Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Line b/w Culture and Madnesss

I am, in part, the product of a long list of regulations my parents have expected me to abide by. Family has been numero uno, and all major decisions my brother and I have made have pretty much been after the concurrence of mom and pops. Or at least the absence of their disdain. Old timey? I guess, but I think that's what family is for. But what happens when what is right for one person is wrong for another...or vice versa?

I have respect for eastern-desi-influenced "muslim" values, or whatever it is you want to label them. Indeed, I want to raise my own children one day in a similar fashion. But there are certain lines that cultural expectations cross that can stifle a soul to the point of absurdity.

Some things have no deeper significance than being there for a "show off" factor. This would make a good question on Family Feud:

"What things do moderate to extremely show-offy eastern families desire?"

"A wise son who longs to save the world."

Survey sayssssss........[errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!]

What are you, stupid?

Here is what the survey actually says:
[Son who is a doctor]
[A big house next to a lake, that's bigger than your friends' homes]
[Kids with Fair complexion]
[Kids went straight from high school to college to professional school, NO GAPS!!!]
[Daughter is quiet, but does part time modeling for desi clothing, but also attending med/dental/law school]
[Religious on the outside, who cares about the inside]

Everything else...waste of time, people. You do public interest stuff? WHAT is wrong with you?! You married a good man [and a real man] who...makes...films!? You sad failure of a child! You quit dental school to "soul search" for a while? Your poor parents! Your family must be cursed by a jealous relative.

Not my thoughts, ok, but unfortunately, those of many families that surround us.

How does our soul survive if we don't want to cram ourselves into said box built by some sadist, spiritually anemic, bland dude just for the sake of fitting into it? It is a tough question, whether we like to admit it or not, especially when we love our parents dearly, and when their opinion matters a lot to us. So what do we do?

I don't know exactly. But what I do know is that at the end of the day, do what spiritually uplifts you. I never really wanted to go to medical school; I actually wanted to go to art school. So, my parents gave up on me early on - so I am lucky!! (muhahah!) But seriously, I think that if you, like me, love your parents dearly but also have some ideas which differ from theirs, it can be really confusing and heartwrenching, right?

Parents cannot help but be happy for you --in time-- if you reach a state of contentment eventually. If they are not (there are indeed some parents that hold a grudge for years and years) you have to swallow that jagged pill unfortunately. I said it's jagged, which means it will be tremendously hard to deal with, but if you are fulfilling your true God-given function through this decision, you will find peace at the end no matter what.

At the end of the day, we cannot blame our parents, even if they emotionally hold a gun to our heads because we have been gifted with the ability to make decisions, unlike other forms of creation like rocks, trees, fish? :P He never promised this would be easy. I have heard far too many people say that they are jaded as hell because they did what their parents expected them to do without considering whether or not it was also what would fulfill them, long-term. We all know people like that who end up pretty negative and angry, and then end up unknowingly treating people around them like crap. Don't do that to yourself.

The path that leads to the best stuff is usually pretty treacherous. But it makes us better, more thankful humans in the end.

There are 2 choices for our generation:

Grow a backbone
Live on your knees.

So we make that choice, and the rest eventually flows from it.



Rufiath said...

SubhanAllah Nadia... those last few lines, they hit me. I had a visual of standing up straight in front of my parents yet I wonder, am I to look into their eyes and seek their understanding.... or do we continue to look at their feet... Sigh, how do we give them respect while still respecting ourselves and more importantly, our Creator???

Radia said...

Nadia, what you are describing is so pervasive in the desi community of your parents' generation, but your own attitude about it reflects another pervasive trend among the next generation. I feel that it will die out within 30 years. Your kids won't go through this pathetic pressure. Your friends won't be so impressed that your kid is going to med school etc. Things are definitely changing. Check out this article about the falling status of lawyers and doctors(perhaps a good one to show the parents):

Do what YOU want to do because in a few years the parents will see a change in trend and appreciate your decision sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alikum:

Our generation doesn't know poverty. We don't know sacrifice. Contemplating 'fulfillment' is a luxury afforded on the backs of our parents. I know how one gets treated when you don't have dough or haven't accumulated knowledge (PhD's, &c.). It makes a person feel crummy. Our parents made mistakes, but we were being protected for reasons that outweighed the bad. We can bring more balance to the equation--don't be a superficial jackass! take a few years off! study the deen! use your money for a waqf!--but the products should remain similar.