“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
I’ve been lucky enough in my life to listen to Maya Angelou in person. She was a guest lecturer at my college, California State University Northridge (CSUN), in the fall of 2009 and since then I have been an eager student of hers. Many of her words of wisdom, including the above-mentioned quote, apply directly to me.
I grew up in an Indian family, living in Arlington Texas. Growing up, my parents were conservative, and strict. My father was more liberal than my mother, who was very adamant about our Indian culture. Together they balanced each other out in, passing on their culture, values, and discipline to my brother and me. My mom was very hesitant to embrace the American code of values, though she might say otherwise. Because she was very adamant of her cultural beliefs, it had a reverse psychological effect on me.
During my teenage years, I tried my hardest to ignore my mother’s views on our culture. I wanted to be like my friends, who were mostly white, and share the same upbringing as them. I never realized it until now, that living in Texas had to be the one of the worst possible places for my style of living. I’m a shockingly tall, strong, and smart female basketball player. The more I think about it, the more I realize I was living a double life with my friends, and my family.
It wasn’t until I left the house for college, that I began to realize how closed-minded I was about my culture. I played college basketball at CSUN, and was blown away by the experience. Those years were some of the best of my life. The amount of personal growth I achieved was spectacular. Like everything we love, it has its highs and its lows. During the low times, homesickness was abundant, and I felt a disconnection with my family. The reverse psychology re-emerged, but this time in a different way. All the time spent in high school pushing away my cultural diversity, was now childish in my eyes. Those same Indian values that I disassociated with, I was now begging for. It was the only connection I had to my family in college. I was eagerly anticipating the time I could spend with my family, and eat my mom’s homemade Samosas.
After sharing a little insight, you can see why the Maya Angelou quote is so applicable to me. My parents were trying to teach me early on about my diversity. As reluctant as I was initially, a part of me was always listening. The beauty and strength of it came at a time of disconnection with my family. In the end, that’s what it is about, no matter where you are, or what you do, my diversity will always be a way to make me feel connected to home.