reflections.

My birthday is approaching and I can’t help but reflect on this past year. Birthdays are funny; I feel as sometimes it’s like New Years or is that just me? They’re exactly that though, the “new” year in your life. Nothing really is different – just like new years, except you’re one year older and hopefully wiser. As I’m reflecting, I wonder if I am wiser, if we truly learn from all our past mistakes? I’ve often heard that people can’t change, but I believe they can. They just chose not to, because it’s easier to stay the same. Whether you feel the need to change or not, it’s happening. Change is constant – probably the only constant thing in our lives.

Change can be good. We’re often forced to face our demons, even if we’re not ready. Perhaps we’re never ready. Heartbreaks, circumstances, new beginnings, abrupt endings, they push us; push us to our breaking points. But that’s the thing, we don’t break, we’re able to endure much more than we realize. And even when we do break, it changes us… for better or for worse? You decide that.

This year has been full of revelations. That the people you thought would be by your side, end up leaving. Whoever said, it is better to be alone than in bad company was correct. How I could ACTUALLY like children. That being stagnant or complacent in your life isn’t good enough. You should want change, you should want more, and you should constantly strive to do better.

Sure, people make you happy, but they aren’t the only source. I stress this because I see it all too much, people running after people. Expecting them to “change” their lives. You should make yourself happy, you should change your own life. You get to a point where you start defining happiness on your own terms. Let that day be now. Erase what you thought and let today be your new year.

Happy birthday.

the bigger picture.

Ramadan means different things to different people. Most people utilize this month to get closer to God and get in touch with their spiritual side. For me, this month has particularly been about reflection. With all the horror happening around the world, I’ve been constantly counting my blessings. How can you not? It’s hard not to wonder, how is it, that this is my life? I might be many things, but one thing I never want to be is ungrateful. I’ve done my best to really use this month to reflect on me and those around me, to gain perspective and wisdom. Another thing I tried extremely hard to improve and focus on is, patience. You can never have enough, it seems.

I don’t consider myself an angry person, but when I do get angry or upset – it consumes me. This month I focused on how foolish that is. We can’t control other peoples actions nor the things they say, but we can control how we react. The trouble with this is though, I might know how to control my actions but not so much my thoughts. How can I control those?

Prior to this month, I was angry at a friend. It took me awhile to stop caring, but it happened. It’s not easy to let go of the things we hold so dearly, but why let it ruin our lives? It was ruining my life. When I don’t understand something, my mind fixates on it. I recently had someone apologize to me for something they did five years ago. I told them it was too late and how none of that mattered anymore, they continued to say ‘better late than never’ but is that actually true? I constantly talk about closure, and how we’re the only ones who can make ourselves come to any sort of conclusion. Their apology was five years too late, and perhaps that apology was actually for them. I’m thankful I picked up the pieces a long time ago and rearranged them in order to suit myself. 

What I realize now, that not everyone thinks or more importantly, feels like we do, AND that’s okay. Either we accept them, or we don’t. It’s actually quite simple, we just make it complicated. Going through those emotions, brought me to this point, so perhaps the angry phase was necessary. It took me awhile, a month to be exact, to come to the realization, that there are bigger things than you and me. 

The only way to drive out darkness is with light. The only way to rid yourself of hate, is to embrace love. Any time you get angry or upset, in that instance just remind yourself how it isn’t worth the burden. Our hearts weren’t meant to carry hate or anger. 

As this month is ending, I just want to take a moment and reflect, on everything we’ve tried to achieve, everything we have to be thankful for. Think of those who are less fortunate, and do everything in your power to help them. Make sincere du’a (prayer) and give charity. Whatever your goals were this Ramadan, I hope you reached them and continue to strive for the bigger picture.

 

It’s Eid! Let’s eat 🙂 

 

the root of all evil.

Why is it as children we have more empathy? As we get older, we somehow lose that. I wonder what it is about aging that makes us less connected to those around us. I once felt horrible for someone I didn’t really know, and granted his loss/pain didn’t have anything to do with me, but when the person who caused him the pain asked me one simple question, “how does that affect you?” I was dumbfounded. What response did I have for this question. Oh, I know, the fact that I am human, and when others are in pain, it has an impact on me. The real question is, why don’t YOU feel something?

All of the atrocities going on in the world have affected me. How can I sit comfortably in my home knowing innocent children are dying. I almost feel guilty that my “problems” consist of filling out grad school applications, losing the five pounds I might have gained during Ramadan, and working on building my website. I mean how is it that this is my life, and that is theirs?

Social media has played a vital role in spreading awareness on the violence happening in Gaza and Israel. I love that my twitter feed is filled with prayers for those who are suffering, with the hash tags of FreePalestine, PrayForGaza. As much as I don’t want to see the gruesome images, I realize how they are key in getting those who aren’t informed, to face this reality. I do believe there are other effective ways of raising awareness, and of course I always feel words are just as strong as images, if not more. 

Now perhaps updating a status isn’t really saving the world. I know this. I have a success story though, that made me feel different. I’ve been reading all these articles my family and friends are posting, and a part of me felt I shouldn’t add to the flood of posts. After Israel declared ground invasion, I felt various emotions and posted a status. Sadly enough, not many of my non Muslim friends liked my status. One friend though, started doing research and educating herself on the crisis in Israel and Gaza. She called me two hours later, bawling, literally crying like a baby. I tried to console her, but what could I say? Did I feel happy that this affected her so deeply? Happy wasn’t the word. Relief? Yes, relief, that’s it. Relief that the problem was acknowledged at all. I quickly realized, that I brought this on. I brought her to these emotions. She kept crying and saying that could be Layla-her 8 month old daughter. She kept saying to me, this isn’t about Muslims or Jews, this is about humanity. How can the Israeli government ruthlessly continue to murder children, and say we are defending ourselves?  If everyone could feel that sort of empathy, compassion, then perhaps there could be change. The root of all evil, isn’t just the acts of injustice, but the lack of compassion shown towards these injustices.

If you feel as if you’re choosing sides, then YOU are a part of the problem. This isn’t about sides, this is about the inhumane affairs occurring. If you see an explicit picture of those who are suffering and it doesn’t make you almost reevaluate your life and take a moment to count your blessings, then YOU are a part of the problem. If you feel this crisis doesn’t affect you, then YOU are a part of the problem. When innocent children are dying and we sit idly, we have tremendously failed as humans.

*And before ANYONE wants to jump down my throat about facts- I am very well informed about the crisis, and my heart goes out to everyone effected from these events, those in Gaza AND Israel. 

truths unveiled

I know that it might be an interesting time to talk about this, but it has been a year and I couldn’t think of a better moment to speak out. I get many questions regarding my choice, at times I am ready to give people an elaborate answer and at other times I don’t see a point. I see it as a personal decision and isn’t something I felt the need to announce. If there is one thing I have learned its that people always see things as a loss or a win, and that is not the case in this situation. People are very quick to jump to conclusions, however I know that is inevitable. To clarify, don’t assume that I left hijab out of weakness or lack of faith. Don’t make the mistake to think I am less religious because of it or girls who cover are more religious. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. I was thirteen years old when I decided to cover. I look back at the signs and how I wasn’t really ready and at the time I had no idea what it takes to actually encompass hijab. I pushed through, because of course I made the decision and there was no turning back. As the years passed by, every moment I wanted to take it off, I felt like a failure. If truth be told, it wasn’t even my decision anymore. My mother was very firm to her belief of “what will people say?” I lived my whole life in that fear and perhaps I didn’t see myself as a failure, but the world would have, and my parents were not having that. Every time the topic came up, it was clear that if I took off the scarf, I would be a disappointment. 

The thing about disappoints and expectations is that they are unavoidable. It took me a long time to understand that. The mold that comes with hijab, I didn’t fit anymore. I never fitted that mold, my parents knew that, my siblings knew that, my cousins knew that. It’s not like I was wild or anything but the mere fact that I didn’t fit the description of what society thinks a hijabi should be. The burden of being a certain way was just too much. I hate that in our culture/society we have to be or act a particular way- and if you’re not that way, then people have some words to exchange about you. (However, I do realize this battle was never with the world and I, it was with my self) I wore the hijab and tried vigorously to fit this image of who a hijabi is supposed to be, and every time I went somewhere, I was expected to be someone I was not.

I once got a proposal JUST because the guy knew I wore hijab and had green eyes. It disgusted me. What if I didn’t even pray? He had NO idea who I was, and in that moment I didn’t even know who I was. He said he wanted a religious girl, and my aunt proceeded to say well she’s not “that religious” (that bothered me too) and his mother said, we don’t care, we want a hijabi. It saddened me that it was okay for hijab to be just a “trend” that it didn’t matter who I was, and what I believed, as long as I looked the part. 

Labeling people for what they lack is shameful. I struggled with this for many years and finally I came to a point in my life that if I wasn’t wearing the scarf for God, then I shouldn’t be wearing it. If you do things for the world, for people, and not yourself then you have it all wrong. I get ignorant questions all the time, “oh, is it because you wanted to show your hair?” for me, wearing a scarf was never difficult, I always had girls tell me, “oh my god, hijab suits you so well!” I’m grateful that for me, not once was hijab ever about appearance (because thats obviously the point) that part came easy to me. I started hijab in an era when there were no hijab tutorials, just me and a plain black scarf and two safety pins. It was the internal struggle that I couldn’t push away. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want to portray as a person? I commend thirteen year old Fatima for sticking to her haste decision, I tried, I tried with every fiber of my being- but unveiling myself this past year has made me even stronger and I have never felt more like myself. 

And before anyone puts their judge-y pants on, just remember a sin that humbles you is WAY better than a good deed that makes you arrogant.

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