Children of the Diaspora, honour your legacy.


I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, as I sat on the plane entering into my new life journey on American soil. It's taken me a while to post but it's a moment I'd like to remember and share here. I've included some photos from my leaving do in London as this post is for all of them. Diaspora's children, let me know if you feel me...

18th November 2015

I’m currently sitting on the plane to Los Angeles and it’s starting to sink in that this is really it. I am moving to America. It’s something I’ve wanted and thought about for so long that now it’s a reality, I’m slightly floored. So much so that the sheer momentousness of this occasion is somewhat lost on me.

By making this move, I’m changing the course of not only my future, but the future lives of the children I’ll have and even generations to come from my bloodline. Just as my grandmother did before me. I doubt when she boarded that plane from India to England she realised the impact that one move would have on the lives of so many people. My life would be incredibly different had she not had the foresight, gumption and ability to take herself and her family of four to the west. While it wouldn’t have been bad at all, as India can be a great place to live, the opportunities we have all has as a result of living in the UK are unparalleled. 

Children of the diaspora, especially those that are first or second generation immigrants, see emigrating in a different way to others I think. We’ve grown up in the knowledge that our immediate family left their relatives behind in a far away place to seek a better, or different, life. That ‘far away place’ is the extended family member that we’ve grown up with. The place we go back to and feel a sense of ‘otherness’ with, even though the blood of that place runs through our veins. The place our parents or grandparents were so well acquainted with, but to us it is a stranger. A stranger that we have a loyal affection for but are somewhat glad we don’t know them intimately.

I come from people that weren’t entirely unlike the refugees and immigrants we see struggling to find safety and a home right now. My grandfather was 10 at the time of the partition in India and Pakistan. His home in what was then India had just been claimed as Pakistani territory, so it wasn’t safe for his family to remain there and he had to walk hundreds of miles to safety across the new border to India. The scenes from partition look much like those we see on our TV screens today of Syrians fleeing their country.

My grandmother worked and studied day and night, as a teenage mother of two, to get an education and qualify as a teacher so that she could get an employment voucher to come to England. She left India alone in July 1968, with £5 in her pocket, and worked to save for my grandfather, my mother and my uncle to join her. They arrived in November 1968.

My father left India in the 70s and came to England to work as a lawyer. He met my mother, married and stayed - a story not that different from my own.

The fact that these stories are my history, to me, makes it even more poignant that I’m embarking on this new life journey. I am the child of immigrants that is now in a position to go wherever in the world I like and I’m walking a similar road to that of my grandmother and my father but with much more ease. With privilege. That is huge.

When I’ve told people I’m moving to America by myself, so often their response has been to commend me on how brave I am. However, I disagree. While getting to this point has been one of the toughest things I’ve done in my life, the decisions I’ve had to make, the frustration I’ve endured and the patience I’ve had to have pales in comparison to that of the journeys my forefathers had. It’s a testament to their legacy that I’m even able to do this with such relative ease, with money in the bank and with a nice home to go to at the other end.  I am not walking into the unknown as they did. 

Yes, it is hard to leave your family and it does take courage to do that, no matter who you are, but knowing that so many before me have done this and that I have the support and blessings of those I love makes it an easy decision.

Sometimes, in order to fulfil our hopes and dreams, we have to make tough decisions and have the courage to spread our wings outside of our comfort zone. It’s all too easy to say ‘no’ when an opportunity comes knocking because the effort it takes to see that opportunity through or to take advantage of it requires a lot of you. Sometimes, the most fruitful journeys require us to push ourselves to our limits.

I know that this is what life will look like for the children and grandchildren of those fleeing war torn countries today. The seeds that they are planting on new soil will blossom this way in years to come. 

So many of us have family histories similar to this - we are all privileged in ways we sometimes don’t see, all because one or more of our relatives were courageous enough to strive for better for themselves, and for us. We are the fruits of their struggle and we must honour their sacrifices by living to our fullest potential. This is what they wanted for us when they left their homes and stepped into the unknown, when they endured underestimation in a new country that didn’t believe in their skills, when they swallowed their pride to be able to provide for themselves and their family by any means, when they put their lives in the balance for the sake of our futures.

Yes, I’m bring brave by moving to a new country but more than anything, I’m taking heed from those that went before me and being unafraid to push for the things I want in life. It is, after all, what they wanted for themselves and for us. It’s our duty to honour their legacy by creating our own.

It's okay if you're not there yet.


notthereyet.jpg

Last week, I found out that Jill Scott was 28 when she wrote and released her first album, "Who Is Jill Scott", and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I remember listening to that album as a teenager and marvelling at the nuances of Jill's (now signature) style, thinking wow, I can't believe this is a debut album!  But the thing is, I'm now 28 myself and contrary to what that teenager thought this age would be like, I don't feel as grown up (or indeed as womanly) as Jill sounded to me back then. 

We tend to put so much emphasis on what age we reach certain milestones. It starts from birth - mothers talk about how many weeks old their babies are when they first smile, when they crawl, when they walk, when they talk. This just continues throughout our lives and is something we're mildly aware of until the day we reach an age where a milestone is supposed to pair up with us, and it doesn't. That's when realisation dawns and the real insecurities start to plague us. For a lot of girls (I can only really speak for girls), this is probably around puberty, when their peers are experimenting with boys or even losing their virginity. 

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer and I have this theory that I'm living my life at least 5 years behind the 'norm'. I was the last one of my childhood friendship group to kiss a boy, to have a real relationship, to drink, to move out and although I've caught up a bit now, I'd still say I'm the least mature of the bunch. Because of this, I became very aware of how much 'age' dictates what is expected of us, rather than personal preference or emotional readiness. 

I understand that there are different stages of "ready" in everyones life and the point where milestones are met varies greatly on an individual scale. That's just science and as an intelligent being, I get it. On an emotional scale, however, you can't help but feel somewhat inadequate when you're in awe of someone else's triumphs or successes, then realise with a twinge of something that could be envy that they're either younger than you or (sometimes worse) that you're both the same age. 

It's so funny that when a manager at work is younger than us, we immediately start to evaluate their accomplishments and mark them up next to our own, all because their age has sparked a feeling of inequality within us. I'm definitely guilty of this, to the point where I didn't even want to do a good job because I felt so indignant at the fact that I had to answer to this person that was younger than me. It seems so silly in hindsight, because maybe they worked harder than me to get to that position, or maybe that's what was meant for their life and my opportunities were different. Either way, it doesn't matter. The fact is that it wasn't the skills, nor the talent or even the attitude of this person that made me feel that I shouldn't be working under them. It was their age.

We've come to hold success to a higher standard when it is achieved in youth, but why should a person feel any less proud of their accomplishments if they achieve them aged 40 than they would if they had got to the same point aged 20? It doesn't always mean that they lacked the skills they needed at 20, it usually means they had more opportunity or were in a better position to succeed at 40.

This thing about age is another one of what I like to call, the "they say's". These are the rules we apply to our lives because this omnipresent "they" says that's how it supposed to be. Just like with marriage.

Yes, I am married now, but as I've stated many times before, I didn't think I would be anywhere near to being married at 28, so I can completely relate to my friends who are counting down the days to their 30th birthdays and wondering where their Mr. Right is. Of course, there is a good explanation as to why historically we feel we should be married before 30 and that's obviously the biological clock dilemma. However, in a day and age where women are conceiving well into their 40's and with multiple fertility, donor and adoptive options available, why are we still hung up on marrying ourselves off before we've even grown into women?

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure if I'll feel more womanly by age 30 and I'm certainly not ready to be anyone's mother just yet. The fact that I feel this way at 28 but someone who's 20 can feel completely ready to start a family should be proof enough that age (like Aaliyah said) really is nothing but a number. Just like with learning to walk and talk, we all reach these stages at different times and although we might be ready physically at similar ages, we're not always ready emotionally at the same time. 

According to the "theys", by 28 I should be married with at least one child, a homeowner, and a successful career woman with a decent amount of savings in the bank.

In reality, at 28 I've only got 2 out of those 5 (depending on who you ask) and while I'm set to achieve some more of those things in the next year or so, I can guarantee you there'll be even more milestones yet to achieve once that list is ticked off. What we can accomplish in our lives is never ending but if we put a constraint as fluid as age on our abilities then we're doing ourselves a huge disservice.

I'm willing to bet good money that although Jill was writing and releasing that amazing album at 28, she still had many insecurities about her progress in life and was working on ways to get to higher ground. To be able to write an opus of that standard when you're 28 is huge, but I'm sure there was a point where she wished she could have done it sooner, or worried that she might be too old to break into the music industry.

What I'm getting at, is that it's really, totally, completely okay if you're not at the point in your life that you thought you would be at this age. You have so much more to achieve, and who cares what age you are when you do it. The important thing is that you do it, and you enjoy doing it.

Although the hare does win the race, the tortoise still passes the finish line and just like that tortoise, we'll all get there eventually. I know I'll be the first one to cheer on your wins, regardless of how old or young you are when you make them. 

Can anyone else relate? As always, talk to me in the comments!