Here's Tisha Shrestha with her essay for Houston Public Radio's This I Believe.
"I believe that acceptance starts with your self. I am brown. When you first meet me, it's obvious, given my Nepalese background. But for the longest time, skin color was the only thing that made me Nepalese. Most of my life, I wanted to be the all-American, blue-eyed, blonde girl, but now I realize that there's more to being brown.
After years of thinking that everyone was the same, I found out how wrong I was during my fourth grade "All About Me'' project. I told classmates that my favorite color was pink, my favorite food was pizza, and I was married to a piece of fruit. Yes, married—to fruit. I know it sounds strange, but to me it wasn't a big deal because the ceremony seemed so natural and normal. My classmates had a different opinion.
"You married a piece of fruit?'' someone blurted out incredulously. I felt my face get warm as people started to snicker. My teacher told me to explain the cultural ritual and its meaning. I just shrugged because I didn't really know. After being humiliated, I decided that I did not want to be different anymore.
Years passed and I forgot about that day until a recent visit to Nepal. My family and I were reminiscing about our last trip when I asked my grandmother about the purpose of my marriage. At that moment, I realized how strange it was that I had taken so long to ask — I guess I just wanted to ignore anything that made me different from everyone else.
My grandmother explained how this marriage is a very special occasion in our Newari culture. Since the Nepalese society looks down on widows, upon entering adolescence, young girls marry a Bettlenut, representing God, so that they never become widows. I had no clue something so strange could be so meaningful — maybe being different wasn't so bad after all.
Now, as a student at the University of Texas, I have started to see the beauty of diversity. Although there are still those girls with the long, blonde hair that I used to envy, I don't have to seek their acceptance anymore. It's taken me awhile, but I've finally realized that the only acceptance I need is from me. Learning about my background and embracing it has helped me to see how special this brown girl really is. This I believe."