The Search for My Identity: Who Am I?

MC40_JaspreetOrange-1My father once told me that an individual’s faith and identity form the foundation of an individual’s confidence and success for the rest of that individual’s life. These words lingered in my thoughts throughout my grade nine year at Rick Hansen Secondary School. I have always dreamed of the day that I would enter the halls of high school as a high school student. I guess I wanted to be looked at as an older, more mature kid. This was something that came with moving from middle school to high school. Little had I realized at the time, I was undergoing much more than aging and maturing. I was unintentionally looking for my identity. The real Jaspreet.

It was a warm summer day in July of 2010. My father and I were on our way to the grocery store as usual on a Wednesday evening. We always had these ‘talks’ whenever we were in the car together. These ‘talks’ were about my father’s experiences and words of wisdom, but a lot of those words flew over my head like the many birds soaring past the roof of my car, looking for a place to rest.

During that car ride, my father casually mentioned to me the importance of a Sikh’s turban and then he said, “You know, maybe you should start wearing one to at home. Try it out and see how you like it”. That night, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to use a long piece of turban fabric to try to tie a turban. The moment I finished tying the turban, I saw much more than Jaspreet wearing a turban; I saw a disciple of the guru, looking for truth and his identity. This practice continued for the rest of summer.

September came along so it was time to go back to school. I remember that day vividly. I was wearing a bright orange turban. I decided to take the side door entrance to get to my class. Those 100 meters to get to my class were the longest 100 meters that I have ever had to travel as time seemed to slow down. From the corner of my eyes, I could see that my friends who lined the halls took a second look in my direction when I walked towards them. When I arrived to class and sat beside some of my good old friends, one of them turned to me and said “What’s with the turban?”

At that moment, I had a choice; I could have ignored that comment or I could have informed him about my choice and the importance of the turban. I made the latter decision. I responded, “The turban is basically an article of faith used to protect my long hair and cover my head as sign of respect to the guru (spiritual leader), and it is part of my proud identity as a Canadian Sikh”. My friend responded, “Mad respects, that’s cool”. From that point on, I did not feel ashamed of who I was and who I am today. At that point, I realized that the words of wisdom that once flew above my head have now taken rest and have been fully absorbed by my consciousness and my heart. I am a proud Canadian Sikh.

- Jaspreet in Mississauga 

Editor’s Note:  The five recipients of this year’s Seva Fellowship, a program for young aspiring leaders in the Peel Region of Ontario, each wrote a story as part of their fellowship program. Their contributions are grouped together here. This submission, and the one immediately preceding, speak to a similar theme.