Tag 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 , , , , , , , ,

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 , , , , , , , , , ,

Travel or plan an imaginary wedding?

I’m sure this sounds like an odd title for a blog post, but it’s seriously one of the biggest stresses of my life. When I was at college many moons ago, I realised how big the world was out there. That’s when I developed this curiosity and caught the travel bug. My closest friends were either going on group holidays or taking a gap year before going to university. It was an alien concept to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have actually left the country before. I had visited Bangladesh precisely 9 times at this point in my life. Oh and not forgetting a day trip to France when I was in high school. Very adventurous, I know.

But when my friends came back from their travels with the most colourful and amazing stories, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I wanted what they just had. But the idea of me, a young Bangladeshi girl, going on holiday or travelling with friends, was just absurd. But a girl can dream, right?

Well that wasn’t good enough for me. I had to make this happen somehow. So I hatched a plan with my best friend who is the most awesome person I know, and that’s a fact. She’s strong and independent, but caring and thoughtful at the same time. And she doesn’t give a crap about ‘what people will say’. She knew how much I wanted to travel, and having experienced a gap year herself, she was the one who passed this travel bug onto me. So we decided we will go on a big holiday after we graduated from university.

Now the tough part was convincing my parents. I’m not sure if you know this, but a lot of the time, some parents will say ‘yeah okay, we’ll see when the time comes’ just to shut you up. And this was probably the first time my dad regretted saying that, because I didn’t let it go. As mentioned before in my earlier blog posts, I have worked all the hours under the sun since the age of 16. I had a part time job in retail for 5 years and then did some temping after finishing uni. And I managed to save a bit of money for my holiday. When graduation came around, I brought the topic up again and reminded my dad that we had discussed the possibility of me going on this holiday after I graduated. I was ready with my reasons and prepared to fight my case. I told him how hard I’d worked for 4 years at university and just really wanted this once in a lifetime opportunity to go on holiday, as a reward, with my best friend who they knew and could trust. She had already travelled the world on her own and I have saved up money for the flights and costs. They really had no way to get out of this.

When I look back, I really have to respect my parents for letting me do this and I’m truly grateful to them. It can’t have been easy letting their single, 22 year old daughter wander around the world. But also, they really didn’t have a choice because I went ahead and booked my tickets. I know, what a rebel! I wanted this more than life itself. It’s so strange reflecting on something that happened 5 years ago and just looking at how far I’ve come.

It came with all these conditions and promises on how it was going to be the first and last time I do something like this, etc. I just nodded yes to everything. Little did they (and I) know that this was only just the beginning…

Since 2010, I have been on holiday 12 times. And I have to say, it has enriched my life and made me so happy beyond belief. There’s just something so magical about escaping reality and exploring another country, culture and the world in general. Every year since my first trip away from my family, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit so many wonderful places, which has broadened my mind and opened my heart to beautiful things. I have learnt a lot and it has shaped me into the person I am today. I am always on the lookout for my next escape… but this is always against my parents wishes.

They detest me going on holiday. They see it as a way of losing their ‘control’ on me and they’re always saying it’s a waste of money. They constantly argue, asking me what’s the point in working if you’re going to wash all your earnings down the drain? They just don’t understand how important it is to me.

Funnily enough, that’s not the case when they want to go to Bangladesh or Dubai, because apparently that’s different. Over the last year or so, travelling has become even tougher as they continue to put the pressure of marriage on me. They want me to save for my (imaginary) wedding, even though I don’t have a partner, therefore I’m not actually getting married. This would sound ridiculous to anyone else outside of the culture. So every time I book a holiday, I torment myself with what my parents will say this time. And when I call them to tell them that I’m going away, I get a huge lecture down the phone, about how I don’t care about anyone other than myself. That I’ve never given them any money, but spend it all on holidays instead, which is not true whatsoever. It hurts hearing this emotional blackmail every… single… time.

But I know how lucky I am. Firstly because I have fought for my right to have a career, move out of home and have a great quality of life. But also because I work damn hard and save my money to spend it on things that I love, travel being one of them. Girls my age are generally married off with a mortgage and kids by now, and although I do want to get married, all the other stuff can wait for a while in my opinion. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets and what ifs.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree with my view on this situation? I would love to know.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Muslim Blind Date – The Introduction

So fast forwarding 2 years from when I started this blog, a lot has happened. The London life zoomed past me without me even realising that all of this time had passed.

So I am no longer in my early or mid-twenties, which is very upsetting. So as you can imagine, the pressure of marriage is pretty high right now. I tiptoe around the subject, especially around my parents. They don’t even care about all the other things I’ve achieved in my life since I moved to London, because that’s not important in their eyes.

Last summer (or was it the year before that? I can’t remember to be honest) I gave into this pressure and signed up to an online dating site for Muslims. It was pure torture. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and caused me so much stress. But I’ll save that story for another blog post – it seriously needs it! After that experience, I felt like I had been put off the online dating scene for a while. It just wasn’t for me at that point in my life. I kept this quiet from my mum as well – I didn’t want to give her any ideas! But the downside was that my mum thought I was sitting here idle thumbed with no care in the world about finding a suitable partner to marry.

So the pressure got more intense and my mum used every opportunity she got to lecture me. You know the usual – hurting the family reputation by being an unmarried single girl living away from home; being a burden on parents (even though I didn’t rely on them for anything), stopping them from fulfilling their duties, not saving money for my imaginary wedding, oh and that I was causing her to develop some kind of depression because of all the stress she was putting on herself. Quite lovely eh?

I’ve been able to somehow ignore all of this for a while, because… London happens! But then the other day, I got the most random message. Out of the blue, an ex-colleague asked me how I felt about going on a blind date with her Bangladeshi friend, who I knew absolutely nothing about. I’m not going to lie, I did freak out a little… or a lot. I have never dated before, let alone go on a blind date! How do they even come about? Well… apparently like this!

I messaged my closest friends and they all freaked out too – more out of excitement rather than panic, unlike me. Whilst I got a brief description of the guy (his age, background, hobbies, etc), I freaked out even more. I was scared more than anything else – this was a world that was completely alien to me. My friends were telling me to just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? And I knew they were right; there was no pressure on me to actually marry the guy – just to meet him. So after a day of panicking, I plucked up the courage and gave the go ahead, so she messaged her guy friend who got back to her pretty much straight away and was up for meeting me.

OH MY GOD.

I had so many questions going through my mind… Did I really want to do this? Will this guy like me? What does he know about me? What even happens on dates – is it like the movies? What do we talk about? How do I dress? Where do we meet? And most importantly, how the hell am I expected to greet this person?

I think out of all the questions, the last one is the one that’s stressing me out the most. If I was meeting a friend, I would greet them with a big fat hug or squeeze. But what about when it’s practically a complete stranger – a Muslim male who could potentially become ‘somebody’ to me – how do I make a good first impression? Do I shake his hands? Do I go in for a gentle hug? Or do I just do an awkward on the spot wave and say hi? What am I supposed to do!?

I meet new people in my job every single day and have to be able to do a pitch on the spot – that seems so much easier to me now compared to this!

So my friend asked the guy to choose where to meet and I was asked to suggest a weekend when I am free. And now I just have to get myself there, looking half decent, to be wooed or to woo the guy myself. This sounds like hard work and I am freaking out. It’s not even the thought of keeping a steady stream of conversation going, because my friends and I know very well that I could talk for England. But it’s everything else that goes with it.

I don’t fit the typical Bangladeshi girl mould – I am not that pretty, or skinny, or really religious and I don’t wear a headscarf. I’m sure I could add so many other expectations to this list. But with this being a blind date, this poor guy doesn’t even know any of this. When I shared these thoughts and feelings with my friends, they just didn’t get it. Instead they got annoyed with me for thinking and saying such things about myself because apparently I’m an incredible person. But they are my friends, they have to say these things. I am a realist and not delusional, so I do tell it as it is.

I have no idea how to cope with these nerves or this weird type of stress. It’s so strange to me… Somebody help me!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Never Good Enough – Part 2 My Reality

Continuing from Part 1 of this story where I was talking about Cultural Expectations, I wanted to tell you about the point in my story where my life changed forever.

Eventually when I hit the age where my parents started to think about my marriage prospects, that’s when the drama started.

My dad never wanted me to go to university. In fact, he told me to just get a job, because after all, people only went to university so that they could get a job afterwards, so that was the same thing apparently. This made me even more determined to go to university, especially as that’s what everyone else  was doing and I wanted to show him that I could do this too. He wasn’t happy with my choice because he didn’t feel that the subject I wanted to study was worth going to university for – Business. Of course, if I wanted to be a doctor, that would’ve been a whole different story.

He then gave me an ultimatum – study close to home and commute, or I don’t go at all. I don’t know how, but once again, I was clever enough to put a ‘get-out clause’ in this agreement which he would come to regret later.

I completed university with a placement year working (and living) in London – my get-out clause. Getting that wasn’t easy either, I still can’t believe I did it. But it turned out that this was the point where my life changed forever and I started to realise there was more to life than I knew. I was able to support myself completely knowing that I didn’t have to rely on my parents; I had freedom and breathing space; I matured and made friends with people from all walks of life; I took on great responsibilities at work and excelled. But most importantly, I became a strong independent woman (cue Destiny’s Child)!

This was when I realised I wanted more from life. Don’t get me wrong, I never forgot my roots or did anything during that time to disrespect my parents or tarnish their reputation. But I just wasn’t willing to settle for a mundane life back home with my parents without goals and aspirations to have a better life. My mission after university was to find a job in London and move out. I did not want to be stuck in a small town full of narrow-minded people. But once again, my dad was not happy about this. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find (and didn’t want to) work in our town. Little did he know that I had not applied for a single job in the surrounding area. I also didn’t sit at home and do nothing over this period either, I worked full-time, either by doing all the overtime I could get at the retail job I’d had for 5 years, or by temping for an agency.

Then trouble started to brew. There were a few girls around my age in our community, all a year or so younger than me, who started to receive marriage proposals and eventually ended up getting married in the space of about 3 months between each other. My parents started to worry as I was older and yet unmarried (even though I was still only 22 at this point). This frustrated me a lot because I knew I was nothing like them. They’d barely made it to college, let alone university. None of them had even worked a day in their lives, sitting at home like princesses, whereas I had done all of this. I felt outraged that my parents were putting me in the same box as these girls and comparing me to them. I also felt insulted that they didn’t take my career aspirations seriously. Any time these topics came up, they’d upset me so much to the point I could not argue with them and just wanted to burst into tears.

Then one day, my younger siblings and I came home to find my parents sitting in the living room together which rarely happened because of my dads working schedule. Little did I know that they were planning to have ‘the talk’ with me. My dad asked one of my siblings ‘So, when are we going to Bangladesh?’. To which the response was ‘Errr… never’. Then he said ‘Oh but *Culture Clash* is going’. I looked at him and said ‘What?’. He said ‘Yeah, we’re going’. I turned to him and said ‘No, I don’t think so. And even if you tried, there is no way you could force me to get on that plane’. What you may not know is that when parents want to take you ‘back home’ at this age, it generally is with the intention to get you married off.

At this point he started to get annoyed, but this is when my mum took over, waiting in the sidelines ready to (verbally) attack me. She basically told me how I am not getting any younger and that if I had any chance of getting married it would have to be soon before I got too old. May I remind you that I was still only 22 years old at this point. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden they were getting all hot tempered about this – what had brought this on? Then it got really sour. She said that I wasn’t pretty or skinny enough to be picky…

Yes, you read that right.

I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, after all, they are my parents and they have never hidden the fact that they don’t think I’m pretty like my older sibling, who by the way is 3 years older than me and got married at the age of 21 to a freshy which was completely by choice, no forcing whatsoever.

I have to admit, they really got me where it hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I decided to speak up for myself, the most hurtful things were said to me in return. I told them that I did not want the life of my older sibling, who clearly wasn’t happy and struggling to make ends meet. To which she replied that my happiness wasn’t important… their’s was.

Yes, you read that right too.

She went on about how marriage isn’t about being happy, it’s about compromising. I just couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing – how could my own mother say these things to me? How can a mother not want her own child’s happiness? How have these people got so blinded by this ridiculous culture that they don’t realise how absurd those words coming out of their mouth sounded? I was in disbelief.

That night I cried myself to sleep. I felt numb. It’s at that point when I decided enough was enough. If they didn’t care about my happiness, then I would have to find my own happiness away from them. I got myself an interview in London the following week, I was so distraught with everything going round in my head that I was barely able to prepare for my interview. So I did all of that on my train journey up to London using my smartphone and a notepad. I was so nervous going in, but then something came over me and I had an incredible interview… and I got offered the job within half an hour of leaving the place.

I couldn’t believe it. I took the job of course! In a space of a few days, my life had turned around and I could finally get off this roller-coaster of emotions.

And I have never looked back since. Moving to London just over 3 years ago was the best thing that has ever happened to me and this was only possible because I fought for my happiness. And even though my parents and I still have so many differences and issues, in a weird way, I am closer to them now than when I was living at home. There is always drama going on, but my thinking now is that I need to pick and choose my battles wisely, ideally one at a time, because that is the only way I can make change happen.

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

Never Good Enough – Part 1 Cultural Expectations

It’s been a while since my last post, and for that, I must apologise. Life gets busy and priorities change. But I came back to some wonderful comments left on my last blog post about the Pressures of Marriage and it made me think about how far I have come.

I never really got a chance to tell the story of how I ended up being in the minority of British Bangladeshi girls who actually moved away from home before marriage. Every time someone asks me about my past and I recount this story, it hits me how my life has changed over the last few years. And for this particularly long story, I will have to split it up in 2 parts.

I grew up in a relatively small town which consisted of a tight-knit Bangladeshi community who knew everything happening in each others lives. Then as we were growing up, this community grew, with extended family members moving down too and all of a sudden we were no longer a small community.

In this culture my biggest frustration to this day has always been the importance put on the phrase ‘what would people say?‘. I was never brought up to live a fulfilling life. In fact, I was brought up to behave extraordinarily well and always do the right thing – you don’t want to be the talk of the town.

And the day I realised that no-one but myself actually cared about me or my happiness, it was the most sad and loneliest day of my life.

When we are young, we are very impressionable. And trust me when I say this, Bangladeshi parents know this all too well. They put a lot of effort in deterring you from doing anything seen as remotely fun outside of your home environment, mainly to stop you from mixing with people who could potentially be bad influencers. In my case this meant no extra-curricular activities (don’t even think about wanting to play an instrument), no after school clubs, no play dates, no birthday parties and don’t even mention sleepovers.

When I reflect on my childhood, I find that I don’t actually remember much of it, which is sad. I just remember how naive I was throughout my school life. I never thought bad of anyone, never realised that others took advantage of me and my generosity and especially didn’t know all the naughty things other kids knew before their time.

Then as we hit our prime teen years, my friends went out, they drank, some smoked, they dated, they went clubbing, they went travelling; whilst I sat at home watching Indian TV dramas and movies with my family. If ever I was feeling brave enough to ask to meet a friend outside of school time, I would get the answer ‘NO’ and that was that. I was too scared to protest, I just accepted it and told my friends that I wasn’t allowed with no further explanation. They all knew my parents were strict.

Then I got clever (kind of) and realised that if I can’t go out, surely they can’t object to my friends coming over – how can we get up to mischief under their roof? I was never that type of rebellious child anyway. This idea also didn’t sit well with my parents, but they really didn’t have an excuse, so it did end up happening. I never thought of myself as clever growing up, but I must admit that without even realising, I wore them down over time.

Mixing with people from other backgrounds and growing up in a Western society with an Eastern upbringing was tough. Just saying ‘no’ was no longer good enough. I felt that I was broadening my mind, whilst they remained narrow-minded. We were constantly compared to other children in the community ‘look at what so-and-so’s son/daughter did’ etc. It was like a constant competition. I’m sure this is the norm for many other cultures out there, but not once did I hear any parents supporting their child in what he/she wanted to do. Just what they wanted him/her to do.

There are just so many unrealistic expectations put on Bangladeshi children; some yearn to get their parents approval throughout their whole life, and some quite frankly don’t care. A lot of these expectations I outlined in my Bangladesh or Bengali? post.

It does make me wonder if any of these parents ever stop and think about how their behaviour affects their children? Do they ever realise the heartache and internal battles they cause on a regular basis? Sometimes my friends just couldn’t understand why I had to abide by so many rules when they didn’t have to follow any.

Being a bit older and wiser, I have have seen and heard enough in this corrupted world to understand SOME of the reasons why my parents were the way they were; because children are easily influenced and parents do have our best interests at heart. But my issue has always been the lack of explanation and communication in general. Is that too much to ask for?

Continued on… Never Good Enough – Part 2 My Reality

Tagged , , , , , , , ,