In our culture, women have huge expectations on them. They have responsibilities they never asked for and duties they never learned to understand. Women are not expected to be independent. But once married all of a sudden women are supposed to know everything about building a life, from being a good wife to raising the children.
We are never taught to learn how to take care of ourselves because individuality doesn’t exist in our culture, especially when it comes to women, they are simply expected to take care of others and dedicate their lives to others.
When I was a teenager, I was convinced that I had to be a good obedient girl and please my family and the Afghan society. I was so focused on pleasing others that I didn’t realize how unhappy I was with myself. I never learn to trust my own judgment, I put more value on others opinions than on my own. And as a part of our culture, I was taught that marriage is the only worthwhile kind of life.
So, I followed it through, I got married when I was supposed to, I had children when I was expected to, I followed the entire process of becoming the “ideal” Afghan woman.
And I believed that I had achieved the role I was meant for, and I was convinced that once married, my life will be complete. But reality hit me as soon as I got married, I suddenly realized how far behind in life I was. I was so young when I got married, I had barely taken my driving’s license, I didn’t even finish my education because of all the new responsibilities on my shoulders and I had never been without my family before.
I realized how unprepared I was for reality because real life is not a fairytale, it is not like the Bollywood movies where your “hero” or prince charming sweeps you off of your feet and you live happily ever after.
My marriage life was perfect I am not saying that I was unhappy, I was unhappy about the fact that I had listened to others instead of following my own instincts. If only I had listened to myself and figured out who I AM first, I would have been better prepared for married life.
I remember vividly the day looking at myself in the mirror and seeing this young woman who is a mother of two children wearing a man's t-shirt with her hair on a bun. weighing almost 100 kg, she looked exhausted, this is not me? I didn’t know who this person was! How did I get to this point?
This realization was the cause of many sleepless nights where I would think about what kind of future awaits me and what kind of message I will be sending to my children once they grow up and ask me what I had achieved in my life, the thought of it was heartbreaking.
And the worst part is that the people who decided on my life were nowhere to be found. During my toughest period, none of them came to my aide, they simply showed up when it was time to lecture or to criticize. No one came to ask me about how I was doing.
This is the consequences of not teaching our women on how to become independent and think for themselves. We are not taught about the true side of reality, and that at the end we are all left for ourselves even when surrounded by others.
The biggest achievement for me was the day I decided to invest in myself and my wellbeing. I successfully got my driving’s license at the age of 22, at 26 I managed to get accepted to a university and today I am 28 years old I have a great job and will soon be graduating and by the way, I weight 55 kg but, most importantly I am a much happier wife, mother, and Radika than I have ever been before.
My wish is that all Afghan women who live to please others just like I did to focus first on themselves and their own happiness! Start investing in yourselves because in the long turn it will benefit not only you but people around you as well! Don’t just follow along when pointed to a direction. Knowing and being who YOU are will bring you more confidence where you will be able to achieve things you have always dreamt of achieving. It is never too late for that! Married or not you always have a choice.
Radika E. Sayer 28