The I-need-space disrespect
Shahirah Majumdar, Brooklyn, NY

For a highly verbal person, Shahirah Majumdar can be a terrible communicator — which, for years, left her parents feeling disrespected and unappreciated.

“My family always complained about my frustrating inability to keep in touch,” she says. “They tell stories about my dysfunctional relationship with phones — lost phones, phones dropped in toilets, unanswered voicemails… And long periods of silence between emails. ”

But the phone and email troubles were symptoms of a larger issue. Shahirah felt her parents didn’t understand her struggles as a young, uncertain writer trying to find her way in New York City, thousands of miles from them in Bangladesh. And the geographical distance symbolized other divides: cultural, generational, and experiential.

“I couldn’t pick up the phone because it was too hard,” she says. “My dad always wanted to know what my plan was. I never felt that I had a plan. I avoided conversations instead, which made every conversation we did have sharper, heavier with blame. It was a terrible cycle.”

Things didn’t change until a painful loss prompted Shahirah’s move back to Bangladesh. For the first time as an adult, she found herself leaning on her parents.

“I finally realized that they didn’t want to force me to into a life of their own making. They wanted to be a resource, a source of comfort.”

She’s since returned to New York but has kept the communication loop open.

“When I feel the urge to self-protect and close-off again, I try to remind myself how that will feel to them. When we can do small things to make those we love feel that they matter, why not do them? The result is a relationship that’s more open and generous, on both ends.”