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Anything You Can Be
During my last summer vacation, I went to India to visit my relatives. While I was there, I interviewed the cook and maid at my grandparent’s house. Both women had grown up and lived in small, hardworking villages near the foothills of the Himalayas. While talking to them, I learned that they were both single mothers who worked very hard to make ends meet. Their biggest dreams were for their children to go to school and receive an education in order to have a life better than their own. I thought it fascinating that even in such a different part of the world, their aspirations were in some ways no different than those of many successful parents in Silicon Valley. It made me realize that people everywhere in the world have similar goals and ambitions.
My family comes from many different parts of the world. From the mountains of the Himalayas to gold mines in Africa to chilly townhouses in London, my family has migrated and moved around. On my mother’s side, my family moved from Africa to London due to political upheaval within the country. On my father’s side, the Partition of India in 1947 caused my grandparents to migrate from Punjab to the Himalayas.
The story of humans is a story of migrations. America is a country of immigrants. Over the last several centuries people from all over the world have come here escaping poverty, religious persecution, war, political and social instability, or in some cases merely to have a better life.
The recent presidential election has exposed divisions within our society. Many people want to turn away from globalization and take shelter in a kind of isolationism. This surprises me because we are living in such an innovative point in history, yet people still turn to familiarity and safety.
I go to a school that is very diverse in terms of people and ethnicity. We are fortunate to be located in the heart of Silicon Valley, a melting pot of immigrants. While there is now a climate of anti-immigration, the truth is that most successful technology companies in Silicon Valley were founded and are run by immigrants.
I myself have traveled to many different countries, but I can say that I love where I live right now more than anywhere else in the world. Silicon Valley is one of the most diverse and unique places in the world. It is a place where with hard work and some luck, an ambitious person can achieve almost impossible goals. A person’s ability to innovate and create something new often overshadows any biases and prejudices. Being a minority in America, I love being part of a place that is so influential in bringing new ideas and products to the world. Sure, Silicon Valley is not New York or Los Angeles, but there is something exhilarating about living in such a novel and utterly original place. So many people have achieved their dreams here in such uncommon and astounding ways. We live among the world’s billionaires, future CEO’s and inventors of the next iPhone.
While living here is intriguing and appealing, there is a certain part of it that often feels like a bubble. In my school and in my community, I find that people still cling to trivial, old fashioned stereotypes. It surprises me that even in such an educated and wealthy area, people cannot see beyond the familiar labels and cliches. For example there may be a stereotype that athletes can’t take advanced classes or that Asian people can’t be lacking in math. It bothers me that people still hold on tightly to these flawed notions, even when there are so many people around us who have defied the conventional stereotypes. Sometimes, I feel like it is easier for people to continue thinking in such a narrow minded and familiar way. It is harder to step outside of their comfort zone and start embracing a new perspective. There is an idea that somebody can’t be capable of doing something or can’t wear a certain outfit because they are not part of a certain group or clique, and that honestly doesn’t make sense to me. Yet, so many people feel held back or feel like they don’t belong because they don’t conform to one specific category.
While I have grown up in such a diverse and inventive area, I remain a minority within a minority. Being the only Sikh person at my school, I have never had a stereotype or group to conform or live up to. This has allowed me to involve myself in many different activities and organizations because I didn’t feel held back or grouped in with other individuals.
I know that I never would have experienced or done half the things I have done if I had limited myself to a certain stereotype.
Overall, I believe that our society has the potential to become even greater. We need to be encouraging new ideas and venturing beyond our comfort zone. We should be abandoning stereotypes, not enabling them because everybody in life has the capability to do something extraordinary. Extraordinary can be becoming the next Steve Jobs or starting the next Google. But, it can also be helping someone in need, telling a joke to a stranger on the street or merely living a good life with somebody you love.
Most of the greatest innovations and inventions were created because somebody strayed from the familiar and thought outside the box. Maybe, we can start working towards a society where everybody is encouraged to establish and envision new ideas without being judged or held back.