You know the perfect girl your parents wished you were who magically ticks off almost all of the boxes of their seemingly endless list of expectations?
Yeah, that was me.
Rules have been my companion for as long as I can remember. Having been born and brought up in a conservative Muslim household in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my brother and I have been subject to restrictions whilst growing up and not abiding by them came at unfavorable costs.
Rules were everywhere and for everything. I was not to close my door or stay in my room too long by myself. I was not to go to the movies with friends or stay out late. I was to eat whatever dish was put on the table without question. I was to be studious. I was to socialize with family and guests and never talk back to an adult.
On and on the list continued.
I was okay with it up to a point. But naturally, as my teenage years dawned in, I began to rebel. I watched my friends get what they wanted with their obstinate ways and my envy got the better of me. I wanted that life for myself where I wouldn’t constantly be told what to do.
These thoughts got to my head and I eventually decided not to let my life be dictated by anyone but myself.
I started to do what I wished and act on my desires, completely disregarding my parents in the process. While that undeniably opened up more doors to freedom, it created this terrible distance between my parents and I. The disappointment in their eyes was evident and it bugged me to the extent that I couldn’t even enjoy the newfound freedom I had so laboriously acquired.
As days stretched by, the distance grew further and further to the point that my father would barely even speak to me.
And to top it off, my brother with his ideal ways would swoop in each time and win them over with his comforting words. What frustrated me, even more, was the fact that despite his conformance to rules, my brother’s life was not dull in the least. When he had been obedient and laid out his groundwork carefully, my parents would actually permit him to do things that they otherwise disapproved of, simply because they trusted him.
How ridiculously clever.
The minute I caught up with his ingenious strategy, I knew this was exactly what I had to do if I ever wanted respect in this family. The feeling of being the disappointing child was one I wasn’t happy to be experiencing and I was prepared to do just about anything to change that.
To be frank, I didn’t start off with genuine intentions.
I made a list of everything about me that my parents were displeased with and forced myself into doing them right, one at a time, despite my utter disinterest in reformation whatsoever. I would religiously sit with my parents for a part of my day and try to make conversation. I would even bring them their medicine and help with chores, not so much out of genuine concern but to get in their good books.
I didn’t think it would work as splendidly it did. After all, I was faking it all the entire time.
Except, it did work.
Making that small effort went a long way and absolutely turned my life around and elevated my position in the family. The gap between my parents and I eventually closed in and slowly but surely, they began to confide in me regarding matters of significance to get my say on them. Furthermore, the things I started off doing forcibly, in a feat of sarcastic mockery of sorts, interestingly came to be sincerer with time. I felt more responsible and would no longer do the things I did because I was expected to, but more so because I genuinely wanted to.
The best part?
Being in a position where my parents saw me in a mature and responsible light meant that they would give their consent on things that would otherwise be out of bounds for me.
Of course, it took years and considerable patience to get to that juncture.
I’ve only now reached that point in my life where I travel alone, ride public transports and even stay out pretty late – things I never thought possible for me.
At this point in life, I have come to respect the rules that I once felt had held me back. Restraint, rules, and discipline are crucial and necessary and I’m glad I made the changes in myself when I did.
It has shaped my personality to be one I take pride in and I wouldn’t have myself any other way.