As a society, we are all expected to behave in a certain manner and follow the same career paths. But what happens when you choose to follow your own dreams?
In December 2018, I did something terrifying and exhilarating. I self-published. Some may scoff and raise an eyebrow or even stare like I just turned up at a ladies sangeet in a bunny onesie. ‘What’s the big deal? Everyone tries to get published.’
Well, Indians don’t.
We’re expected to follow a formula. General medicine, dentistry, law, IT, or ophthalmology. All of these are worthy and admirable career paths. Society can’t function without them.
If you say you want to study literature, you’re in for a stream of stink faces. Or if you say your dream is to become an author, relatives start to question your sanity. Then, once your craziness is established, they tut and whisper about lax parenting.
Different dreams = spoilt/lazy? Who knew?
Indian culture continues to pervade the diaspora, even into the second and third generations. It’s not all fun and games for us in the West where creativity is concerned. The arts are losing their prestige and value so people turn up their noses here too. Indians and non-Indians alike.
Still, it isn’t so bizarre to want to become a creative. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor or lawyer and that’s okay. Everyone has their part to play in society.
Maybe you’ll get the odd scoffing, ‘But why would you do that?’ Well, who else is going to create TV series, films and online content- AI technology? We have a long way to go before that happens.
People readily forget that talented humans are working tirelessly to entertain them while being paid less than they deserve. Instead of gratitude, they are mocked. Creatives are punished twice over. They’re looked down upon for their criminally-low wage and lack of standing in society.
Imagine a surgeon or a computer scientist sharing their favourite film growing up- say Sholay, for example. They spurt superlatives and positive adjectives. Then you mention you want to enter the film industry. Their face wrinkles and they question why you would want to do that. ‘That’s not a proper job.’
People are happy to share their favourite novel, film or music with you. But once you reveal you would like it to be your work that people admire, Mr Negative Nikhil/Ms. Negative Nikhila make an appearance.
Why are people this way? What makes someone a dream-squasher? It could be that they’re obsessed with money (most people are). Or, they’re too afraid to break from the crowd and be daring.
It could also be that they had a similar dream when younger, but an authority figure talked them out of it. So now they transfer the same party-pooper tendencies.
I faced this mindset consistently over the years and I still do. Because people expect instant success, it’s difficult to maintain my drive and optimism when working towards my goals.
Self-publishing my ebook will always be a success to me, because, no matter its sale, it represents the start of my growth as an individual. It will always represent making decisions for myself.
Up to that point, I blindly followed the advice (or orders) Any time an element of me was nit-picked or mocked, I hid it until I didn’t have a discernible identity. I just turned into a copy of whoever I was around.
Getting published was the first step of many where I decided to live for myself and not others – neither family, friends, relatives of relatives, nor the society.
Don’t underestimate the rush of euphoria when you’ve bypassed fear and doubt, taken the plunge and done something brave – something unique to cultural expectations.
South Asians are beginning to explore their creativity in the music and film industry, yet there’s still judgement towards them until they’ve “made it.” No one values an individual’s progression. We’re expected to land at the finish line the second we line up to start the race.
So let this year be the beginning of our exploration of who we are as individuals rather than being a cog in a giant cultural mechanism. Culture bonds us together, but shouldn’t be at the cost of our well-being. Even if you don’t intend to make a career out of your creativity, embracing it would help you discover things about yourself and help you grow.
Picture credits: Pexels
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