This past summer was a whirlwind.
To begin, two weeks after graduation, I hopped on a plane and flew to Washington, D.C. to intern at the House of Representatives for a California Congressman. It was my first time away from home, and it was honestly hard but we made it, boys!
From spending Eid (an Islamic holiday) stuffing letters in envelops to crying in a shawarma shop because I didn’t want to leave, it’s been a rollercoaster indeed. But through it all, I know one thing for sure: I am grateful.
I am grateful for my family and friends, who supported me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was their support that gave me the confidence to search, and mid searching this beautiful city, I found a home.
I found best friends whose weddings I’ve already started planning dance choreography for, and I found the best coffee shops to people watch at. In DC I found inspirational mentors and new book recommendations. I finally found words to say in conversations that make me question the essence and core of my being. I found Jerald Nadler to be much shorter in real life, and I found the House of Representatives cafeteria to be underwhelming. In D.C, I found and lived crazy stories that I’ll tell everyone I meet. In DC, I found everything I didn’t know I was looking for, and most importantly, in DC I found a big piece of myself.
When I reflect on my time there, a stupid smile creeps on my face. From seeing my heroes like Pramila Jayapal and AOC in the tunnels of Congress to meeting them (YES, I ACTUALLY DID MEET RASHIDA TLAIB), sitting in on hearings about the detention camps on the Texas border and bursting out in tears on the spot, learning about who I want to be, soaking in the stories of my co-interns and fellows...this was truly a summer of learning and I am so grateful for the experience and the people and places that shaped it.
If you're planning a trip to DC, check out my list of recommendations by D.C. locals and visitors alike below! Although I wasn't able to experience all of them, I've placed a star next to my EXTREME recommendations.
Bluebottle Coffee (New Orleans-style iced coffee)
Colada Shop - Cafe Cubano
Soho Coffee and Tea
Au Bon Pain (try their mudslide cookie!)
Magnolia's Bakery* (try their Banana pudding!)
Thomas Sweet (Ice cream)
Ice Cream Jubilee
Momofuku Milk Bar
Cakelove (cake in a jar)
Co Co. Sala (Best chocolates)
Spot of Tea (Boba)*
Busboys and Poets (American)*
A Baked Joint* (Brunch)
La Pain Quotidian*
Ben's Chili Bowl
We the Slice (Pizza)
Mama Ayesha’s (Mediterranean)
Old Ebbett Grill (American)*
Amsterdam Falafel Shop
Spice6 (Indian Food)*
The Washington Monument
The Library of Congress
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum*
Supreme Court of the United States*
Georgetown and the Waterfront*
The Watergate Hotel Rooftop*
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The National Cathedral
Martin Luther King Memorial
World War 2 Memorial*
National Gallery of Art
Museum of the Palestinian People*
The Spy Museum
The African American History Museum
The National Portrait Gallery Museum
If you’re ever in D.C, promise me you’ll take it all in. Promise me you’ll look over the Potomac River and think to yourself. Promise me you’ll attend a protest and take in the national landscape. Promise me you’ll believe in something bigger than you.
I had all the schedules and timelines planned. I prepared for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for 7 months of my life. I met and spoke with legal professionals all over the country and obsessed over rankings and acceptance rates. When asked about my post graduate plans by aunties whose foundations were three times lighter than their skin tone at desi parties, I was quick to answer with “law school”.
However, when I started studying for the LSAT my world turned upside down. I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted, and my self-confidence and mood fluctuated based on my LSAT section scores. For me, the worst part of the LSAT wasn’t just not doing as well as expected --- it was the fact that I was trying my best and still wasn’t hitting my target score. Perhaps it was that I was studying hard but not studying smart, or that I just wasn’t competent. At the end, it was the feeling of not knowing which and how to fix it that kept me up at night.
From agonizing over points instead of learning the material to adapting unhealthy coping mechanisms, the LSAT was easily one of the darkest times in my life. In fact, if it wasn’t for my support system of friends and family who consistently picked me back up, I don’t know if I would be here today --- once I had a panic attack in my car and as soon as I told my roommate, she immediately drove home with my favorite latte in her hand and gently stroked my hair while I ugly cried in her lap. One time my other roommate asked me how my day was, and I burst out into tears. We’re both awkward people, so I just excused myself and went to my bedroom to take selfies of myself crying for future finsta content. Minutes later, she hugged me in my bedroom and texted me a cool video on the corruption of the glasses industry as a distraction. Sadly, it didn’t work.
You know when your grandma comes to visit and everything gets slowed down by 43%? She doesn’t mean to take more time than necessary to walk from the car to the ice cream parlor, but she just can’t help it. Once she finally makes it to the bench outside the parlor, she just sits there. She watches your little brother’s ice cream drip onto the pavement and a wave of guilt washes over her. She simply sits there, feeling guilty for being a burden. Basically, I became your grandma. Every time my friends would offer to come over and check up on me or leave kind text messages, I politely declined because I felt guilty for having no updates or #tea, except that, in my last practice test, logic games was the bonus section.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine shook my shoulders and told me that he liked taking care of me that everything changed. He told me that I took care of him, so it was only time for him to return the favor. At that moment, my entire perspective evolved: I thought about how good I felt when I took care of my friends, and realized that I had been depriving them of that sensation. So, I decided to chill out and force myself to accept kindness from myself and others. Doing so taught me a lot about relationships and friendship, and even today, I am learning to let the people in my life show their love and NOT being awkward about receiving it.
But know this: it’s not all romantic. My score didn’t magically go up forty points and my acne didn’t dissolve off my face when I learned to start letting others love. Instead, my attitude improved: I took a step back and learned to care for myself. I started taking it day by day, and even though there were still bad days, I spent less time agonizing. When I finally took the LSAT in January, I said a prayer and made the decision to apply with whatever score I got to see where it would take me. Additionally, I focused on the other parts of my application: my GPA, my extracurricular activities and resume, and my personal statement.
By the end of the application cycle, I had been admitted to five law schools and waitlisted at two top twenty-five law schools. At the time, I was upset because I wasn’t admitted to the crème of the crop, and in doing so, I forgot that I had a lot to be grateful for: I graduated cum laude and got into law school at twenty years old. To this day, I feel guilty for never letting myself feel proud about this. Since then, I promised myself to always focus on the positives and silver linings and more than anything, I wish I did this sooner.
A week before graduation, I reluctantly paid a deposit for a law school I wasn’t 100% set on. Although the school was reputable and close to home, something just felt wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. When faced with the choice to start there or try again next year, I was torn. On one hand, I was afraid of what people would say if they found out I wasn’t going to law school in the fall, and on another hand, I knew that I deserved conviction in my life decision. Additionally, a small part of me was afraid: what if I blow this shot in search of something better that hasn’t even found me yet?
In prayer, I remember begging God to give me a sign. I consulted my mentors and friends, and they all reminded me of how young I was and that any experience was good experience. Call it divine intervention or a coincidence, but a week later I received an email from the law school offering me a nonbinding year-long deferral that let me keep my scholarship and deposit. When I studied the stakes involved, the worst-case scenario would be that I postponed law school for a year and gained some real world experience (and made some cash on the side). The next day, I sent over my deferral and the opportunity search begin.
After months of job hunting via interviews that my House of Representatives Internship supervisor graciously let me take in the office supply closet, a WHOLE lot of rejection letters, feeling inept and immediately drowning my sorrows in Boba, I received a production internship offer with NPR’s comedy newscast, “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me” in Chicago. Although the road here was tough, I’m very grateful for my decision to defer. Most importantly, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to choose; my parents were supportive about either decision and I recognize that not everyone has that luxury.
When I think back to this time last year, a wave of peace envelops me. Surely they'll never be a moment where the stars align and sometimes, I really do wish I just bit the bullet and started law school. But right now, I'm focusing on being confident in my decision and learning to breathe. Although I’m anxious about the journey ahead, I wish that, more than anything, I could go back and tell myself that everything is going to be okay if I am trying my best --- even if my best never feels good enough.
I can’t believe the moment is finally here.
When I was first accepted to UT in 2016, it felt like a dream come true...but with a classic tint of imposter syndrome. Even though I had a high GPA, my SAT score was below average and on top of it all, I realized very late into my senior year of high school that I didn’t want to pursue medicine, so all my resume experience was science-based. On top of that, I went into college as an advertising major with little to no experience in advertising. In the years that followed, I always thought that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to thrive here, and you can probably understand why graduating college is such a HUGE deal for me.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t supposed to be. I’ve cried a lot. Laughed a lot. Screamed a lot. Dreamed a lot. Been rejected a lot. Been accepted a lot. Loved a lot. Lost a lot. However, altogether, these experiences have given me so much. So much love, so many lessons, so many memories like falling asleep on Ushna’s couch, playing tag on a rooftop, scamming the Nueces parking garage administration, eating at Potbelly too many times, living at the Student Union (RENT FREE!), getting out of my comfort zone and doing improv, late nights of cramming at Bennu, directing and acting in short films with Nida, and most recently, oversleeping and nearly missing the last final of my undergraduate career...college wasn’t at all what I expected, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
My graduation commencement was surreal, and I owe it all to the people in my life who came out and supported me with their huge outpour of love and encouragement. Most importantly, a huge thank you to my parents. Mamma and Pappa, I owe EVERYTHING to you. My parents have supported me every step along the way, and even if they didn’t agree with what I did (see: dropping pre-med), they never stopped me from chasing my dreams. My parents have always trusted me to do what’s best for myself and more than anything, I hope that today and forever, I make them proud.
However, I will say that even now, I feel odd accepting a degree from UT. When I say that my parents support me, I don’t just mean emotionally. I mean financially. Socially. In every way that they could. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this to boast about this fact, or to “toot my own horn” but I’m not going to say that I obtained this degree through completely my own efforts and energy. This is me coming to terms with my privilege, and acknowledging it. I’m not a self-made woman, nor do I claim to be. I succeeded not just because I worked hard, but because I had to resources and financial backing to fail and still be okay.
So I just want to take this time to not only share my great news but heavily congratulate those who worked hard, despite all the odds, to pay for their own degrees and to push themselves all on their own. I see you, I support you, and I applaud you.
I have an old tradition, older than say...Bernie Sanders. This tradition is the celebration of a birthweek. Although most people find the notion of stretching the celebration of your birthday from one day to one week obnoxious, I say that there are enough things in the world to be sad about, from those sad dog adoption ads in 2001 to terrorism. I say that if someone wants to be happy for a week by celebrating their existence, let them and join them.
As my last post explains, lately I haven’t been feeling like myself. It took me a long time to realize what exactly this means and truly, I’m still figuring it out. In fact, when my birthweek neared, I felt conflicted about whether or not to uphold its celebration. In hindsight, it seemed elementary and gaudy. However, from that point on, it took about three minutes for me to realize that those two characteristics are hallmarks of my personality. My favorite ones, in fact.
Additionally, given that it was my last year of college, I wanted to do a joint graduation-birthday celebration. I decided to have a party after three years of not having one, and that just added a whole another layer into the tiramisu of confusion and reluctance I found myself in. However, as my birthweek comes to a close, I already miss all the memories I made last week so allow me to recount them!
Despite being absolutely drained from planning the Pakistani Students’ Association Basant Show a week prior, I decided to partake in Amplify, a three-night show that hosts performers to Amplify women’s voices at my university. Although I had a small side role in a poem about sexual assault, performing at Amplify was an experience I’ll remember forever. As someone who tends to usually hang out with people that look and act like me, being thrown in a cast with multiple women from different backgrounds, races, stories, and paths was eye-opening and invigorating. Through learning about these women’s struggles and strength, I was able to appreciate the colorful and gleaming mosaic of womanhood.
After Amplify, I got lunch with a childhood friend and we talked about how much we’ve changed over the years. Then, I impulsively drove to BestBuy and bought a digital camera because boy, do I miss vlogging and casual photography.
Monday, I picked up my old roommate and we got our nails done at a nearby salon. I walked into the salon fixed on getting white nails (they look so clean and classy to me!), but she smiled at me and convinced me to go with a bright orange color. Although I was reluctant at first, I agreed, and they turned out gorgeous! Afterward, we walked over to a nearby bakery and had lemon blueberry muffins and gushed about how cute the bakery was.
Soon after, I went over to my friend’s apartment and she made me tea. I complained about being hungry so she suggested a fix myself a biscuit, then I complained about the fact that she didn’t have bread. Then, we pretended to do homework and made fun of all the boys we know!
Tuesday I visited my professor during office hours to review a test, then successfully persuaded her to give me a point back. Although it did little for my final grade, I felt a small pang of accomplishment when she agreed.
Then, I got tacos and fell asleep for four hours. When I finally woke up, I made the executive decision to skip my Chemistry lab and got gelato with friends who I hadn’t caught up with in a long while. We talked, laughed, and screamed and it was the most fun I’ve had in a while.
On Wednesday, I got lunch with a friend at a place where they served ridiculously tiny portions. We made fun of how small they were, then vented about how stressed we are for the future. After lunch, we threw peace signs at each other and I drove off to do some party shopping!
The blissful weather on Thursday meant that somehow, I had to spend the day outside. And I found a way. I visited an Italian place for lunch with a friend (Mandola’s...do NOT recommend), then we went over to a park in downtown and had a picnic. Our spread consisted of snacks (fruit, chips, and guacamole, dried mango, coconut water, chocolate covered almonds and……..hot Cheetos), and it was lovely. The perfect weather made it even better...so much better that we fell asleep!
At night, we drove to take a stroll at the capital when at midnight, a group of friend erupted from behind bushes and surprised me with a cake (and unforgivable amounts of silly string)! I was really surprised, and it made me feel SO loved. I cried on the drive home and thought about how lucky I am to have them in my life, then laughed because I thought of all the savage things they would say if they saw me at that moment.
FRIDAY (My Actual Birthday)
In true Duriba Khan fashion, on Friday I woke up at 1 PM. Also in true Duriba Khan fashion, I spent forty minutes deciding what to wear. When I finally decided, my friend face timed me to ask where I was, as I was to pick her up for brunch. She casually asked to see what I was wearing, and once I showed her, her brows furrowed in confusion. “It’s cute, but it's not you” she stated. At that moment, I felt as though those words had become a metaphor for my life: and they did indeed summarize how I felt nowadays. Thirty more minutes of flinging clothes off of hangers passed, and when I finally changed and looked in the mirror...something finally felt right.
At brunch, my friends and I ordered too much food. I found a hair in my pancakes, and we passed the plate around, debating if it was truly a hair or a “blueberry fiber.” Once the verdict was in (hair), we celebrating getting it off the tab.
We took photos outside, then after a confusing forty minutes of deciding where to pick other friends up from campus, went to play laser tag. Interestingly enough, I ranked #19 (the day of my birthday).
After laser tag, I went home to discover that my sister had surprised me by driving into town for my birthday! I was truly surprised because I just missed her so much, and was upset that she was missing my birthday. When my dad got home from work, my family went to dinner and fought only twice. I had so much fun bickering and joking with them, and I remember looking around the table at each of their gleaming faces and thanking God.
That night, my sister slept in my bed and my cat came and sat on my feet. We fell asleep talking, and I said a prayer before finally sleeping.
Saturday was consumed by birthday party shopping and planning and even though everyone was about 3.5 hours late (including me), everything was set up and ready to go thanks to my amazing friends who I cannot thank God enough for.
During the party, I danced my heart out, screamed lyrics and hugged everyone around me. My friends roasted me (in rap form), I lost musical chairs and a (HALAL) jello shot competition, and most importantly, I fell in love with my life all over again.
This week reminded me that no matter where life is headed, along the road there are these small stops that fill us with joy and remind us of the importance of friendship, love, and laughter. And when we eventually get to our destinations, those will be the times we look back on and miss the most.
A lot has happened since I last posted, but I haven’t really gotten a chance to write about it. I promise it’s not because I just forgot about this rusty, dusty website thing (frankly, most of my inner thoughts and musings have shifted to my finsta). The truth is, although I love this blog and all the growth it has caused for me, sometimes I feel like most things are best kept to myself. I find this change especially odd because at some point in my life, sharing online was a huge priority for me.
For those of you who follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed a rapid decline in the amount I post overall per day in contrast to a few months or even a year ago. I used to consistently post ramblings on Snapchat, plan fun skits with my family and friends, and so much more. I loved curating Snapchats, and I frequently go back and watch them whenever I feel nostalgic. However, when my Uncle passed about a year ago, a lot changed for me.
I found myself merely slipping into a shadow of who I used to be, and it followed me through the dreadful months of my life where I was studying for one of the biggest exams of my career. Maybe it was the raincloud of death that hovered over me in the months that followed my uncle’s death, or maybe it was the social life elimination aspect that comes with studying. Whatever it was, it drained me; I was consistently stressed and developed a negative mindset. More than anything, I wanted to just graduate college and move on with my life because to me, college just seemed like a little world that I simply outgrew.
One of the weirdest feelings in the world is not being affected by something that, at some point, was the most important things to you. At one point in my life, things, like taking photos, sharing online, and making vlogs, were huge priorities for me. However, as I get older, I notice how temporary and fleeting everything is: it’s now harder for me to have fun or be pleased. In this way, I feel like I’ve become more of a cynic.
Whatever it is, I’m slowly building from it. In the year since my uncle’s death, I’ve grown a lot and I’m proud of myself for it. Maybe I’m no longer who I used to be, and maybe...who I’m becoming is even better.
Well, it’s been a hot minute since we last talked.
And boy oh boy, has a whole lot happened since then.
Not only did I finish the aforementioned program ages ago, I finished the last fall semester of my undergraduate career EVER. It feels so surreal to say it with the little voice in my head and to type it out (If you’re confused right now: I decided to graduate a year early).
This past semester has been interesting, to say the least.
Not only did I move into an apartment on my college campus, but I took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) after a very intense three month training program. This past semester was the hardest of my life because it severely tested me on a spiritual, mental, and physical level. Now did I pass those tests? Honestly, no. I neglected my physical health by building my appetite around frozen pizzas (at least they were organic!), San Pellegrino, pumpkin spice lattes, and the occasional carrot/apple/cheese stick to feel better about myself. I had more mental breakdowns than workouts, and stressed more than I slept. To summarize, this entire semester I was constantly tired, moody, and overall, not a ray of sunshine (for the lack of a better term).
But despite all the ups and downs, I learned a lot about myself and got to experience sharing my living space with a whole nother amazing human being. I also got to grocery shop for myself (crazy!), stay at the library as late as I wanted, spend long nights with friends in twenty four hour coffee shops, and experience things like jogging to the capital to see the sun rise. I also discovered Trader Joe's (the love of my life) and got to test myself in unique ways. For example, can I manage to make a sandwich with pasta sauce and peanut butter? YOU BET I CAN!
All jokes aside, this semester also taught me that I need social interaction to validate myself; if I spend too much time seeing the same people and doing the same things, I feel unsatisfied and empty. This realization helped me better understand myself, although the way I had to learn it was painful.
Additionally, this semester taught me the importance of prioritizing myself and how to push myself to my limit..and most importantly, when to stop.
The truth is that life sucks sometimes. It has to: if this life was supposed to be perfect, there would be no point to heaven. These emotional low points are necessary for our growth and survival and if we are able to work through them, we are rewarded with the fruit of our labors: getting into grad school, that shiny diploma, a better life, or even a chai latte. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s perfectly fine: maybe that thing you wanted so bad wasn’t good for you in the long run.
So whatever it is you’re going through, I promise that it will pass and one day you’ll look back on the days you struggled and realize that all that suffering was worth it..or at least that's what I keep telling myself.
Last time we talked, I just turned twenty and was bursting with ambition and a desire to fart rainbows and was jubilating because of my birthweek...but boy, oh boy have things changed since then.
May was the end of Ramadan, and I spent a lot of my ramadan attending the additional prayers after sundown, trying my best to be spiritual and sometimes succeeding, other times failing...but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop trying.
The weeks following Ramadan have been a blur of classes, my cousin’s wedding, graduations, and just generally, a lot of hard conversations. Needless to say, this summer has been pretty busy.
Currently, I’m participating in a pre-law summer program that is ~probably~ the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Although the program is 9-5 and sometimes, 6:30-8:30, I find myself getting used to that part. What I haven’t gotten used to, however, is being alone.
All throughout college thus far, I’ve commuted from home. The longest I’ve had to be alone has been the 45 minute car drives to and fro, and that kind of alone time is standard and sometimes necessary. Frankly, I never think too much of that alone time because no matter what, I get to pull into the driveway of my parents’ home and am greeted by a houseful of comfort food, roasts, my big ‘ole family and more recently, a furry little cat.
So when I was presented with the opportunity to spend one month in a college dorm room without a roommate as a part of this program, I jumped at the chance. I was excited for all the freedom I would have: no curfew, no one force feeding me roti, and the ability to own my own space and decorate, have my VERY OWN plates, and be ~free~.
I went on a decorating and shopping craze, sketching visions for my dream room, and trying to bargain with IKEA employees (to no avail). My friends came to help me move in, and it was fun to organize things, hang fairy lights, and throw pillows at each other. However, after they left and I changed for bed, rubbed Vitamin E creme on my face (I really recommend this, by the way), and laid in bed... I felt empty and suffocated.
The dorm room was too still and almost haunting. There was no one to kiss goodnight or wake up for a midnight snack...it was just me, all alone, and by myself. And it was terrifying.
In the weeks that followed, my loneliness intensified. It didn’t help that I felt like everyone in my cohort was getting along super well, and that I convinced myself that I was the only one who got my dinner to go and sat alone and ate from the little styrofoam box while watching Parks and Recreation in bed. This toxic mentality that everyone constantly hung out without me led me to minimize social interaction with others and keep to myself, something very out of character for a sprightly extrovert like myself.
I complained to my friends about this and pestered them with questions like “how do people just leave their homes and move away for college?!” or “how do you cope with being alone all the time?!” ,to which they were always shocked. To them, moving away for college was a fact of life, and here I was moping about loneliness when my family was a forty five minute drive away. But my friends are good friends, so they comforted me by promising that the first week is always the hardest and that it will surely get better.
Three weeks into the program, I finally find myself adjusting.
My experience thus far has taught me that, if you’re a new face in a new place along with others and feel out of place and confused, chances are that others feel the same way. After the storm that was the first week passed, I finally sat myself down and tried very hard to accept the fact that I’m an adult now and I have to get used to remembering to eat and deciding what to wear by myself. As someone who wants to leave the state for law school, I ESPECIALLY had to swallow this pill and adjust.
So whether you’re moving out for college or starting a new job in a new city, I promise that the first week is exceptionally hard...but once you get through that first week, things will look brighter and better. Comfort yourself by starting a journal to collect your thoughts, calling home often, and stepping out of your comfort zone, because life starts where your comfort zone ends.
That’s right guys.
Duriba is 20.
Yes, the same Duriba that still laughs at farts and was scared of cats until two weeks ago. The same exact one who still wear pigtails and has never heard of a tax return. Yes, she’s me, and yes she is 20. And YES, SHE HAD A BIRTHWEEK. AGAIN!
Given the wild turn of events over the weeks leading up to my birthday, I honestly didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday, much less have a birthweek.
Monday was a good day. I went to see my pre-law advisor to go over my options for the future, and then my best friend and I went to the mall and had tacos. Later, my org had a baking party and we made cookies and brownies and eat chocolate covered strawberries while painting and wow very wholesome much nice. It was also a very dramatic night in terms of a game called assassins we were playing on campus, but definitely a memorable one.
On Tuesday I gave a pretty FOINE class presentation and got ice cream with some friends. I got roasted a lot, but they’re cool people so I forgave them for it.
On Wednesday I got lunch with one of my best friends and had important conversations about life and where we all are going to go and end up. I had an improv show that night, and after it I got ice cream with some other friends (you’ll see that this is a recurring theme in my life).
THURSDAY (MY REAL BIRTHDAY)
I’m one of those overly dramatic people that likes to feel exact moments as they happen. So minutes before the clock struck midnight, I prostrated (a step of prayer) and had a conversation with God. I said, “thanks god for these great eyebrows and thanks god for the people and memories in my life.” and I wept.
Now imagine how awkward it was when my sister and brother bust into my room with a microwave lava cake and balloons, singing happy birthday at the top of their lungs.
After the encounter, we laughed out loud and I hugged them. I then kicked them out and laid in bed for hours laughing at old snapchats and crying at all the memories and losses of all the years now behind me. I even sat up a few times and declared “I’m twenty years old” before realizing how stupid I sounded. Of course all the people who loved me called or texted to wish me, and I spent the rest of the night wondering what I did to deserve them until I fell asleep.
I spent Thursday with someone I love. We had pancakes at brunch, spent the afternoon roaming a bookstore, and then fell asleep in a coffee shop. Afterwards, I headed to campus for an org meeting and afterwards, invited a bunch of my friends to an ice cream parlor where we played Duriba Khan trivia.
Afterwards, some of us roamed the streets downtown and took a bicycle ride down congress street. We stopped at a parking garage, got to the rooftop and had good conversations.
On friday, I took my mom’s van to the Honda dealership!! LITTYYYY!!!
Oh but then afterwards, one of the orgs I’m a part of hosted our annual charity banquet so I did my due work there. I also spent the night exploring the city with friends and having a sleepover. This was probably one of the most memorable nights of my college career because of the wacky turn of events but hey, we’re all alive!
On Saturday, my closest friends threw me a surprise party and wow i went to masala wok with my family and then went back to campus for my friend’s surprise party and it was a great night 10/10 recommend.
On Sunday, I slept in until 2 PM.
AHH. WOW. This feels like so long ago, but I need to relax i’ve only been twenty for like, a week. Anyway, my entire birthweek made me realize the importance of only making time and space in your life for the people who want to be there, as well as the people who genuinely care about you.
I’ve been thinking about writing about this for a while now, but I’ve been hesitant due to the solemn nature of it. However, I’m inspired to share when I think of my personal commitment to share all the stories of my life: from the good times to the bad. The following post is lengthy and frankly, kind of an emotional rollercoaster, but after months of typing and deleting I finally found the courage to share this story.
So with a rock on my chest, I begin.
I spent spring break on a religious pilgrimage called Umrah in Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia. At first, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it: I’m averse to airplane travel, large crowds, and not knowing what’s happening all the time. But as time went on and the countdown began, I was suddenly excited.
I haven't exactly always been spiritually attuned because of college and life responsibilities, so I figured that umrah would be a positive thing. Sure, I complete the five minimum prayers and frequented the mosque for jummah prayer…but the connection that I once had was very obviously missing. There was a hole in my heart, and I felt it deeply.
At Umrah, something changed.
I made a commitment to myself to stay off of social media and immerse myself in all acts of the pilgrimage. Although I went to Umrah with my family, friends, and sister, I tried hard to draw a line between banter and spirituality. Admittedly it was hard and unnecessary, but I wanted the connection the Sufis wrote about in the early days...still, a part of me was convinced it was impossible. But god dangit! I continued to yearn for that glorious ishq-al-haqeeqi.
I think one of the most beautiful things about Islam is the great emphasis on nuance. The more my journey progressed, the more I realized that aiming for total immersion was impractical and that love and light can coexist within all relationships: from friendships and romantic relationships to our relationship with the almighty. So I laughed loudly among friends and cried in prayer. It really became that simple.
Now can I say, if you have the resources to visit Makkah and Medina, you ought to. Of course New York has its glitter and glamour, but Makkah is truly the city that never sleeps. There is some overwhelming peace about it: everyone arrives as a family of servants eager to bond with the lord and when you come across other pilgrims, you can feel that yearn.
We performed Umrah twice and it took longer than necessary and was frankly kind of painful of the feet, but that feeling of being done...twice?! ZOO WEE MAMA (if you get this reference, we’re best friends). And the best part? I got to experience touching the black stone with my high school principal. YEAH, HMU FOR THE FULL STORY.
In short, Umrah put me on a spiritual high… I was ready to recharge my spiritual energies and go back home with a new mindset and a whole new set of priorities.
Before officially heading home, we spent about three days in Istanbul,Turkey...and WOW. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to one place before you die, make sure its Turkey. I’ve been across Europe and Asia and just…..Turkey is exceptional. The air is fresh, the architecture is breathtaking, and the people are some of the sweetest I’ve ever met IN MY WHOLE LIFE… not to mention the fantastic fake fentys being flashed at you by the street vendors.
In Turkey, I got to pray in multiple beautiful mosques (including the Hagia Sophia), got to experience fresh pomegranate juice (POM? Never heard of her), and took a ferry ride along the Bosphorus and got to witness the purest, bluest water. We’re talking like, SMURF BLUE.
Everyone enjoyed Turkey: it was a place where we all found and kept something beautiful. Interestingly enough, it is actually one of the very few places in the world I wouldn’t mind living because it truly enchanted me. But while we were basking in the turkish sun and laughing our hearts out, it seemed that God had other plans halfway across the world.
The day before we were scheduled to fly back to Texas, my mom received a phone call. Her youngest brother (my uncle) got into a car accident in Chicago, and was currently in a coma.
I clearly remember the moment I heard the news: that evening, everyone went to dinner but I spent the afternoon in our AirBnB studying for an upcoming exam. While studying, I dozed off and was awaken to my friend Nabeela explaining the situation to me.
I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I needed more details, and I needed to understand all the repercussions. With a lump in my throat, I knocked on my mom’s room door to find her laying her head in my aunt’s lap, the both of them in tears.
My uncle, Shazoor, worked for a car rental company. He was transferring a car to their main center when the front tire of car he was driving went out. There was no proper shoulder on the road, so he pulled into the right lane and turned on his emergency flashers. Within minutes of calling for help and waiting in the car, he was rear ended by a construction truck driver who, upon reaching for a Coke can, didn’t notice that the car ahead of him wasn’t moving. He suffered severe spinal injury and brain trauma.
As soon as we landed in Houston my mom, brothers, and aunt took the next flight to Chicago while my father, sister and I headed home to finish up exams and get affairs in order.
That first day back was easily one of the worst of my life. I had exams stacked up, yet no motivation to study. I wanted to be in Chicago with my family. I wanted to hold everyone’s hand and tell them that it would all be okay. But instead, I had to take exams and drive to school and make small talk with baristas and pretend that my life wasn’t falling apart.
I had class in the morning and I didn’t want to go back to an empty home, so I decided to get some studying done in a coffee shop on campus. Frankly, I had no motivation to learn about content analysis when my cousins were being traumatized by this horrific accident. It’s embarrassing to admit but basically I cried in the coffee shop with my hoodie on and my face on the table like four times between assignments, then gave up and the passed out on a nearby softa for like three hours. I woke up groggy, drove home, and went straight to bed.
It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I’m sharing because I feel like people see me as the kind of person who has it all together. In fact, a while ago someone told me that my life “seemed perfect”. Even though I’m very grateful to live a blessed life, every single person has their highs and lows. That’s just the way this wacky thing works.
A day later, we flew into Chicago and drove straight to the hospital. It was crazy to think that only a few months ago at my cousin’s engagement, everyone was smiling and sharing sweets. Before hugging everyone goodbye, we just assumed that the next time we all saw each other would be her wedding, but little did we know.
At the hospital, we spent days in the waiting rooms and hospital chapel praying and simply holding each other. At that point, it didn’t matter that we had exams, rotations, and meetings. We had to be there for my uncle and cousins, and I’m so proud of the way my family reacted in this situation. Honestly, I don’t know what people do without family. Without one another, we would’ve crippled. I can’t mention this situation without acknowledging Shazoor uncle’s friends and mosque; their community emulated strength and was there for us in the weakest of times and I will remember them in my prayers forever.
When things settled down a bit, I flew back to Texas to take another exam. One morning, my sister and I were getting ready for school. I remember putting in my contact in one eye when I heard a muffled gasp from my sister’s room. I felt my heart drop and instinctively ran to check my phone. “He’s gone” read a text from my cousin. I retreated to my bed and stayed there for a little bit, looking out the window not knowing how to feel.
Almost automatically, the sky became dark and lightning flashed. As rain poured out from the sky, I let a tear slip. It was as if the earth was giving me permission to feel.
The next day we flew into Chicago for the funeral. Although we were late coming from the airport and missed the burial, my cousin facetimed me in. As I watched the procession lower my beloved uncle into the ground, my heart was racing at a million miles an hour. When we got to the graveyard, the first thing I did was look for my mom. Soon enough, I found her and practically ran into her arms. I can’t describe that first embrace, and I still think about it to this day.
We spent the next day in my uncle’s home, retelling stories of his youth and remembering him. Let me tell you about my uncle. He was 45 and handsome, and had the brightest smile. More importantly, he was always happy. He literally beamed. He made the best jokes and treated everyone, from the waitstaff at a restaurant to his boss, in the same respectful manner.
My uncle was the kind of person who, if someone said something bad about, no one would believe it.
It’s been a month and a few weeks, and I sometimes still have trouble believing that he’s actually gone. Honestly, I can’t even believe that any of this happened.This past Spring Break has taught me more than some years of my life ever did, and although I am still navigating life after it, I’m getting better and learning. More importantly, this break has taught me the importance of appreciating the people and opportunities in my life, simply before it’s too late.
In August 2015, Duriba Khan, a 5”4 foxy little brown man, traveled Europe with her parents and sister. Although it was great fun and she got to see amazing places and things, she was hungry a lot and packed the wrong shoes. Later, she also got stung by a bug in Germany and had to spend the rest of the trip on crutches and/or a wheelchair.
The goal of the Khans’ excursion was to travel 5 European countries in 5 days, and boy oh boy were they determined to accomplish it. On the third day, they visited Milan, Italy. And it was beautiful. Duriba remembers the tall buildings, intricate art, and great food. She remembers it being amazing.
*We interrupt this program with a brief message: Duriba is getting tired of writing in the third person so she will switch over to first person in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...0*
So basically one day we were walking through what my limited vocabulary can only describe as a decorate arch, and I noticed two men exclaiming “Salam” (a saying Muslims use to greet one another which translates to “peace be upon you”) to me. Because I don’t observe hijab, I was kind of confused to as of how these men identified me as a Muslim. “Walaikum asSalam!” I responded. They smiled as I approached them. “How could you tell that I was Muslim?” I asked. They pointed to my outfit, an Abaiyah or middle eastern gown. I nodded understandingly.
At this point, my sister and parents approached us and joined the conversation. The men explained that they came from Kenya and sold custom made bracelets in tourist areas. Without warning, they started tying their bracelets of woven rainbow string around all of our wrists. When we protested, they joyously laughed and exclaimed “haq ul Muslim!” or “the duty of the muslims to one another.” I remember being extremely confused as I watched them use fingernail clippers to tighten the bracelets.
Within seconds, they demanded my Dad pay them. It was so hilarious to watch their expressions change instantly, and I laughed super hard as my poor dad itched his head and pulled euros out of his wallet and handed them over.
The next day at breakfast, all of us laughed at the bizarre encounter. A few days into our trip, everyone slowly begin snipping their bracelets but for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to do it. This weird attachment to the bracelet persisted for almost three years: through presentations, other family vacations, weddings, parties, and even my high school graduation and first year of college. My mom and sister teased me and urged me to take it off because to be honest, it got kind of gross looking lol. But I just couldn’t.
In hindsight it sounds a little elementary, but I always told myself that no matter how much me or my life changed, one thing would always be constant and 100% in my control: this little rainbow string. I think a part of me was always waiting for the perfect life changing moment to snip it off.
About two days ago, I was getting tea with some friends and when I reached to mix milk into my cup, I looked at my wrist and I was horrified. I have no idea how it happened, but the bracelet just...fell apart. I was extremely shocked, and when I pointed at it with my mouth open, nobody else understood. “I don’t get it..” Maryam stated. “Let’s just hot glue it back together?” Nabeela suggested. At the time, Saood was returning from the restroom and as soon as he saw my face and the way I was holding my wrist and gaping at it, he gasped. Finally someone understood!
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I wrote a bunch of paragraphs about a random rainbow string, but I promise there is a lesson: no matter how hard you try to keep things in your control, they never truly are, even if they have been for ages. So instead of waiting and planning for the perfect moment to do that thing you’ve been wanting to, just let God and destiny take care of it.
Looking back at the time it feel off, I’m kind of glad. It fell off in a blissful moment spent among friends, being affectionately roasted. I don’t think I could've ever planned a better moment. Actually it would be cool if it fell off when I got into law school. But like God. Do your thing, man.