Monthly Archives: February 2018

Role Model

I heard some words today that really touched my heart and I didn’t know how to process it. It’s not every day that you hear someone say that you’re their role model. I was quite taken aback and not quite sure what to say or do.

I have a young, impressionable relative, who has a heart of gold. At a very young age, she’s had to mature very fast and become a support for her family. Her and her siblings have been through things that no kid should ever have to experience, yet they have made it out of this awful situation, stronger than ever, and are continuing to live their life really well. And most importantly, growing up to be great human beings. I really admire these kids. Not only that, on top of the pressure of school and college, they’re pursuing hobbies, teaching themselves skills and putting themselves out there. These kids are truly a force to be reckoned with and are actually a huge inspiration to me. They are half my age and already are these amazing, kind and thoughtful people, even after going through so much. I often think, if they can achieve all of this despite everything they’ve been through, then I have to try to be at least half as good as them, which spurs me to keep going. Honestly, I can’t praise them enough.

So when I heard about this particular conversation from someone, I automatically choked up. It’s very easy for people to say things they don’t mean these days, whether it’s good or bad. But when you know they genuinely mean it, you feel quite wonderful… and a little bit scared.

This kid told her mum that she looks up to me. She said that the fact that I work hard for what I’m passionate about, and despite being a ‘brown asian girl’, I moved away from home to pursue a career and do what makes me happy; she really admires me. Her and her siblings are looking forward to the day I get married, because I’m a really good person. I’m her role model…

I mean, how can I not get emotional after hearing that?

I went through many tough hurdles in my life a few years ago when I was searching for my happiness. I had to break away from cultural norms and fight for my rights. And then over the years I’ve had many ups and downs, but you kind of get busy with life and end up losing that sense of purpose. And now as I get closer to another milestone, I am anticipating tough times ahead – the pressure of marriage. So I often reflect on my life and wonder, what have I achieved? Have I been making the right choices? Am I a good person? Am I happy?

To then hear these kind words… I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was incredibly lovely to hear that there are people out there who think I’m doing a good job in life. But to be 100% honest with you, I really don’t think I’ve been doing that well. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that I’ve been struggling quite a bit with so many insecurities. Not forgetting the pressure that a family naturally puts on an unmarried ‘girl of age’; I’ve felt suffocated at times. The thought of being this beautiful kid’s role model just scares me. I feel a pressure to live up to this title, yet I know I am lacking in so many ways. I don’t see myself as ‘successful’, I just feel like I’m bumbling through life.

If only this wasn’t an anonymous blog, I would share this post with her too. She is the one that people should be admiring, not the other way round. I truly believe that kids these days are so much smarter and more empathetic than my peers and I were at her age. They see the world in a different way and I admire that sparkle in their eyes. I need to get me some of that!

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Other people’s pain

I read a really disturbing, but true, story about a Bangladeshi girl who was domestically abused by her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. It was on another level. She was brave enough to share her story with the world, but even braver to show the face behind it. No matter how many words I write in this post, nothing will express how shocking her experience was.

When I watched an interview she’d done for TV, I couldn’t fathom how such a beautiful, strong and confident woman had gone through all of that. She explained that she had been brought up to be a strong woman all her life, so hearing how she reacted uncharacteristically to everything that happened after marriage, just didn’t make any sense to me. She just lost herself.

But when you really think about it, unless you’ve been through it, you have no idea what goes through someone’s mind when in a situation like that. From what I can understand, you love someone with all your heart and soul, and thought they loved you too. Then all of a sudden they get violent and abusive and lash out, then quickly realising this could get ugly, they apologise in a way that seems so genuine… only to go and repeat it over and over again. You then have a million and one thoughts running through your head, whilst feeling like your world has stopped at the same time. You don’t want to admit the reality of the situation to yourself and make excuses, for both the abuser and abusee.

The sad thing about this is that I believe that culture and the society we live in play a huge part in this. She probably couldn’t help but think of the dreaded ‘what would people say’ if she had then left her husband and when these ‘people’ found out, what impact that would have on her and her family’s lives. Not wanting people to know that she’d had a failed marriage, not wanting to have to start from the bottom again. Feeling like the world is collapsing around her.

This is only how I imagine she felt. I haven’t been through it myself, so I would never be able to understand it fully. But there are parts that I can see as clear as day, because we belong to the same culture, which I despise sometimes.

The pressure of keeping up appearences in front of people who do and don’t matter is immense in the Bangladeshi culture. You can’t show that you’re suffering, so you have to keep on, keeping on. You need your loved ones to think that you’re doing well, and you need outsiders to think that you’re living the life! The burden of this pressure is so heavy, that you end up losing yourself. In that instance, it’s so easy to forget who you are, what you wanted to achieve in life and what makes you truly happy. You’re made to feel like you are worthless.

Now, I’m talking about a different aspect of my personal life, but this is something I could relate to and it pained me to read. Halfway through her story, I had to stop and take a breather. It was just too much to bare. How could one person tolerate that much abuse on a daily basis? How is it possible for these evil, conniving, disgusting people to exist in this world and call themselves human beings, let alone muslims?

Everything that is wrong with this culture’s expectations on marriage is in this story. From the ridiculous expectations on her to be the perfect wife, to them mentally and physically abusing her and thinking that it’s their right to do so. None of it should have happened, but it did, because the culture (and religion to a certain extent) allowed it.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a BBC documentary about a Pakistani Muslim woman who was exploring the expectations put on muslim women when it came to marriage and independance. And I wasn’t shocked to find that I could relate to practically everything she said; from how she felt the pressures to be a good daughter and not let her parents down, to wanting to do what makes her happy whilst being respectful of her religion. It was evident that parents enforce the rules of culture quite heavily, to the point that it overtakes the importance of religion. But this isn’t anything new, this is something I talk about all the time.

Thinking back to the domestic abuse story, at first I was adament that I would not have handled the situation like that if it were me. I’m a strong, independent woman who knows enough to realise my own worth and the respect I deserve. But it made me think… didn’t this Bengali girl also think this about herself before she got married?

Regardless, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have let it get this far, but I also understand and appreciate that everyone is different. I think another thing to bare in mind is the fact that she was still fairly young when she was going through this ordeal, so probably wasn’t as worldy as she is now. I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t stand for this behaviour, but I also appreciate the fact that I seem to be quite a few years older than her, so it’s only natural to become wiser with (old) age. You see and hear all sorts – you learn from other people’s stories and pain.

I really respect her for speaking out and sharing her pain with strangers, because it helps people, who are suffering in silence, realise that there is hope out there. And I genuinely wish that people who are going through tough times, gain the strength to reach out and not suffer alone. It can take just one call, message or email to turn your life around. You can read her story on her blog.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t expect a single person to read it. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about it or share it on any social media platforms. But miraculously, people came across it, and not only that, they took the time and effort to reach out to me and tell me that I’m not alone. They even shared their stories with me, which made me feel truly touched and I was definitely taken aback. I never intended for this to be a regular blog (as you can tell), only just an outlet for me to share my thoughts when I felt like I couldn’t talk to the people around me. I’m blessed to have such great people in my life, but even then, I felt alone. And writing a blog post to ‘nobody’ was the only way I felt I could let out my inner thoughts and insecurities.

I’m still shocked when people send me messages, especially when they say that reading something that I had written on a whim had helped them; I just don’t know how to react. It made me appreciate the power of communication. If my ramblings could help you come out of a unpleasant situation, then I am more grateful to you than you are to me, because YOU found me. You have already done more than I did when I was suffering, so I just want to say a big thank you to all of my readers. I’m sorry I’m not a good enough blogger, but I’m grateful to you for making my life shine a little brighter.

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