Hiding the Blame: The Silent Battle Within Immigrant Families

정중한 고통 / GENTLE HARM by Daehyun Kim, Moonassi.

At my last session, my therapist asked me what I wanted to talk about. I had never felt more guilty saying it, but after 23 years of silence, I replied “I think I want to forgive my parents.” In that moment, I gave myself permission for the first time in my life to acknowledge out loud the resentment I carry towards my parents and the way I was raised. Even typing this now, I have tears running down my cheeks from the guilt of speaking out against the people who sacrificed everything to give me the best life they could. But I’m not just doing this for myself, I am doing this for my future children, so that I can relieve them and myself of the generational trauma that has inevitably been passed down to every child of immigrant families. It is possible to love and respect our families while still holding them accountable for their actions, even those that were involuntary. For the sake of our parents’ sacrifices, we deserve to live the best life we possibly can, which can only truly be done by healing the wounds left from our upbringing.

When I think back to my childhood, I hold my parents in such a respectful light. I feel so proud to have been raised by them and to have seen them work hard for the life they came to this country for. They’re my superheroes. It was only once my therapist asked me to write out a normal day in my household that I realized the little flaws that quietly added up over time. Again, I feel like prefacing this with the fact that I don’t blame them for any of these things — or so I like to tell myself. My dad is the hardest worker I know, so talented and crazy smart and it inspires me daily. But when I was growing up, and even now, he was supposed to be the “strong one” who held it all together. I never saw him sad, frustrated, confused, or any emotion that led me to believe he was anything less than a perfect, near-robotic human being. I didn’t realize he was now in a world where he couldn’t afford to make mistakes. As children, we adopt the behavior of those around us, and I was no exception to this. I’m sure he never meant to turn me into an emotionless perfectionist, but here I am today unable to show the world my flaws because I grew up thinking it meant I was weak. I wanted to be like my dad, strong and fearless and never needing a second chance because I always got it right the first time. Now, I want to be human, imperfect and relatable — but I don’t know how. My dad didn’t do this to me on purpose, his only intention was to protect me and give me the best life he could. But I can’t blame myself for growing into someone who can’t express emotions or make mistakes without crumbling, because that isn’t just my fault; it’s also his. I could never hate him for this or even feel angry towards him, because I know he only meant well, but he still deserves the responsibility of the trauma that resulted from his style of parenting. Even just admitting this to a screen allows me to relieve some of the pressure that has been hidden within me for the last 23 years. When he reads this, I hope that rather than feel sad or guilty, he feels hope that we both can now move on and change for the better.

If, like me, you need to hear it — this is your permission to feel angry, sad, confused, scared, and every other emotion that we’ve grown accustomed to hiding from our parents, and eventually even ourselves. I’m not asking you to resolve it all right now, but simply to allow yourself to feel it and understand it’s origin. When you grow up in a first-generation immigrant family household, there is generally no priority on mental health. When you watch your parents struggle to fit into a society that never intended to include them, your view on what “real” problems are shifts to a very dark place. When you’re forced to stand by and watch them fall victim to systematic racism time and time again, you become numb to your own issues that seem wildly insignificant in comparison. When the priority in your household is survival, how dare you dream to put yourself first? I would never blame my parents for this life, and that’s why it’s so hard for me to begin the journey of forgiving them. All they’ve ever wanted was for me to succeed in ways they could never dream, but within diasporic families, that often comes with the price tag of feeling like nothing you do will ever be good enough. What could possibly be worthy of the thanks that our parents deserve for what they went through? It wasn’t until I admitted this to myself that I realized how useless and unfruitful this thought process is to our end goal of achieving success. If we don’t recognize the deeply harmful internal dialogue that we’ve adopted in the process of trying to make our families proud, then we’re actually doing them a disservice by forcing ourselves into endless dissatisfaction. If we can’t find a way to make success and happiness tangible, that pool of resentment towards both them and ourselves will only grow over time. The only way to break the chain is to stop it in its tracks. It begins with tracing your flaws back to where they started, and understanding that putting that responsibility on your parents does not equate to disrespecting their sacrifices for you. Even if they didn’t mean to pass on their trauma to us, nothing good comes out of ignoring it. As we build our second-generation families, we can properly carry on the legacy that our parents created by accepting their flaws, recognizing them within ourselves, and mindfully going through the healing process of forgiving them. The intention isn’t to erase what they went through, but to shed new light to it and let us pass on our family values in a healthier way.

When you come from an immigrant family, you know how difficult and often times awkward it is to bring up conversations like these. However, coming from someone who’s been through it and came out the other side in a better place, I seriously encourage you to try it. I found that the deepest level of healing came from telling my parents that I was angry, sad, and hurt by the person I’ve become due to the trauma they passed on to me. It allowed me to heal in a way that still respected them and their journey in this country, but get the understanding I needed to feel seen. Beyond that, it made our relationship closer than ever before because I was finally fully honest with them. All I really needed to forgive them and move on was to just tell them how I felt. I hope they were even able to grow and heal themselves by realizing the wounds they still held onto from their life before America and our diaspora. Our parents have a lot of their own healing and forgiving to do in regards to their relationships with their parents that led them to be who they are today. I think we, as children of immigrants, often don’t want to burden our parents even further with our emotions and mental health. We assume they’ve got enough to deal with. In doing so, however, we restrict ourselves from a closeness that can only come from being completely and brutally honest with our parents. They deserve the full capacity of our love, which can only be given when we each see each other for who we really are. We are an extension of our parents, and hiding parts of ourselves from them will only ever cause them pain. I’m telling you from experience that while it’s understandably hard to change the dynamic of your relationship with your family, it’s absolutely doable and you deserve to give yourself an opportunity to have the connection you’ve always wanted with them. Even further, you deserve to live your life to the fullest, without carrying the responsibility of a trauma that isn’t yours.

The future is never decided for any of us, and therefore we have to take the opportunity to shape it into what we need and desire the most. Sometimes that means taking the painful journey into our past to rebuild the foundation that our lives were built on. Our families came to this country to give us the freedom to live life the way we choose, and now it’s up to us to honor their sacrifices by choosing thoughtfully.

This and other blog posts available on my Medium.

The Violent Nature of Self-Improvement

불면의 낮 / SLEEPLESS DAYS created by Daehyun Kim, Moonassi.

Addiction. When you hear that word, your mind instantly conjures up the image of alcohol or drugs. Or maybe money or toxic relationships. Perhaps even lying, or as an addict might call it, “the delicate art of stretching the truth”. We think of addiction as something destructive, an inner demon that leads to one’s demise. It’s a dark word that we hope will never be placed as a label on ourselves or anyone we love. After all, “too much of anything can be a bad thing”, said our parents. But what if that very demon we all run from was disguised as an angel? What if it took the face of something so innocent that we could never see the wrong in it?

Last weekend I went to a silent meditation retreat, in hopes of practicing mindfulness and honestly just to take a little break from the world. The whole weekend I worked to build my “meditation muscles” and improve upon a skill that I thought could help me be a better person. No phones, no talking, no books, not even any eye contact with those around me. At the end, I felt so proud of myself for following through and thought, “Wow, look how healthy I’ve become for choosing to spend my weekend this way.” When I went back to work the next day, however, I noticed a tiny bubble of anger float to the top of my mind. I couldn’t place it’s origin at first. I brushed it off and opened up my ClassPass app to signup for a yoga class, thinking that would be a healthy way to get rid of it. After all, I should keep up my streak of being sooo healthy. But as the week went on, the bubble grew and grew until everything else in my head was trapped within it. So of course I used my new mindfulness practices that I had learned at the retreat to determine where this intruder came from and what its intentions were. What good is a $400 meditation retreat if I can’t fix my problems with it, right?

As I sat down to meditate at the end of what had been a week filled with productive meetings, various yoga classes, and (relatively) clean eating, I began to feel the heaviness of…guilt? What an odd thing to discover, I thought, and tried to remember what wrongful deeds I had committed to feel that way. As the filing cabinet in my mind flipped through all of my conversations, actions, and thoughts from the previous week, I just became increasingly confused. I didn’t do anything wrong to anyone. I didn’t even think bad thoughts about anyone. Where was this slimy, sticky, stupid feeling coming from? Maybe if I had meditated more during the week like I promised, then my brain would be working correctly, I said to myself. Ugh, or gone to the gym more, that probably would’ve gotten my mind off of it, I say as I pick up a new self-help book that my mom got me for Christmas. Hmm, maybe I should start a new series of blog posts about this book, so that I can practice my writing while also helping others, since my yoga instructor said that we should all be thinking of ways we can improve the world. And I could definitely do a lot more to improve the world, I mean just look at my friend who went to Lebanon last year to work with refugee children, I think to myself. I cut my meditation short to open my laptop and type into Google “volunteer opportunities in SoCal”.

…I bet you see where I’m going with this, don’t you? I’m an addict. It’s quite unfortunate really, because I promised my parents I would never abuse drugs. But I did so much research before I started to do it, I swear! I would never intentionally do something to hurt my body, or even worse, my brain. Yet here I am, falling quietly and gracefully down the slippery slope of self-improvement.

That anger turned to guilt that I was trying to erase was a product of my disordered mindset which I’ve unconsciously and unknowingly taught to believe that nothing I do is ever enough. I could wake up early, work all day long, top if off with a yoga class, and still feel a sense of disappointment that I couldn’t fit in 15 minutes to meditate before bed. I mask this aggressive and hurtful thought process as self-improvement and my “dedication” to being better, which quite frankly has become an overrated word to me. The word “better” is a dangerous marker for growth. The lack of a concrete goal makes it easy to believe that you have never accomplished anything worthwhile, because it could always be better. The harsh reality is that I’ve simply cultivated an addiction to seeing just how much I’m capable of and then figuring out how I can increase that capacity, with no real end in sight. If I don’t hit that limit on any given day, I feel lazy, unproductive, entitled, and a slew of other terrible words that although I would never call someone else, I seem all too eager to call myself. At what point does self-improvement spill over and evolve into self-harm?

I’m writing this both as a reminder to myself and a wake up call to you to be aware of the violent nature of self-improvement. Society and the media makes it very easy to believe that in order to achieve the life we want, as shown to us by business moguls and Instagram influencers alike, we absolutely must work hard to constantly improve ourselves. Becoming a better person is a lifelong process, says the famous yogi posting pictures from the hillside of Nepal. We can’t ever stop learning and improving, reads the notification on my phone, prompting me to open that day’s featured Medium article. Everywhere you turn, someone is reminding you that you could be doing more. If I tweeted the simple truth, that I was addicted to bettering myself, it would solicit only positive responses, maybe even some messages of admiration, and it would certainly make someone out there feel bad that they weren’t an “addict”, too. The demon behind the addiction has done a superb job of disguising itself in this case, and consequently, all the self-help books and lifestyle influencers fail to mention the dangerous side effects of feeling like you constantly need to improve yourself. It is a serial serotonin killer that does it’s damage in silence, making it nearly impossible to determine why you feel so shitty when you’ve been doing so many “healthy” things. It is the equivalent of trying to drive your car across the nation without checking to see if there is enough gas first, and then berating yourself when you breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

It is of course important to believe that we can and should work to become better people, both for the sake of ourselves and others. I don’t discredit the articles and influencers who preach self-improvement, for they are often a helpful reminder of this. The problem, however, arises when we don’t stop to acknowledge how far we’ve already come and how much work we’ve done to get there, particularly in the absence of any comparison to the progress of others. Each of us has a unique, very necessary, and very human limit to the amount of pressure we should put on ourselves, which we have been made to feel is more of a goal to reach than a sign to stop. For the safety of our mental health, and that of others whom we may (un)knowingly influence, it is crucial that we recognize that limit and be kind enough to ourselves to respect it. The beauty in doing so is that we will regain the peace and happiness that we set out to achieve in the first place. The cliches of life are repeated for a reason, so trust that nobody is or will ever be perfect, no matter how their life may seem on the outside. As long as you are trying, whatever you are doing to improve yourself is enoughIn fact, I think we all deserve to give ourselves a break from self-improvement every once in a while to just be who we are in that moment, regardless of whether we currently like that person or not. By taking this pause, we can allow ourselves to appreciate the journey thus far and determine what can and should be done going forward. There is no minimum or maximum amount of improvement to conform to, and you will do yourself a favor to not let anyone tell you or make you feel otherwise. As a society, we have become addicts for the grass that always seems greener, especially when we are told that we can grow it ourselves if we just work hard enough. The trick to the most sustainable growth, however, is by maintaining a realistic and healthy image of yourself. Perhaps the healthiest habit of all is to learn to let ourselves be human every so often — good, bad, and ugly.

Full article on my Medium page.


불가항력 / ON THE OTHER HANDS by Moonassi

How often do you stop to think about why you do the work you do every day? For a while, I didn’t know why. Why was I so stuck on online office hours, or helping someone share their notes, or getting some students to host their own study session? Sure education tools are important, but it wasn’t until I thought about the “why” that I realized how life changing this could be. I didn’t realize how much I care about whether the world is getting the knowledge it deserves. But when education has the power to change quite literally everything around us, to me it becomes a basic human necessity, like shelter or electricity. That study session becomes a place for the shy kid in the back of the class to finally join the conversation. The online office hours becomes the only way that a single mom supporting herself through college is able to get her homework done between jobs. The notes that are shared becomes the saving grace of a student who was too depressed to get out of bed that morning. That’s why it’s so important to me.

When we’re surrounded by so much pain, violence, and anger in the world, the grand solution appears to be more bleak each day. We forget that the power of knowledge and education is our only guarantee to a different, better life. So imagine if we could not only educate the entire world, but also connect it. If we harnessed the power of technology to connect every brain in the world, it feels silly to think that we couldn’t solve even the most terrifying of problems. The movement would feel slow at first, like asking rain to fill up a lake after a drought. Then one day, after countless rains, we’ll realize the lake that once seemed so empty and so difficult to fill was just that, full. That’s exactly how education will save our planet. It’ll be a slow battle, but if we give it all the resources we have, we’ll win.

So that’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I care, and why I think you should, too. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to try our best to make this world a better place in any way that we can. To me, connecting a classroom, a place where the purest form of magic can happen, is the only way I can think of how to do it. The thought that maybe one day, we’ll connect enough minds, thoughts, and knowledge to cure cancer, save the rainforests, end world hunger, and who knows what else. The lakes seem impossible to fill right now, but we still have to try.

The world that we live in, that we are so afraid of, it only seeks one thing from us: to learn more about it. We owe it to ourselves to learn every single thing we can about this place and give it our best shot before we decide that we did everything we could, before we accept that there is no hope left. If we know the world is only going to keep getting bigger, then we have to adapt alongside it. Technology should be seen as a blessing that has allowed us to scale education so that we can include every possible person in this very necessary discussion. We have to take the tools that we’ve been given and make something wonderful out of them, so that we leave this place better than how we found it. I think we often forget in our day to day lives that the “purpose” we search so hard for is more simple than we realize: to make the world a better place. It’s the best answer to “why” that I have ever found. Maybe saving the world starts with asking ourselves the most simple question of all.


Want to know what I’m talking about? Check out Nectir, my ed-tech startup.

My Five Life Lessons of College

You know those milestones in life that seem lightyears away but always end up coming faster than you can ever imagine? From finishing high school to turning 21 to getting married and having kids, we always think “That seems so far from now, I can’t even imagine it”. Graduating from college brings the same exact feeling, except I genuinely never believed this day would come. I’m starting to realize that I could never imagine it because it was too painful to accept the fate that one day I would have to leave this paradise. I started my college experience absolutely hating everything about it, from the place to the people to the food. In four insanely short years, it became my happy place, my sanctuary. It was here that I met myself for the first time. In the same moment, I fell in love with myself and everything around me. I met the most incredible people who became equally as important to me as those who share my blood. If I had to go back and greet the girl who walked into her dorm for the first time four years ago, I wouldn’t even recognize her. As cliche as this all sounds, I am so thankful the stereotypes about “finding yourself” in college are true. I don’t have a single regret about the way I spent my time here, and I hope that this advice about what I’ve learned along this imperfectly perfect journey helps someone else achieve that same feeling.

Recollection of me by Moonassi

1. Throw out every single expectation you have about who you’ll be friends with.

The single most important factor in creating the most transformative college experience possible is the people you choose to surround yourself with. They will make or break the way you view your time in college. Come in with no expectations about what kinds of people you want to be friends with, how you’ll meet them, what they’ll look like, and how long your friendship will last. I wholeheartedly believe that we have hundreds of soul mates of different kinds that come in and out of your life as you need them. They’ll all serve different purposes; some will make you re-evaluate your entire reason for being here and others will be the anchor that keeps you grounded and sane. Keep the mindset that everyone you meet will have something to teach you. Some will just be in your life for the short time that it takes to be taught that lesson, and others will stick around forever. Appreciate every lesson, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. Through these interactions, you’ll eventually meet yourself.

2. Never say no to a new experience.

Before I even start, I’ll admit that this piece of advice will probably get you in trouble at some point. In my eyes, trouble in moderation is a good thing and a rite of passage in college. Whether it’s spending some of your savings on a wild trip with your friends or joining a club/organization on a whim or going on a date with someone unexpected, say yes to everything you can. The majority of things you do that fall outside of your comfort zone will make you happier than you’ve ever been before. If not for the experience itself, then because you’ll gain the invaluable confidence that comes from stepping outside of your self-made bubble. Forget about whether you think you can do it or not and tell yourself you’ll figure it out along the way. You’re much more capable than you give yourself credit for, but you’ll only find out by testing it.

3. Change is inevitable. Learn to embrace it.

As humans, we are naturally averse to change because it’s uncomfortable and we usually don’t understand it right away. I’ve learned that the uncomfortable feeling, if you let it come without fighting it, is often followed by growth. If there is one thing you need to make your priority and your goal of college, it is to grow as much as you possibly can. This means recognizing that uncomfortable feeling and running towards it rather than away from it knowing that it can only benefit you. Sometimes change will feel exhausting and other times it will feel exhilarating, but both kinds are necessary. Without it, it’s impossible to grow out of our current state and elevate to the next. If you’re feeling stagnant in any part of your life, go search for an opportunity to catalyze the change you need.

4. Bad experiences are actually good lessons in disguise.

Every single terrible experience I’ve had in college, whether it was failing a class, not getting an internship, or breaking up with someone, eventually resulted in one of my most necessary and influential life lessons. The saying “everything happens for a reason” is completely true, but you often won’t realize the reason until much later. I’ve learned to blindly trust that anything bad that happens to me has a logical, good reason behind it that I will one day discover. Not only does this help me change my perspective when times are rough, it also makes me search for and appreciate the life lessons. If you learn to take a closed door as an opportunity to go on an adventure to find an open window, you’ll find something even better than what you initially wanted.

5. Take your time. No matter what anyone says or how society makes you feel, it’s not a race.

This is the most important lesson that I wish every college student would be able to accept, yet I think it’s the hardest one to truly believe. Society pressured us into believing that we needed to go straight from high school into college and then straight from college into a well-paying job that allows us to be completely self sufficient. There is absolutely no timeline for success, especially when success should be measured at an individual level and not according to society’s group mentality which we’ve been trained to adopt. The only way that you will be truly happy is when you stop comparing your life and the speed of your accomplishments to those around you. Select goals that are curated by just you and determine your measure of success on your own terms. Most importantly, remember that changing or adjusting your goals does not mean that you’ve failed, but rather that you’ve become self aware enough to realize that your path has changed.


College is a spectacular, yet not always necessary, launchpad for success. Happiness, however, comes from a completely different place that cannot be taught in a classroom. To those just starting this journey and those about to complete it, that sense of fulfillment you are searching for can only be found when you start to chase happiness above everything else. College makes it easy to forget that one of the most critical lessons to learn here is about yourself–who are you, what makes you happy, why are you here? When you feel lost like the rest of us have all felt at one point here, start with answering these questions.

Last but not least, enjoy the ride while it lasts. I would give anything to live it all over again.

Living with an Imposter

I’ve wanted to write about living with imposter syndrome for a while now because I know it’s something that so many of us face yet don’t even realize. For the longest time I had no explanation for what I was feeling, and opted to just group the emotions in with my depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until I heard Michelle Obama talk about dealing with imposter syndrome that I realized it was its own isolated problem, and something that I definitely wasn’t alone in feeling. If any of this blog post resonates with you, I encourage you to read this Medium article on why you should embrace your imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is characterized by feeling like your accomplishments are simply a fluke and that you’ve somehow cheated your way to where you are. While everyone can experience it, high-achieving women of color are especially prone to it (often because of very obvious yet hard to ignore reasons, like societal stereotypes and pressures). For the entirety of my life, I’ve had such a difficult time admitting to myself and those around me that I was successful or that I had accomplished something extraordinary. From something as small as getting an A on a test to something truly special like winning first place in a statewide competition, I would unconsciously make excuses for why I didn’t really earn or deserve it. Even as I write this, I’m once again doubting my proudest moments and my right to talk about them. There’s so many times when I’m surrounded by people who look to me for answers, and I have to keep reassuring myself that my answers are correct and come from a place of experience rather than luck. I typically don’t like to blame outside forces for how I’m feeling, but in this case it’s easy to see how societal pressures have played a huge role in making my success as a woman of color feel like it came from luck and not effort. As women, we are constantly told that we should expect life to be hard if we want nice things for ourselves. If someone gains something without visibly working hard for it, the value of it is discredited. This unspoken cultural norm made me second guess anything I got that didn’t make me put my blood, sweat, and tears into the process. When I take a step back and view my life from a rational standpoint, I’m reminded of how hard I truly worked for everything I’ve achieved, even if I didn’t show that effort to the world. However I’ve been conditioned to think that if I’m not suffering or cracking from the stress, I must not be working hard enough. I believe I’ve adapted to stress in a way that lets me thrive under it rather than be constantly reminded of its presence. The downside to this, however, is that when I achieve something without a couple mental breakdowns scattered throughout the process, I feel like I’ve somehow finessed life into just handing me my trophy rather than earning it. I’ve noticed that I only feel accomplished when the path to get there was laced with difficulties that I had to overcome. We need to remind ourselves that we can live a life of fulfillment and success without always having to overcome stress, judgement, self-doubt, and other pressures to get there. I’m not saying that they should be mutually exclusive, but we shouldn’t feel like a success is any less deserved just because it was gained without great difficulty. If anything, our generation should aim to be the first that is able to effectively balance our career, social, and personal life equally without all three crumbling to the floor. Who told us this wasn’t possible and why did we ever listen?

A few months ago, I sat on stage amongst other female business leaders as part of a GRL PWR Panel hosted by Victoria’s Secret. I didn’t go seeking out this opportunity, it was offered to me by those who felt I was qualified enough to give life advice to women in college. Yet as I got ready for this event, I stared in the mirror and questioned whether I even had the answers to how I got to where I am today. I walked into that theater not knowing if I could give the attendees anything worthwhile that would actually benefit their careers. I think of myself as a pretty confident person, but sometimes this doesn’t stop the voice in my head from feeding me quiet doubts that cloud my judgement. I didn’t even notice my imposter syndrome raging full force until I started answering questions and saw women nodding back at me in appreciation and agreement. It slowly dawned on me that duh, I actually did have all the knowledge of how I secured the successes that got me on that stage. To my left and right were two accomplished women both over the age of 30, yet I was able to give advice equally as helpful as theirs and tell a story that stood its own ground. After the event, multiple women approached me to tell me they resonated with my words and that what I had to say truly changed something in them. I came to the realization that what I thought was “being humble” was in reality just a faulty pipe left ignored which was now dripping self-doubt into everything I did. Not only am I committing a personal injustice when I allow myself to get comfortable with my imposter syndrome, I am also hindering my ability to help those around me.

This is me at the GRL PWR event 🙂

It’s hard to feel like I deserve to talk about the things I’ve done in my life, but I try to remind myself that my successes are parts of me that I should be both able and proud to discuss with the world. Humility does not mean discounting your achievements or being unable to share them publicly. At the age of 22, I’m proud to say that I’ve served as President of two incredible business organizations, (basically) completed my Bachelor’s degree in spite of my not-so-great mental health, and started a company that aims to revolutionize higher education. I’ve finally started to accept that my accomplishments were well earned and that I don’t just keep “getting lucky”. I’ve started to ask myself why it’s easier for me to accept and discuss my cons than to be proud of and show off my pros. While I think that the answer to this is a mix of my own insecurities and a cultural norm of being overly humble, I know that recognizing and accepting it is a huge step towards alleviating it. It’s critical that women (and men) become aware of the inner dialogue that occurs when they achieve something, and especially when they are asked to be public about it. Often times we don’t even notice how much we put ourselves down and discredit the journey we’ve endured. I look forward to the day that I’m on stage accepting an award or giving a speech without wondering who screwed up and accidentally put me there. While I know that day is coming, for now I just remind myself each morning that I’m thankful to be who I am and that I recognize and appreciate all of the incredible qualities I possess.

The path to truly loving ourselves doesn’t start or end with just being confident, it is studded with a plethora of gifts that we need to be willing to give ourselves. The only way to find them, however, is to fully commit to go searching for them within yourself. I’ve worked for years to be able to have the privilege to accept a few of them, like knowing my self-worth and finding out what drives me in life. Whether you’re at a place right now where you’re able to believe it or not, know that you deserve every one of those gifts, too.

When It Doesn’t Go Away

When you’re five, there isn’t a single word in your world that can explain why leaving your bed makes you so unhappy. And how was I or my Dad supposed to know that at seven, being told that you’ve done something minutely wrong will live in your head for the next 4 months straight? At the forgotten age of nine, I just assumed that happiness wasn’t a feeling that was meant to be felt often. At twelve, my parents finally started to worry about why I made so many best friends just to end up losing them all. When I finally found the word I was always looking for, I was already sixteen. After months of begging my parents to take me to a doctor, I’ll never forget the odd sense of comfort that washed over me when she finally confirmed what I always knew but could never say out loud. It’s funny how terrifying it seems to live your truth until you’re shoved right into it, only to realize that it was the oxygen you had been gasping for this whole time.

I’ve been meaning to write about my depression for as long as I can remember because I knew it would be just as cathartic as hearing it for the first time. Not only for myself, but also for the countless people I know who are pushing through it themselves. I think that if we begin having these conversations about real people who are facing demons that are familiar to many of us, we can give each other the strength to get out of bed each day to fight them. You can see from the title that I’ve accepted the unfortunate truth that sometimes it just doesn’t go away, no matter how good life gets or how many healthy habits you cultivate. But I’ve also realized that it’s okay, that maybe it’s even a good thing if you let it be. So my goal here is to give you* the tools I’ve found that have kept me alive, and the comfort of simply knowing that I know how you feel.

If you would like to keep reading the rest of this article, please visit my Medium page.



Created by Daehyun Kim, Moonassi.



What does $40,000 get you?


Raise your hand if you have any questions.”


Raise your hand if you’ve heard this statement a million times followed by pin-drop silence. After 3 years in college, I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve actually seen a hand held high after this classic inquiry. I wish this meant that we all understood exactly what the professor was trying to explain, however this is not the case. Professors and students alike have been conditioned to go numb to this question. We’ve fallen into a robotic trance of staring blankly at a talking podium while copying the slideshow above word for word. This isn’t to say that we aren’t learning, just that we clearly aren’t absorbing information in a way that engages our interest. For a 5-digit price tag that seems to follow you around for life, I believe that we deserve to feel an equally valuable passion for the subjects we spend hundreds of hours learning. When you read reviews for college courses on sites like Rate My Professor, almost every review is reduced to the criteria for how easy it is to get an A, how little reading you need to do to pass, and how many times you can skip class before it becomes a problem. Shouldn’t we instead be inspired to write about how exciting the lectures are, the vibrant dynamic amongst your classmates, or the magnetic pull of the topics presented? Higher education is beginning to feel less like a privilege and more like an economic and societal burden that is a prerequisite to making ends meet. Three years at one of the top public universities in the world has made me question it’s true purpose an uncomfortable amount of times.

My junior year was spent sharing a boisterous but beautiful house on the beach with 12 other UC Santa Barbara students. Coming from all walks of life, our living room became a melting pot of engaging conversations each night as we unraveled from our stressful schedules. Our “Yello Haus”, as we called it, was teeming with talent, from graphic designers to beatmakers to business tycoons. It was here that the idea of Nectir was born, during one of the many long-winded rants we would all go on about how we weren’t getting what we needed from our education. From the sophomores to the seniors, every one of my housemates agreed on one thing–college itself could definitely be executed better than its current state. This is where my interest was piqued; what solutions would we potentially be looking for to these issues we were having? Everyone complains about school, but what were the legitimate problems? We bounced ideas back and forth for weeks, with suggestions ranging from creating an online library of lectures so that topics could be reinforced at any time to starting an online tutoring service that matches students to an expert within their university. A trend emerged through all the cluttered opinions–the one thing we were all searching for was adding value to our current education. College as we knew it was still amazing, but we were constantly reminded of the $40,000 we were investing into classes that often got skipped and forgotten. So what could we do to make our courses more fulfilling?

The faces of Yello Haus.

When I think back through my repertoire of courses, which is speckled with diversity from multiple major changes, one in particular stands prominently in my memory. As a prerequisite for getting into my Communication major, I took UC Santa Barbara’s ‘Theories of Communication’ course the summer before my junior year. Summer classes are often taught by experienced graduate level students who are so well-versed in their course topics that you would never guess they weren’t experienced professors. My Comm 89 course happened to be taught by a grad student who was quickly recognized by our class as someone who understood exactly how our generation needed to be taught. On the first day, our class of almost 50 was welcomed with upbeat music filling the sweltering room. The board featured a Spotify link which he explained was a public playlist to which we could add our favorite music. A class that greets you with music that you get to choose? An excited chatter reverberated through the room as we all realized this wouldn’t be like the dreaded summer school we were expecting. But the best surprise came from the second URL on the board–an invitation link to a Slack workspace for our class. If you aren’t familiar with the billion dollar group messaging giant that is Slack, it is essentially a customizable workspace that was designed to increase rapid group communication and kill emails. The class listened in awe as he explained how we were expected to type any questions we had during lecture into our general chat. The professor would periodically check the channel and answer anything that needed clarification. If we had questions after hours, we were encouraged to ask and answer them ourselves in the same channel to further reinforce our knowledge of the topics. The sole purpose of creating this mode of communication for us was to ensure that we grasped the concepts in their entirety. The professor knew how powerful social networks were to people who grew up on them and used that to both his and our advantage. I can say with certainty that not one student in our class was opposed to this revolutionary tool once they realized it’s value. A course that is known amongst UCSB students to be just “busy work and memorization” turned into a shockingly interesting symposium of fresh thoughts based on classic theories. To this day, it was my favorite class at UC Santa Barbara for this exact reason. There was no doubt in any of our mind’s that our grades turned out as high as they did due to the unprecedented level of engagement, particularly with one another rather than with our professor. Not only did we learn better from each other than we would’ve on our own, we made friends while doing it. Me and my classmates are proof that increasing communication amongst students in a fun and efficient way, like a group chat app, made for a fulfilling and memorable learning experience. So now that we had found a way to add extremely necessary value to a class, how could we scale this across an entire university? Slack alone wouldn’t exactly cut it.

As we’ve learned, communication and collaboration seems to lead to more powerful ideas. This is exactly how my housemate Jordan and I came up with one that would soon become the ultimate solution to our problems. What if we could take a platform like Slack and scale it across every course at every university? Using Slack, one would need to create a new workspace for every single class and give out an individual link to allow students to join. We knew it wasn’t a viable solution on it’s own, so we set out to create one. Hundreds of candid conversations with students and a deep passion for revolutionizing education came together to create Nectir. Nectir is a social education platform that drastically multiplies student communication to create more connected campuses everywhere. Optimized to each individual university, students use their .edu email to quickly create an account and receive access to class group chats for every course on their campus. Searchable by major, one simply has to select their classes for the quarter and are instantly added to each channel with the rest of their classmates. Once you’re done with the class, you may easily exit the channel to remove it from your dashboard. As long as you’re a student of that university, you’ll always have access to every channel at your school, meaning you can view the valuable messages and resources in each channel whenever you need. Classmates can use these permanent channels to ask and answer each other’s questions, share resources, create study groups, and more. Lost on an important topic from lecture today? Post your question in the class channel and another student will have the opportunity to reinforce their understanding of it by reiterating it to you. Dropped your Hydroflask while the professor was announcing the topics on the final? No problem, simply open the Nectir app, ask away, and a fellow classmate will fill you in. You can also use Nectir to directly message your classmates, create private channels for study groups, and even create public channels for any classes or topics you don’t see. Whether you want to join the #Econ10A class discussion or find out what’s happening at the #AnacapaDorms, it’s an app personalized to your community that connects the campus with ease. Nectir does more than solve simple communication issues, it provides a resource for students to instantly connect with a deeper wealth of knowledge than ever imagined. By giving college students a much needed tool to make passive learning more active, we are encouraging a shift in how education should be provided everywhere.

The first iteration of the Nectir app.

Eric Mazur, a Physics professor at Harvard, described his traditional lectures as simply a “transfer of information”, noticing a widespread loss of learning and retention amongst his students. For years he remained puzzled as to how to wake up his class and keep them engaged, until he looked to the students themselves for the answer. Creating a conversational environment where students consulted with one another to find the answer to topic-related questions resulted in soaring grades. In his master class on the benefits of interactive teaching, Mazur explains how something as simple as students communicating to collectively find the answer can triple “learning gains” and help students become emotionally invested in the subject. Nectir optimizes this practice to allow every class on campus to become instantly interactive. With an easy-to-use app that students can access at any time, we are taking learning into our own hands. The best part is that Nectir was made by the same students who will use it, ensuring that every facet is created with one thing in mind–adding more value to our education. We have poured countless hours into crafting a multidimensional yet simple application that students across the globe can utilize to make their university experience the best it can possibly be. Our dream is that soon college students everywhere will look to Nectir as the precedent for communication. The future of higher education has finally arrived and it’s only going to get better from here.


A repurposed version of this post has been featured on Nectir’s Medium blog. Find it here.