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Can't walk away
They are the only people I have left

By Yasaman Rohani
August 21, 2001
The Iranian

I was checking my email the other day and one of my new messages had the subject heading of quick inspiration. I opened it laughing to myself, thinking that the way my life has been going the past couple of days, the message better be intense and radical if it wants to inspire me. I read the first part and was about to stop when I stumbled upon a line, which caught my attention.

There are a lot of issues that we as humans have to deal with throughout the course of our lives, but one thing which seems to add a lot more tension seems to be the clash in cultures which some of us who live outside of our homeland have to face on a regular basis especially when in direct contact with our elders.

Imagine yourself as a creature which has lived all its life in sea and then one day all of a sudden you are placed on land. One may survive, despite the drastic change, but it will take time to accustom oneself to the new environment. Well, now apply the same concept to all those people who had to leave Iran and venture out into strange lands, countries with different histories and cultures. For some it is not a hard transaction. However some seem to have a hard time.

I lived most of my life outside of Iran. It is quite unfortunate I must say that I can not live where I was born and where all my roots are implanted, but on the other hand the exposure to two different cultures has given me the opportunity to filter out the positive aspects represented by each culture and to use them in a fashion which will enable me to lead a better life.

My mother seems to have this strict view concerning how one should live their life. Sometimes I feel like she lives her life based on the fashion and standards set by society, any kind of society that is, whether it's the one here or the one back at home.

"A true Iranian girl should not befriend guys. It is just not proper unless he is a potential khaastegaar."

"A girl like you should not be out when it is dark but at home with her family."

"You should not wear so much make-up or any at all. I only started wearing make up when I was 27."

"You should do something about your hair. Curly hair seems to give off the wrong kind of message."

The list can go on. Everything seems to be an issue to the point where you feel like you are a bird who is not only locked up in a cage but whose wings have been clipped as well. What can you do? You cannot turn your back on your family. It is already enough that you were forced to leave your roots behind and live in a new country, you cannot separate yourself from the only hamkhun you have left. So you try and make compromises here and there and make the best out of the situation.

But after a while you notice how you seem to be the only one making all the sacrifices. What kind of life is that? That is when nothing in life seems to matter to you anymore. Everything seems black and the light in your life starts to fade away, becoming a faint point somewhere far far away. You drift from society and all those around you. Days pass by and you find everything you do has become routine. You go to work, come home, eat and sleep. Every day is the same. Every month, every year. You don't even notice how time flies by.

One day though while you are sitting in a café eating your lunch and observing the people around you, you hear laughter erupting. When you look towards the direction of the laughing voices, you see a couple of friends sitting together at a table. Their happiness radiates through their shining eyes. That is when all hell breaks loose. You feel like you just woke up from a long deep sleep. You start to ask yourself why you are living your life like a prisoner. You left your country so that you could run your own life and not have someone else run it for you.

Life is a promise waiting to be fulfilled, a battle waiting to be won, a song to be sung and most important of all it is a beautiful miracle one should admire and enjoy. Your compromises end there and from that point on you live under the same roof with your family but as complete strangers. At first it seems to be a refreshing experience to feel that you can breathe on your own and don't need to have someone else's permission. And you finally find the strength within you to experience and to use your freedom. Note, however, that I said use, not abuse.

You seem to remember that your life indeed does have a purpose and you find the shining light again. People around you start to notice the sudden change in you and ask you, of course, what the source of this glowing transformation is. But you don't have an answer to their question, really. All you can say is that you are enjoying life more than before and tasting its bliss.

Throughout all this, your relationship with your relatives seems to deteriorate even more, to the point where you don't even understand why you still remain under the same roof. The idea of becoming completely independent crosses your mind, but you know that despite all the conflicts and disagreements you still have certain responsibilities, which you cannot run from. Even if you could do such a thing, your conscience would not let you get away with it and eventually it would eat you up inside.

The fights and clashes start to really wear you down mentally. When you were letting them shape you based on their own desires, they would at least live you in your own peace and silence. But now that they see that they have lost all control, they are on your back constantly. What should you do? Why are they doing this? Is this what they call love?

Your life basically becomes a roller coaster ride, going up and down constantly. And eventually you find yourself right where you started off again. A life filled with quarrels and disputes. But at this point you just don't have the energy to change things around again. So you leave things as they are and don't even bother trying to work on your problems with your family.

So this is the situation I was in when I was checking my email and what caught my attention was something you might have heard before. It is not something exclusive, but for me it triggered one of those moments of truth which we experience sometimes.

"Keeping a smile on your face, when inside you feel like dying, for the sake of supporting others means strength. Doing more than is expected, to make another's life more bearable, without uttering a single complaintmeans compassion. Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, that does not mean that they don't love you with all they have."

Reading this has not made me change my opinion. I still believe in my own freedom, but I realize also that my family is not something I can walk away from. They are not an agenda that I can just change around. They are not an obstacle I can run through with a truck. They are the only people I have left here in this foreign country whose love for me is unconditional despite our differences. They represent a barrier, but who says that walls can't be climbed? One just has to have the patience to find a strategy to climb the wall, instead of taking the easy way out and destroying it or turning around and walking away.

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