Confessions of a Confused, Pakistani Teenager: Part I
By Haleema Khan
Throughout my life, I have been inspired, by women who come from all walks of life. Each of them hail from different backgrounds, they have different personalities, different opinions and different stories. Some of them are strong-willed, determined and successful; the others are insecure and only starting to find their own way in the world. Some of these women are optimists and believe in love and marriage and happiness and babies, the others are non-believers in just about everything. While some of them have taught me to always stay positive and find happiness in everything, their pessimistic counter-parts have cautioned me to always be on the lookout for the evil that lurks in just about everyone and everything. These women aren’t my mother, or my sister, or even someone I know remotely. I’ve never met these women. In fact, these women don’t even really exist.
Being an only child can get tough at times. You find yourselves in situations where you don’t have someone to look up to. There is no one you can tell your deepest, darkest secrets to; no one to guide you through life. You have no one to influence you. You have no one to depend on. You don’t have that sense of relief in knowing no matter what you do, no matter how bad you screw things up, you have someone who you can love and trust to be there for you. For me it was different. Whenever I felt lost and uninspired, I didn’t have to look any further away than the fictional women in my life.
My metamorphosis into a teenager wasn’t, by any means, easy. But I am glad I had all the inspiration from Princess Mia, at a time that is bound to take a toll on just about anyone. My best friend, ironically also named Amelia, could do just about everything. She could sing, dance, act, and on top of everything else, was a brilliant student. So it was inevitable that one day, I woke up feeling utterly useless and talentless. I was lucky to have Mia. In the Princess Diaries, when Mia went through a similar phase, where she thought she was good for nothing, a whole book was dedicated to her finding her true calling. That moment of truth, when it dawned on her, in the last pages of the Princess Diaries Volume IV, that she was, in fact, a gifted writer, a light bulb went off in my head. Maybe I wasn’t, after all, just a stupid girl living in the shadow of my best friend. And that night when I tucked myself into bed, reading another one of the pretty pink Princess Diaries volumes, I was content at knowing that there was probably one thing I could potentially be great at. I had Mia to share that moment with me. And we all know how well it turned out for me later.
The first time I fell in love, it came as no surprise that Mia was who I turned to for advice. In the book, when Mia fell in love with Michael, she went through a wide range of emotions, and luckily for me, it was all noted down in the book. It was comforting to know that everything I was feeling at that time was perfectly normal. Mia taught me everything I needed to know in that situation; what to say, what not to say, how to act, how to feel. It was all there. Mia was my guide to survival in those turbulent years.
Then I grew up. Just a little. Entering the jungle known as LGS was a whole other story. I could no longer hide behind the atrocious BHS uniform; it was no longer okay for me to look like a boy. I was surrounded by all these ‘young ladies’ and in order to fit in into my new environment, I needed to turn over a new leaf. So I turned to Blair Waldorf. Blair was every LGS girls’ dream come true. We all looked up to her; we all wanted to be her. Blair taught me how to dress up, how to accessorize (headbands, anyone?), how to be graceful and poised. I can’t say I went all the way through with the advice I got, because, well, not everyone has access to an unlimited amount of money, but Blair did wonders for me and my ridiculously low self-esteem. She taught me how to stand up for myself, a lesson I so desperately needed (and one that never really registered in my brain). She also taught me how and when to let go of the people you love, but never to secretly give up hope.
When I found myself wanting to transition from a teen into an adult, I decided to cut back on all the cheesy High School drama filled TV shows that included the likes of Gossip Girl and 90210 and Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, because for me, sadly, that phase in my life was over. I also decided to definitely stay away from all the reality TV that I am so hopelessly addicted to, with shows like The Jersey Shore and The Hills and the Kardashians, because they only feature people who NEVER grew out of being teenagers (I don’t know how long I can restrain myself, with the new season of Jersey Shore airing August 4). Just as I felt my thoughts and emotions starting to change, so did my taste in TV shows. I decided to watch Grey’s Anatomy, and that is when I found all the inspiration I needed to feed my new obsession with, finally, growing up. The doctors of Seattle Grace were everything that I wanted to be (even though they did put me off the idea of being a doctor).
If I needed motivation, I turned to Christina Yang. She taught me how it simply wasn’t okay to be a slob and live your life without any dreams and goals. She was smart and focused and ready to do whatever it took to succeed. When I felt hopelessly depressed, I thought about everything Meredith Grey had gone through in her life, and that made me feel better about mine. Izzie Stevens balanced out all the ‘dark and twisty’. She not only taught me how not to let even the most stressful situations get to you, but also when it was okay to break down. These women not only showed me how to be an adult, but also how to survive being an adult.
All of this confuses me. I live in Pakistan, and I think of myself as a proud patriot. But somehow, all the women that have helped shape my life are so different from what I was supposed to be, or what everyone expects me to be. They come from a completely different culture than what is supposed to be mine. No matter how much I’ve taken from all these women, my life is supposed to be completely different from theirs. My culture, my morals, my values are supposed to be a world apart from theirs. Our lives were never supposed to cross paths, but they did. Looking at these women live their lives raises my expectations for mine. And I can’t decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing. So, can I really blame myself for being the way I am? Right now, I can’t really say I know…