Well, well, well, here we are! The end of a year–a tumultuous, back-breaking, bruising, comforting, exhilarating, eye-opening, bittersweet year.
This was the year that I met (and in some cases partied) with celebrities and public figures such as Lindsey Pelas and Eboo Patel, traveled to Hawai’i for the first time, got a job at a law office, made many new friends than I’ve ever made in my life, got engaged briefly, donated, started focusing on myself, and of course, created this blog for Muslims and non-Muslims to relate to. Alhamdulillah, I feel blessed to be alive and to be here.
For me, this year has been more of a game than a reality. Mostly because many of my interactions are tools for me to recognize myself and break through my own anxieties. The only people whom I’ve really felt that I could be myself around aren’t even within my own family. I’m 23 years-old, and I still have to lie to my parents. As do my other minority friends. And lately, I’ve been running out of excuses. I’m not sure I’ll ever come to any sort of agreement with my parents on how to live my life, but I’m more confident than ever that I don’t need anyone’s approbation or affirmation to live life.
But between myself and others, I’ve adopted a certain etiquette that I can use in every conversation without feeling like I’m being fake. I’ve started listening more to others. I’ve started being more empathetic which has allowed me to analyze and influence how others listen to me. I wish I knew this when I was taking my Public Speaking course, but it’s really crucial to listen to others when they speak and understand why they’re saying what they are saying. Listening is something that has been very difficult for me because I grew up in a household where everyone screamed at each other. Everything was a competition. Everything was a fight. My mother, paranoid about the outside world and my father, disappointed by me not wanting to acquiesce to his controlling behavior. I had trouble making friends for a long time because the behaviors I had familiarized myself with when dealing with my parents led me to immediately distrust everyone and isolate myself. My parents themselves isolated me. They are hesitant to give me money because they wanted to ensure I would never be independent. My parents still threaten me about never giving me a single penny once they pass away because I did not listen to how they wanted me to be. I did not conform to their ideals. I broke out of their box, and I tried finding myself in others. I tried carving my own path in unconventional ways. I wanted to find answers. Currently, I’m on an ongoing pursuit of happiness and financial independence. And I want to keep it hush.
Suffering helps, you know. In my Creativity class, we were told to read a text titled “Creativity-Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” and there was an excerpt about suffering, stating, “Early experience predisposes a young person to be interested in a certain range of problems” (86). It’s not only about finding an answer, it’s about understanding the problem fully in the process of finding it and appreciating the problem for presenting itself to you. Trivial problems can therefore be exciting to answer. Feelings lead to resolution. Suffering has allowed for the creation of this blog in the first place. Every time I’m home, I feel like I’m stuck, and this blog is my emotional, intellectual, and psychological outlet. “It is often dissatisfaction with the rigidity of domains that makes great creative advances possible” (89), but that requires thoroughly understanding how a domain works and what its rules are. You need to fully understand the current condition in order to ameliorate it. That applies to all aspects of life.
Ever since I started going to therapy, my therapist told me that I’m actually one of the most emotionally intelligent people he’s ever had the pleasure of coming across in his meetings. In those meetings, I learned a lot about my love life, my family life, and why those have shaped me into an empathetic human being. I’m a woman who has witnessed many perspectives. I have not only been myself, but I have channeled others. We all are susceptible to picking up different behaviors from different people. Sometimes, we even go so far as to adopt their mindset as well. I’ve done that countless times. I can’t remember when I’ve only been one particular person. It’s not really having different personalities; it’s being yourself, but in the context of whatever situation or story you’re attempting identify with.
Through this process, I’ve learned the difference between honesty and candor. Honesty makes it harder for people to talk about obstacles. Honesty is what makes people hold their tongues. They don’t want to be characterized as dishonest. However, candor is essential to avoiding dysfunctional environments. It gives people more comfort in expressing their genuine opinions. It’s how people build trust. But that also affects the type of criticism that people are willing to give.
Throughout this year, I’ve received copious praise, and also doses of criticism. Some criticism has been constructive, while other types of criticism was malicious. I concluded that people who are willing to give constructive criticism are people who are willing to level with you. People who criticize out of contempt are seeking to seem superior to you. People have told me that I’m trashy, that my parents don’t give me money, that I’m too brazen with my words, and honestly, I think it’s unfair for people to criticize me in that way without knowing the stringent conditions of how I grew up and continue to be raised. It’s as if they are looking for you to provide services for them in the first place, which makes me distrust them.
My definition of success has changed drastically this year. I’ve learned that success is not monetary in the least. Viewing success as monetary is wrong because then you’re spectacularizing money, not you. The success has nothing to do with you if it’s about quantity. To me, that definition also fosters many personality problems as well. I’m certain I’ve written this before, and I’ll reiterate it again, but if success is monetary then you will never feel like you’re good enough. Your worth is then placed on an unattainable level and you adapt to a micro view of the world. You pick out flaws in yourself and in others. You become hypercritical and desensitized to yourself. Every waking moment is misery. You take, and you take, and you take, until the void is full enough for you to be temporarily satisfied, but you also become annoyed by everyone and everything that doesn’t meet the level of achievement you’ve set because you can’t even meet it yourself. Success is more about finding your own strengths. Looking at the big picture, and knowing that you can work on yourself and constantly improve. Strive for progression, not perfection. Work on your character. You can be rich, but if your character is poor, then you are no better than someone with half the riches as you with the same dull character.
I’ve been keeping up with current events more this year, and I’ve been reading more books which I’m grateful for. My favorite book from this year has to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a book I read in my Racial Pathology class. It’s about a girl named Starr whose childhood friend, Khalil, was murdered by an officer, and who wants to seek justice. The paper I wrote on that book was centered around silence, and how silence is debilitating to a community. In order to make change, in order to attain justice, in order to solve problems and allow problems to come to light in the first place, you must use your voice and use it wisely. In my thesis, I stated, “Angie Thomas uses silence to make a larger claim about how voice must override silence in order to enable reconstructive change, and shows how silence is operated by different characters by placing Starr in situations where silence makes her feel uncomfortable. The longer the silence lasts, the longer the change is prohibited.” This statement has been a recurring theme this year in relationships that have been ruined this year because of silence. Silence creates divisive rhetoric, it “allows people to escape by creating a gap of time for them to react upon. They can use that silence as a curtain to hide behind, and once they step behind that curtain, they leave the stage open to those who believe that change must occur. Essentially, silence is used to escape exposure, which allows the buildup of hostility,’ as I wrote in my essay.
I hope that next year, Inshallah, I will be able to use my voice more and find more opportunities for myself to grow and become more independent. I don’t want to be someone who starts fights, or who gets defensive, or who has to be scared of being herself. I’ve done tremendous work so far for myself, and I know what I have to do even if it’s not what others want for me. I’m glad I learned to save some love for myself. I’ve been able to help others this year, and that’s enough for me. I don’t ask for anything except for people to know that I’m a strong woman. Although the ways in which I express myself may be off-putting for others, I’m glad that I have found my family in my friends, especially for those who have shown me love from the very beginning.
All the best, and all my love.