My Revised Perceptions

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Questions, Intuitions, Revisions: Storytelling as Inquiry

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My Revised Perceptions

Unnati Pant

I was dazed and confused; when people asked me what I wanted to do with my life I said I had no idea. And that was true. I still don't but now I feel that I have a clue of sorts.

I finished high school and so did all my friends. They wanted to come to the US, 'the land of opportunities' as all liked to call it. I was totally against the idea, probably the brain of the stubborn patriot who sees no other country besides her own. Thus all my friends applied, got accepted and left me alone. Amazingly I was quite contended, or so I thought, I worked in different places, took private Spanish classes, got introduced to more people and well, for a while everything seemed to work out.

One of the places I worked for was an employment agency, the sort of place that helped interested women to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong. My perceptions on life changed completely after that. I met women who were driven with the thought of making some money, determined in improving the conditions of their families and making sure that their children, brothers, sisters would get the kind of education that they wanted but didn't get. They had husbands who didn't have work or were of families that had been displaced because of the war. The resolve of these women made me rethink about my life and the possibilities that lay before me and I hadn't pursued. Thus I decided I'd continue with my education and since I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do, I decided to apply to the US myself, because all my friends always talked about the 'liberal arts' education and I wanted to see for myself what this was all about.

One of my friends was at Smith, a good college they said but I remember when she had first told me about her acceptance and how she wanted to go. "Are you crazy?" I had asked "who in their sane mind would want to go to a women's college? Think of all that you'll be missing". I wanted to convince her not to go because of all that I had heard about women's college and well partly because I thought I'd miss her terribly.
She was one of my best friends and we'd done so much together that I didn't know what I'd do without her.

Well when I started applying I knew for sure I'd want to be in a women's college, firstly because by then I had started appreciating myself for being a woman and I knew I'd be more comfortable with who I was if I studied there. Secondly because I wanted to be in Smith with my friend but as I started looking up colleges I came across Bryn Mawr and something just felt right. I knew I didn't want to be anywhere else but there and I applied and got accepted. I thought at that moment my life was complete.

Well then I got here and life wasn't so beautiful after all. There were literally people from all over the world each with her own uniqueness, own culture and brought up under different circumstances than myself. I had to pass the hurdle of adjusting among them and then balancing the two important aspects of my college life, social life and my academic life. Well none of that seemed possible for a long time, everyone seemed different and weird and I missed home terribly. There was so much to be done at all time and I didn't seem to be getting any sleep or rest. But then it slowly dawned on me that it was all part of growing up. I couldn't complain about my problems all the time as there are people who had so much to worry about than me. I thought about those women who had 7 month old children but who would still come to be trained everyday from early in the morning. They were willing to leave them alone for two years just so that they could take care of their children's future. There were these young girls who had lived among loving families, poor or rich, and were now willing to live by themselves to get a sense of being independent. I think I learnt what responsibility actually meant.

One cannot run away from one's responsibilities for long, it always comes knocking at some point. Real life is so much more confusing and overwhelming and college life is a preparation of sorts for us to be able to embrace 'what's out there', in a way it teaches us to sort our priorities straight as we have to make the 'right choice' from among so many. I know I don't want that to happen because I don't know what is there and it frightens me. But I am sure that whatever it is, will work out and like my mother always says 'everything will be just fine'.

Regarding adjusting with different people, I cannot expect all of them to be like me, that is not what I came here for. I am here so that I can learn from the different people, their culture, their lifestyles, their difficulties and their determination; to better myself and to make a difference in my own community that has given so much to me. I have found out here that each person is a representation of their culture, the way they are speaks a lot about what they are, what they like, dislike, even small but significant things like what they do when they're happy or sad. Whatever is abling for me can be disabling to some other person but the same can be the case for someone else. Thus I have learnt that I cannot complain about having problems with someone else if I cannot change myself each time everyone finds something wrong with me. I am learning to cope and understand and mix myself into the common culture that we all now belong to, the Bryn Mawr culture. Maybe I am not so confused after all.

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