Tag Archives: musings

At Home In My Heritage

The sweet humid air surrounded my body with the first step I took on the soil of my parent’s birthplace. It was an odd sensation being in a country new to me yet feeling so at home. I was 12 and had taken my first plane ride (a 13 hour one) with my parents to the place where they, their parents and grandparents were born, the Fiji Islands. I had cried before boarding the Air Pacific plane at SFO, not wanting to leave my cousin/best friend for an entire month for an island which shaped so much of my childhood, yet had never been. I had never traveled this far out of my world and was scared and naive of what was waiting on the other side of the world.

I was born in the Bay Area, California, but 90% of my family is from the Fiji Islands. I grew up with dual cultures, like any first generation American or immigrant child will tell you. It was a battle straddling the line between being American in front of your friends while remaining traditional, cultured and tied to your roots with your family. In this country I was born in I was constantly made to feel other. “Where do you come from?” “What are you?” While for my friends born from immigrant parents from India, I was never entirely Indian enough. Where did I fit?

It was that first breath of humid air, the hugs of my aunt and cousins at the Nadi airport, and the ride to her home through the sugarcane fields along the Sleeping Giant mountain that made me realize where I belonged. All of the stories I grew up hearing from my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents had told me melted into realization. This is where I came from. It’s the place that shaped my parents, who in turn shaped me. I didn’t feel other. Sure, I was the kid from America, but I spoke the same language, ate the same food growing up and had the same values passed on to me. I learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. I felt a point of pride in my heritage that until then had never fully understood.

Those four weeks were a catalyst for my future. It gave birth to my commitment not just to human rights and equality but gave me a piece of my identity that wasn’t fully actualized. This was my heritage. This was me. I was no longer the other in Fiji. The islands had wrapped me in its arms in a way that America never fully had.

I cried again as I left the airport in Fiji. Shedding tears leaving behind my cousins and aunt that I had grown so attached to. The aunt who lovingly called me Radha Rani, fed me and told me stories about my dad when he was a child that I had never heard before. She made my ties to Fiji palpable. The hurt I felt leaving her and Fiji behind as a 12 year old much more immense than I would have thought. The pain of leaving this home that I became so attached to. This place that I had such a deep connection to. That connection which still lives in me in California.

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Unsolved

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Photo by: Radhika Jit/Muir Woods, California

Solitude of Writing

I find myself jealous of musicians and singers who perform for audiences. Those who from a distance don’t seem so filled with solitude. The solitude of a writer. I live in inside my head. It’s a place of sheer loneliness. All of these thoughts that are in my head yet are never shared in sounds. Instead, they are shared with an inanimate object. If I didn’t where would the writing come from?

It’s a craft I love so deeply, yet hurt from all at once. I find myself lost in thought even with others around. How to frame a sentence? What would I write on any given topic? Or how would I edit a piece of writing? There is never a moment I’m not thinking of words. There are those who will not understand this. This only builds on that solitude. How can you do this for pleasure? Isn’t it work?

It’s gut wrenching. Sometimes it’s as if my soul is the one being leaked onto the pages, not ink. But therein lies the beauty of it all. Whether people understand or not – it’s still there. That need is still there, and I thank God that it is. In all it’s solitude. I love it in every way possible, and I don’t want to think about life otherwise.

Radical Terms

In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning–getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.

– Ella Baker in 1969

Build Your Own

“I’m learning persistence and the closing of doors, the way the seasons come and go as I keep walking on these roads, back and forth, to find myself in new time zones, new arms with new phrases and new goals. And it hurts to become, hurts to find out about the poverty and gaps, the widow and the leavers. It hurts to accept that it hurts and it hurts to learn how easy it is for people to not need other people. Or how easy it is to need other people but that you can never build a home in someone’s arms because they will let go one day and you must build your own.”

― Charlotte Eriksson, Another Vagabond Lost To Love: Berlin Stories on Leaving & Arriving

What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Next month I end the first full year in my thirties. It’s been a year of learning more about myself and becoming more comfortable in my own skin then I’ve ever experienced before. As I look back at this year, I decided to look back further at things I wish I knew when I was even younger. I know, everyone does these things, but I wanted one for myself to not only recount, but more importantly to look at how far I’ve come and how far I have left to go.

Don’t comprise your beliefs and opinions because you think others won’t agree or that it will hurt them. I found myself constantly editing my words when I was younger. I was so concerned with offending someone else that I didn’t express my true opinions. The reality is I wasn’t having honest conversations. By editing myself I didn’t have genuine relationships with those people. I’ve learned to just say what I feel – of course tactfully depending on the circumstances, and guess what? Most people aren’t offended by my opinion and if they are, we can have a rational discussion about it, and if we can’t then perhaps it can turn into a learning experience for both parties. If it can’t then you just have to agree to disagree. You can’t please everyone. Someone will always disagree with you and that is okay.

Not having ever been in a physical fight does not make me weak. I had a cousin who would relentlessly tease me about being a “love not a fighter”. Yes, I’ve never been in a physical fight – and I don’t care to be in one. But just because I haven’t been in one doesn’t make me weak, it means I’ve chosen not to take it there. A physical fight doesn’t necessarily make a person strong. My life experiences, my relationships, my loved ones, and my own will are what make me strong. I have no desire to prove I’m strong by punching someone in the face.

When someone (especially family) teases you “out of love” it’s okay to tell them to stop it. I had a male cousin who just loved teasing me about my big nose and my dark skin when I was around 12 or 13 – he was ten years older than me in case you’re wondering. And I stood there and took it; awkwardly laughing only to cry into my pillow at night. I let that bother me so much that in my twenties when someone I loved called me a “coconut” or made fun of my nose, I reverted back to that awkward pre-teen stage. I let her bully me and erode my confidence because she was family and someone I cared about, I let it slide without standing up for myself. Yet, the great thing about getting older is that your confidence grows with experience. I’m okay with my nose and I love my dark brown skin. Never will I let anyone put me down “out of love”.

The biggest lesson thus far is one I think a lot of women in their thirties can relate to – it’s okay to not have reached X milestone by X age. Whether it’s career goals, marriage, children, financial, just because others have something at your age that you don’t doesn’t make you abnormal. Essentially this lesson is – don’t compare yourself to others. An aside to this is what people share on social media is usually their best moments (of course!) – you don’t see the 3am feedings or the fights and rightfully so. Stop. Comparing. Yourself. To. Others. is what I would have told myself countless times when I was younger.

I am me. I am unique. I love myself. I have so much growing and learning to do, and I’m so looking forward to the journey of my thirties.

Adulthood

Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next.

– Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Sound of Things Falling