Meet Aryana, a Girls Inc. alumna and currently an intern with our Girls Inc. Advocacy Team, who shares her perspective on the current situation and how her Girls Inc. experience is helping see her through the trying circumstances we find ourselves in.
Strong, smart, bold. These three words were instilled in me as soon as I entered Girls Inc. of Lynn in the sixth grade and continued until I graduated high school. I was strongly encouraged to go (Thanks Mom!) and soon found the magic that lies within those walls that inspires and supports growth in girls. During these transformative years at Girls Inc., I learned many things, like how to advocate for myself and others, how to be a leader, how to be more confident, and of course how to be strong, smart, and bold. The relationships I cultivated with staff and other girls provided a support system for me, one that I still access when needed.
Over the past month, we all have been dealing with COVID-19 and everything that it has brought with it, from job loss, to school closings, to the cloud of uncertainty that has taken all that is normal and left us struggling to adjust. As I celebrate accomplishments, deal with disappointments, and juggle whatever life throws at me, I find myself reflecting on things I learned from Girls Inc. It’s hard to remain optimistic, but here are some ways I’ve been strong, smart, and bold during these challenging times.
Girls Inc. taught me being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you’re running a mile everyday. It means being honest with yourself and checking in with your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It’s hard not to be anxious or think about the coronavirus pandemic when it finds its way into every conversation. I sometimes find myself having difficulty falling asleep at night or I feel on edge and unmotivated throughout the day. But it’s important to recognize that I’m not the only person feeling like this. It’s ok to be sad.
I felt guilty for feeling sad over what I thought was small compared to what others are facing right now. No matter how “small” your grievance is, your feelings are still valid. Addressing your feelings and not allowing them to pile up is the best thing you can do to help maintain a strong overall wellbeing. I’ve been practicing self-care and doing things I enjoy to help me cope. I’ve made plenty of different desserts and of course I have watched Netflix’s entire catalog.
As much as I enjoy my medium iced caramel swirl from Dunkin’ Donuts, staying home is the smartest thing I can do right now. Being smart this way and practicing social distancing not only protects us individually, but helps ensure everyone else’s safety as well. Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean I can’t connect with our friends and family. I’ve had Zoom dinner parties and movie nights just this past week. I’ve taken advantage of Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype to virtually hang out with loved ones. In addition to staying home, one of the smartest things we can do is be informed and educated. Luckily for us, we have news and information at our fingertips that keeps us updated with everything related to coronavirus. I’m sure to check reliable sources as misinformation about the coronavirus can cause even more panic and fear. I factcheck what I see before sharing information and try my best to keep my family in the loop to help them stay informed.
When I was applying to college, I fell into the trap of constantly comparing myself to my peers. My college mentor once told me everyone’s journey is different and to recognize that’s ok. I keep reminding myself of that now.
Some people on social media have dedicated themselves to still waking up at 6 a.m., going for a run, getting dressed, and starting their day. It’s hard not to compare myself on the days when I wake up at noon, haven’t put on real clothes in a week, and have completed every assignment from the comfort of my own bed. But I’ve realized that it’s necessary to give myself a break and allow myself to wrap my head around what’s going on and give myself time to adjust.
For me, being bold was recognizing everyone’s progress and routine will be different. Choosing what’s best for me right now is the best way I can advocate for myself in the current situation. But it is also important to advocate for others. As coronavirus cases rise so do incidents of xenophobia and racism. Calling out people who are using racist rhetoric and sharing misinformation is one way to advocate for all people in our communities and address this problem.
These are trying times. It’s hard to look ahead when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring but it’s important to remember we will return to a somewhat normal life soon. In the meantime stay inside and take care of yourself – even though that may look differently for every person – and remain strong, smart, and bold.
Aryana is currently a sophomore at George Washington University studying Journalism and Sociology, and interning at the Girls Inc Public Policy office. In the future, she hopes to combine her love for advocacy and writing to become a screenwriter who produces more diverse and inclusive stories for TV or film.