January 30, 2023
A 26-year-old social worker explains how she “Americanized” her Indian accent by watching “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” She opens up to Geth about assimilating to the U.S. and why her opinions on arranged marriage did not sit well with her parents. She also shares how undiagnosed Lyme disease led to her becoming immunocompromised.
356 — Americanize My Accent
Chris [00:00:00] Heads up, everybody. About 40 minutes in to this phone call, there’s a conversation about sexual assault, suicidal ideation. It’s not the primary focus of the episode, but it comes up sort of suddenly. So just want everybody to keep that in mind before you listen. Hello to everybody learning about life from the Disney Channel. It’s Beautiful/ Anonymous. One hour, one phone call, no names, no holds barred. Hi, everybody. Chris Gethard here, and I’m so excited to welcome you to another episode of Beautiful/ Anonymous. First thing I want to say is that… I’ve mentioned it over the years, I don’t push it too hard, but we’ve got the Facebook community. It’s called Beautiful/ Anonymous The Community. People get together, discuss episodes there. It’s pretty much it. I just want to say, everybody who listened to our episode last week talking about the experience with our friend who was the tree feller in the logging industry taking our trees. He talked about breaking his legs, cutting off toes and. All this, the discussion surrounding it was so fascinating because first of all, to everyone in that Facebook conversation, there were people expressing concerns and expressing misgivings, but doing it in a way that you don’t see on the Internet anymore. And man, it brought me back to a time of feeling good about the Internet. But there were people saying things about how it sounds like an industry that exploits workers. And it sounds like maybe the caller has been exploited in a way that’s concerning. There’s other people saying they had no idea about loggers. There’s people saying they grew up in Montana and knew tons of people like him. There were people who very respectfully expressed the idea that maybe the caller was disparaging towards millennials and their work ethic. And maybe millennials actually just don’t want to work in jobs where their toes get cut off anymore and they have to go back to work. It was a great conversation. Thanks to everybody for having it. Before I tell you about this week’s episode, I do want to say I’m going to Montana for the first time. I’ll be in Bozeman on February 3rd, Missoula on February 4th, doing stand up. And both those shows are almost sold out. ChrisGeth.com for tickets. I’d love to meet you during my first time in Montana and maybe I’ll meet my logger friend in one of those cities. This week’s episode really great. I don’t even know how to describe it. This call has a lot of things that come up from different directions. They all tie in to our caller whose experience as an immigrant ties right into her experience navigating the American medical industry, which ties right into her experience in becoming a social worker. These things are all sort of separate, but they all fold in together. The way she was raised was very unique by unique people who also had unique opinions and judgments of certain- it’s just a call from someone who, I think we’ll all agree, fascinating. Hard to explain succinctly, except to say that I have a feeling I will not be the only person who feels like this caller deserves an easy stretch in life and is also quite inspiring in a number of ways. Enjoy the call, everybody.
Voicemail Robot [00:03:39] Thank you for calling Beautiful Anonymous. A beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
Chris [00:03:46] Hello.
Caller [00:03:47] Hello.
Chris [00:03:49] How you doing?
Caller [00:03:50] Hey, um I am good. How are you doing, Chris?
Chris [00:03:55] I’m good. I just came in from playing in the snow with my son. It’s the first snow we’ve had all year where it actually stuck in any way. It’s going to be gone in a couple of hours because it’s going to rain. But I managed to get out there in the middle of a work day with him for like half an hour, 40 minutes.
Caller [00:04:12] Oh, I love that so much. And yeah, it’s like really rainy where I’m at and super gloomy and gray. But it sounds like you had a good time and there was like elements of joy that were a part of your day today.
Chris [00:04:28] Indeed, we threw some snowballs. We made some snow angels. I showed him how to spell his name in the snow. It was pretty classic.
Caller [00:04:34] Oh. Oh, my gosh. I love that so much.
Chris [00:04:38] How are you?
Caller [00:04:38] I never. Yeah, I’m okay. I will get into that soon. But I also just wanted to reflect on something you just said. I never grew up around snow, so the first time I saw snow was when I was 18. And I still am yet to, like, make snow angels or, like, really play in the snow. So I hope I got to do that at some point.
Chris [00:05:02] You got to do it. It’s so fun.
Caller [00:05:03] Yeah.
Chris [00:05:05] You gotta. Have you ever been sledding?
Caller [00:05:09] No, I haven’t. But that sounds like so fun. Especially if there are dogs involved.
Chris [00:05:14] Listen. Much love to people who grew up in warm weather areas, like if you grew up in Hawaii or San Diego or something, I’m jealous. I think that’s lots of fun. But sledding might be the ultimate childhood activity. Sledding is one of the last things.
Caller [00:05:30] Okay.
Chris [00:05:30] It was always fun as a kid, and it’s kind of one of the last things left where all parents are just sort of like, screw it, go nuts, let it be mayhem and chaos. Let’s go big.
Caller [00:05:41] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I definitely have to try it. I, I grew up in India, so it was super hot. No snow, at least like where I was at. So. Yeah, so definitely something on my bucket list.
Chris [00:05:56] Wow, that’s cool. I feel like there’s probably all sorts of stuff going on in India and the culture of growing up there that’s the ultimate childhood stuff that I don’t know about.
Caller [00:06:06] Yeah, that’s true. I mean, like I did get to do a lot of really cool things, like, okay, I don’t want to go into the stereotypes, but this is a really cool thing that I did get to do was, you know, ride an elephant when I was really young. I don’t know how I feel about the ethics of it anymore, but I enjoyed it at the time.
Chris [00:06:30] Okay. Okay. That’s fair. I think that’s a fair and balanced way to view your time riding an elephant.
Caller [00:06:36] Yeah, yeah, for sure. But you asked me how I was doing, and I’m super nervous, and I feel like you can tell. Like, I feel like my heart is pounding out of my chest just talking to you. I have been listening to your podcast for a while now. I think I used to listen to it a lot in 2018 or 2019 when I had to commute for work. And then COVID happened and commuting didn’t happen. So podcast time just kind of got lost. But I’ve been picking it back up now and it’s just been such a source of comfort and care for me, especially right now. I feel very isolated from the world. It’s still like the source of like connection to really listen to other people and listen to their lives. So I really just appreciate the space and hopefully my nerves will melt as we continue the conversation.
Chris [00:07:36] I’m gonna go ahead and tell you what. I wouldn’t have guessed you were nervous at all. You’re crushing it. You’re coming off cool and confident. You got nothing to worry about. Good to go.
Caller [00:07:47] Alright, awesome, because like I had to take my Apple Watch off because it was like high heart rate. And I was like, Okay, I can’t look at this and then get like, nervous about that too.
Chris [00:07:56] I have to tell you.
Caller [00:07:57] But yeah.
Chris [00:07:58] Listen, I want to tell you that I appreciate it and and I’m very flattered to hear all that. But also… If, like, knowing who I am, the idea that talking to me is making your heart rate rise, I’m like, well God bless you. You’re making me feel young again because I am a legit 42 year old balding dad. Like there’s this is.
Caller [00:08:22] I am fangirling though. I mean, okay, not fangirling because like, I don’t know if that’s like the gender neutral, that’s not a gender neutral term. Like, I would say like fan they/them-ing, like, if that’s if that’s okay. Because like, yeah, no, I just really appreciate people who are putting soul and connection within spaces because I just feel like we’re all just so disconnected and there’s just like a lot of appreciation for you and your work.
Chris [00:08:52] That’s incredibly nice. Thank you so much.
Caller [00:08:55] Yeah. Um, but I, I wanted to talk about a few things today and also just to talk about like where I am at with life and how lost I feel and yeah, just so, like, kind of like workshop some of these like thoughts that I’ve been sitting with and thoughts that I’ve been having over the past few months. And yeah, that, that’s just like how I am coming into the space today.
Chris [00:09:27] Nice. Hit me with it. Tell me how you’re doing. Tell me where you’re at.
Caller [00:09:31] Yeah. So I feel like I’m constantly living in like liminal space because one, I’m immunocompromised and disabled. I’m 26, but I feel like my life really changed early- no, late 2018. This is actually like when I used to listen to your podcast a lot, so it helped. Um I got bitten by a tick when I was out hiking and it was never taken seriously by the doctors and I was in and out of the hospital for a very long time. And what I have right now, which is still being gaslit by a lot of doctors, is chronic Lyme disease. And it’s been very debilitating. And I feel like my life has completely turned like 180 from like who I used to be and what I wanted to do with my life. And constantly I feel like I’m having to navigate and work with the limitations of my body and a lot of limitations that are currently coming up because of the pandemic. I’m still very cautious that the world has sort of like moved on and with that I’ve lost a lot of people. I’ve lost a lot of friendships, and I feel like I’m in the space of a lot of grief right now. So that’s one thing that’s happening among many others.
Chris [00:11:05] That’s really intense and stressful. And I also got to tell you… This this undiagnosed Lyme disease thing… This is a thing that’s happening more than any of us know. I mean, you are far from the first person I’ve heard of who has symptoms that doctors have trouble identifying or they or they say it’s one thing and they start treating it as such and the treatments don’t work, and it goes on and on for a while. And then it comes down to Lyme disease, which is a thing people think they know a lot about. But it seems like the medical community can’t quite get their finger on the pulse of this. And I’ve heard that it can really be a long term thing. And I’m really sorry you’re dealing with it.
Caller [00:11:52] Yeah. Thank you for saying that. And it’s true. And I think there are other aspects of this is just the fact that I’m also fat and there’s a lot of medical phobia that I’ve had to navigate. So a lot of answers have been like, Oh, you should just lose weight or, you know, that’s the thing that’s like really holding onto your health. But the thing is, before I got Lyme disease, I used to work with a personal trainer and I was also training in Krav Maga and I was like training to like level up. And I was incredibly fit. And not that it really matters. Like, not that I have to really qualify myself by saying all of that, but the fact that I used to faint in classes right after I got sick and I had to crawl from like my bed to my bathroom should tell you that there’s something really wrong with me. And the only thing, you know, that you’re giving me advice for is to lose weight is not helpful at all. So it’s, it’s just been like such a process of trying to get people to believe me and try to get people to see that like, there is something really wrong. And it it just makes me feel very alone in many ways. But also I’m very I’m very grateful. I have an amazing partner and an amazing best friend who have been such like such supportive people for me and such fierce advocates for me that I’m very grateful for them. But at the same time, I wish I had more people believing that this is not just something I’m making up and this is not just something that’s going to go away if I lose weight. You know?
Chris [00:13:41] These doctors who can’t diagnose Lyme disease out of the gate, this is a bigger thing than we talk about. I bet everybody listening is like, I know somebody who that happened to. Can’t get our finger on that one. Anyway, I’m rambling. Let’s take a break. We’ll do some ads. We’ll be right back. Thanks to all of our advertisers. Now, let’s get back to this phone call.
Caller [00:14:08] This is not just something I’m making up. This is not just something that’s going to go away if I lose weight. You know?
Chris [00:14:13] Yeah. And it’s it’s one of those things where I don’t like hearing it because there is some element to which you would- I’ve been in situations where I feel very rushed by doctors or very much like they’re at the end of a long day and they just kind of want things to be over with. And they give the easy answer. And you sit here and go, you know your body. And when you’re saying like, No, I used to see trainers and I used to, you know, do any number of things at my size. And I understand my body and I can feel something’s off. Even if someone were, you, tell me… Even if someone was to say whatever’s going on, we think that you’d be in less pain if you dedicated some time to dropping a few pounds, or it could help, you know, if you’re feeling joint issues, rather than just going, here’s what it is. It’s because of this. You sit here and go, Well, maybe not. And it feels like you’re rushing into that. And then to hear that it’s Lyme disease, you must sit there and you must go, you MF’ers. I knew. I knew there was something deeper than that. And you just decided to go with the easy surface level thing. And it erodes trust. It erodes trust.
Caller [00:15:32] Yep, it definitely does. I mean, I think I have a lot of like trauma just from like the medical system, and I think it’s for a lot of different reasons. So like when I first got bit by the tick, I was like in and out of the hospital. I had the bull’s eye rash, which is like what you get when you’re bit by the tick. And granted that not every tick bite results in Lyme disease. And I did get the test which was negative, but the Lyme disease test is super finicky. It doesn’t. It’s just like known by everybody that it’s super finicky. They’re like this, even in my test result, it was like, if this is negative, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have Lyme disease. So yeah, so there’s that. And they never treated me. And at that point my family lived in India and I actually was super fortunate that my mom flew in to the US, stayed with me for a month, and got medication. So I did get some medication for it, but that was only possible because we were able to get my mom in and that still happened a lot later than it was initially supposed to happen. So, you know, I’m grateful that that happened, but that’s the length that we had to go to to get any form of treatment. And that’s not something everybody has access to. And even for us, like that was like a very big and a hard thing to do.
Chris [00:17:04] Let’s talk about that. I want to I want to get just some facts first. How old were you? How old were you when you came to the States and what brought you to the states?
Caller [00:17:15] Yeah. So I moved to the U.S. when I was 18. My extended family, so, like, my dad’s mom and my aunt lived in the US earlier. So, like, my aunt moved here in the eighties. My grandma moved here, and then they had sponsored us to get a green card. But it took us like ten years or so. I mean, actually, like, way more than ten years. So we got our green card mid 2015. And at that point I was graduating from high school and thankfully, like, I was very lucky, like I was very lucky. I didn’t have to go through like being an international student and that whole process of getting the visa because my grandma was had sponsored us, we were able to get the green card and I moved here alone because, you know, rest of my family had a life back home. And, you know, I can go more into that soon because I have a pretty interesting family, too.
Chris [00:18:16] We we would like to think in the United States, and I know for my family, you know, I knew my grandparents from Ireland and they immigrated. And we’d all like to think it’s like, oh, you get to America and it’s the land of opportunity and it puts you on this fast track to a better life. And you’d like to think that’s what happens. Then when I hear a story like yours of, Well, I came here, I had extended family, but I wound up in a scary medical situation and luckily we had enough finances and it was logistically possible to get my mom over here to help me. You go that that sounds a lot more like a real immigrant experience. And for a lot of people, they don’t necessarily have a mom who has the means and the time and the logistics to get here.
Caller [00:19:05] Exactly. Not a lot of people have that. Not a lot of people are able to travel. Like we’re really lucky when it comes to the immigration system that we all have green cards. We don’t have to wait for a visa. Right? A lot of folks don’t have the means. A lot of folks, you know, a lot of folks are from here. They don’t have people who are able to go to another country and get the medicine right? So I feel very, very fortunate that that happened. And at the same time, it’s really hard. And, you know, when I moved here, even though I had extended family, they lived in California, which is on the other side of the country from where I was at. So it’s not like I really have people here either.
Chris [00:19:48] Right. That’s the other thing. You always hear about people who will visit the states. They’ll come for vacation, holiday, and, and you’ll go, Oh, so what are your plans, you know, while you’re in the States? You’re like, Oh, well, we’re in New York, so we’re gonna to see the Statue of Liberty. Then we think we’ll probably just pop over, check out the Grand Canyon at some point. You go, Oh, no, that’s that’s oh, okay. You have a bullet. You have you have a bucket list of of American things you want to see. And it’s a bullet point list. And it’s not totally how this country works. Having having extended family on the West Coast when you’re on the East Coast is about as useful as having your parents in India in a lot of ways.
Caller [00:20:27] Exactly. Yeah. No, exactly. And I feel like I’ve seen the that portion of my family, like maybe twice in the past eight years. So, yeah, like, you know, I’m glad that they’re here, but it’s not like we also have that much of an interaction, right? So, so yeah so that was like a bit of the circumstances. I grew up in, I grew up in India in many different cities. We moved around a lot. And then when I turned 18, I moved here. My dad, he ever since I was like nine years old, he worked in international humanitarian aid. So he lived in countries like Indonesia after the tsunami. He was in Afghanistan for four years. He lived in like South Sudan in a lot of different places.
Chris [00:21:21] That’s a list- hold on. That’s a list of places that at any given point in my lifetime have arguably been the most dangerous places you can go.
Caller [00:21:33] Mhm. Yeah. That. That’s how I lived. Um, my dad’s a very fascinating person and.
Chris [00:21:39] Dad’s kind of a badass, huh?
Caller [00:21:41] Yeah. I’ve been asking him to write a book for a really long time and I need to make him do that now. Now that he’s not in a what the US calls a conflict zone. But I, I mean, it was, it was hard like it was hard growing up. You know, there were times when this was like when he was in Afghanistan, like we knew that he was in a bunker. There was there was bombing going on. And we hadn’t heard from him for like days. And I’m 13 or 14 and just like crying in bed and trying to live my life as a 13 or 14 year old girl, not knowing if my dad’s like, alive or not. Like, um, so it was a lot for my mom to raise me mostly as a single mom, even though, like, you know, my dad was definitely like, he would call and like, we would talk and all of that. But it was, it was very interesting because my dad wasn’t in the military. But, you know, I feel like I had that experience of having a parent who is in the military.
Chris [00:22:51] That’s. Really intense. That’s an intense way to grow up. You hear about bombings and you’re not hearing from your dad. You’re going, this could be it. That’s really intense.
Caller [00:23:03] Yeah. But I also do, like, want to know, like, it’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me a lot about the world. It’s taught me a lot about just war. Like, I didn’t have to live through war. There are a lot of people who do have to. And, you know, my dad did work in international humanitarian aid or whatever, but he necessarily wasn’t always the good guy. Like, that’s what we we like to say that the work that they’re doing is really good, but it is a branch of a lot of what the US does in terms of imperialism, in terms of like controlling the wealth and controlling the politics of many other countries. And this is something that my dad really has critiqued a lot in his work as well, especially as a brown man working for organizations from the West. Like there is like so much racism entrenched like within the system itself and then him as a brown man, like also sort of like enacting some like really racist programing within these spaces of conflict.
Chris [00:24:15] This is a hell of a life you’ve lived. And this is a conversation you’ve had with your dad? You’ve said, like, I appreciate what you do and I appreciate your intentions, but you’re also.
Caller [00:24:23] Yeah.
Chris [00:24:24] You’re also enabling a system that I fundamentally distrust? You’ve said things like this to your dad? How does he react?
Caller [00:24:31] Yeah, we have conversations.
Chris [00:24:33] And then he turns around. He’s like. He’s like, I would love to talk more about this. I’m so sorry. I’ve been. I’ve been busy traipsing through the South Sudan as as it falls into disarray and people are fighting for scraps. And power.
Caller [00:24:50] And he agrees with it. He agrees with it. I need to give him a lot of credit. I think he’s done a lot of work in understanding how he’s been a part of that system. Right? And he completely agrees with it. I don’t think that it’s something that he disagrees with. Like, he did see things happen. And, you know, it’s something that he’s definitely reckoning with and it’s something I feel like I’m reckoning with, too, because I’m a social worker. I got my master’s in social work in May of 2022.
Chris [00:25:22] Congrats.
Caller [00:25:22] So I’m reckoning with a lot of social work related things. And I know that you want to be a social worker. So yeah.
Chris [00:25:30] There’s yeah, that’s been a development in my life. There’s all sorts of moving parts in my life right now for sure. So it sounds like you do. You do on some level, right? Like. Your dad. It sounds like your dad has rubbed off on you. I mean, to be a social worker certainly feels like it’s in the lineage of, you know, you come from a family where one of your parents have set an example of like, Oh, you drop what you’re doing and you go to places that are dangerous to try to help people in need. So there’s positives there.
Caller [00:26:03] Yeah, for sure. And I mean, yeah, like my dad calls it the family business and he’s been begging me to get out of it because he’s like, this is going to burn you out and you’re going to be poor. And I get it. Like I get what you’re talking about. But at the same time, I don’t think that that’s an option.
Chris [00:26:24] Wow. Wow. So you have no family immediately accessible? Everybody is either on the West Coast or in India. Or has that changed?
Caller [00:26:36] Actually, yes, that changed. That actually, thankfully, change just before COVID started. My parents moved to the US. We lived together for a while during the pandemic, and then I sort of had to move out, and for reasons. And I actually moved to New York City and I got my master’s in social work, and now I’m back at the place where my parents are at. But we don’t live together. But but like, weirdly enough, I’m actually visiting them today, so I’m taking this call from there.
Chris [00:27:18] Nice. So you don’t live in New York City anymore? You came to New York City?
Caller [00:27:22] I do not. I had to move. That ruined my mental health and my physical health.
Chris [00:27:27] Moving or being in New York City? That could go either way.
Caller [00:27:30] Being in New York City.
Chris [00:27:30] Yeah, that city can crush you. I love it to death. I love that city until my final days. But I also know it can it can it can drain you. I do have to ask… So. Again. You’re 26 now. You moved here. You moved here. The information has been flying- around when you were 18, it sounds like?
Caller [00:27:56] Correct.
Chris [00:27:57] So you’ve been- you spent 18 years in India, eight years in the States?
Caller [00:28:03] Mm hmm.
Chris [00:28:04] What’s your connection to Indian culture in the United States? Which is becoming which is, I would say even in the last few years, I have noticed- like there’s there’s now like, I know where I live now there is like they did a big ranking in the paper out here in Jersey the all the best Indian top 25 Indian restaurants in New Jersey, which Indian restaurants have certainly always been in New Jersey, but I feel like that’s a much more mainstream treatment of Indian food, for example, than when I was growing up. It would have felt more fringe. And being in New York, too, part of why I’m asking is I lived like a block from Little India in Queens, and I wonder if you ever went out there in Jackson Heights.
Caller [00:28:53] I have. I love Jackson Heights. Love the food. Miss Jackson Heights.
Chris [00:29:01] What were your spots? We’ve probably eaten at some of the same restaurants.
Caller [00:29:03] So I mean, probably yes. But also because of the pandemic and me just being like high risk, like I have only gone there like, a couple times, so I don’t even really fully remember it. But like, I worked whatever I ate there.
Chris [00:29:19] That’s fair. There is a place called Samudra that I love. There is a place called Angel that opened up shortly before we left that was ridiculous. They had a vegetable.
Caller [00:29:31] What kind of food was it? What do they have?
Chris [00:29:33] Angel had veggie I’m gonna- first of all, I’m now going to start naming Indian foods to someone who grew up in India. I’m going to slaughter the pronunciation of everything because I’m a cheesy white dude who all I can do is try. I fell in love because I’ll tell you what, because. I. My wife’s a vegetarian. I was not a vegetarian when we got together. I started giving up meat slowly but surely. Living in Jackson Heights next to all these insanely good Indian restaurants, woo, did it become easy to become a vegetarian. Because Angel, first of all, their veggie vegetable biryani was amazing. It comes with like they bake it in with the bread top and you rip it open. It’s so good. Samudra was where I learned about my favorite food that I have said, If you could give me one final meal, if I had to pick a final meal right now, it would be paneer makhani. Paneer makhani is, oh my goodness.
Caller [00:30:28] Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Chris [00:30:30] And then what’s the one that’s the what’s the one with the peas. Is that matar paneer?
Caller [00:30:37] Matar paneer. Yeah.
Chris [00:30:39] Oh, get outta here. I want Indian food so bad tonight.
Caller [00:30:43] You should get some! Yes!
Chris [00:30:46] Ooh. I’m in a pause right there. Going to tell you what, I got to show in Brooklyn tonight. I’m going to leave a little early. I’m going to find some Indian food. Treat myself. Woo, can’t wait. Okay. I’ve paused just to tell you my dinner order. Let’s go ahead and get the ads out of the way. All right. That’s it. That’s all the ads, everybody. All we got left now is more phone call. Let’s finish it.
Caller [00:31:15] You should get some. Yes!
Chris [00:31:18] What is makhani- am I pronouncing- it’s makhani- makhani, right?
Caller [00:31:23] Makhani.
Chris [00:31:25] Paneer Makhani is just cheese. It’s cubes of cheese floating in a sauce.
Caller [00:31:28] Yeah.
Chris [00:31:32] I don’t even.
Caller [00:31:33] It’s like butter. Makha means butter.
Chris [00:31:36] They say it’s a tomato sauce. It does not taste like tomato sauce. It tastes like heavy cream and butter.
Caller [00:31:43] Yep.
Chris [00:31:44] Oh, my goodness!.
Caller [00:31:45] And tomatoes.
Chris [00:31:47] Oh, slight- but not like. Not like, you know, when you grow up in the States, you hear tomato sauce and you think, like, marinara sauce that you throw on pasta. I grew up in Jersey, North Jersey. It is not that. But good God almighty. Oh, I’m eating Indian food tonight. I got a show in the city, I’m gonna go early so I can eat Indian food.
Caller [00:32:08] I like deeply, deeply love all the foods. And I mean, unfortunately, I feel like y’all are missing out on a lot of, like, the really good food. Like, I feel like there’s only representation of, like, North Indian food or, like, very specific restaurant food that it’s not like we don’t cook that everyday at home. So I feel like you’re missing out on a lot of the foods from different parts of India, which are also like equally delicious and, you know, like all the food that my mom makes, it’s amazing. And I feel like I know you asked me about just like my relationship with Indian culture here, and I think that’s a very complicated one. But I think like food is definitely something that really helps me tie to my culture a lot.
Chris [00:32:58] And when you. When you come over at 18. I’ll also say this, and I will say, this is going to tread on a dangerous statement. And I want to make sure that I’m calling that out. Well, I’m just going to say… You clearly grew up practicing English from a young age because… You could tell me that you moved here when you were two, and I would have no idea you moved here when you were 18. So clearly, you were learning English from a young age. And I want to say, I know that there’s some warning signs, and I’m not trying to be xenophobic at all in saying like, Well, your English is very good. That’s not what I’m saying. But what I, the reason I mention it is because to move here at 18 and to to have an accent where you could be fully assimilated from birth, no one knows that if they meet you on a street, there’s Indian restaurants to go to, those might be second, third generation people here, and you might have just moved here six months ago. I find it very fascinating to know how all those puzzle pieces lock together, because that’s a more there’s a more complex story than I think- I would have to imagine it’s a more complex story than I know as an American who was born and grew up here.
Caller [00:34:15] Yeah. And actually, there is, and a really big part of what I wanted to talk about is my accent. I just how I’ve been sitting with that and the complexities that I have with relating to the Indian diaspora here and relating to folks back home. Because I feel completely rootless, like R-O-O-T rootless because I don’t feel like I do have a home or any feeling of familiarity with folks who grew up here or folks who are in India still. And a really big part of my accent is that when I moved here, I was alone. I was a really big extrovert. I I’ve also been a really big people pleaser, and I really just wanted to get to know people. And a lot of the folks that I was around when I moved here were white, and I had to constantly repeat myself and repeat what I was saying, repeat my name. So I you know, it came as a pretty natural process to Americanize the way I speak. I mean, yes, like I spoke English my whole life, but this obviously isn’t the accent that I spoke with. Or actually I don’t want to say, obviously, because there are some people who have like very interesting upbringings and, you know, they do speak with different accents even when they are in other countries. But I think like it naturally happened that I assimilated. I assimilated and I sort of like diminished and distance myself from who I was before. And I think I hold a lot of sadness about it right now. I am kind of navigating like how I feel about it because I know people are like, you know, this has been celebrated, like this has been celebrated that I assimilated. But I don’t know if it’s something to celebrate, right? Like, I’m not I’m not sure. I’m not sure. And I am just holding a lot of, like, sadness about that.
Chris [00:36:21] Well, it’s… It’s a thing that should not be celebrated in the sense that it should theoretically be neither here nor there. There are people who could, you know, whether it applies to an accent or fashion or any number of things that represent assimilation, it shouldn’t affect people’s treatment of others. I know it does. But I have to imagine… I have to imagine, too, that there, there… You tell me. There are other people. There are other people who maybe their accents haven’t reflected assimilation as much. Does that create any sort of barrier or line when you interact with other- I could imagine a situation where maybe you meet someone who lived in one of the cities you lived in growing up.
Caller [00:37:14] Yeah.
Chris [00:37:15] But you now kind of grown at a different pace or in different directions in America. And are you able to are you able to lock in and go, Oh, on some level, we now remind each other of home? Or does it feel like more separation? I have no, I’m not trying to lead it anywhere. I’m just genuinely fascinated.
Caller [00:37:33] No, you’re good. And that’s like such a fascinating thing to think about. So. So I work right now. So as I said, I have a background in social work. I work at a domestic violence organization, specifically working with Asian and Pacific Islanders. And a lot of folks who are my- I don’t like to call people clients, but that’s what we call it in social work speak. But like, you know, the folks that we work with, I have a lot of folks who are from South Asia, folks who move here, like maybe very close to like when I moved here, and they all think that I grew up here. They all say things like, oh, you should know all of this because you grew up here, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, I actually didn’t. And I’m also trying to navigate, like, I at least have some of the knowledge to navigate the systems, right? So I’m able to support them with that. But there are things like, I don’t know how to drive yet. I’m actually learning how to do that right now. Because when I moved here, I’ve been living in cities and I’m learning how to drive right now and I feel like that’s something that people are like, Oh my gosh, you don’t know how to drive? And I was like, Yeah, like I moved here when I was 18. We couldn’t drive until we were 18. And I lived in cities for the past eight years and I didn’t need to. So it’s really it’s really interesting. But at the same time, I do like I can relate to that, right? Like I can relate to them on a certain levels of like, you know, feeling really lost here or trying to just like, understand and build community and build a family here when you’re all alone.
Chris [00:39:15] Yeah. There any. Are there moments that jump out in that like, are there personal moments that jump out to you and your experience, maybe even in, you know, the early days especially, I’d imagine, that can that can kind of explain some of that confusion or put a magnifying glass on it for a guy like me who’s just a dope, who was born in New Jersey and is probably going to die in New Jersey?
Caller [00:39:45] Well, I’m thinking back and I, I think I was also 18, right? So, like, I was so young and I think like in the past eight years, like I have aged so much. Like given like, you know, being being chronically ill, like, that’s like one thing that’s changed a lot. I also just went through a lot mentally. And, you know, I want to give a little trigger warning about suicide and sexual assault. And, you know, I was raped in college and I also attempted to take my own life. And, you know, I live with chronic suicidal ideation. That’s something that I do live with and I’m working working on and I care deeply about to like support folks who have similar situations. But okay, I went I went completely off of your question. But I do think that some of this like I don’t know how to explain it, but some of this feeling of really not belonging at all, not understanding how to like I didn’t understand how to navigate the medical system, which is still like a source of pain for me, as I’ve mentioned. But like not knowing what a primary care it was, not knowing how to get a therapist early on, really pushed me to be in a very dark place and not know how to navigate some of these like complexities within the system. And also just trusting like the courts to take care of some of the things that I had to deal with was also in a way like, for me, a mistake. Like, I wish I knew how courts here worked too.
Chris [00:41:29] Yeah, I mean, I’m not trying to be glib at all.
Caller [00:41:34] Mhm.
Chris [00:41:35] To hear that I go, you know the question’s like, so what are the, you know, these feelings that you’re maybe alone in it or there’s some isolation to the experience and the levels to which people assimilate can divide them. How to how does that make you feel? Oh, I think about killing myself. Like, chronically. Like I go, Oh, jeez. Oh, jeez, I get it. I get it. I’m not trying to. I’m not trying to make a joke. There’s some dark humor in it though.
Caller [00:42:00] No, no. I laugh at myself all the time.
Chris [00:42:03] If you feel totally alone in the world and like you’re kind of wandering through a world where it’s hard to nail down a sense of camaraderie with anyone because of your very specific life experience, yeah, I get it. I get it. I get it. I’m also, I guess I have to say too… You are a social worker. I’m someone who’s thought about going into it, and I’ve had my own struggles with suicidal thoughts many times over the years. I go, I have to imagine there’s there’s got to be ways they teach you self-care in becoming a social worker. Because for people like us who think about it and now you’re signing up for a job where you’re looking, I mean, you said you work specifically right now in the AAPI community, which has been facing so much, I go, ooh, when you sign up for a job where you face down horrible things that people do all the time.
Caller [00:42:56] YEah. I do. But I have to say, like my social work training was really disappointing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more from people with lived experience, people in peer support spaces, and folks who genuinely want to create spaces for connection and don’t just want to medicalized you and put you away in the psych ward. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about empathy from interactions with people and to really try to do better for each other than in the textbooks or than in my training at school. I think the training at school was like not great in many ways and kind of harmful at worst. So I really struggled with some of my social work teachings and learnings. And I know that that’s probably not the most like popular opinion within social workers, but I feel like a lot of people with lived experience, especially folks who are minoritized are oppressed by systems in many different ways, you know, don’t trust us, don’t trust social workers. And I think that there is a good reason for that.
Chris [00:44:16] It’s another sobering answer. Another sobering answer. I feel like as I talk to you more and more, I sit here, I go, from growing up with your your dad, who was leaving a lot and in extreme situations, which that creates a sense of loneliness, I’m sure. Right? Like a family unit where one person’s opting in to. I’m sure that psychologically it can’t be easy when you go, my father keeps splitting and facing down death. Why is that the choice? I’m sure you know that creates a- the experience of immigrating at 18.
Caller [00:44:57] And I’m an only child. I don’t have siblings. I feel like that’s another thing that’s been a big thing for me. I really wish I had siblings to see my parents age. Um, you know, my parents are a little older then, or at least like, I think like in the US it’s normal, but like in India, like I feel like my parents were like the older parents of, like my classmates. And they also have like a lot of health issues. So just, you know, at this point-
Chris [00:45:25] Add that to the list. You’re an only child. You immigrate young. We’ve talked about the complexities of assimilating and how that can create loneliness, medical traumas that create a sense of loneliness, a lack of people who can support and care. I mean, luckily your mother managed to make it over, but I feel like, here’s what I’m picking up from you is that your life has- and I’m not trying- listen, I’m not trying to sum it all up in a nice, simple sentence.
Caller [00:45:52] Oh no you’re good.
Chris [00:45:54] People are complex, but I feel like your life has been marked by some experiences that encourage or foster a regrettable extreme of feeling like you’re in it alone. But it’s, it’s given you a pretty remarkable ability to just tell the truth in simple ways. Like for you to just turn around and be able to go, oh, yeah. Sometimes I feel so lonely that I have, you know, suicidal thoughts are chronic. My school system. My schooling system wasn’t cool. And here’s why. My father is a guy who does admirable stuff, but and under the umbrella of a whole lot of problematic westernization and sort of- you didn’t use this phrase, but this sort of weird right like Western countries with this weird, modern, quasi colonization attitude with some of the efforts to help. You really have a remarkable ability to go, Here’s the fucked up truth that I see. And I feel like maybe, maybe the loneliness and all those sides of it do give you that as sort of a superpower at the end of the day.
Caller [00:47:11] Yeah, I know. And I do agree, like, and I think the one thing that I, I really just want to be there for people. Like that’s just my life goal is to be in the lives of people and just like like bear witness to the amazing things that people do and be supportive of, you know, do like I want to have experiences like right now, very specifically. So I’m an artist too. I paint and I use art as a form of healing. And I’ve done a lot of a lot of workshops specifically for survivors around how to use art in their healing practices. So, you know, there’s a lot of like artistic practices that I want to learn. I do want to do a lot of writing and things like that. But I am just, you know, stuck with the limitations of my body right now. So that’s my main goal is to try to make sure that my medical side of things are taken care of so that I’m able to deepen some of this. And what I in the end really want to do is just be a part of people’s lives. And, you know, that’s why I appreciate this podcast so much, is because I really get a glimpse into this, like really vulnerable and real part of people’s lives. And yeah, I just like, yeah, I don’t know how else to sum it up, but that’s what I wanted to say. So I’ll leave it there.
Chris [00:48:40] It’s really. It’s I’m sure you know, it’s a really unique story which doesn’t do anything to make you feel less alone in it. But I imagine-
Caller [00:48:54] But I’m really grateful.
Chris [00:48:55] I imagine. I imagine. Well, I have to, I like- I’m sitting here going, If you could change any aspect, I mean, I would imagine the tick bite is one thing that you’d just go, Fuck that.
Caller [00:49:07] Yes.
Chris [00:49:07] I don’t need that. Let’s get that. If we could slice away all the medical nonsense, who wants to immigrate to America to deal with the American health care system? The last reason anyone enters this country. There’s all sorts of people I go, there’s people who go, I might be able to make money, build a better future for myself and my family. Sure. You know, people go, I come from a place that is war torn or oppressive and maybe there will be breathing room there, maybe not. Not sure. Nobody’s going, I can’t wait to get to the United States so I can deal with their medical system. Nobody’s saying that.
Caller [00:49:44] Nobody said that. Nope.
Chris [00:49:48] Are there any other aspects that you would do differently or that you’d adjust, whether that’s how you, you know, your parents lifestyle, the timing of things and when you chose to do them?
Caller [00:50:01] I mean, so my parents and I have a very interesting relationship. So because my dad was away since I was nine, like we didn’t live together until I was 24 when the when did the pandemic even start? It feels like forever. But yeah, I think I was 24 or 23 when it started. And so we started living together just before COVID and we spent a shit ton of time together after I’ve been so independent like for most of my life. And also like, I love I love my mom so, so deeply. And she had had to deal with a lot of shit because so she basically raised me and she also had three older people that had two- both my grandmom’s; my dad’s mom and my mom’s mom. And one of my grandmom’s sister also living with us as we were growing up, as I was growing up. And they had very specific medical needs, so my mom had her hands full with that. So yeah, so all I’m trying to say is that like there wasn’t a lot of parenting that necessarily happened when I was younger, and it’s not their fault. Like, I don’t blame them for that at all. But I’ve had to figure out a lot of things on my own from a very young age and had to move here alone and figure a lot of things out here as well. And I do appreciate like they’ve definitely done things for me. Like literally my mom came here with medicine. Like that’s like such a big thing, but I feel like there was a lot more like they wanted to parent me at the ripe age of 23, which just felt not like supportive for me in many ways. And when I was trying to draw boundaries and figure things out with them, it didn’t go very well. So we’re still healing our relationship because I also started dating my partner around the same time, and my parents were not very happy about it, mostly because like, um, well, okay, so this is like again, like, this is not the experience of all Indian. Like, this is absolutely not. My parents are a little more conservative. So they believe in arranged marriages and they wanted that to happen for me. They weren’t really happy that I was dating at all. And so that wasn’t something that they were like happy about. So I it took a really long time for them to start, you know, being okay with it. And I mean, you know, this is my one partner who I’m finally in a healthy relationship. This is one partner I was like, Yes, I’m introducing them to my parents. You know, this is not like this is a relationship that I know is like very deep. And I mean, I don’t fully believe in the institution of marriage, but I know, like, I’m here to, like, build a life with this person in some way or the other. So it was it was really hard to get that rejection from my family and having to navigate that over, like living with them and figuring out my relationship with this person and all of that.
Chris [00:53:24] You got no shortage of things to talk about.
Caller [00:53:29] I do. Like, okay, this is going in a totally different direction, but at some point, like, I can I can pump the brakes on this right now. Like, we can come back to this. But I do want to note something about just like Indian culture and the caste system, because, like, I think there is it is important in this conversation, as I’m talking about India, Indian culture and the Indian diaspora. So I would love to come back to that. But if you have any questions about the partner thing, I will I will leave it at that for you right now.
Chris [00:54:05] I guess. I’m just left feeling, because we’ve got 9 minutes left.
Caller [00:54:11] Oh, no. Wow.
Chris [00:54:12] Yeah. I know, I could talk to you all day. But I guess I’m just left feeling like… So many things that you’ve described about your life experience, whether it’s cultural things like your parents’ view on dating, circumstantial things that broke in a awful direction, like dealing with medical issues, feels like your first 26 years you have- you have a very positive spirit, but it feels like there’s been a bunch of things that you’ve had to push through.
Caller [00:54:44] Yeah. I hate that.
Chris [00:54:45] A bunch of things that feel like- Yeah. I hate it, too.
Caller [00:54:49] I’m so mad.
Chris [00:54:50] I was going to ask you how. I was going to ask, like, is it starting to just feel like this is your life? Or are you fighting to a place where you go, I want it to feel like it’s… I want to feel like I’m on flat ground instead of uphill? Or I want to maybe feel like things go downhill and get easy for me after all these years once in a while.
Caller [00:55:08] Yeah.
Chris [00:55:09] I want to know where you’re at as far as what you’re building towards in goals. not just professionally or even personally, but more in that overall sense of what do we have to do to get it where you’re not just pushing through stuff to try to get somewhere?
Caller [00:55:26] Yeah, I have to take that deep breath because there’s heaviness and my chest. And I think it’s just because, I don’t know, Chris. I really don’t know where I’m headed. Because things are bad for a lot of people right now, too. And I’m witnessing it, right? Um, and as I said, like, I think for me the most important thing is just to be able to be a part of people’s lives and to be able to do things that I feel truly grounded and nourished by. I think one of them was talking on this podcast, which is a bucket list thing, so yay. Thank you for making space for me here.
Chris [00:56:09] Happy to do it. But I don’t know that it’s going to solve any long term problems.
Caller [00:56:13] I know it’s not. I know it’s not. But I think like that’s the thing. I think solving a lot of long term problems, a lot of what I’m dealing with is not just something I alone I’m dealing with. I’m seeing a lot of people having mirrored experiences. A lot of people are feeling really lonely. A lot of people like, yes, maybe they didn’t have the very specific life that I do, but people also have very specific hard lives. So for me, it’s really important for us to be able to connect and to create a world where we’re able to, like, work through some of this shit. A lot of the issues that I’m dealing with are structural and systemic issues that need to be fought for. Like we need to fight for a better health care system. We need to fight to dismantle what we call the medical industrial complex, like we need to fight to dismantle that. We need to find better ways to care for each other. And we need to, you know, just find better ways to be in community with each other. Yeah. Like, that’s just how I’m feeling. Because even today, like, the shooting happened over this weekend during Lunar New Year at, um, oh, my gosh, Monterey Park at Half Moon Bay, which is like, you know, a lot of like Asian folks were killed. And something that we were talking about at work was just how a lot of our struggles are actually connected to each other. And we can’t look at issues in silos. So like even though I’m talking about myself right now, a lot of the things that I’m dealing with are things that our society deals with in general. And there is like such a need for us to come together and yeah, I don’t know, like I don’t know where I’m going with this, but like I have this like drive on some days, a lot of days I’m very depressed. Obviously, like, thankfully today is not one of those days, but on a lot of days I have this drive to fight and I have this drive to fight with others, to fight and build with others and imagine futures which are better for everybody.
Chris [00:58:30] I feel like you might be the type of person that could pull it off. I used to have that fight in my guts. Now I’m tired. That I used to think I can actually box some things out that would make the world better. And now you’re now you’re 26 and you’re young and you’re doing it. And I have a feeling you might be the type of person who can.
Caller [00:58:51] I’m definitely very tired, too. But, you know, I think it’s just about thinking about, like, how it’s not just on me. It’s it’s not just on certain people. It’s. It’s on a lot of us. So just knowing, you know, in a weird way, even though I feel so lonely, I still feel very connected knowing that this is not just a thing that I’m only going through.
Chris [00:59:18] Yeah. No way. No way. And I think the world is built right now to convince everybody that they’re going through stuff alone.
Caller [00:59:27] Mhmm. Capitalism, baby.
Chris [00:59:30] Once. Once, once. Once we all realized that everybody feels lonely and it’s sort of how the infrastructure of our lives is built, we’re gonna start pushing back. That’s that’s what could change things.
Caller [00:59:47] Yeah.
Chris [00:59:49] That’s my guess.
Caller [00:59:50] Yep.
Chris [00:59:50] That’s my theory.
Caller [00:59:52] I know. It’s. It’s hard, though. I feel like it’s. You know, I can talk about this today, but then tomorrow can be really hard. And sometimes, you know, as I said, I do live with chronic like suicidal ideation. So it on some days when I have that fight, I will try my best. And then on the other days, I’m just going to be kind to myself and try to just make it through the day.
Chris [01:00:22] Yeah, yeah.
Caller [01:00:25] Yeah.
Chris [01:00:27] I think that that sort of sums up life, especially for a lot of young people right now, that in one breath you can go, I feel like I was put here to fight against systems that are in place that are keeping us down. It’s not just me. I have to do my part to help break a system that’s oppressing everybody. And then in the very next breath, to go, I just kind of want to make it through the day. I feel like that’s that’s where a lot of young people like that’s where we’ve put our younger generations right now. That’s where we’ve put people in their twenties, people in college, people in high schools. We all have to draw some lines and fight back against the bullshit, but just hold out everybody. Before we do that, I need to go lay down in the corner and just get through the next few hours personally. So leave me alone. It’s a whiplash.
Caller [01:01:18] Yes. I mean, that’s how I work, too, like, I just take naps. Like naps really help a lot. And then there are days when I just put in sick leave and I’m just like, I also like I need it because it’s like all of my medical issues. Like, I need to make sure I’m pacing myself. So, yeah, I don’t have answers, but I hope, like, we can get answers together. And I think like, that’s just the big thing is for us to connect. And yeah, that’s about it. That’s my goal is to be able to connect on a deeper level with folks and just be in people’s lives.
Chris [01:01:56] We’ve only got a minute and 20 seconds left. Can I ask you a question that is admittedly dumb? We just hit this emotional tenor.
Caller [01:02:03] Go ahead.
Chris [01:02:03] If the bell rang right now, I’d be like perfect ending as you talk about changing the world but self-care at the same time. We’ve got a minute left. Let me ask you this… When you you mentioned that you moved here and we talked about your accent and how it affects the immigrant experience and people. When you when you go, okay, I’m I’m going to Americanize my accent, do you sit down and go, I’m going to pick a certain type of accent? Or I’m going to watch a certain TV show?
Caller [01:02:34] I didn’t know that there were- they were types of accents, other than like a Southern accent. People say I sound like a valley girl. Do I?
Chris [01:02:41] There’s California in there for sure.
Caller [01:02:43] There’s California in there.
Chris [01:02:44] What movies? What TV were you watching when you first moved here?
Caller [01:02:49] I don’t know. Like I was watching English shows like back in India too. Like we had all the Disney Channel shows. Like, so I guess like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, that was one. But they were in Boston. I don’t know.
Chris [01:03:04] There’s no Boston in your accent. None.
Caller [01:03:06] There’s no Boston. No.
Chris [01:03:10] Wow. I got to thank you for calling. This was a fascinating call. You had no shortage of things to say. At times, I was rolling with the punches because I was never sure what you’re going to say next. But all of it was good. You never should have been nervous because you crushed it. And I find myself leaving very fascinated by your story and inspired by your potential.
Caller [01:03:31] Thank you so much, Chris, and good luck to everything with you. And I hope you get to have more snow days with your son and have just a really wonderful time.
Chris [01:03:41] Thanks. I hope you figure everything out for yourself and that clears the path for you to clear the way for the rest of us, because I think you might-
Caller [01:03:51] We’re all doing it together, though, so.
Chris [01:03:53] No, it’s not all on you. It’s not all on you!
Caller [01:03:57] Yes, I know that.
Chris [01:03:59] I’m not trying to put all the pressure on you, but get to work, please. My son needs you.
Caller [01:04:04] Yes. All right, then. Thank you so much, Chris.
Chris [01:04:12] Caller, so sincerely, thank you. What a fascinating call. I’m rooting for you and I got a good feeling about you. This show is produced by Anita Flores. It’s engineered by Jared O’Connell. Our theme song is by ShellShag. Go to ChrisGeth.com if you want to know more about me, including live tour dates. And hey, wherever you’re listening, subscribe, favorite, follow. That button exists. You know, it helps us so much when you hit that button. So think about doing so. You can find our merch at PodSwag.com. You can also find ad free episodes of Beautiful Anonymous at Stitcher Premium. Use the promo code “stories” for a one month free trial at Stitcher.com/premium. And if you like this podcast, the number one way you can help us, tell a friend about it. Word of mouth goes a long way. Thanks, everybody.