By: Sisam Acharya
I am caught between two worlds. One world, that of my school which tells me about the many things that I can do. The other, that of my culture, which at times restricts me from things I cannot do. In one world, I am a rule breaking rebel, while in the other, I am a law abiding conservative. Yet in both I have to live up to expectations, while following my mind and heart at the same time. Although I am a part of both worlds, as I grow older I realize that I am a foreigner in both.
Acharya is my last name, and the name of my origin. This name reveals much about my identity. In the Hindu tradition, one who recognizes this surname would know my caste and my religion immediately. Each caste has its own set of last names and they are slightly different in each country; so by simply hearing my name, one can conclude that I am a Nepali Hindu.
It has been seven years since my family moved from Nepal to America, and I am happy to say that we are still Nepalese in our soul. At home, “Expectations” are the laws I follow. My parents expect me to be a perfect Nepali daughter. My skirts must be an appropriate length, my shirt must be modest, my language respectful, and my grades perfect. In addition, I am expected to agree to an arranged marriage. However, despite their restrictions, I am very close to my parents. They are the most important people in my life, so honestly I don’t really mind their expectations. However, to them, I am still somehow a rebel for wanting to be a normal teenager. They expect me to grow up culturally as I would in my native country. Yet, it is like they have uprooted a plant from its original root system, planted it in a foreign soil 7,450 miles away from home, where the air is different, the water is different, the environment is different, and even the sun comes out in different times of the day, and yet still expect it to grow as it would in its original soil.
My parents have a legitimate reason for their high expectations of me. After all, they are the ones who sacrificed their own life in Nepal for their children’s future, in 2003 won an American green card in a lottery, and were faced with an important decision. They could either ignore that they ever won a chance to live in America, or they could use the opportunity that fate had given them. Since there was a civil war at the time, they chose the latter. They left everything they had built in Nepal, came to the United States and started a life all over again. They made this choice for our sake, wanting me and my brother to have the best education they could provide, so that we could have more opportunities for our future. For this reason they also sacrificed access to their families and friends. When they could have lived an easy life in Nepal, they work very hard now. This was a very selfless act, and my brother and I will be eternally grateful.
For some the norm in school is to blend in with everybody. I seem to do the opposite. With my unusual colored clothes, big earrings, long dark hair, distinct facial structure, and different patterns of speech, I stand out among my peers. However, I do not mind standing out because it displays my heritage and culture. The world that I grew up in was extremely different from the world I live in now. Nepal is one of the poorest countries, and poverty is everywhere. I would see many helpless people and I could not do much to help them. Growing up I had a distinct awareness of bitter reality of the poor. After living in both Nepal and America, I have seen the highs and the lows of society. As a result, I cannot look at any situation from only one angle. For this reason, I tend to disagree a lot with those with just one viewpoint, not for the sake of argument, but to show another side of the story.
Sometimes, my mind is the battleground of the dual world I live in. The armies of opposing ideologies fight with their cutting words, trying to triumph over the other. All the while, my mind is utterly confused on which side to choose. Both worlds expect me to be like them, but my mind is trapped in the middle. How can I choose only one? One gave birth to me, and the other fostered me; I love them both dearly and this cultural mixture has made me wise and aware of the world. We all want the same outcome, a successful future. As I move forward in my life, I put all the differences aside and take the middle road, a blend of both cultures, as I work towards my future.