Growing up in a Pakistani family and culture, I was always told dating is a bad thing. As I got older though I was told that if there is a guy in my life to present him forth, “we will see if he fits our requirements”. Yet how was I supposed to bring forth a man to my parents without being able to date him first? How many guys are out there who would be willing to just straight up rishta me? The answer? None. And I learned that the hard way.
I was 18 when I thought I was in love. We had been childhood friends and I thought I was blessed because not many people get to marry someone they have known their whole lives. Or so I thought. I had never been in a relationship before so everything was new to me. We would meet discreetly so no one would find out, often in the middle of the night. It gave me a rush, the hide and seek, having a boyfriend in general, and the thought that I was now an adult and could do whatever I wanted. I asked him many times if he would marry me so I could spend the rest of my life with him.
That rush ended soon. I was so caught up in the feels I totally forgot about the remaining discreet factor. I started to get careless. I would sneak out from the window knowing my mom was awake, leave the house without saying anything to her. I thought I was invincible, until one day my parents found out and everything ended. My dad was in another state for work and we were supposed to visit him for the weekend and I was excited. I was excited to see him but also ready to leave because I had just found out I had been cheated on, with my own cousin. We were arguing during most my trip and got to our destination in the middle of the night. I crashed as soon as we got there and the next day I woke up to sheer silence on my parents’ part. I couldn’t tell something was bothering them though until later that night. My dad and I dropped off my mom and siblings at Wal-Mart and once they were gone he calmly told me to give him my phone. I was confused but nervous at the same time. I handed over my phone and he told me that they know what I have been doing, as if I were selling drugs or something, and that I could no longer have access to my phone anymore. When we went home they took away the rest of my electronics, laptop, iPod etc. They even took away my sisters’ phones. They told me what I had been doing was wrong and they needed to prevent me from repeating that wrong, therefore they were cutting me off from the world. They told me I would not be going back home, even made we withdraw from my college classes. I was on lockdown. The worst part about it all was that they had found out everything from other people as well as from me, from my stupidity. When they confronted me they asked me what all I had done with him, how far I went with him, did I sleep with him? Of course they thought I had slept with him, I was no longer pure, once you meet a guy you automatically become impure right? They had read the conversations between him and I about him cheating on me with my cousin, but I didn’t let my cousin go down with me, I didn’t even let him go down with me. I made up excuses because I thought had they been in my place they would have vouched for me too.
For some weeks, maybe months I remained cut off from the world, until I could not take it anymore and decided to do something about it. I decided to run away. I had somehow convinced my parents to let me visit our old house, as my older sister was there. I made the 12-hour drive in 10 hours and spoke to my sister about it. She gave me strength. I met with the guy a few times before I left, not telling him I what I was planning. My sister and I got our parents to put some money in my account telling them we needed it for gas to come home and we headed out to get away from our miserable lives. We drove to DC first because she had friends there but they refused to help us. Then we drove to New York but got the same cold response from our so-called friends there as well. Not having anywhere to go we slept in our car for two nights before we ran into a random guy. He was the general manager for a fast-food chain. My sister told him about our situation and right there he took out $200 and handed them to us and gave us the keys to his old house and told us to stay there. He also got my sister a job in one of the restaurants. I thought we were blessed. But deep down my actions bothered me. Meanwhile our parents had found out that we had run away and my mother hated me. My older sister was her favorite and she hated me for taking her away from her.
For almost two months I cried every single day. I was not happy. I had left my house hoping to get away from being depressed and to better my life and to get away from my controlling parents. But I was not at peace. I started begging my dad to let me come home but he said my mom did not want me back home. I loved my dad immensely, I could hear his disappointment and pain every time he spoke to me. He would ask me where he went wrong and I never had an answer for him. Where did he go wrong? How did I go from being an obedient and caring daughter to a rebel who hurts her parents? What did I gain from any of this? I left my home to be with someone I thought I loved, who quickly changed his mind because he did not want to be with someone who ran away from her house because his parents would not ever condone. I also left to live life to my own terms, to have fun to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted but even that freedom seemed wrong.
I returned home almost two months later, without my older sister who decided she wanted to stay. When I got home my mother told me she hated me and let me back home only because her she gave birth to me and had a duty towards me unfortunately. She told me she would never give any of my younger siblings enough love to where it will spoil them too. I returned home to find broken parents who had failed in their own eyes as teachers and guardians. I returned home to find oppressed younger siblings who had to suffer for my actions. I returned home to find the guy I loved and adored had moved on to someone else.
It’s been almost 5 years now. We as a family are in a much better place. To some extent my rebellious phase has made me closer to my parents, my faith, and to myself. I do regret what I did but I would not change anything. It taught me a lot, my experiences have shaped who I am today. My mother did forgive me although it took a while for me to regain her trust. My dad is my best friend, my siblings and I are a team. My older sister is now happily married. And the guy and I are good friends now. Everything seems like a blur today, to be honest I do not even know how I survived some of the days but I did. I no longer have the guts to even think about dong some of the things I had done back then. There are taunts sometimes, there is the occasional “didn’t their daughters run away?”, but that does not bother me, nor my parents.