Young person behind leaves

BEEN THERE: NAVIGATING IDENTITY


TINA

I am open with everyone about being a born and raised Brazilian, but it’s not something that everyone realizes right away — me being white, having an anglicized nickname, and an almost perfect American accent definitely “disguise” me. It comes with both privilege and erasure. Sometimes I’m caught having to prove parts of my identity because they don’t fit within people’s expectations. It doesn’t always feel worth it to fully call out a microaggression like “Your English is so good!” when the person is otherwise well-meaning. But I’ve tried to be upfront about it and say something like, “Yeah, it is,” and let them figure out on their own that it’s an awkward thing to say.


HEDIYA

As a as a first-generation Iranian-American female Shia Muslim, there are so many labels tied to my identity that are sometimes a burden to embrace, given the socio-political climate we live in today. Growing up, I sometimes felt like hiding parts of myself, fearful of the hatred that exists and the constant need to defend the different parts. Over time, I’ve learned that the labels don’t dictate who I am and I needed to destroy every stereotypical box I’ve been placed in. I’ve started to fully embrace who I am as a person by openly sharing every part of myself in the way I define it and not by others’ expectations and being mindful that we all come in different shapes and forms. It is the diversity of the human experience that enables us to understand who we are, how we live, and why we do what we do.


JULIA

I’m a naturalized Chinese-American. I was born in China and moved to NYC when I was 7, so while I connect with many American-born Chinese Americans, my early years give me an expanded perspective and it’s something that makes me feel grateful to be a citizen of a country that values human rights (even though they are being currently assailed). Growing up, I either felt too Asian or not Asian enough, depending on which room I was in. Before and even during parts of college, I didn’t prioritize understanding my own culture very much but it’s now something I’m actively working on.

Plant against white background

BEEN THERE: SPRING RENEWAL


HEDIYA

The Persian New Year (Nowruz) falls on the first day of Spring and it’s a tradition in our culture to do extensive spring cleaning, buy flowers for your home, and visit family members. This year, I plan to buy new plants and move into my new apartment at the end of the March as a symbol to rid past clutter and start the new year fresh.


JULIA

I’m applying the Marie Kondo method to my life… in a loosely interpreted manner. Spring cleaning and organization will be a part of it, but why stop there? I will be evaluating everything in my life — habits, thoughts, even people — to see what really sparks joy in order to understand what I need more of and what I need to dial down on.


TINA

My lease ends in April and I’ll be moving apartments, so spring cleaning will be even more necessary to me this year. The last time I moved, I was in a massive hurry, so I packed everything up without giving much thought to all the clutter I was bringing with me. I’m excited to take some time to really look at everything I own and figure out if it’s adding value to my life.

Person touching leaves in a fog

BEEN THERE: WINTER SKINCARE


TINA

Take advantage of NYC’s amazing tap water and hydrate! I make sure to drink at least 50 oz of water every day. In the winter, chapped lips are the bane of my existence and regular chapstick never cuts it — so I’ve turned to lanolin ointments, which help moisturize better than the average petroleum jelly products. I find that they last longer because I don’t need to reapply as much, making them cheaper in the long run.


HEDIYA

I try to go for more natural products and to stay cost-effective. I like to use tea tea oil to manage breakouts and coconut oil as a make-up remover. I also recently found that using natural lime juice one to two times a week helped with my acne scars.


JULIA

My skin is really reflective of my general health, so I try to take vitamins and probiotics daily, eat a healthy diet, and get 7+ hours of sleep. But on the nights where I want to eat a whole pizza and stay out until 3 a.m., my secret is the Laneige Water Mask. Believe me, it hides your sins and makes your face glow.


ADMERA

After any exhausting day, my skin looks as dull as I feel. I like to cook, so I started making my own masks. For a fast revival, I make a mask with one tablespoon of tumeric, half a tablespoon of honey and half a tablespoon of milk (or yogurt for extra supple skin). After 20 minutes, the liquid gold hydrates my skin and leaves me with a sun-kissed glow.


LI LU

For anyone who regularly shaves their face, I recommend more gentle face products. Our jaw area tends to be more sensitive due to shaving so nonirritating products are essential. I recommend Dirty Shaving Cream from Lush and the CeraVe SPF 30 daily moisturizer.

Couch with pillows

BEEN THERE: COPING WITH HOMESICKNESS


Jojo brings all her closest friends together for dinner to mimic large family meals she enjoyed with her aunties and uncles growing up. She also sets time aside to FaceTime her mom and texts her stepdad for advice, whether or not she actually needs it.


Julia grew up in NYC and most of her family is just a train ride away, but many of her close childhood friends now live around the world. Frequent FaceTimes, handwritten cards, and care packages for special life occasions are her secrets to staying in touch and sending love from afar.


Tina hasn’t been able to visit her home in Brazil in over two years. In between FaceTimes and WhatsApp video calls, she deals with the longing through media — listening to Brazilian music and singing along, or looking up the latest memes about national news. A warm bowl of feijoada doesn’t hurt either.


Having Persian tea after dinner with her family is Hediya’s fondest memory growing up. She continues this ritual by hosting Persian tea nights with people who make up different parts of her life in NYC, whether they are old roommates, friends, or colleagues. Hediya finds a feeling of connectedness and warmth she enjoyed with her parents growing up.


Admera probably has more than 150 people in her family. When she feels the pangs of homesickness, she turns on some classic Bollywood music and cooks a spicy lamb kofta curry. Every time she cooks that dish, she sends a picture of the finished product to her family Whatsapp group.

Collage of TV shows

BEEN THERE: COUCH GETAWAYS


Julia loves to escape to the witching hour through Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. You don’t have to be a fan of the original to enjoy the remake. It’s a fresh twist on a coming-of-age story, featuring a fierce female lead, contemporary social issues, dark humor, and of course, a dose of good old-fashioned magic.


Hediya dreams to live in the 1950s, and even though that won’t be happening anytime soon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime is a great escape to NYC in that time period with the classic music, costumes, and set. Plus, it’s super funny if you need a good kick.


Jojo’s making her way through Narcos: Mexico after enjoying all the twists and turns in Narcos, both on Netflix. This season illustrated how interconnected the drug trade between product and countries are, and told the story of a lesser known drug lord, who, by the way, is still alive today! And, if these based-on-real-events don’t make you appreciate being layered up on the couch in an under heated NYC apartment, nothing will.


Admera’s love for mysteries never goes unnoticed. She lives the spy life vicariously through Sandra Oh, lead actress of BBC’s Killing Eve and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy veteran. Eve and Villanelle take the streets of London as the millennial Joker and Batman. You’ll be at the edge of your seat or wherever you like to tune in.


Tina loves Brooklyn Nine-Nine (on Hulu and NBC) for showing a New York that’s a lot sillier (and frankly, nicer) than the real deal. If only everyone in Brooklyn were this wholesome, she’d have a better time commuting to work. Fun fact: you can find the 99’s building by 6th Ave and Bergen Street, where the real life 78th Precinct operates.

Notebook and pencil on a table

BEEN THERE: OUR NY RESOLUTIONS


Julia’s New Year’s resolution is to put herself first by starting therapy again to upkeep her mental health, practicing open communication and setting boundaries for her emotional health, and going to the gym consistently to stay physically healthy. She leads a busy life and has spent much of 2018 neglecting her own health to keep up with commitments. This year, Julia believes focusing on her holistic health will give her the foundation to thrive in every other arena of her life.


“What would a white man do?” Last year, Jojo found herself constantly waiting for the right time to ask questions, questioning her capability among her coworkers, and tip-toeing around tough subjects. This year, Jojo will approach every area in which she has self-doubt with the certainty and confidence of a white man.


Tina is tackling 2019 in three fronts: improving her body, her mind, and investing in her future. She’s breaking down these big goals into smaller buckets of tangible tasks — going to the gym four times a week, journaling every day, working on grad school applications, and so on.


Admera loved the rush she got from being spontaneous. However, she realized that making decisions too quickly often leads to disastrous consequences. This year, she will introduce balance into her lifestyle by stepping back from a situation before making a decision.


Hediya is giving herself the permission to let present moments lead the way. She spent the past year focused on planning for the future but found gratitude when she slowed down. She wants to continue focusing on the NOW and let the future unfold as it wishes.

Gift Collage

BEEN THERE: OFFICE HOLIDAY GIFTS


Since Admera and her manager are always Slacking each other about the latest trends in beauty, she decided to buy a makeup set from Bluemercury, tailored for her personality.


Tina’s office has a running joke about stressing the importance of coasters. When she passed someone selling agate slabs on the street, she didn’t think twice about getting her supervisor one in their favorite color.


Hediya’s manager just got a new puppy, so she bought her a one-month subscription to BarkBox that comes with toys, treats, and chews.


Julia got a former manager a succulent in an insta-worthy pot to brighten up her desk after learning that she had a green thumb. In the card was a note that read: “thank you for helping me grow!”


Jojo’s office is doing a Secret Santa book exchange this year, and, working among a group of powerful and admirable women, she will be gifting “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, a book that touches on ethics, race and class in the scope of women’s health and medical research.