hello! my name is dana, i’m a student at Brown studying Environmental Science and UX Design. but really, on a day-to-day basis i’m studying and understanding myself as a person, relative to what i’m learning. climate change is my issue and design is my medium — i get a lot of joy from talking to people at the intersections of disciplines. i’m a big broadway fan/spoken word poetry lover, but too afraid to admit it. i’m on a journey to speak to myself more gently and kindly; partly why i wrote this! 

this week saw me swinging into midterm season physically sick and emotionally exhausted, but i’ve since made it out battered but alive! thank you to izzy for letting me share something on this wonderful site i’ve long been a fan of, it’s really something special ❤

I’ve been following 16til26 since, well, 16! I remember when I first stumbled upon this blog in its infancy, scouring the internet for advice or some sort of thoughtful musing to ponder and reflect on — was I going to do high school right? What if it did me wrong? How would I know I was on the right path, let alone my path?

Retrospectively, in writing to you as a college student, I realize that the anxiety in the objective “right”, and the narcissism in “my” is part and parcel of being. I have no grand mantra I live by (not anymore), because in clinging desperately to quotes or platitudes and looking up to ‘successful people’, I miss my own becoming. Not becoming anything categorically better or improved, just the product and process of becoming. For the good part of my teen years, I have been my own worst enemy. I fought my intuition; I second guessed my feelings; I pushed myself beyond my perceived limits because I thought that was growth. It is not. Self-discipline and self-hate are not the same. Self-love and self-forgiveness are necessities, not privileges. Being immersed in your own shame and embarrassment is not self-awareness. The healthy act of introspection is not the same as the unhealthy act of overthinking.

This week I battled a lot of these evils; these necessary evils. Without having been on both ends of the spectrum, I cannot tell you I’ve experienced good balance. We talk about finding balance as if it’s a point you reach, or a state of being you become. I believe it is neither — balance for me is an experience I hold on to when I can, and let go when I know I can no longer. Ironically, becoming certain about this uncertainty has given me a lot of calm. It doesn’t mean I’m not leaning in to ‘take control of my life’ — there is so much that is out of my control. But it also doesn’t mean I’m disassociated, or I’ve given up having agency. I have agency; this doesn’t go away. Sometimes I have to let go and let God (I am religious — or for those of you who are not, let go and let life). Knowing I am surrendering to something beyond what I can fathom is comforting, because it humbles me in being okay with how much I don’t know, or how much I can’t intellectualize.

Also, just being takes a lot of guts. We occupy space and breath — we don’t have to utter anything profound to be assured of our existence! We deserve to be around people who remind us of this.

I’m sorry if this is meta or is discombobulated, but this is where my thoughts go when I’m not writing to-do lists, or writing papers, or writing texts. We write so much, but I can tell you I write so little (for myself). I want to remind you to breathe easy, and breathe deeply. This week I’m asking myself to let go of my inhibitions, daily.

Even as I’m writing this, I think of how much time I’ve ‘wasted’ — this is not true. Unpacking thoughts is an act of healing and building. I’m not writing to deconstruct myself and build it back up when I’m still just embracing and understanding where I am now.

Heal and build, be gentle with yourself.

Dana, *19

hi! it’s izzy again~ i’m introducing new voices to 16til26*, slowly but surely. dana is a longtime reader and a friend i met through stanford summer college. very grateful to have a mind as thoughtful and kind as hers on this site.

if you’re at all interested in sharing your own week, please fill out this form below. i’ll get back to you as soon as possible with more information~ i would love more than anything to have you be a part of this.

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