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What do a deer, a saffron field, and an immigrant have in common?

Posted by Allyson Johnson on

My efforts in introducing the first Fair Trade USA certified saffron is not just a story of saffron, but rather an immigrant story--a human story. Once in a while, I will tap into my journey to surface bits and pieces of my experiences. This is one of them.

When I moved to the US, I didn't speak English. I knew how to say "hello" (not "hallo" as I learned in Germany) and "thank you." Well, actually, it was more like "tank you" as I had not mastered the technique of pronouncing the sound of "th" as American English does. I have to say, I still question the rationalization behind this language "technique."  Anyhow, that's beside the point and simply another immigrant story if you ask me. Lets get to the deer.

I had started school and had to choose an elective course. My options from what I remember were choir and wood shop. I selected choir. I didn't even know what choir meant. Honestly! I didn't. I was just curious.

On the first day of class, my choir teacher had me stand by a piano to sing do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. As I stood there, all the sudden fear took over. My inner conversation raised its volume to ask, doesn’t the teacher know I don’t speak English? Now I’m supposed to sing? My accent is so thick! When will this be over?

Was I panicking or was it shame? Was one causing the other? I'm not sure. All I knew was I didn't want to sing in a language I didn't know how to speak and on top of that be the girl with an accent in a school where I was the only Iranian. It was as if this class had a Bose speaker on my accent!!! OMG! So scary. This was too much pressure for the 11-year-old me, so I decided to avoid the circumstance in any way I could.

What did I do? With the little English I knew, I managed to have a counselor help me drop choir! I didn't care if the counselor heard my accent because I knew they as adults understood. It was the kids who I feared. I wanted to belong.

I ended up in wood shop. Ahhh! Wood shop! It felt so much more like home. Back in Iran, during the 80s, when we escaped Tehran to avoid the bombing raids by Iraq, we would head North (Shomal in Persian) to my Dad’s vacation home by the Caspian Sea, which is now just ruins (only because we weren't there to tend to the building. There are plenty of beautiful vacation homes in shomal). He had a woodshop studio on the first floor in that home. During our play time, my cousin and I would sneak in, use his left-over woods to build wagons with just pieces of wood, nails, and a hammer. So, wood shop felt familiar and safe for me. It felt like I belonged. 

Over the years as my English enhanced (I hope it enhanced!), and I evolved into my own soul, I of course accepted my accent as my identity and embraced it as a reminder of my heritage. I think what I was going through was trying to figure out where I was, who I was, and how I fit in all the transitions. Today, I'm proud and settled into my accent. You can even still hear it here and there :).

Looking back as an adult, I recognize how our choices are rooted in survival and avoiding uncomfortable feelings, situations, or circumstances at a very young age and into adulthood, and for some, a lifetime. As a child, I wasn't aware. I was just avoiding uncomfortable feelings. Feelings that no one, including myself, really knew I was having. Today, I pay attention to feelings and give them the space to come and go (uncomfortable or not). It is in this space where I discover self-love and self-respect by acknowledging and becoming more in tune with all my feelings. It's definitely an ongoing journey and a very rewarding one with the reward being inner peace.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all tap into our inner being on a very deep level to recognize the power we hold within? How many people would get closer to love, to empathy and understanding and compassion, to self-determination, to inner strength, to not becoming a victim of our circumstances? I suspect a lot more. I bet we would also be able to see our interconnectedness much more comfortably.

It would be so great to teach young children at home and in schools how to acknowledge the range of feelings that go through us and educate on feeling management. My personal solution has been Transcendental Meditation (TM). I'm not 100% committed, but the amount that I do has been transformational and truly life changing. Believe it or not, it is what allowed saffron to come into my life. TM expert Bob Roth has noted that TM is "not a religion, not a philosophy, not a change in lifestyle." Listen to him and Ellen Degeneres discuss what it is on The Ellen Show. Here is another way to meditate that is like TM. I myself was skeptical of TM at first but decided to give it a shot and invest in myself. I'm happy with the results, but I understand each journey is unique. If you have other suggestions, do share what helps YOU find your steadiness in a world where we are all just trying to adjust into a more centered place in ourselves?

By now you are probably wondering about the deer connection. Come ooooon!!! The Sound of Music--Doe, a DEER, a female DEER, ray a drop of golden suuuun ... How else do you think I ended up learning do, re, me?! ;)

Sound of Music is my Dad's favorite musical. When he learned of his Dad's passing, the movie was playing in theaters where he watched it for the first time ... perhaps to avoid his uncomfortable feelings that come with grieving.

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