I was invited as a guest speaker to one of DePaul’s Liberal Studies Program courses (Focal Point – Women and Work) taught by Dr. Nila Ginger Hofman, a professor in the Anthropology department. I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak to the mostly first year students. The students had read a chapter from my book, “India’s Working Women and Career Discourses: Society, Socialization, and Agency” and had prepared questions for me.
It was my first time visiting the new Arts and Letters building on our Lincoln Park campus and I have to admit, I was blown away. First, it was extremely bright. The design has been maximized to bring in natural light and there were seating areas all around for students to conference, study, or just hang out. Really cool space for an outsider looking in.
After Dr. Hofman introduced me, I expressed excitement at being there and for having the opportunity to chat with the folks who had read an important chapter from my book. Students’ questions, interestingly, were more about wanting to know my own answers to some of the questions I had asked my research participants. One of the questions, for example, was about who/what were the career enablers of my own life.
It is always a somewhat of an awkward space when a researcher has the mirror/gaze reflected on/turned toward oneself. In other words, even though my study was about Indian women and career discourses and I implicitly knew that my findings resonated with some of my own life experiences, I have only occasionally paused to consider addressing my own questions although reflective pondering of this nature is intuitive to me and most qualitative researchers. This was why I loved these questions the students asked of me.
I had a robust answer to the career enablers in my life. I have always believed that who I am today, is largely due to the efforts, the unrelenting support, and the unconditional love and encouragement of my family. Most importantly however, my parents, my grandmothers, and my uncle always had a vision for me. They dreamed many dreams for me and even though the exact nature of what that dream meant was left open for me to interpret, just knowing that I always had their positive energy, blessings, and prayers surrounding me, gave me the boost to pursue everything I have wanted in life. Just knowing that there is someone to cushion the blow if I did fall, was enough to allow me the space to step into the unknown with only some trepidation but also always with an accompanying, albeit paradoxical, confidence.
I am because they are. Being an individualist is the sociocultural need of the times in which I live professionally. I will always be a collectivist at heart.