Ghosts that Haunt Me
Moving is hard. You leave behind all you know and are comfortable with, all the people who know your quirks and your history, your favourite coffee place!, and all of this can quickly escalate into a spiral of depression and panic. Moving countries is, arguably, even harder. Not only will there be a significant culture shock to deal with, but also there is the added psychological stress. Something I like to call the “Global Positioning Syndrome”. Being in another country adds an element of distance from your comfort zone that, for me, is not equivalent to moving to a new city.
It’s not hard to imagine that when I moved from Germany after graduation I was a bit of a nervous wreck. The stress of starting a new job, leaving the comfort of the “bubble”, finding a house, making friends, making sure I wasn’t going to get deported- this all added up to me evolving like a Pokémon into a ball of pure stress and panic.
Luckily, at this point a very good friend of mine moved to the same country. While we weren’t romantically involved anymore, the chemistry was still there. And the base of our friendship was strong enough for us to remain on very good terms even after our relationship had ended. The fact that I felt so lost in my new living situation made me determined to keep to the comfortable and the safe. The known.
He had already come to visit and, we had taken a trip together. Now I was due to visit him. I was very excited, it had taken a long time to get schedules sorted out and I really needed a weekend where I could be myself with someone I felt at ease with.
Humans being creatures of habit, it wasn’t surprising when we fell back into old patterns. He seemed distracted at times, but I put it down to confusion over our status and didn’t think much of it. It was a good visit, I came back feeling relaxed albeit a little confused.
A short time later as he told me about the girl he was interested in, I decided to clear up how things stood between us. While having to accept that he was no longer interested in any romantic relationship between us, I preferred being told the truth straight out.
If only it had stopped there. Words that changed how I felt about myself forever came out of his mouth as he said “I felt embarrassed walking around with a brown girl”.
Oh, have I not yet mentioned I’m brown? My apologies to you, dear reader! Jacobs just made me think my race didn’t define me.
Is there a point in listing all the emotions I felt when I heard that? A cold numbness spread from my heart, trickling down my spine. I spent a good half an hour trying to come up with a metaphor that I could use here to accurately describe what I felt. But the situation speaks for itself- imagine your best friend telling you that they were embarrassed to be seen with you, because of your race.
Then came the reaction that I will never forgive myself for. I doubted myself. Growing up with Bollywood I love toting bright colours, big jewellery and a sense for the dramatic. I was a little loud in public, wasn’t I? I wasn’t elegant and classy in the European way, was I? Maybe he was right- maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was an embarrassment to be around. I started monitoring my behaviour, trying to dress differently, talk differently. In public there was always the nagging feeling that people were watching me and judging me on everything; from how loud I laughed to how I ate my salad.
I won’t go into the months it took for me to realise that I wasn’t the problem here. What I will talk about is the feeling of inferiority his words left me with. At this point, the invisible crowd in my head tells me that if I had not had low self-esteem his words would not have affected me. Maybe the invisible voices are right or maybe I need some medication for them. But the fact remains that the hurt I felt, on hearing one of the closest people to me in my life considered me second rate based on my skin colour, can never be logical fallacy-d away.
People have varied tastes. Some like sushi, others like Ramen. Some love hiking, others prefer to train their dogs to fetch the TV remote for them. Some like butter chicken, others are idiots. Far be it from me to judge someone on their dating preferences. For building a life together, two people need a certain common base to grow from. Numerous studies have shown that things as simple as similar positioning to compatible moral values are strong predictors of stability in a relationship. And so isn’t it more likely for a person to be happier and more satisfied with someone from similar cultural and social backgrounds? Can we judge the so-called “racial daters” who like to stick to “a certain colour”?
Honestly, I’m still on the fence about this one. There are certain areas of the world where it would be unacceptable for people to marry outside a certain caste, religion or even family. I cannot deride or defend these customs and traditions. People believe what they believe and they are entitled to that.
But no one is ever entitled to make another human being feel inferior. Nobody has the right to make another person feel unworthy to live in the same place as them. If cultural differences arise in your friendship or relationship and are insurmountable, say that. Exactly that. We’re different. We’re not compatible. We don’t share the same vision for our lives. But, don’t be derogatory. Don’t be offensive and don’t put them down for being who they are. Because at the end of the day, if you stoop that low all you’re doing is showing who you are. And trust me… everyone’s embarrassed to be around that person.
Omaina gets very flustered when asked to describe herself and will usually end up making a joke that’s funnier in her head. This is why she prefers to stay at home with a book. Enthusiastic traveler and cook.
Photo from Google Images.