It has been over five years since the day the picture was taken. Yet, it feels only like yesterday. I can remember almost everything from my time at Grad school; not in an everything-is-crystal-clear sort of way but more in a flashes-of-moments-in-a-surrealistic-tone kind of way.
And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it — Paulo Coelho
My departure from India was extremely stressful to say the least. My mom had yelled at me, it was my first time alone at an airport, I was terrified I was going to lose my documents and yet somewhere in the corner of my soul I had this tiny exhilarating feeling. As I type this, almost seven years later, I can transport myself to that day, sitting on an airport bench with my purse in hand and my carryon beside me. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, I had no expectations for the life I wanted to build. My heart, brain and soul were saturated with emotions with what was happening at that moment to even comprehend what was to come.
As I sat on the bench waiting for my flight, I realized how everything in my life had been leading up to that point. I always thought it was a cliched expression used by literary authors for affect but sitting there, I could see how every decision I had made since I was a tween had led to that moment. It was one of the most important days of my life, a turning point I had not anticipated. Years later, today, I can tell with confidence that was the moment I grew up. It was the moment I realized, I was finally free to be who I wanted be, to be who I already was.
Living in India had never been easy for me. I hated competing for the best grades, was never interested in academics unless it was English literature, preferred Harry Potter over going to temples and visiting unknown relatives, never bothered with weird Brahmin cultures my grandparents wanted me to follow. I think the hardest was demanding to be treated as an equal to my brother. I wasn’t allowed to walk home alone even from a few blocks way, I wasn’t allowed on a road trip until all my friends’ parents had met my parents. These were just a few small things that made my life so much harder. And there I was, alone in a big airport, just me and my bags on my way to a new country. No one to tell me what to do and how to live.
This sort of freedom is a double edged sword. I have sustained a few nicks (an understatement) since that day at the airport. In spite of all the pain and struggle, I wouldn’t change a single thing.