My Life in Books: Nirvanna Lildharrie
7 min read
We are delighted to welcome the extremely talented Nirvanna Lildharrie for the latest in our My Life in Books series. We asked Nirvanna to describe three books that have had a major impact on her life.
Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg
When I attended college in the early 2010’s, I had a very misconstrued view on feminism. Like many, I was also under the impression that feminists were people who hated men and burned bras. Then through my Sociology major, I took classes about race, the media, and, of course, gender. I learned that the distribution of power in a society is completely arbitrary. And once I saw the inequality, I could not unsee it.
While all this was happening, my seven female cousins on my dad’s side were all working to empower each other. We started a book club and the first book we wanted to read was “Lean In.” Lean In helped reinforce what I was beginning to understand about women in society. It spoke about how the higher you climb in the corporate ladder, the fewer the women there are. In the book, Sandberg highlighted the systematic structures that prevent women from gaining positions of power.
People who have not read the book will criticize it as anti-housewife, which is not the case. Sandberg invites women who’d prefer to lean in at work to do so guilt-free, and for men to lean in at home. This balances gender in the private and public spheres. Doing so would allow for the world to have better access to the best talent, rather than the best male talent alone.
I read this book during my senior year of college, right before entering the workforce. Throughout my career thus far, Sandberg’s words have encouraged me to “have a seat at the table” at meetings. She popularized the term “imposter syndrome." Being able to identify those feelings of self-doubt have made them easier to overcome.
I’ve also seen the world change since this book came out.
In college, a meme of my face went viral with the caption “Gender is a social construct.” The joke was that Tufts kids said complicated academic stuff that no one understood. Since graduating, I've heard the phrase used more and more. I’ve also seen feminism become more mainstream in the media. Movies, shows, and books now have complex female characters. Lingerie companies make their products for women’s comfort and confidence first. The #MeToo movement publicizes sexual abuse and harassment committed by men.
I’m happy to say I tried to reread “Lean In” recently and it felt outdated. While there’s still much progress to make, the world entered a new era for women right around the time that I became one.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo
People think this book is about giving away all your belongings. I love this book because it taught me about what I should keep.
In the KonMari method, you take out all your things within a single category like clothing or books. Then you hold each item one-by-one and notice the instant implicit response the item gives you. What she tells you to look for is what “sparks joy.” She compares this feeling to what you may feel when you see a puppy (love, perhaps?).
I’ve heard some people say that they don’t feel attachment to things. i.e. When they pick up a pair of pants, their gut doesn’t guide them in any specific direction. To those people, I’d say: Listen closer. It’s not about the thing itself; this method is all about you. It’s about recognizing how you feel about something. It’s about asking yourself what you want and realizing that you already have all the answers you’re looking for.
This book helped me take cognizance of what I want. It helped me slow down before I buy something new. I now put more consideration into what I want to bring into my home. This has helped me transform my home into a real haven that warms me with gratitude every single day. The positive energy of my home is what keeps me going on the hardest of days.
The other major concept it taught me was how to let things go.
When you’re using the KonMari method, if an object no longer sparks joy, it can still be difficult to part with it. Kondo’s advice is to thank the object before discarding or donating it. I can’t tell you how many times I now say thank you before I throw something out. Once you get the hang of it, this method translates well beyond physical objects. You can assess opportunities, grudges, relationships and other intangible things that burden us.
The TV show they made is definitely fun, but I urge you to read the book. You could read the whole thing in a day, but you’ll likely want to savor it for longer.
Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
Before I turned 27 last year, I had this crippling anxiety about who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. As a classic over-sharer, I brought it up on a casual intro lunch with a colleague when he asked, “How are you?"
And he (emphasis on the “he”) then asked me if I ever read Eat, Pray, Love. I wasn’t sure if he was serious because, well, “Eat Pray Love” is often a punchline. I never in a million years thought that I would ever read that book. Now, I was speaking to this straight, white male colleague who was quite serious when he said it was great. Impressed, I asked, “You read books written by women?”
Desperate for resolve, I ordered it right away and pored over every word. It feels good to read this book. Gilbert writes exquisite prose. While it’s a memoir, there’s magical realism on every page. I found the book to be delightful, comforting, and even indulgent.
She was someone who did everything in life by the book and then scrapped it all because she wasn’t happy. Gilbert was someone who had structure, control, and rigorous plans. But she desired momentous change. I reveled at her bravery as she took control of her life and left to enjoy her own company for a bit.
This book created a space to get in touch with my spiritual side and gave me permission to enjoy life on my own terms. Its beauty brought me plenty of moments of quiet and internal peace. It taught me it's okay to let go of control and trust my own intuition.
Best of all, I ordered the 10 year anniversary book, which was a happy accident because it included a foreword by Elizabeth Gilbert 10 years later speaking to the virality of the book and its global impact. Pro tip: If you get the 10 Year Anniversary version, read the foreword at the end. And, whatever you do, don’t watch the movie (it’s trash).
Nirvanna is a cosmopolitan Scrabble genius who runs 5Ks and sings alto. She makes appearances as a local artist where she lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts. During the day, she works in sales with Robin, the Workplace Experience platform. Nirvanna holds a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Communications from Tufts University. Connect with her on Linkedin or view her artwork here.
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