A few days ago, I met a friend after a long time and somewhere down the conversation, she said something that gave me goosebumps, and I knew I had to write about it!
She said “Until 21 I was looking at the world through my parents eyes and ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve started looking at the world from my eyes.”
Does it also ring a bell for you?
This came up while we were exploring our thoughts on how many things have changed and how it would be impossible to do things or live the way we do now, if we were to stay back home?
We grow up seeing what’s around us. What our parents do, behave like and talk like. And to some extent relatives closer to us and of course the friends we grow up with. Everything seems normal and from that narrow peephole, we see what we see through their eyes.
This is coming from a perspective of growing up in India and depending on which part of India one comes from and grows up in AND very importantly the gender (that plays a huge role – unfortunately).
So after coming here, the thought of even going to bank alone and signing up for a account, or having an insurance (something I had only heard of and knew it was complicated, and for adults) – suddenly everything came upon individual. A grown up. But had I really grown up?
Nope, it was more like jumping into cold water and trying to swim after seeing how to swim on TV all life. And yes, almost 7 years later, being bank account, insurance, taxes, living alone, getting things done and taking care of yourself when you’re ill – it all seems like no big deal.
But how did this change come? And how and when did I actually grow up?
The answer is simple – it was a process each day. Unknowingly that I’m shaping myself to grow up. Just doing things that were needed to be done. And in the process, to be very honest, leaving some things behind that I learned while growing up. In short – UNLEARNING the things I learned in order to make room for new. And grow.
Some very simple examples of unlearning are: “Never talk back to an adult (someone older than you) no matter what” – Today if there is someone who is evidently wrong or doing something wrong, I do not hesitate to open my mouth and politely express my view and tell that person. Could have never happened this easily if I were still living at home.
“As a girl, giving up on your dreams and choices is called adjustment and makes you a good wife/daughter in law/ whatever relation” – I am very happy and proud of the fact that I have expressed myself at each step and found a way together with family / husband to do it. Instead of giving up on what I want to do, I do step up to have opinions and solutions and work for myself.
Such simple things wouldn’t have ever happened if it wasn’t for education that I received (both academically and personally) and UNLEARNED the drilled in thoughts of the society back at home.
We know (or rather I reallized) that India is a country of many religions, beliefs, castes (unfortunately), strong sense of hierarchy and entitlement when it comes to status, and patriarchy that can be evidently seen in day to day life there. And if I had to continue following and believing what I grew up with, today I wouldn’t have treated no matter who the person or status equally. And most definitely felt a difference in my confidence when it came to things that are defined for only men or only women.
The strength and confidence of facing no matter what came and comes in future, has come from a large extent of unlearning. And I hadn’t realised that it was this that made so much of a difference. Until I met that friend this week, I only saw it from one perspective – yes integration into German culture, growing up and such reasons were my excuses every time I disagreed with thoughts and things back at home.
So the distance with most people (family and friends) back at home is not because I live elsewhere, it is because I don’t look through the same peephole and have my own opinions, which I saw from my own eyes.
If you feel this way too, don’t worry. You’re not losing people in the process, you’re finding yourself and people who think alike. And that’s also a part of growing up.
Keep growing stronger, keep UNlearning, and then learning… and most importantly, keep smiling 🙂