Ishani Patel reached into her backpack to dig for a pen at the beginning of her Classics 42: “Cinema and the Ancient World” course. Instead, her fingers clasped the smooth, glassy surface of the small stone she carried everywhere.
As her professor began to pass out quizzes, Patel laid the rock in her palm to reread the brightly colored orange message she had glued to the bottom: “You are the Sun.”
For Patel, the rock, or touchstone, serves as a physical reminder of self-realization about her own worth that she had during a yoga course in winter quarter. Patel will lead students in creating their own touchstones in a workshop at the Bruin Consent Coalition’s event “I Can, We Can: Self-Care Through Art” on Thursday in Kerckhoff Art Gallery.
Patel, a fifth-year classical civilization student and co-director of the Bruin Consent Coalition, will lead students through a discussion about the Self-Care Wheel, a wheel with six categories that each represent a part of someone’s life. Attendees will then create their own touchstones, decorating papers with personal, empowering messages and gluing them to the bottom of small translucent stones.
Patel’s co-director Chrissy Keenan, a fourth-year human biology and society student, said that while Bruin Consent Coalition holds events to support survivors of sexual violence, all students are welcome to participate in Thursday’s event.
“While not everyone experiences sexual violence, we feel that it’s still an issue that affects the entire community,” Keenan said.
Patel said students will be encouraged to reflect on conscious changes they can make to have better self-care, like drinking more water or journaling.
She added that carrying touchstones in a backpack or placing them on desks creates a physical reminder to practice the self-care message they decorated the stone with.
“Every time you see them, hopefully it’s this tangible reminder to be kinder to yourself in whatever way you choose to decorate it with,” Patel said.
While the Bruin Consent Coalition has not held a touchstone workshop before, Patel said she made her own stones in an activity through Trauma Informed Yoga. The class was taught by Zabie Yamasaki, the assistant director of the Campus Assault Resources and Education office, in partnership with A Window Between Worlds, an organization that uses art to foster healing.
Yamasaki said touchstones reframe what is important for students by reminding them to prioritize taking care of themselves, and that by carrying them students will remember to slow down and care for themselves.
“So often we’re just kind of rushing through life and then going from one thing to the next, and we don’t take those restorative pauses out of our day to really think about what do I really need right now,” Yamasaki said.
Patel carries her touchstone, reading “You are the Sun,” a phrase from the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” in the largest pocket in her backpack along with her pencils and pens.
“(It’s) this idea of again validating that you are enough, of validating what you choose to do is important and valuable,” Patel said.
Patel initially intended to pursue a career in neonatal medicine and interned hospitals at UC Riverside and shadowed doctors after she transferred to UCLA. While all her extracurricular activities at the time were tailored toward the pre-med track, Patel said she began to question if medicine and primary care were how she wanted to help people.
During her fourth year at UCLA, Patel realized she was more passionate about interacting with the patients than the medicine she observed, and faced doubts about an uncertain career and future. She said it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that her major did not necessarily have career prospects tied to it.
Patel said her touchstone is a reminder of her realization that everything she does is for a reason, regardless of whether the reason is clear or not at the time.
“It’s okay to have the question marks, and it’s okay to not fully have a plan and still pursue things that you’re passionate about: something will come of it,” Patel said. “(It) reminds myself that I will figure it out – at some point I will figure it out.”
Patel said the activities will be led by students in order to create an accepting peer environment where survivors of trauma like sexual violence can find support and healing through art and self-reflection.
Patel said she placed her three other touchstones on her bedside table and wakes up each morning to these reminders. Written in gold cursive beneath the glassy surface of one are the words “I am Enough,” a tangible reminder of her self-worth in the face of daily pressure and an uncertain future.
“As long as I continue on this path of pursuing the things that I know I’m passionate about, this is enough, I am enough, what I’m doing is enough,” Patel said.