Burn Your Ships

burnships.jpg“The same love you give to people is not the same love you get back”

An old friend of mine once told me that life is like a boomerang; what you throw at it, is what you get back. I agreed with her at the time because it made complete sense to me, but now after my personal life experiences, not so much.

So I ask you, have you ever had unconditional love for someone? When all you wanted was the best for them and for them to be happy, no matter what they did? Their happiness meant so much that if they needed you, you would drop the world for them? If you said yes to the questions above you will understand what I’m about to talk about.

No matter how busy I was, I always made time for every single friend I had in my life. I truly loved all of my friends and wanted to be around for them just in case one of them needed me. Whether it was a break up, family issues, or something as simple as spilling coffee all over their favorite shirt. I always tried to help my close friends in any way, shape, or form because I knew when the time came they would do the same for me. Or so I hoped.

As I said earlier, what you throw at life is what life throws back at you. The boomerang I threw at my friends was love, understanding, compassion and unconditional support. The boomerang I got back, however, was the complete opposite from what I expected. Of course I spilled coffee on myself, I walked into a pole and even fell in public all of which my friends were always there for; until my life took a twist of fate. Suddenly I looked around and never felt more alone in my life. The same people I called my brothers, the same people I would drop the world for, were now suddenly unwilling to drop a party for me, or just text me and see if I’m okay.

With all I was going through, I figured eventually that boomerang would come back with my friends, because this time I needed them. This time I needed a friend, i really did need to go out; but this time, the people I needed no longer needed me. That was a tough pill to swallow but I had to accept the truth. My hard times and downfall were my own problems and nobody else could help me, besides me.

Since a lot of what I went through was alone I often found myself feeling scared and on a hill that had no end. On such days I’d sit on the floor with my back against my bed and would look up at my office chair. I always had a flashback to my father sitting on that very chair, while I sat on the ground as he told me a story. One specific story I remembered a few days ago was about a king who was unable to capture an area of land. The only thing that held the king back from capturing the land, was his own fear and hesitations. He figured that all of his old ways didn’t work so he had to change up his game plan. This time around, he got on his ship with the rest of his soldiers and told them to burn the ships once they got to the island. The soldiers looked at the king with confusion because obviously they needed those ships to get back if the opposing army was stronger. The king then told them, “If we don’t burn our ships, we will run back just like we did last time”. He explained to them, “We can’t have a safety net this time, our only way out is to keep marching forward”. After days of battle, the king and his army were tired, in pain, and aching but they did what they set out to do; they conquered the land that they wanted.

While sitting on my room’s floor I remembered what my father told me and I felt like he was really on that chair, just like he used to whenever he wanted to give me a quick life lesson. As a kid, I thought it was a cool story but now I understood what my father was trying to explain to me. I have to burn my ships and keep marching forward, no matter what people or life throw my way.

Be careful of where and to whom you throw your boomerang. You may not always like the boomerang you get back.

The Two Sons

His big brown eyes looked up at the two wanting to be included. He often looked from afar hoping he could be part of the conversations. His older brother would share a big breakfast along with discussions about life, work and family with his dad. The younger brother sat looking at the tea and then every so often looking up at the two. The younger brother didn’t have much to say to his father he didn’t know whether it was because of age or different interests. As the years went on the younger brother pulled himself away from the family thinking he didn’t belong. He made him self busy with college, friends and making a name for himself. His only goal was to hear his parents say they are proud of him.

The problem with him being the youngest is he only saw his older siblings including the older brother gain success. He always felt he was too far behind in life or maybe didn’t have much in common with anyone. While everyone had a path in life the youngest wanted to be a writer, photographer or do something creative. The younger brother would often sit with his family and not feel connected because nobody understood him. He was an observer, a runner up and stuck in the shadows of his family name. What he didn’t know was his differences within the family made him have a rare mentality that pulled people towards him.

Sometimes we get so busy in life that we don’t realize how much has changed. The younger brother was now 23 years old, done with college, working and having conversations with his father. He also got to hear from his parents that they are proud of him. He soon became the life of the house and kept everyone happy because he had a different approach to life. Its funny how things change because now the older brothers brown eyes looked at the younger brother and said “I envy you” after the younger brother shared the conversation he had the previous night with his father. The older brother said “my entire life I could only connect with dad over work. I never had a chance to connect with dad over personal things”. Its as if the roles had switched between the brothers. Maybe I only observed the things that met my eyes on the breakfast table. Maybe just maybe my different ideologies, interests and this love for love helped me get what I want with my family. The difference with me is that I want to bring the two sons back together on that breakfast table. One can talk about work and the other son can talk about the new filter on instagram. It’s not the breakfast I want to share but rather the time spent on the table.

The Corner Store Man

Broken English was what I knew him as. The man behind the counter was nothing more than a the corner store man. He stood tall above the customers only because the counter made him look tall. Bulletproof glass was the only barrier between him and the customers. “Hello buddy” was said to everyone and each time I died inside because he had an accent. I was embarrassed of him and I didn’t want people to know this man was my father. He was nothing but an immigrant who the customers can mock, make fun of and disrespect. I was a young, shy and quiet kid who usually stood in the background because I didn’t want to be noticed. I remember one day a girl from my 5th grade class walked in and I hid under the counter because I thought I would be judged due to my father’s job and accent.

A bad accent was what I knew him as. The man behind the counter would make me broom and mop the store. I hated these tasks because I could hear the whispers of the kids my age laughing. I remember one day I was mopping and I saw this man throw change at the corner store man while he had his hand out to take the change. I remember people throwing racist remarks at the corner store man only because he had an accent. The corner store man would do nothing but smile back and do whatever he can to make the customer happy. I was so embarrassed because I couldn’t defend him. I didn’t know what to say, what to do and how to handle these situations. Instead I grew distant because I did not want to be at the corner store.

As I grew distant, the corner store man and me would only meet for breakfast and maybe dinner. He would always ask me to stop by and help him but I always was too “busy” or made some other excuse. At times I would wish he could just be a doctor or have a “real job”. While I was wishing what he could’ve been he dealt with body aches, back problems and various health problems. I was so blinded and so selfish at the time that I couldn’t notice he would need my help.

I soon went to college and I forgot the corner store even existed. The corner store man not only got me through college but also made sure I never gave up. The corner store man forgot all of his dreams to see me peruse mine. I followed my dreams of becoming a dancer, photographer and writer. I fell so many times during my undergrad career and he was always by my side to pick me up even when I didn’t ask for help. I was an asshole who was so concerned about what he did that I forgot who he was.

Yes, I proudly announce to the world my father is a corner store man but nobody is better at it than him. Yes, he has an accent but he can read, write and speak in 3 languages. The corner store man is not only a proud storeowner but also a son, father, husband and a selfless man who provided education to all of his kids.

As I write this I am standing at the counter greeting the customers who walk in. This time around my father is drinking tea at home while I try to manage the things he does with his eyes closed. My father is what I will always see him as.

For all of my South Asian readers, whose families are in some sort of a family business, show your parents love and appreciate them. The immigrant life is tough and it is not easy by any means. It’s a new language, new culture and pretty much new everything. Never let yourself be embarrassed of how they speak or what they do.

Dear South Asian Parents.

Dear South Asian Parents,

We love you immensely and respect all you have done for us. There are times we sit back and think how we would be unable to do the things you do every day, there is something you should know about us. Times have changed and compared to how you grew up, we are living in a different world. Males and females can be friends, women can get the same jobs as men. We want you guys to understand this about us. We do not want our actions to be overshadowed by what society will say or what people around us have accomplished. We have become a household of order and structure that we often forget that we are a family. We want you to ask about things besides school and work. Ask us about our day, what new movies are out, or what we have planned for the weekend. We want you to be our friends and take interest in our lives so we don’t make mistakes like Anjali. Often we pass by each other but do not have much to say which is starting to create a wall between our relationship. We all make mistakes but in this time and age some unfortunate mistakes in your eyes may be drinking, smoking, and dating. We want to have a frank relationship with you but if we feel like you are going to react and get upset with us, chances are we will back off and not say anything even when we need you. Maybe our major in college is not what you want or maybe we are in love but can’t tell you. We really do love you but we as kids are stuck in a parallel with our modern lives while trying to relate to your customs. The fact of the matter is the only consistent thing about life is change. Now we as kids have to be calmer and really understand that we are from two different worlds, and we want you to do this as well. Now that you know our side we want to know yours.

Anjali & Trust Issues.

My heart was racing because I was drunk and the walk from the car to the door felt like a mile long. It seemed like an eternity to unlock my door and the entire time I was reminding myself to “act natural”. My make-up was smeared, I did not change out of my short dress and by the time I closed the door behind me I saw my parents sitting down and trying to find a daughter in me. They demanded me to come sit in front of them. I knew if I walked to them they would be able to smell the alcohol from my breath and my slurred words would give it away. I took a moment then started walking to them with the help of the walls and furniture around me. By the time I took a seat I saw them get angrier and scream, “Are you drunk!?” I denied it, I swore to them but my mom leaned in and smelled it on me. Just by the look on her face I knew I was in a lot of trouble. I thought at the time it would be great to lighten up the mood by telling them a joke I heard. I looked straight at my dad and said, a sandwich went into a bar and the bartender said, “Sorry we don’t serve food here”. I got no reaction but due to my intoxication I laughed really hard. My dad ordered my mom to take me upstairs and get me in bed; we will deal with her tomorrow.

My mother pulled my arm and dragged me up the flight of stairs. She gave me my bedtime clothes and put some water by my bedside table. I thought I was dreaming about throwing up but when I woke up I realized my clothes, bed, and floor were covered in it. By this point my mom had to clean it because I was way to hung-over to even help. I was called downstairs to have breakfast with the family but I knew I was due for a lecture. I walked to the breakfast table and before I had even sat down he demanded my phone and told me no more friends and no more going anywhere without our supervision. I just nodded my head and slid my phone to him and quietly went to my room with my breakfast.

I still had graduation and senior week ahead of me. My parents basically had me on house arrest, checking my phone every time it would buzz, going through my closet to make sure I was not hiding anything, and kept a close eye on my actions. I thought if I kept my good behavior up everything would be fine. Boy oh boy was I wrong about that thought process. They just needed a reason to bring up prom night and even with my 500 apologies they just did not want to even talk to me. I was reminded constantly of how much of a shame I was to the family name and how I can never be trusted.

Graduation day was bitter sweet. I thought to myself this is it, the 4 years of high school are over and senior week was going to be my only way to see my friends. After walking the stage my dad told me I would have 15 minutes to talk to my friends and I had no choice because I was not going to fight back. I knew senior week would not happen. I knew my parents were on the zero tolerance policy but the worst part was how they overshadowed my accomplishments over the past four years. I earned scholarships but it was overlooked because they were still comparing me to girls they thought had good image although everyone knew they sneak out every weekend and do the things I once did.

I heard my name being called and I got up to retrieve my diploma. The entire time I was walking back to my seat I thought how I would have never handled the situation like my parents did. Unlike them, I understand the impulses teenagers have. The social environment and curiosity leads them to experiment with things that their parents might not be proud of. I knew in my college career I would drink again, but the worst part was that I couldn’t tell them anything anymore.

Anjali is not a real girl, everything was made up and fictional but being a South Asian teenager is difficult. We have to balance two worlds between friends and family but that often gets overlooked. I have decided to stop the story here but next week I will have a message to the parents.

Anjali in high school.

It was 12th grade and I was sitting three rows from the stage. During our valedictorian’s speech I just could not focus because she was so damn boring. I zoned out and started reflecting on the last four years of my journey through high school.

9th grade I woke up and my mom was telling me how she went to the temple yesterday to do Pooja for a good first day. We were not wealthy and had just enough money to make ends meet. My only option for a ride to school was my dad’s tow truck. The embarrassment I felt when getting out of his truck was indescribable. I would check my surrounds in hopes that no one would know that I was leaving from the rusty and squeaking truck. All the other students would be dropped off in luxury cars and walked with a sense of pride unlike me. When I walked into school the hallways were big which scared me because I had no idea where to go or even whom to ask for help. Everyone knew one another from childhood or was part of an extracurricular group so they all knew one another. I was the new girl in the neighborhood and had to find a way to be seen. I craved the popularity and recognition but my parents controlling everything I did made my journey tough.

10th grade was a little better because I met a few people and was able to walk in with them without the sense of embarrassment. The reality was I wanted to be the girls I saw in the corner with the guys. They were beautiful and everyone knew them! Unfortunately my parents had one major rule which was no talking to boys. All my childhood I followed this but I started to realize that there was no harm in having a few male friends. Plus at this moment I was desperate because I wanted more attention.

11th grade I found ways to trick my parents from “Mom I have a study group” to “Dad I have to get some extra help from the teachers” I always found a way to stay out later. Those excuses were my way to get to the mall and do some shopping with my girlfriend. I started packing an extra outfit every day in my backpack and would change once I got into school. I started wearing miniskirts and showing off extra skin as a way to get phone numbers. It worked but I could not save guys numbers because if a name showed up on my phone while I was around my parents they would lose it. At first I had a paper with numbers and names on it but then my friend showed me a clever way to not have to sneak around texting my new guy friends. They told me to save the numbers into the phone as female names. For example John is Jessica and Richard is Rachelle. I could not thank them enough because it worked like a charm. I got away with it until my last year in school.

12th grade I was making several friends, guys and girls and had become more comfortable with the secret lifestyle I had. This was all the same until I got asked to prom. Since I got so happy I said yes to “Rachel”. I could not use the same excuses as before because the night would end late, so my only option was the sneak out of the house. I did not tell my parents but I told my date I would meet him down the street. I remember running to his car and enjoying prom night so much because I had never experienced this before. I had my first kiss that night, I drank, and did so much more that I blacked out. When I got home I opened the door I saw my parents waiting in the living room. I was too drunk to stand and they sat down looking at my dress, smeared make-up, and a daughter they did not recognize.

A little about Anjali.

Before I get started on this four weeklong story I want to talk about something. We live in a world of problems but the worst problem to have is not knowing you have a problem. We all deal with internal or external issues, simple as a flat tire ruining your day, or maybe an argument with a loved one because they touched on a sensitive topic. Forget others, but I feel like the life is being sucked out of me when I am asked to help someone with their issues because I have dealt with people who would not do the same for me.

The story that will start next week is about a young girl named Anjali. She is a 19-year-old fictional character who is dealing with the generational, cultural, and mental differences since her parents are immigrants from Punjab and she is born and raised in America. This is a problem many South Asian communities deal with yet ignore because we feel like nothing can be done. It may be comical for some but believe me it is reality for most. This story will follow her journey in hopes to find her identity in a Punjabi family and be a part of American culture. Just to give some history, Anjali is a freshman at a university studying to be a doctor, not because she wants to, but because it will make her parents proud. Our South Asian societies focus heavy on social status and what others will think which is why many South Asians deal with internal and external issues such as Anjali will. Anjali not only lies to her parents but also to her self about many things that you will see as the story continues. From Anjali’s dating life, friends, and her crazy parents. See you next week as we explore and start from Anjali’s high school life!