an immigrant’s journey to acceptance
Children chased each other on the playground and only muffled laughter and squeals escaped past the window into the classroom. The sunlight glared onto my paper and even with all my willpower, I still failed to focus. Squinting at my paper, I tried to make sense of the lines but they remained an unsolvable puzzle. I looked at the few kids around me, heads bent over the same paper trying to decipher the foreign language they were abruptly engulfed in. I spent many days of my school years like this: stuck in an ESOL classroom somehow trying to retain this new language when I was barely fluent in my own tongue. My peers and I wrote the English alphabet ad nauseam to the chatter of kids outside the door, going about their daily lives while we stayed behind in our classroom. That’s how it felt to be an immigrant at a young age: always behind. I was constantly one step behind other kids because immigration means hastily trying to catch up to the standards of a new country while already carrying the expectations instilled in you back home.
Immigration is an admirable decision that many families take for various reasons. My family uprooted their life in Kerala, India, and moved to the West in hopes of a better life for myself and my brothers. We were left to deal with the aftermath of the move and I was left with the task of completing my childhood in a foreign environment. The contrasting lifestyles of me and my American peers rendered me alienated and shy about my cultural identity. I cringed when people acknowledged that I wasn’t from here and quickly changed the subject to draw the attention away from my being un-American. Insecurities about my Indian features and my stumbling English burgeoned. I desperately tried to be the perfect “American girl’’ which expectedly fell short. This attempt of juggling two disparate identities, and putting on different faces for different environments halted my growth as an individual. I didn’t like that I played characters and let others’ expectations influence my disposition. It took me a long time to accept that no matter how well I assimilated into American society, and no matter how far I tried to run from what I felt was my source of shame, my Indian identity would perpetually be an integral part of me. I gradually learned to embrace that I am beautifully a product of two distinct yet equally incredible cultures — both Indian and American, and with that gentle acceptance, wholly me.