As a Tamil kid, one common expectation in life is go to school, graduate, go to university and get a degree. Not to mention, striving to land the perfect high status job. Basically, you want to be the one perfect kid that every Tamil aunty and uncle compares his or her child to. You are expected to be at the top of the game ALL the time!
I used to be just like that until my life got put on hold during high school. Everything was perfect, until I got diagnosed with a chronic illness during grade 10. When I was diagnosed with Lupus, I had to put my life completely on hold until I was back on my feet. It took me a few years to develop a hopeful outlook towards my future. Until then, I was confined to being a sick Tamil teenager who was behind in school and had little chance of being successful.
I used to think that achieving success meant accomplishing all the things I laid out at the start of this article. I didn’t know the true meaning of success until I started to believe in myself . During that time of recovery and despair, I used to lie about my education. One thing I noticed was that whenever I went to a Tamil event or just visited my relatives, the first question everyone asked was “What are you studying?”. For me, it was inconceivable to reply back with the truth; that I was being held back. Everyone expects you to graduate on time and go straight to University. Education plays a huge part in your status level. The last thing I wanted was for people to be in my business regarding my education, so I lied constantly. I always replied with “I graduated from school, and I plan to go to University the year after”. In reality, I was not even in school and I’m still far away from graduating high school.
You’re probably wondering why I couldn't tell everyone about my illness and the truth behind all this. From my experience with the Tamil community, if you have news about your health, gossip travels fast, resulting in unwanted rumours and doubts. On top of that, if you have health problems you are perceived as weak and your future looks grim. It’s just too much work to explain the truth, so I used to lie often. This truly damaged me because I couldn’t keep up with the lies and it completely tore me apart.
It took some therapy and support to completely regain hope again. I am now in a supportive school trying to get my diploma. I have discovered the confidence to tell those same Tamil aunties and uncles that I was held back in high school due to medical reasons, and now I am back in school. It is my dream to go to college to pursue a career in social work. I have achieved that comfort level by opening up to those I trust and telling the truth. If they want to judge me, that’s fine. At least now, I am being honest.
I used to think that being successful meant fulfilling society’s expectations, but my battle with Lupus taught me that success comes in many forms. If you are able to believe in yourself, gain hope and achieve your goals, that is the origins of real success. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’s the fact that you are trying and attempting to do something with your life. So for all those readers out there, if you have gone through a similar experience, please do not lose hope. Embrace your flaws and setbacks and never stop trying.