My project will be an exploration of my family’s culture and an effort to understand others’ choices as well as my own cultural identity. In a lot of ways, this is very closely linked to my identity as a writer; much of my early journaling (and also some of my more recent journal writing) centered on self-exploration, on trying to understand the “self” that was developing in the midst of a large, close-knit Indian community and a diverse American community at school. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, of course, but looking back I can see my writing as an effort to reconcile the tensions between my parents’ beliefs and the kinds of things I was hearing, reading, and feeling outside of my house. Over time, I progressed from simply recording my frustrations and opinions to questioning them and trying to understand my parents’ (or other people’s) perspectives.
Going to India when I was 8 really challenged my thinking and helped me to get a better sense of where my parents were coming from at times when I disagreed with them. As part of a school assignment, I kept a journal while I was there; while it’s lacking in insightful analysis, it does contain a record of some of the things that surprised me and challenged me. It also makes my privileged and previously narrow mindset (hopefully “previously” narrow!) painfully visible, which inspires me to work even harder to open myself up to as many different perspectives as possible as I move forward with my project.