Tue Oct 27 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
I made my way towards my bedroom reaching for the door, my hands shaking and eyes watering. My sister's bed was empty, the blanket slipping onto the floor. The curtains gently swayed from the breeze coming in through the open window. She didn’t hide pillows under the covers like she usually did because it didn’t matter anymore. This time, she ran away without any intention of coming back.
My sister left for many reasons, some of which I may never understand. Being the eldest daughter of an immigrant family is not easy. After my sister left, all of the pressure that used to be on her was put on me. My parents didn’t know how to be parents in a land that was not theirs, with children who were trying to balance the culture of their home and their roots. I could never do anything that would bring more shame to the family. They would irrationally compare me to my sister with any small mistake I made. I felt betrayed by the people I love the most, but I couldn’t show them that. I didn’t want to hurt them any more than they had already hurt each other.
A close childhood friend, now my husband, was the one and only person I told about any of this at the time. We lived in different states, but stayed up most nights talking on AIM. Even though we are both first generation Bangladeshi-Americans, we had almost opposite upbringings. Despite this, I was able to relate to him in more ways than I could with anyone else. I trusted him.
This unexpected connection with him made me realize that though we had different lives, we could still end up feeling the same way. Our experiences are about how we process our feelings and the way we choose to react. This made me want to know more about my parent’s lives. Through their childhood stories, I discovered we shared many connections that helped me not only understand them better, but understand myself. By listening, understanding, and accepting, I was able to empathize with my family and their decisions, rather than blame them for my trauma.
It wasn’t my sisters fault for leaving at 18 without thinking of me, her 11-year-old sister. She had her reasons for believing this was her only option for a better life. It wasn’t my parents’ fault to raise children in the only way they knew how, in a way that has worked for their parents and the generations before them. And it took a long time, but I had to be more forgiving to myself for not doing everything to please my parents. I had to find my own voice to be my version of Bangladeshi and American.