Why is it,
That when I tell them,
I can’t be,
I am me,
They stare at me,
Those deprecating eyes,
Like I’m some leper,
To be despised?
I’m the same as they,
Maybe just a bit deranged,
But does that make me strange?
I think not!
Unlike the lot.
But blotted I am,
Just the same.
Shut out from their worlds,
Like I’m contraband.
But this is me!
Why can’t you see?
I won’t change,
So quit with your refrain.
Let me be me,
And be gone,
With your restraints,
Coz I’m not one,
For being chained.
This poem was among the many, many I had written in my college years. I think the teenage angst carried well into my early adulthood. Now when I look back at those pieces I don’t understand why they were so angry, emo and gothic. Was I feeling so left out and lonesome all the time? I do have good memories of college, but a lot of it was a struggle – to get better grades, to keep friends, to pay for tuition. These worries seem little now but at the time, I guess they occupied my mind a lot. Hence the angst in the poems.
But this one had been a favorite because to a large extent, it’s what I, and even we, face in our day to day lives. The constant pressure to change, ostensibly ‘improve’ to either fit into a role or because we’re expected to for other reasons. Here in India especially, women (don’t kill me yet for making this about women, it’s not) are supposed to change their habits, the way they eat, speak, dress, mingle with people and what not almost overnight after they get married. It’s stupid, deprecating and unfair! Changing just because of traditions that have long lost their meaning. Changing because your predecessors did too. Or changing just because your behaviour doesn’t ‘fit’ with their sense of conformity.
I have never understood this inane need in us human beings to see change in others even when we are not willing to change ourselves. Isn’t that a dichotomy? And isn’t it hypocritical?
One of my college professors, in the middle of the term, was giving his impressions of all the students in the class. When he came to me he said,
“Your biggest problem is that you want to please everyone. You bend yourself backwards doing that, often forgetting that you can’t do that for all the people, all the time”.
That made a profound impact. No, I didn’t become belligerent right after, but I started to make conscious efforts towards saying ‘no’ and ‘I don’t care what you think’.
I’ve faced the derision and disregard from people who thought I was different. I face it now as well. The difference is back then it used to dwell on my mind a lot. Now, I couldn’t care less about their derision. And if that makes me lonely, I don’t care anymore, because life’s much more than that – getting the approval of everyone.
I’ve learnt that,
Universal approval is as elusive a thing as El Dorado, and not worth your time.
I’m sharing this infantile work of mine with you today because this is an appeal to everyone.
If you want change, change yourself first. Don’t preach what you won’t practice.
You aren’t the final authority on everything. You aren’t perfect yourself. You are not the boss of anyone, not even your children. Let it be and let people be.
We aren’t meant to be clones of another. Celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. It’s what makes us diverse and fun!
Munch on it and let me know what you think of this. Share your stories of facing painful conformism. I’m the one who’ll never judge.
Copyright ©2017 by Pradita Kapahi.
All rights reserved.
Image Credits: Greyerbaby at http://www.pixabay.com