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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Tips & Tricks Life

Journaling lets me remember my self-growth journey

I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. Occasionally, I like to skim through the top shelf of my cabinet and pull out one of my journals to read. Do I cringe when I read my younger self’s entries? Yes. But it’s all a huge part of self-growth. 

Journaling has proven to have many benefits, particularly for mental health. For me, the biggest benefit was the reduction in stress. As someone who is prone to have stress-induced panic attacks, journaling – whether it’s small doodles or a novella – has helped by giving me clarity and a place to express my emotions. A 2005 study found expressive writing to be therapeutic, noting that participants who expressed trauma, stress and other emotions through writing decreased their chances of getting sick significantly. In the long run, people who journal are less seriously affected by trauma as opposed to their non-journaling counterparts. Although I wouldn’t consider myself completely unscathed by my experiences at school, I do look back at my journals and applaud myself for the strength I mustered to get through it. 

So what does journaling do for the soul? Reduces stress and anxiety as well as boosts your immune function. Well, there are other benefits. One great one I have noticed in myself is the ability to put things into perspective. Journaling is a great regulator of emotions as when you write down how you feel, everything becomes comprehensible and once you have the chance to figure out your own emotions, you are presented with the amazing opportunity to be able to process other people’s too. It is a great way to promote self-growth and confidence as many people, myself included, read over their past personal struggles and either laugh at themselves or marvel in awe at the inner strength they didn’t know they had. 

And the best part of journaling? There are so many different styles you could go for. Days where I am feeling more creative, I’ll do some art journaling or bullet journaling. Some days, it’s easier for me to do an electronic journal (I highly recommend Notion because you type or record videos straight into the app). And you don’t have to do the typical ‘dear diary’ stuff. Make it yours. Of course, there are other tidbits people concern themselves with before they start writing, namely,  what do I write about

My easiest tip is to start writing about anything. There was a class exercise one of my lecturers used to do with us in my first year of university and that was writing for the first 15 minutes of class. “If you don’t know what to write, write ‘I am writing’ until the thought, any thought, comes into your head.” Although this is not a piece of advice I had when I first started journaling, it is something I would pass on to new journalers. Start where you are. The great thing about journals is that they are private to you so they can be two words or a whole novel if you want it to. Even if it’s just a single line, or what you had for lunch, write it. Don’t censor yourself. This is for you and it’s your personal journey. There is no right and wrong when it comes to journaling because it’s an experience so personal and tailored to the individual. 

So unlearn anything you had learned about ‘keeping a diary’ back in the earlier stages of education and go with what works for you because you don’t get graded on how you feel. I’m sure that you would appreciate the nostalgia and growth that comes with looking back at your journey in your journal as much as I do.

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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Travel Life

Living abroad taught me that my expectations of life were unrealistic

I can’t tell you exactly when I promised myself that I’d travel and live abroad, because it was too early to remember. It was just something that I’d always known I’d eventually do. So when I was 19 years old, only a few months before COVID-19 hit, I moved to Madrid, Spain, and traveled around Europe for five months.

Because of my life-long conviction to live internationally, I had ample time to douse my dreams in unattainable and idealized expectations. I imagined that my time abroad would be perfect – I’d make all sorts of multicultural friends, change up my style, and pretty much live out the entire plot of the Lizzie Mcguire Movie and Monte Carlo.


While I will forever be grateful for my time in Europe for being exactly the way that it was, it was anything but my perfect pre-departure daydreams. It didn’t take long for me to realize this either.

Upon first moving to Spain, I became wildly depressed, and it clouded the ways in which I saw the world and interacted with other people. It’s probably not of any surprise that a debilitating crash of my mental health was not in any part of the plan. There are a lot of countries and experiences that I struggle to remember due to the fact that everything I saw was grey. I also (shockingly) didn’t become a pop star in Italy and sing in front of a large crowd in sparkly silver pants with Paolo, and I wasn’t invited to any yacht parties off of the coast of France.

I, instead, learned how to pivot emotionally when life didn’t go according to plan.

This is why I’m grateful. Of course, I would have loved to spend my days frolicking in the streets of Madrid rather than locking myself in my bedroom, but sometimes things change. Sometimes, for good reasons or no reason at all, you can’t find the energy to get out of bed or talk to anyone. The timing may have not been ideal, but it taught me something valuable and vital for the future.

Through the difficult process, while living and traveling Europe, I learned what it truly meant to be alone and how to be comfortable with that. I no longer had my circle of support from my university to rely on, and the time difference made it nearly impossible to call my family. Not to mention the fact that I was stared at by locals almost everywhere and treated as an outsider due to my “exotic” Black skin, which, incidentally, made finding new friends that much more difficult. I quickly learned that my international life would only be with me, myself, and I.

With this, I traveled to a different European country almost every weekend and made experiences of my own, which is something that no one can ever take away from me. It was just me and my suitcase in Zurich, Switzerland for one weekend and Milan, Italy the next. For five months, I existed within my own thoughts, which at times drove me absolutely insane, but ultimately helped me develop a strong sense of self.


When I returned back to university in the United States, I had to confront people who hadn’t been through the same sort of life-changing experience that I had while living in Spain. I had to re-examine every single relationship in my life – I’m still figuring out what all of them mean to me.

Living and studying abroad was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, but it was necessary. I don’t even recognize the girl that I was before I embarked on that five-month journey. I’m still processing the lessons that I’ve learned from living abroad and the toll that it took on my mental health.

I don’t plan on doing it again anytime soon, but I’m grateful for the lessons that it taught me. I saw things and places that I’d dreamt about for years and was forced to have conversations within myself that changed me into the woman I am today.

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Book Reviews The Tempest Reading Challenge Love + Sex Love Books

Relationship expert Iris Krasnow unravels the secrets of real intimacy

Iris Krasnow is a journalist, storyteller, friend, mother, wife, and my professor.

I first met Krasnow when I was a freshman in college. She was my professor for an introductory writing class in which I had written a personal essay about ghosting for my final assignment. Looking back at this piece, it might have been more of a rant, but nonetheless this was one of the first times that I felt heard through my writing. She let me write candidly about the space in-between the lines of nurturing and insufficient relationships. She let me grow. 

Krasnow is curious, compassionate, and the author of seven best-selling books all about intimate relationships. Her book Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes is the self-help book that has been selected for The Tempest’s Reading Challenge this year and just this past April she published Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship, Courage, and Loyalty.

For me, Krasnow is a defining voice of reason for anything in the periphery of relationships, communication, love, and womanhood. Each of her books revolves around personal growth in conjunction with intimate relationships. Sex After offers a series of compelling, and reliable, insights about how to build an intimate relationship, whether that be romantically or with family and friends. The vitality of any relationship is dependent on love and commitment. Basically, true love is found within emotionality. That is, your ability to relate to another person and to enhance their experiences. It is not always about lust. But I’d say that it is somewhat about longing, though. 

This longing could be found within commitment. Each chapter in Sex After focuses on some major life event or change being thrown suddenly onto a couple and ultimately how they persevere. She talks to breast cancer survivors, widows, women who came out later in life, and couples who have experienced infidelity. Each time they tackle the problem, make it their own, and connect through mind, body, and soul along the way. Sure, almost always they also go through the stages of despair and agony, but more often than not these couples do come out stronger and more in love than they were before. This is all a result of trust and reliability. Through this combined process of healing, people, especially women, begin to feel validated. And validation, to me, is an extremely close step towards genuine intimacy.

The female growth cycle seems to be evergreen in her writing. Each character becomes sexier and more alive with every turn of the page. Krasnow’s in-depth reporting and research explores sexuality credibly in real-time and ensures understanding on nearly every level—for nearly every emotion or phase of bodily awakening. 

I love the emphasis that she places on non-sexual love, too, which is why I find so much comfort in her recent book Camp Girls. There is truly nothing like the solace we find in conversations with friends about things along every dotted line in the spectrum. Together, Krasnow makes clear, we can manifest the ellipsis while gaining lessons that are impossible to replicate without the connected experiences that we share with those who are growing and learning just the same by our side. These relationships maintain incredible intimacy, as well as a shoulder to lean on, through allegiance, sympathy, care, and exploration. Krasnow shares that her friends help her feel stronger, more in tune with inner-self, and that hours together feel like seconds while memories from decades ago feel like yesterday. Their company keeps her young, feisty, and in love. 

One notion that I’ve learned from Iris Krasnow that has stuck with me is the idea that you have to be your own soulmate. You will never have the capacity to love someone else, or to believe that another person loves you, unless you love yourself first.

Real intimacy is found after unraveling the layers and free-falling into the depths that you alone locate. With compelling words, Iris Krasnow reminds women of every generation that we must remain honest with our raw selves and loyal to those we grace, and are graced, with companionship. 

Big news: I will be going live with Iris Krasnow herself on The Tempest Instagram (@WeAreTheTempest) on Thursday, May 21, at 12pm EST. We’ll have a candid conversation about love, sex, and everything in between! Join us and come ask Iris your questions.
Family The Trump Era Gender & Identity Life Stories Life

How the era of 45 ended my relationship with my best friend

As an immigrant Latinx growing up in big town Appalachian Maryland, my pool of potential friends was limited and not diverse.

I grew up being that third grader that called my teachers racist for not checking my black friend’s head for lice after they had checked everyone else, told the school principal about my 7th grade English teacher for making fun of Hinduism in class, and would walk out of class to avoid a fight with the super privileged kids laughing about waterboarding in high school.

Nevertheless, several of my best friends were some of these white and privileged people. This town, being Appalachia, is super humble, but being Maryland, still has its very wealthy families. My best friend’s family, in particular, was well off enough to send her to a 50K+ school for undergrad and have her come out debt free.

However, she and I connected very easily in our empathy and want to better the world whether it be through science or human rights. I always felt comfortable voicing my anger towards the school system and other racist interactions I had to deal with on the daily. Throughout our college years, she would supply me with the “lingo” for things I already knew and dealt with my whole life, such as “cultural appropriation” “white savior complex,” but didn’t previously have language for. In my mind she simply “got it” and it wasn’t until we were both adults out in the world and away from the small bubble of school that I realized that she got it, but only intellectually.

She still joked about how her parents reacted when she told them about her new boyfriend, “so what’s the catch?”… the catch being that he’s brown. She didn’t get it emotionally.

This was all also happening during the time of the current 45th President’s administration and man, I was tired. I was tired of people around me disappointing me with anti-blackness, anti-LGBT+ness, with complacency and apathy. I was tired of working 60 hours a week and barely getting by. My mental health was taking a toll. I was no longer feeling much else but anger. I was constantly on guard and constantly crying. This led my mom to basically force me to move to Europe.

I decided to spend a summer in Madrid to see whether or not I would be happier in Europe. I plunged into dealing with my mental health. I found a therapist, a gym, made new friends, went for day drinks, and danced. A small amount of savings, all of the sacrifices my mother was making for me, and how affordable Spain is allowed me to do all of this. Even after explaining to my friend all of these reasons as to why I would be taking that job in the fall and moving back to Spain, she still treated me like I was being selfish and impulsive: “Why don’t you look for a job in our town?”

I couldn’t believe it. She had watched me and listened to me in my misery in this town when we were growing up and she wanted me to move back? On top of that she knew that my mom was in a miserable living situation, in order to save enough funds because this move was important for her to make too. However, I never got support from my friend in my move, and she would bring up all the “work” there was to do politically and in social justice. She would praise how amazing all the people who were doing “the work” were. These are all conversations I have had with all my friends, but with her there was always this tone of “look at what they’re doing and you’re running away from.” I already felt guilt about leaving and not staying to do more, but I was actually no longer mentally strong enough to be helpful and I had to remind myself of this for months. I didn’t need her telling me this, too.

The last time I saw her in person in January she raved about a podcast that compared Hermione staying with Harry and helping him defeat Voldemort to the people that are being directly affected by this new administration rising up and doing the work. I was appalled. I wanted to scream but she’s always been one of those friends that when you point out something they do that is hurtful, you end up being the one that apologizes and reassures them that they’re a good person. So I stayed quiet.

I started to find myself being more distant, I didn’t contact her as often, but I still loved her and missed her. Months passed and I started to tell myself that our friendship was too important to ignore. Then, she came to Europe for a trip- a trip that we had planned to do together for several years; but the worst part was she didn’t even bother mentioning it to me- I found out through her Instagram story. I was heartbroken. In the past, this was something that we could have worked through. But not anymore. This was too hurtful. I’m grateful I was in a great place of healing, and that’s what made it bearable. Eventually, I realized it was for the better, and looking back, I started feeling relieved, even. I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not being Hermione anymore.

Love Life Stories Advice

A letter to my future self

Dear Future Self,

Remember when you used to draw a line on the wall as a kid to check how tall you were?

Yes, the good old days. The days when you’d be ecstatic to see that you grew by even just a centimeter. Even then, you realized that small progress was still progress.

Height’s easy to measure, though. I realized that’s harder to measure personal growth. And because of this realization, I took it upon myself to give you something to remind you of your growth and constant improvement.

You, more than anyone, would know that looking back on the past has always brought me more harm than good. As much as dwelling on the past has hurt me (or should I say us?) before, I promise you that this letter is the exception.

I don’t know if you remember that early morning you spent writing this on your iPhone, but if you don’t, I hope you’re still as open-minded as I am right now to take in the list of your past failures

Now before you think about traveling back in time just to personally throw a brick at me for doing this, hear me out: I’m not trying to bring you down. More than anything, I want you to realize how many struggles you have not only faced, but conquered. Sure, getting through them was tough, and you may have been ashamed of them in the past. But now that you can analyze them again in the future, I am confident that you’ll see that being faced with adversity made you stronger in every aspect of life: physically, emotionally, mentally, maybe even spiritually.

That’s something to be extremely grateful for.

And okay, I get that people usually write letters to their younger selves, but I decided to write to you. What would be the point of writing my past self a letter she would never get?

Besides, you know that I’ve always been the type to do something more unique anyway. I don’t know how far into the future you’re reading this, but I hope that at least that much hasn’t changed. So without further ado, here’s a list of failures and shortcomings at this point in my life so far:

  • I didn’t get into a certain organization project because I was“too laid-back – the project head simply didn’t think I had the passion.
  • I let jealousy get the best of me in junior high, and this caused me to lose one of the most important people I had at the time.
  • I started rebelling against my parents just for the thrill of it. When I got caught, they lost all their trust in me, trust that I’m still trying to rebuild to this day.
  • I lost so much confidence in myself because I allowed the opinions of others to get the best of me; I lost motivation in pretty much every aspect of life.
  • I refused to let go of someone who ultimately brought me more harm than good. I wanted so badly to “keep the friendship” that I didn’t see how much of an emotional toll it was taking on me.

You’re probably facing a whole new set of problems right now, and I’m grateful for that. Why? Because this constant process of failure, improvement, and learning valuable lessons is the key to living a life that you’re genuinely proud of.

So whenever you feel like you’re not good enough, look back on these past failures. Look back on all you have gotten wrong, and realize how much you have gotten right because of them. Our failures do define us. Not in the sense that we should think less of ourselves because of them, but that they are what ultimately help us progress as a person.

We may not be physically able to mark our achievements and success as lines on a wall, but rest assured, we continue to grow each and every single day.

I don’t need time travel to know that you have developed into someone I’d be extremely proud to become.

With love,

Your Past Self.

Love + Sex Love Advice

Dating in college? Here are six tips to help you balance love and coursework

When I stepped into the first broadcaster’s meeting for the University at Buffalo’s campus radio station, I didn’t expect to meet my future husband. But there he was, standing at the front of the room in a baggy sweatshirt and a backwards hat.

Many students end up exploring their interests and their amorous preferences while at college. It’s a time when you’re growing into yourself, and that growth means many people might try dating in college.

The Pew Research Center found that college is still a predictor of who people will marry. According to a 2011 survey, 28% of graduates met their spouses in college. That’s nearly one-in-three!

So how do you go from making eyes across a lecture hall to creating a life together? Here are a few tips to take the stress out of college dating, and make sure it’s more about discovery than distress.

1. Don’t be afraid to be boring

A GIF of Arthur, the cartoon aardvark, and his friends walking on the sidewalk. The caption reads, "Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card"
[Image description: a GIF of Arthur, the cartoon aardvark, and his friends walking on the sidewalk. The caption reads, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card”] via GIPHY

There’s a lot of pressure to be exciting these days, especially for women. It seems like most college coming-of-age love stories involve brooding men and quirky, infallibly excited women. But it’s important to know that not everyone is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the boring can be downright exhilarating when it’s with the right person.

Think coffee dates discussing philosophy, or sharing a table at the library studying for exams. Boring dates can also be the most accessible – because who can really reject a study date? Being boring means that you can also find time to get together – and not sacrifice your studies in Spanish for studies in anatomy.

2. Make use of free student events

GIF of Andre from Black-ish saying, "I have zero dollars".
[Image description: GIF of Andre from Black-ish saying, “I have zero dollars”.] Via GIPHY

The words ‘college student’ are most often preceded by the adjective ‘broke’. This means that pricey dinners or expensive bar tabs are probably out of the question.

Most people think that the free student events are boring, but you might be surprised. My college regularly had discounted tickets to off-broadway shows and free buses to get you there! Take a look at posters in the student union or in the campus newspaper to see what events you can get into for cheap. It’s a great way to have memorable dates without breaking the bank.

3. Cook together

A GIF of the Swedish Chef from The Muppets dancing and banging spoons against melons in his kitchen.
[Image description: A GIF of the Swedish Chef from The Muppets dancing and banging spoons against melons in his kitchen.] via GIPHY

When you’re living on ramen and dining hall food, a home cooked meal can be downright decadent. Instead of going out, split the bill at a local grocery store and cook together!

My partner and I tried to get together and cook one meal a week together – you’d be amazed at how fancy spaghetti and a jar of tomato sauce can feel.

4. Find your comfort level… and exceed it!

GIF of Kris Jenner saying, "This could be your new... like... hobby."
[Image description: GIF of Kris Jenner saying, “This could be your new… like… hobby.”] via GIPHY

College is a time for self exploration. You’ll never grow if you’re always comfortable.

Try new things, and use the discomfort to grow more comfortable with your partner. Whether that means taking a new class together, or an joining an intramural sport, you will find the opportunity to grow, and your partner will grow with you.

5. Don’t be afraid of breakups

GIF from a scene in New Girl where a character named Nick is being broken up with by his girlfriend, Carolyn. He has his hands over his ears and he's saying, "I can't hear you! That means we're not breaking up! No! La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!
[Image description: GIF from a scene in New Girl where a character named Nick is being broken up with by his girlfriend, Carolyn. He has his hands over his ears and he’s saying, “I can’t hear you! That means we’re not breaking up! No! La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!] via GIPHY

Dating in college might lead you to find a healthy, happy, life-long relationship. It could also lead to a breakup, whether ugly or amicable. It’s totally okay to try dating in college only to find that relationships – or that one particular partner – just isn’t for you.

Rejection hurts, but use the time to really do some self love and exploring. You might find that when you’re single, you find the passion to start a new relationship. Don’t stay in a bad relationship for fear of being single – a college experience is a terrible thing to waste.

6. Be yourself

GIF of someone saying, "Be yourself, because who you are is brilliant."
[Image description: GIF of someone saying, “Be yourself, because who you are is brilliant.”] via GIPHY

I was not nearly the same person in senior year as I was in freshman year, and you won’t be either. Enjoy this time of self exploration, and aim to be unapologetically and unironically yourself.

If you like to fall in love fast – fall in love fast, and don’t let anyone shame you by calling you ‘clingy’ or ‘needy’. If you are distant, be distant and explore the wonderful world around you. It’s impossible to find love if you’re wearing a mask.

Remember that you’re at college to learn and grow, both inside and outside of the lecture halls. One of the ways you can do that is through creating and nurturing relationships. Whether you decide to try dating in college or not, remember to prioritize your own emotional and physical health!

Tech Now + Beyond Interviews

Stilobox Founder Roya Sabeti is building up women to be leaders in tech

It takes a highly empowered leader to be able to make a career out of empowering other women. Roya Sabeti is exactly the woman for the job. Founding Stilobox in March 2018, Roya made it her life purpose to help shape women who aspire to become bold leaders by offering opportunities for personal and professional growth.

She believes that personal experiences are the best source of inspiration. Through her own online channels, Roya often publishes articles that aim to motivate readers. On Stilobox, she features testimonials from other badass leaders.

Stilobox is more than a blog. It is a digital resource platform for budding leaders based in the Bay Area where speaking opportunities and leadership workshops can be found. Even if the site is only months old, it already boasts of a fine roster of female leaders, which includes Laila Alawa, The Tempest‘s very own Founder and CEO.

The Tempest had the chance to chat with Roya about how and why she founded Stilobox, and what fuels her inspiration to pursue this field.

Image description: A photo from Roya Sabeti's talk on women empowerment.
[Image description: A photo from Roya Sabeti’s talk on women’s empowerment.] via
The Tempest: What inspired you to create Stilobox?

Roya Sabeti: I am very passionate about empowering women and providing resources to help them grow as leaders. I created Stilobox as a resource for women aspiring to lead. We share speaking opportunities, stories of inspirational female leaders, and events or workshops focused on empowering women and leadership.

I became sick of seeing so many conferences and events with such a lack of diversity, or panels with all male speakers. I knew that speaking and growth opportunities for women existed, and if I could find and deliver them to awesome women, then maybe we could change those numbers.

I know so many amazing women who deserve to share their story, expertise, and companies with the world.

I’ll give an example. When the movie Wonder Woman came out last year, my boyfriend and I went to see it in theatres. I was super excited that finally, a superhero movie with a female lead appeared. I knew I would react in unexpected ways, but I what I didn’t expect to feel was angry. Yes, angry. About halfway through the movie, I realized that this is what little boys grow up watching with each and every single superhero movie. They leave the theatre feeling like they can save the world. I had never experienced that feeling leaving a theatre. I cannot remember a single time in my life I’ve watched a movie with a female lead in which the men completely step aside as she beats up the bad guys and handles it all. I left feeling that I could take over the world. If she can do it, I can do it too. This is the feeling every single little girl needs to experience — the feeling that she can do it too.

By having more women stand up and share their stories on stage, we’ll see a viral effect where more women realize: “Hey, if she did it then I can do it too!” Because she can.

In your experience, how can speaking opportunities help women become better leaders?

I’ve noticed a pattern in women that I don’t see as often in men. That is that women tend to think they’re “not ready” while men will volunteer for every opportunity to share their company or idea, be the expert, even if they’re not the best person to do so. Speaking about and sharing your company, idea, or story helps you grow as a person, and it also opens doors which might never have existed otherwise.

What are some  specific experiences that led you to decide to do this work in the tech industry?

The tech industry is definitely dominated by men, however, in the last couple years, a shift has begun to happen. More women are speaking up and sharing their experiences, both positive and negative, and it’s starting conversations and leading the way for change. I am beyond excited for this shift — the next generation of women to own it, in particular — and who continue to pursue being founders, executives, and leaders in tech.

Are there any women that you particularly admire who you’ve landed gigs for?

One particular woman — and now a friend — who I greatly admire is Ritika Puri, co-founder of Storyhackers. Though the newsletter is only a couple month old, Ritika has been in two panels though opportunities she came across via Stilobox. Unfortunately, I don’t always get to hear the success stories or see what happens once the newsletter is sent out. Sometimes it gets forwarded along and my hope is maybe it lands in someone’s inbox who applies for an opportunity and it changes the entire trajectory of her company. It’s like planting seeds along the road. Sometimes you don’t get to enjoy or even see the flowers that bloom, but you know that someone is benefiting from their beauty. In this case, the opportunities shared with them.

What were some challenges that you had to face in the process of creating Stilobox? What are some that you still deal with?

I still feel impostor syndrome and worry that the newsletter isn’t “good enough” or “ready.” When I first created Stilobox, I agonized over sending out that very first newsletter. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I’ve had to learn to set that tendency aside and become okay with knowing that I’d done my best to curate the best content and opportunities when I hit “Send.” Once I did send it out I received an overwhelmingly positive response! I’ve come to realize perfection doesn’t exist, and by trying to be perfect you’re losing authenticity along the way. This is because nothing, and no one, is truly perfect.

Who are some leaders who inspired you to pursue this field? In what ways did they influence you?

I am inspired by the women who are a part of the Stilobox community. I review each submission and am blown away by the things these women are doing. In each newsletter, I include the story of a female leader I had the pleasure of interviewing. I truly enjoy learning more about each one. For example, how she deals with impostor syndrome, what made her quit her job and become a founder, or even how she practices self-care when feeling overwhelmed. I am so inspired by what they have done and continue to do, to create impact in their industries and communities.

You can find Roya on Instagram, and join Stilobox here.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Gender & Identity Life Weddings

I have bigger dreams than getting married, but why is that so wrong as an Arab woman?

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have yet to accomplish. My dreams of becoming a journalist and living in a cozy little apartment with my friends in Dubai seem like a lifetime away. My bucket list is ever-growing, and my goals are always changing.

I’m the seventh of eight daughters, all of whom can be described as strong, independent women. My parents raised us to strive for success and work hard to achieve our dreams, whether that was to be a writer or a doctor. But people still ask when we’re going to get married.

Unless you end up with a ring on your finger (before your 25th birthday), nothing you accomplish will be good enough. One of my sisters is a savvy businesswoman who works harder than anyone I know, but she is continuously told, ‘You need to get married soon.’ Although the extended relatives who sometimes say those things do have our best interest at heart, they do not realize the implications of their words.

I can’t help but feel disheartened whenever I hear people say things like that. I don’t ever want myself or my sisters to be seen as incomplete because we’ve chosen to put off getting married for a while. I hate seeing so many women being put down because they chose to put themselves first.

The truth is that we teach women that the most important thing they should strive for is a husband. It’s the 21st century and women’s potential has been made so clear. I am surrounded by so many successful women whose dreams go way beyond finding someone to settle down with. One of my best friends at university interned at an almost-all female-run law firm and is planning to earn her law degree straight after graduation. Another close friend of mine aspires to travel the world and make documentaries on the lives of minorities and those affected by war and poverty.

No matter how ambitious and accomplished women are, we still have had to prove ourselves time and time again. When we continuously pry women with questions about their marriage plans we inevitably make them feel like no matter what they accomplish in life, nothing they ever do will be as significant as getting married.

I’ll be the first one to admit, marriage is definitely on my bucket list, but it is not the first. Five years down the line, I want to be able to look back at what I have done and take pride in the person I have become.

We need to teach girls that they cannot love someone else until they love themselves. If that means putting off marriage for a few years to pursue their dreams until they feel like they’re ready to settle down, then so be it. We need to teach girls that they can aspire to so much more than ending up with a ring on their finger.

Love Life Stories

I was so obsessed with being popular that I ruined everything

Changing schools is probably the hardest thing you can ask a kid to do.  To just leave their entire life behind, move on, and start a new one in a place they don’t know. I know, because by 11th grade I was on my 12th school.

My dad was in the Indian Army, so growing up, we were always on the move, and I was always going from one school to another. I’m an army brat through and through. 

Up until 8th grade, I didn’t mind changing schools year after year because it was basically a new experience and a way for me to start over. And as a kid, it wasn’t much of an issue. But as I grew up, I realized it wasn’t just a move – it was everything. Every aspect of my life would be changing and I wasn’t so sure if I was okay with it anymore.

The school where I attended 7th grade was possibly one of the best I’d attended. I’d made amazing friends, learned so much, and I’d gained popularity in that school. I was known for my dancing skills, because I got to represent at various inter and intra school competitions. I was basically put on a pedestal in that school and I had no intentions of getting down.

But I had to. I had to move yet again.

Even though I was upset about being ripped apart from my friends from 7th grade, I managed to conjure up some excitement for my new school. I was looking forward to 8th grade, but unfortunately, my expectations were way too high. I expected to instantly make friends with all the popular kids, be known for who I was, and be one of the ‘cool kids.’

It all sounds so juvenile to me now, but in retrospect, it was natural for my 13-year-old self to be stuck in this fantasy world where she was instantly likable and popular.

When I got to my new school, I tried to act like I was already the most popular chick in school. I would ignore the people who wanted to talk to me and try to stick with the popular kids. I’d try to hang out with them even if I was clearly unwanted, and half the time, I wasn’t even having any fun. But I stuck with the cool kids, regardless, because I was so stuck on becoming popular.

I would try to sit with the popular kids even if it meant I was sitting all alone with the popular kids somewhere around me. I desperately wanted their company, and it was really unhealthy.

Things didn’t turn out in my favor, and within a couple of months of being in 8th grade, I realized I was all alone. My immature and attention seeking behavior resulted in me becoming a loner. I was insecure, self-conscious, and aloof. I really changed the way I looked at people and myself, and the way I made friends too. I completely forget who I actually was. I ignored the people who actually wanted to be friends with me, and chased after the people who were supposedly ‘cool’ in my eyes.

Towards the end of 8th grade, my parents were convinced I wasn’t happy in this school so they suggested shifting me out of there. I happily agreed.  

The school I entered in 9th grade was great, but initially, I had my guard up. I was extremely wary of the way I perceived people and the way people perceived me. It took me a while but I finally found my kind of people in the new school and settled in really well.

Now I wasn’t afraid of being myself and in fact, I was aggressively myself – probably because in my previous school I had inhibited my true self so much, that I was eager to really show the realest parts of my personality in my new school.  I didn’t go after the popular kids, I stuck to people like me. I enjoyed time with the people who understood me and accepted me for who I was. I met the best of people there and made the best of friends too.

I’m still in touch with most of my friends from that school and they didn’t care if I was popular back then or if I’m successful now.  Now I wasn’t afraid of being myself and in fact, I was aggressively myself – probably because in my previous school I had inhibited my true self so much, that I was eager to really show the realest parts of my personality here. I made lifelong friends in that school because I finally wasn’t bothered with ‘popularity’ anymore.

In a way, the experience I had in 8th grade really shaped the person I am today, and in the way, I make friends too. I’ve learned the important lesson that being popular isn’t everything. What matters is that you’ll always find people who love and appreciate you for who you are as long as you are absolutely true to who you are.

Love Wellness

The dark truth behind today’s hustle culture hit me so hard it hurt

I know I’m not the only one who’s given into this hustle culture that seems to dominate the millennial work environment. Time and again, I’ve been forced to the bittersweet realization that my health is more important than my hustle.

I’m not denying the importance of hard work and productivity. I love hustling and I love getting things done. It’s a satisfying and invigorating experience. But here’s the deal – I can’t get anything done if I’m not physically and/or mentally fit enough to keep up. 

And the only way I can be fit enough to hustle is if I take out enough time for myself and don’t work beyond my capacity.

Now, self-care comes first and hustle is always secondary, but I had to learn that the hard way.

I started interning while I was in college, like everyone else my age, to get experience, exposure, and clarity on what I wanted to do in the future. One of the lessons I wish I’d learned early on was that you have to set boundaries with your employer from the very beginning. Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you have to work way beyond your capacity to prove yourself.

I internalized the idea that if I was anything short of ‘perfect,’ I was a failure. 

This wreaked havoc on me. You cannot strive for perfection and still love yourself because perfectionism doesn’t actually exist and you’ll end up being disappointed with yourself – no matter what. I ended up overworking myself, repeatedly, not realizing what the long-term consequences of this could be.

I also had to learn that nobody else’s hustle can define my hustle.

 I’m not my friend and I’m not that overachiever from my class. They have their limits and I have mine. We can only work to the extent that our bodies and minds allow us to.

This realization hit me like a storm during one of my recent internships when, in an effort to prove my worth, I did the usual – I pushed myself, as hard as I possibly could. Before this, my bosses had been considerate enough to notice that I was hard-working and usually told me to stop before I went overboard. 

That didn’t happen here.

Here I was allowed to push myself as far as I could – until I cracked. And I cracked so bad that I was forced to leave that internship well before it was over. 

I realized that I want to do well, but I don’t want it at the cost of my well-being. I want to grow organically and I want to evolve – personally as well as professionally.

Still, I struggled with self-love and maintaining a healthy relationship with my work for a really long time. Sometimes I still get the dreaded feeling that I’m not doing enough and I have to remind myself that whatever I am doing is enough.

It wasn’t until I started at The Tempest last month that it really hit me – I am more important than my productivity

Here I have found a work culture among millennial women doused in positive ideas that are helping me grow, not just as a writer, but also professionally. This is so important and underrated in today’s “hustle-driven” culture. 

We often forget the value the person.

Up until now, I thought I had to be on the brink of breaking down every time I got done with an assignment because that’s what hustle meant to me. But I’ve redefined hustle as I’ve come to terms with what I want my career to look like.

I have finally realized that I won’t be able to do shit if I don’t have my mental and physical health. And I can’t compare my hustle to anyone else’s hustle. 

I have to focus on what works for me and achieve a fine balance between my work and health by reminding myself that my productivity does not define who I am.