I would be remiss if I didn’t address the reason for my silence during the month of September; it was one of the most difficult months of my life. I’m sharing this with you to provide some insight into what it’s like to be a vulnerable and honest human being. It’s REALLY hard sometimes, the facade that we all try to uphold when we are struggling on the inside. COVID-19 shined a light on the importance of being ‘human,’ going beyond the surface to connect in ways that we may not have ever done or tried to do before.
I advocate the importance of peeling layers of heavy mental emotion and anguish through the work I do in the diversity and inclusion, travel, and wellness spaces. It’s now my time to practice as I educate.
My Dad passed away unexpectedly on September 2nd. It’s a moment that I have secretly been scared and fearful of since my Ammu (Mom in Bengali) passed away unexpectedly in February of 2016.
Even though I talked to / Facetimed my Dad almost every day, the last time I saw him was in May. When we visited, we had our usual nerdy discussions about food safety and international development, shared memories of our travels as a family, and perspectives on life. He was able to enjoy time with Liam who would run into his room yelling, “Nana, Nana!” That sight made me cry, smile, and laugh all at once. It filled my heart. I was also so sad that my Mom wasn’t there to share these moments with us. My Dad fell when I was there, a moment that scared me to my core. That trip changed my mind on my hardcore 'needing to live in Washington, DC' stance. After that trip I thought, what’s the point of living in a place that I love so dearly if the people who I love aren’t taken care of and physically close to me?
Our last time together in May - Florida
That trip sparked discussions to move to the Atlanta area. Robert has family, I would bring my family closer, in particular, my Dad. He was excited at the prospect of finally being closer. (I made many prior attempts to get him to move back to the DC area, but he wasn’t so keen on the weather.) We sold our house in August, with a close date for mid-September. I remember telling him, “We are packing, so you should highly consider sorting out your papers to begin the moving process!” I know he was excited to be closer - I could see it in his smile, and hear it in his, “Okay, Sophie” response.
The day I received the phone call about him being in the hospital, my heart sank to the greatest depths of my fear. He was gone in 3 hours. My whole world came swirling down within seconds. How was I going to handle life without my parents? How was I going to handle the mental sadness and physical move in two weeks? …with a toddler?
We made the move.
In one week, we moved from DC to the Atlanta area and cleared out my Dad’s place in Florida. Sorting through 70+ years of his life, almost 40 with my Mom, I stopped to read birthday cards, cried at old family pictures of the Hyders going on family road trips, and got a little peeved with the amount of papers I had to sort through. (Why did he have to keep so many old files?) Yes, all this one less than one week. I’m grateful for my support system - my husband, family, in-laws, friends, and colleagues who have been so incredible.
On one of our many family road trips in the 1980s - Idaho
I’m going through a bit of a lifestyle shock with the move. I have moved a lot in my life. I have been to 14 schools from Kindergarten to Grad school, so I’m used to moving. But this one was just different. There is more emotion and attachment this time. I left a community that I loved so dearly. Robert and I got married and had Liam in our house. We made that home ours with our personal touches. The prospect of being close to family is still comforting, yet I’m sad that my grand plan to bring my Dad physically closer will never be.
Everything that is personal is a haze. While I am so so blessed to have had quality time with my parents, I feel so lost. I feel like a young orphaned child who doesn’t know what to do, who is seeking for direction, guidance, and reassurance.
Work is a constant that I can rely on and absolutely love. I have worked so hard to be where I am today in my career, and I do not take that for granted. My entrepreneurial spirit was encouraged by my Mom and Dad. My love for travel and culture will always remain thanks to my Dad. My love for cooking will always remain thanks to my Mom. My resilience will remain from both of them.
My Bengali heritage is something that I had not been proud of for a long time as a kid. I was a little embarrassed to be from a place that was considered so poor, poverty-stricken, and jam-packed country the sized of Wisconsin. I heard this on the media so much that I didn’t want to identify or associate myself with such a place. As an adult, I have fully embraced this amazing country that I love dearly. I am proud to be a Bengali and I am proud to pass the love and respect of this culture along with my American culture to my son. I was born here, a first-generation kid; my parents were proud citizens of the United States. They did their best to guide and raise six children together.
Yoga was my guiding light after my Mom passed away; that philosophy along with my faith has given me the perspective to endure. Truly integrating the philosophy of wellness and faith has taken me toward living a life of intention, to cope with the feelings of grief, and to create meaningful relationships that go well beyond the surface. Life is too short to have meaningless interactions, so I try to value every interaction that comes my way.
While this may be an assortment of thoughts, it’s where my mind is at the moment. It’s raw, it’s honest, and it’s healing.
I am grateful for all the support I have, and I will respond to everyone that has reached out. Sometimes the sheer effort to take upon daily tasks feels difficult. It’s even harder with a toddler.
As I navigate this new chapter, I promise to stay true to who I am, how I was raised, and to value each moment in life. My parents witnessed many challenging milestones in their lives, yet they endured.
Writing this wasn't easy - but the sheer ability to be honest, be my true self without shame or regret has already helped me become a stronger person.
Thank you for taking the time to read this if you have - it may seem choppy, but that’s just what it feels like at the moment.
I encourage you to take some time to ask yourselves if you have ever been truly raw and candid with yourself let alone another human being. It’s worth the time and effort.
Always know that I am your advocate, and I value who you are!