The Trek Episode 7 on Love: Civics Unplugged defines love and where they look for it in their everyday lives – in collaboration with Humanity 2.0

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Gary Sheng, Madison Adams, Noor Myran, Zoe Jenkins, Ashley Lin, Maryam Tourk and Chabu Kapumba, discuss love in relationships on this week’s episode of The Trek


  • Civics Unplugged hosts Trek Session with Gen Z community on love and how it can be defined
  • Prominent Gen Z figures discuss where they look for love and the importance of determining love language through open communication
  • Future leaders of America discuss the importance of self-love and breaking down stereotypes surrounding the term



Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).

Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship, Zoe Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair at Civics 2030, Ashley Lin, Founder/CEO of Project Exchange, Maryam Tourk, Co-founder of CU Summer Camp, and Chabu Kapumba, Senior Fellow at Civics Unplugged

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:01

Hello, everyone and welcome back to group think. Group think is our dialogue series at CU, where we pick a topic and have a meaningful discussion guided by burning questions. My name is Madison and I’m a high school senior from Verges, Oklahoma. And now if everyone else wants to take a second to introduce themselves, that’d be great. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 00:21

Hi, I’m Noor, I’m 16. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and my pronouns are she/her. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 00:29

Hi, I’m Maryam. I’m also from the suburbs of Chicago and my pronouns are she/her as well? 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 00:38

Hi, I am Ashley, I am 17. I’m from Vancouver, Washington, and I also use she/her pronouns. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 00:47

Hi everyone. I’m Zoe. I’m 17 from Lexington, Kentucky. I also use she/her pronouns.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:55

Hey, I’m Gary. I’m one of her. Did you go already? Oh yeah, you did. Sorry. I like the people that, the, the, the two people that watch this, I’m going to be like this guy. So aloof. Gary I’m one of the co-founders of Civics Unplugged. I am in New York city. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:18

All right. And today we’re talking about love. So recently we’ve been starting off with a cool exercise called word association. So what three words come to mind when you hear the word love? And today when we go through the words, feel free to explain your reasoning or expand upon the three words that you choose. And then I guess I can just start. So for me, I say warmth, heart, and support. I feel warm when you love something or feel loved and then support, because I feel like a huge part of love is support. So yeah, someone else want to go. 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 02:02

Sure. I also said warmth as one of them, but my other two were family and comfort. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 02:17

I said words of affirmation because that’s like one of my top love languages, ballpoint pens, because I think that writing letters or just like writing emotions out is really like satisfying to me. And then my third one was kittens, because I love my kittens. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 03:10

My three words are awe, sacrifice and power. And I chose awe because I guess to me, love is expanding your sense of self and really recognizing, I just feel like there’s awe when you realize just how interconnected things are and how much you are related to other people and how other people have contributed to your journey. So that’s why awe stands out to me sacrifice, because I feel like it’s impossible to love something without like yourself being changed. And without you sacrificing part of yourself and then power, because I’ve been thinking a lot about how do you love people who are like more powerful than you, or like less powerful than you and what are like the diamond and what are the dynamics between them?

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 04:15

My three words I mean, it’s not really one word, but heart ring is one of them, and then soft and then bright. So I’ll explain the heart ring. I used to not consider myself materialistic, but I realized I really liked little gifts. And so I happen to have a significant other who got me this little gold heart ring. And it’s like weird how much it means to me where I see that and I’m like, wow, somebody got me something because they care about me. And there are a lot of different ways that people can show that. I think similar to what other people were saying about warmth, I think love is just soft and very comforting. And then I say bright because I think that when you love people that can be in a lot of different ways that things are just brighter and happier when you’re experiencing love with other people.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 05:22

Zoe, has your how has your life felt brighter in recent years or? 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 05:33

Yes. Do you mean in relation to having a significant other?

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 05:43

Like just with relationships in general.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 05:47

I think so. And I think that finding love in your friendships, I think is really important. I think there’s a period of time where I was like, I don’t love my friends cause not how friendship works. And then I was like, no, I do love my friends and it’s okay to lean into that and really rely on your friends for things.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 06:07

Well, I can say a few words. I’ll say choice, liberation, and healing. And I think that I’ve shared this quote before, I’m probably going to put your head, but love is that which enables choice. So something that I think a lot of people rightfully complain about when a friendship or a significant other is constraining and suffocating and doesn’t want you to do certain things. And sometimes that’s out of good intentions, but often we can feel really bad because, because I think deep down, you know, that you’re eliminating your ability to make good choices for yourself. So I think love is liberating for that reason.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 07:20

Well, thank you guys for sharing. Now on to the questions, does anyone have a question they want to start us off with?

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 07:30

Well, one of the things that I thought was interesting, when Ashley was talking about sacrifice. So not exactly sure about a question, but I just was wondering if we could dive more into that and kind of explore more because when I think of sacrifice in terms of love, I think of someone sacrificing something for you, in terms of parents for you getting better opportunities. But I think it’s interesting to consider what you sacrifice as well. So I don’t know. I want to hear more about your thoughts on that. And also what other people thought.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 08:02

I just wanted to say, this is really cool. This organism of group think is evolving as we speak, because it used to just be questions as the baseline. Well, before we didn’t have a word association either, but this is cool because it’s intersection of this and this go. I think that has a lot of potential though.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 08:28

Yeah. I’m still trying to make sense of it. I guess to me, I feel like in some ways, sacrifice is the currency of love. Right. It’s kind of like how you know it’s real. I think there’s the person that you would have become if you didn’t love anyone or anything. And you really were just kind of independent and going on an individual journey. But when you recognize the love that surrounds you, you are inviting in new influences and that impacts how you spend your time and the way that you live and move through the world. So I guess in some ways, you’re sacrificing parts of your old self to walk them in parts of your new self. And I feel like that also ties into the idea of growth and how love creates room for that.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 09:45

I feel like thinking about sacrifice as it pertains to love is in a way it’s kind of terrifying to me because I don’t know why, but my first association with it is settling or giving up a part of you for someone else. And I feel like I’ve always been told by my parents to never do that to remain the person you are without having to give up either even if it’s just moving somewhere for someone or doing that. But then I think about the sacrifices my parents made for me and my siblings and that list is long. So I don’t know, this was kind of the first thing that comes to mind, which is a little terrifying.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 10:40

Makes me think of a question. So if love is sacrifice, where you have to sacrifice to love someone, how do you not lose yourself in that? How do you not sacrifice too much? Or is that even an answerable question? 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 11:07

I might ramble, so I’ll try to keep it on topic to the question, but I think that Ashley said something really interesting about how sacrifice is the currency of love, which means that both parties have to do it. And I think that that’s when you see somebody is losing themselves in their relationship, when somebody is sacrificing everything, and somebody is just gaining from that sacrifice. Which, I mean, that’s something that I’ve had to challenge myself on is that it’s also not 50/50 all the time. But if you zoom out, big picture, is it almost 50/50? Because I think that, I mean, it’s going to be 80/20 sometimes because somebody is really down your friend can’t provide for you in the same way they always have. But also you’re going be in that same situation. So I think it can’t pull everything out of you all of the time, but it will do that some of the time, which is not really an answer to the question, but I think sometimes you just almost feel it, I think where you’re like, I’m not who I am anymore.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 12:29

Well, I will say I really resonated with the whole idea of 50/50, because I think that’s also something that I struggled with. Not even in romantic ways, but also just in friendships, because it feels like, I don’t know, you want to make sure that it’s equal because you don’t want to lose yourself in this or give so much and the person’s not even going to be willing to give anything in return. But it’s not always going to be perfectly 50/50. And I think that’s something that when both parties can understand it, then it’s a lot healthier because people don’t have the pressure of always giving back equally. And you can rely on someone when you are down and you know that they can rely on you when they’re down. And I think that’s a lot healthier, but I also think that in terms of love is sacrifice, you’ve used just sacrificing time because time to be with them or time to do things for them. And in that sense, I guess, you wouldn’t really lose yourself. You would more so just balance the time that you have in a day. And because you love them so much, you would give part of your precious time to them, if that makes sense. And I think a lot about how I would, I don’t want to say lose sleep, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Like if I was talking to someone that I love, I would definitely stay up later to talk to them if that’s the only time I could talk to them or if someone needed help with something, I would stay up late to help them with that if I love them, because they needed me in that moment. So I guess, I’m not necessarily sacrificing myself for my personality in that sense, but I am sacrificing my time, which is something that’s also valuable. So I guess I don’t really know how that would answer the question, but that’s kind of my take on it.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 14:16

Yeah. I definitely resonate with that and it also feels like I’m almost not sure, if sacrifice is the right word to use, because there are certain people who you would sacrifice your time for, but if you know that you didn’t stay up later with them, you wouldn’t feel really bad about it and would make you feel even worse. And if you didn’t help them, you’d be like giving up even more. So it’s almost like that other person is tied to you in such a close way where they are almost an extension of you. And you know that if you don’t take care of them, like you won’t be taking care of your own, I don’t know, your own character.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 15:20

And I think just in terms of expanding your sense of self, I think that’s when you really know that your sense of self has been expanded when you said like Ashley, what you said were there people who you’re so connected to that if you don’t take care of them, you’re not taking care of yourself. So, wow. That was really powerful. Anything else on this or any other questions people want to pose?

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 15:52

Well, one thing Ashley, that you mentioned also kind of posed another idea or, it makes me pose another question to you all is just if someone is an extension of self, how do you set a balance between taking care of yourself versus taking care of that extension of yourself? Because at least for me, I don’t know if this is a problem that any of you face, but I know that I would do anything for the people that I love, but I also know that I tend not to prioritize myself. So how do you find that balance? And just know when to I guess make a barrier, I guess, because I know that if it was between taking care of someone I love or taking care of myself, I would probably spend the time helping them with their project versus doing my homework, because that is what comes most naturally to me. But I also know that there are times when I probably shouldn’t be doing my homework instead of helping out somebody else. So yeah, I guess how do you find a balance when you don’t even necessarily want to find a balance because you actually enjoy helping them?

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 17:06

I think the first thing that comes to mind at least personally is I know that if I don’t get eight hours of sleep, I will be horrible in the day. It’s so bad. I will be so cranky for no reason. And nothing fixes it other than that eight hours, it’s not like a nap or coffee will do it. I need eight hours at night. And so if I wake up and but the thing is I know that I have to be up at a certain time too. So if I’m literally losing sleep over something that I prioritize, but I shouldn’t have at least in that moment, that’s kind of the indicator for me. That’s like, you need to rethink your focus. And I think part of that rethinking process is setting boundaries that are very clear at least to you. And either the other person or just whoever else is involved. Because once you set them, kind of just thinking about them makes it easier for you to just you yourself to brush past them too. But when you actually talk about it, it makes it harder for you to not follow that boundary. And it also makes it harder for the other person to not follow that boundary to at least in my experience. Sleep is the indicator, but then the boundaries are the call to action almost.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 17:50

Yeah. And I think that if you do set those boundaries for yourself and you follow them, then you’re going to be taking care of the people around you more naturally. Like Noor said, if she doesn’t get that sleep, she’s going to be cranky. So obviously she’s not going to be able to take care of the people around her and show them love, unless you showing herself love through those boundaries.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 18:51

You know, even if we don’t talk about loving people, but you know, loving a cause. There are activists who will sacrifice them themselves for a cause. Like activists on animal extinction, rebellion or immigration and climate justice. Like their lives are literally dedicated to this cause because they love it so much, but they also need to figure out a way to set those boundaries and take care of themselves to actually be useful in pushing forward that cause. That’s something that just reminded me of. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 19:33

And I think, this is sort of related, I guess, to that point of boundaries too, is that if you set boundaries and they’re not being respected, it’s not on you. And I think that that’s kind of something important is to be able to listen to your gut and like Noor’s example and especially Ashely’s example, where if you care about a cause and then you’re like, well, I need to take this time off because this is really draining work and the organizers are like, no, how could you do that? You don’t care about it. That is perhaps a sign that it’s not for you. Which, you know, doesn’t mean that your love or your work wasn’t any less valuable. It’s just that it’s not the right fit. But I know it’s hard to learn to trust your gut in these situations where you want guidance from other people. But sometimes it’s the other people that you’re looking for guidance from, who are also perpetuating these things on you as well.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 20:48

Cool. Any other questions? And if you guys don’t want to pose a question, you can also do the same sort of thing Maryam did with an open-ended question?

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 20:57

Yeah. I think that has a cool relationship to the word association. Because then people can just connect. Can you go back up so I can see the words? 

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 21:13

One of the things that just comes to mind, just as a talking point was Zoe’s I think it was a ring. I don’t remember it. I think it was a heart ring or something. I always like knowing people’s love languages. Because I think that’s important. It’s a form of communication to me. And I always thought that it was selfish to want things that are materialistic things. But I think it’s not even like, Oh, I need this $300 XYZ. It’s something that reminded someone of you. And I think that that’s refreshing. So even if it’s like, I don’t know a playlist or a photo like, Hey, look at this, it reminded me of something you were talking about earlier. I think that we put a weird emphasis on that being materialistic or shallow, but I think it’s cool. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 22:15

Madison. I was saying maybe you can create a new question instead of housing that under this question maybe it’s like, how do you show someone you love them?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 22:33

Yeah. And I was just going to say to Zoe’s point, I really applaud you for, I mean, this almost sounds weird, but for admitting that gifts are a form of your love language, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard someone say that they feel ashamed because as Noor said, they’re just a negative connotation around it. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Because it’s just a reminder of someone you love. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 22:59

So, and I’ll elaborate. I think Noor made a good point that it’s not always materialistic. I think that I attach a lot of meaning to things. I know that I had a friend over and I walked through every item in my closet and could tell her a specific memory when I wore something in that closet. And could tell her what I worked with, which is like weird. You shouldn’t look in your closet and know that, but I think that things matter. I know that when I first started dating my significant other, he pulled this like flower off some bush and put it in my hair and I couldn’t get it out. And so eventually I got it out and I kept that flower. Like this flower was crumpling up, dying, but sitting in my room for weeks. Just because I think I eventually, I realized I was like stuff matters and it doesn’t have to be something nice. It can just be something almost as dumb as a little flower or something, but it’s okay to admit that stuff matters. You just have to know why it matters. I think that’s really important.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 24:12

I was just going to say, I love the point specifically, about the flower, because it doesn’t only remind me of a person, but there’s this one speech tournament every year it’s called tournament of roses. And I remember last year, at the award ceremony, they would hand you a bouquet of roses. And I still have mine. I froze them because I was like, this is something that it was a good day. And having that memory to not only a person, but an activity that I loved. It’s cool to me. I never thought about it like that.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 24:49

I’d love to also answer this question. By the way I’m Chabu, I’m 18 and I am a first year at U of T. But, just to think about how I show someone love. I also am in the same vein of, so in the sense that acts of service is my love language, which is super strange. A lot of people are just like, Oh, so you just want people to do things for you. Or you want to do things for other people. But in reality, it’s just how I like to show my affection for other people instead of just saying Oh, I love you on someone’s way out. I usually say “Oh, drive safe” or “I hope whatever is going on in your day, goes well” or that type of thing. And so I think that there’s a very weird connotation where certain ways of showing love are overvalued versus others are misconstrued in a weird way. But I think that since it is an expression of love, it usually comes from a genuine place. So I have a respect for all the different ways that people show love. And I always find it interesting to hear how someone goes about it

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 25:53

Now I’ll add another really important thing too, I think is to recognize how other people value things. So I like getting cards. I like getting little things. And so, I make people a ton of cards and I’ll use the example of my significant other, because he is more of a word of affection and quality time person, which I value those things. But, if we called on the phone for an hour, that’s really good for me and I don’t necessarily have to, you know, say that I love him and I don’t need to hear that to feel that if that makes sense. But eventually reconciling the fact that getting him a gift does not matter to him and that I can’t just reciprocate my own love language on to else. So, it’s good to ask other people what their love language is and to try to accommodate that as much as possible.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 26:55

I would say that is so, so, so, so true. Especially when you have a really important relationship where you have a lot of love for each other, but your love languages are different. It can almost create issues. Like my sister, her love language is quality time and that couldn’t be farther from my love language. I’m cool with just existing in the same space and not having to say anything and that doesn’t work for her. So I think that it’s really important to have that conversation almost and just be like, Oh, what’s your love language? So, because it is an act of service in a way to learn their love language too, and to employ it in conversation.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 27:30

Yeah. And I was just going to build off of that. It just shows how important communication is because two people could have the same affection for each other, but just be showing their love in different ways. And people can get the wrong idea. So that’s just something really interesting to think about as well. 

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 27:48

Another thing that all of this reminds me of is how, I feel like at least in my personal experiences, no one ever talks about how people have different love languages and how you should try and figure out what your love languages to make sure that you’re getting what you need. And you’re able to communicate that, which is kind of weird to me because I feel like love is something that everyone needs to survive. It’s not just Oh, you can have it or you can’t have it. I feel like love is essential, but no one really ever talks about this, which is kind of strange. And it’s hard to make sure that people are feeling happy and loved if you don’t ever have these conversations. And I feel like, especially with things being under appreciated or things being shallow, like Zoe completely related when you’re talking about your clothes, whenever I talk about clothes, everyone’s like, Oh, okay, good for you, you like shopping for clothes. But especially for me, I can associate memories with clothes and I also take a lot of pictures because that’s how, I remember memories with the people that I love or things that I just really enjoyed. And people are like, Oh, you’re so shallow, you’re not in the moment. But for me, that is how I preserve those things and then I’m able to look back on them. So, I think it’s really interesting how things just have certain connotations associated with them that couldn’t really be further from the truth.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 28:51

Okay. So on the topic of love languages, this is really making me wonder, I don’t want to take too much time from our conversation, but I really just want to know if we can just go around and say what our love languages are, because I mean, I’ve spent so much time with you guys, but we haven’t talked about this a lot and I feel like we should.  Anyone want to start? 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 29:34

I can start I already sort of talked about mine. I’m realizing that gifts is one of them, but every time I’ve taken the quiz, I’ve gotten quality time. So I’ll put those two. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 29:45

I also mentioned mine earlier, but acts of service is my love language, both receiving and giving.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 29:56

Mine is words of affirmation and also quality time. But, and this is kind of a tangent, but I think it’s interesting that your love language can be different for how you want to receive love and how you give love. I like receiving love as words of affirmation, but I like giving it as quality time. So I don’t know those kind of go hand in hand for me.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 30:25

Well, I’ll say that I think I’m going to take the quiz after this, but from my experiences I will say that I think it is a mixture of gifts and acts of service. And I know that the way that I give love is through acts of service and words of affirmation. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 30:46

Yeah. I also definitely need to take this quiz, but I’m guessing that mine will probably be words of affirmation. It was really interesting listening to you all talk about like gifts, because I can’t remember things that are associated, or memories that are associated with things it doesn’t come up for me easily. So I’m really bad with gifts. Like if someone gives me a gift, I’ll forget about it. And I don’t remember it. So that is probably not my love language.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged:

Yeah. I’m the same. I’m really bad at giving gifts. And my sister, that’s definitely her thing. I always feel really bad, but I mean, just like you said, it’s not how I am. But I haven’t taken the quiz, but mine’s probably words of affirmation and quality time. I guess it’s so hard to say honestly, but if I were to guess that’s what I would say. All right. Anyone have a question? 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 32:10

Yeah. I was wondering if we could explore different kinds of love or different kinds of relationships where you have love? In a group think of the past, Elena kind of mentioned how over-invested we are as a society and romantic relationships. And as someone who’s experienced both, I think that my most meaningful and deep relationships are platonic ones or ones with my siblings and family members and so on and so forth. And I just think that because we spend so much time focusing on romantic relationships, it’s almost hard to navigate platonic or really deep and meaningful platonic relationships because there’s no consistent guidance or conversations that happened around them.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 33:13

I mean, that’s such a good point that Chabu brings up. I’m pretty sure what Zoe said about her not thinking that she loved her friends. Oh, that’s really interesting to think about.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 33:28

I just heard on this podcast the other day that people are really struggling to be good friends. And I think it’s a skill. I don’t think you know, you wake up into the world knowing how to be a good friend. I think you have to pay a lot of attention and know the other person really well, et cetera.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 33:55

Yeah. I heard something like one in four people don’t have a close friend or maybe I’m messing up lessons, but it was some sort of crazy thing about people not having, meaningful relationships with friends.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 34:14

I want to second what Gary said about it being a skill, because I think that me being a better friend now is derived from skills that I’ve learned from past friendships, but also relationships with my parents for romantic relationships that I’ve had in the past. The things that were relevant and all those spaces are also relevant in me being a good friend. If that makes sense.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 34:41

Yeah. Kind of building on that idea of love being the skill. I will say that I’ve been at home with my parents for 17 years, but I’ll say that my relationship with my parents has gotten exponentially better these past few weeks. And I feel like it’s because I have learned that loving them requires energy on my part, to appreciate them and empathize with them. And that has been a learned skill. How do I love my parents? I wasn’t just born loving them, which I feel like that was what I thought for a really long time.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 35:37

I think Ashley, you bring up a good point that we don’t model love very well. You know what I mean? I think this extends both to romantic relationships, platonic relationships, family. Just like if you watch TV, and watch movies or watch other people, there’s not always a great model for people of this is what a good friendship looks like. And so, I know for me, my dad has some very, very good friends and my mom also has some very close friends. And so I have watched them have interactions where I’m like, wow, they’re so well connected and this is great. And I was like, I want friends like that. But then I also had no idea how to replicate that in my own life. And I think unfortunately, it’s one of those skills that you learned by messing up. In a lot of ways, I  think people aren’t born knowing how to love people. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 36:54

Well said Zoe, you either have a really good model and you kind of have a leg up on many of us or you learn by making mistakes and then you can kind of calibrate for the next time. I think a lot of people have never felt a deep sense of love. And I don’t think that you know how to give love if you’ve never felt that. So it’s the responsibility of older generations to break the cycle of kids rightfully believing that no one has their back and that humanity is awful.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 37:35

Kind of feeding into what Zoe mentioned about how it’s almost like a trial by error process. But it also reinforces a bad cycle because that error could be really traumatic. And then in the following relationship, you almost have this really bad mental default which kind of keeps you from achieving this love that you want. And so I think that as much as it is trial by error, how you respond to a failed relationship is super important. Because it lays the foundation for what comes next.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 38:09

And to add on what you’re saying Chabu. I think that part of it too, is that we there’s a lot of shame around looking for love, you know what I mean? So we would almost rather somebody hop from friendship or relationship into another one and just keep going and always be in a relationship versus be by yourself, figure out why that last one didn’t work. But we leave value that items so much that I think that people keep exposing themselves to trauma and it’s not necessarily their fault, but it’s some point it’s like, I’m not going to get the love I want, but at least it’s not the love that I had last time, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. I mean, you’re settling for something that’s less than what you want, but it’s because there’s this pressure that you have to stay in something. And then when you’re out of it, people are like, Oh, you’re not in a relationship, what are you doing now? Which it’s fine to not be in a relationship. And it’s fine to go through a period of time where you don’t have close friends. That’s something that you should build that trust and it should be okay to grow in that process.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 39:22

One of the things Zoe’s point made me think about is I realized that my evolution of being a good friend, one of the things I had to realize is that love isn’t necessarily supposed to be easy. I always thought that if I had to work to keep a relationship, not even a flow, but just doing well, if I had to work to make that happen, there was a problem because they just didn’t understand me from the get go. And that was it and I’d move on. And I think that that’s part of the reason, especially during quarantine, it was almost like a forcing function to be on your own. I think that that’s kind of when you really, really learn about at least I did, I learned who I am as a person, but also in the relationships that I choose to maintain. And I think part of the reason that I didn’t want to work on relationships. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I wasn’t okay, with being alone, I didn’t understand myself fully. And so I thought that if someone else couldn’t then there was an issue with that person and I had to move on when in reality it was something that I needed to communicate more effectively. So I think that have you emphasis on the fact that time alone from a good number of people is important just to learn about yourself. And this goes back to what Gary said, which is we’re just uncomfortable being alone with our thoughts, we’d rather be doing something like literally anything else than to just sit in silence. 

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 41:07

And Noor said something really important, which is it’s not always easy. And recently I’ve been making the distinction between things that are easy versus things that come with ease. I don’t necessarily want, I’m fine with hard work or having to put effort behind something, but in that same breath, it should come with ease, it shouldn’t feel like I’m being forced or there’s some kind of friction point going on here. And I think that’s a really important distinction to make when it comes to relationships. It’s not necessarily that the entire process or dynamic has to be easy but engaging with them should bring you a sense of ease and calmness and comfort.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 41:53

Yeah. Major snaps. Love is not supposed to be easy. It’s not, it’s not how it works. And I think that the easier that, I mean, I guess not the easier the earlier, I think you realize that the better love gets when you realize, I need to set up a time where I check in with this person and I can’t expect that to happen on its own. I’m going to have to do that. Or just being comfortable, making some sacrifice, but also knowing when it’s too much, I guess, to tie back to Ashley’s earlier point.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 42:32

This really reminds me of Juntoes, you know, we’re not just effortlessly all connected to each other. You know, we take time to talk every week, but when we are there, it comes with ease, the conversations flow and they’re so meaningful and fulfilling. So that just makes a lot of sense in context.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 42:59

Back to someone, I almost think me knowing when aside from the sleep thing, me knowing when I’m sacrificing too much. It’s sometimes my friends who know me really well will be like, something’s off, that’s definitely not right. You’re acting weird or something’s just not right. So it’s kind of funny that you being a good friend, at least for me, my relationships depend on me having good friends, which also depends on me being good at loving my friends so that I can love other people too. It’s just a cool full circle moment considering my friends are the people who keep me in check with that.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 43:52

I’m not sure if we’ve had the chance to talk about this already, but I would like to pose the topic of what’s your evolving relationship with self-love?

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 44:13

I can jump in on this. I think obviously when I was really little, I think I really loved myself. But I think also that’s just when you’re really little, who else do you love you just like, I’m awesome. I’m the best thing that’s ever happened. And then obviously that started to change in middle school and change in high school. And then I’ll say for me personally I was doing well and then kind of crashed in fall of 2019, just really, really hard and just had a really manipulative friend who objectified me in a lot of different ways. And just didn’t love any part of myself at all, which was weird for a couple of months of you know, you used to be pretty, happy and all that stuff and then that changed. And so I think that in some ways the CU fellowship shameless plug could not have come at a better time where I actually was like, I do need to figure out who I am, so I don’t end up in a situation like that again. And that now I think it’s probably the best it’s ever been, which I hate to say yeah, I had to hit rock bottom for me to realize that there is a lot, I need to learn about myself. But now I know that you can’t, when you think you’re good, you can’t stop doing all of the habits that were helping you get there because that’s what got you there. That’s what will keep you there. So stopping that was what led to everything else that happened. Don’t quit while you’re ahead. I guess this rolls down to.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 45:59

I think it’s so important to recognize the fact that my relationship with myself and self-love is also heavily influenced by other relationships that I have, or other instances of love in my life. Which is really complicated because you can’t necessarily control those dynamics in full, but it’s also really important to have a healthy dose of self-love. And I mean, it’s something that I’m actively working to. It’s an art that I’m working to perfect is how I like to look at it.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 46:37

So, to your point, I also had a really similar experience before the CU fellowship where I just had a falling out with a friend group that I’d been in for a really long time. And I was like, Hmm, where do I go from here? No one tells you that you should take time to reflect on yourself or who you are, because I don’t know, it’s just not something that’s valued. And I think that, for me, it was so crucial to actually take time to be like, Oh, who am I? And what do I like? And what do I look for? And people that I want to spend my time with, and it allowed me to be a lot more selective with my energy and where I was spending my time in. But then the relationships that I was in, I was able to dedicate myself fully to, and not just kind of half ass it. So I really think that it’s important to do that. And now it’s so much easier for me to be like, Oh yeah, like I’m going to do my affirmations in the mirror. And I don’t know, there are things that come a lot easier now just from having that understanding and being open to the process of growth and change.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 47:44

I speak to a really important point Maryam just made, which is when you have a lot of self-love you now have the opportunity to be picky about the friends that you have, because you’re not in pursuit of any kind of love, your content and being by yourself, which gives you the chance to wait for the friendships that are actually meaningful to you. You don’t need to have a friend right now, but you can wait for a good friend when that comes across.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 48:12

I don’t think of self-love is just seeing all of who you are and then just loving yourself for whatever you are in that moment. It’s realizing who you are now and how you want to grow. I realized that, I had to make a decision for me to acknowledge that I was a constantly evolving system. And that’s really when I got an idea of actually what self-love was, because I think before, I thought self-love like Noor talked about this before was doing a face mask and taking some time off or whatever, but my whole view of self-love has just completely been transformed. I think it’s a lot about, you know, like I said, just evolution. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 49:03

I really, really resonated with that. It makes me think, I think you wrote this on the platform important and unimportant things. And I think a lot of my relationship with self-love has been, you know, I feel like I was very selective and the parts of myself that I want and the parts of myself that I gave energy to, to like to cultivate and grow. And I think to me, kind of how I am growing, I was just realizing that there are a lot of innate dreams and gifts and talents that I haven’t even tapped into yet. And they are entitled to my time and my attention and my energy to invest in that. And so Madison, what you said about growth, just really reminded me of that.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 50:05

One of the things I realized with a friend the other day was almost like the personalities that happen, one of them is very, or I guess it’s inner monologue versus personality to go back to a past group think. But on my journey of self-love, every morning, it’s just a post-it note filled with a bunch of harsh questions. That’s forced me to address certain things that I otherwise wouldn’t. And there’s that part of me, that’s very nitpicky. She’s like, okay, but you still need to fix this. And you still need to do this. But she’s also balanced out with the part of me that does skincare. I just keep coming back to my private story because that’s literally where I’ll post just like skincare. Cause it works for me and it’s calming. So there’s a part of me that loves every aspect of yourself. And for a long, long time, I let that be my definition of self-love. But I think that gave me an excuse for stuff that I was doing that wasn’t healthy. Like would do something and I’d be like, Oh, well this is just something I need to do. And it’s like, no, that’s me. And that’s kind of where post-it note harsh question me comes in and she’s like, you can love it for what it could be, but right now it’s something that you need to work on.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 51:38

I think that what Noor was talking about, also circles back to the idea of loving easy parts of yourself that are easy to love. And then also loving ugly parts of yourself and what does that mean? And what does that look like? I think there’s qualities in myself that I appreciate and it’s really easy to be like, Oh, you know, be proud of yourself in this. Or you know, take note of this achievement that you’ve made. But then there’s spaces that I really need to grow or there’s things that I need to hold myself accountable for. And it’s also an act of love to be firm with myself or to be like, okay, it is an act of love to go and do your homework right now because you don’t want to be stressed a week from now. You know what I mean? It’s almost like having a parental dynamic for yourself being like, I love you. So I’m going to ask you to do this really hard or uncomfortable thing.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 52:27

Yeah. I’m not sure how relevant this is, but so I’ve been thinking about this idea of sometimes what is easy to do or your gut feeling, what feels intuitive to do or to love is actually in an emotional impulse or a previous bad habit or an attachment to the past. And I feel like there are some things that are super easy and just comes supernaturally. And I feel like in some circumstances that type of love or that type of whatever you’re doing can actually be really harmful for you. If you don’t stop to think about why you’re doing that.

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 53:27

And I think that’s part of why travel, what you’re saying, almost being a parent to yourself is so important because I know there are things that I do and my mom’s like, why are you doing that? And that’s not a question that I process, but it’s only my parents are like you’re you and your brother are dancing around the living room. Why are you doing that? And that’s something that I can extend to a lot, other less benign examples of just really thinking about why you’re doing something. And how mean self-love is protecting yourself as well. And sometimes that means protecting yourself from yourself which is sometimes hard to navigate.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 54:18

Well, it is about time for us to close, but before we end, I want to go around and see if you guys have any reflections on how this went.

Chabu Kapumba – Senior Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 54:36

I think that, it’s a topic that is often seen as super frivolous or even irrelevant to challenges and issues and things that we face. But I would argue that this conversation proves how important it is and how this is the current underlying theme in almost everything that we do. So I love that this was the topic that we had today.

Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 55:04

I thought it was funny that Chabu said she loved the topic that we had today because I do too. Yeah, I think I went into this with a lot of notions or not preconceived notions, but kind of what I thought were very solidified belief. But I’m realizing that changes a lot based, especially on the idea of self-love just the thought of being a parent almost to yourself and just like asking them the questions that you wouldn’t usually ask yourself is really important.

Maryam Tourk – Co-founder, CU Summer Camp: 55:39

Yeah. I always have my perspective shifted after group thinks, especially today. I never thought that love could take work, but I think we proved that in a lot of ways, things being easy aren’t necessarily the good way of doing things and putting in work isn’t necessarily a bad thing for yourself, whether that’s being stirred on yourself or putting work into relationships. And so, yeah, I always appreciate different perspectives because now you’re allowed to grow in my own relationships and benefit from them. So, thank you. 

Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 56:07

Yeah. Seconding everything that everyone else has said, but especially, especially Maryam, what you were saying about applying that to other relationships. I think that there are a lot of things we talk about when it comes to self-love and romantic love that we don’t apply to love that you have platonically. So that’s definitely something I’ve started thinking more about.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 56:43

All right. Well, I’ll just say that I realized that self-love is at the core of all other kinds of love. And so I think this helped me solidify my definition of what that looks like. And just to think more about that, and also just the concept of what Chabu said but it was something like, things that feel easier, things that come with ease, things that are easy to things that come with ease, just that whole concept was just really helpful to think about. And if there’s other reflections then we can go ahead and close. So thank you guys so much for coming. And I will see you all next week.

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