Them: “Why can’t you just have a normal job? A job that will give you a stable income? Work in a bank or become a teacher, just do your writing on the side”
Me: “The idea of a 9 to 5 life gives me anxiety. I want to love what I do, I want my passion to be my career and I don’t want to work to just work. I want to work to make a difference!”
If, like me, you’re a young South Asian in their mid to late 20’s, trying to pursue a career in the creative field, one way or another you’ll be familiar with this conversation.
What the older generation fail to understand is that, like a number of other fields, the creative one also takes time to break. It takes hard work and a hell of a lot patience. Just like you don’t become a doctor, lawyer or engineer overnight, you don’t become an established painter, musician or designer overnight either.
I understand that something outside of their comfort zone scares them and that they believe it’s not right to be a 26 year old woman, working part time on minimum wage, while trying to make it as a writer. I mean, my ‘marriage CV’ is a bit of a disgrace and well, the biological clock isn’t going to wait for me either.
Plus, when the ‘rishta rounds’ happen, what are my parents supposed to say? “She’s a writer in the making”? How will the conversations go when the aunties come to me and say:
Them: “He’s a well-established 6-foot accountant and drives a Merc. From a very rich family. Shall I introduce you?”
Me: “Auntyji, I want his time and effort, not his money and status. Tell me, does he have a good heart? Plus, do I really need another serial Whatsapp ‘blue ticker’ in my life? I think not.”
As a creative I wear my heart on my sleeve, in fact it’s so far down, it might as well be in my hand. So while growing up, I noticed how lucky I was, to be surrounded by couples who made commitment seem fun and whom genuinely loved each other. Most of these couples (including my parents and grandparents) learnt to love each other over time and their love is unconditional. It was from seeing them, I decided that marriage was most certainly on my agenda. I want it for myself, in fact, it’s a part of my life that I'm looking forward to. I’m ready to meet the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. (But, is he ready to meet me?).
When faced with this uncertainty, what surprised me the most is that some men in my generation don't seem any different from the auntyjis and unclejis I speak to.
Them: “Oh wow you’re a writer”.
The excitement lasts for five minutes and then the confusion kicks in.
Them: “But wait I don’t get it, do you write books? Are you famous?”.
It continues to go downhill from there.
Them: “Wait, what? You even work for free? But why?!”
Balancing these lives are difficult. I sometimes feel like I understand something so well that I think I’ve reached the highest level of enlightenment, then other times I spend weeks trying to analyse why a certain situation worked out the way it did. The middle ground is diplomacy and although I’ve mastered it, I can’t seem to make it an ongoing habit. I’m sure my fellow South Asian painters, musicians, poets, designers and actors will understand this. Not fitting the mould is complicated enough, without having your community bash it too.
So, to all my creative South Asians out there, I hope you'll realise that maybe, you are exactly where you need to be. That the journey is worth appreciating and that it is ok to be more passionate than others. Realise that to achieve big things you sometimes need to take big steps and those big steps require not only hard work but also a belief system. A belief system that comes, not from a place of absence, but, from a place of gratitude and abundance.
A lot of people read my work and say it sounds like I've been through a lot. In all honesty I've only been through the same things as you. The power of truly living and feeling every emotion, is that you grow and if you grow enough you’ll learn that in growth there is a sense of freedom.
The next time they tell you to “go do a normal job”, smile and acknowledge them. Then go and paint the most beautiful piece you’ve ever painted, design the most extravagant garment you’ve designed and go sing that song like the entire world is your stage.
Please, whatever you do, don’t give up.