We Can do Hard Things
My parents separated when I was young. I grew up with my mom, my younger brother and my grandparents. I loved my childhood. When I think back on it, I remember joy and happiness. My mom was a professor at a small university nearby. I never realized until I was older what it took for my mother to take care of us and to make ends meet. In my culture, there is a lot of pressure for the oldest child to help support the family and I wanted to take on this responsibility as the oldest. I wanted to help my mom and I wanted to help ensure that my brother went to school and was able to go to graduate school. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. This desire and the pursuit of this dream would take me WAY outside of my comfort zone, and also across the ocean!
I left India alone, at the ripe old age of 21 to come to the United States to pursue my graduate degree and become a Software Engineer. I knew no one when I arrived. I remember being scared on the flight over. I arrived safely and made my way to Indiana State University and settled in. My time at Indiana State went by quickly and before I knew it, I landed a position that would take me to the state’s capital, Indianapolis. I was nervous about moving to the city as I had heard stories about what it was like to live there. Also, I was still burdened with an intense shyness. It was almost painful at times. I remember going out to eat and not wanting to order my food because I didn’t want to have to speak to anyone.
I decided, I had come all this way to pursue an education and career so that I could help my family. I continued to go forward with my plan and moved to Indianapolis to start my new job. I was pleased to find out that living in Indy was not bad at all. But then, I started work. Much to my dismay, I learned that in my department of 12 people, I - the super shy women, would be the only female in my department. I’ll come back to this later.
My journey from India to landing my first job in Indianapolis had been really challenging but it seemed to be paying off. I worked hard in school and studied a lot and was now working a job that I had come to really enjoy. Things were working out well for me and I was able to help my family back home. But the one thing that I let fall by the wayside, the one important thing that I let slide, was me. Specifically, I let taking care of myself become almost nonexistent.
Here is what I have discovered. In India, we have our variety of junk food and it is every bit as bad there, as it is here. The difference between there and here for me was, and is, that there is no one here to stop me from eating it! Truthfully, I did not pay much attention to my health or how I was eating when I was in school. I, like every other twenty something year old thought, “I’m young, I’m fine…, I don’t have to look at my health that closely yet, because I have time.” Well, I didn’t have quite as much time as I thought. Diabetes runs in my family and at a doctor’s visit, I learned that if I did not make a significant change and soon, I would be following in my family’s footsteps.
I found change to be hard. The other challenges in my life up to this point had been hard, but it required something different of me. It required me to study and learn and execute with thinking. Writing a program or figuring out software issue, does not involve cravings or decisions about what taste great but is also healthy. It did not involve becoming aware of mindless snacking and how to not do it. It did not involve having friends in your life that did not eat healthy, and did not want to change how they ate with me. It did not involve making myself “want” to workout. But I wanted to change my health. I wanted to be healthier.
Shortly after my doctor’s visit, I came across and advertisement for Fit Chicks! Once again, I was scared and nervous about going, but I decided I did not care that I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t care that I had never worked out before. I decided that I was going to do this. I went to Fit Chicks and I became a member. I soon learned that there was more to this challenge than I realized. I knew that I had to change how I ate, but I did not fully understand the intentionality that it required of me. I scheduled my first nutrition consultation. I remember meeting with Jenn and talking with her about my diet and how I ate. I shared with her that coming from India, it is common to eat rice twice a day. Jenn told me that I was going to have to let go of rice. I thought to myself “Oh God, why is Jenn telling me this?!” I remember talking to my mom about it and she held concerns also that came out as “how are you going to live without eating rice?!”
There have been challenges sprinkled all throughout my journey and I have met all of them. My diet no longer consists of rice but instead consist of lots of vegetables and some grains that meet the 5 to 1 ratio. I can tell such a difference in how I feel now. My next doctor’s visit yielded an improved report.
As women, we face so many challenges and a lot of them are ours alone. Traveling from India to the United States, as a young woman, is different than traveling here as a young man. It does not bring the same challenges and maybe not the same fears. Starting my career in a department where I am the only female in a mostly male dominated field brings different challenges, not only as a female, but as one who was also painfully shy. What I am finding is that when I look back over my journey, what I see is that I have been resilient and strong and courageous, just as my mother was as she was raising my brother and I on her own. I have learned to have a voice at work. One that is respected for the knowledge and contributions that I am able to make. In seeing how far I have come, in growing into the young woman that I am today, I have learned that hard things can be scary, but scary and hard things do not have to stop me and have not stopped me yet. That is the first message I would like for woman to take away from reading my story.
The other message that I would like for women to hear is, do not fall into the false belief that you are young enough, that you don’t have to be concerned yet with how you care for your body, or the false belief that you have time to do better at some point in the future. It is a false belief. The time to care for yourself is now. It’s today. It may be hard, but take it from me, I know that we are capable of doing hard things.