I immigrated here with only my parents when I was a couple of years old. They were born and raised in Sri Lanka, and of course, brought those cultural and religious practices into our new household in Canada with us.
I’ve always been a curious yet stubborn child. I hate being told what to do—don’t we all—and was more receptive to being taught why something ought to be or will be done.
I was the kid that asked “why?” about a thousand times whenever I was told any categorical fact. Like why did we have to wear white/light colours to the temple? Why do we have to holdeverything with both hands? Why did we have to do this every day?
I was a child, yet I can assure you this came from a place of utmost curiosity and not with any intent to annoy.
My parents never taught me these cultural or religious practices but expected me to go along with them. This was a hard thing for me to do, as I was living in Kingston—separated from my family—yet my only exposure to my culture was at home.
It would have been much easier to immerse myself in these practices back home where it was the norm. However, in Canada, my identity was in conflict between two cultures, and it didn’t help that there weren’t a lot of Sri Lankans in my area to build a community that would be frequently seen.
As the years went by, my stubbornness—one of the traits I admire least about myself—took hold of the situation and I grew increasingly distant from those practices my parents had wished I would embrace unquestioningly.
I just couldn’t do it.
Coupled with my teenage angst and natural high school identity crisis where I belong and who I am and want to be—I essentially hid my ethnicity away and pretended it wasn’t important.
I have always been in love with space, stars, galaxies and more. I believe in fate, second chances, leading life with kindness and good intentions, and karma. So, it always baffled me that I couldn’t embrace Buddhism the way my parents wanted me to.
Buddhism heavily emphasizes morals, values, spirituality, finding inner peace through meditation, and a strong belief in karma. Yet, when I was forced to pray, my mind couldn’t focus and would wander to a wide variety of random thoughts.
When my parents dropped me off at university, they left behind a small figure of Lord Buddha so I could pray every night.
Sorry, Amma and Thatha, but I did not do that every night. I do apologize.
However, every now and then, I did strongly consider it. I always made sure it was on its own shelf and kept clean, but for some reason I couldn’t build up the urge to follow through with those prayers.
Though, as the months went by, university life grew tougher and I found myself occasionally turning to my religion to find some sort of reassurance, peace, or think of my family as I knew they were going through some things too.
My thought process was that even though I didn’t fully believe it, it’s not like I didn’t have a connection to it at all; it meant a lot to my family that I did somewhat believe in my religion. So why not embrace my culture more deeply, if not for me, then for my family, in attempt of trying to be there for them from afar.
The lack of diversity in Kingston also made me miss the Greater Toronto Area. I didn’t realize how much of a blessing it was to grow up around so many cultures.
Recently, I began to seek out and connect better with people in the BIPOC community. After opening up to them about my journey with culture and religion, I realized some of them have experienced similar struggles.
This made me feel more at peace with my internal conflicts, and I began to take matters into my own hands and give my culture and religion a proper chance.
Although my journey isn’t over yet, and I still have a lot to learn, I can safely say I have a newfound appreciation and love for who I am, where I’m from, and what my ethnicity practices.
Cultural Identity, Culture, diversity, family, University
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