I Wanted Columbia So Bad, I Didn’t Have a Plan B.

At Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 8.08.44 PMthe start of 2015, I lined up all my ducks in a row, knowing I wanted this year to be better. I am a nut, I read my horoscopes, I am into astrology, I think manifesting and belief is power, and most importantly I meditate. These habits throughout the years have fluctuated, but I definitely have faith in them. 2014 was an interesting year for me, I started it out working on one of the most demanding projects of my young career with Vice NEWS and finally returned to the United States permanently. I also, if you know me, went through a divorce. The magnitude of the changes in my life at first was very overwhelming.

Divorce is the hardest decision I have ever made, I broke my heart and my ex-wife’s because I knew there was something better for the both of us. The emotions you feel can be debilitating, it was extremely hard some days to wake up and even get out of bed, but every morning that I forced myself to function made me stronger and more confident. Coming back to the U.S. I had a plan, I wanted to become the person I know I am and that I am supposed to be. For many, the fear of losing what you have and the unknown would stop a person from turning their life totally upside down just to have to rebuild it over again, but when you feel in your heart with utmost passion and belief that your existence is valuable and there is a greater purpose, you make that decision.

I was now divorced, broke, a freelancer who lost most his network, back at my parents home, and not sure where to go in life. So I started with the basics, I started a committed routine of exercise and meditation. I knew if I healed my body, my mind, and my soul, that I could start to feel some ownership over what felt like a big storm. It was the best thing I could have ever done in my life. I learned to treat my body like the beautiful temple that it is and I reconnected myself with my mind. I found all the abundance I thought was missing was right in front of me. My heart and soul grew with gratefulness for the simple things. I quickly regained my confidence and decided to do something that had intimidated me for years, apply for graduate school.

I have always believed in two things about myself, but they were not always in sync. First, that I am an awfully hard worker and second, I get what I want. I guess at times I find myself to have a lot of audacity. When it came time to apply for graduate school, I had planted the seeds years before. I already knew my choice, Columbia School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City, the top school in the world for my profession. Years ago I had flirted with the idea visiting the campus and befriending many Columbia J-School students and alumni, but at the time the shitty rationalizing part of my brain told me I wasn’t good enough. I was convinced that my degree from Cal Poly Pomona and the work I had done was not up to par with Columbia’s standards. But, when the shit hits the fan you dig deep and go after what you want.

I started the process of applying for graduate school in September. I decided that I would also consider UC Berkeley School of Journalism, you know just in case… I visited Berkeley’s info sessions, popped up randomly to see the staff, and really get a feel for the school, but those visits left me feeling empty. See I had left my heart in NYC and I knew I wanted to be at only one school, the catch was that the school just needed to want me back. So when November came, I did my applications for Berkeley, but the energy was not positive, very toxic actually. I had too many minds telling me how to write my essays, what work I should submit, and how I should really focus on going to Berkeley because of my chances of getting to Columbia seemed slim.

I wanted Columbia so bad, I didn’t have a plan B.

Luckily, Columbia’s application due date was Dec. 15th, just enough time for me to center myself and make the application a fluid and satisfying process. I collected the work samples I was proud of, letters of recommendations from those I trusted and had seen me in my best light, and I wrote three essays, that may or may not be brilliant, but were my voice. I submitted the application and began manifesting my life in NYC. I would wake up most mornings and head to the famous Runyeon Park in Los Angeles, run till I felt sick and then meditate. I reminded myself every day of all the beauty in my life and how powerful each one of us truly is. I would show gratefulness to the universe for giving me confidence, composure, and the audacity to want something amazing. I believed, like all of us should, that I deserved this.

Relentlessly, I thought about NYC and Columbia J-School, so much that I believed I was going to be there no matter what. I had no choice, remember there was no plan B. See I didn’t want to attend Berkeley, but I considered it a litmus test and it also triggered many people around me saying I should start planning for the worst. Well, I maintained my “no mind” philosophy, which I adopted from the great movie “The Last Samurai,” and didn’t listen. I was determined to be at Columbia, so I continued doing what had brought me this far, I believed.

Sure enough, a few weeks later I received my admittance letter to Columbia Journalism School. Booyah!

Listen, 6 years ago I was working in an industry I did not like, no college education, and my future felt bleak. Over the course of those 6 years, I married a beautiful woman who changed my life forever, she gave me a new way to look at the world and helped me find my passion. I finished college and quickly entered into a profession that is aligned with my existence. Our marriage didn’t work out, but I do not think of it as a failure, it was a success. We both grew immensely personally and professionally and I believe became better individuals because of it. I thank her for that.

As I gear up to make my move to NYC to start J-School for the fall I want to express my gratefulness to everyone who has touched my life, whether negative or positive. I have learned so much about my existence this last year and that we are beautiful creations always evolving. I am impressed with the resilience of the soul, that even in times of pain and despair that we can still nurture ourselves and blossom. I give my love and thanks to you all from the deepness of my heart. Hello New York City! To all of you, visit me!

By: Adnan Khan

Instagram: @khancious

Twitter: @AdnanKhancious

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Authenticity

When President Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 as the first biracial president of the United States, a major topic of discussion was his race.

Obama is half White American and half African.  The discussion on his identity emerged from both White and Black communities. Mind you, this individual was running for the most powerful position in the world, President of the United States of America, and because of his race,  the public dissected him. This topic really stuck with me.

Some White pundits tolerated Obama’s mixed identity enough to give him their approval. Other White pundits fixated on his African side; President Obama’s father was an immigrant from Kenya, which made him that much more “un-American.” I won’t even step into the birther argument.

Then you had the Black community of America. Yes, President Obama symbolizes that a Black man can become president of the United States of America. But there was another argument.

There were many conversations, even among my circles that Obama wasn’t really Black or Black enough. He was educated at the best schools, spoke English sophisticatedly, and his mother was White.

I saw this; a fellow biracial individual could not catch a break. He was being assessed on his authenticity. Whether it was the White community or the Black community, he had to fit the racial construct that both races had built to approve.

If you are biracial like me, then you understand this tightrope you walk on. I applaud those who threw all fears to the wind and defined themselves early on. Others though, including me, don’t always face the judgment of our “people” with grace.

It’s irking when others are looking to categorize or authenticate us all the time. 

I do not look like a white American, dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. Yet I don’t look much like a Bangladeshi. Shit, I have been mistaken as Latino, Arab, Native American, and every other flavor of brown. Every now and then you have someone who is a little sharp and they ask if I have some Indian or Pakistani in me. 

Whether it is the White or South Asian communities, I always feel an obligation to prove that I can hang.

With the White Americans, I have my “I’m American as apple pie” spiel. It goes like this, “I was born in Worcester Mass, my mothers a French Canadian Heinz 57 grew up in Gardener Mass, and I love the Red Sox!” That tends to get me by a bit, cause I have a little remnant of my Bostonian accent in speech and I really do love the Red Sox.

Yes, I have the ability to be authenticated, or have I? The brown skin does require a second glance.

I am not White.

 In America when you meet someone for the first time, the first question you get is: How is the weather?

With my Bangladeshi counterparts it is works a little bit different. When you meet a Bangladeshi the first question that comes to mind is: “Where are you from?”

This is a deep question. So you always have a lot to talk about.

Genius.

For me my answer goes like this, “Well my father, he is Bangladeshi, he is from Rajshahi, and well, my mother, she is White American.” Most of the time, I see a look of disappointment and confusion.  Instantly, the second question arises, “Do you speak Bangla.” And I answer, “No.”

Eyebrows rise with disgust; I have not met their standards.

I am not Bangladeshi.

Since I was a child, I had people from both communities categorize my identity(s). Their answers are still consistent today in my adult life. I have had whites tell me to stick with “my kind” because of my dark skin. The Bangladeshis and South Asians say I act too white and that I should lean towards that side.

No one wants me.

Yet, there are the “compassionate” ones who want to fix this coconut (that is a person who looks brown on the outside but acts white on the inside). I’m also told I am an ABCD (American Born Confused Deshi).

Well okay, but now you dismissed that I am mixed.

It is complicated, or is it? 

Before I move to Bangladesh at the beginning of this year, I had made not only an identity declaration, but also a spiritual declaration.  I am not anything. I exist and I am human.

The world is fixated on race and ethnicity.

How can I search within myself for the attributes or characteristics, give them variables, organize them and then calculate a number that qualifies me into the two categories. Is it as black and white as 50% White American and 50% Bangladeshi?

Technically speaking my mother has a variety of European ancestry, hence the label a Heinz 57. My father is Bangladeshi, but there is Pathan (people of eastern Afghanistan) and Iraqi in his blood. There is no clear definition of their identity either.

I do not know the inner dialogue that takes place in President Obama’s mind. For the United States, he is the best of both worlds– a hybrid. Racism is still very alive, but he symbolizes so much more. He is evidence that two worlds can come together through love and produce life. He is a dream come true to minorities that the most powerful position in the world can be reached. 

To me he authenticated himself in his own way.

From him I learned I really do not owe it to anybody to be anything. I owe it to myself to be me. That is authentic. You know what you get, 100% me.

I just BE.