As my Baba would say, “There is no love like there is of your own people, I was not just raised by my parents I was raised by an entire village.” And, after wiping away a tear because of how beautiful my parent’s perception of collectivism is, I suddenly cringe.
Our families have passed this structure on to us even though we function in western societies where individualism is the goal. The friction of the two conflicting ideas shape my view of cultural collectivism, during my adolescence, as oppressive. Chains created through fear of being outcasted.
For a moment I am in my ancestor’s shoes and I am overwhelmed with sadness. In these shoes, I have failed somehow and now I am all alone. The fabric of my reality deems me unworthy. When I was able to understand how fundamental this acceptance was for my parents the same way my individualism was fundamental to me I had to find a way to force a sort of duality.
How do Desi Americans fit into a collective and practice our individualism?
The struggle to fill the cultural gap while maintain privacy is a role many young brown adults are forced to play. The sudden freedoms of adulthood can be overwhelming for South Asians, especially when it’s not respected as responsibility. Many young South Asians may find themselves in toxic situations because they don’t have the privilege to confide in a family member – leaving them filled with guilt and shame.
This is truly a vicious cycle that can cause many to spiral and fall through the cracks. It is because of this I am pushing the concept of being your own parent, as a way to pivot the journey of those who feel they are suffering alone without a compass into one that is more directed and structured with self-love and care.
Here are some steps that can lead us closer to our best and healthy living selves:
[Read Related: Letter to our Sons and Daughters: Use Your Mind, Spirit, and Soul to Make a Positive Change in this World]
Maintain Physical Health
Whatever you are stressing over in the dark may cause your Mom to say “chi” but nothing will send her to an earlier grave then knowing her child has not been eating.
During undergrad, I remember being depressed because there was just so much sudden expectation for me to academically succeed and I also wanted to be sure I played just as hard. This caused many sleepless nights that I deprived myself of real food. My health quickly plummeted and my beautiful South Asian hair was becoming brittle and started to fall out. I can’t imagine how disconnected and concerned my parents felt.
It was not self-love at first that pushed me towards acting more responsibly but it was their unconditional love of just simply making sure I was fed, no matter how disappointing I felt. Why would we not love ourselves the same way? Maintaining our selfcare not only reduces the negative effects of stress but allows us to refocus on our situation with more clarity.
I remember being embarrassed by my dad’s angry and demanding foreign man demeanor. He wanted to make sure we got the best out of everything, but in my adolescence, I found it so annoying and stressful.
“Please Baba lets just go, please let it go, you’re scaring the nice white lady,” I said.
Now as I fight my battles alone, I miss my Baba ripping everyone a new one for my sake. No one is going to fight our battles for us in life. I cannot stress how important self-advocacy is — especially for people of color.
I realize now that my father needed this aggressive demeanor as an immigrant just to get what was rightfully his. Alone we may feel that we are not deserving of even certain fundamental rights, this is actually internalizing the oppression that is outside of us.
[Read Related: Using the ‘Law of Attraction’ to Attract Happiness into my Life]
You are not alone and you are not the first. There are other people who have walked your path seeking you as you seek them. Look for masters, mentors and like-minded people, these will be your healing relationships. Studies have shown that one of the largest benefits of mentoring is the reduction of symptoms of depression.
Mentored youth tend to have a more positive outlook allowing them to trust their parents and find more ways to communicate with them. Remember it takes a village to raise one person so find yours.
Be Terrifyingly True
I have yet to encounter ruthless savage behavior like a brown mother ready to call her kid out.
Ma does not tell you what you want to hear she tells you what you need to hear. Sometimes we are shaming ourselves to toxicity and then other times we are denying our faults. Both extremes are equally as damaging. Being capable and being flawed are not mutually exclusive. We only begin to truly transform when we understand and accept ourselves.
“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Rumi
To be your own parent is to love yourself unconditionally no matter the circumstances. This act of self-love is truly a duty and should be treated as such. Freedoms and privacy are part of our fundamental human rights and allow us to be ourselves. So let go of the guilt and be responsible for our freedom. I hope in the future we create more spaces that help us celebrate our culture as well as our individualism.