Please stop giving a fuck about expressing yourself
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
The world will tell you to be bold and express yourself. That is, until you do.
Being a second-generation immigrant, I have not faced nearly the same amount of hardship my family has experienced having immigrated from India to Canada to create a better life for our family. However, for second-gen immigrants, a plethora of new obstacles are created which neither their parents nor their native peers may ever have to encounter.
Culture and tradition are heavy in India (and the rest of the Eastern world) and keeping them alive in a foreign country is extremely difficult. Due to this, I can understand where our elders are coming from when they force their traditions onto the younger generations. However, while tradition is important, that does not mean it shouldn’t be subject to change with time. The world is constantly evolving, and to live your life following restrictions initially created to suit society centuries ago makes no sense.
Just because someone wants to express themselves with bright pink hair does not mean they won’t also uphold the tradition to cover their head in religious practices. Some immigrant parents’ fear of allowing their children to simultaneously integrate Western culture into their lives is a baseless one. Second-gen immigrants can do both.
The constant push-and-pull of who you can be as a second-gen immigrant for some is taxing, and frankly, should be up to the individual. You’re living in the Western world but must correspond to the lifestyle held in a country you don’t live in (and may have never been to). Second-gen immigrants trying to figure themselves out are frustrated with the pressure from their families on one hand and the society they live in on the other.
Individuality is all about freedom. The freedom to express yourself and be who you are is one of the greatest joys in life, and judgmental rules shouldn’t keep anyone from being happy. So dye your hair a fashion colour even if your family calls it ugly every time they see you; enjoy henna but also get that tattoo you’ve always wanted; pierce your ears and nose, but if you want to pierce your eyebrows and belly button do so too; and please, do yourself a favour and wear a tropical button-up shirt with sweatpants sometimes. Sure, your family may threaten to kick you out or completely disown you—trust me I’ve been there—so it may be necessary to wait until the time is right. There’s no pressure to dive out of your comfort zone immediately—start small. Remember: when you’re a hundred percent yourself it’s going to make people who aren’t quite there yet a little uncomfortable. They may even say you’re weird. But who cares! It’s your life and you only get one.
To both parents and children: do your best to provide an education that both empowers and liberates each other. Teach the importance of culture and tradition to your kids and they will understand the importance of it on their own. Teach the importance of change and individuality to your parents and they will understand the importance of it on their own. Knowledge is power. We can absolutely be the change we want to see.