When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

Before the pandemic, I felt like my life was in full gear and I spent most of my days outside. I had forgotten what it was like to stay indoors. My life revolved around studying, working, and then meeting new people. I did not realize how disconnected I felt from myself before as it was my way of being for the longest time. I was achieving more, going from one fellowship to a degree to another thing. I felt like had everything and nothing at the same time.

The lockdown made me stay indoors for the longest time and pushed me towards this reflective process that I was reluctant to engage in. Slowly and irrevocably, I started immersing myself in my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. I decided to do something meaningful with my time and learned to value it in the lockdown.

I started looking at different projects and fellowships which required fieldwork and will help me immerse myself in the community. I had my eyes on the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship because it fit the bill for everything I wanted to learn, and it seemed like the path that would help me grow as a person on a personal and professional level.

I was fortunate enough to get selected and I was placed in my home city which gave me the opportunity to immerse and get to know the community I am living in more depth. Everything picked up pace during the pandemic and I was slowly learning to embrace this different pace of my lifestyle amidst the pandemic. I was able to engage with my fellows and team during the orientation and I felt my intuition kicking and telling me that these are the people who have their heart in the same place as mine and I would like to connect with them more. The virtual format allowed me to get to know the fellows at a personal level and though it did not compensate for the in-person meetings, it was enough to initiate a connection.

Five people are sitting on a bench outside

India is a country rife with diversity and I was ready to embark on this new adventure. This was something incredible novel for me and I was very intimidated. I was allotted my host location in Delhi, and I worked with tough geography in prisons in Gurgaon. I worked on designing modules that work towards preventing gender-based violence.

I believe it is hard to describe the impact of such experiences in words. I did not anticipate the emotional, mental, physical, and financial toll this work took on me. I never thought that designing a single case study on consent, domestic violence, and sexual violence can make such an impact on me for the rest of the day.

I learned about “co-regulation” which taught me how my emotions and energy impact those around me and how important it is to manage them. I developed empathy for others and most importantly myself by working with vulnerable groups. I understood a need to harmoniously work with others and manage my own feelings and emotional energy around others.

So now at the end of the fellowship, I ask myself “when was the last time I did something for the first time?” What did I learn to do for the first time in my life?

Here is what I would like to tell you: I learned to manage my emotions, to sit with them, to be with them, I understood how my emotions impact others and how it is important for me to communicate them to others and ask for help.

This experience taught me that I do not have to leave my home to do new things. The scope for development was always there and now I have found a way to actualize it.

Shivranjani is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with TYCIA Foundation in Delhi. For her fellowship project, she is designing and implementing a long-term impact monitoring and evaluation strategy to further the organization’s criminal justice reform work. Being a social and cultural psychologist by training, Shivranjani has developed a deep inclination towards several social and contemporary issues that can be researched and solved at an interdisciplinary level. Her passion for applying to the AIF Clinton Fellowship emanated from her personal and professional background. Her experience of working as a counsellor and life skills trainer with young people from different backgrounds has given her insights into the subjective lived realities of youth in India from an intersectional perspective. As a primary component of her Master’s degree in social and cultural psychology, she has lived, worked, and studied in four geographically and culturally distinct countries in Europe and Asia. These experiences have facilitated her process of understanding different migration systems and cultural systems in different countries through a gendered lens and given her a holistic perspective on the work conducted at TYCIA Foundation, her fellowship host organization. She is looking forward to serving as an AIF Clinton Fellow as it will provide her an invaluable opportunity to create a more empathetic, hopeful, and kinder society through action research by strengthening the projects to reduce recidivism and induce integration.

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