These are the lessons they teach you:

mispronounce your name

for the sake of their tongues,

lower your voice, soften your tone

for the sake of their ears,

straighten your hair, lighten your skin, for the sake of their eyes,

dilute yourself, shrink yourself

for the sake of their egos.

But you do not belong to them.

Brown girl, you

belong to Monsoon rains,

and the five rivers of Punjab.

To the countless women who came before you;

women who have worn centuries of resistance and resilience

on their spines.

Women who have walked on fire, raised entire generations, started revolutions and crossed borders.

Women carrying stories so powerful that they can swallow you whole.

Women that live within you, unapologetic and unwavering

in their strength.

So next time anyone makes you feel as if you do not belong,

as if you are anything less

than enough, remember–

you are so much more than enough.

You are whole.

You are more than whole.

It’s nothing short of a miracle,

the way that you are

so much greater,

than the sum of

your parts.

-Nivedita Sharma

Nivedita Sharma is a daydreamer, avid tea drinker, aspiring writer, frequent people-watcher, and lover of word, studying in Madison, Wisconsin. She is majoring in biology and psychology, with certificates in gender and women’s studies and global health. Specifically, she is interested in promoting social equity through working on reducing health disparities and focusing on minority and women’s health. Additionally, she strongly believes in the power of sharing and embracing diverse experiences through writing and performance as a method of initiating social change and creating a more inclusive, more beautiful world.