I recently received an email from the high school I graduated from requesting me to fill out a post-graduation survey.  It contained this question:

What is your current work/school status?

    o   Full time employment
    o   Part time employment only
    o   Part time enrollment at a post-secondary institution (2yr, 4yr, Certificate Based Program) AND employed
    o   Full-time enrollment at a post-secondary institution and employed
    o   Full-time enrollment at a post-secondary institution and not employed
    o   Arm services
    o   Other

God, I was so mad when I saw that.  “Other”?! I felt like my experience, the past 4 months, were completely invalidated by a simple multiple-choice question (not to mention betrayed by the questions I thought I had mastered in school).  To me, India is so much more real than college.  It’s not just school, or a job, or an exchange program – it’s my life.  “Other” doesn’t feel like an accurate description.  I’m not sitting on my parents’ couch playing “Grand Theft Auto”; I’m trying to survive in a place where nothing is familiar.  Where sometimes I can’t breathe because I’m so scared (also the air pollution probably contributes to the near asphyxiation).  Where I laugh at rickshaws honking at me as I cross in front of them because 1) There is no easier or safer way to get from one side to the other and 2) I’m already across.  And I’m not trying to discount college students or employed people or video game enthusiasts – they are living the life that makes them happy.  I would just like to be recognized, too.  I want people to see my reality as an option, to know that what I’m doing here is real and will help me in the future. 

But mostly I want to remember that, too.  So often I forget the positive impact I’m having on myself.  I feel like an “other” a lot of the time, from scrolling through Facebook to going out with my host family and getting stares.  SO when I saw this question, I knew there wasn’t going to be a place to click “surviving India”.  And I’m used to that.  But I need to start including it on my own multiple choice question “what are you doing with your life?”  Only I know the validity of my experience and I don’t give it enough credit.  From where I stand, “other” is the only real option, or at least the only one that makes sense for me.  In the really high days, the really low days, and all the moments in between, I check myself: Did I make the right decision? Is this worth it? And I always say yes.  I always choose “other”.