A Golden City Woman Living the NYC Life: Meet Jazzy

Imagine having a really hard day at school. You woke up late and missed your first class for the day, where you forgot to turn in an assignment and the professor refused because he won’t make any late submission exceptions for anyone. You come back to your dorm, and you’re greeted cheerfully by your friend. This friend always helps lighten the weight on your shoulders, but will also make sure they instill the hardworking and keep-your-head-up-high mentality in you - that’s Jazzy. A caring, nurturing woman - and my cousin.

I sat down with her recently at a café in NYC, where we talked about her new life in the East Coast.

HCM: Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Please state your name, age, hometown, and your major.

Jazzy: Hello, I am Jazzy Gill. I’m 23 and from San Francisco, CA. I am a Master’s Candidate in Climate and Society at Columbia University.

HCM: What major differences did you feel starting your Master’s at Columbia?

Jazzy: It’s a different environment than my Undergraduate. It’s more reserved - and actually the East Coast is a bit more reserved than what I’m used. In California, people are a little bit more open, so that was a big adjustment. Also, the competitiveness, since I’m in a bigger program. My undergraduate major had 16 people, and my major and minor (Art History and Environmental Studies) were pretty relaxed, because my minor was really rooted in activism, and not so much in science and math. It was interesting to make that jump to a heavy and quantitative curriculum.

HCM: You are actually living in an apartment close to university. A lot of people would make the generalization that moving from San Francisco to NYC isn’t that big of a deal since they’re both big cities and city life is seemingly the same everywhere. So, how are you adjusting to life in the city? Is it easy, or similar to San Francisco?

Jazzy: It’s a total adjustment! I went from living in a city that felt more like a town. I had access to being outside more easily, I could surf in the mornings, compared to now where I am limited to green-space. Also, just adjusting to a different schedule. I’m not able to exercise like I was able to back home, just because I had to put it on the back burner  - which is something I’ve never done in my life. I’ve always prioritized exercising and being outside for my mental health, but my program tends to take up a lot of my time. I’m starting to remember, however, that I need to prioritize keeping my mental health really strong, just as keeping my workload in check.

HCM: Oh wow, that’s a change considering I know you do yoga often. You haven’t been doing yoga recently?

Jazzy: I have, but I’ve only been doing it twice a week. Which is really rare for me because I do it twice a day - morning and night - everyday. So, yes I feel the difference in my body and my mind, since I can’t run as much either, nor can I easily surf and that’s because of the inactivity of my physical health. All good adjustments though!

HCM: With all of these new adjustments in your life, it’s a lot to take in. Do you think you’ve grown as a person since moving to NYC?

Jazzy: Yes, I think you have no choice - or I had no choice. I’ve lived with my family and my extended family and support system, while being in college and during my gap year. So going from your entire support system being 20 minutes away from you, to only having a few people around you physically, you have no choice but to rely on yourself. You need make sure you’re happy with yourself because it takes time to make connections.

HCM: Yeah, I agree, because you can see your friends and extended family over the weekend, but it’s that alone time during the weekday. You’re alone for almost the entire time, so you need to be comfortable with yourself. But it’s hard, because a lot of people aren’t comfortable being alone.

Jazzy: It’s shocking. It’s really shocking. Which I think is the default of social media, right? And I have no social media, so when I’m alone, I’m truly alone, but I think it gives way for really beautiful experiences. You meet so many different people around the park, in the train, or you even finding these little momentary connections that are even more special than lifelong connections with somebody. There are a couple of times I can think of where I had a really great conversation with a stranger, and what’s special is that it’s just reserved for that space.

HCM: To me, you have this strong and radiant energy that comes off as this armor of strength. It’s different when someone says these comments to you because it’s someone’s viewpoint, so I wanted to know if you perceive yourself like this too?

Jazzy: Well, it’s difficult, isn’t it? There are some days, where I feel like “Oh hell yeah, I am killing it!” I think everyone has those days, but those are just days. Strength really comes from vulnerability, so you need to be vulnerable in order to grow in any way. So, if you’re going to have this armor, so to speak, for your life, you might have a lot of things bypass you where you’re stuck in this one realm. Compared to when you’re able to let your guard down, and really say “hey I don’t know”, and I felt that really strongly in this program, but remembering that this can be strength too. I think a lot of the times, I have this perception of what strength is that I shouldn’t cry, I have to be tough, and don’t let your doubt or sadness show. When in reality, that’s where I see strength. But I think, self-perception is always different. Everybody has their form of self-deprecation in a way, and I’m trying to get away from it, but it’s really perpetuated around us. We’re all told to not praise ourselves and to leave your ego at the door.

HCM: And that’s what’s so weird about our culture. Our society tells us, especially women, not to compliment ourselves or even be aware that we’re pretty, otherwise you’re a really vain person.

Jazzy: Yes, especially for a woman! I just think we should appreciate women! And it’s so cliche to say, but everyone is beautiful and it’s undeniably true. I see everyone - Male, female, trans - it doesn’t matter. It’s so important to say “I feel beautiful today”, and to rise yourself up. I’m not always great at it, but I try to remind myself that it’s okay to do this. I’ve also always been hard-headed and I’ve had so many powerful women in my life, from my mom to my aunts, teachers, and older/younger sisters. I’ve been so fortunate to such empowered women in my life, and without a doubt the most influential, in every regard. And it’s more than that because they radiate - they show me what it means to be a woman and a person.

As a woman and as a person, Jazzy is someone that believes growth is something that’s constant. It’s not about knowing and living in the black and white, but understanding and embracing spectrum of experiences you have yet to experience are what fuel one’s diligence and helps them grow. At almost 24 years old, she probably doesn’t have everything figured out, but is taking everything one day at a time, both in her professional and personal lives.