This Is My Story, What’s Yours?

Do you remember the last time something assigned for a class affected you so powerfully you couldn’t stop thinking about it? Something that reminded you how important a story can be, and that inspired you in turn to share your own with the world? Yeah, me neither … until about two weeks ago.

But first let me tell you a bit
about my own life. Around 18 years ago,
I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal. During my childhood, I witnessed the Nepalese
Civil War (1996–2006), an often violent conflict between the Shah
King’s government forces and the Maoist rebels. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) wanted to institute a “People’s
Republic” by overthrowing the Nepalese monarchy. 

My country was embroiled in
constant political, economic, and social turmoil. Numerous students, like me, couldn’t attend
school due to frequent strikes, riots, and closures. There was one unforgettable day when we did
finally attend school only to be unpleasantly surprised by a group of Maoists who began to destroy all of our computers for no apparent reason. Other than that, I had a relatively
happy and normal childhood, much like some of yours. Nevertheless, when I turned 11, my parents made
the difficult but sensible decision to send me to California to live with my relatives so that I could have a better education and a
better future.

Seven years later, in a college French class, I watched Persepolis, a French-American movie made the same year I
left home for California. The
protagonist, Marjane Satrapi, spends her early childhood in Iran during the
Iranian Revolution of 1979. Her life changes dramatically under the repressive Islamic Republic that follows, and at the age of 14, Satrapi is sent to Vienna
by her parents in hopes of a safer and brighter future. After experiencing culture shock, romantic
mishaps, and crushing loneliness, she returns to Iran as a young adult but begins
to feel like a stranger in her own country. Although she eventually decides to live and work in France, she always
reserves a special place in her heart for Iran.

Like Marjane, I was born in a developing country and grew up
during a period of unstable political transition. Like Marjane, I was sent abroad at a
relatively young age to continue, or rather begin, my education. Like Marjane, I found myself lost and confused in a
new culture to which I struggled to adapt. Like Marjane, I sometimes lied about my origins because I felt the need
to fit in, and doubted that anyone even cared about the truth. Like Marjane, I have often felt like a
stranger in my own country. And like
Marjane, I don’t really have a true sense of where I belong.

But this article isn’t simply about pointing
out similarities between a character in a movie and me. There
are probably many other people who can relate to her life. Rather, it’s about how this movie inspired me
to share my past and reflect on my present and future—and how in turn this
article can, hopefully, help you do the same.

During my time at Pomona College so far, I’ve spent more time
reflecting on my past than I had during my previous seven years in the United States. Here
are some of my relatively underdeveloped conclusions from the last five months:

Although I feel American and
cherish all the experiences I’ve had here, I will never forget my
roots. For a large part of my childhood,
I witnessed the daily struggle and deterioration occurring in my country, and
that has definitely shaped who I am today. While I am extremely grateful to the United States for opening the gates of knowledge
and discovery to me, I cannot and will not let go of my past. Does this mean that I will return to Nepal
after college? I don’t know. Does this mean that I will eventually live
and work in Nepal? I don’t know. What I do know is that no matter where I am
in the future, there will always only be one place called home, and I should be
proud of that. 

Now, I could probably tell you a few things that you’ve
heard thousands of times before. “Remember where you come from.” “College is a time to find yourself.” Blah blah blah. Although these statements may sound good and
may even speak the truth, they could be pulled from any piece, written by
anybody from any background.

What I
will tell you is this: Don’t be afraid
to tell people your story, whatever it is. One of the few things I know is
that every one of you has a story to share, and that you should be heard if you
want to be. I can tell you right now
that most people, including the majority of my high school classmates,
really don’t know much about me. At the
same time, I really don’t know much about most other people either. 

That’s why I’m writing this article. That’s why I’m trying to slowly open myself
up to others. That’s why I’m making an
appeal to those of you who don’t believe you have a story to tell, or that
even if you do it’s too normal or uninteresting to be worth telling. I want to start a dialogue. I want to get rid
of this fear, this overarching feeling that our unique memories and experiences
don’t matter. 

So here we are. I’ve
told you some of my story. Now it’s your turn.

Sameer Rana PO ’17 is from Kathmandu, Nepal. He is an avid member of Pomona College United Nations and Pomona Ventures.

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