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Sania Ahmad: How Passion Fosters Change

They say that sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. Through the course of our lives, we all discover parts of ourselves that we probably never knew existed. During the pandemic, especially, a lot of us learned new skills, recognized interest in different hobbies, and all in all, got to know ourselves a […]

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They say that sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. Through the course of our lives, we all discover parts of ourselves that we probably never knew existed. During the pandemic, especially, a lot of us learned new skills, recognized interest in different hobbies, and all in all, got to know ourselves a little better. I was one of those people. The pandemic started a little more than a year ago and it’s weird to think that I was a completely different person back then. I was a lost, unmotivated, and anxious teenager. When lockdown first started, I found ambition within me and decided to start building my credentials to pursue business. However, at the end of each day I knew that something was always missing.

I had always had a passion for art and contributed to some sort of artistic hobby, whether it was crafting, drawing, whatnot, for almost half my life. As the years went by, however, I found myself straying away from art due to the vicious waves of life that came with the excuses of time, energy, and success. When high school hit, I started to get told that art would never make a living and that I should focus on more “professional” fields to reach financial stability and success. I knew that. I never even thought about becoming a full-time artist; I was aware that I wasn’t uniquely talented nor was I willing to take that big of risk. I was always interested in pursuing something business-related and whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always mumble, “corporate lawyer”. At the same time, I wanted to make time for my hobby as well. I didn’t want to lose what I loved. But, I did. After freshman year of high school, I would go months without making time for what I loved. Sure, I took art classes. However, it’s not the same because the work for the classes was for a grade and they gave me more stress than anything. 

Other than art, I also had a deep interest in entrepreneurship embedded in me. My parents did real estate and had a small business as a side hustle, and so I was always exposed to management, marketing, investments, and all those things that would typically make a six-year-old release a yawn talking about. However, I was always drawn in. My mom would often be the manager and the “brains” of the initiatives, and watching her be a strong woman and #girlboss really shaped my vision of wanting to become an entrepreneur. Thanks to her, I never really considered that my sex could ever hold me back from doing what I loved. However, I knew that lack of time and expertise could and I let them.

Sophomore year was the year everything started caving in. The past year’s experiences started haunting me and my anxiety took a turn for the worse. I would spend my days busy without even an hour to spare, because I felt like overworking myself would get rid of my racing thoughts. When I would look in the mirror, I would see a stranger staring back at me. I had completely lost myself. This toxicity went on for many months, until finally, the pandemic hit in Spring of my sophomore year. At first, I was bored out of my mind and spent all of lockdown in complete and utter sadness. A few months in, and things started getting brighter. I started applying to volunteer virtually at non-profits, because I assumed it would make me feel less unproductive, and stumbled upon a bunch of youth-led organizations. Fascinated, I kept scrolling through them and found out that some of the founders were even younger than me. You would think that would make someone feel bad about themselves, but that sparked a motivation in me and it felt like all the puzzle pieces fit. One worthy thing to note is that I’m a very impulsive person so right after I felt that hint of ambition, I contacted my friends and told them about starting an organization. They seemed a little skeptical at first and told me to let the idea marinate in the mind first; however, I urged that I was serious and willing to commit. A week later, we launched Revive

Believe it or not, our first topic of choice wasn’t mental health. It was breast cancer awareness. At the time, looking good on resumes and getting the personal gain from starting an initiative drew me in more than actually fighting for something. As I mentioned earlier, I was only looking into building my business credentials. I knew cancer was awful, as anyone should know, but it wasn’t relatable to me. Mental health, on the other hand, was. It’s a vague and much-discussed topic; however, I was still willing to go for it. Mental health is something that a lot of us silently struggle with, but can’t reach out to anyone because of the stigma. I was also a victim of the stigma, I realized, and that’s probably why I could never even accept my own worsening anxiety. Once you actually start believing in the cause you’re fighting for, everything gets so much easier. 

I’m not even going to try to sugarcoat it — operations were messy. I dove in with confidence then reached the surface, slowly running out of breath. The main problem then was that we weren’t organized and I soon came to learn that running an organization, business, whatnot is not at all as easy as it sounds. It took Revive three rebrandings to reach satisfaction and actually get work done. And when I say rebrandings, I mean rebrandings. We started out as a small community organization with a goal to raise money to send to bigger, charitable mental health non-profits. After we realized that wasn’t smart, because people could just directly send their donations in and we were ultimately useless, we decided to become a virtual, nation-wide organization that focused on collaborating with other organizations to host events. Sounded great and we were successful, butttt we were also youth-led, meaning high-schoolers and early college students. It was difficult to make time to plan and organize two events a month, therefore we reached rebranding attempt number three. And just like everyone says — the third time’s the charm. We took this rebranding really seriously; changed the color scheme, flipped operations, became global, added more platforms, got a bigger team, and instantly got 60+ interviews in, 100+ researched posts, and our website was getting almost a hundred views daily. 

Obviously, those are only numbers and mere numbers don’t dictate your success. Growing up, I always associated success with a full bank account and a loving family. I’m only sixteen right now and whenever I bring up the word “success”, I typically get glares that silently yell, “What do you know about success? You haven’t even hit the workforce full-time yet.” You’re right. I haven’t. However, I still feel successful. Why? Because in the midst of it all, I opened up my sketchbook and found love in the pages once again. The creative expression I once ran away from has now become my form of advocacy. My dream of becoming an entrepreneur has come true. So true, in fact, that I recently even launched my little side hustle called ReverieNMuse, a sole proprietorship dedicated to creating graphics and illustrations to cover the branding needs of small businesses and nonprofits. I had paused doing everything I loved for a long time, but once I started Revive, I clicked resume without even knowing it. In my eyes, I’m more successful than I’ve ever been before. Sure, I still have anxiety. Sure, I’m still not settled in and my work-life has barely started. Sure, I may have a lot more learning and maturing to do. However, as long as I accept who I really am, I know that success will always trail along. 

If my story taught me anything, it’s that doing what you love will become your medium of fostering change. I’ve always had an interest for art, entrepreneurship, business, and advocating for mental health awareness and the reduction of the stigma. I managed to tie all my passions together when coming up with the basis around Revive and ended up making it my personal brand. 

They say that sometimes to find yourself you need to lose yourself. At a point in our lives, a lot of us have a clear path, yet we still feel lost. If someone has ever told you that your passion can’t make you a living — they’re wrong. Sure, many passions may not shine directly with the current market demands and that may just be a consequence of capitalism that we have to accept. However, in whatever you choose to do, your ambitions will always come in handy. You can try running away from your passion all you want, but it’s in you, and you can’t run away from yourself.

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