Systems always fail me.
As a neurodivergent individual and executive dysfunction, I thrive off having systems and structures in
Yet – because of all my intersecting identities, the systems and structures in place, just don’t work for me.
I’ve spent my life questioning, breaking, disrupting, resisting, brainstorming, prototyping, designing,
and creating structures for every aspect of my life to serve my brain.
I now rely on creating and recreating my internal systems: adaptable, fluid, and ever-changing,
evolving with me with the support of the people in my life. This has been a practice for self-preservation,
and a response to the world’s inadequacy in sustaining me. I have found meaning within my reality
through connections, community, and critical thought.
However, this journey has taken me three decades to cultivate. As a child, life was different.
If I tell you my parents were unaware of my neurodivergent brain – often resorting to anger at my inability
to create a schedule for myself or asking them last minute for help with school projects – you will ask
about my background, my birthplace, and my parents’ skin color.
If I say my parents were forceful in impacting the way I lived, cultivating my values and wanting me to
adhere to their norms, you would likely ask about my religion, my culture, and my ethnicity.
Narrating stories of being told what to wear, and what not to wear – you will call it abusive behavior and
suggest I cut ties with them.
But what if I also tell you about my father, who drove me to numerous stationery stores late at night to find
supplies for my school project, or my mother who stayed up helping me craft a basketball field out of
Or about the time she stayed awake for 48 hours, placing wet towels on my forehead during a severe
fever, while my father, juggling two jobs, cried and prayed all night?
Will you see my mom’s culture and the God my father prayed to then?
I have many stories of izzat, sexual violence, displacement, and complex trauma, but more than that, I
have stories of community, healing, and resistance.
Whether it was my nani, bedridden from a stroke, trying to stand upon seeing me cry from anxiety, or my
dadi who simply embraced me when I confronted my uncle about his sexist comment – I have witnessed
resistance, resilience, and care.
In my 20s, as I strove to create a life on my own terms, I often found myself distraught by the outside
world’s perceptions of my background. The developed world’s structures, lauded for their organization
and discipline, have repeatedly failed me.
They have been rigid, unyielding, inaccessible, and unreliable.
In classrooms where I needed accommodations for managing deadlines, I faced the arduous task of
navigating office after office to prove my disability.
I endured lectures riddled with stereotypes associated with my religion, ethnicity, history, or culture.
I witnessed the unwillingness and inefficiency of the school’s administration to address sexual violence on
campus, often shifting blame, even as case after case emerged.
Yet, when systems have failed me, people have always been there.
My community has been there, even when their ways of understanding reality have hurt me.
By telling me to ostracize my community, to villainize them, and to hold them responsible for all that has happened in my life, these systems have only caused more injustice.
Systems always fail me – but I, stubborn as ever, continue to rebuild them, with my people, and for my people.