Sayara Uddin is a Bengali American studying Graphic Design. She’s a native New Yorker and loves to explore all that there is to offer here in this world. Although she was born and raised in America, she loves to learn about her roots. She spends her free time listening to stories about her parents’ childhood memories and the memories they made for themselves here as well. She hopes to one day publish an illustrated book of short stories about her parents along with her own tales of navigating her identity of being a Bengali American Muslim in a land that makes us feel like we have to choose one over the other.
This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. We will not only be sharing the images from the project, but each image will be accompanied by a personal and unique story to show our shared humanity. To read more about Sayara and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
I’ve learned that if you believe in your dreams, nothing can stop you from getting there. Growing up in an Asian household, there was a lot of pressure to go to school for the traditional jobs; doctor, lawyer, and engineer. My parents always made sure our education came first above all. So when it came time to choose a career path, suddenly I found myself choosing something unconventional. They are still confused and angry that I didn’t choose something that comes with what they believe is “respect” and a huge salary. Often times I think about changing my career path to make them happy, to gain their support back, but then I think about how miserable I’d be doing something I don’t love. And then I think about the most important thing I’ve learned in life, and that is that you have to believe in yourself before you can ask others to believe in you. Believe in yourself even after you apply to one hundred internships and don’t get a response back, because when you do land that internship, suddenly you will believe in yourself and your abilities to get a better one and move up from there. Whatever you choose to do, believe that you can accomplish it, and then go for it.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
The biggest influence on my life has come from my father. It’s corny to say it but he inspires me to be better and do better with my life. He started working when he was 15 to support his family and he still hasn’t stopped. Everything he does, he does to better his family, and that is probably the most selfless thing I have ever seen. One of the greatest things he’s taught me is to be there for people when they need your help, regardless of how much you know or don’t know them, because kindness and compassion are free.