boss. Or they won't. Who cares? Do your thing, and don't care if they like it."—Tina Fey