When I was first approached about writing something for the tri-state Kannada community – a flood of thoughts rushed into my head all revolving around giving advice to the youth, sharing what I had learned, and empowering the Kannada community to rise to the top of the list of accomplished South Asians. It took me a few days to really think about what I would possibly write since there are so many topics that could be covered; and many of them may or may not apply to any given individual at any given point in their life. As I am now writing this – I think what I want to share most with everyone is this: Be Yourself, Genuinely.
‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ and neither is a life that is not genuinely you/yours.
Incidentally – my experience growing up as the only Kannadiga wherever I went is what, in a sense, taught me to always be myself. New York City alone is home to more than 600,000 Indian Americans and yet I would find myself continuously being the only Kannadiga all throughout grades K-12, my college years, and now my professional life. Although it is difficult to highlight all the different experiences in my life where being Kannada showed me how to be myself (having to limit myself to less than a page of writing), the basic thought is this: while most ethnic groups have the benefit of a large and widespread community they can immerse themselves in – what you find sometimes are a handful of young minds who change who they really are for the sake of identifying themselves with the group or what the ‘expectation’ is. By being the only Kannada person in a group – I always had to just be myself in terms of ethnic identity and I related that to just being myself overall. As I grew older, I realized how much people struggled with finding their identity – and it became increasingly more important for me to maintain who I defined myself to be. As we grow over time, it is important that we continue to be ourselves, and encourage developing young minds to always be themselves. It is easy to be the sheep, harder to be the shepherd.
The most remarkable thing about being yourself is that it is quite possibly the most difficult yet the simplest thing that each of us will face. It tends to be that when faced with that difficulty, we find our true selves shining the most. A friend of mine shared this quote with me, knowing I would probably think about it for a while, and so I’d like to share it with you as well:
“Identity is gradual, cumulative; because there is no need for it to manifest itself, it shows itself intermittently, the way a star hints at the pulse of its being by means of its flickering light. But at what moment in this oscillation is our true self manifested? In the darkness or the twinkle?”
-Sergio Chejfec, The Planets
Be yourself, Genuinely. And success will always follow.
Written by Ashok Bhatt