Fall in love with the most important person of all, this Valentines
The week leading up to Valentines, the day itself and even the month can be troublesome. Are we waiting for our loved ones to come up with a spectacular plan, will they give? Or, if you’re single, finding another similar singleton to join you on your celebration of singlehood – whether that be on the couch watching countless episodes of something very unromantic or joining you for dinner in solidarity, so that you’re not eating alone.
But, as most of us probably know, this day (and other holidays like Christmas and New Years – from experience) can be lonesome. Which is why it’s important to fall in love with the most important person of all…
As one of the only Asian females in my Primary and Secondary school I found it difficult to fit in. Although I was into the performing arts, at home it wasn’t the norm for a Pakistani Muslim girl to want to become a performer let alone actually become one. My parents would encourage me to follow academic subjects and constantly remind me how competitive the creative industry is. (Something I still get reminded of regularly when I tell people what I do.) My Dad sat me down when I was about 12 and said:
‘You’re a girl Subika, but not only that; you’re a girl who is Pakistani and not only that; you’re a Pakistani girl who is Muslim! You will have it tough in this world. People will talk down to you. You need to work harder than every single white person out there. So what are you going to do that’s great?’
So of course I decided to study Law at the University of Greenwich! I wanted to make my parents (more so my Dad) proud. One teacher reaffirmed the above again to me during a law lectures. He said that women will have it harder to get ahead in Law and if you’re a woman who is also of colour, then you have a very slim chance of making it in this sector at all! (Something to that affect!)
I hated every minute of studying Law I couldn’t even imagine practising it. I began hating who I was turning in to. Immersing myself into an industry I had no connection with or liked meant that I was miserable. Looking back I was extremely privileged to have this problem but at the time I remember feeling trapped and like there was no way out. It shaped who I became.
As a non traditional British Asian I also felt disconnected from most of the London based peers I was now finding myself surrounded by. I was from a a town, who really hadn’t grasped the multiculturalism thing in their communities. I’d find the conversations exhilirating, exciting and felt a sense of belonging to begin with but when it came to my career choice and the things I wanted to do…I was alone.
Ok so I know I sound very ‘first world problems’ here, so time for a mini disclaimer. I was always fully aware of other young Pakistani girls with very restrictive parents, who were forced to be people they really weren’t. I was very fortunate to have a forward thinking family and still am. I was part of the privileged few who was supported with my decisions even though I was constantly being reminded of what my parents went through when they arrived in this country and that at least I didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table. (Asian peeps – you know what I’m talking!)
So after two years at The University of Greenwich I decided to change my course and place of study. Mainly because of what I was studying but I was slowly distancing myself away from those with a similar background to me. I no longer was feeling a sense of acceptance. I was the odd one out because I wanted a creative career and that’s just not ‘done’ in Asian communities.
I ended up studying Creative Writing in a very white city, surrounded by predominantly white students. And, shamelessly, I felt…comfortable again. My experiences with people from my own background made me hate the culture and…myself. I found myself taking part in very ‘westernised’ activities, not realising that subconsciously, by doing so, I was distancing more and more away from my roots. I myself was quick to point the finger, blaming cultural traditions for all my negative surroundings, because I had that advantage of being from an ethnically diverse background that I thought I had the right to hate myself for being from this background and them!
At the same time however I was relieved to be studying something I was finally good at. But going on the completely other side of the ethnically diverse spectrum left me…yearning for what was normal for me.
After I graduated I began watching shows that celebrated the Asian experience. And I even saw ONE that commented upon the British Asian experience. I wasn’t alone! I saw myself. Finally…I had an identity that I didn’t realise and had been searching for, for years and…it made me fall in love with the most important person of all (you’ve guessed it)…myself.
As obvious that may have been I began celebrating those very things that I thought were holding me back and became so proud to be from where I was. I had the privilege of knowing more than one language, more than one culture and now experiencing more than one University! I began finding as many flaws as possible to fuel my creative fire, create work and approach organisations.
But in order to fall completely in love with ourselves there are a lot of old wounds buried deep inside that are important to resurface because they may still have a hold of the negative beliefs we have about the world but more importantly….about ourselves.
In order to truly heal and forgive my self for the hate of others and myself, I needed a visceral experience so, very recently, I decided to visit my old (first) University. The University I chose abruptly on the brink of making a quick decision about my future. The University that made me really look at my culture from a much more eastern traditional perspective and the University that told me I would struggle and didn’t belong.
Even though the last statement was true – because I never made it as a Lawyer – I became thankful for all of it. Ok so as painful as it really WASN’T to walk around one of the most beautiful locations in London, it was painful to go deep into the past to unlock memories that caused me to doubt who I was, when I walked past my old lecture hall and seminar classrooms. In that process of unlocking pain we can unlock, grieve and most amazingly fall in love with ourselves and begin to really treat ourselves and not feel guilty for putting our own needs first.
So now I can use the very things that were previously holding me back to fuel my artistry, understand people on an individual basis and draw upon those experiences about being in the middle because I have now grieved them and because of that, love them.
I’m grateful to my parents and all the experiences (that were negative at the time) for encouraging me to do something that just wasn’t me because it wouldn’t make me as motivated and as in love with myself as I am now. I’m also grateful that it’s a tough industry because it pushes me to be the greatest artist I can be. So go on…fall in love with you and your flaws so that you can truly give to yourself.