I never met my paternal grandmother, but she has shaped my life in so many ways. She had the chutzpah to live her life fully. Toward the end of her life she was stricken with a rare disease and could not hold food down for more than 30 minutes. But she made no fuss about it. She still woke up early in the morning to greet the nightingales outside her balcony that sang their hearts out for her. She still tended to her azaleas and yellow roses and hummed a tune while she brewed herself her secret mix of herbal tea, made two eggs sunny side up, and toasted fresh baked bread. She ate each meal with delight and regurgitated everything a half hour later. She did not feel victimized by the death of her nine year old son, nor the passing of her husband at an early age. Anyway, my father told me that after the regurgitation she came back smiling. “Life is too good for me not to enjoy everything, even the eating,” She loved to dress in western clothes, pleated skirts hats and all, when it was not the ideal fashion choice for widow 45 years ago in Iran. But she did what she liked even though people in the streets looked at her strangely. Her biggest dream was to live part of her life in Israel. So, she did that too. She lived there for years without knowing the language or anyone. To sum it up, my grandma has shown me that I need to have the courage to be happy in life; I need to have the chutzpah to live a life that resonates with me.
I am a Jewish Iranian Immigrant, living in the United States. I often feel caught between two worlds, one with a collective, traditional culture and one that is extroverted and individualistic. There is no real sense of belonging to a particular value system, only one that I have developed to help me live more authentically. I am the first girl in my family to earn a college degree and now I have my graduate degree also. At first, my parents did not understand my desire to study or work because there was no financial need. Seeing me happy has given them the reason to support my dreams. The more traditional side of me wanted to start a family and be engaged in child rearing earlier than my American counterparts. I am doing this as well because it brings me a lot of fulfillment. Although being caught between two worlds can be very challenging, it is constantly teaching me to have the courage to make my life a reflection of myself. Shrinking from myself will not help make those who have different perspectives feel better about themselves. If I may have the chutzpah to say so, I want to live generously. I want to love what I do, and do what I love. I believe my biggest contribution to those around me will come from my attitude towards my own life.
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