Control your life’s narrative

By Ashvini Malshe, Columnist

It is imperative that you learn how to love yourself. When you’re young, part of this comes from actively being the hero or heroine of your own story. This leads to learning how to stop being the victim of your own oppression and to take control of your life’s narrative.

Recently, I read a Teen Vogue article titled, “Former Women’s Prison Transforming Into Space for Activism.” In the piece, writer Britney McNamara details how a former women’s prison in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, called Bayview Correctional Facility, will be renovated by a group of organizations wanting to confront the harsh realities of misogyny and racism that women of diverse backgrounds experience every day.

Further, they want to call attention to how women under these negative circumstances become victims of the justice system and struggle as a consequence with immense pain and oppression.

Organizations involved, like the NoVo Foundation, want to name the reinvented facility The Women’s Building and, in the words of McNamara, turn it into a “symbol of hope” for women. They want to change the narrative that institutions like this one have represented for decades. This is one step forward in a complicated sequence of positive reinforcements that will take about five years to complete.

But the end result will provide spaces for women to work toward justice and confidence, two things that can be stolen when under the thumb of oppression.

Pamela Shifman, the executive director of the NoVo Foundation, expresses that one motivating factor for this renovation was the current political climate and that renovating the building into a collaborating space for women provides a platform for change.

This intrigued me for one reason: Taking control of your own destiny is to change what you stand for and how you stand for it, just as these organizations are controlling the narrative of the former Bayview Correctional Facility and changing for the it for the better. It is an act of determination.

However, the kind of oppression the women inside of that correctional facility felt isn’t unknown, I think, to most people. Pain is something that people experience all of the time. Yet when you have no escape from the pain, it can be dysphoric.

When it comes to me, my pain is often a consequence of my own naivety. I can’t even count how many times I’ve let myself get dragged into hurtful friend drama and gotten in so deep that escape seems impossible.

This never-ending cycle of pain is not a reality that will bring you any sort of contentment. When you oppress yourself, you’ll be left with agony and confusion; it’ll keep you up at night, exhaust you, starve you and make you restless with nothing but nervous energy.

Nobody deserves to live like that.

So then, how do you escape? Well, you begin to act for yourself. If you truly want to control your life narrative, you must do something radical and difficult; that is, you must begin to love yourself.

What does that mean? It means you live fearlessly; you live for yourself and nobody else and you love deeply without losing yourself.

You must surround yourself with people who lift you up, people who value and respect you as much as you value and respect them. I think people forget that, just like any relationship, friendship is a two-way street. It is symbiotic and it is a choice.

But know that these amazing people are rare and will come to you gradually. You have to put in effort to attract them, though — this is your support system you’re building, after all.

And when it comes to loving yourself, know that it won’t be easy. There will inevitably be days when you hate yourself. But the thing is, loving yourself is a habit you must develop, and it feeds off of the care and compassion you show yourself.

See, if you’re determined to welcome change and love into your life, there’s nothing you cannot do. I mean, The Women’s Building is taking a structure that once housed fear and pain and creating the foundation to inspire generations of women to act for change and justice with issues that matter.

In cases such as these, change often has to start within yourself. Activism, on any scale, is a catalyst for good — a catalyst powered by love. Controlling your story is what makes this happen.

The way transformations like The Women’s Building’s happen is through people who embrace self-love or maintain a personal belief that they deserve better than what is being presented to them. Just like them, if you love yourself, you will be able to embrace the positivity you envision.

Thus, the narrative of life will be yours for the taking.

Ashvini is a senior in LAS. 

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