I was born in one of the hottest parts of the world-Ahvaz, Iran. I remember the splish splash of the little round blow-up pool that was set up in the partitioned courtyard on searing days to cool me from the heat and the long walks at night with my dad to catch frogs. I remember the pungent smell of marigolds growing along the street where I first learned to ride a bike and the strong odor of the cattle that made my nose cringe on strolls to the dairy farm.
"We're different." This is what my parents still tell me when I object to the limits they enforce upon me. I am a multicultural, first generation immigrant, living in the very small, predominantly white city of Bangor, Maine; however, growing up in a conservative country with a rigidly enforced political and religious system has given me a unique personality. I have had to submerge my desire for independence with a deep love and respect for my native culture.
"Did you know that the former king of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, dined with our family when my father was alive?" my father reminds my sister and me. He is of the Kashkooli tribe, nomadic people in Iran who speak a dialect of Turkish, and my mother is a Turk of the Quashqai tribe. Naturally, the first language I learned to speak is Turkish. At about age four, I learned to speak Farsi and afterward attended kindergarden in Shiraz. Even then, I was told I was different. I was not dark-skinned like the other kids in my class. Rather, as they saw me, I was pale and light-haired. Growing up in Shiraz was like being a newly hatched sea turtle attempting to reach the ocean: I struggled with the congestion and pollution, the strict autocratic regime, and the overall urban life. Even a child could understand discomfort. Although I cannot say I enjoyed the city, I did not mind being within walking distance of the convenience store where I would on occasion buy saffron bastani. For these reasons, I found the open-minded American society appealing when I first moved here at seven.
However, even as a child, I began to develop a strong sense of independence. I questioned ideas and ideals: why did I have to dress the way I did or attend an all girls school? I objected to wearing a hijab as a first grader and the religious convocations. Despite my criticism of such regime, I was tolerant; therefore, I came to benefit the apprehension of contrasting cultures and societies upon immigrating to the United States. The tolerant American society became a haven for me in which I was entitled to conquer the values and pride of my large traditionalist family, and the restraining consequences of this conservative outlook prompted me to produce a customized set of views and values. As a result of having experienced three different cultures, I have achieved a broader understanding and appreciation of multiculturalism.
The events of my life have led me to a point where I can find the best of both worlds: the happy median between the American and Iranian cultures. My hybrid personality today is a mixture of my strict Iranian upbringing and my liberal American social experience. The combination has made me adventurous, free-spirited, and ravenous for education. In school, I aspire to do my best, for I can fathom the magnitude of the opportunities offered to me each day. In an age of increasing multiculturalism, I have many advantages: I have the ability to hold a career that involves familiarity with different cultures, the knowledge of different languages, and a more open view of the world. In the end, my parents were only partially right. We indeed are "different"; nevertheless, our surrounding environment is what molds us into the unique people that we are, and it is what has made me who I am today.