Guest Essay: Confusion Mitigation

By Anushka Kalyan
High school student in Granite Bay, CA
July 6, 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog! So, hi again, I’m Anushka, I’m a high school student in Placer County. I just came back from having fun with my family in India for summer vacation a few days ago. Since I enjoy being engaged in my community, I recently applied to serve on the Placer County Youth Commission (PCYC), an advisory group that advises the Placer County Board on issues pertinent to the younger generation. A few days ago, I opened my phone to see a response from PCYC. Excitedly I viewed the email… and … (cue suspenseful music) … I saw A REJECTION?!?! But wait, that couldn’t be right. I volunteer, I help my community, what could have been the issue? I racked my brain, and I was confused as to what I did wrong.

So, I did what any normal teenager would do and doom-stalked my peers on LinkedIn. I scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled, looking as lists of ultra-exclusive programs touting my friends’ accomplishments made me feel like mine paled in comparison. Should I have had fun with my family in India at this time? Ignoring my family’s calls to let me know that breakfast was ready, I questioned the ways I have wasted time, even by sleeping for too long! I would never measure up to my frame of success. I thought about how I felt like an imposter in many of the spaces I occupy, including many of the ECOS Committee meetings that I participate in.

Now upon reflection, I see the problem with my thinking, and I hope that you do too. It’s an issue that we as an entire youth body are suffering from: We surround ourselves with people who seem to outperform us to the extent that we fail to realize how valuable we ourselves are. While it’s certainly important that we put ourselves in challenging situations, it’s important that we don’t become consumed with a feeling of inadequacy if we don’t succeed or if there is a whole lot to learn.

I love attending ECOS Committee meetings. One of my favorite experiences is being on the Sacramento Earth Day Planning Committee and learning about all the efforts that go behind uplifting our city at such a large scale. At these meetings I can gain knowledge and exposure for other real-world applications. However, there’s a LOT that I don’t understand that goes down during these meetings. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT a lot. Although I try to make the most sense of the intricate details that are explained regarding funding measures or new scientific initiatives in local regions, a lot of the times, I don’t really know the full picture of what’s going on. It hasn’t sunk in (yet), but what I and other peers like myself need to understand is that that is completely ok. We students come from educational settings that are tailored to a student’s needs and sometimes crave a faster-paced environment (pun intended). However, when we are exposed to such scenarios where professionals collaborate to solve issues that they specialize in, it is natural to perhaps feel intimidated or inadequate. I know I certainly do.

Psychology Today writes in an article from June 7, 2022 that feelings of inadequacy are more connected to self-esteem issues rather than actual performance abilities. Although it may seem that lack of knowledge causes all fingers to point to students like myself (which in part, it does), we must also realize that without the intense comparing and competition that goes on, discouraging thoughts would most likely not arise. But we play it off. We’re cool about it! We are all cool about it. We pretend like we understand everything that’s going on around us when in reality we feel as if we are playing catch-up in a game that doesn’t (and rightfully shouldn’t) wait for us to catch-up. When we see our peers seemingly thrive in situations that confuse us, we dig ourselves an even deeper hole of discouragement.

From what I see at ECOS, our work in the environmental sphere is never done. We all have so much to learn from each other, with some members knowledgeable in one area, and others knowledgeable in another area. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to learn. However, I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one experiencing feelings of inadequacy as a member of the youth and as an ECOS participant in general. Let’s explore this a little bit. According to the Harvard Business Review, around a third of young people chronically suffer from impostor syndrome, the feeling that one’s abilities will never measure up and that their achievements are somehow mistakes. What’s more, around 70% of other people are more likely to experience this at some point in their lives. I hope I don’t speak incorrectly on the behalf of others, but almost all of us are going through the same thing or have been in similar situations. We don’t all know what we’re doing even though it might seem like others have got it going on all the time. But in reality, we’re just doing the best we can. And that’s ok!

I appreciate that this ECOS blog and advocacy in general allow me to use my voice. As a balance to putting myself in challenging situations, I gravitate toward writing and speaking — where the only voice swimming around in my head, right or wrong, is mine. It’s important to switch between situations where we are intellectually challenged and situations where we can just hear ourselves out, increase our self-confidence, and make peace with the impostor living in our psyches.

If there are any other high schoolers reading this: I know we all want to be the next Einstein (which could be another blog topic in of itself). A first step is to consistently put ourselves in situations where we don’t know as much as others, and to participate as much as we can. These situations can be intimidating, especially if we stay quiet. Instead, we must try to be comfortable taking up space, letting our voices be heard, and asking questions. This signals to others that we are ready to learn. By acting in this way, we make some impression in the world, truly gain knowledge, and maintain our mental health. On the other hand, it’s summer now – a time to let our minds relax. It’s healthy and wonderful to challenge ourselves, but if we do it non-stop, we are going to completely fizzle out. And remember to catch up on some sleep!

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, but I will continue to ask questions. To the Placer County Youth Commission, thank you for the rejection! You taught me to reframe why I do what I do; to be proactive about learning; and not to wallow in a black hole of confusion. And because of that, I am motivated for a better future!

Guest Essay: The Color Wheel of Life

By Anushka Kalyan
High school student in Granite Bay, CA
March 25, 2023

It’s that time of the year again – the sun is setting later and the flowers are blooming. Now that we’ve all hopefully settled into 2023, let’s recognize the true meaning of this new year. Oh no, not fulfilling gym resolutions or going vegan, but rather shifting our focus onto something called “Viva Magenta,” this year’s “Color of the Year” as deemed by Pantone, the color system mogul.

In 2023, using this shade of dark pink is supposedly the key to success in marketing, fashion, social media, and industry. I mean, we already have sneakers, wallpaper, and even cell phones in the marketplace sporting this color. It’s all “Viva Magenta!” But what happens when this color becomes “so last year”?

The market cycle of rapid consumerist trends is known as “fast fashion.” By mass replicating high-fashion designs and quickly making them accessible to the public at a low price, retail companies make money and we consumers wear trendy products. “Viva Magenta” was announced as the “Color of the Year” in December of 2022, and just a month later, new pants in this color were on the racks because of rapid market response.

However, just because trendy products are available to us in a short period of time, that doesn’t mean it’s all good. According to the UN Environment Program, fast fashion production and shipping account for 20 percent of global wastewater and a significant amount of carbon emissions. They also highlight that fast fashion is responsible for more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, worsened by the fact that this industry is responsible for massive human rights violations in outsourced production. Finally, according to, when a new Color of the Year is announced or big brand names release a new style, the average US citizen throws out 81.5 pounds of clothing each year, resulting in 92 million tons of landfill waste per year. That’s a lot of trash and many more years gone into breaking this waste down! This travesty can be avoided if consumers don’t give in to very fickle trends. As a society, we buy more and more, perpetuating a cycle of consumerist greed and massive production, to the detriment of humanity and our planet.

Ultimately, as a youth-written New York Times article so eloquently put it, it’s a privilege to fall into the trap of fast fashion. It’s a privilege to buy clothes for their aesthetics, rather than their utility. The fashion industry preys on this privilege, especially for members of my generation. We largely buy from the internet even in the post-pandemic period. This has led to the rise of hallmark fast fashion companies, such as SHEIN, H&M, and Forever 21, as they attempt to quickly please their consumers. My friends and I joke about the plastic, nylon, tacky quality of clothing at fast fashion stores, thinking who would ever wear lace-up metallic leggings, but the fact that these products exist serves as a reminder that companies are willing to compromise quality for mass production just to catch up with fickle trends.

There’s an interesting dichotomy presented by my generation’s actions. On one hand, we’re supposedly “the most environmentally woke generation,” using social media to our advantage to organize climate strikes and to advocate for… wooden toothbrushes…, but we can’t resist the urge to indulge in just a little more SHEIN, because what can I say, most of what they sell is cute! Clothing is almost exclusively the one thing uniquely defining ourselves and our lifestyles, and if a nice design presents itself at a relatively low price point, you bet we’re going to take it. Plus, yeah, yeah, human rights, but like, what’s the worst that can happen if I just get one dress. And oh my god, if I post a picture today wearing the same dress I wore in my last post, that’s Gen Z heresy! Ok, that seems like a lot of buying – let me try getting some “sustainable products” instead. Let me see what’s online… woah, I can’t buy this, it’s $50 for a regular cotton T-shirt!

This is an issue my generation contends with. I’ll leave it up to you to come to your own conclusion, but I don’t fully blame us. Adolescence is the time to figure out one’s identity — but when it meets fast fashion industry trends, it can be a dangerous bomb for the environment and human rights. Climate is different, meaning that responsibilities to address it typically fall upon the shoulders of older generations. Fast fashion however is an issue that my generation must fix, despite the fact that we have almost no control over it. To start, we can buy secondhand clothing from affordable small businesses and rent clothing to be worn once. These are modest steps, but they could lead to a world where Viva Magenta breaks away as a Color of the Year and joins the Colors of Time Immemorial. Until there’s a cooler name next business cycle. . .