Like a good Desi daughter, I moved out of my parents house after my wedding. It’s also the day I left Orange County, which I was desperate to do.
I’m often asked, “Why did you leave?” to which I
- I was not strong enough to do what I want to do (write, art) while living there.
- I don’t want the lifestyle that I perceive my family and friends to have, at least not right now.
- I hate Orange County.
I then elaborate on whatever point the person found interesting:
- I found it difficult to pursue life choices and professions outside of the ones accepted as appropriate and successful. I was overwhelmed by the pressure to be able to answer, “What are you doing?” on a daily basis.
- I like city life where there is diversity and walking and public transportation. I like not being on perceived monkey bars of social obligation to social obligation.
- I hate how happily classist and racist and conservative Orange County is.
And while I may believe these kinda judgey/narrow/dismissive viewpoints to some degree, a truer reason is this: I left Orange County to leave me.
Me: the accumulation of my thoughts, actions, habits, feelings, conversations, and experiences.
The me that I was being was not who I wanted to be, or at least, I didn’t have perspective on who I was. I felt like I was regurgitating the ideas around me. It’s like if everyone around me seemed to want a turkey sandwich, I started to think that my options are turkey sandwiches, but I yearned to know what other sandwich offerings there were. And it’s not that people only ate turkey sandwiches in Orange County, it’s that I saw things that way, and I wanted to see differently. I wanted to detach and be able to assess myself all over again. I needed to take responsibility for who I was, instead of being in a perpetual cycle of reacting to my family and friends. I wanted to examine my premises on which I lay the foundation of my life.
And I was haunted by my negative inner voice: What are you doing? Prove your worth. You’re not making any money. What’s the point? You’re no good. You’re not worthy.
When I got on the plane, that voice came with me, and it continued to be my overbearing companion in the years after. I was alone with it, overwhelmed by it, frozen in allowing myself to be dictated by it. And slowly, I overcame it. In my arm wrestle with this voice, I haven’t pinned it down, but I have come to hold my own.
And, a few years out, I understand for myself why it can be important to be uncomfortable – to grow, to create, and more. For me, this meant experiencing life outside of my comfortable, suburban bubble. I needed to see and hear and be with people who were different than me doing normal things like do groceries and walk down the street. I needed to humanize my alien-like perception of people (due to ignorance, miseducation, and lack of exposure), so that I could become more human. I felt dead and sick inside until I met and was among these people. And while I’m still dead and sick inside, and while my experiences are privileged in a number of ways (some of which I acknowledge, many of which I am oblivious to), I feel they’ve saved tiny shards of my humanity.