Our codependency habits can be traced back to our childhood

 Oftentimes the habits that we form (good or bad) are learned in our formative years and carried into adulthood. When you enter your early 20s these habits make themselves known to you and are mirrored in the relationships that you form with others. Habits can be formed in early childhood or as you get older. These habits determine how you treat others and reflect how you feel about yourself. 

Habits are rituals and behaviors that we knowingly and unknowingly perform that help us carry out everyday activities such as brushing our teeth, taking a bath or a shower, fixing our hair in the morning, and unwittingly following the same routines every day without much thought put in.

There are three subcategories habits fall into. The first category is the habits that we don’t pay much attention to because they are a part of our daily life, such as tying shoelaces or brushing teeth. The category is habits that we have worked hard at establishing and are beneficial to our wellbeing like exercising, following a healthy diet, or sleeping early to get your 8 hours of sleep! The third category of habits are the habits that are not good for us, these are habits such as smoking, procrastination, overspending and finally the habits you form of codependency 

Codependency is the mental, physical, emotional or spiritual reliance on a partner, friend, or family member.

The word codependency was first forged in the 1950s, by members of the Anonymous Alcoholics as a way to support the partners of individuals who were involved in substance abused. 

However today, the term covers a much broader topic.

Codependency is a learned behavior. When we observe the behaviors of our parents (good and bad) as children, we make them our own. They can stem from having a parent or guardian who had difficulty with setting boundaries, could never say ‘no’ to others, was the martyr, had poor or unhealthy communication skills. These behaviors are learned early on and brought into our close and intimate relationships. 

Adults who grow up with parents that were emotionally unavailable are more likely to become codependent adults. And as adults, they will mostly find themselves in relationships with partners that are emotionally unavailable , exhibiting the wound that stems from their childhood. At first, you may excuse this behavior from the other person, in hopes that they will change or believe that you can be the one to change them. 

Our subconscious may hope to dream that one day the other person will acknowledge the love that we give and be inspired to change. And maybe if we give them more time, they will finally return all the love that we so desire. This kind of reasoning is harmful. It is more so when the other person displays abusive behavior. Codependency does not only exist in romantic relationships but can be seen in platonic relationships and friendships. In trying navigate relationships in my, I have found that I too have some codependent habits that have been not only harmful to the relationship but harmful to my wellbeing. Before starting my journey of healing I was unaware of these habits and I would find myself repeating the same unhealthy cycles when it came to my friendships and relationships. This all came to an end once I started becoming more self aware of myself and how my own behavior contributed to having to repeat these cycles.  Being aware of my codependent habits was the start of my healing process.

If you believe you are in a relationship where you carry out habits of being codependent, the first thing in becoming independent is to take a look at yourself first and not at others. Signs that you be codependent include feeling responsible for the actions of others, doing more than you should in your relationships to keep the peace, being afraid of being alone, needing the approval of others to attain your self-worth, challenges with adapting to change or making decisions for yourself, and having your own emotions determined by the thoughts and feelings of those around you.  

But here is the good news, codependency is a behavior you can unlearn. In order to hold space for all healthy relationships in your life, you need to heal yourself first. Start with being honest with yourself and others, in your communication and in expressing your needs and desires. Practice having positive thoughts and higher expectations to counteract the negative ones. Learn to not take things personally, not everything is yours to fix or change. Take breaks! Taking breaks is important in grounding yourself and remembering who you are. And last but not least establish boundaries. Establishing boundaries is one of my favorite things to do lately, not only with others but with yourself as well. Having boundaries has taught me where my needs begin and where the other person’s needs end.

As you navigate your way in trying to break the cycle of codependency, it may seem as though you are being selfish and unfair. You’re not. Putting yourself first is not selfish but rather self-care. Unlearning unhealthy habits needs one to be patient with themselves and allow for mistakes along the way, as you won’t always get it right. If you start to experience feelings of guilt when you make the initiative to put yourself first, know that it is okay and that you are still learning.  

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Aww Nostalgia Movies Pop Culture

Are the Disney live-action remakes necessary?

There’s a lot I don’t understand about the recent slew of live-action remakes from Disney.

The fact that these remakes rarely live up to the original is just a fraction of my confusion. A child seeing live-action Beauty and the Beast may get the same joy as someone who saw the animated version decades ago. I’m not here to deprive future generations of quality entertainment. I just question why their entertainment is watered down remakes of what previous generations got. 

[Image Description: dancing scene from the live-action Beauty and the Beast, with Belle in a yellow dress dancing with the Beast] via Disney.
[Image Description: dancing scene from the live-action Beauty and the Beast, with Belle in a yellow dress dancing with the Beast] via Disney.
The whole point of fairytales is that they’re handed down through folklore and retold over and over again through the generations. Disney themselves adapted these stories from other, far grimmer (pardon the pun) sources. But live-action remakes just aren’t the same as sharing these timeless stories for the sake of entertainment and keeping these narratives alive.

The whole point of fairytales is retelling through the generations.

While I realize that these films may bring a new generation of viewers the same joy as watching the originals, it just feels like Disney wants a repeat box office performance way more than it wants to define the magic of childhood for a whole new generation. 

The fact that the original films are established, iconic classics pushes the bar that much higher. Live-action remakes were bound to be received more critically with constant comparisons being made to the original.

They seem to openly invite these comparisons because most of the live-actions are also shot-by-shot remakes of the original. This means that the pleasure a lot of us derive from watching these remakes are driven by nostalgia for the original movies. If the goal of remaking a cinematic classic is to update the content for an all-new audience, polish up some plot inconsistencies, and improve the viewing experience and the story as a whole, then why would you choose to make an identical movie?

[Image Description: photo of baby Simba from "The Lion KIng"] via Disney.
[Image Description: photo of baby Simba from “The Lion KIng”] via Disney.

Most live-actions are shot-by-shot remakes of the original

At their best, these movies are nostalgic and give us new renditions of Disney songs. At their worst, they make us miss the originals and do a disservice to the classics. For example – the genie in Aladdin will always be Robin Williams. While Will Smith is great, funny, and seems to embody the same energy that the genie’s known for, he just can’t live up to the genie that Robin Williams breathed life and soul into.

The live-action remake should have had a brand new concept that Will Smith could truly make his own…if their intention was for a new generation of audiences to experience the magic of the original Aladdin.

These movies also don’t usually add value to the story in any way. Jon Favreau’s Lion King (2019) wasn’t live-action but a more realistic animation. Because the flaw in the beloved 1994 classic was that the lions weren’t realistic enough…..?

While technically sophisticated, the realistic animals didn’t have the same emotional capacity as the original, big-eyed characterization. Sure, we can see each individual strand of fur, but it also feels like a lucid dream when the Animal Planet lion cub’s words don’t quite synchronize with his mouth movements.

And don’t even get me started on the mess Mulan was

[Image Description: photo of Mulan dressed in red and holding a sword] via Disney.
[Image Description: photo of Mulan dressed in red and holding a sword] via Disney.
On other hand, the Frozen series, Moana, Tangled, and The Princess and the Frog are all Disney films released in recent memory that aren’t remakes and were hugely successful.

Audiences want to experience new stories

The success Disney found with its recent original content proves that audiences want to experience new stories. The reception of the first Polynesian princess Moana is proof of that. Continuing on expanding their range and breadth of storytelling to include better representations of other cultures can only improve the success of Disney worldwide.

For those of you saying “of course Disney’s just doing it for the money! It’s a huge corporation, what do you expect?” I say, it just seems like a poor use of resources. All the money that went into the live-actions are a far riskier investment than developing original material. One need only look at the misguided attempt at a Cats movie as an example. What started off as a (probably) well-intentioned project to make the Broadway play more accessible to the masses. quickly turned into the stuff of nightmares. 

I’ve come to accept that Disney remakes are here to stay. All I ask is that maybe they try to build on the legacy of the original to make it stronger instead of profiting off nostalgia.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Travel Life

I have yet to fully embrace traveling alone and that’s okay

I grew up with an intense desire to be independent when I was young. I frequently fantasized about the day I would get my driver’s license, and dreamt of moving away from my small town and going to college. My life was never quiet. I grew up with three other siblings and a bustling household and became comfortable with constant noise. Every family gathering drowned in energy and chaos and, while I now long for the clatter of my childhood, as a child I wanted to escape. 

I pretended to be traveling alone, high off my potentially perceived maturity. 

Family trips and vacations incited the most pandemonium. Long car rides to the airport, frantic layovers, and exhausting journeys to different fast-food restaurants were loud and hectic. Traveling was somewhat anxiety-inducing in my eyes. My family was always running late, sprinting between gates, forgetting certain items at home and losing luggage. I would jump on opportunities to take a trip to the restroom or the airport convenience store alone, clinging to my small doses of freedom. I pretended to be traveling alone, high off my potentially perceived maturity. 

Despite the stress, I miss the thrill and comfort of my family adventures. I never felt alone while my siblings attempted to crawl on the moving baggage claims, or while we all ate McDonald’s chicken nuggets. I always had an airplane buddy, someone to watch movies, and share snacks with. There would always be a familiar face to return to after using the airplane bathroom.

 The first time I traveled alone was on my way back from summer camp in high school. A bit anxious, yet thrilled to experience the adventure of navigating an airport on my own. Things did not go quite as planned. I missed my first flight and spent hours waiting alone in the customer service line. I frantically ran through the airport, put my name on standby lists for new flights, and hid my tears behind sunglasses while sitting alone in a crowded gate. 

Constantly torn between the different people and places I loved around the world, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

My views on traveling changed completely when I left my family and moved across the country for college. Gone were the rushed missions to find the tastiest yet quickest restaurant in the terminal. Gone were the road trips where my parents and I would play music from their childhood and belt out our favorite tunes. There was no one to grip my hand when turbulence hit the plan. I found myself awkwardly asking for tables for one at airport restaurants and dreaded riding the subway back to campus myself, having no one to return home to. Traveling became an act of solitude, a chore to get me from place A to place B. 

I began to look at traveling alone like this: you’re always leaving something or someone you love. When I would fly to and from college, I was either leaving my friends or my family. Taking the subway or a bus usually meant I was leaving my boyfriend after a weekend visit. I felt constantly stretched between almost-homes, and never felt at ease in my current location. I began to hate going anywhere alone, fearing the anonymity of traveling solo would become a life sentence. It felt like my non-consented vulnerability was on display for all the strangers around me.

What I hated most about traveling alone, and just being alone in general, was the forced sense of reflection. Without distraction, my brain focused on thoughts and memories I attempted to repress. I was scared of who I turned into when I was alone and felt lost and homesick for a home I couldn’t identify. Constantly torn between the different people and places I loved around the world, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

While I still don’t enjoy being alone, the current pandemic and enforced isolation period forced me to grow comfortable with myself. Introspection is sometimes a brutal but necessary process in life. By allowing time to grieve and reflect, I’m growing more accepting and familiar with myself. As at turns out, you’re never truly alone if you know and are comfortable with yourself. Maybe next time I’m on an airplane, I’ll be able to hold my own hand when turbulence strikes.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Culture Family Life

A love letter to libraries

I know that I am not alone when I say that we, as humans, find a lot of solace in libraries. They are temples of knowledge, housing collections of stories and dreams alike on their shelves. Libraries are as much a part of our culture as anything else. People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries. In a way, they hold the key to all of our stories,

I love libraries, and I am terrified to see their eventual demise, especially as our world becomes almost entirely digital. They are gems from the past that have maintained vitality no matter the circumstances or happening outside of their walls. Not to mention they are the cornerstones of entire communities, maybe even countries, granting light and stability to people when nothing, or no one, else seemed able to. They offer more than just books; they offer entry into a space that seems more like a sanctuary run by people grounded in compassion, commitment, creativity, and resilience.

People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries.

I used to go to the library near my grandparents’ house every other Friday. For the most part, my mom took my brothers and me there to get a new book for school or to see what DVDs we could bring home to watch that evening. But I remember roaming around, starstruck, in between the tall shelves, wondering about the people who wrote each and every single one of those books and how long it might have taken to get them all here.

Most weeks, my mother let me get two books instead of one. I could spend hours there if it was permitted. I always liked watching my mom pick her books for the week, too. She seemed so sophisticated and gentle while scanning the shelves, yet she never knew exactly what she was looking for. If it was winter, afterward we would all pile back into the car with our hardcover books and grab a slice of pizza. If it was summer, we would walk to the Italian Ice shop down the street for some cream ice – those were the best days. 

I fear that libraries have been taken for granted, even in my own life, and am always spellbound to find them chock full of unexpected people, doing unexpected things, with unexpected passions. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling, the pure excitement in my stomach, that erupts every time I am searching in a library for the perfect tale to dig into. A trip to the library seems, to me, to be enchanted. I become whimsical, enveloped by the completeness and simplicity of the entire journey.

Even the smell of a library is impossible to replicate because of its specificity and poignance. I am reminded of sandalwood, dusk, and a particular, antiquated, dampness. Its familiarity is beyond comforting. The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination. 

I feel at home while pattering around and tracing my fingers between the shelves of books. I fall in love while blowing the dust off of the covers, revealing bright colors and exquisite lines. I spend hours crinkling through the aged, already yellowing, pages of novels wondering which I will pick this time. It is never an easy decision, and I always leave with dozens underneath my arms wondering if the others will still be there when I return the next week. But, that’s the beauty of libraries, isn’t it? Every visit is entirely different from the last and there is no telling what you might stumble upon. Yet each visit is also starkly familiar. 

The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination.

Books have changed so much of my life, with plotlines, characters, and lessons that have been woven into nearly everything I do – that is every decision, every consideration, and everything that I have grown to appreciate or even pay a little bit more attention to. Books are there to remind me of what’s important, and when I’m not so sure, they’re there for me to lean on. Without libraries, though, I might have never been allowed membership into such a world of splendor. 

TV Shows Aww Nostalgia Standoms Pop Culture

Avatar: The Last Airbender just broke records on Netflix

Avatar: The Last Airbender, perhaps one of the greatest shows of all time, is now on Netflix and fans are overjoyed to finally get to relive their childhood nostalgia.

For the first time, this iconic animated series is available on a streaming service in the United States. 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of its premiere on Nickelodeon. The show has a cult following, with fans absolutely loving every part of the series.

This show will have you crying, laughing, and feeling all the emotions.

Any show with that type of wholehearted support and positive memories gets the gold stamp of approval in my book. 

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching Avatar: The Last Airbender before, first of all, pull your head out from under a rock and go binge it right now!

But, secondly, here is a little synopsis of the plot to give you some context. The Avatar world is divided into four tribes known as the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads that are based on the elements in their namesake. Members of these tribes or “benders” have the ability to control the element of their nation and manipulate it for their own use. 

There is only one person, The Avatar, who is able to control all four elements and is therefore extremely powerful.

The story follows the main character: Aang, the long-lost Avatar, who, at only 12 years old, who has to save the world from the military takeover of The Fire Nation. Throughout the show, Aang learns how to master the elements and channel his powers to help protect the world. There is something so inventive and creative about the storyline.

When it comes to TV series, it can’t get much better than Airbender.

Airbender deserves the hype it gets for an abundance of reasons.

Firstly, the animation is masterful and beautiful in so many places. Second, the story is so charming and transports viewers to a totally alternate and immersive world. The show may be considered kid-oriented, but its story arc and level of complexity are actually quite complex and impressive. Throughout its three seasons, viewers learn the rich history and lore behind the Avatar world. Avatar: The Last Airbender incorporates elements of fantasy, martial arts, and culture from across the world. Some consider Avatar to be a sort of Western “anime.”

Besides the show’s amazing storyline, its characters deserve praise and love.

Aang as a main character is endearing, adorable, and extremely lovable. He is so full of energy and enthusiasm and loves to fly around on his flying pet Bison, Appa.

Even the show’s villains stand out in complexity and character development.

For example, Zuko, the eldest child of Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Ursa of The Fire Nation who is exiled in the first season, begins as a ruthless, cruel, and vindictive character who is hell-bent on destroying Aang. 

However, as the show progresses, Zuko has some of the biggest changes of hearts and becomes a more sympathetic, ethically gray character.

Even the show’s villains stand out in complexity and character development.

The kind way he treats his girlfriend, looks after his men, and the mercy he shows for Aang at various points in the series convey how emotional and caring he can be underneath his harsh exterior. We also see throughout Airbender that Zuko’s childhood and poor past treatment impact and influence his behavior. 

The impact of Avatar on animated television feels extremely clear as it was one of the first lore-heavy cartoons. It may have served as a precursor to some modern favorites in the lore-cartoon category like Adventure Time and Steven Universe

In fact, the show has been so popular on Netflix that it’s been in the top 10 for the past 57 days, according to Forbes. That’s not just impressive; that means it’s in a tie with Ozark as the show that’s spent the most consecutive days in the top 10 ever.

For reference, here’s the full list:

  1. Ozark: 57 days
  2. Avatar: The Last Airbender: 57 days
  3. Outer Banks: 51 days
  4. Tiger King: 50 days
  5. All American: 42 days
  6. Love is Blind: – 39 days
  7. Space Force: – 34 days
  8. Dead to Me: 32 days
  9. 13 Reasons Why: 28 days
  10. Money Heist: 24 days

I cannot say enough good things about this series. Avatar: The Last Airbender feels like a piece of my soul and truly captures some fond childhood memories. This show will have you crying, laughing, and feeling all the emotions.

When it comes to TV series, it can’t get much better than Airbender.

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Family Life

I’m in love with hoarding, and I’m never going to stop

We went to Le Cafe Crepe for our eighth-grade French club field trip – it was one of the best field trips I took. Some of my best friends went on that trip and it was just so much fun. On that trip, our sponsor, Madame Mattioli, gave us each a Godiva chocolate. It wasn’t special chocolate or anything. But, years later, I still have that very same wrapper in a mason jar. I’ve also got movie stubs, paper wristbands, and other random bits and pieces that my mom insists is all trash. Hoarding became a legit issue since that trip. 

My whole room looks like this – old stuffed animals from 5th grade and crafts that my cousins created for me smear my walls. A design that my little cousin made still sits on the wall next to the polaroids and concert flyers. Old images and painted decorations and bracelets and keychains and lanyards from years ago dot the corkboard in front of my desk. In the corner, I even have a certificate from our 5th grade Valentine’s Day box contest, which I can proudly say that I won. 

The rock that my cousins painted for me via Srilekha Cherukuvada
The rock that my cousins painted for me via Srilekha Cherukuvada

My room is a static memory of my life, filled with all the happy shades of color that I could ever need.

I didn’t realize I was hoarding until last year I think. Up until then, I deemed every object as crucial to my memory. One day my mom came into my room and saw a huge mess. It was exam season, so I really didn’t have time to clean, and it was worse than usual. That was really when I started questioning myself. What do these objects even mean? Do I even remember everything?

And then, I took out my mason jar with all of the movie stubs and little pieces of paper and sifted through them. And I was right. I didn’t remember the sentiment or lessons behind anything. All that was left were the raw memories associated with them. For years, I told myself that keeping a movie stub from 2017 or those Mardi Gras beads from 2016 was essential. I told myself that it would help me remember something I learned from my experiences. Now I look at these things and all I see is a reminder of what happened–a memory, but there is not even a glimmer of what I wanted them to mean.

I wanted them to mean something. I wanted them to teach me a lesson, or to be something to lift me up. But, a wristband to JumpStreet is just a piece of paper, and a painted rock is just a rock. Yet, even if nothing else, these things remind me of a memory. And, that is more meaningful to me than anything, An object doesn’t need to be assigned an initial lesson when the memory attached to it is already more significant.

Image of items that I've hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada
Image of items that I’ve hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada

Although those initial lessons are important, my memories are equally as important.

I’ve also been lying to myself for years. Those lessons I made up each time I kept an object were just covering up my real fears about leaving them behind. Self-improvement doesn’t depend on a couple of objects that I associate with a specific lesson, and I know that. That’s just something I’ve been telling myself.

I’m terrified of throwing them out. I could never bring myself to let go of the past, much less the objects that represent my past. I’m scared of change and I’m scared of losing myself in the process of that change. I think that’s why I’ve invested myself in hoarding so much. My whole body just trembles at the thought of giving away my stuffed animal that one of my best friends gave to me, or even that wristband from JumpStreet two years ago. I know it’s silly, but it just means too much to me.

Image of items that I've hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada
Image of items that I’ve hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada

Now, when my mom complains about all the“trash” in my room, I fight back. I guess I’m the only sappy, sentimental one in my family. But that should mean something. Memories should mean something. And having objects to represent those memories is completely reasonable. My hoarding reminds me of my past, and my past is a part of my identity. 

So, is it really all worth it when I’m 50 years old and drowning in candy wrappers from when I was a kid? 

Hell yes.

Race Policy Inequality

As a white person, I have to be more than an ally – I have to be a race traitor

For most of my life, the question of my heritage was pretty simple: I’m the descendant of Irish and German immigrants. It was more of a trivia fact than something that had any bearing on my life.

I was first confronted with reality in college.

As a kid, my friends and I, all white, would sometimes talk about our heritage: Polish, Russian, English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Italian. We were blissfully unaware of how much privilege we were swimming in, that our heritage could be a fun fact on our “Getting to Know You” assignments on the first day of primary school. Growing up in the suburbs of Midwestern America afforded us an even larger privilege of never having to ask why that was.

I was first confronted with reality in college. I was at a retreat where I played a game that was explained to us as a race from one end of the grassy field to the other.

“Before we begin, we need to make sure everyone is in their proper starting place,” they said. They told us to listen to statements as they were read aloud and step forward or backward according to instructions.

Buxom Cosmetics

“If you’ve never had to worry about police stopping you on the street because of the color of your skin, step forward.”

“If you were not born in the US and were not a citizen when you first came here, step backward.”

When the game ended, there were a few of us who were just a couple steps from the finish line, and while some were several steps behind the starting line. Being a kid who grew up in a middle-class white family, I was pretty close to the finish line myself, just behind a few white men who had grown up in much wealthier families than my own.

People often talk about what it looks like to finally have that “Aha!” moment. Mine happened a little differently.

I looked behind and saw some of my friends who were almost at the very opposite end of the field. I experienced a heavy sinking feeling as my heart dropped to my feet, and a fiery rage because it didn’t seem fair that they should have to live through things that I was protected from just by being white and relatively wealthy.

People often talk about what it looks like to finally have that “Aha!” moment. But my journey to discover the truth about my whiteness and what that meant was far from over. I got curious about my Irish ancestors and on the recommendation of a very patient friend, I read the book How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev.

According to Ignatiev, in the 1820s, the Irish immigrant community was almost unanimously abolitionist. Letters from home in Ireland applauded the organizing efforts of Irish abolitionists living in the US and supported the fight through donations.

But things changed.

A few Irish immigrants who wavered on their abolitionist stance took notice of the white praise and the approval of the white American and began catering their position on slavery accordingly. It was clear early on that Irish complicity with slavery meant better treatment from white America. Letters from home in Ireland were urgently demanding answers.

I must offer up my life to be discarded just as Black lives were by the brutal white supremacist system.

They reminded relatives and friends in America how the British treated them. They insisted that a pro-slavery stance was antithetical to who the Irish were as a people. Over many years and many bloody acts of racial violence, the Irish proved they could be just as cruel as any white American.

The Irish language newspapers slowly disappeared and the letters from home in Ireland were no longer from home.

Some people have ancestors who sacrificed everything to give their children and their children’s children a better future.

My ancestors sacrificed other people’s ancestors in a blood-drenched war to ensure that their children and their children’s children could blend in with all the other whites. My ancestors insisted that my life was worth more than others.

If I am to truly reject that legacy of sacrificing others for my sake, then I must offer up my life to be discarded just as Black lives like Sandra Bland or Atatiana Jefferson were by the brutal white supremacist system.

I must betray the very notion that white lives matter more. I must be a race traitor.

What does it look like to be a race traitor?

I take inspiration from activists who shut down Chicago Pride in protest of the continued move towards a bland white, cisgender, corporate and gentrified event. The white people encircled the speakers, creating a human chain that would force police to arrest them in order to get to Black and brown organizers using the megaphone. In Nashville, neighbors created a human barrier to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from detaining a father and son.

And of course, there’s always punching white supremacists in the face.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Books Pop Culture

Atticus Finch was my hero growing up – until he wasn’t

Heroes are a necessary ingredient of every happy childhood.

Whether you grew up loving the deeply flawed billionaire-slash-playboy-slash-philanthropist-slash-superhero in Marvel’s Tony Stark, warding off Death Eaters alongside Harry, Hermione, and Ron, or debunking sexist myths one kick at a time with Mulan, we all went through the trials and tribulations of our childhoods under the comforting shadow of a hero to look up to.

As a certified bookworm, it came as no surprise that my hero growing up came from the world of fiction. More specifically, the world of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

In the charming town of Maycomb, set against the bucolic beauty and social cobwebs of the American South, I found a hero worth aspiring to in the protagonist’s father, Atticus Finch – a man hailed as the American, and literary, archetype of goodwill, fatherhood, and fairness.

When Atticus stood up for his daughter, Scout, before his intolerably sexist sister, Aunt Alexandra, I jumped with joy. When he unflinchingly took upon the feat of defending a black man accused of raping a white girl in what was then the most scandalous case the town had ever seen, my chest swelled with pride. While he stood vigil outside his defendant’s prison cell to protect him from getting lynched, I teared up. And when he dejectedly returned from shooting a rabid dog running rampant around town when no one else would, my eyes widened with admiration.

In short, I wished to be Atticus Finch.

In every word of wisdom, every act of selflessness that cost him more than he gained, every iota of empathy he extended to both friend and foe, I found myself unknowingly crafting a hero out of one of literature’s most beloved characters. In the racially and politically polarized world I reached young adulthood in, I found a role model in Atticus; though far from being as woke as the world needed to be, he embodied the perseverance of goodwill in a world where one’s dedication to justice could jeopardize their lives.

In short, I wished to be just as moral, just, benevolent, empathetic, progressive and unapologetically badass as Atticus Finch.

Until I crossed paths with its controversial sequel, Go Set A Watchman.

Ignoring the word of bitter reviews and disappointed critics, I dove headfirst into the world I had found my hero in at the age of 12, only to now find him abysmally changed.

Gone was the Atticus who stuck his neck out to defend Cal from his sister’s racist diatribe, he now rejected his connection to her. Gone was the Atticus who loathed the vitriol of men like Ewell, he now fraternized with them in weekly White Citizen’s Councils, condoning their ‘protectionist’ racism. Set about 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, this Atticus was 20 light-years away from the man I’d idolized all these years, used as a litmus paper for right and wrong, and watched Gregory Peck’s gorgeous take on the character at least a hundred times for since.

My hero worship was exposed, stripped down and left shivering on the floor. Much like Scout, I felt the bitterness of betrayal stronger than any remorse for my own blindness.

How malleable are our values?

See, the allure of fiction is its ambiguity; you can play around with its characters until you’ve unknowingly built your own. It’s a reductive thing to say, but that’s what I did with Atticus.

It’s human nature to take objects and people and canonize them to the point where they no longer resemble reality. We forget that our heroes can err, and err badly. In fact, we forget that they’re human, too. No character in literature or cinema ever was perfect. For me, Atticus was an exception.

Or so I had thought.

With the same devotion to principle and justice, Atticus defends white paternalism. He wields the same wisdom that evoked the black community of Maycomb to rise in respect, to justify his altered views on desegregation to Scout. Who takes none of it, might I add.

How malleable are our values, then? I began to ask. Can what was once exerted in the way of good suddenly become an instrument of wrong the next minute? Are those values even values anymore?

I was stumped. If the morally upright Atticus can stumble in the changing world of the 1950s, I would probably fall face-first at the first sign of change.

It was an existential travesty. I think I wept for three nights straight.

But now I know it was for the best.

Racism, hate crime, and xenophobia are no less prevalent today than they were in the world of Finches and Radleys. The world continues to look at these issues through a one-dimensional lens controlled by its perpetrators, dismissing the perspective of its victims, those who belong to underrepresented and marginalized communities like my own. But this has slowly begun to change. We have moved the mic away from the Atticus’ of our time to the Tom Robinson’s, the Calpurnia’s, and the disillusioned Scout’s. And if to get there, we must break out heroes and go through an emotional pitfall that involves questioning your closest-held values, so be it.

Our world is flawed, and despite our best efforts, so shall our heroes be.

Atticus is not the hero I thought he was, but he might have been just the hero I needed. He taught me to be unapologetic at the age of 12, and now, he’s taught me to be wary of what I idolize. It is far better for me to set a watchman for human fallibility than dismiss it and remain in a comfortable space where heroes are perfect and we, their imperfect followers.

Heroes are aspirational, sure, but to love a hero doesn’t entail emulating their every move. It often just means learning from their mistakes. And although this self-realization doesn’t vindicate Atticus for his inexcusable racial protectionism, it does vindicate me for thinking he was the ideal.

He has left me with a gaping hole in my heart that yearns for the simplicity of To Kill A Mockingbird, but ours is not a simple world. I won’t stop admiring Atticus despite his flawed and frayed glory, but I will finally leave him and my hero-worship behind in the pages of Go Set A Watchman. It is a sacrilegious deconstruction, but a necessary one. One that ensures I do not become another Atticus Finch myself.

Our world is flawed, and despite our best efforts, so shall our heroes be.

Love Life Stories

I’m so happy my parents got divorced

When I was eight, my parents told me they were separating. I was confused. I thought, “this happens to other families, not mine.”

When I realized this wasn’t a prank, I got angry. Specifically, I was angry at my mom. Although my dad had asked for the divorce, I thought my mom was to blame. She was always shouting at him, and he had to move out of the house. I decided the whole mess must be all her fault, which, of course, it wasn’t.

Perhaps I blamed my mom because  I felt more certain about my relationship with her. But really, I was afraid of losing my dad. This was rooted in what I saw in many of my friends’ families after divorce. They had absent fathers: fathers with no role in their lives or a very small role. Because of this, I thought divorce meant losing a parent.

There are different reasons why my friends had absent fathers. For some, it had to do with custody. For others, their fathers had actively abandoned them. However, my story of divorce was different, because I was able to keep my dad.

Initially, I was upset by my parent’s separation. However, in the long term, it was for the best. When parents argue a lot, divorce can come as a relief to children. Fighting between parents can make the home feel like a warzone, leading to heightened anxiety and stress for children. This can continue to affect them later on in life. Most of the time, holding onto an unhappy marriage “for the kids” forces children to grow up in a toxic environment.

My parents worked to make sure their separation didn’t mean I’d have to grow up in a toxic environment. Instead, my weeks were divided between them. My time wasn’t limited to a few hours or a weekend with one parent. For the next 10 years, both of my parents helped me with school work, dropped me off at friends’ houses and gave me emotional love and support. When friends came to visit, I’d ask “which of my parents should we stay with?” and we’d decide on which house would be more fun for that weekend.

I also celebrated special occasions twice.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up to gifts and a birthday breakfast. I then took a batch of homemade muffins to school for my classmates. That evening, I’d go to my other parent’s house for my birthday dinner. My dad’s new relationship also meant I had a new, part-time family. My step-brother and I had our fair share of squabbles over who got the TV remote, but, the plus side of step-families is that rivalries are far more infrequent when you don’t live together all the time.

My parents were angry at each other initially. There was tension when they were in the same place and sometimes they went for a walk to argue. However, they never involved my brother and me in their disputes.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that children not only witness violent disputes but may also become the target or reason for the fight. This can make children blame themselves for the conflict.

I also don’t think my parents’ divorce changed how I look at marriage.

Sometimes relationships don’t work out. I think that marriage is a more ‘official’ version of a relationship.  Plus, I have many positive affirmations of long-term relationships.

My grandparents have been married for almost 60 years!

Most mornings, my grandfather makes breakfast for him and my gran and reminds her to take her medication. Most evenings, my gran reminds my grandfather to eat his greens. My parents’ relationship happened to not work out, but, that doesn’t mean all relationships are doomed.

Before my parents’ divorce, I thought finding a forever person was a prerequisite to happiness. I don’t think this anymore. A forever person would be nice but I think happiness and fulfillment can be found in many ways that may or may not include a significant other.

My independence is probably the only long-term impact of my parent’s divorce.

Living between two houses required me to be more organized. I had to make sure I had clean sets of school uniform, lunch supplies and homework materials at both houses. I had to communicate effectively with my parents about my plans for the week. And, more or less living out of a bag for ten years has made me a very skilled packer. Packing for trips is an easy and quick undertaking and I rarely forget the essentials.

Divorces can break families apart and it is unlikely that any child will come out of a divorce unscathed. For many, this trauma continues later into life.

Thanks to my parents, I am lucky that my story of divorce has a happy ending.

Editor's Picks Love Life Stories Wellness

I was forced to grow up the day I had to sign the hospital forms for my father’s surgery

“We need you to sign this consent form on all the pages. On the last page, write your name, relationship with the patient, and today’s date,” said the junior resident to me as the medical staff began wheeling my father towards the operation room.

It was December 2015 and my father had to go undergo a major surgery.

The news had been difficult on us as a family, but my father had held everyone strong. His positivity was the beacon of hope that had lifted our spirits. Today, however, he looked worried, and I needed someone to act as a support for the both of us.

The medical assistant handed me a pen and the consent form and left. I stood transfixed in the room, while my father looked at me, worried. “It’s nothing. Just some formalities,” I said.

Inside, I was knocked out by the weight that the forms carried. Until now, there had always been an adult to take care of such formalities. Today, it was just me and Dad. My mother was taking care of my siblings.

Towards the entrance of the preoperative evaluation room, I pressed my hand firmly onto dad’s, hoping to give both of us the much-needed courage. With shivering hands and a drying throat, I croaked, “It’s going to be fine.”

As he was taken inside, I took a look at the consent form dangling in my other hand, the contents of which scared me out of my wits.

The form was a detailed documentation of the surgical procedure that would be performed on my father, its complications, and unforeseen indications. In the event of an unlikely complication, I was asked to provide consent to the doctors to take ad hoc procedures.

The form basically asked me to sign off my father’s future in the next six hours into the doctor’s hands.

The last point in the document asked for my consent to authorize the medical team to go ahead and perform the operation on my father. I was expected to sign the form as an adult who understood what the following six hours of surgery would entail. I barely seemed to register anything.

My signature on the consent form was the stamp of approval needed for my father to undergo the surgery.

I read and re-read those pages, poring through each statement to see if I was missing anything. I was skeptical of signing it. Should I ask my mother to do it? Should I wait for my uncle to arrive? For a few minutes, I was searching for the adult in the room to sign that form.

Until I realized that the adult I was looking for, was me.

I was the daughter of the patient. The document was handed to a supervising adult, not to the child I was in my mind. 

In that momentary dilemma, I signed my name on the dotted line, sealing my transformation into the adult I was unsure of being all this time.

As I signed the form, I realized that there was no turning back. I could no longer protect myself from the realities that were part of my life. Responsibilities that were waiting for me to shoulder upon. Conversations that would now need my voice as an adult rather than a child.

Over the next hours, our family sat in the hospital’s waiting room in anticipation. Finally, when the doctors came out and called my father’s name, I went up to them. “I am Mr. Haider’s daughter,” I claimed. They looked at me and said, “The surgery went well. We need you to complete a few formalities.”

With a sigh of relief, I walked in with them.

This time, not just as a daughter to my dad, but as an adult responsible for taking care of him.

Beauty Lookbook BRB Gone Viral

36 glow ups that had us do a double take with #HowHardPubertyHitMe

The internet has been flooded with amazing glow up transformations, but the hashtag #HowHardPubertyHitMe is showing some pretty serious transformations. People are taking the puberty challenge and sharing their own glow ups. Here are 36 glow ups that made us do a double take.