By Aanjalie Collure

This photo was taken of my mother — my Amma — and me in the small, one-bedroom Toronto apartment we lived in when we first immigrated from Sri Lanka. During this time, we were both grappling with what it meant to be new immigrants in our own way: Amma was navigating a difficult job search and figuring out what it meant to be the mother of a child slowly developing a different accent from her own; I was trying to convince racist teachers I didn't need ESL classes and learning to eat spaghetti correctly so I could fit in with friends in my predominantly Italian neighborhood.

However, it wasn't these small predicaments that defined our lives as new immigrants, but our steadfast commitment to stand strong together through it all. Facing the world together became even more important six years later, when a natural disaster struck Sri Lanka and made my small family of three feel more alone and disconnected than ever before.

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Most members of the Sri Lankan diaspora can recall at least one distinct and haunting memory from the moments following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. For most, it’s huddling together with extended relatives in front of the TV, hushing gossiping aunties as news anchors announced an updated death count. For others, it’s sitting at the kitchen table, watching fathers go through calling card after calling card, hoping that one would finally establish a clear connection with family back home. For me, it’s riding home with my face pressed against a frigid car window, feeling utterly betrayed by my favorite late-night radio show, “Lovers and Other Strangers.”

I was 13, and this was no more than three weeks after the tsunami had catapulted Sri Lanka from “Isn’t that in the Caribbean somewhere?” to the lead in every news story. With this newfound recognition, I was convinced that Don Jackson — the sultry-voiced host of “Lovers and Other Strangers” — would dedicate a song to the victims of the tragic natural disaster. He could always select the perfect tune to lift even the dampest of spirits: some Norah Jones for the bitter divorcée who made headlines for setting her ex-husband’s car on fire, or a dose of Phil Collins for the politician who celebrated her 60th anniversary with a high school sweetheart. If these seemingly trivial affairs warranted a shoutout in “Lovers and Other Strangers,” then surely, post-tsunami Sri Lanka deserved one as well.                     

Of course, it didn’t come.     


“Facing the world together became even more important six years later, when a natural disaster struck Sri Lanka and made my small family of three feel more alone and disconnected than ever before.”


Although my reaction to Don Jackson’s ignorance was certainly ridiculous, it was the final blow to a girl who hoped the world would still care about Sri Lanka three weeks after its tsunami dominated the airwaves  It was heartbreaking to witness how quickly Sri Lanka was dropped by every major Canadian news station, replaced by news about Jen and Brad’s historic split. For whatever reason, images of destroyed infrastructure, newly orphaned children and rampant humanitarian corruption in post-tsunami Sri Lanka couldn’t manage to capture the Western world’s attention quite like images of Brennifer’s demise.

Looking back now, this was likely one of the first times I realized that the stories that mattered to me were of ancillary importance to mainstream media and news. I felt invisible, polarized and forgotten.

 My family wasn’t new to these feelings. When we immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1994, we left behind a country that was grappling with one of the most violent civil conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. I remember my father flipping through every possible evening news channel, hoping that at least one could provide additional information about a suicide bombing in one of Sri Lanka’s most populous districts. We were constantly waiting for our nightly news programs to care about attacks against Sri Lankan schools and hospitals, incidents we heard about all too often from relatives back home. As such, it came as no surprise to my parents when these same news channels discarded Sri Lanka from their headlines a mere three weeks after the tsunami hit its shores.

While we recognized the lack of adequate coverage for tragedies unfolding in Sri Lanka, we failed to do anything about it. We didn’t write letters to our local newspapers or urge our politicians to call attention to these atrocities. I didn’t call Don Jackson, demanding he dedicate at least one song to the 250,000 victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami or the 100,000 people who lost their lives during the Sri Lankan civil war.


“I felt invisible, polarized and forgotten.”


We had no excuse. While we spent decades feeling betrayed by the Don Jacksons, Anderson Coopers and Wolf Blitzers of the world, Sri Lankan journalists were risking their lives to try and make the world hear the country’s story.

In 2009, during the height of Sri Lanka’s civil war, my uncle was one of these journalists. While attempting to raise attention to mounting political corruption and violence, he was persistently harassed and followed by military officials. While he thankfully survived after a year in hiding, many other Sri Lankan reporters were arbitrarily jailed, attacked and murdered while the world stood idle.

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As a Global Health Corps fellow in 2014-15, I learned that I too could play a part in leveraging stories that are marginalized and underrepresented in mainstream media and news. I spent my fellowship year as the global communications fellow at IntraHealth International in Washington, D.C., where I worked with advocates from around the world to raise attention to attacks against health workers and facilities in conflict-affected regions. Here, I witnessed the power of strong advocacy and communications firsthand: After our report on recent international attacks was successfully placed in The New York Times, numerous members of U.S. Congress expressed interest in learning more about this issue.

Now, I’m able to help organizations raise the profile of major global health issues to impact policy, practice and funding. What began as a personal conviction — to never again remain complacent in the face of injustice — has transformed into a humbling and fulfilling career.

I’ve waited for years for others to tell the stories I desperately wanted to hear to feel less alone and less disconnected. I’ve waited for top journalists, news anchors and radio hosts to recognize the under-discussed global tragedies that claim far too many lives every day. I may sometimes still feel invisible, polarized and forgotten — but I’ve got my pen in hand, and I’m not waiting anymore.

Aanjalie Collure is a global health and human rights advocate from Toronto, Ontario. She currently works as an associate at Global Health Strategies in New York City and is an alumna of Global Health Corps, a nonprofit organization that supports fellows working for global-health causes.



By Leah Bilquist

Many people say you learn the most about yourself in your 20’s. But as a 20-something, I’ve found that most of the time I am living in a state of panic — fear of where I am headed next.

Right now, at 27, I have everything my 25-year-old self wanted. I live in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Asbury Park, New Jersey, an “up-and-coming town” alive with culture, music and art. I wake up to the sunrise over the ocean, then hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for another hour or two. I spend my days working at a travel agency, where I will eventually train to become an agent. It’s a job I love. I started a travel blog and run a travel Instagram page with more than a thousand followers. I spend my weekends using my “travel swag” discounts, going to places I have never been. I spend this time drinking smoked bourbon at hidden rooftop bars and hiking mountains with the most stunning views. In the Instagram picture you see here, I am swimming under a waterfall in upstate New York.

When I look at that photo, I want to be that girl, and yet I am her. I am having the picture-perfect “carefree” summer adventure. But here’s the thing: Even having everything I always thought I wanted, I am still unfulfilled. I am constantly in a panic. What am I going to do when my lease is up? How long is it going to take for my job to give me a raise? Should I live somewhere new next? I’m going to be thirty in three years — am I old? Am I too adventurous and immature for my age? These thoughts are often nonsensical. But still, they run and run through my mind.


“When I look at that photo, I want to be that girl, and yet I am her.”


Finally, after being on the edge of having a full-blown breakdown, I forced myself to sit down and reflect on the past seven years of my life, trying to figure out this 20-something era everyone talks about.

And here is what I came up with: Being a 20-something is about change. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s good. It’s not a reason to panic.

Thinking back on the past seven years, I noticed that every year I have different people in my life. Who I was at 22 could not be friends with the people in my life at 24. Who I was at 24 could not be in a relationship with the same person I was with at 26.

I look at the 22-year-old version of myself and see how many positive changes I have made since then.

I believe I have now found a version of myself who is so confident that she’s not afraid to be alone — in fact, she actually embraces it. I am strong. I am independent. And today, I only want people in my life who can handle this version of me — the best version. But I will never take the people in my past for granted because they were all a part of my life for a reason. They contributed to my growth.


“I look at the 22-year-old version of myself and see how many positive changes I have made since then.”


Throughout my 20’s, I’ve had changes in mood, changes in mindset, changes in relationships — and still there’s more change to come.

My new dream is to live in Colorado. Alone. I want to be petrified. I want to throw myself into a beautiful mountain state that I have never been to, not knowing anyone at all.

I guess that is my conclusion to this essay — that it is OK to be confident one day and a trainwreck the next. It is alright that one day you want to stay where you are, and the next you want to pick up and move to the other side of the country. It is OK to not know what you want or question that what you want isn’t right for you at all. It’s OK to break down and cry when all of this overwhelms you, because it will.

Embrace these changes because with them you will grow — even if you can’t figure out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together just yet. It is OK to be a 20-something and not have any idea what it’s all supposed to mean.

Leah Bilquist is a New Jersey-based 20-something, travel journalist and travel advisor. She is exploring the country and seeking adventures, while trying to find out where her gypsy soul belongs.



By Sheila Lukwanzi

How challenging it is for me each time I have to narrate my life in Paris. What should I say? What shouldn’t I say? Do I describe the starry glow of the Eiffel Tower at midnight, the long queue at the Louvre to see the painting of Mona Lisa, the magical feel at Disneyland Paris, the onion soup at the Christmas market on the Champs Élysées, the stylish crowds during fashion week, the endless bank holidays in May, the fashion exhibitions, the warm summer strolls at night along the Seine, the designer stores on Avenue Montaigne or the taste of cheese on a hot baguette?

On September 19, 2012, I moved to France at the age of 19 to pursue my fashion studies. Having come from Uganda, a third-world country, almost everything was new to me. I had no relatives or family friends in Paris. I had a cousin who was living in Tours, another French city, but we rarely met up because it was quite far from Paris.

Like Ernest Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  Studying fashion in one of the fashion capitals seems like a fairytale, right?

Well, I thought so too, until I realized that it’s not what we see in the movies. Reality woke me up.

Since I had to go about everything on my own, from understanding the metro map to learning how to choose the perfect boots for winter after a few slides and falls, I grew up quickly.

Everything seemed odd: Why aren’t there any black students in my class? What’s the fuss about taking a baguette home every day? Why do I smell cigarettes on the streets ALL THE TIME? There’s a whole store of perfumes where I get to test whichever I like? Are you kidding me? McDonald’s — Of course I want to try, but how do I say, “I don’t speak French” in French? Ah, what a life.


“Studying fashion in one of the fashion capitals seems like a fairytale, right?”


For me, living in Paris meant hard work and sleepless nights. Did I mention needle pricks (from all of the sewing I was doing in my classes)? Well, that too! I missed home a lot, but I prayed often, and my father kept me going with lots of encouragement from home. He knew I needed that international exposure even before I could realize it.

Having a job after my first year — I was working as a part-time nanny teaching two boys English — helped. I could then foot some of my bills and treat myself on the weekends, but before that, I often got stressed depending entirely on my parents.  

Handling my finances, especially in my first year, was a big challenge. I wasn’t used to the euro. To me, everything was “expensive.” I always estimated the price of an item in Ugandan shillings and thought to myself, There is no way I’m buying this. But I later got used to the system.

Living in France taught me not only about the fashion industry, this experience taught me numerous things about life. I got a clear view of life in both Uganda and France, and of expectations in these two very different “worlds” — learning how to respect others' cultures, values and live peacefully as one. It built my confidence and esteem, and I discovered values I didn't know I had. Having gone there at the last stages of my teen years, the system groomed me and I matured as a European.

I appreciate the fact that I never had any problems with racism or discrimination. Most of the Parisians I met were friendly and helpful. They made my stay there worthwhile. Many people found it hard to pronounce my last name, Lukwanzi, but hey, that made me feel unique.


“I believe if you succeed at home first, the rest of the world will welcome you with open arms.”


So far, I consider living in Paris the prime of my life. I used that opportunity to visit some wonderful European capitals, where I learned about these cities’ arts and origins.

Struggles aside, I enjoyed life in Paris and successfully fulfilled my purpose of being there, eventually graduating with a degree in fashion.

Then, I decided that I was ready to go back home to Uganda.

Believe me, it wasn’t an easy move to make. It’s tough out there, especially for a Muslim black lady trying to make it in an industry like fashion, but I had gotten used to the “Parisian life.”

Still, I have always believed that home is welcoming, and indeed it is — a place you feel most comfortable and loved. I believe if you succeed at home first, the rest of the world will welcome you with open arms.

This is the time for Africa, and the power is in the hands of the youth. What a great opportunity! Currently working as a trend analyst and stylist, and building my career as a fashion designer, I plan on raising the status of the fashion industry — first in Uganda, then in East Africa and later other parts of the world.

If you have had the chance to receive a first-class education in your field of interest, then return home to share it, you will make a big difference. I want to be part of great change. Sometimes I really miss Europe, but home needs me.

To all those students who have returned home to build their careers, thank you for making this decision. You are different, so embrace it. Apply all your skills and serve diligently, give hope and inspire others. With hard work, prayer and patience, let's meet both at home and abroad on our journey to success.

Sheila Lukwanzi returned to Kampala, Uganda, in 2015. She currently works as creative director for LUKWANZI, a fashion brand launched in May 2016, and is also the head designer for Haute Uganda Limited, manufacturers of industrial garments, and corporate and school uniforms.

A version of Sheila’s story originally appeared on Imported From Africa, a site that documents experiences of Africans living around the globe.



By Monica Moser

Lately I’ve been finding myself jealous of nurses.

Jealous of work done with hands; work that has a sense of completion, a clear answer to the question asked of you any time you step out of your dang house: “So, what do you do?” Wanting definitive answers to, “This is what I do, how I do it and why I do it.”

I have newly embarked on my freshman year of life. I have begun “adulting:” a millennial term that seems to be this year’s “bae.” I graduated in May from Belmont University in Nashville with a degree in songwriting and a minor in music business, and am currently splitting my time between co-writes, working part-time in the industry, teaching piano and putting out as much creative content as I can.

It was always really fun to go to my hometown in Texas on breaks and have people ask: “Where do you go again?”

“Belmont it’s in Nashville which is an awesome city ask anyone we have a pretty good basketball team.” (All in one breath.)

Or: “That’s a major?? What do you even do with that?”

Make a lot of money, get married at 23, and never leave Texas! **Said sarcastically** (in my own head of course — I’m not a monster). It’s hard sometimes to relate to people who have a very different view of success. Not that one is better than the other, just quite different.

If you ask anyone my age who majored in something in the liberal arts realm, 98 percent of them would say, “Well I’m doing ______ right now, but I want to be doing ______.” Or “I do ______ for money, but I do what I really want to be doing on the side.”


“At this weird gap in time and age when life is so unstructured, purpose itself seems not only to be the sole thing we have to hold onto, but for the first time in our lives, something we have to create ourselves.”


The thought of having one job I go to every day that allows me to support myself financially and be fulfilled personally simply baffles me. Not because it seems impossible to attain necessarily, but because it seems that it simply may not exist for people like me.

I’m convinced that at this phase of life happiness is based solely on the existence of self-driven purpose. It is something that defies any circumstance, ill feeling or season of doubt. It is the only thing that justifies long hours or too little pay or exhaustion.

When we’re younger, we don’t even have the capacity to understand inner purpose. When we’re a bit older, our purpose is generally clear, and a lot of it revolves around the structure of school, family and friends. In college, this purpose is similar albeit a bit more confusing and weighted. When we’re older, usually with families of our own, that becomes our purpose along with our work. But at this weird gap in time and age when life is so unstructured, purpose itself seems not only to be the sole thing we have to hold onto, but for the first time in our lives, something we have to create ourselves.

What I’m also beginning to learn is that success in an “artsy” field seems to be measured by the extent of one’s willingness to be strategic with his or her creativity — which is completely counterintuitive for creative people. There needs to be a marriage of sorts between two warring talents: the ability to create something meaningful and relevant, and the ability to convince people that they somehow need it.

Music, arts, literature and the like is not a necessity. When you really think about it, we artists/creators are trying to convince others they somehow need a non-necessity that we ourselves have mild to severe discomfort expressing — and even believing — that people need. It’s actually a bit humorous, the hypocrisy of it all.

However, whenever I get lost in this sentiment, I always come back to this C.S. Lewis quote: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

And therein lies the power in what we do. Maybe an artistic creation is not a necessity, but it gives the necessity meaning. It holds a value that defies the logical boundaries of value itself.

So this is where our frustrations seem to stem from:

  1. Our lack of willingness to be strategic with our creativity; or if we are willing, a discomfort with the counterintuitiveness of it all.

  2. Not being able to consistently see the fruits of our efforts, or feel the results of our work with our own hands.

  3. Having to juggle other jobs we don’t feel purpose in to support ourselves that can drain our energy to be as creative as we want and need to be.

So what needs to change for me, for us?

It means we must stop seeing our talents and gifts as hindrances but as motivators. We must stop seeing them as roadblocks but as something that makes the journey worth it.

Yeah, maybe it’s not the highway that only winds ever so slightly, and was just repaved and made flawless a week ago. Maybe it’s the dirt road off the exit that is imperfect and run-down but that ultimately leads to a remarkable destination only you can find.


“We can’t make strategy our work — we must make it only part of our work. That is when we will stop seeing our blessings as burdens and our dreams as fears.”


Every so often I get so annoyed with myself for not being grateful for my innate need to create, for being blessed by God with the feeling that I actually have something to say through creative mediums.

I actually wrote a song about this called “Rider” that I started and finished in two different seasons of my life when I found myself caught up in this feeling.

This is the chorus:

When did my blessings become my burdens?
And when did my dreams become my fears?
When did I become a fighter of the wind
Instead of a rider letting it carry me here?

LOTS of questions, I know, chill out, Monica.

But seriously!

An unencumbered affinity for the desire to create seems to continually fade like the beauty of youth and innocence. It slowly becomes a responsibility more than a source of joy.

In order to be able to make a living as an artist, we must always be thinking of the strategic nature of our work, unfortunately. We just can’t get caught up in it. But we can’t make strategy our work — we must make it only part of our work. That is when we will stop seeing our blessings as burdens and our dreams as fears.

If you were given a desire to write, perform, sing, dance, paint, etc., there’s a reason. It’s so hard to sometimes wish you just didn’t have it, that your desire was for a work that is secure and consistent and tangible, but sometimes God gives us gifts and gut feelings for work that is unstructured, wonderful, frustrating, scary and exciting.

I think at the end of the day, I just want to know that this is all going to be worth it — whether “it” is making a living as an artist, or being impactful in the industry, or making music on the side that influences people in a positive way. It’s like when you were in high school and waiting to be asked to the homecoming dance or to prom — it’s like, I don’t need to know who or when, just the promise that it’s going to happen.

But that’s the cool thing about having faith in a God who wrote your story before you even existed.

We do know that something’s going to happen, we just don’t know what. And isn’t that the fun part?

Monica Moser was born in New York, grew up in Texas, and now calls Nashville home. A recent college graduate, she now splits her time between teaching music, working in the industry, writing and performing, and re-binging on “Gilmore Girls” and “The Office.” She hopes to be instrumental in curating creativity that impacts the world in a positive, comforting, thought-provoking and meaningful way.



From the Editors:


This month I’ve been thinking a lot about success.

I just joined a discussion group here in New York that meets once a week to tackle life’s big questions (it probably sounds weirder than it actually is, I promise), and this week we watched a video about humans’ search for meaning in our lives.

The narrator of the video said there’s an interview he read once that always stuck with him; in it, a “successful” artist was being interviewed and was asked what he’d tell his 18-year-old self.

“I wish I could tell him that once you get to the top, there’s nothing there,” he said. Despite his struggles to become successful in his profession, and his eventual rise to the top of that field, he still wanted more.

That’s kind of a bummer, but it speaks to some broader themes going on in Issue 8.

Monica Moser wrote about the issue of defining success in this issue. Her definition of success as an artist is quite different from the definition others may have in her Texan hometown.

And Leah Bilquist is “successful” at filling her life with travel and adventure, but that doesn’t mean she has all of life’s questions figured out yet.

Sheila Lukwanzi was successfully able to move to Paris to study fashion, and despite the glamor of her life there, she made the difficult decision to pursue a future in her home country, Uganda.

Fortunately, there are some smart people who have come before us who have tried to figure this conundrum out, too.

As our Instagram followers may have seen this week, I loved this interview in GQ with RuPaul Charles, the famous drag performer and creator of his own show. 

He once famously said, “I'd rather have an enema than an Emmy," in response to reporters' questions about his not having won one. In his recent GQ interview, after he DID finally win an Emmy, here's what he had to say: “My rewards system was not based on the status quo, and my goals didn't have to do with everyone in the status quo accepting me. My prize was being able to live freely and to be creative on my own terms."

Whether you’re newly back at school this fall, deep into your career or looking for a new job, let’s lift ourselves up on those words.

Who decides what makes you successful? A successful life is whatever you decide it is.

For some additional inspiration, check out these stories from other women who are defining success according to their own terms, on Man Repeller.

And thanks for reading Issue 8!

Maria (and Marina)



I loved this interview with Food Network personality Alton Brown in the New York Times. I feel like it’s rare for someone to be this real and vulnerable in an interview. Take this excerpt: “Mr. Brown seems to be seeking clarity on matters more internal. ‘I’m not where I thought would be at this point in my life,’ he said, ‘but I’m wiser by a long shot.’ Still, he said, taking another sip of sangria, ‘I don’t really know what I am anymore.’”

I haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but I’m really enjoying the Netflix show “The Get Down.” Is anyone else watching? I love learning more about New York during another era, and from a perspective different from my own.


Sleep is a continual struggle for me, and last week my lack thereof resulted in a pretty debilitating cold. When I have work to finish and friends to see and events to attend and laundry to do, sleep is the first thing I cut. What's six hours of rest instead of the recommended eight? But unwinding with friends at happy hour and making sure I have clean clothes to wear — now those are musts. Yet research shows sleep is actually paramount (#TheSleepRevolution). I know I need a bedtime. I'm working on it. So any tips on prioritizing sleep would be much appreciated!

My favorite YouTuber, Christine Nguyen (who I was introduced to on one of my fav podcasts, the Ladycast), is currently doing a content flush and posting a new video just about every day. So that is what I have been watching. I am fairly new to the world of YouTubers (I'm fascinated by people's everyday routines, current obsessions, etc., so vlogs and hauls and tours are my dreams come true), but I already appreciate Christine's particular style. She's chill and open — nothing about her or her videos feels overdone.