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.
As blog tradition goes...it’s THAT time of the year. Yes, you got it! A brand new year, wrapped in bubble wrap and ready to be unearthed.
Ah yes. Let us lament on the good and bad, the rising and falling, the crying and screaming, the loving and laughing. And let us not make this intro unnecessary long. Let us begin. And let us stop speaking in the third person. Because frankly, it makes Duriba uncomfortable.
So without further ado, here’s a list of noteworthy things that happened in 2017.
But yeah, that was my 2017. Although 2017 was a difficult year in terms of politics and society, it was personally the best of my life so far. I learned a lot about myself, got to experience amazing things, and pushed myself to experiment and get uncomfortable. I hope and pray that 2018 is just as great because it truly has big shoes to fill.
The following post is about a topic I have wanted to write about for a while, but couldn't find the words for. A few months ago, my grandpa was hospitalized and my life changed. Before you go ahead and read it, I want you to know that it is 5:30 am and no one proofread this and the grammar is all wrong but God knows every single word is from my heart.
I hurriedly ran down the stairs and poured myself a cup of coffee: I was already late to class. I rushed to the door past Daddaba (my Grandfather), who had an affinity for singing along to random Bollywood karaoke videos on Youtube in the early morning. As he attempted a high note, I chuckled lightly and ran out the door.
Little did I know, that would be the last time I would clearly hear his booming laughter or his singing. A few days later, I was visiting a friend when I received a text from my mother: Daddaba was scheduled to undergo a minor surgery today, and something has gone wrong. He was in the ICU and had fallen unconscious. I rushed to the hospital, confused and afraid.
At the hospital, I learned the doctor had accidentally forgotten to remove the bubbles in the dye they used in Daddaba’s surgery, causing him to go under respiratory arrest. As a result, he had fallen unconscious for around two weeks and had a tube lodged in his throat. Weeks later, this tube would go on to damage his throat and his booming voice would be reduced to a low whisper.
The day after Dada was admitted to the hospital, I felt helpless. None of my parents had the emotional capacity or time to explain to me what was happening to him, and our loud, playful and joyous home suddenly became the last place I wanted to be. I was afraid of going home, and I was even more afraid of going to the hospital. I felt like I had to get away and distract myself with friends and school, so I convinced myself I was studying and sat in the library for hours with my head on the table.
That’s why when the invitation for a party come one day, I didn’t want to turn it down. It sucks to admit, I promise it does, but sometimes we do things we aren’t proud of. For me, this was one of those times. At the party, I felt extremely out of place and paranoid. I was so mad at myself: I should have been spending time with my family but instead, I was being selfish and trying to distract myself. When I was at the party, my mom called. She was disappointed and hurt that I didn’t show up to the hospital all day. I think it really was that point in time when I realized how selfish I was being.
When I got home, I looked for Pappa to apologize for my terrible behavior. After a short search, I found him in the family room with the lights off with tears all over his face. When he saw me, he smiled. That’s when my stomach dropped. I was horrified at myself. I spent the rest of the night in my grandmother’s lap, listening to her stories and occasionally wiping the tears on her cheeks.“I have always prayed,” she said. “that I go before him.” I didn’t know what to say, so I just squeezed her hand. She squeezed it back. This was a time for us to get closer, and I had been pushing everyone away.
The next day after class, my sister and I went straight to the hospital to meet the rest of my family. Believe me when I say that everyone ought to spend a day observing the hospital at least once in their lifetime. You will find both grief and joy, and almost always where you least expect it. Or sometimes you will find people who find joy through their grief, and that will warm your heart.
The following week was a blur of crying, hugs, hospital visitors, and a whole lot of praying. The hospital became kind of a second home for us. We were all there for as long as possible, often eating there, meeting there, and sometimes, just simply sitting and waiting for something to happen.
I thought my Grandpa was going to die. And it was so confusing and hurt way more than I expected. However, I wasn’t the only one having trouble dealing with the situation. One day my brother and I were driving back from the hospital and I just started crying. “Why are you crying?” he asked. “You weren’t even close to him.” And then I got mad and at yelled at him, but deep down in my heart, I knew it was true. I was a terrible grandkid. And I was so sorry for it. Another time, I reprimanded my sister because I thought that she “didn't seem upset enough.” In hindsight, this experience taught me something very valuable: everyone grieves differently. Some cry, and some bottle up their emotions, and no one way means more than the mother.
Because there can only be three people in the hospital room at a time, our family and friends developed a rotating system to ensure that someone was with my grandpa at all times. But most of the time, it was my Dad who sat at my grandpa’s bedside, simply talking to him. At this point, it was crucial for us to get him to move and respond to us. All day, my parents tried calling his name, requesting commands such as “move your leg,” and putting the rest of our family from Pakistan on the speakerphone to encourage him. He blinked once, and we were all ecstatic. I spent a lot of time that day astonished: two days ago he was walking, blinking, and talking, and nobody said a thing and today it was enough for us that he blinked once in a day.
It was painful to see Daddaba in a coma, especially because he was widely known for his strength and willpower among friends and family; seeing him incapable of movement was heartbreaking. At 74 he would leave home on his own and go on walks, go swimming, make his own meals, once took me to a horror house, and still had a bullet in his ankle from a time he was shot at over 40 years ago. My grandpa isn’t perfect, but he is always trying. The older I get, the more I respect it.
As tough a journey that this was, it made us all so much stronger. It made me appreciate every single person and moment in my life, and it allowed me to ponder on the things and people that actually matter to me. Sometimes you really do have to learn the hard way.
Dada is better now. I try to visit him in the senior home often. When I visit, the nurses boast about much he likes to exercise and spends extra time in speech therapy, testament to his determination to get better. Slowly but surely, he is healing: he can chew on his own, he can walk again, read again, and most importantly, he can sing again.
By the grace and willpower of God and God only, Dadabba is so close to the finish line and ready to come home. Whenever I visit him, he is optimistic and charismatic about the future. As odd as it sounds, we had our first hour and a half long conversation on my last visit this past Sunday.
It is truly fascinating to me how the storm is always what allows us to be appreciate of clearer skies.
My geometric print shirt is ironed, my banana socks laid out beside my bed. My water bottle is full to the brim, my glasses polished. Tomorrow, I step into a place I wouldn’t dare find myself ten years ago… sophomore year.
Freshman year was wholly unique and amazing in its own way: I learned a lot about myself like what situation I’m comfortable in and vice versa, what I can handle, who brings out the best in me, and so much more.
But this year, I don’t get to sport the excuse of being a freshman anymore. No more $60 on Starbucks in a month, or refusing to pack lunch because I’m just feeling lazy. This year, I do MAJOR big kids things: I start studying for the LSAT, I do this thing called “have a leadership role,” and I get to be responsible and not leave my car in a random alleyway when I’m late to class.
And because I get to actually be a big kid, I guess it’s time I started acting like one. And what better way to be one than make a blog post about the things I’m going to start doing as an ~adult~ instead of actually doing them?!
See, right now Starbucks is resistable because well, THE HOLY GRAIL of drinks isn’t out yet. Yes, the Pumpkin Spice Latte. UGH, the Peppermint Mocha. Take all my money and soul!!!
I mean… that was the old me. THE NEW ME WILL ONLY GET STARBUCKS TWICE A WEEK. ok…..thrice a week.
5. Responding to emails and texts as soon as I get them.
As opposed to ignoring them until five seconds until it’s considered rudely late. I wonder if I could go to hell for this.
6. Praying on time.
As Muslims, we’re required to pray five times a day that are determined by the sun’s position in the sky. As a lazy Muslim, I have trouble getting this done on time and I need to not ha help me dear lord.
Anyway, that’s me! Besides the obvious (maintain a high GPA, avoid douchebags and men in general, be nice to everyone, do nothing illegal, etc), those are the main improvements I want to make in my life/things I want to accomplish.
Also, to visit the moon.
You might be wondering where I went off and disappeared to.
The truth is, it isn’t that I forgot to write or didn’t feel like it. I promise I’ve sat down almost multiple times to whip up a blog post...but it just wasn’t happening. Call it writer’s block (or an existential crisis), but I don’t know what to talk about or how to talk about it.
I mean, for crying out loud...look at me now. I’m writing about not being able to write. Yikes.
Let me start by saying that this was a really busy summer for me. I had summer classes, Ramadan, and an internship going on, but you know what? For everything that was happening, I feel like I got a lot out of it. Here it is!
2. Make As in both of my summer classes.
3. DO SOMETHING CRAZY (Can’t disclose because my mom reads my blog but when I read this in 20 years, I will know).
4. Have a sunset picnic (maybe a lot of bugs got in my hair but you bet I DONE DID IT).
5. Read 5 books:
6. 100 hours at my internship! Wohoo!
7. Tried a bunch of new places (mainly coffee shops):
9. Had a really fun sleepover Austin discovery weekend with some friends that involved kayaking, horror movies, and too many heart to hearts.
10. Watched a BUNCH of movies, from Annabelle to Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick, and too many episodes of Parks and Recreation (which, I declare to be THE BEST SHOW EVER).
11. Made 6 whole entire new friends who live in my heart!!!!
12. Flew on a plane. Alone.
All in all, this summer I didn’t get to travel exotic lands or take a cruise. Instead, I stayed in Austin, and I discovered something extraordinary: so many worlds live in small towns! Every single day is a adventure if you are brave enough, sailor!
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT BROWN GIRL MAGAZINE HERE.
I remember clearly, the light bouncing off his unruly curls. The way his eyebrows almost connected. The beauty of the fact that he didn’t mind. His earring that only slightly shook when he tilted his head back to laugh.
I remember the tumultuous roar of Cafe Medici. Finals week does that. Hamad and I sat accompanied by iced coffee and woes, preparing for our final. Although we had originally come to study, often times we were sidetracked because we simply loved talking to each other! Hamad and I had a very unique and heartfelt friendship. We laughed at the same things, and thought the same way.
But we didn’t feel the same way, and about a lot of things.
After discussing “the voyeuristic gaze” in cinema, Hamad asked me if I believed in predestination. I did. Hamad didn’t. But Hamad didn’t really believe in a lot of things, religion being one.
Hamad, a born Muslim, had left religion many years ago (for reasons I am not at the liberty to discuss). On the several occasions we talked about it, we often got heated and returned to common ground: dog memes.
On my way home from school, I thought hard the things he said. Although I’ve had questions, highs, and lows, I’ve never thought about abandoning my faith. My faith has guided me through the darkest of times. It has made me more inquisitive, and curious about the world around me. I will tell you, really, there is some magic about looking out your bedroom window at night time and watching the moon and thinking to yourself “Yes. There is more. There is so much more.” Although I will NEVER force someone into my beliefs or try to convince them out of their own, religion is important to me. And it has the right to be.
Since then, I have been very critical of the things I accept as my truth. Hamad taught me this, and it is one of the most beautiful gifts anyone has ever given me. Since then, I have been doing a lot of thinking. About what is important to me, about what aligns with the stars of what I truly believe.
But this gift of critical thinking is a blessing and a curse. Several months have passed by since our conversation, and I am left with these critical thoughts about my religion. But the problem is that my mind has the power to harness the energy to make me doubt basically everything, but it doesn’t have the power to search for answers. Instead, it lets these doubts consume me. These doubts then control me, and I am blinded by my own circular mentality. I become ignorant.
It’s true that I do what is expected of me. I (typically) answer all daily five calls to prayer, I do my laundry every week, I give charity, my GPA is decent, and I wipe the washbasin down in airplane restrooms after use. But when consuming myself in watering the garden of worldly riches, my spiritual well often runs dry.
This month, Ramadan, is supposed to be about growing, loving, and blossoming. About forgiveness and kindness. About gratitude and moonlight. Inspiration and rest. Freedom of thought and expression. A love for Allah (God), and a softening of the heart.
I’m observing fasts during the day, praying taraweeh nightly, and I’m rising in the wee hours of the morning to observe qiyam prayers. But tell me why why the Imam (Priest) is pouring his heart into a duaa (prayer) and everyone around me is crying and feeling and I don’t know what to think? I too, want to feel deeply. To be so in drunken with the sweetness of Islam that even for a little while, my worries dissolve and my heart melts into ishq-al-haqiqi (true love).
But it doesn’t happen. And I don’t know why, but the things I am trying, the books I am reading, the voices I am listening to simply do not settle. But alas, religion comes to us in highs and lows.
If you, like me, are having trouble finding that connection, do not give up. Join me. Dig a little deeper. Remove distractions. Surround yourself with nature. Kneel. And let your forehead touch the cold, hard ground. And feel. And if you don’t, try again.
And soon, it will be sweet.
I know people tend to romanticize their relationship with religion and God, but I am here to tell you that if you don’t feel anything during worship, it is okay. Give it some time. Let verses heal your heart. However, be cautious if the problem persists, for it can easily become dangerous. When your heart says nothing during prayer, it is saying something very loudly.
It says, I am a seed. Water me. Burn me a few times if you must, but try to bring me back to life. You need to try, or I will become futile. Then it will only become harder to bring me back to life. And one day it will be too late.
And then you will truly weep.