I’ve been thinking a lot.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means “to be happy”, what it means “to learn” and “to love”, what it means “to be successful”. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live.
I feel like my entire life I have been taught to follow step-by-step guidelines on how to be The Happy, Healthy, & Successful Indian-American Woman in the United States. I was supposed to grow up, get good grades, learn to brew and serve cha, cook the best daal, make perfectly round rotis, become a pharmacist, make a decent six figure salary, marry a Sikh Indian doctor, have two children, grow old, and give back to my parents, ancestors, and community. The end.
But who decided that this was the way to be happy, healthy, and successful? Why is it that my family believes in the importance of the sciences and maths – but has complete disregard for the study of cultures, humanities, politics, social sciences? Why is it that since as early as I could remember, the one day I have been taught to look forward to my entire life is my wedding day? Why is it that I have been taught to stay within the bounds of our culture and race, and marry only an Indian man? Why is it that we have this definition and idea of “success”? Why is it not objective to the beholder?
This past Thanksgiving break, with my heart heavy for Ferguson, Ayotzinapa, Palestine, and forever my own people, I got into a big fight with my family. About anti-blackness, about racism, about what it means to be in solidarity with other communities. They kept asking me to not take things so personally. Yet, how can I make them see that these issues are so pertinent to each and every one of them? It is disheartening that even my community – the Sikh community – has become so individualistic and narrow-minded in their thinking… when Sikhism was founded on ideas of community, equity, and collectivity, on banishing the caste system, on empowering both sexes.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about capitalism and its’ affect on our society. Capitalism promotes competitive markets, private businesses, consumerism, and exploitative labor. It is built on racial and gender hierarchies and perpetuates an individualistic society – a society that cares only about me, myself, and I (or at most, a society that cares only about their own family unit and not beyond that).
Though capitalism cannot account for all the particular racial and ethnic pressures I feel, I do believe capitalism can account for the narrow-minded ideas of success and what education ought to look like.
Every day I find myself questioning what my success or my happiness looks like. Is it a two-story house and white picket fence? Is my success defined by a six figure paycheck from a corporation? Most of all: is my happiness dependent on the detriment of other peoples? Is that what the world has come to? Have we become so desensitized to the horrors of the world around us that we can just swallow the bitter pills of capitalism and imperialism and not even question why the doctor prescribed them?
We have become so individualistic in our thoughts and beings, consuming more and more, puppets to the media and to big name corporations, constantly competing with the people around us, constantly wanting more and asking for more, allowing corporations to exploit our brothers and sisters as well as our Mother Earth… I wonder every day how we can even manage to change such a system around. This isn’t right; this isn’t the society in which I want my children to grow and learn. I’ve been thinking a lot but we can’t just be thinking – we need to be imagining the society we do want.
I’ve been thinking a lot and I’ve realized I don’t want what my parents want for me. I’ve realized that I don’t need “a lot” to make me happy. I’ve realized that though capitalism urges us to want and want and want more – I’ve finally found myself at a place of some peace (I say “some” because in terms of decolonizing, unlearning, and learning some more – I still have a long way to go). My fear is sharing these ideas and thoughts with my parents, who, as immigrants, want nothing more than the safety and security of their offspring. My fear is my family feeling “dishonored” or “disrespected” when all I ever want to do is uplift, empower, and love my family. How do I convince my parents – for whom cash rules everything around them – that I don’t need more, more, more? How do I convince my parents that I want to work with youth and that I want to work in education – particularly studying critical and transformative pedagogies? That I want to work on reforming education? That, hey mom and dad, this shit won’t make me any money at all but it gives my life some meaning, some happiness, and some purpose?
How do I tell my very strict, very Indian parents that have been breaking their backs in these godforsaken immigrant companies to get me through an expensive “public” education… that I don’t want the life they want for me? I wish they would realize that everything I do is for them – just not in ways they understand. This is for our communities, for our folks in the future, for the state of the world.
I’ve been thinking a lot. And unfortunately, none of that thinking surrounds the approximately 30+ pages I have to have done by the end of this week. But education does have me feelin’ some type of way. I guess that’s now a post for another day.