It’s a tricky balance: being mindful of how you make others feel v. being true to not only yourself but also the greater good.
This year, oh, this year.
For me, it started with a death in the family and ended with a relationship crumbling. In between, the February Bar Exam, COVID-19, a kinda break-up, more Trump Administration nonsense, and more death.
Whenever we go through difficult times, we can do one of two things: either ignore the problems or self-reflect. Before, I was the former. However, years of therapy made me the latter. But, too much self-reflection can lead us down a dark path. We beat ourselves up to the point where we punish our past selves instead of fixing the problem.
Hope. That seems to be lost theses days. Everywhere you look, you see COVID-19 deaths, incompetent leadership and a passive community. From protests to voter awareness, everyone is trying to inspire change. However, 2020 smacks us in the face every time we try to do something right. Yes, 2020 sucks for many reasons: COVID-19 and celebrity deaths. Although voter turn out is at an all time high, I am not convinced that anything will change. I am convinced that we still haven’t hit rock bottom yet.
Recently, I re-watched the entire Dark Knight Trilogy. Each of those films show Batman failing then rising from the ashes. He hits rock bottom then climbs back up. His heroism inspires all to be heroes in their own way. Whether it be fighting against oppression or simply seeing the humanity in others, the people of Gotham stood up for each other. They didn’t do this by passing invasive laws or militarizing the police. Instead, they showed their strength through their everyday actions. The people of Gotham showed that our choice to be better than what the villains claim we are fights injustice. In The Good Place, Michael summarizes humanity by saying that it does not matter if people are good or bad. Rather, what matters is if human beings are trying to be better today than yesterday. In the Dreamworks’ movie, Spies in Disguise, one of the main characters doesn’t see the world as good guys v. bad guys. Instead, the world is filled with people who are each worth saving.
I am volunteering to be the change I wish to see in this world. And, it’s going okay-ish.
At the start of my training session for volunteering for the Biden-Harris campaign, the volunteer captain stated, “Don’t be discouraged. There will be tons and tons of people who don’t want to talk to you.” Personally, I hated hearing that. I am a goddamn delight to speak with. You should be honored.
However, there were many people who sent me straight to voicemail or blatantly told me that they didn’t want to speak to me. My favorite rejection: “Oh, democratic. Bye now!” Classic. Although many were quick to get rid of me, it was the ones who voting that got me excited.
Image management is something I work on everyday. I recently learned that I am thrown “off-center” when my experiences do not always coincide with the images I made for myself. Simply put, I don’t live up to my own self-images. This can cause bad days. However, other factors do contribute to my “off-centerness.” And, when I am off-center, then I have bad days.
As I continue down my path of being a working professional, I realized that my public defender image is very important to me. It’s a large part of my essence. I am terrified of making mistakes and not making the right decisions for my clients. I also struggle with drawing the line between helping my clients and standing up for myself. So, when I believe that someone thinks I am not a good public defender, my mental health can’t take it. My anxiety increases. I don’t meditate, I attempt to distract myself, or my mind focuses too much on the event that pissed me off. I simply forget how to take care of myself because my anxiety overwhelms me.
History was yet again created when Senator Kamala Harris debated Vice President Mike Pence. I mistakenly watched some pre-debate predictions where one person said that “Senator Harris needed to act more empathetic if she was going to win.” Annoyed, frustrated, and saddened after hearing that comment, I video chatted with one of my dear friends to watch the debate and lift my spirits. We enjoyed watching Senator Harris criticize the current administration and speaking directly to the people.
Women, particularly women of color, never get the luxury of being themselves, especially when in the public eye. If Senator Harris showed empathy, then she would be called weak or faking that emotion. If she didn’t hold back her punches, then she’s the angry Black woman. Every word she said, every facial expression she made, and every gesture she made was scrutinized more than Vice President Pence.
I wish I was less political. I wish I could say, “I stopped watching the news because it makes me sad.” I wish I could say, “I do my civic duty by voting but that’s it.” I wish I could wake up every morning thinking the bare minimum was enough.
I wish I was less political. I wish I could act like I was smarter than both parties. I wish I could tell people it’s their fault for having faith in the democratic process. I wish I could villainize people for their mistakes or call “career politicians” evil.
I wish I was less political. I wish I could act as though an unbalanced Supreme Court would not affect me or the rights of so many. I wish I could wake up every morning knowing that my government won’t make laws telling me what I could do with my body, who I couldn’t marry, and if I could get health care. I wish I didn’t care about immigration and equal representation. I wish I could be so blissfully ignorant to all of it because it does affect me.
When I saw the trailer for The Devil All the Time, I didn’t connect with the story at all. With the current political climate, I had no interest in watching a film about a white family in 1965 living in small rural white towns. I quickly apologized to my love, Tom Holland, then moved on to watch other movie trailers. However, a few days later, I watched the trailer again and discovered an opportunity! I could finally analyze toxic masculinity – something I haven’t done since my Gender and Film class in college. With that in mind, I was prepared to watch my Spidy-boy take on our new gothic Batman, Robert Pattinson.
I will not pretend that I am an expert on mental health. Also, I will not simply show symbolic support for suicide prevention. Other than researching, there is only a few things I can do. One of them is sharing my own experience with a suicidal thought.
While preparing for my move across the country to start my job, it seemed as though everyone had an opinion on the decision I made. Those closest to me would ask me how I would handle certain challenges. I explained to them my solutions, but my solutions weren’t good enough for them. When asked again, I tried a new answer: I’ll keep that in mind. However, that also wasn’t good enough. They continuously harassed me with nit-picky questions and concerns at any given opportunity. No matter how research I did or responsibility I demonstrated, it was never good enough. I asked them to stop asking me these questions as it caused me a lot of mental stress, but they told me to change my perception. They claimed that I needed to change my attitude.
I drive by a confederate flag every day. When I take my dogs to the park, drive to work, visit my friends, or even go grocery shopping, that flag assaults my eyes. Some days, it’s blowing in the wind proudly. Other days, it hides cowardly behind the American flag. However, the feeling of seeing it is always the same: numbness.
Young-Nikki would have ignored it. Teenage-Nikki would have been scared of it. College-Nikki would have burned it to the ground. Law-school-Nikki would have given a passionate speech about intersectionality. However, this Nikki, the beautiful public defender, struggles to find the right action for that flag.
Because, casting a vote isn’t a transaction. You cannot expect all your problems to be fixed by one vote, then not be involved.
As a South Asian American Public Defender, I am voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in this election. My vote isn’t to get Donald Trump out of the office or a compromise I am making. Also, it is not me “playing a game to change the system by using the system.” My vote means something more than those feelings. Rather, my vote means that I will be more involved with my government.
I understand that as a current public defender that I am not supposed to like Senator Kamala Harris and openly criticize Vice President Joe Biden’s time as a public defender. But, I am not going to. My generation may be known for many things, however, most notable is the creation of cancel culture. Yes, we are dealing with the consequences of the Baby Boomer generation’s decision. Yet, I am not here to villainize them for their ignorance and mistakes. I urge Gen Z to be better than my generation when it comes to giving people chances because quick judgment can lead to severe collateral consequences.