By Jahnavi Dangeti
As I approach my twentieth birthday this June, I can't help but reflect on my past experiences. Time seems to move at the speed of light, and it has made me realize how important it is to live in the present. I feel this way because so many unnecessary aspects of life can steal our time, like dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about the future. So now I want to make the most out of my college years.
Growing up as the first child in my family, I was showered with love and attention. My grandmother raised me while my parents worked hard to build a better life for us in the UAE. However, I soon learned that not everyone in my family shared the same love and acceptance. My aunt and uncle would often make misogynistic and sexist comments. It was overwhelming and made me question my self-worth, but I refused to let their narrow-minded views define me.
I worked hard to prove them wrong and pursued my passions such as rhythmic gymnastics and academics. I participated in nationals and ranked fifth in my school. But even then, I faced criticism for not "dressing up enough" or "stealing" opportunities from boys in my class. For instance, when I was the Head Girl, all the credit for my hard work was given to the Head Boy. It's frustrating that society has such expectations of women, but I won't let them hold me back.
Despite my family's expectations for me to become a doctor, I chose to pursue English. It was a challenging choice, and their initial disapproval was painful. However, I understand where my family's expectations come from. My parents both grew up in a lower-middle-class family in the small town of Jamshedpur. Despite attending a Hindi-medium school, my mother earned a master’s degree and began working at nineteen. My father could not complete his schooling but worked hard to improve his life and eventually moved to the UAE. Even though my family's expectations are rooted in their desire for me to succeed academically and financially, I've realized that success comes from personal fulfillment and happiness, not just external validation. I aim to become independent to take care of my parents and all their sacrifices. I'm excited to see what the future holds, and I'll continue to work hard and strive for success.
I am privileged to have parents who are feminists, so I refuse to internalize patriarchal expectations and will continue to stand against misogyny. I've used the pressure and expectations from my family to motivate me to improve, but I won't let them define me. If that makes me brazen to be my own person, then so be it.