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Insight: The chain on my neck is out, not in

I used to hide my religious necklace, but coming to college taught me to embrace it

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"Necklaces, chains, bracelets or jewelry can have a more profound significance behind them."

I never used to wear my chain out.

My parents advised me to keep it inside my shirt. My chain, a gold necklace with an emblem of a Hindu god on the bottom, was given to me by a local priest in my home state of Kerala, India. My parents expected me to wear it every day, and while it was annoying at first, I slowly started to like the feeling of something around my neck. Besides, it was a chain with a clasp that was almost impossible to take off on my own. I got used to it.

And in high school, I kept my chain hidden under the collar of my shirt. I never showcased it or showed anyone what it was. I had a lot of friends who had similar gold Hindu chains around their necks, but no one displayed theirs – everyone kept it under their clothes.

So that's what I thought to myself. Keep it in. Keep it in.

Keep it out.

When college began, I remember walking to my first class. Excited, nervous and self-critical, I woke up and put on my first college outfit. But on the way to class, it wasn't just everyone's first-day faces I was observing. I wasn't just looking at everyone's clothes. And I wasn't paying attention to the sweat forming on my head from the Arizona heat. 

No, what I noticed was the shining silver and gold reflections on everyone's necks.


Crosses, circles and Stars of David were abundant. Initially, I thought it was weird; maybe these people just meant to keep it in. But the more I saw, the more I realized these necklaces weren't meant to be part of someone's outfit. It wasn't meant to display a new fashion item they had just bought. And it didn't just slip out from underneath their collar. 

These pieces of jewelry were a form of self-expression.

And I, who had kept my chain under my shirt for the longest time, began to shift my perspective on what it meant to wear this chain. If I wear it to express my religion, why is it hidden away? Shouldn't it be out, where not only I know it's there but others can also see it?

So when I grabbed my chain and pulled it out of my shirt for the first time, it felt like I had just woken up. 

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I always wear my chain out now.

Religious necklaces, or cultural jewelry in general, are often worn by students to express a part of their identity. It doesn't have to be religious — it could be a commitment to their partner or their love for an important person. 

They are a form of self-expression in a subtle yet significant way. Proudly wearing a simple necklace doesn't just demonstrate a commitment to its meaning, though; it also can reflect a sense of confidence and pride in what you believe.

I don't try to tuck my chain in anymore. If I'm being honest, my neck feels kind of empty without the necklace's gold back rubbing against my skin, but I've gotten used to it. And I'm happy to have it on.

My parents still advise me to keep it in. I give them annoying looks and explain to them, as I have already dozens of times, that I want to express a part of me that I don't usually show my peers. I tell them that it means so much to our family and our values, and if that's not something that the world can see, then why even have it on?

I style my necklace as part of my outfit sometimes, too, and people always ask me what it's for. I don't mind telling them, and I feel a little joy in doing so. It's a part of who I am.

READ MORE: Insight: Navigating the Indian in Indian American

Necklaces, chains, bracelets or jewelry can have a more profound significance behind them. Sometimes they aren't just new beads bought on Etsy or new bracelets from the Gap.

They may be a person's entire story.

Edited by Sophia Braccio, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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