During my adolescence, I always stood out. I moved from Lowell, Massachusetts, which was filled with family, culture, and traditions, to eastern North Carolina at the age of six and entered a new school. Moving to a new state changed my life; I was no longer surrounded by my family and culture. Having an Indian Heritage I was the minority in my new town. Being the only Indian in school made me self-conscious growing up. This prohibited me from building new relationships with other kids my age. Dealing with these circumstances took away from developing essential childhood memories.
My parents also played a role in my isolation, fearing that I would lose touch with my culture if I adapted to the way of life around me. As a child, this challenged me and stimulated my curiosity about living life in a new culture while holding on to my own. As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of my differences. Rather than taking pride in my culture and embracing it, I was ashamed. In middle school, a teacher questioned me about my culture and religion, Hinduism, in front of the class. My insecurity in my culture caused me to be embarrassed when being recognized and approached.
The distinction between my peers and I caused me discomfort. I tried everything to blend in with my peers and as a result, I lost touch with my true self. I started to wear the clothes that everyone else did, and I would even throw away my food at lunch because it was different from what all the other kids were eating. I felt as if these insecurities were overtaking my identity. I felt conflicted in regards to who I was, and my purpose in life. This confusion caused me to fulfill the expectations of those around me ultimately preventing me from developing the unique personality I was born with.
I became depressed. As my family noticed my withdrawal, they became concerned with how I chose to isolate myself from everyone around me. I started therapy to ease their concerns, but it made me even more self-conscious. It was difficult for me to acknowledge and face the uncertainty about who I was. I felt despair and helpless. My parents were never aware of this doubt within me. They were unaware of my dreams, passions, and interests. During this time, I developed a passion for traveling. Every place my family and I traveled to introduced me to new experiences.
Despite how lost and out of touch I was with myself, I grew vulnerable and in touch with my surroundings. Traveling exposed me to other cultures, which prompted me to appreciate my own. Traveling to new places introduced me to different foods, people, and their cultures, helping me develop more knowledge about the world, and learn new things I was not able to learn in school. By traveling and exposing myself to other people and cultures, I was able to grow more comfortable with who I was and where I came from.
It has helped me build relationships with people around me and taught me how to embrace life and live openly towards all experiences. A crucial moment in my journey to self-confidence was when my parents encouraged me to travel to India and attend a spiritual camp. The camp consisted of girls from all over the world, including Kenya and Brunei. At the age of 13, I traveled from North Carolina to India independently. Traveling alone gave me the opportunity to spend time with myself, and rely on myself. It gave me a sense of pride and contentment.
I had experienced loneliness most of my life, but it was different when I was sitting alone in an airport for 12 hours at such a young age. The traveling experience itself helped me mature and become more responsible. My experience at the camp changed my whole life. I learned to shift my thinking. With the lessons I learned, I was able to turn my negative thoughts into something positive. This helped me connect with who I was. It gave me the confidence to overcome my insecurities. I finally had a desire to live my life as my own and truly express myself.
I was relieved of the pressure of my family and society, and no longer was concerned with what people expected from me. This prompted me to develop my own opinions and perspectives. I grew appreciative of life and was able to identify my purpose. Developing a healthy mindset helped me become a happier and successful individual. These realizations provide me with the ability to help others around me and give back to my community. I aim to offer encouragement and support to anyone around me who is in need of it. Following the hardships I have faced in my journey of self-acceptance, I have become a leader in my school and community.