Culture Life

I didn’t realize how white my upbringing was until I moved to London

Spain is a very white country – I didn’t notice the extent of it, though, until I moved to London.

In Spain, we rarely talk about race. At least I never did. To give an example, Spain doesn’t include a racial or ethnic category in their census and official documents never ask you to state your racial background. Therefore, an official breakdown of the country’s population by race doesn’t exist.

Genetically speaking, Spaniards are a mix of the different civilizations that have conquered the Iberian Peninsula throughout history, including the Visigoths (Northern Europe), Romans (Italy), and the Moors (Northern Africa). However, if we were to categorize the ethnicity of the majority of the population, they would be white.

Nonetheless, I never realized that I was living in a bubble. I went to a school where everyone only two people in my whole year (around 150 people) were people of color, and those two people were both transracial adoptees and therefore had been raised in a white family. Moreover, everyone was also Christian, or at least ‘culturally Christian’.

According to a survey done in April 2020, 61.2% of the Spanish population considered themselves Catholic. Out of the rest of the population, 36.1% of people identified themselves as agnostic or atheist, and 1.8% said that they practiced a religion different from Catholicism. This is of course related to the fact that, until 1975, Catholicism was the country’s official religion.

The fact that Spain’s population is mostly white and Christian is neither a good nor a bad thing. But it made for a very narrow experience of the world. I was never conscious of it until I moved to the UK.

I moved to London in 2016, an exciting year, to say the least, right after the Brexit referendum and before the USA election. Immigration was, therefore, a hot topic of conversation. Moving to London allowed me to come into contact with people that looked different to me, that believed in different things, that had gone through struggles, and it felt like my whole world opened up.

Granted, London is still in Europe. However, it has a very diverse population. In 2019, 40.2% of its residents identified as Asian, Black, or Other ethnic groups. I was excited about being an international student and I often asked people (I admit it, mostly POC) where they were from. The question usually (and understandably) resulted in annoying looks and people stating “I’m from here.”

Since then, I have learned about Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu traditions. I have learned to not make assumptions about people’s origins, diets, or religions. I have learned to recognize the statements and attitudes that are disrespectful, and I notice when a group of people in a position of power have no POC amongst them.

I notice when people stare at my non-white friends, or when they always get the ‘randomly checked’ at the airport.

I realized I had never been fully tolerant, or accepting because I had never been in a situation where I had to be. It is very easy to say that you believe a certain thing or stand up for something when no one is questioning it.

Leaving Spain put me to the test.

I have committed mistakes, I am sure, But I have learned to identify internalized racism and strive to be the best ally that I can be. I have learned the importance of listening and understanding. The most important step, however, was for me to recognize how much I needed to learn.

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Culture Food & Drinks Life

13 plant-based recipes from around the world that aren’t avocado toast

The kind of veganism most of us in the west are familiar with is the kind influenced by whiteness or the kind presented as some sort of pop culture punchline to steer clear from. However, this myth regarding the inaccessibility of veganism blatantly neglects the different class and/or cultural backgrounds present in plant-based eating movements and practices around the world. 

Not to mention, the elitism now within veganism also ignores how intersectional veganism can be a decolonizing force. Many non-Western and pre-colonial cuisines are rich in affordable, plant-based ingredients.

So here are 13 traditionally plant-based recipes from around the world that will knock your avocado toast out of the water. 

1. Liangpi (Northwestern China)

Liangpi in chili oil garnished in cilantro, served in a white bowl
[Image Description: Liangpi in chilli oil garnished in cilantro, served in a white bowl.] Via Wikimedia Commons.
Though liangpi (凉皮)directly translates to “cold skin,” you’ll find nothing but flavorful and zingy sauce in this heap of slippery, cool goodness. These endearingly amorphous and floppy noodles are typically dressed in a Sichuan peppercorn-spiked sauce and garnished with cilantro.

2. Curtido (El Salvador)

A Jar of curtido sits on a plastic tarp next to two sauce containers
[Image Description: A jar of curtido sits on a plastic tarp next to two sauce containers.] Via Wikipedia.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and coleslaw lovers rejoice! Curtido is a springy Central American cabbage relish and an excellent addition to your arsenal of fermented cabbage recipes. This orangey slaw is typically served with pupusas but goes great with just about any starchy food in need of a fresh kick.  

3. Kelewele (Ghana)

A woman's hands present a platter of kelewele on a sheet of foil
[Image Description: A woman’s hands present a platter of kelewele on a sheet of foil.] Via Jessica Poku on Pinterest.
Fried plantains have an almost ubiquitous hold on many Caribbean, African, and Southeast Asian cuisines – take the Ghanaian kelewele. These ginger and cayenne spiced cubes of fried goodness are popular as a street snack or devoured over a dinner table. 

4. Hobak Juk (Korea)

Bowl of Orange pumpkin stew (hobak juk) with glutinous rice balls served in a metal bowl
[Image Description: Bowl of Orange pumpkin stew (hobak juk) with glutinous rice balls served in a metal bowl.] Via Maangchi.
This velvety smooth Korean pumpkin porridge is composed of two main ingredients: pumpkin (usually kabocha squash) and glutinous rice flour. For a special treat, you’ll find your orangey bowl of sun garnished with little sweet rice balls.

5. Ciambotta (Southern Italy)

A saucepan and wooden spatula in the process of cooking zucchini, tomato, and potato
[Image Description: A saucepan and wooden spatula in the process of cooking zucchini, tomato, and potato.] Via Karen and Brad Emerson on Flickr.
You’ll find this colorful vegetable stew enticing the senses at a Southern Italian get-together in the summer – though it’ll likely be referred to with one of its many different regional spellings. Main flavors include zucchini, tomato, and basil, so pair it with your favorite Italian carb and you’re good to go.

6. Turon (Philippines)

A close-up shot of Turon focused on its flaky lumpia wrapper
[Image Description: A close-up shot of Turon focused on its flaky lumpia wrapper.] Via Wikipedia.
Everyone goes weak-kneed at Filipino lumpia, but what of its sweeter, equally crispy but banana-filled delicacy? Turon is a brown-sugar coated treat similarly made with lumpia wrapper but may be filled with any tropical fruit from jackfruit to mango.

7. Misir Wat (Ethiopia)

A platter of Ethiopian food served on injera
[Image Description: A platter of Ethiopian food served on injera.] Via Dion Hinchcliffe on Flickr.
Ethiopian cuisine is well-known for its breadth of flavorful vegetarian and vegan stews and curries often arranged family-style on a bed of flat, teff-based injera bread. Misir wat is mainly composed of pulverized red lentils, traditionally bearing a berbere heat that might pulverize the taste palates of those with low spice tolerance. 

8. M’Hajeb (Algeria)

White plate full of mhajeb (stuffed Algerian flatbread)
[Image Description: A white plate full of mhajeb (stuffed Algerian flatbread).] Via Cuisine de foufa on Facebook.
So maybe you’ve whipped up some Algerian couscous (a national dish) or sampled a dolma off a party platter, but what of this crispy underdog of Algerian cuisine? M’hajeb, also known as m’semmen, is a peppery and tomato stuffed flatbread that pairs well with a refreshing cup of mint tea. 

9. Lablabi (Tunisia)

Bowl of chickpea lablabi
[Image Description: Bowl of chickpea lablabi.] Via Wikipedia.
From chickpea tuna wraps to chocolate hummus and even inventive usages of aquafaba, this versatile bean is a staple in any seasoned vegan’s pantry. For something different look towards lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea stew grounded in cumin and harissa flavors.

10. Ahu (Guam)

A metal pot full of purplish ahu, a guamanian coconut dessert
[Image Description: A metal pot full of purplish ahu, a Guamanian coconut dessert.] Via Guampedia.
If the words sweet coconut dumpling soup don’t yet spark mouthwatering temptation, just one sip of this sweet Guamanian dessert will have you running to boil more. Credit this warm treat’s thick and lumpy textures to young coconut and tapioca starch.

11. Che Chuoi (Vietnam)

Che chuoi dessert served in a glass parfait cup
[Image Description: Che chuoi dessert served in a glass parfait cup.] Via Huyzee Vu on Flickr.
The savory side of Vietnamese cuisine is chock full of plant-based dishes and flavorful to boot, but those looking for sugary relief can refer to the rich and fragrant che chuoi. Che chuoi is essentially stewed bananas and tapioca balls flavored with pandan; don’t let its creaminess fool you, this recipe is typically animal-free and coconut-based. 

12. Kousa Mahshi (Lebanon)

White platter of small kousa, zucchini, stuffed with red sauce
[Image Description: White platter of small kousa, zucchini, stuffed with red sauce.] Via Wikipedia.
Though sometimes stuffed with meat, the plant-based version of kousa mahshi makes ample use of the hollowed-out zucchini, or kousa, via a delicious tomato and rice filling. Find these savory summer squash logs served in a pool of garlicky tomato sauce, aesthetically garnished with parsley and mint. 

13. Kitsune Soba (Japan)

Bowl of kitsune soba topped with scallions
[Image description: Bowl of kitsune soba topped with scallions.] Via tasteatlas.
These Japanese buckwheat noodle dishes vary regionally, but the Kitsune soba is particularly vegan-friendly for its dashi stock and aburaage tofu topping. Its name originates from the ancient belief that kitsune, recurring fox spirits in Japanese folklore, indulge in sweetened thin slices of aburaage tofu. 

Once we know better, we must do better. Veganism is more than what western society has sold us. Rather, it’s a rich and cultured cuisine that spans back thousands of years. But don’t just take it from me, try some of these meals for yourself and you’ll see how expansive (and truly delicious) vegan and vegetarian meals can be!

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Culture Life

I grew up in a tourist coastal town, and it’s not what you think it is

Seagulls shriek in that typical seaside caw. Boats dock in sparkling blue waters. People riding bikes stop for ice cream, and fireworks illuminate the darkening sky with starbursts of color. 

This is not a scene from some oceanfront vacation. This is just a typical summer afternoon in my town. 

I live on the heart of the Jersey Shore, a place where tourists from North Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania flock every year. Some own beach houses that sit dormant during the winter. Some return to their favorite beachfront hotel year after year. And some come to my town, a quiet, cozy community that is the stopping point on the way to and from big guys: Ocean City, Wildwood, Long Beach Island, and Cape May. 

Sometimes I take in my surroundings and can’t believe I call it home. The beach is only a short drive from my house, and bright, blue lagoons zigzag almost everywhere you look. Everything is nautical-themed. From furniture shops to restaurants to car dealerships, it’s hard to forget that we are a shore town. Since I’ve lived here since the first grade (and was too young to remember living anywhere else) I’m just used to this culture.

But it’s made me a beach person, a summer person, a thoroughly coastal girl. There’s no doubt that I’m lucky; I live in a place that people save money for year-round, so they can vacation for at least a week in a hotel or a rental down in South Jersey. In the summer, there’s always something to do: attend a concert on the water, visit a restaurant on the pier, pop fireworks at 9 p.m., ride rollercoasters, and eat funnel cakes on the boardwalk. 

But it’s not all sun, salt, and sand. 

At the height of the summer, it’s hard to go in and out of town without being jammed in traffic from all the tourists racing down the parkway. Sometimes it makes running errands past 11 a.m. a nightmare as visitors (usually from New York and Pennsylvania) tailgate your bumper, cut you off in your lane, and overall make you wish you’d stayed home with the curtains closed. 

And it’s the tourists who cloaked South Jersey with the stereotypes that the rest of the country (and the world) learned from MTV’s Jersey Shore. Of the entire cast of the show that made New Jersey a parody, only two of them are actually from the Garden State (Deena Cortese and Samantha Giancola). Everyone else is from New York, mainly Staten Island. Remember Pauly D? He’s not even from the Tri-State area but from Rhode Island. 

The point of sharing the birthplaces of reality stars? They came to the Jersey Shore as tourists and acted the way audiences wanted to see young people party their way through Seaside Heights. But the locals who actually live here paid the price when it came to the state’s reputation on the whole.

Because of the show, many thought everyone in the state pronounces Jersey like “Joisy,” that we are public disturbances when on vacation, and that we leave a trail of litter wherever we go. These stereotypes include South Jersey, too, and while every resident of the state probably knows someone who shares traits with Jersey Shore, the show couldn’t be farther from reality. 

These negative tropes, however, do not account for their benefits. Tourists (and the popularity of Jersey Shore itself) provide businesses in my area a financial boom every year. Boardwalk towns like Ocean City and Wildwood depend on the guarantee that New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians will come and spend their money. If you’re ever on the Jersey Shore and hear a local complaining about the “shoobies” or “bennies” who come from out of town, know that we all secretly welcome their arrival. In fact, when COVID-19 significantly reduced its numbers during the 2020 season, many businesses along the shore perished

So it’s a love-hate relationship we locals have with the tourists, but that’s pretty typical for any tourist town. And that’s not the only drawback of living here. It’s dead in the winter. A ghost town. Don’t bother going to the boardwalk in December. It’s too cold, windy, empty, and all the shops are boarded up. If you want to do anything fun you have to drive to Atlantic City, and even that gets dull after so many times. 

Strangely, these drawbacks are the very reason why I like living in New Jersey itself. The commute between two major metropolises (Manhattan and Philadelphia) is relatively short, so catching a play or visiting a museum is never an impossibility. But who wants to drive up to two hours and battle city traffic just to do something on a Saturday night? 

My complaints about my town are based solely on opinion. When I lamented to my friend how depressing the boardwalk is in winter, she blinked at me. “Really? I like how empty it is. It makes me feel like it’s mine.”

And she’s right because, for people who have lived on the shore all our lives, we do feel a sense of ownership, protectiveness, and pride. 

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Culture Sexuality Gender & Identity Science Now + Beyond

Why are developments towards same-sex reproduction so lethargic?

If you’re anything like me, the denouement of your two-step nightly routine may consist of a 30 to 45-minute scroll through TikTok. Maybe you scroll too far into one of alt TikTok’s beautifully niche abscesses, and your session culminates in wanting to un-see some moldy bread fever dream. Or perhaps, you make a shocking discovery under the popular #imjustsaying that leaves your mental gears furiously whirring, realigns your world perspective, and further justifies the collective distaste for the toxic male ego? For me, this discovery came in the form of same-sex reproduction TikToks claiming that two women may produce biological children together via bone marrow. And because the process would only produce daughters, we could create a new, man-free utopia (think Wonder Woman).

Surprised or enlightened? Perhaps you’ve seen this one and consequently adopted the empowering mantra “remember the bone marrow”:

@madiweiss27 i’m not even kidding everytime my boyfriend even breathes wrong my best friend will text him something like “remember the bone marrow” ##fyp ##bestie♬ How Bad Can I Be? – Ed Helms

Or maybe you’ve seen this video, which has around 30 thousand likes, and you’ve read through the comments of men who feel threatened by this scientific discovery:

@tayrbear she hates my gay rants ##imjustsaying ##SpaDeOlay ##tiktokprom ##lesbian ##bonemarrow ##pregnantlesbian ##gayaf ##dontneedmen ##foryoupage♬ How Bad Can I Be? – Ed Helms

One of the higher grossing TikToks on this topic, which reached at least 90,000 likes, has since been removed. But before then, several male users who felt threatened by the possibility of their sperm losing reproductive value dueted the video on a mission to debunk bone marrow babies. After reading through the defensive comments and enduring as much TikTok mansplaining as I could, I embarked on a factual mission. 

The information in the original videos was grounded in Iranian scientist Karim Nayernia’s stem cell research, articulated in a 2007 Discover Magazine piece. By suspending bone marrow-derived stem cells in a testes-simulating medium, researchers were able to grow the stem cells into male germ cells—or immature sperm with the potential to fertilize an egg.

Like the 2020 TikTok revival of Nayernia’s discovery, the article suggests that the experiment’s success (ethics aside) could allow two women to independently procreate with no male input.

The article’s last lines express that, after approval from his ethics board, Nayernia would continue his research by attempting to transplant the cells into human testes. It’s now been 13 years with no updates related to this specific methodology besides its brief Tik Tok resurgence. But why?

Realizing that the Tik Toks’ claims were indeed utopian and too-good-to-be-true was more disappointing than watching this TikTok user pretend to gulp down a spoonful of furry, almond milk yogurt. Especially considering how current reproductive methods do not allow same-sex couples to raise children who are genetically related to both parents. Adoption, surrogacy, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) constitute the options available for same-sex couples, and only partial genetic relatedness is possible.

Furthermore, stem cell research and same-sex reproduction are often met with pushback over safety concerns and ethical controversy. Even Nayernia’s experiments, which amassed great media coverage as the first successful attempt to turn stem cells into spermatogonia, were met with similar doubt

Though full genetic relatedness is not backed as necessary for parenthood, a series of 2017 studies surveying infertile different-sex couples found that 97% of men and women favored genetic parenthood, it seems unfair to dismiss such assisted reproduction techniques as ‘unnatural’ or same-sex reproduction ‘biologically impossible’. In recent years, several experiments with same-sex mouse parents in 2018 and in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) have shown promising results. It would be shortsighted to ignore the ethical and safety challenges that these reproductive technologies would beget, yet even more myopic to deny its progress and significance for same-sex couples. 

As we’ve seen in the past years, social media has a fascinating ability to resurface old believes and even discoveries. TikTok is another platform bringing back these ideas to light. And I for one, would like to see these actually moving forward.

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Culture Family Life Stories Life

As a Brown girl, Western media warped my sense of beauty

I may find my childhood pictures embarrassing now, but there was a time, not so very long ago, when 10-year-old Izzah would confidently pose in whatever she was wearing. I was firm in my conviction that I could get whichever white boy band member I had a crush on at the time, to instantly fall head over heels for me.

If you lay out a timeline of all of my pictures ever taken -up until the one I took just before I sat here to write this down- they tell a story of how my confidence in my appearance ebbed and flowed. You would be able to pinpoint exactly when I started idolizing the western beauty ideals perpetuated by content I consumed and people around me.

When you are young and your perception of beauty has not yet been warped by mass media, you tend to primarily associate beauty with love. Your mother is beautiful when she fries a generous handful of samosas for you and asks how your day at school was. Your father is beautiful when he colorfully narrates his childhood to you over a cup of overly sweet chai and you are careful not to burn your tongue. Your Nana Abu is beautiful when he asks about your childhood friend every time you go visit him, you don’t talk to her anymore but hers is the only name he remembers so you tell him she’s doing well. Your brother is beautiful when he splits a Dairy Milk and gives you the bigger half. This innocuous perception of love intersecting with beauty is tarnished over time. The decay in our worldview begins when we are exposed to media telling us beauty can only look a certain way.

The earliest memory I have of not feeling pretty is when I would read about female protagonists who were described as effortlessly gorgeous, with long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a slender figure. I would contrast it to the description of the frumpy side character who was short, chubby, dark-haired, with glasses and crooked teeth. The latter would closely match how I would describe myself as a character in a novel. The awkward-looking side characters would never go on adventures or fall in love or have a compelling personality. They existed solely to make the lead look even better by comparison, and for the longest time as we consumed western media, my friends and I felt like the side characters of our own stories. There were countless movies and TV shows revolving around a predominantly white, conventionally attractive cast. I have vivid memories of sitting in groups at lunchtime, as early as seventh grade, lamenting our heritage. No “oceanic depths” in our eyes and no “golden halos” in our hair, we would talk about the parts of ourselves we would love to change.

The lack of South Asian representation on screen had desi girls trying to contort themselves to live up to white beauty standards. I saw my friends repeatedly give themselves chemical burns in efforts to dye their hair lighter, wear contacts that made their eyes water but their irises appear a stark icy blue, bleach their skin (which was often encouraged by a supportive mother or aunt), and even go as far as to try to lose their Pakistani accent when they conversed in English. Seeing my peers so viciously build barricades over all the roads that could link them to their birth culture and people instilled an inferiority complex in me about my heritage that I had to spend multiple years to unlearn.  I too once dreamed of cutting all ties with my country and for the longest time regretted not being born into a white family.

Body hair was another major facet in my journey of acceptance. Being South Asian I was genetically predisposed to a greater amount of darker, more visible body hair. I was subject to waxing since I was eleven, before which I remember thinking women don’t grow underarm hair, because I had spent all my life having never seen armpit hair on a woman anywhere, from animated characters in TV shows to movies of shipwrecked castaways where the female lead would always be hairless. Even women around me never let themselves wear anything that would show off their body hair in-between waxing sessions, lest they be thought of having “let themselves go”. All this because “log kia kahen gai?”

“What will people say?”

An avid propellant of this beauty ideal has been brown aunties with their unsolicited comments on our appearances, who instill the belief of our self-worth being inherently tied to our appearance from a very tender age. I have a vivid memory of being 10 years old and having a random auntie get in the elevator with me, and proceed to spend the duration of our descent from the 8th Floor of my apartment building asking me what those stains on my face were — freckles, auntie — and start listing off whitening creams with bleaching agents that would help “fix” my face. A 30-second interaction with a total stranger was all it took for me to gain a whole new insecurity.

Being portrayed as the side character and the second choice for decades of cinema really took a toll on the way people of color perceived themselves. Decolonizing my definition of beauty has not been easy, and there are days when I have to actively work to remind myself that my body is just a vessel and my “beauty ideals” are attained by millionaires and celebrities after copious amounts of Facetune and cosmetic surgery. Flaunting these images as normal to expect of puberty, down the throats of impressionable young children, gives girls and boys a warped expectation of what normal bodies and faces look like. Hiring twenty-something actors to play high school children may seem innocuous enough in the moment, but the lasting impact it could have on the body image of the target demographic of a show is often swept under the rug.

Our female ancestors were not able to inherit land, wealth or even pass on their last names to us. It would only take three generations for their ancestry and familial ties to be forgotten completely, their identities dissolved in their marital vows. All we have that ties us to the resolute, tenacious women that came before us, are our features. The pigment of our skin, the folds of our body. We wear our heritage on the crevices of our face, the least we can do is learn to wear it with unapologetic pride.

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Culture LGBTQIA+ History Music Pop Culture

The forgotten queer and Black foundations that built electronic house music

Kaytranada made history when he won the Best Dance/Electronic album at the 63rd Grammy awards this year for Bubba. His achievement was iconic because he was the first black and openly gay man to win this award. This historic win also highlighted how far removed electronic music has become from its minority origins.

“When I was making my last album, I was really inspired by early house DJs, because now when house DJs actually come up, it’s really those white DJs and people don’t think about Black DJs in the sense that play House music,” House DJ and music producer Kaytranada explained to comedian Jaboukie about the inspiration for his sophomore album, Bubba in his 2020 PAPER Pride cover story.

Later in the conversation, Jaboukie added: “Specifically when it comes to electronic music, I feel like there’s such a history of gay, Black, queer, trans people being involved in music. It’s interesting because I feel like you have a lineage,” As an openly gay Black man, Kayranada is definitely a descendant of the early ancestors of house.

Like rock’n’roll, electronic dance music (EDM) has also experienced whitewashing. Today, many EDM enthusiasts seem to think that electronic music and genres such as house, techno, dubstep, and many other sub-genres stemming from the universal need to dance were created by white European men in the early 90s. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They often fail to recognize the communities of color, in particular the black LGBTQIA+ community that created electronic music as we know it today. They also fail to recognize the foundation of almost all current electronic music today stems from house music.

The history of current electronic music, in particular, house music, can be traced back to the underground gay clubs of New York and Chicago. Although the exact origin is unclear, the go-to story is that the genre was named after “The Warehouse” nightclub in Chicago’s South Side. Record stores in the city would attract listeners by playing mixes and dance records “as played at The Warehouse”. That was soon colloquially shortened to “house music”.

The nightclub The Warehouse first opened its doors in 1977 in Chicago. It initially operated as a members-only club almost exclusively frequented by Black and Latino gay men. At the time, gay bars and clubs were the only safe spaces for queer folks, away from police who terrorized Chicago’s gay community.

Sonically, house music was born from the ashes of disco. By the early 80s, there was a “Disco Sucks”  movement, a backlash from the oversaturation of the genre. The “Disco Sucks” movement became anti-dance and therefore anti-gay. As a result, house music was born. It was a blend of disco classics, Euro-beat, and synthesized pop. It has now evolved into many genres and subgenres within electronic music and also influenced pop and hip-hop.

A trailblazer and famous for his early house mixes and amalgamation of recycled soul mixes is DJ Frankie Knuckles. Nicknamed the “Godfather of House”,  Knuckles was also openly gay. Other early innovators included Larry Levan and DJ Ron Hardy, who too were gay and involved in the drag scene.

These pioneers and others played a pivotal role in evolving disco into early house music. They explored creative ways to edit, mix and remix records using innovative techniques. This was due to a lack of DJ equipment. Many DJs didn’t have basic equipment such as a DJ mixer, headphones, or turntables with varying speeds. At this time, DJs often also played the roles of DJ, producer, composer, and remixer.

[Image Description: House pioneer, DJ Ron Hardy performing his set at The Musicbox] Via Red Bull Music Academy Daily
[Image Description: House pioneer, DJ Ron Hardy performing his set at The Music box.] Via Red Bull Music Academy Daily
The early 80s was a vital turning point for DJing and music production. Synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and drum machines became cheaper and more accessible. DJs and music producers in Chicago delved deeper into dance music production and embraced these machines. DJs would loop basslines, add percussion layers, mix in effects, add vocals, and apply other remixing techniques to make music that people would dance to.

Record labels soon took notice of the rapid popularity of this underground genre. In particular, Chicago-based record label, Trax Records, would commercially release iconic dance tracks including Your Love by Frankie Knuckles, Can You Feel It by Larry Heard, and Move Your Body by Marshall Jefferson.

Around the mid-80s, distinct electronic genres and subgenres emerged. These included deep house and acid house. House music and urban club culture, influenced heavily by gay urban club culture, continued to cultivate these new house sounds in clubs in emerging regional hubs like Heaven in Detroit and The Saint in New York. These new regional hubs often merged their own styles of music with Chicago house. The Saint also helped usher in a new era of electronic music and light shows that would inspire much of the rave aesthetic that now become synonymous with today’s EDM scene.

At the same time, house music has spread internationally, becoming one of the most popular genres in Europe. The first major house success outside of the US is considered to be Love Can’t Turn Around by Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and Jesse Saunders, which peaked at ten on the UK chars in 1986. A year later, Jack Your Body by Steve “Silk” Hurley reached number one on the same charts becoming the first house record to do so.

By 1998, Euro-house, particularly French, Italian, and  UK house explosion, was at its height. At this time, more global influences like broken-beat, Latin jazz, and Afro-house were infiltrating into Euro-house which was now considered the house hub of the world.

“The constant innovation and globality of house music led to the emergence of acid-house and in turn techno and all other electronic sub-genres. In the mix of it all, queer folk of color have somehow slipped out of the established narrative.” Author Luis Manuel-Garcia detailed in  An Alternate History of Sexuality in Club Culture.

Despite its globality and its inspiration for dance, freedom, and acceptance, all of this started with the queer Black people in a small underground Chicago club. DJ-driven dance music may have long since outgrown its minority origins, but it is still essential that this history not be lost and Kaytranada’s Grammy win and many Black electronic DJs in this space are making sure of this.

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Culture Life

When learning a new language, it turns out slang isn’t all that bad

Knowing I am his go-to for sharing with the class Italian American slang and how not to pronounce a word, my Italian professor locks eyes with me over our masks. So, I perk up in anticipation.

“Laurie, how do you spell stunad?”

I conjure an image of the word in my head, then spell it out as he scribbles it across the chalkboard: S-T-U-N-A-D. Then, he writes the real word—the Italian word— next to it. Stupido.

“How Italian Americans got stunad from stupido,” he says “I will never know.” 

There are so many dialects across the Italian peninsula that if you take someone from Naples and throw them next to a Roman, they might have a hard time understanding each other. Because Neapolitan is a language different from true, Tuscan Italian. And when immigrants came to America’s shores and filled the East Coast with newer generations of Italian Americans, their dialects were further broken down into slang, making the original language pretty much unrecognizable. 

For instance, Aglio e olio (garlic and oil) is a simple pasta dish but in my house (and the houses of millions of second-generation families), we pronounce it aiy-ya-oo-ya. That’s the equivalent of baking an apple pie and calling it appa-piya. This is just one example of the many feats of Italian slang I know better than the original language.

However, my mixed American and Italian perspectives didn’t hinder my learning journey towards mastering the true Italian language— if anything, knowing Italian slang words and phrases well proved to be beneficial for me later; namely, when I enrolled in Italian 101 during my junior year of college.

Before that, my exposure to learning a language the traditional way (in school) was restricted to high school Spanish. Learning a language in high school compared to in adulthood was both easier and harder. It was easier because when you’re 16, you don’t have nearly half of the responsibility you have when you’re in college. Becoming fluent in a new language requires immersion (reading, listening, and thinking in it), and in high school, you have more time to do just that. 

Also, no matter how little effort I put into Spanish, I had been exposed to it since middle school, so by the time college-level Italian rolled along, I had retained more of the language than I’d thought. Though, on the other hand, learning high school Spanish was harder than Italian.

When sitting at the cramped desk of that rowdy, papel picado-decorated classroom, I wasn’t nearly as motivated to learn as I am now. This might be because at nearly 21-years-old, my brain is much more developed and prepared for learning a new language compared to when I was a teenager. 

And also because Italy is my first love, my heritage, and my upbringing— despite having rarely heard the language spoken correctly. I grew up in an Italian American family. Both of my nonne were first-generation, and my ears were accustomed to the slang of Sicilian and southern dialects.

This is why during Italian lessons when I was introduced to phrases like ubriaco, aglio e olio, fagioli, and stupido, a lightbulb flicked on and illuminated all the slang resting dormant in the back of my mind. Ubriaco sounds a lot like “umbriag,” which is a slang term for drunk. Aglio e olio, while nowhere close to aiy-ya-oo-ya, forged that connection in my mind.

Before even being told what slang it produced (the one I was familiar with) I thought, ‘Hey I eat that all the time!’ While “stunad” and “fazool” look nothing like their parents (stupido and fagioli), learning the real words for this slang no longer felt so foreign and intimidating for someone who had never been taught real Italian in the traditional way.

The next day in class, my professor meets my eyes. I wait, knowing our daily slang lesson is coming up. “How do you spell gabish in your house?” he asks. 

I spell it: G-A-B-I-S-H. Next to it on the chalkboard, he writes capisci. Do you understand?

Gabish may sound like nonsense in Italy, but having this slang ingrained in me helped me remember what’s right. 

Learning to accept slang, even if it’s colloquially incorrect, opened a door that felt closed my entire life. Sure, I know when not to use it, and when different kinds of slang (like the kind real Italians use depending on what region they’re from) is appropriate. Knowing both of what’s formally or traditionally correct and incorrect only deepens your immersion into learning a new language.

Ultimately, no matter what language you use, whether it’s Italian, Spanish, or anything else, it never hurts to know too much. And by embracing the “informal” aspects of education and language, you may find connections in the most unlikely places!

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Culture Life Stories Life

This is what Ramadan looks like while recovering from an eating disorder

Content warning: mentions of eating disorders

Since I was a young girl, I have had a fractured relationship with food and my body image. I have struggled with body dysmorphia for around five years and an eating disorder for two. Only in the past few months have I begun to recover and learn to love my body for all it does for me. 

Prior to this year, I associated Ramadan with food and only food. Typically, Ramadan is a month for Muslims to reflect on those who are less fortunate than us, expressing gratitude through fasting from food, and otherworldly desires such as music and shopping. It is also a month for repentance and forgiveness. However, instead of being a month for enhancing my spiritual connection to God, Ramadan was a time for me to see how much weight I could lose by not eating.

Often, I would skip suhoor, the meal in the early morning, to give my body a longer fast. Outside of Ramadan, it was an achievement if I went to bed feeling hungry. Despite any feelings of satisfaction I had, my eating habits resulted in numerous physical and mental health issues. My anxiety became extreme, and my periods were so affected that I was vomiting, passing out and experiencing unbearable pain each month; but I ignored all of that and focused on intensely working out without any food. 

Recovery is a difficult journey that does not happen overnight. I have found connecting to the spiritual aspect of Ramadan beneficial to my own recovery, using this as a month where my soul re-aligns with God’s endless mercy. It is a gift to be able to receive divine guidance, and through fasting, we are freed from the addictions and attachments of this world which enslave us in negative beliefs.

When our stomachs are empty, we surrender to God, delaying the gratification of food and entering a state of humility. It reminds me to eat intuitively in a way that honors my body, rather than forcing myself to stick to strict regimens or diets. Each person’s experience is unique and can strive to become better people in their own way. 

This month, I am grateful to be able to put my fixation on food behind me and focus on spiritual cleansing. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders to be able to appreciate the month for what it is, something holy and sacred, rather than be so consumed by how the lack of food is affecting me all day. 

Going through Ramadan whilst in recovery allows me to reflect back on unhealthy habits from the past, such as skipping meals or making myself throw up. As I reflect on my past habits, I feel remorseful for the way I used to treat my body but also an appreciation for everything we have gone through together. But most of all, Ramadan this year is all about acting intuitively and not forcing myself to stick to a particular routine. With what I choose to eat, with prayer and with how I look after my body. 

For me, the priority is to not fall back into old habits, no matter how tempting or easy it may seem. Skipping suhoor, or feeling guilty for eating during the end of the day because we think we ‘could have done another few hours is not healthy. Maintaining a strong mind-body relationship is crucial. A lot of these feelings would be heightened on Eid, where there are large celebrations involving lots of food. I used to be consumed with the thought of how Eid food celebrations are removing all the ‘hard work’ of fasting done prior to this, instead of enjoying myself with my friends and family. 

Ramadan can be a difficult month for many people. Some ways which I have found helped me to honor myself during times where I am struggling are: listening to affirmations, practicing yoga or pilates, doing my hair and makeup to boost my mood. We should all remind ourselves that it is equally as important to rest, and love our bodies as we take out time this month to go on a unique journey to discover divine love.

However, if you are struggling during Ramadan, know that it is okay. If you’re feeling anxious about fasting, are struggling with mental health issues and need to take a break, or relapse back into your eating disorder just remember that you don’t have to compare your spiritual journey to anyone else’s. There is no one set way to fast during the holy month, so be kind to yourself.

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Culture Life Stories Life

I defied my culture’s norms and learned how to leave what didn’t serve me

When I was seven years old, I decided I was going to be a writer. I was fortunate that my mother encouraged my reading and writing habit. However, she also encouraged me to pursue other interests because my mother understood how difficult being “just a writer” was. As a result, I spent the rest of my childhood shuffling through “dream” careers that were more practical. And by the time I was 17, I had decided I was going to be a lawyer. 

When I was 19, I was fortunate to attend a university that allowed students to pick more than one major, so I majored in Law and Journalism. Picking journalism was an ode to the 7-year-old who wanted to be a writer. Little did I know, the ambitions I had as a child would eventually overcome the career path I chose for practicality and financial safety. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in a Constitutional Law class, realizing how unfit law was for me. Sure, I would make a decent lawyer, but I’d also be miserable in that career. 

So, after weeks of deliberating with myself, I tested the news of wanting to drop law as a career option on my sister. To my surprise, she was not surprised. My sister affirmed my decision and encouraged me to fully pursue a journalism career. The biggest challenge, however, was telling my parents about my decision. How could I explain to my African parents their beloved daughter no longer wanted to be a lawyer, a great career with a reliable income but wanted to be a journalist, a dangerous profession in Zimbabwe? 

Thankfully, both of my parents took the news relatively well. They understood the importance of me picking the path that made me happy, but they were scared by the uncertainty and unpredictability of being a journalist. They suggested I finish my law degree and pursue journalism on the side. Unfortunately for them, I was all in. It was going to be journalism or nothing. 

Looking back, I realize how important it was for me to drop law. What may have initially appeared to others to be a childish whim, was my way of choosing myself. My intuition told me it was time to leave what didn’t fulfill my needs. I doubted myself at first because I was taught leaving law would be like quitting and “quitters never won.”  Additionally, how could I quit law knowing how much my parents had sacrificed for me? How could I leave a stable career behind? The truth is I had to quit for myself. I had to quit to preserve my mental health and to pursue something which better fulfilled me. 

Correspondingly, last July, I left a three-year relationship that wasn’t inherently flawed or problematic. Whenever I broke the news of my breakup to someone, they’d ask if anything was wrong. People were quick to assume it was either a case of cheating, dishonesty, or betrayal. I struggled, and still do, to explain there was nothing wrong between my ex and me. It was just time to pull the plug. I didn’t know how to tell people we loved each other so much we had to break up. 

As final-year university students, we thought more about the future and how our relationship fit now that we were in a different stage in our lives. We were both at a cross-road, and we knew we could no longer journey together. Although our love brought us together, it couldn’t carry us any further. This was all extremely difficult to accept, as it felt like we were giving up on our love and each other. But that wasn’t the case.

Zimbabwean culture teaches women to stay in marriages and relationships, no matter the cost. Women are told to look for reasons to stay and to fight for their partners. Most wives stay for their children or out of fear of the shame and stigma associated with divorce. So, the idea of leaving a relationship, a perfect one at that, was foreign to me. Initially, my instincts told me to fight for my relationship. But the intuition deep in my gut told me to let it go. 

So I did just that, and I have not regretted it. I must admit there were moments I was tempted to go back to what I knew because, after three years, my ex had been my best friend and top confidant. It often felt as if leaving was a bad idea. However, I now see how leaving was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, as it was yet another instance of prioritizing myself in the long run. 

All in all, I am now reaping the rewards of having left the things that no longer served me. I am working for a company I love, and I am on a beautiful and fulfilling journey towards self-actualization. Despite the norms of my culture, I do not regret taking the path less traveled. The skill of knowing when to quit is difficult to acquire, but it is also one with bountiful rewards. Trust me, I have no regrets. 

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Culture Travel Life

Here are 8 upcoming spring traditions you wish you knew about before travel bans

Here in the United States, everyone knows about the White House Easter Egg Roll, held annually on Easter Monday. But have you heard about the sand sculpture during Haeundae in South Korea? Or the bonfire dancing of Walpurgis Night in Germany and Sweden? What about the Songkran Water Festival in Thailand? 

While these traditions are separated by continent, culture, and practices, they all involve a similar message. They welcome the arrival of spring, rebirth, and coming together to celebrate shared values and beliefs. If you hadn’t been itching to travel during the pandemic, you will after this!

1. Easter Egg Roll (April 5)

[Image description: Children participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House on April 17, 2017.] Source:
[Image description: Children participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House on April 17, 2017.] Via
This is the most popular and recognizable celebration of the spring season. Christians in the U.S. honor the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ during Holy Week. So, on Easter Monday, the White House hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn. Families who win a lottery are invited to the event, where children can take pictures with the Easter Bunny, get baskets, and roll painted eggs through the grass. This year, however, the event has been canceled due to COVID-19

2. Semana Santa (March 28-April 4)

[Image description: Semana Santa procession on display in the streets.] Source:
[Image description: Semana Santa procession on display in the streets.] Via
This Holy Week festival is a major celebration in Latin America and Spain. Semana Santa honors the events leading up to Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, with particularly emotional reenactments of Christ’s Passion on Good Friday. In places like Spain, Mexico, and Guatemala, large parades are held, fireworks are showcased, and people dress up like the ancient Romans to carry a crucifix in front of the crowds. In Antigua, sand and dyed sawdust cover the streets in an “alfombra” or carpet fit for a king as processions carrying Christ’s image march through.

3. Walpurgis Night (April 30-May 1)

[Image description: Massive Walpurgis Night bonfire on display in Sweden.] Source:
[Image description: Massive Walpurgis Night bonfire on display in Sweden.] Via
In Germany and Scandinavia, Walpurgis Night is celebrated with traditional folk songs, dressing in costumes, draping blessed foliage in the streets, and dancing to loud music. Similar to a “springtime Halloween”, these traditions are supposed to help ward off evil spirits set free to roam on this night and to maintain good fortune for the upcoming planting season. The holiday can be traced back to pagan festivals that honored the beginning of spring and fertility. 

4. Songkran Water Festival (April 13-15)

[Image description: People frolicking during the Songkran Water Festival.] Source: laydown on Pixabay.
[Image description: People frolicking during the Songkran Water Festival.] Via Pixabay.
Marking the new year in Thailand, the Songkran Water Festival is all about rebirth. The tradition originated with people sprinkling water on each other to be cleansed of negativity, misfortune, and to welcome purer, luckier times ahead. However, this festival has taken the message of what the water represents to a whole new level as elaborate water shows drench entire streets for days.

5. Beltane Fire Festival (April 30)

[Image description: Festival-goers celebrate Beltane fires.] Source:
[Image description: Festival-goers celebrate Beltane fires.] Via
This pagan Celtic holiday also welcomes the start of something new: the warm summer season ahead. Each year, this festival is held in Edinburgh, Scotland, and features a massive bonfire atop Calton Hill. Drumbeats pound through the streets, and traditional dancing tells the story of the May Queen and the Green Man, which are folktales that can be traced back to Gaelic traditions of the Iron Age.

In anticipation of summer, this pagan story follows the May Queen as she crowns the Green Man, who then sheds his winter garb to reveal spring garments beneath. This signifies the official end of winter, as the Green Man now wears the clothes of the warmer seasons. Following the ritual, the May Queen and the Green Man are wed. 

6. Vesak (May 7)

[Image description: Buddhists lift lanterns into the sky in honor of Buddha.] Source:
[Image description: Buddhists lift lanterns into the sky in honor of Buddha.] Via
Celebrated in largely Buddhist countries, this holiday commemorates the life of Buddha. During this time, Buddha’s dharma messages of kindness, compassion, and wisdom are honored. Buddhist monks gather in Java, Indonesia to light lanterns and candles in front of Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. In other countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, Buddhists similarly gather in a circle with lit candles and lanterns, imitating the mass gathering of monks at Borobudur. 

7. Festival of Snake Catchers (May 7)

[Image description: A crowd parades a snake-laden statue of St Dominic through the street.] Source:
[Image description: A crowd parades a snake-laden statue of St Dominic through the street.] Via
In the Abruzzo region of Italy, this festival is held every year in Cocullo. In honor of the upcoming farming season, people drape live snakes around the statue of St. Dominic and parade the statue through the streets. This is because St. Dominic is supposed to protect farmers from snakebites and other crop-failing curses. In ancient times, people would cook the snakes and eat them after the festival. Now, however, the snakes are released back into the wild, unharmed.

8. Haeundae Sand Festival (Late May-early June)

[Image description: A massive Haeundae sand sculpture towers on a beach.] Source:
[Image description: A massive Haeundae sand sculpture towers on a beach.] Via
Each year in South Korea, this holiday is celebrated to anticipate summer. Busan, with its sprawling powder-white beach, hosts some of South Korea’s most popular vacation destinations. Everyone associates summer with sun and sand, which is on full display there with sand sculpture events, hot sand baths for beauty and wellness, and four days of volleyball tournaments. Unfortunately, the Haeundae Festival was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, and it remains unclear whether or not the festival will commence this year. 

The winter and spring holiday seasons for both 2020 and 2021 were full of unknowns. Despite the separation of the different religions, customs, and beliefs behind these traditions, uncertainty in the time of the COVID links us all. It doesn’t matter if the pandemic means we can’t celebrate in person, or travel to our dream destinations. Simply, acknowledging the connection we all share given many of our current circumstances, and defining our own happiness during festive seasons, is enough. 

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Editor's Picks Culture Lookbook Weddings

There’s a dark history behind that beautiful engagement ring

You have been dating your partner for three years. Conversations about a future with each other have been brought up and discussed more times than you can count. You’ve only been looking at engagement rings every day for the past year. You live together, know each other’s family and friends, you even have a DOG together. But, one thing is missing. Where’s the ring? One day, you are out to dinner together, and you are sure this is it. They are talking about how much they love you, how much they care about you, and how they can’t wait to spend the rest of your lives together. This is it! This is the moment! They kneel down, they propose. 

You say yes, wailing with tears and trying to hide your ugly crying face. You pop out your hand, waiting for the cold feeling of a diamond-encrusted ring to slide up your ring finger. Except…the feeling never comes. Your wails stop. You open your eyes to see your partner gleaming back at you, diving back into their vodka sauce pasta.
Your partner looks at you, mouth full of pasta, and exclaims, “oh, you expected a ring, didn’t you?”

You nod, your mouth wide open and gaping. They let out a little chuckle and say, “you don’t really want one. Do you even know about the dark history behind engagement rings?” You shake your head.

This didn’t go as planned.

The fact of the matter is, for women and some minorities, engagement rings have a dark origin that many might not know about. What is supposed to symbolize the love between two souls might not be as simple as you think.

Engagement rings can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt, where circles symbolized eternity and couples exchanged circular reeds on their left ring finger. Similar to what we do today, they were placed on the left ring finger as it is believed there is a vein in the left finger that leads directly to the heart.

In Ancient Rome, this is where it gets a little dark as the marriage between a man and a woman was seen more as a business transaction between the husband and the wife’s father.

Only women were forced to wear rings, made of ivory and iron, to show their obedience to their husbands.

In other words, a woman wearing a ring was supposed to assert the husband’s dominance over other men and prove ownership to their wife. 

Trouble didn’t end when diamond rings were brought into the fold.

The Archduke Maximilian of Austria is said to have been the first person to have proposed with a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Diamonds were only possible for noblemen and royalty to possess because of its value and limited accessibility.

Portrait of Mary of Burgundy next to a close up image of the first diamond engagement ring from the Archduke Maximilian of Austria
[Image Description: Portrait of Mary of Burgundy next to a close up image of the first diamond engagement ring from the Archduke Maximilian of Austria] Via Cape Town Diamond Museum
It wasn’t until the 1880s, when diamonds were discovered in South Africa, that the craze began.
The company De Beers Consolidated Mines quickly monopolized diamonds. They spread
 the message internationally that diamonds were a precious stone that only the most powerful and devoted men could afford and gain access to, making the market easily controllable from their end.

The world became power-hungry for diamonds, and the business has been corrupt ever since. 

The diamond industry exploited African Americans and forced them to mine precious gems in hazardous conditions. Minorities were exposed to extreme temperatures and many died from diseases they contracted underground or developed respiratory conditions as time went on.

As diamonds became more popular and South Africa went international with their ad campaigns, the conditions only became more grueling and cruel.

Diamonds are definitely not a girl’s best friend, but you know what is?

Resisting patriarchal ideals that tell women a man owns them.

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Culture Family Life

How oppressive life expectations continues to burden my twenties

I was six-years-old the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be in life. I still remember my answer. I want to be a fairy-princess bus driver, I responded. Notably, I said that with full confidence, and of course I earned some laughs; but what was I supposed to say? A data scientist? I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that I liked fairies and princesses and all the bus drivers I had ever met back then were lovely. So, I just combined them all. However, I was told by the adults around me that my intelligence was far beyond aspiring to be a mythical being or an “ordinary” bus driver. I could be anything, they said. 

And that definitely stressed me out. 

I began to stress because I started to internalize how there was always so much expected from me at a young age. Though, the inclination of my future career endeavors mostly came from my extended family members rather than my parents. My sharp tongue was apparently unusual for a girl to have in Bangladeshi culture, so I was suddenly destined to become the family lawyer, according to members of my family.

At the same time, I was also really good at art, so they suggested I should become an architect. But how could I forget to mention my love of technology, which led to everyone believing I would be the first female engineer in the family. To sum up my point, there were a lot of expectations pinned on me and it was not enjoyable being on the receiving end of other people’s projections. Especially while combining all the impossible expectations I already had for myself. 

After realizing that a fairy-princess bus driver was not quite a plausible career path, I started looking into other options. I’ve always loved fashion. Even now, I would love to be a fashion designer. That dream diminished, however, when my weight was pointed out by those whose counsel and advice I sought out regarding how to make my dream a reality as well as how difficult it is to join the industry without the proper funds. 

So, I changed career projections again. When I was eight, I then realized my love for writing and wanted to become a journalist. But I quickly went through another change of career option when I found that I did, in fact, want to be an engineer. I loved machines, whether it was taking them apart or learning the inner mechanics of how they worked. I adored learning about machines, just not science- the very lessons I needed to take on engineering at a degree level.

What did I want to be next? Well, I’m an artsy soul; in turn, I wanted to be a graphic designer. I did graphic design at A-Level and enjoyed it very much. Although, what I didn’t enjoy was my graphics teacher who would constantly put me down for my preferred style of art by calling it “gothic” and “outdated.” All of which, brought me back to my love of writing, the one thing that has never failed me. I went to a university to receive a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in International Journalism.

However, what differing career burdens mimicked from childhood haunt me into adulthood? Finding a job. 

I’m more than aware that being an intelligible young girl came as a shock to many members of my extended family who never, unfortunately, had the chance to complete their education. Perhaps that is the reason they pinned all their hopes and dreams onto me. However, I somewhat feel like I missed out on various aspects of my childhood because I was too busy trying to find what could make me become the “greatest” or “most accomplished” kid in the family.

What’s worse is that I can feel the repetition from my childhood of trying to choose a solid and lucrative career path happening in my twenties. And while I should now be having fun trying to figure life out, most days I stay away from friends and family, applying to job after job and slipping deeper into anxiety. I also know I’m not the only one who feels like this. A friend I have, who is around 3-years older than me, is going through the same thing I am. One of my acquaintances is stuck in a job she doesn’t enjoy simply because it pays the bills.

I can’t speak for other cultures, but here’s what I know about Bangladeshi culture: girls, particularly ambitious ones, must have their lives sorted out by 25 with a job, orderly finances, and assets, etc. After that, according to our elders, we get old and no man will ever want us. I’ve heard people use ‘expiry date’ when a woman ages because she faces the possibility of being less fertile. What on earth is a woman without a family? Well, every bit still a woman.

The non-progressive Bangladeshi mentality pushes women to have achieved everything they must in order to be successful by their mid-twenties, so they can spend the rest of their lives pleasing their spouse and his family. So many of us spend so much time and energy worrying about how time is slipping through our fingertips. As a result, the vast majority of us then feel as though our twenties were just a blur of tears and failure.  

Although my parents do not push me to live with these oppressive life burdens, I can’t help but feel the pressure radiating off of my extended family members. Even my friends sometimes voice their concerns for me and my future projections in life. Sadly, even though I am not physically forced to stay in this trap of life insecurity at such a young age, I remain here as a part of the tradition.

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