I always thought that when your life is falling apart you are supposed to be hysterical and cry uncontrollably, but I did none of those things. I wore a pretty outfit, laughed loudly, and danced the night away. No one was aware of my feelings. I suppressed them so much that I myself couldn’t recognize what was going through my mind at that moment. That façade only lasted until the festivities. After that, I realized what had happened, and as soon as the realization struck I wasn’t myself anymore.
The Man I Was Supposed To Marry
Our family was close because he was a distant relative as well as my neighbor. We used to visit each other all the time. I was the youngest in my family so a bit spoiled too. He was four years older than me, but me, him, and my two brothers were always playing together. My brothers tried their best to keep me out of their games but I always used to complain to him, and then nobody would protest after he would say to include me.
Years passed and we grew up. That admiration turned into something more and I made an image in my head of what we could be. In South Asian families, marriage is something that elders decide. Sometimes they do it on their own which is called arranged marriage and sometimes they agree to their offspring’s choice and go with a wedding proposal. Right from childhood his mother was very affectionate towards me, often saying that she would love if I became her daughter–so that also added into the image in my head. I was sure that after my studies I’d get married to him and we’d live happily ever after.
When Everything Changed
Everything changed when another cousin of mine came to visit us from abroad. She was the ideal girl of western upbringing containing eastern values. I also liked her because she was really sweet, and she liked me because well I was talkative and I would make her laugh with my stupid rants.
My cousin, the boy, and I would always go out and have fun together. Soon both of them started going out together a lot more, and they’d leave me behind. Even when I went they had their own inside jokes, and I’d wonder what they were talking about. Initially, I was in denial. I just couldn’t accept that they were becoming close, and I became distant and rude with both of them. I just didn’t know what to do. I asked my mother to make her leave which resulted in her scolding me, rightly so. In the meantime, they also told elders about each other and everyone saw how perfect they were for each other. They decided to get married.
The Heartbreak Hit
My mother told me to not behave childishly, she thought I was just seeking attention. I attended their wedding with as much enthusiasm as I could. But after the festivities, when they left to settle abroad, the reality became very evident. At that point I did everything that was long overdue; I stayed in my room, cried myself to sleep every night, and didn’t talk to anyone. My family thought I was just sad because the festivities were done, they assured me that when I got married it would be even grander.
I started hating the word marriage. Earlier I had no intention of pursuing further studies, but then it just became difficult to stay in the house all day. And also at that time, it was the easiest way to postpone the marriage talk. At school, I had a course at my university which was about service-learning and volunteer work. That teacher was also my advisor so she asked us to volunteer for her organization. We formed a group and started working for her, mainly teaching underprivileged children.
The Turning Point To A Happy Life
It was the first time I was doing something for someone else. I had a sheltered upbringing and wasn’t really interested in contributing to society. I had my life planned which mainly revolved around me and my desires. Seeing my friends bonding with those children and learning about their aspirations made me realize I was truly living in a bubble. Before this, I never thought I was selfish, I just called myself carefree. But until then I hadn’t even done one thing for someone else. That volunteer experience was the turning point in my life; I realized there’s more to life than I had been led to believe.
Even today in many South Asian households, the highest achievement a girl can obtain is get married young. Everything else is just insignificant like their school marks, hobbies, aspirations. A few meetings with my advisor and learning about her experiences made me realize how little I know about parts of my city where people struggle to get basic necessities. What I thought was love actually was the only thing happening in my life. I obsessed about getting married to a guy because that was the only thing expected of me. Many girls are still living in that same dream.
My story is not about how I was wronged by someone else, it’s just about how I grew as a person after losing myself. Today I have completed my degree! I work as a writer for various publications, and then in my free time, I volunteer. I want to set a good example for little girls in my family so they know life has way more depth to it. We can make ourselves as useful as we want. Today I have mastered the balance between living for myself and living for others. That is my secret to happiness.
This story was selflessly submitted anonymously.
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