Now is the Time: A Reflection & A Challenge

I would say that “real life” started for me after I graduated from college and started working. Stepping back to notice a transformative season in your life takes a sense of awareness I don’t believe the majority of the population has. Realizing and acknowledging the fact you are in a season of change within your personal being is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.

Terrifying because you realize that you don’t know anything! You start to understand that you have so many preconceived notions that are just plain wrong. You wonder where you got them from and why they are so deeply internalized. They sometimes seem to be a part of you that you wish you could just amputate and forget forever. Acknowledging this season of change is terrifying because you realize how fragile your preferred interpretation of reality really is. The most frightening part is that you can’t know the outcome of the season of change until you have pushed your way through it, if you ever do!

The flip side, though, is the exhilaration! Exhilaration because your life’s potential is, if only for this season, unlimited. The number of options truly becomes tangible in a way it had not before. It’s exhilarating when you can finally see some measurable progress in your deepest self. You realize that all the changes you are trying so hard to make are helping to propel you in a more appropriate trajectory for your personality and skills. Personal growth is not a bad thing! Sometimes the growth happens naturally, with no pain. But sometimes, only new things can grow when old things are pruned off.

I am truly feeling exhilarated, and also terrified, because I have no idea what is going to happen next for me. I am in a season of change right now, for sure. I am working hard and learning how to be a better daughter/sister/wife/lover/friend/worker/photographer/blogger/designer/person in general. I’m digging deeply and doggedly to allow my best self to shine.

All of this reflection stems from the fact that I turned 24 last month and my personal goal for this year forward is to be my best self. Those words are simple ones, but the idea is complex. I am growing and changing and figuring out my true priorities in life. I’m realizing that I am not required to allow my past to dictate my future and that I have the potential to be the person I want to be. I’m lucky to live in a place where there are many opportunities out there for me.

I’ve begun to take responsibility for my life. I no longer want to blame others for my misfortunes, my challenges, or my shortcomings. I am taking charge of my life and my self. Now is the time for me to be my best self and actively cultivate the human that I want to be. I want to focus on making better lifestyle choices, having better relationships with the people that matter to me, and managing my resources more effectively. Many of us have heard the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Well, I’m trying to change the only thing I can; me.

My past means a lot to me. I grew up in a certain environment and in a certain way that helped make me who I am. But that doesn’t mean I should stop there. I think we sometimes (frequently) use our past to make excuses for our present. I know I do it (and my husband absolutely probably gets tired of it…). We like to use our past as an excuse to stay in our comfort zone and refuse to grow into the people we ought to be. My parents, my childhood experiences, my hometown definitely influenced who I am. But we shouldn’t allow them to dictate who we are for the rest of our lives. Those things we did not have a choice about.

I read somewhere recently that our parents/hometowns/early environments, basically the things we can’t control, determine the first stage of our personal development. The next stage, however, we determine consciously based on the parts of our psyche/personality that we choose to nurture. This concept resonated with me because I am very different from the average person from the town I grew up in. I’m not saying I’m better than people from my hometown, just simply that my goals and priorities in my life don’t necessarily reflect those of the people I grew up amongst. I confess that I used to (and still sometimes do) worry about what all these people think of me and my life choices so far, but now I’m trying very ardently to transition into being more concerned with what I (and God) think of me. This shift has helped take a load off of me that I never realized was there. When you grow up carrying a heavy load and it’s finally removed, you can finally realize your potential.

My challenge to myself (and to you!) in this stage in life is to be the best version of myself that I can be by being more mindful, more authentic, more clear, and more loving.

I started working on this post about a month ago, but since I’m posting it now… I think this is a very important challenge, especially here in the US during the holiday season. Be present when you are enjoying time with your family members and friends. When they are gone or they move further away, do you want to have these precious memories to look back on or do you want to live with the regret that you paid more attention to your social media accounts than you did to them?

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving from me and B!

(P.S. B has developed a pretty good turkey call, ask him about when you talk to him! 😉 )

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It’s a Busy Time for Us

Hello out there! It’s been quite a while, you guys. This post is more of an update post than a multicultural issue.

I’ve been contemplating what to post next for quite a while now, but haven’t been able to nail any whole ideas down. My focus recently has been more on the “marriage” and “job” aspects of my life than on the “multicultural” aspect. We’ve been growing as a couple quite a lot over the last while and I haven’t really taken the time to reflect on it and put anything into a post.

The biggest thing going on for us right now is B’s green card application process. We have gotten the paperwork almost completed and plan on mailing it in this coming up week. Why did we wait so long after being married to apply for his green card, you ask? Well, because that was not on our list of top priorities. When we got married, our reason for getting married was so we could be married… not so we could use our marriage to help get B permanent resident status. Is that surprising to you? It is to certain people for sure.

When we talk with people, whether it’s friends, new acquaintances, or coworkers, about the fact that I’m an American and he’s an Indian, people always seem to expect that we would have immediately applied for his green card after being married. Like they think that’s just the way it works. You meet someone from another country, you fall in love, you get married, you apply for their green card. Whatever.

Some people also seem to be a little suspicious of our motives for getting married, like they think they know anything about us. It makes me angry that anyone would assume they know anything about our motives for getting married. Are two people from the same country ever questioned about their motives for getting married? No one from the US would question a fellow American couple, “But why did you choose to marry an American?” Can’t we just be married because we love each other and could not picture living life without the other one? Geez. It’s like people automatically feel like they have the right to butt into our private life just because we were born in two different spots on the globe.

The other thing going on for me personally is trying to decide what steps to take next, job-wise. I’ve enjoyed working at my current job and I really believe in what the organization is doing. The only problem is that I have a degree in something pretty different than what my job is. I want to find some way to get into more things that line up with my creative, visually-oriented skill set and interests. I’d also like to volunteer at the place where I currently work because it’s a nonprofit. I’ve been researching what kinds of jobs are available in my area that would be a better fit for me. I’ve been getting my website and portfolio ready to show again. Hopefully something good will work out!

The last thing I’ll write about today is how my relationship with my parents has been changing. Since I just turned 24 (!) and I’ve been married for over a year, I’ve been having more of an adult relationship with my parents and it is pretty fun. My mom and I have had some conversations on topics we had not had before. And we’ve been realizing even more that we can be pretty good friends. We’re able to relate to each other in new ways these days and I’m loving it. It’s the same with my dad. It’s a genuinely fun time in my life in those regards.

So basically, real life has caught up with me recently. I’ve been growing up and embracing real adult life, slowly but surely. I’m being challenged and encouraged and I’m growing a lot. I’m thankful for all the people who are in my life and thankful also for the ones who have left. Now is the time I’m focusing on getting to where I need to be, on many different levels.

And since I logged in today and looked at my archives on my sidebar, I realized this blog is a whole year old! It does not seem like it’s been a year since I started sharing my thoughts on what it’s like to be in a multicultural life! Thanks to all of you readers who have told me how much you enjoy my posts. I’m happy to have the opportunity to share my life with you and (hopefully) inspire you to step outside your comfort zone!

Celebrating One Year of Marriage!

B and I reached the one year (!) of marriage milestone at the end of July and we celebrated by reflecting on how far we’ve come as a couple and as individuals over the past year. We also spent some time being thankful for all of the people in our lives who have helped make us who we are today. This type of “celebrating” may not be the most traditional thing to do for a first anniversary, but we felt it was important for the type of relationship dynamic we strive to maintain.

Our reflections brought us to a major conclusion that I don’t think many people realize: The person you fall in love with initially and the person you are married to after any significant amount of time are different people. This is an interesting marriage/relationship-related phenomenon.

I can tell you for sure that I have definitely changed since I’ve been in a relationship with B. Some of the changes I attribute to simply growing up a little more along this short journey. Many I attribute to the fact that we have been constantly trying to better ourselves as individuals since we have been together. Take note, however, that I am still me. I may be even more myself than I was before. How could that be, you ask? I’ll tell you.

Since B and I have been close (which is only really about two years), we’ve talked about everything. I mean EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, the easy, and the really really hard things. We make a conscious effort to fully explain ourselves and fully understand each other. We believe this is the best way to have a successful relationship and we’ve tried to follow this method since the beginning. Clear communication is the key to our marriage. This is even more essential for us because we come from two completely different cultures. Like my earlier post says, an intercultural marriage really is a “Lifetime of Explanations“. (Not complaining, just saying…)

Some people, ladies especially, have asked me how we manage to be so happy and have no drama as a couple. This is absolutely my answer. When you are constantly trying to understand yourself so you can explain yourself honestly to another person, you have to really get to know what makes you who you are. Over the time I’ve spent with B, I’ve gotten to know myself so much better than I had before. And, for the most part, I am unapologetic about who I am these days. I have gained loads of confidence that I never had because I am realizing that I am valuable. I have also started being more able to manage my emotions than before. And I’ve learned to be more comfortable confronting people when I need to. I was previously very uncomfortable with confrontation and would bottle everything up inside of me in order to avoid it. I have started learning that this is usually not the best way to handle things.

It is a very big deal for a woman who has struggled with confidence issues to say that she is now realizing her worth. It is amazing the transformation that can take place in someone when he starts to be honest with himself about himself. Because I have started to accept who I am, I am learning how to better function in my partnership with B. My role in our relationship is becoming more and more clear. I am more and more at peace with myself as the time goes by. This is amazing to me. I did not anticipate this much change when we were first married, but I believe it might be one of the best “side-effects” of being married.

I’ve clearly done a good deal of changing since we’ve been together, but B has changed a lot as well. He’s now a much more patient person and less quick to get angry. He is becoming a more mature man who tends to think before he reacts to things. I am very much proud to call this man my husband and to have been married to him for more than a year. I would say we’ve both helped to change each other for the better, even though we were very much in love with each other before all these changes started happening.

People sometimes don’t realize that once you find “the one”, the journey is not over; it’s just begun. Here’s to many more years together, B! Cheers.

 

How We Adventure

When someone says the word “adventure”, most people would probably think it means going somewhere new and doing some exciting, and perhaps dangerous, activities you maybe thought you would never do. I believe that everyone has their own personal definition of an adventure. For some people, an adventure could be traveling to a new country or going skydiving. For others, it could be simply going for a walk in their city and exploring the sights.

I think it’s better to look at life as a daily adventure. In my experience, looking at it this way helps to keep things more interesting. Also, if you can allow yourself to go through your day with a sense of adventure, it’s a completely different mindset than looking at your day as something to just make it through. If you look at it as an adventure, you approach every day with a certain level of curiosity and open-mindedness you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

I like the idea of adventure so much that it was in one of the “taglines” we used at our wedding. “A short stroll can lead to a big adventure” was the quote that I felt captured the essence of our dating/engagement/wedding story. To anyone who doesn’t know us personally, our “relationship timeline” may have seemed much too fast. Some people thought everything happened too quickly, but we knew what we wanted and went for it. I saw our short time of being together before getting married as the short stroll that was leading to a big adventure. I knew it was leading to a big adventure for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I knew simply being married would be an adventure in itself. I also knew we would be traveling together to India to meet B’s parents and I had never even flown in an airplane! I knew I was getting myself into an adventure and wanted other people to understand that I was not stepping off the cliff into this adventurous life blindly. Being married to someone from a completely different culture is a huge adventure not to be taken lightly or by those who are faint at heart!

We went on our trip to Dubai and India when we had been married for about 5 months, had a blast, and settled back into everyday life when we got back. Since then we have been working on having the best marriage that we can. We look at other couples we know and scrutinize what we can see of their relationships. We try to see what works in marriages and what doesn’t. We gather information and inspiration on how to continuously work at making our relationship the best that we can. One thing that is continually important to us is adventure, but not always in the sense that one might think.

An example of how we adventure on a regular basis is cooking together. We cook a large majority of our dinners at home because we both enjoy home cooked food, it saves money, and we always know what goes into our meals. We almost always decide together what the evening’s dinner menu will be and plan our entree, side dish/dishes, and maybe a dessert. We usually split the work of the chopping and cooking, taking into consideration who is best at or most comfortable with each task.

For example, I DO NOT want to touch raw meat under almost any circumstance if it can be avoided without much inconvenience. I just don’t like it. Fortunately for me, my husband does not mind it. When we are having some kind of meat for dinner, he is usually the one that cleans it, trims off any unwanted meaty bits, and cooks that dish. I am so glad it works out this way! I prefer to take care of the veggie dishes while he cooks the meat dish. Another reason this system works out well for us is that we have two, sometime three different dishes cooking at once so it ends up taking less time than if we were to cook each dish one at a time. This division of labor is our normal cooking routine. But things get crazy on the weekends! …

During the working days, we usually have some type of chicken or egg dish as our protein and a rotation of a few different vegetable side dishes. But our way of adventuring without spending a lot of money or without the stress of planning a short getaway, is cooking a slightly fancier dinner on weekends. Many people may not think of this as an adventure, but that just means that you are a snob who can’t enjoy the simple things in life! Just kidding! …Kinda.

B and I are food lovers. We both enjoy trying new recipes and types of food. If either of us is having a bad day, a good meal is almost guaranteed to make us feel better. There is a chance that our love language is food. The problem with always wanting to try new recipes is that if they go wrong, you still have to eat dinner that night. And when we’ve worked all day and just spent our limited evening time cooking a dish that didn’t work out so well, it’s hard to be motivated to cook a whole new dinner. Granted, most of our new recipes don’t turn out so bad, but the main idea is the same. Our solution to this “problem” is to save our new and adventurous recipes/ingredients for the weekends.

What we like to do is decide what we want to try. It could be recipe that’s new, one that may take a longer time to cook than we can afford on a weeknight, one with an ingredient we aren’t very familiar with, or one with an ingredient that may be too fancy for everyday meals. We wind down after the week/escape from reality by spending more quality time together in the kitchen creating a better/fancier meal to enjoy. We may stay up a little later than normal on a Friday night because of it, but when we don’t have to worry about getting enough sleep to go to work the next morning, it’s a fun time.

This type of adventure is one any couple can go on from the comfort of their home and their local grocery store. The time spent being creative as a team is priceless to us. Working together towards our goal of having a nice, home cooked meal that spices the routine up a bit after a week of being on our own separate schedules helps us focus on our relationship and the start of our weekend “us time”. So next time you feel the need to spice up your relationship, try a new recipe, literally!

India was My “Fernweh”

I recently saw a page on Buzzfeed that resonated with me called “23 Charming Illustrations of Untranslatable Words from Other Languages.” I clicked on the link to the page because, being a visual person, I enjoy illustrations and, seeing as how I am married to a man whose first language/mother tongue is different from my own, word/expression meanings in different languages have recently become relevant to me.

The first word illustrated was “fernweh” which comes from German and means “feeling homesick for a place you have never been to” (according to the illustrator, I hope she was correct!). The list goes on and some of the illustrations are quite nice. If you didn’t click the link to the page, you should check it out. You might find a word that speaks to you like I did.

Back to why “fernweh” stood out to me… When I read the translation of what it means, I recognized that I had felt this exact feeling in my life many times. I can’t tell you where it came from, why it came, or anything other than I know without a doubt I felt this homesickness for India long before I ever had any Indian friends or even knew any Indian people. Maybe it manifested itself because I was always an avid reader in my childhood. Maybe it came because I read something about India or its people at a young age. Unfortunately I have no idea what this could have been or if it was anything like this in the first place.

What I do know is that in my elementary school, I learned to read a little earlier than most other children, I used reading as a means to escape reality (don’t take this the wrong way, my reality was quite good, I promise) and “travel” to many different places, and that I had a very vivid imagination. I enjoyed reading so much that in fifth grade, I read so many A.R. books and got so many points that I was the Top Reader and won $100. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for a 10-year-old! What I’m trying to get at is that it makes total sense to me that I could have learned about India while reading one of the many books I read during my early “travels”.

My earliest memory of being interested in India was when I was young, maybe 10-12 years old, and spending some time at my paternal grandmother’s house. This story requires a little background information, so hang on! My grandmother was one of my favorite people in the whole world, especially when I was young. She and her dog lived in a three bedroom brick house about fifteen minutes from my parents house. I would often spend Friday nights with her and we would do many crafty things together during these times. We would draw, color pictures, make jewelry, do embroidery, etc. because she enjoyed being creative and making things herself. I think (and my husband thinks) I got some of my character traits from her. She made one heck of a grandmother. I still get teary-eyed when I think about her and she has been gone for more than 7 years…

One thing she would do with me was take me to fabric stores and let me choose a fabric to make something out of when we got back home. She sewed various things for my brother and I growing up, like pillows, embroidered blankets, bags, you name it. She had a fancy embroidery machine that you could create your design on the computer and the machine would transfer it onto your fabric. I guess this was pretty fancy for the time, now that I think about it… Because she was always sewing and embroidering various projects, she always had some interesting fabric scraps. One of my favorite things to do when I was at her house was to play in the fabric. Literally. I would take out her neatly folded and organized fabrics, throw them around for who knows what reason, wrap myself up in them pretending to be somebody different, or wrap up her dog or my brother in them turning them into whatever characters suited my fancy that day. This is where my earliest memory of being interested in India came from.

One day I told my grandmother that I wanted to wear a sari. I don’t even know how much I knew about them or how in the world I came to know about them, but I knew that they were beautiful pieces of fabric beautiful ladies were wrapped up in, and I wanted one. Spending the whole day dressed in a pretty fabric sounded perfect to me. And in my grandmother’s quest to be the best grandmother she could be, she made it happen. (Perhaps I was a spoiled child…) She found (I don’t know where) a print-out of how to wrap a sari and how much fabric one needed to do all the wrapping and pleating. She also calculated that since I was a child, I would need less yardage than a full-grown woman. We came to the decision that we would go to the fabric store and find four yards of the fabric for my sari. I still can picture the blue fabric in my head to this day. It was a polyester, flowing blue fabric with sky, royal, and navy shades and a large paisley block-style print. When we made it back to her house, we followed the directions as best we could, and I was happily in our version of a sari. That’s all I remember about it.

As time went by, I learned more about the world, not just India. It was on my radar just like any other country halfway across the globe would be to a girl born in 1990 in the U.S. When I would come across products imported from India, I was drawn to them because of the various colors and patterns that were different than the norm here. Other than that, I didn’t really have any tangible reason to be interested in a country that was so foreign to me. Fleeting thoughts here and there told me I wanted to go there, but I had no reason to believe it would actually happen! This was my “fernweh” kicking in.

I met my first Indian friends in college. I liked so many things about these people: their food (of course!), their clothes (surprise…), their friendliness to guests, and the way they were excited to share their culture with a white American Southerner who despite all the stereotypes surrounding her, was not, in fact, as closed-minded as she thought she was. And as those of you who already know us know, one thing led to another, and through mutual friends, I met the Indian man who became my husband.

Almost five months after our wedding, we traveled to India to meet B’s parents. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that it was a big deal for me especially because this trip was full of firsts. My first plane ride, my first time out of the U.S., my first time traveling with B for more than a small trip, my first time meeting his family face-to-face, my first time finding out what I am really made of! To read more about this trip, click here or here. I experienced so many things on this trip. I won’t list them here because it’s just too much.

December 2013 and January 2014 was the time my “fernweh” was satiated. Now when I feel homesick for India, Nabagram, B’s Mom’s cooking, Bengali mishti, etc., it’s just plain old longing instead of the fancy word “fernweh” because I’ve been there now. The bottom line is that I knew I felt something, but was never able to describe it in words. While I don’t know that all (or even half) of the things on Buzzfeed are worth the time it takes to skim them, this page was worth it because it made me connect things in my life I hadn’t connected yet.

Do you have a place that you feel “fernweh” for? If so, try and make it there someday! I bet you won’t regret it.