Michelle Obama made a timely appearance on my Instagram feed today announcing the release of her biography, Becoming. In her caption she wrote, “…think about your own story and trust that it will help you become whoever you aspire to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
I couldn’t agree more.
My story begins in my first home, South Africa—between Durban (hot and humid, home to my grandparents, my cousins, wicked humor, and quippy retorts), Johannesburg (where high-veld stereo woke me up on the way to school) and Cape Town (home to more cousins, my older brother, Sajeel, and soon enough my niece, Sofia). My parents are doctors, and Sajeel still moonwalks to Billie Jean. I’m a talkaholic, I believe I am a lion, and I am eagerly awaiting the future’s arrival—the future where I am older, wiser, and legally allowed to drive.
We moved to Seattle in 2009 where I lived out my formative years. Sajeel is studying law now, which upholds the trend of professional pursuits in our family. Mom’s getting her Master’s in Public Health, I’ve got my driver’s license and a few bones to pick with the U.S. government. Soon I’ll be in college, and I’ll be studying politi- cal science in Washington, D.C. I’ll discover that turning away from what you love to do, doesn’t serve you well, and I’ll arrive here, Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I transferred to Vassar in my junior year, eager to study and master the craft I’ve loved for as long as I can remember: film. I have been fortunate to have an immense network of friends, family, faculty and staff to embark on this journey with me.
To each of the people who have accompanied me along my way, I am grateful for your time and your energy.
To the Vassar Business Club, for energizing my senior year with spirit and determination, for showing me how to harness ambition and for illuminating my strengths and helping me refine them.
To my co-captains of Vassar Khalj, my fellow captain of the mixed team, Sofía, thank you for your resilience, for your eagerness to enact change against the indelible fixtures of estab- lishments and tradition, for welcoming me to this team with open arms, and for making Vassar
yet another place to call home.
To my peers, my professors, and the staff in
the Film Department, who empowered me, and equipped me with the capacity to articulate a vision and actualize it, who gave me the opportunity to collaborate creatively and crystalize my voice as a storyteller; for sharing your infectious passion.
To my peers and my professors in the Economics department, thank you for your patience, your understanding, for enabling me to reckon with my own irrationality, and for illuminating a subject matter that lies so critically at the heart of the social issues we may endeavor to resolve.
To the staff whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting every day at the Deece, in the Retreat, and in the hallways of Cushing, for greeting me and grounding me in a reality beyond the everyday stresses of a student, for reminding me what all of this is really about. This education endows us not with entitlement, rather a profound responsibility.
To my fellow transfer, visiting and exchange students, my day ones, who traversed the mechanisms of this institution with me, who encouraged me through my first year here, who set the vivacious tone for the year that followed.
To my parents, for instilling in me your curiosity, for imploring me to think bigger, dream bigger, for always believing in me, for teaching me to feel at home in the world, and to stay grounded in the face of uncertainty, for being exemplary figures, poised, and compassionate.
To Vassar, for keeping my mind open, for providing me with the latitude to explore my passion, the resources to satiate my intellectual curiosities, the fortitude to conquer self-doubt and a degree in economics.
I’ve had the privilege of calling one more place home. I’m graduating with a degree in Economics and Film. More importantly, I’m graduating with the capacity to lead effectively, as a friend to tomorrow’s changemakers, entrepreneurs and visionaries. I’m graduating with critical, independent thought at my side, into a world of possibility.
I’ll move on to the next thing. I’ll be in touch with all of you. I’ll remember what you’ve taught me about myself and about living, and I’ll continue to learn more. I’ll continue to create, I’ll innovate, I’ll fail, and I’ll try again.