Problems I faced after coming back from my first U.S trip- Of reverse culture shocks

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Read about the trip here

After coming back from such an exciting 3 week holiday in the west, I felt low being back to the tropical climate of India. Everything around me felt less fancy, there was no swimming pool in the house I was living in anymore, no 24 hour air conditioning. I missed the liberty of wearing the shortest clothes anywhere and not having to worry about school and regular life. Even while boarding my flight from Charlotte back to New Delhi, I was getting the vibes of loss, and leaving something behind. There was slight anxiety and fear, as I knew I needed to change my life after this exposure and do something great, but I didn’t quite know how to start. The following are the events that took place after I returned back to Delhi.

  1. Guilt for being less productive: On seeing my cousin being so dedicated to her goals, productive each day and achieving so much, the biggest thing that hit me was guilt for wasting hours on Facebook each day and not giving the same amount of time to my passions. (Read why here) I felt like a traitor because I didn’t practice guitar everyday and I wasn’t achieving anything in dance class (like getting promoted to a higher level) despite being there for more than 4 months. I claimed to have loved these activities and yet wasn’t going anywhere with them.  Worthlessness struck me hard as I saw my cousin excel in her interests and be disciplined about her usage of social media. On hearing about my realization, she told me that its not just her, but all her friends and most American students live a very productive life. I realized that it doesn’t matter if you’re interested in or passionate about certain things, but it also matters how good you are at them.

2. Restrictions on freedom/Slut shaming: Another thing that struck me was the amount of freedom I saw people having in the U.S. I could wear anything I wanted without attracting any negative attention or slut shaming remarks. In India, I had to all the time think twice before putting something on because of how my parents, sister or friends might react, I didn’t worry much for the world. After coming back to Delhi, I felt this freedom shrink and I hated that loss. I was made fun of in my school bus owing to the dating episode. B was uncomfortable with me wearing a swimsuit in my facebook profile picture where my body was hardly even visible. It was a picture with my sisters where only our face and shoulders were visible. She shrouded me with a “DP IN A SWIMSUIT? REALLY?” message which I heard as (how low have you gone?) Shortly after, my school counselor told my group of friends and I that we “behaved like college girls” and threatened us to “Stop”. (My group of friends was relatively more social and close with people in the senior batch than our classmates). She was “suspicious” of our facebook activities. I didn’t get her example. Are all college girls social and open? That was indeed a false stereotype and the dumbest way to try to “tame us”, but it perhaps worked. I started feeling very differently from my friends on the way they reacted to this situation. I was amused, disgusted and questioning this pseudo-counselor’s suggestions, whereas they were worried. They were worried that their parents would get a call any moment, or their class teachers would tell their parents about this. I was dumb struck by how they could actually take this as a threat. For me, this was nothing but an infringement on my freedom and my right to live the way I wanted to or talk to as many people as I want to. I wasn’t too afraid of what my parents might think because they weren’t too strict and much more rational in my imagination. In fact, owing to this episode, I went and “confessed” to my mom that I used to have a boyfriend for a few weeks and asked her to not get panicked in case the counselor called. She wasn’t harsh and let it be. Teachers too perceived my friends and I weirdly. My school bus issues were no less. A bully (who’d been in that bus since I joined school) would also tease me about my past relationships and call me bad names. In fact, he was one of the people who made life hell for me.

3. Environmental insensitivity: The people in my school bus used to litter all the time and that was definitely something I couldn’t stand. I used to speak up against the environmental damage but was laughed at. I was not only mocked for these principles, but these people used to deliberately litter to annoy me and call me a garbage collector because I often offered to throw their coke and sprite bottles in the dustbin of my house rather than see it being littered by them. I felt harassed by the kids in my bus for these reasons. In fact, this went on for more than a few years, till I developed more confidence. My closest friends were also very much okay with the idea of having water fights and food fights. I would just come off as intolerant when I tried to stop them. The fact that no one felt the same way as I did about having green habits really hurt me. They also spread rumors about me and made fun of my average grades in class. I used to cry all night, partly because (what I thought) others were being insensitive towards the environment, hypocritical etc and because I was afraid of losing control after all the good times I had had in the last few years. After such a brilliant summer, filled with popularity, travel, exposure, I was here- facing so many dilemmas. I was afraid of losing myself, my spirit, my empire.

4. Backlash: On top of everything, the people who I had been talking to online from my school, didn’t even bother to talk to me in person after the summer ended. I don’t know if that was because of my own vibes or if that was just how things went, but it definitely hurt me and made me feel even more guilty for spending unproductive hours online everyday, face irritating accusations and labels from school authorities, and bad faith from my friends. All of it was apparently for nothing.

6. An intolerant education system: Since I had come back inspired, I wanted to become much better at dance and guitar, things I claimed to be my passions. However, my parents objected to the idea of me investing more time in these activities. I wanted to go on the “probationing” program in my dance class where I needed to do 50 hours a week, but due to transport limitations and their concern for my studies, I wasn’t given permission to do it. I was told that if I wanted to do everything well like Neha did, I had to also focus on my studies and that she was one of the toppers in her grade.

7. Low grades: To add to all the issues, I flunked math and got below average marks in all my other subjects in the half yearly exams that were round the corner. This made the school counselor and teachers “target” me even more. My dad got extremely angry at me and I felt ashamed for many days. Hardly anyone valued my passion for music or dancing and to have a skills outside studies just wasn’t something anyone valued. I felt like a loser on all ends. This was a cherry on the cake when I was already trying to get my parents to allow me to give more time to dancing.

You can read about how I dealt with all these issues here:

How I learnt to achieve

Perfectionism and my lifestyle experiments

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