Hi! I’m Sumedha, also known as Iridescence, from light up the shining night stars. I’m 17 years old and I live in India. I’ve just completed my 12th grade and will be going to college soon – for either computer science engineering or literature.
Being a teen in India is being ruled by academics. You are judged by your marks in core subjects like math and not through your talent or personality. Most parents pressurise their children to study better, work harder, be on the top. When we say that we want to deviate from the usual higher education streams like Engineering or Medical, we are scorned. Going our own way is a risk. Since here teens don’t work part-time jobs and earn, we are dependent on our parents to fund for college, and they put restrictions on what course we must join.
That is only the forefront. We are also required to be perfect in everything else. Boys have to be smart, responsible and serious; girls must know all the domestic chores so we can be good wives. Living in a developing country, we are stuck between tradition and modern-we are required and expected to be both. For example, we have to have knowledge in both speaking and reading/writing of our native tongue, the national language, the language spoken in the state we live in, our ancestral core language and also be perfect in English. We are overwhelmed from all sides and almost all teens at some point consider giving up. Going for counselling or therapy isn’t common so if we want to talk or ask for guidance, we invite whispers about ourselves in the community.
The circumstances 20 years back were vastly different, with people not having much choice and only following elders. But being a teen now is highly stressful; we seem to have choices, and we also don’t.
Speaking personally, I would say that ever since I was 12 or 13, I concentrated only on getting through the day and waking up the next. Being a girl, I am told to be feminine, demure, learn all the “womanly” household chores, not raise my voice and carry myself properly. On the modern side, I am expected to be an image in women empowerment, excel in studies, be talented in singing, art or other. In short, I am told and I am expected to follow through.
I took it all in and I tried to be everything for years, keeping my own ambitions quiet. Only recently have I stopped caring and started loving myself. Slowly, I have managed to make my parents accept me and my choices as it is to an extent. Some days, I feel like we’re back to square one, but its not almost every day.
Dear narrow-minded grandparents, uncles, aunts, nosy relatives, family friends, some fellow teenagers and even the occasional stranger who throws “advice”, let us be. We each are unique individuals who are still finding ourselves. Don’t throw your ambitions on us and make us feel as if we do not have a choice. Don’t offer negative reply at the first sign of us being different. Yes, please offer advice, but don’t rule our lives.
Do you know why we use the internet so much? It’s because that’s the only place many of us can be ourselves without judgement or scorn. We can speak to others, let out our feelings and thoughts, offer and receive condolences and meet others going through the same. Let us make our mistakes instead of learning from yours made decades back. Times have changed, situations have changed. Support us in our endeavours and lend a listening ear. Hug us some more and maybe just let us cry, even hold us in silent support. Please don’t make us feel weak or less, we compare and critic ourselves enough.
I am tired of trying to be perfect; of wanting to be taller, skinnier, smarter, prettier and more talented. I am tired of trying to be more for everyone else. Now I’m going to be myself and do what I want to. You may think I’m being rebellious but I’m actually trying to be me, and I don’t yet exactly know who that is. I’ve only lived through 17 years.