I Learn Library

A human library inspired by the stories in the film

Live and Let Live

By Ria  |   From : Bangladesh  |   School : University Neighborhood High School (New York)

If you were to ask me about my life, I would say it’s amazing. I think my life is amazing because I know who I am. I have great friends and teachers in my life who support me and I’m grateful for all the joys I get in life. I’m still just a young teen with a hopefully bright future ahead of me. I love to dance, learn new things, and make stupid mistakes to learn from and look back at as memories. If you ask me about my life, I will tell you the good things because I believe sometimes we focus so much on the negative, we forget to appreciate the positive. So when I tell you my story, it is not a sob story rather it is just what has made me the person I am.

My name is Nusrat Hossain. My friends call me Ria. Just like my names, my life is also split. I may as well have dissociative personality disorder by now. All my life, I have always been confused about who I really am. Growing up, I have lived in more of a closed space. I live in a community that can practically be called little Bangladesh since there are so many Bengali-Muslim people. Don’t get me wrong, I am not discriminating against anyone, but it sure would be nice to see a change. Before middle school I knew of only one culture because my school and outside activities were not far from where I live. For 11 years of my life, I was basically spoon fed as to who I should be. For most parents it’s common to want your kid to grow up a certain way. But when you are trapped in an unjust area and no one will admit it’s wrong, life gets a little insane.

When I was younger, this was not as much of a problem as it has gotten over the years. At the age of 6 or 7, my two biggest concerns were probably regarding what I would be learning at school or whether my mom would take me to the park or not. But as I grew older, my concerns began to become more serious from a very young age. I was kept from so many things because it was deemed “inappropriate for a girl”. The walls of my house started feeling more like a cage than a home. I remember being told not to ride a bike in the streets because I’m a girl and girls supposedly shouldn’t play outside. This continued for most of my life, whether it was wanting to join glee in elementary or simply wearing clothes of my preference. At the age of 11, I remember wanting to join the dance elective offered at my middle school. They looked so cool and I really wanted to join. But I pretended it was stupid because I knew deep down my mom would immediately say no. This weird pressure of always being stopped did not just end there. Over the years, the clothes I wore were also being regulated almost as if I were stepping out of the house naked. If I wore something as simple as jeans and a shirt, I was “trying to attract men” and “was showing off my figure”. It was almost as if they are punishing me for having legs. I couldn’t blame my mother because that’s what she grew up in but I myself didn’t know what to feel either.

I convinced myself that my mom just didn’t know any better and perhaps she was right. But as I grew older, my discontent for the religion and culture just began to grow. But these feelings were kept suppressed for very long. I live in a house of at least 20 people, so I have a huge family. I knew that if I acted or said anything wrong I would immediately be ganged up on. But at the beginning of sophomore year, I had told my friend a comment my mom made. I was in a state of frustration so naturally I spoke to my friend to calm down a little. Never did I expect that my friend would tell the guidance counselor and the social workers would be called. For me my mom’s crazy insults and threats were not as serious because I knew her mouth has no filter. But never did I think that one moment, one text would change my life forever. When the social workers came, I lied and told them that all the comments that were said are false. But at some point I gave in to their questions regarding my relationship with my mother. I saw it as this opportunity to explain all the feelings I have been holding inside. I told my mom everything I felt about her beliefs in the kindest way possible. I remember repeating the words, “I love you, please don’t take this the wrong way” so many times that I lost count. I expressed all my feelings and even a Bengali translator was there, so I got to say everything I wanted without any barriers. After this I thought perhaps my mom and I would have a better understanding and relationship. Instead the complete opposite happened. After that things went completely downhill. My mom’s character began to evolve more and more into this person I can hardly recognize. It’s almost as if she has a double personality, one second, she is this sweet loving person. And the next, she’s this person telling me these unthinkable and cruel comments that I can hardly fathom.

Things truly hit the ceiling earlier this month when she began speaking about getting me married. I remember towards the end of February 2018, my grandma said something along the lines of looking for a boy. I was always confused and never suspected that my family would go to such a length of extremities. I remember telling my friend’s mother earlier that year that my family is not the basic stereotype. I remember saying they might be a little crazy, but they care about me. So, when I hear plans of getting me married to a 28-year-old man I’ve never met, it was a certain slap to the face. All my life, I dreamed of so many things, but I never imagined I would be faced with this kind of decision. My parents plan to get me married during the summer of 2019. And frankly, at this rate I know I’ll have to leave my house before they make tickets to their home country Bangladesh. I love my family and appreciate all that they have done for me but sometimes there is a line between following cultural traditions and what is outright wrong. And it is time I draw that line.

In all honesty, this decision was very hard to face. I have spent so much time in denial of all the wrong things my family does. But sometimes in life, you must make decisions on what is right, no matter how hard it may be. My favorite quote of all time is: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt. I came upon this quote on a bookmark my dad had bought for me the very first time I went to Barnes and Noble. My father and I have a very rocky relationship, but I have kept this bookmark ever since. This quote means a lot to me because, there is a saying that goes, “you are your own worst enemy.” If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect someone else to do the same? Although it is a cheesy saying, I believe everything happens for a reason. And some things in life will approach you easily while some will be harder to achieve. But never does it mean to give up. You should always give your best shot because life is too short to be spent making someone else happy. I am not saying to do something insane and scream no regrets. But what I am saying is, don’t ever let your own fear be the one who decides what you can do. The sky’s the limit, only if you believe it is.

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