Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.

Books Pop Culture

6 books that prove that reading can literally change your life

Ah, summer…the perfect time for kicking back and grabbing a good book. There’s no other feeling like losing yourself in an inspirational book. I’m obsessed with books that deal with self-development, spirituality, and finding the purpose of life.

This is a short list of books that are actually pretty damn good.

1. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero


If you’re ready to meet your new best friend, grab a copy of Jen Sincero’s #1 NYTimes Bestseller now! She is hilarious and her writing style makes reading effortless. No matter who you are, she will make you feel empowered and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

One of my favorite quotes from this book is:

“Imagine what our world would be like if everyone loved themselves so much that they weren’t threatened by other people’s opinions or skin colors or sexual preferences or talents or education or possessions or lack of possessions or religious beliefs or customs or their general tendency to just be whoever the hell they are.”

2. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

This book should be mandatory reading for all men and women. You completely lose yourself as you put yourself in Glennon’s shoes. She shares the most intimate details of her life in hopes of showing us that we are not alone in our struggles. Reminding us that, “sometimes people who need help look a lot like people who don’t need help.”

Love Warrior touches upon themes of bravery, trust, infidelity, parenting, self-esteem, hitting rock bottom, love, resilience, and empowerment.

3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a genius. If you feel like you don’t have time to read this book, then A) you’re missing out BIG TIME and B) you can read his awesome blog posts which have won over the hearts of millions around the world. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you’re bound to gain insight and wisdom from Mark. Also, the last few chapters will give you goosebumps and realize how so many times, we are too afraid to truly live.

Mark says, “You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.”

4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I can’t describe how much I love all of Brene Brown’s work. This woman is a bad ass researcher and storyteller who has inspired millions around the world, especially with her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. In this #1 NYTimes bestseller, Brene walks us through her sixteen years of research on topics like shame, empathy, courage, and worthiness. She makes it so easy to understand and you’re bound to have little aha-moments on every page you read.

We are always hearing of success stories in the media. But rarely do we get to hear about the difficulties and pain involved in the process of going from zero to a hundred. Perfectly describing her work, Brene says, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up.”

5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book is a must read! We go on a journey with Santiago, who is on the quest to find a hidden treasure that he sees in a recurring dream. Santiago’s journey is a representation of finding one’s destiny and of becoming one with your true self. This book encourages you to work on your “personal legend”- things you are passionate about and that is very important when you are on a quest to finding yourself.

The core message of The Alchemist is reinforced by this quote that an old man said to Santiago on their encounter: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

6. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is such an angel, I swear! He’s a spiritual teacher who does not identify with any religion in particular. He was on the brink of suicide when he came up with this realization: “I am not my thoughts. I am the awareness behind my thoughts.”

This isn’t just another one of the thousands of books which claim to help you awaken to your life’s purpose. This book is mind blowing and speaks the truth. Oprah even added it to her Book Club in 2008-because it’s that good. He teaches us about our ego in a very easy to understand way and his writing helps transform and illuminate lives around the world.

Gender & Identity Life

I grew up proud of sounding completely white

Growing up, I thought the greatest marker of my intelligence was my ability to speak perfect English.

I’d spend hours pouring over my older sisters’ books, reading Wuthering HeightsPride and Prejudice and even some of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings until I could pronounce every word like the white kids in my school. When I could, and I did, I felt like I’d accomplished something my Indian peers hadn’t: I’d accomplished whiteness.

[bctt tweet=”I’d accomplished whiteness.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But the older I got the more I came to terms with what this had done to my connection with my Indian heritage.

In truth, I never felt Indian, I just looked the part.

Flash forward to the end of my university career, and I was convinced that the best way for me to reclaim that connection was through learning my mother tongue.

Now, my mother is Hindi and my dad is Tamil (before you ask, yes, their families were NOT happy), but I chose to study Hindi because it was the language I heard blaring from my mother’s car speakers when she came home from work.

So I set off: I approached our neighborhood’s local Hindu Society and went for my first ever lesson. I was pumped: I was finally going to reconnect with the thing I’d pushed away for so, so long.

[bctt tweet=”I was finally going to reconnect with the thing I’d pushed away for so, so long.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Armed with a notebook, secondhand dictionary, and way too many colorful pens and pencils, I made my way to my seat. I was the only person in my age group, while everyone else was over 40.

The teacher began by writing down a few symbols on the board, explaining them. I was new to the class, so I looked around, listening intently to the other learners repeating the word with near-perfect accents.

I straightened my back, held my head high and mimicked the sounds.


Okay, no matter, it was my first time, right? But the more I tried the more I found my accent getting in the way. Every word I uttered, no matter how hard I tried, just sounded so white. I didn’t sound like the other people in that class even though we all had the same skin tone, and maybe even the same life experiences. Instead, I sounded like I’d just bounced out of my first yoga class, armed with the oh-so-exotic sounding namaste.

[bctt tweet=”Every word I uttered, no matter how hard I tried, just sounded so white.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I became more and more frustrated as the class went on, that by the end of it I was close to tears. Is this who I am now? I thought, Is the only Indian thing about me my skin?

It took me a while to go back to classes after that, but I needed the time to process exactly what I had experienced. It wasn’t just that I found myself alone in a room full of people I shared cultural commonalities with, it was that I felt alone with myself.

I had isolated myself from myself.

I am now a few lessons in and honestly, it’s still a damn struggle. Ask me to say anything in Hindi and you’ll find me flush with an unhealthy mixture of heart palpitations, sweaty armpits, and glassy eyes. But I know that the more I force myself to do this, the more I will feel comfortable with it.

And I think the point never really was for me to become an expert at Hindi. I don’t believe for a second that in a year’s time you’ll find me writing epic poems in the language.

[bctt tweet=”The point never really was for me to become an expert at Hindi.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But I do believe it was a way for me to begin the process of healing. Assimilation into whiteness is not easy on your mental health. In many ways, it can be a traumatizing experience that can take years and years to work through. I have been actively trying to come to terms with it for the past three years and trust me, it doesn’t get any easier.

But I know that the more I try and put effort into doing it, the more I will feel whole again.

I’ll always be Ariana, and Ariana will always be Indian.

The journey I take to reclaim my heritage can only ever bring me more into my own, no matter how hard the path is getting there.

Gender & Identity Life

I’m Desi and my community thinks I’m “ungrateful to God” for choosing therapy

When I first considered writing this article, I swayed back and forth in regards to whether I should do it.

Is it too bold of an idea? Can the Desi folks I know handle it? I could already hear their criticism telling me, “what was the need for sharing this?—some things should stay private.”

Growing up, my Pakistani upbringing indirectly taught me that a good girl stays quiet and keeps to herself. Naturally, I would rather not have people make assumptions about me based on the fact that I have gone to therapy. But no matter what I do, people will always have something to say, so might as well do what I feel is right.  Besides, why should I care about the opinions of people who judge those who seek help anyway?

It has always baffled me how many times I have seen Desis casually sweep things under the rug, especially when it comes to family issues. For children growing up in this type of environment, it’s very unhealthy. This factor alone leads to many issues which could easily be avoided. If we can prevent so many problems from happening, then why not do so? Out of fear of how we will be perceived to the outside world? I’m sorry, but that is not a good enough reason.

One time, I mentioned that I was going to my therapist, a relative was genuinely confused. She said, “What would you need a therapist for? You should be grateful for what you have and seek help from God alone.” While some of my Desi elders may be used to bottling up their emotions and acting like problems don’t exist, that approach does not work for me. Going to therapy does not mean I am ungrateful for the blessings I have, or that I am considering myself a victim. It is a form of empowering myself. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t trust God’s Plan. It shows that I have faith and want to try my best to do whatever is in my control.

Besides, if I did not have hope, why would I even bother seeking help in the first place?

In the past, I spent way too long trying to please relatives and elders, as that was what I believed was the norm. It was exhausting. Now, I can proudly and openly state that yes, I have sought talk therapy during certain times in my life and I refuse to let the stigma cause me to hide any longer.

What amazes me is how the moment one person “removes their mask,” it breaks the ice for others to do the same.

For instance, while having lunch with a family friend who I hadn’t seen for many years, I casually mentioned something I learned from my therapist. A couple of minutes later, she opened up about how she also meets with a psychologist but didn’t know that I was cool with talking about that kind of stuff. It was a sense of relief for both of us and it made me want to have more open conversations about this.

For me, going to a therapist is like building pieces of a huge, intricate puzzle together.  With each session, I not only discovered more about myself but also learned essential life skills such as conflict management and living in the present moment. I can honestly say that had I not sought therapy, I probably would still be a very anxious, fearful person. I would still be that people-pleaser who wanted to sacrifice my own happiness just to look good for others. Without therapy, I probably would have continued being needy and seeking approval from others.

Therapy isn’t just for people that society deems as “other.”  It’s for those badasses who fall but refuse to stay down. Therapy is for those who face their fears rather than numbing them or running away. For those who, no matter what pain has afflicted them, never stop trying to heal. For those who hit rock bottom but allow the experience to make them stronger when they rise back up.

I was thrilled when I watched the Bollywood movie, Dear Zindagi, in which Shah Rukh Khan was featured as a psychologist. Slowly but surely, there are movements which are trying to destigmatize mental health in the Desi community. We need more education on these topics, as well as some more open and honest conversations.

Research shows that over the past thirty years, depression and suicide have increased, especially among adolescents and young adults. Imagining the people we love so much ending up with symptoms of depression is heartbreaking. We have no choice but to normalize therapy.

To the Desi aunties and uncles around the world, please don’t be ashamed of your loved ones who are courageous enough to consider seeking professional help. Chances are, you may not have what they need, so please loosen your bone and let them go. Give them permission to learn about themselves with a professional who knows what they’re doing–with someone who is trained to be a good listener, act in a nonjudgmental way, and provide a safe space to explore oneself.

Therapy has taught me that it is an act of bravery to take responsibility for your actions, rather than blaming your circumstances. Maybe this is why many have a fear of sitting in the therapist’s office—because they are forced to be real. After all, we can hide from the world, but not from ourselves.

At the end of the day, it is up to us to decide for ourselves which choice we want to make.

Tech Now + Beyond

I know more about Trump than South Africa’s politics, even though I live in South Africa

Scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I see a video mocking the way every Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode occurs; unnecessary drama over inconsequential events. It’s honestly hilarious, and I find myself laughing, remembering how much I used to love watching the show when I was in high school. It was a ritual I had perfected. Every day after school I would run to the kitchen to grab a snack and quickly sit down for the episode before my mom got back from work. Then I felt it, that pang, that distinct feeling we know all too well.


It was at that moment when it struck me: I constantly consume American media. Every day, I am confronted with all the aspects of American life, from the clothes they deem as fashionable, to the politics they consider outrageous. I can easily explain Trump’s 100 days in office, but can’t even begin to wrap my head around South African politics.

Social media has become an easy way for people in the global South, and South Africa in particular, to soak up American media. Yes, social media has enabled us to break down barriers that were built up by colonially-imposed borders. With just a few clicks I am able to access any part of the world, and they are able to access me. Since this is the case, I am able to talk to my sister in Guatemala as if she is in the next room, in fact, I am able to do a fellowship with The Tempest because of it.

But despite these amazing feats, social media has also allowed the rapid Americanization of the global South.

Take Buzzfeed, for example. Their entire brand is built on fast, easily-consumable media that can be accessed all over the world. Their YouTube videos garner millions of views, and I am probably responsible for at least two million alone.

After watching their video, Fast Food Burger Taste Test, and seeing all their different reactions to the burgers, I felt as if I had experienced every single one of them. Even though we only have Mcdonald’s and Burger King in South Africa, I feel as if I have significant memories of fast food outlets like Wendy’s, In-N-Out, Five Guys and Carl’s Jr. What began as innocently watching a random YouTube video, ended up in the creation of false memory.

In other words, it led to me feel nostalgic for an American culture I have no tangible connection to.

Fast Food Burger Taste Test has over six million views, many of which come from people in the global South. Although this seems harmless, there are many reasons why over-consuming American media can be bad for our mental health.

Firstly, imperialism has left an indelible mark on the South African consciousness. Many people believe that in order to be seen as ‘modern’ we need to aspire to Western standards of being, whether this is through our architecture, the way we run our companies, and even the way we dress, eat and speak. We are taught to believe that the West is pioneering advances in technology that we cannot live without, but we are forgetting about local knowledge systems that have supported our society for millennia.

Secondly, people believe that aspiring to western standards of being is also about aspiring to a particular brand of whiteness. For myself, I have had to deal with the reality that I have lost the ability to feel pride in my culture because I have been completely consumed by the idea that the darkness of my skin and the place of my ancestry are insignificant and even ‘backwards’. I have been taught to think of South Africa, my home, as an empty place; missing the finer American details that would propel us into an acceptable, whitewashed society.

It is undeniable that social media has contributed to these feelings of being ‘backwards’, insignificant and culturally dead. Being captured by so much of American media has meant that we need to find ways to reclaim our memories and reclaim our nostalgia for our own cultural practices, those beautiful little pieces of existence we buried under hours of Netflix binge-watching Mad Men till we could pronounce our words like we were born in New York.

Why don’t we instead use social media to promote our identities without shame, without explanation and translation? Let’s revel in the idea that South Africa, and the global South at large, is an imaginative landscape that belongs to us, and that we should be proud of.

Let us not covfefe our society.