Two years ago, I did the unthinkable.
I, a young Pakistani girl, dated an Indian boy.
Even though every part of me regrets this, I gained so much from this relationship than I could’ve ever imagined.
Throughout my first two years of high school, I hadn’t found myself yet. I was in the process of uncovering my identity, both religious and cultural. Everything was all fun and games at this point. I wasn’t doing well in school, I wasn’t motivated to succeed, heck, I didn’t even know where I was going with my life.
Before I knew it, one of my friends casually introduced me to a guy. He was from a different high school than I was and he was a year older too. We eventually started dating, but it’s safe to say I was a confused and naive teenager who wasn’t aware of anything I was getting myself into.
Where I live, dating isn’t uncommon.
At this point, it’s not even a big deal. Most people eventually get themselves involved with someone of the opposite sex. Other than the judgment you got from a very select few people in your community, it was normal.
But I was always against dating before marriage until I got too involved with this particular boy.
He was a year older, he was Indian, and I was intrigued by the idea of a relationship. I wanted to rebel. I wanted to live a life in secrecy from my parents and do whatever I wanted.
I mean, I’m a teenager – that’s what I’m supposed to do, right?
Throughout my life, although my parents never mentioned this to me and my younger sister, I learned that it’s implied that Pakistanis and Indians don’t get along.
It’s not as apparent here in the U.S. as it is back home, but still, it definitely exists. But living in a community where there are many Indians AND Pakistanis, it wasn’t anything strange to me.
I didn’t grow up hating Indians because of our countries’ history – that to me was absolutely ridiculous. I was completely opposed to any implication of this. It just didn’t make sense to me.
Plus, one of my closest friends is Indian and she’s been nothing but a good friend to me.
My relationship was young and immature. At the time, I thought I was being mature about everything and what’s worse is that I justified my relationship with my own religion.
If I’m happy, and this relationship isn’t stopping me from carrying out my religious duties, what was I to lose?
Trust me, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but that’s exactly what went through my mind at the time.
Either way, I was still religious.
I prayed, went to the mosque, and carried out all my normal religious duties. Having this forbidden, rebellious relationship didn’t stray me away from my religious identity. I may have lost some friends in the process, but it was nothing a little time couldn’t heal.
The truth is that I was happy in our short relationship.
He treated me well and I felt mature. I felt experienced. He was always understanding of my religion, and he was well aware of the cultural boundaries separating the fact that we couldn’t tell our parents. Just because we stemmed from opposing countries didn’t mean our relationship had to affect that.
In reality, it had little to no effect on us other than we hid our relationship from the most important people in our lives: our families.
It was actually quite comforting that we could carry an enjoyable relationship for the time we had together. I had a partner by my side through thick and thin. I had someone to count on and a shoulder to cry on. I loved how open and myself I could be around him.
All I wanted was the experience of a high school relationship, but I got much more. I got a learning experience that led me to understand who I really was.
We got some hate for it, but we didn’t care.
And as all high school relationships do, it came to a rough end.
It came to the point where we had to decide between our family or each other, and nothing comes before family, not even a high school lover.
So what did I learn from this relationship? I learned that going against tradition can really help you understand yourself.
Sometimes, being the rebel in the situation and learning from experience can be in your favor.
I realized that sometimes, to find yourself, you have to step outside of certain boundaries and let yourself be vulnerable to find out what kind of person you really are.
I realized that dumb stereotypes and expectations mean nothing in the long run.
Most importantly, I realized that doing something outside of your religious and cultural norms doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, especially if you vow to stay true to yourself. No matter what you choose to do in your life, you can justify it for yourself – because no one else’s opinions should ever matter.
Looking back at this time in my life, I realized how naive I was and how this experience was going to affect my life forever.
But if anything, it changed me for the better.