Category Archives: Culture

Feeling lonely (and old)

I’ve got all the ‘feels’ today, so I feel a rambly post coming on. I’ve had a pretty terrible week, worse than all the bad weeks I’ve experienced in a while. You know, when one thing goes wrong after another?

I’d had a long and exhausting day and I was on my way home on the tube, standing up amongst the commuters rammed in the carriage. And all of a sudden, I felt really lonely. I was surrounded by people and felt like I had no one to lean on. And that’s when I thought ‘I could really do with a hug right now’. 

I know it sounds so random, and I always hug my family and friends whenever I see them, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Can you ever ‘miss’ something you’ve never had? It’s at that point I thought ‘this is the time I wish I had a partner who I could go to for a big fat hug, bury my head in their chest and hide from the world, whilst they reassured me that everything will be alright’.

I feel really weird writing this, but I have a feeling it’s something that people don’t tend to talk about but will be able to relate to. Maybe the right word to use here is companionship. Someone who is always in my corner, who has my back and is my little cheerleader in everything I do.  

I know the simple answer to this problem would be to put myself out there and take this whole ‘looking for a life partner’ thing seriously. But I still have all those demons to deal with before I can even begin with the search. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit scared. I don’t take rejection or disappointment well. I know no one really does, but I have a feeling I will take it to heart, maybe a bit too much when I’m already feeling vulnerable. 

When I was talking about all those people (including myself) who pretend that everything is okay, I mentioned how I find it hard to talk to people about my problems. And I found this to be extremely problematic this week. I was going through a lot, and I know my friends are here for me, but I also know they have a lot on their own plates right now. So I didn’t want to add to this. And just how others sharing their problems with me eventually became a stress in my life, I didn’t want to become that person to them.

So here’s some real talk, I’m no spring chicken. A milestone is fast approaching, and I’ve been reading some of my old posts and realised I’m still moaning about the same things from 3+ years ago! I need to get a grip, haha!

Whilst hearing about some scandalous news from my hometown (so and so being in a secret relationship and whatnot), my mother decided to turn on me. She goes ‘when are you going to get married? You’re not getting any younger, don’t you care about your future?’. Oh mother, if only you knew.

I managed to dodge the bullet, as usual, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be safe for. She has a point, and also has the right to ask. I’m just the one who doesn’t have an answer for her. I do feel sorry for my parents to be honest. They’re still waiting for me to sort my life out, after so many years of waiting already. And even though they give me a hard time now and again, I understand it could be far worse. When you have younger siblings ‘of age’ at home and you’re the one that’s causing the bottle neck effect, the pressure is on another level. I’ve become very good at burying my head in the sand, so I’ve continued to do so. But now I’m feeling old and tired.

My actions and words don’t add up. I want a partner, but I don’t want to do anything about it. Feeling lonely sucks, but then I find a distraction and get over it (until the next time). I have a dream, that I eventually find ‘my person’. We respect each other, support each other, care for each other’s family and friends and live a simple, but happy life; full of travel and laughter. I know everyone dreams of the whole package, but to be honest with you (and I’m not just saying this to sound like a ‘great’ person), but I really don’t care about the materialistic things – house, car, latest gadgets, etc. Sure, having a nice place to live would be pretty sweet, but if I can travel and see the world, or even live abroad with my partner instead, then that would make me the happiest person.

I watched something recently where a very wise person said, look for qualities in a partner like you would look for in a roommate. Someone you could live with harmoniously, where you respect and are considerate of each other, rather than going by looks and credentials. And that is probably the most enlightening thing I have heard in a while. It’s so simple, but true. I don’t even want to get started on the criteria that Bengali parents have in mind for their children. This Bengali society we live in goes by the exact opposite of these teachings, and that makes me sad.

Now, where is this person I’m looking for? This is probably where I should insert the cheeky wink emoji or something, but in all seriousness, I hope to find this poor sod person soon!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Showing-off and pretending… where do we draw the line?

Those who are familiar with the Bengali culture will probably be aware of the notion of showing-off, or pretending that we’re doing better than we actually are. It’s something I’ve seen happen in my own family as well as others, from the beginning of time. In fact, you see it in your day-to-day life outside of this culture as well. Some good examples would be where a mum exaggerates her child’s success and achievements, just to make it out as if her child is a genuis and better than other people’s kids. Or when people get into crippling debt whilst throwing the most lavish wedding, just to show off to their family and friends that they can ‘afford’ the finer things in life.

Unfortunately, this has just become the norm, but it has lead to my distaste of this behaviour, which has been building up inside of me for a while. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this in my posts. But it’s only recently that I realised just how tired I am of keeping up appearances. I didn’t even realise how much this behaviour was ingrained in me. People pretend to be okay when they’re not, pretty much every single day. Some people feel like there’s no point in sharing the truth with others because they ‘won’t get it’, or it’s just the sheer energy that’s needed to explain your feelings. Or it can even be the fear of being judged once you reveal this.

I’m probably making this into a bigger deal than it actually is, but truthfully, I’m exhausted. Just to give you a mini life update, career-wise I wasn’t very happy at the beginning of last year. Then in the middle, things started to look up… and now we’re back to square one again. It’s the nature of the type of work I do, which isn’t something out of the ordinary or difficult, but it’s not something the older generation of Bengali’s understand. So I ‘dumb it down’ into terms they should understand, but they still don’t really get it. Basically, they’re not impressed by it or vaguely even interested. The younger generation on the other hand, think that I have the most awesome job… so go figure!

Whilst I was (and still am) going through my ups and downs, I had to always put on the brave, positive face. People are like ‘wow, she’s got a cool job and is always doing amazing things’, but what they don’t see is what is happening behind the scenes. Stress, long days, unclear career path/prospects/progression, and then me in general being a ball of mess. I’ve mentioned before how lucky I am to have such incredible friends; they are like my little supporters cheering me on from the sidelines. They are also the ones who have had a stern word or two with me to tell me to stop going overly above and beyond with little return. But they don’t entirely understand… it’s just the expectation of the field I work in. My friends have secure jobs in industries that people are more familiar with; the general 9 to 5. And I know they want the best for me, but they don’t understand why I ‘choose’ to sacrifice sleep, especially for those who may not appreciate my hard work.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, it got to a stage where I felt like I couldn’t complain or have a moan about my situation anymore. People think the answer is to find a way out. They’ll say things like ‘why don’t you look for another job that’s more 9 to 5 and less stressful?’. Again, I know they mean well, but if that’s their answer, I’m not interested. This is when the mask comes on. Unfortunately, this has meant I’ve had to do this in front of a few friends too. Overtime, I naturally started to put the mask on in front of everyone. People ask me how I’m doing, and I only talk about the good and exciting stuff because I don’t want to go into it.

However, I’m just tired now. I’ve always had to be like this with my family since the day I moved out, because if my parents got a whiff of struggle or weakness, it could be used against me at a later date. They may even see this as an opportunity to take back some control of my life, and there’s no way I’m letting that happen. But when you do this in front of friends, they understandably think that everything is okay.

I’ve always been the listener and advice giver in my friendship circle. I had to mature very fast growing up, so I’ve always observed everyone around me and learnt from their life choices; even if I hadn’t been through those situations myself. People tell me that they feel comforted by my words and advice, and show real appreciation, which felt pretty damn good… until it didn’t.

A handful of my good friends, those who happen to be a few years younger than me, are going through things that I’ve been through myself or have a good understanding of. They turn to me for advice, which brings them comfort. When they said they felt happier after talking to me, or felt enlightened in some way (sorry, I’m not trying to sound big headed here – these are literally their words), I used to thrive off this. And after a while, I realised it was happening more and more. And then I was going through all of my own crap, but I didn’t feel like I could talk to them about it, especially as they looked up to me. It lead to me pretending that everything is great with me and I am always here for them. But the truth was, I was getting more and more stressed out.

It was the same group of ‘repeat offenders’, and in a way, I felt a sense of responsibility towards them. Overtime, I became their mother-like figure (again, their words) and so I went above and beyond to hear them out, work with them to find solutions, and put an action plan together, with me doing the final checks and prepping them to tackle the issues they faced. I have invested a lot of time and effort into them, at the expense of my own happiness and wellbeing. I get this from my mum; she puts peoples wants and needs before hers. Sometimes we couldn’t understand why she would go out of her way to do something for someone who’s not even close to her, but she loves it. And I realised it’s the same thrill that I get from helping others.

But the truth is, it started to effect me negatively. I ended up taking on other people’s stress, on top of my own, and that’s really not healthy. It also lead to me not looking forward to catching up with certain individuals, and in the end, feeling a sense of resentment. And I hate myself for feeling this way, because it’s not their fault. They have no idea what’s going on with me, because I’m the one that kept it to myself. But I found that I started to dislike talking to people in general, and just didn’t keep in touch with my friends as often, and then slowly started to pull away from being the usual me. Some people noticed and checked in on me, whilst others were busy with their own lives. It’s only when my best friend told me that I need to stop prioritising other people’s problem over mine, that’s when I realised this was a problem. Up until that point, I was a ball of mess on the inside and couldn’t understand why.

I don’t know how I ended up like this, it just happened gradually until it became all consuming. Just having that one conversation where I confessed how I’d truly been feeling, changed everything. She made me see what I was doing to myself and how other people’s problems aren’t my problems. I know it seems obvious, but when you’re in it, you can’t see it. It just made me wonder why I had done this for so long and pretended to be okay? I personally feel like it’s slightly a cultural thing… pride. You only show your best side. But what has this cost me?

In my last post, I spoke about how much pressure I felt after being called a role model. I wasn’t doing that well, so I didn’t feel like I deserved that title. So now I understand why I felt this way.

This has unintentionally turned into a long post, but my question to you is, why do we (or you) pretend that everything is okay? Why do we show-off even when we don’t have the means to? I’m curious to know if you relate to this topic.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Life update: summer has passed and winter has arrived

The summer has passed and winter has arrived… and I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a year! What have I been doing with my life? I have to admit, I went through some dark times earlier this year. I can’t really say 2017 has been a good year for me, but it’s certainly looking up, so I’ll try to keep this in mind whenever I feel down thinking about the past.

I’ve actually written several posts, which are saved in my drafts and probably won’t get published. It’s weird reading them back when so much has changed, except for one thing. I’m still nowhere near the point of getting married, nor have I started looking.

I don’t feel stressed about it like I did before though, but it’s obviously something that’s always at the back of my mind. Over the last year, several relatives and family friends have got married. I had to attend two weddings as they were of my cousins, otherwise no one would’ve seen me anywhere near one of those celebrations. I tried to dodge and run away from any relatives who had that inquisitive look in their eyes when approaching me. I knew exactly what they wanted to talk about. In other words, what they wanted to grill me about. I learnt my lesson at the first wedding where a relative, quite bluntly and harshly, asked me, ‘Aren’t you ashamed?’.

‘Ashamed of what?’ you ask…? Oh, just the fact that the kid getting married is 5 years younger and that I had the audacity to show my old, unmarried face, without looking embarrassed. I know… just wow. I really didn’t see this direct blow coming. I just turned around and said no I’m not, and that if it’s a problem, then I won’t bother turning up to the next one. That left me with a horrible feeling that night.

Just like I’ve explained in previous posts, I’m not against marriage. In fact, I want to get married. But I had to sort out other aspects of my life first before even thinking about it. This is how I process things and deal with life. Everyone works differently. It’s not even like I tried and failed – I just haven’t been looking. And yes, I know I’m getting old and that I should get a move on. But you know what? I have stopped caring what other people think.

Although, I know I constantly contradict myself. I see everyone around me getting married, buying houses, having babies. And then here I am – nothing has changed. But I’m happy (mostly). I am living a good life right now. And I don’t even mean a crazy one. My life is just as simple (read: boring) as most people’s. It consists of 80% work, 10% ‘fun’, 5% spending time with family and the final 5%, hiding from the world. Most of my time and energy goes into work, because a girl’s got to work to live!

But with a blink of an eye, I’m already nearing the big dreaded milestone and now I’m like… shit.

How did this even happen? One minute ago, I was fresh faced, young and naive. I moved to the city to follow my dreams, thinking it would be just like the movies. Instead, I bumbled through life and here we are, many years later. My best friend always helps me put things into perspective though. It’s easy to sit here and dwell on all the lost opportunities and cry over the fact that I haven’t achieved anything. But then she snaps me out of it (she’d slap me if she could) and reminds me of all the things that I HAVE achieved and how much I’ve gained from that. Everybody needs a best friend like that – someone who can bring you back down to earth and reality.

Anyway, the takeaway from this story is that nothing has changed, but a lot has changed. I’m working towards being happy and content with myself first, before looking for a partner in crime.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Emotional Rollercoaster

I feel like I’ve been going through an emotional rollercoaster recently, but his won’t be news to any of those who have been following my blog. I’m not usually very aware of how particular incidents or events have affected me, but it’s something that’s becoming more and more apparent to me.

In recent months, I’ve noticed just how easily I get emotional, whether that’s watching powerful or meaningful videos and movies, or reading a book. There was a point I had to stop reading, because I would connect to it in such a deep level that I couldn’t get myself out of that headspace for a very long time. Have you ever had that? Where you become obsessed with the characters and their lives?

I recently read a book which had this type of affect on me and I wanted to mention it here because I think it’s something that many of the followers of this blog can relate to. It’s a book called ‘Sofia Khan is NOT obliged’ by Ayisha Malik. It’s about the life of a single 30 year old Pakistani muslim girl who, like many of us, is constantly under that pressures of marriage from family and friends. Even though she’s not Bengali, I found it so relatable to my own life because of the cultural similarities. The culture may be different, but the pressure is the same.

It’s such a good read, at first I was able to read a chapter or two and get on with things, but then I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. 6 hours later, I had finished the whole book. I had laughed hysterically, and cried even more than I could have imagined. I don’t know if it’s because of how I’ve been feeling lately, but it really struck a chord with me. I won’t ruin the book for people who are going to read it, but one theme that was hugely evident throughout, was the incessant pestering of people who kept asking her when was she going to settle down and get married. It was even doing my head in and I wanted to reach out to those people and shake them to make them stop.

I’ve just got back from a well needed mini-break with my best friend. I’ve not been in a good place and this trip felt like it came at just the right time when I was about to crumble. I explored a new city, fell in love with it’s beauty, absorbed it’s culture and history and let go of all my worries for a few days. It was only the second day into my 4-day trip that I realised just how wound up and stressed out I had been. And although I knew this was what my soul needed, just before I went away, I had an encounter with my mum.

I’ve mentioned before how hard it is for me to talk to my parents about the topic of travelling. So when I called my mum to tell her I’m going away for a few days, she completely lost it. She went into me like this was her last opportunity to do so in her life. She brought up everything I’d ever done in my life that she disapproved of. How disappointing I am as a daughter. How she can’t show her face in the community because she’s too embarrassed that she has a single daughter who shows no sign of getting married anytime soon. She said I’m not young anymore, I can’t afford to be picky. She gave me a warning, and said that she is no longer going to care if my younger siblings end up getting married before me. In fact, she said she was going to encourage it. It was like as if she was doing this to spite me. She said my dad should have never let me leave home because then none of this would’ve been a problem. How things would’ve been better if I hadn’t had that taste of freedom…

It hurt, a lot. I wanted to shout back and say ‘do you even know what you’re talking about? You blind woman, can you not see anything past the ridiculous need to be pretentious and impress these people, who do not care about anyone but themselves?’. Does she even think about how I would’ve been feeling and what that may have led me to do? By moving away, I took back control of my sanity and developed the will to live a good life. I didn’t go down any dodgy paths or do anything that would’ve reflected badly on them and my upbringing…

But I stayed quiet, which spurred her on to continue with more. I cried silently, it was just painful to listen to. I kept thinking ‘why don’t I just hang up?’. But that would be asking for more trouble. I became numb. I didn’t sleep all night. I went on this holiday with a sad and heavy heart.

This is what my life is like. I know this pattern particularly well. The calm before the storm, the destruction and devastation. Then the task of picking up the pieces and putting things back to together with the hope that it won’t happen again. Or that next time I’ll be better prepared or at least have made some progress. But then it happens all over again, and a little piece of me gets lost in the sadness somewhere.

In my opinion, Sofia Khan in the book was very lucky to have parents who, despite being a pain and putting on the pressure, understood the importance of education and wanting their daughter to be happy. I don’t think my parents put happiness before pride and honour. Actually, I know they don’t. They aren’t evil people, but they are so blinded by culture and society, they don’t know what is more important anymore.

The old me would’ve shouted back to be heard, but the me now is staying quiet and waiting for the storm to blow over….until next time.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflection… Things That Keep Me Up At Night

It’s been a long time since I’ve really struggled to fall asleep at night. I can usually occupy myself enough to the point where I tire myself out, but not tonight. I have one million and one things going round my head and I just can’t seem to settle.

It’s that time of year when people seem to reflect on their life over the past year, as well as think about the future. I feel restless and here are just some of the reasons why:

I get contacted by so many wonderful people via this blog and I absolutely love hearing from them. People from similar backgrounds as me, people who share my frustrations, as well as those who’ve unfortunately had it even worse than me. I am grateful to each and every one of these individuals who’ve impacted my life in such a positive way, they have no idea. There are times when I’ve questioned the path I’ve chosen, or feel sad about how some things have turned out. But these people have helped me realise how far I’ve come and often remind me what is important in life. I truly believe it is up to us to find the things that make us happy and if I can help others realise their potential in any way, then I will always try my best. But this does sometimes keep me up at night because I really want to help, but there isn’t always an instant solution.

With busy lifestyles, we can sometimes lose touch with people who are important to us. Over the holiday period, I usually try and get in touch with those I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, which can be wonderful but also sad at the same time. Sometimes it’s a bit too late to repair a friendship which was once so prominent in your life, and other times, you feel disappointed in yourself for not making more of an effort. I recently came to realise how one-sided a friendship of mine was with someone I’ve known for over 15 years, and it hurt. I am one of those people who has always tried to be everyone’s friend, I can’t help it, it’s just who I am. So I’m used to being there for my friends no matter what. But when it came to me needing this particular friend, this wasn’t reciprocated. I know many people go through this in life, but I wear my heart on my sleeve so can’t pretend to be okay about it, especially as the other party is carrying on like nothing happened. This keeps me up at night. It’s one thing dealing with family drama, but it’s another thing when it comes to friends.

I’m at a particular stage in my career where my once dream job, no longer is a dream job. People tend to evaluate their job prospects and career around this time of year anyway, but for me, this started about a month or so earlier, so I’ve been in this awful, unfulfilled bubble for nearly 2 months now. The only solution is to look for other opportunities that can help me find fulfilment again, but it’s easier said than done. I’ve previously worked in recruitment, so you’d think this wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s not the case here. This keeps me up at night.

I feel like there’s a ticking clock dangling over my head. Spending this much time with family over the holiday puts me on high alert. So far, I’ve managed to escape any awkward conversations, but you know it’s going to happen at some point. The unspoken, lingering issue of marriage. I’ve heard via my siblings that I’m about to get a warning of some kind. I’ve spoken about the pressures of marriage and the issues around my imaginary wedding many times before, but even I’m getting annoyed at myself now. I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m now in my late 20s, so I’m no longer a ‘spring chicken’. I need to stop making excuses and face my fears, rather than pretend that this isn’t happening. I have many insecurities and the thought of putting myself out there and allowing others (who don’t know me) to point these out and judge me, just freaks me out. I have this internal battle with myself to sort it out and make plans to make a change in my life to get rid of my ‘flaws’. But then I wake up and it’s a new day and the pep talk the night before vanishes… until later.

I could list every single thing keeping me awake, but then I’ll never get to sleep. I know there are some simple solutions for a few of these problems, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I feel like just being Bengali turns these into bigger issues than they should be, which is basically the story of my life. Are there things that stress you out and keep you up at night?

Tagged , , , , ,

Keeping secrets from parents

I’m not sure if this will come as a shock to many people or if I’m not actually alone in this, but keeping things from my parents has become a norm in my life. Now, before you jump to conclusions and start thinking I’m one of ‘those girls’ who goes off behind her parents back and gets up to all sorts of mischief, let me set the record straight – I certainly don’t.

What I’m referring to are the little white lies you have to tell your parents or things you leave out on purpose in order to live an easier life. I’ve been doing this ever since I was a teenager and have always felt a pang of guilt whenever the topic came up. It’s only recently when a friend and I were talking about it, that I realised how much I actively avoid telling my parents things.

I always find it strange and a little bit baffling, how much a few of my friends share with their parents, the ins and outs of their lives. I mean, I actually admire having that type of relationship to a certain extent. But then I imagine myself having those open conversations with my parents and it completely weirds me out.

When I was younger, I was constantly frustrated by the made up rules and regulations they thrusted on us which made no sense at all. I always questioned things and pushed boundaries (as mentioned in my previous ‘never good enough’ posts part 1 and part 2). But I would always get resistance from them and this just ended in me getting ultimatums and stern looks. So naturally as a teenager when you’re put in these situations and wanted something so badly, you will look for every possible way to make this happen. I wasn’t even that ambitious with what I wanted, which is the sad thing about all of this. All I really wanted was to do all the little things all the other kids got to do. Like go round to each others’ houses, go into town on the weekends, attend (supervised) birthday parties, etc. Was that really too much to ask for?

I discussed this at length with all my little friends at the time and hatched a plan to get their parents involved. So on this particular occasion, my friend’s aunt (who was her legal guardian) called my parents to ask if it was okay for me to go round on the weekend to work on a project together which required us to go to the big library in our town centre and do some research. She even offered to pick me up and drop me off, so my parents reluctantly agreed and I was over the moon. I could not have been happier if I tried – it was the best day of my life! Haha, now thinking back and writing about it seems silly, but the reason why I’m telling you this story is because this was a huge triumph for me, because the other thing is, none of my friends were bengali. So naturally my parents didn’t really care much about them and didn’t take any of my friendships seriously.

So yes, I did go round and do a little bit of homework with a trip to the library, but the rest of the time, we went to the shops, bought all the sweets our money could buy, stuffed our faces and I even had dinner round my friend’s house, where I felt like an alien. It involved sitting at the dinner table with her family, napkins, knives and forks and polite conversations, where people actually took interest in their kids’ lives – school, projects, friends, hobbies. What was this new and different world that I clearly wasn’t living in?

I don’t think bengali kids these days truly appreciate how good they’ve got it. Their parents are somewhat younger and much more educated than my parents, who genuinely want their children to do well in school and life and will be there to support them. I didn’t have that growing up, and that is how my relationship with my parents ended up like this. Me keeping secrets from them.

Many years ago when I was given the ultimatum of going to a university close to home, which meant commuting everyday or getting a full-time job, I chose to go to the uni of their choice. This meant I didn’t really get the true university experience, which I’m still trying to figure out if it was for the best. But meeting these new people who were experiencing new found freedom of their own, I was invited to many cool and exciting things. Obviously, I hardly ever took part in social activities because, firstly my parents wouldn’t approve and secondly, I always had to answer to them whenever I came back ‘late’. By late I don’t even mean midnight, I just mean later than my normal class times. But even then, I was a good kid at heart, so didn’t even want to get involved in the clubbing/drinking/smoking scene. But I made some genuinely lovely friends and we liked to treat ourselves to nice lunches and dinners now and again, so I told my parents I was studying in the library – the classic.

My relationship with my parents has somewhat improved over the years because of me living away from home. But I will only share nuggets of information with them because as soon as they get too much insight into my life, they find a way to use it against me at another opportunity. Or they give me a lecture there and then about how I am careless with money and only think about myself and how I value having fun with my friends more than spending time with family, apparently. It always comes down to two things – money and marriage. The two evil ‘M’s in my life. For example, if I book a holiday, I’m ‘wasting’ money and therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding. If I tell them about an amazing meal I had at a nice restaurant, I’m washing money down the drain. You get the picture.

So now to current day, a quite big change has happened in my life recently which, as you may have gathered, I haven’t told my parents about yet. I feel bad for keeping it from them, but I know that ultimately, it will only mean that they will worry or tell me to move back home (their default answer to everything), which is not happening, ever. So for them, it’s business as usual.

I don’t know if this even changes your opinion of me or if you think this thing that I do is right or wrong, but I would be really interested to know how you feel about it.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Family Dynamics

I’m going through a bit of a rough time at the moment. It’s nothing new or serious, it’s just an issue that crops up now and again. This is about the relationship I have with my family and the dynamics.

My mum is all around loving and caring at the best of times, but then something comes over her and she will be on at me about my life, my priorities, marriage, etc. It get’s tiring and I wish she’d stop. But at the same time, I know she means well because she just wants what all parents want – for their children to settle down. This is because they think that as soon as that’s done and dusted, I will be happy and they will have fulfilled their duties. However, what I can’t seem to get through to them is that, I am actually happy. Like super happy. I love my life in London and sure, I do sometimes feel like there is something missing in my life, but for the most part, I’m more than content with how my life has planned out thus far.

The reason behind this blog post is to talk about my siblings for a change. I have always thought that I had a good relationship with them. We have a whatsapp group that I basically started a few years back as a way to moan about mum and dad, haha. Now we send each other all sorts of stuff, just like everyone does. However, the more time passes, the more I realise how different we all are.

I’m the second child out of four, and you may call this second child syndrome, but I could not be more different from them if I tried.

My eldest sibling is the golden child – did everything the way my parents wanted. Never really lived a little. Has fulfilled my parents wishes of getting married, having a home and child. Myself on the other hand, I’m the ‘rebel’ apparently. I always pushed the boundaries, always questioned ‘why’, I moved away from home before marriage, I’m ‘wasting’ my money on holidays (therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding)… The list is endless. The younger two on the other hand get away with everything because I’ve basically paved the way for them.

But the fundamental difference between us is that I have a goal and drive to achieve something in my life, that they don’t really seem to have. Their goals are very materialistic. They want the latest trends, fashion, beauty, gadgets, etc. I want to focus on my career and work in an industry that I love, so may not take the most conventional route. They’re happy to settle with whatever job they can get in the town where we grew up. I want to travel and see the world. They want to spend all their money on possessions.

I know that having these differences isn’t a big deal – everyone is different. However, it’s when I realise how different our morals are too, that’s when it really affects me. For example, the way they view other people and cultures is so different to me.

I find it difficult to understand why I’m so different from them despite us having the same upbringing. We were brought up by the same parents, in the same home and town, in the same education system. Yet, I stand out like a sore thumb.

Going home to visit my family feels like a chore now. I really enjoy the first day because I miss them. I miss my parents and their petty arguments, I miss the jokes and banter we all have together, I miss my mums exceptional cooking. But as soon as day 2 comes around, I’m counting down the minutes until I can go back to London. That’s because that fun and jokey side soon fades and their true colours start to show. Don’t get me wrong, my family are generally nice and normal people. I think it’s just me, I’m like the odd one out.

I’ve thought about this long and hard over the last few years and I’ve finally started to realise what it is… I care too much.

I care about my siblings and their future and so I try to make sure they take advantage of all the good opportunities in life. I care about sharing and celebrating all the little successes. I like to communicate and tell them about all the cool and lovely things that are happening in my life. I like to give thoughtful gifts and make a fuss over people to make them feel loved and special.

A few years back, I realised they didn’t care about these things as much as I did. In fact, I was made to feel bad for getting upset or annoyed about this. Like, why was I making this into a big deal?

In the past, I’ve spoken to a few of my close friends about this and they’ve felt sorry for me. That’s because they know what kind of person I am and how much this all means to me. Their conclusion was to not let this get to me and not take it to heart. If only it were that easy. How can someone train themselves to care less?

I don’t even know what to put this down to. Is it culture? Or is it that I’ve adopted the more western way of thinking, of being more supportive and encouraging? Is that such a bad thing? I really don’t know, you tell me.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Where do I belong?

So a lot has been happening in my life over the past few weeks. So much change. I’m yet to figure out if it’s a good or bad thing. But I realised I feel like I’m at some kind of loss. Maybe a crossroad in my life?

I’m at the turning point in my career… looking for the next suitable opportunity. I’m a single, Bangladeshi, muslim girl on the wrong side of 25. I don’t have any significant debt. I don’t have a partner. I’m mortgage free and not trapped in a contract in my London flat. I have nothing tying me down… except this invisible pressure.

Pressure that I’ve put on myself to prove that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Pressure to show people that I’m doing extremely well. Pressure from my parents to save money for my imaginary wedding, find a husband and settle down. Pressure to get serious about religion and become a better muslim. Does this list ever end?

But all I can think about these days is how I want to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in London. It wasn’t where I was born or grew up, but it’s always felt like home. It’s where I’ve always felt like I belonged. It’s where I’m most comfortable, it’s where I can breathe this fresh (but somewhat polluted) air of freedom.

Yet, I feel like I need a break. For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. It’s my dream, it’s all I want in life right now. But I know that’s unrealistic, and it makes me feel sad. I mean, you just have to read my list of pressures above to figure out why.

My parents would go mental and summon me to move back home. They will demand I sort my life out and get married in the next few months. They will treat me like I’m incapable of making my own life decisions. I will regress back to being that angsty teenager, fighting for my rights. In the end, I will be the one losing out, and risk having the freedom I have in London yanked away from me.

It’s so hard to explain this to people outside of the culture. These people will tell me that I shouldn’t be listening to my parents and should do what makes me happy. And that my parents can’t tell me what I can or cannot do. I really wish it was that simple. There will always be consequences and the possibility of them disowning me (if I really pushed it that far). And I know this may sound absurd, but it’s not easy to not care about what your parents think. There’s always this feeling of wanting their approval of the choices you make in life. It’s a losing battle in my case.

I spoke about it with my siblings today, about how I feel like it’s the right time in my life to give living and working abroad a shot… and they just laughed in my face. Like ‘oh here we go again…’, which actually hurt my feelings. They think I’m ridiculous because I work too much and am nowhere near close to finding someone, let alone get married. They think I’m silly for having these hopes and dreams and that I should focus on settling down. I really felt let down; I feel alone.

So why is it, that despite being in a good, commitment free life, I feel like I’m at a loss? Why is the good always overshadowed by this pressure hanging over my head? Why do I care this much about what others think? Why did I ever think that the people who are meant to be my nearest and dearest, would actually care about my feelings?

There’s nothing stopping me from taking a leap, yet I can’t move. I have all of these questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

Tagged , , ,