Honorable mention — BIPOC essay contest: Jaromir Sashi
I am still your daughter
By Jaromir Sashi
Dear Mom and Dad,
Being Catholic forms a major part of our family’s identity. You were both raised in India, where you were a part of a religious minority, which led you to feel ostracized, judged, and even hated by fringe Hindu extremists. You have been to hell and back to be able to openly believe what you believe. Please, reflect on the misery you lived through to be the proud Catholics that you are today.
Now, imagine inflicting that same pain that you experienced onto your daughter, except it’s because she wants to stay home and study for her final exam instead of going to Sunday school. Just once. That’s all I asked for. I asked to skip Sunday school just one time, after enduring three years of consistently going to Mass and Sunday school as a closeted atheist, and you accused me of dancing with the devil.
I want to make a clarification because I have been there. You already know this, but I wanted to be a nun when I was younger, so believe me — I was quite the hardcore Catholic. The word “atheist” is oftentimes falsely synonymized with “the spawn of the devil” within our community, so I want to tell you what I believe in hopes that you’ll take my word for it, as opposed to that of the numerous priests you follow on Facebook. When I say I am an atheist, all I mean is that I am not convinced of the existence of a god. I do not reject the possibility that there could be one, nor do I worship Satan as some might lead you to think.
I am not soulless or immoral or a nihilist. I live with the goal of maximizing the amount of happiness there is in the world and minimizing the pain. After I stopped being Catholic, I decided that when I am older, I would adopt my kids and donate as much money as possible to various charities. Neither of these thoughts had even crossed my mind as a Catholic because I thought that praying was enough. I thought that hoping for good things was enough, but it is not. If I want the world to be better, I have to do something to make it so.
Most importantly, I love you both so much. This lack of belief has no relation to the immense love and respect I hold for you in any way. Please, never let anyone convince you otherwise. Remember when I was in middle school and I was always so agitated and angry? Just so you know, I was still a Catholic then. Remember telling me about two years ago that I seemed happier and I was more pleasant to be around? At that time, I was an atheist. Letting go of religion forced me to work on myself. When I realized how illogical it was to believe in such a strict and specific doctrine, I could no longer sit around hoping that the man in the clouds would change my life for me. More importantly, I realized that this is the only life I know I’m going to live, so if I didn’t want to waste the precious time I have on this unbelievably beautiful planet, I would have to set some goals and work towards them.
I am not rejecting our culture. I am proud of our heritage and of the fact that you are my parents. The only thing that has really changed is that I am happier now. I still love you, and I am still your daughter.
Jaromir, 18, is from Missouri City, Texas, and attends the University of Houston. “I am a child of immigrants from India who loves music, languages and helping people. I speak three languages fluently (English, Malayalam, and Spanish) and I am working on the fourth one (French)! My dream is to become a nurse, and there are two specific populations that I hold very dear to my heart but are often overlooked in the field: veterans and foster/adoptive children. Becoming a nurse would be the most direct way to positively impact these people’s lives, so it is my primary goal at the moment.”