As immigrant children we’ve seen our parents struggle to plant their feet firmly on this foreign ground. They travelled to a land where they knew not a soul, where the language felt awkward in their mouths, where even the weather became their torturers. As immigrant children we’ve continuously faced each day the conflict of identification. When half of our bodies melts into this foreign air, and the other half remains crashing out of the ground with the cacophany of different. We’ve learned to accept the giggles when we realize that the word we thought was pronounced in such a manner was actually not; we’ve bowed our heads when we opened the doors to our houses and the neighbors pinched their noses at the smell of frying onions and spices and oil. We’ve taken it all and nurtured our confused souls in the darkness, trying to understand the cultural war. But we’re miracles, we’ve healed, we’ve accepted it all. The weeds we once were remained, breaking the cement and growing, blooming. We’ve learned to resist the laughter at our misspoken words, to refuse the pinched noses at our vivacious food. Resistance in maintenance. Our rebellion is our speaking our language out loud in the middle of the restaurant, our entering Walmart in our vibrant traditional clothing, our opening our lunches of rice and curries. As immigrant children we turn to our parents and promise them the culture of home in a land where home is almost forbidden.
You spend your entire life planning out your life. You will do this, then that, finally get married, then have kids, and you will work your 9-5 job and love it. It’s been in your head since day one; this is absolutely how it’s going to go. Foolish. Foolish, because at any moment the carpet can be pulled from beneath your feet, the very grounds you stand on, the grounds built with dream, can dissipate as shredded clouds and baked waters. You threw yourself onto a bed of futures, a bed of it will, it must, a bed of tomorrow, and realized not that such a bed does not exist. You crash into the ground with a broken body.
I guess I’ve realized that I can’t maintain the numerous friendships I strived to make as a younger, more naïve me. I’ve realized that in the end it’s only those select few who are on the same wavelength, the same radio station, the same page of the encyclopedia, as me who matter. It’s tiring to place myself in situations where I fold and hide and layer and disappear the parts of me that don’t fit, that don’t belong, that don’t agree. If I continue in such a manner, there no longer will be a me on this planet, I will be the one who exists in different entities in different contexts, bender to the wills, conformer to the norms. And how terrible, when I’m alone, I’ll have nothing and I’ll know not who to be.
The very body you live in is boundless in miracles. The thoughts you process, conscious, sub-conscious, intelligent, foolish, are a result of an intrinsic relationship of chemistry and polarity. And just to maintain your current state of being, the infinite number of processes your body undergoes, you are never at rest. Your heart, too, running blood miles and miles, your lungs replenishing the oxygen in it, the cells that use the oxygen to make energy, the energy that moves your muscles, your muscles in complete harmony. You are brilliant, a masterpiece, the world’s greatest mystery. I wish you could see it, every time you look in the mirror and feel yourself to be a waste of space, of life. Your body is a miracle, you are a miracle.
Hi guys, I’m freaking alive. Enjoy some instagrammies as I recuperate from having spent 3 weeks in front of textbooks in the caves of my home.
OH AND OUR TICKETS ARE FREAKING BOOKED FOR BANGLADESH, JUNE 12th. IT’S BEEN 7 YEARS, AND IT WILL BE MY FIRST RAMADAN/EID IN A MUSLIM MAJORITY COUNTRY. (But on the other hand, du’as to those who are presently protesting and dying for their religion. They’ve been treated like animals by their opposers, murdered in their beds with the lights turned off, subhanAllah.)
I finally wrote it into words and it finally makes sense to me:
We’ve spent all our lives worrying and prepping for the future, it’s insanity. The future has little connection to the present. Right now may affect the roads that are available to us tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more roads, other roads to take tomorrow. There’s always going to be something there if you’ve been given the blessing of another day of life. There will never be nothing for you as long as you are breathing, as long as you are present in this world. It’s ridiculous then, the amount of stressing we do. Our energy today should be conserved for only what we deem important to us, deem necessary to us. If it doesn’t matter to us, why should we make it matter? We waste so much of our time and energy upon things we care little for, believing that it will open doors in the future, we never seem to actually do what we wish to do, care to do, love to do. It’s simple, really: live for what you love, for what is good for you.
They told her black and white, please, within the lines, please. So she stood in front of her mirror everyday painting herself black head to toe, and chipping away her oddities to fit the frame they sent her. And every night she would come home pinched and wrinkled, the paint drying tight on her skin, and her lungs squeezed under her belt. She carefully undid it all, washed the paint off, and broke down her frame. She sat up all night and in the darkness she became her colors. But one day she came home, exhausted, numb, frozen. The frame felt comfortable, the paint just natural. She fit it finally, and she never came out of it again.
We’re losing our words slowly and slowly. Our conversations are abbreviated clips of nonsense, emoticons to represent what we can no longer express. Wrath, ecstasy, passion, fatigue. The dictionary is infinte, yet our vocabulary is microscopic. Smaller and smaller and smaller still. Economy, for goodness sake, effective communication, my gosh! And so we continue blindly, ignorantly, until we no longer have anything to say nor the words to express such mute conditions.
You’re going to be in your mid-20s when you learn that you know nothing at all, and the rest of your life will be a mad re-learning of all that you thought you knew. Can you tell me what nothing is? Is nothing something you can experience? This idea of nothing has haunted all my adolescence and I still wake up with chills in the middle of the night imagining a nothing where even I do not exist.
“It’s a subway. You stop at many stations. People get on; people get off. But in the end you keep on moving forward.”
There is only one direction in which we travel. These tracks take us to a destination we may not see from our current location, but worry not, we will reach it because we are supposed to, it is written. It may be hard to part, to leave, to split, but we must. We all have our own tracks and sometimes in a lifetime they intersect one another, but as always, we part. You to your destination, and me to mine.
This story’s a long one, but bare with me, it’s a strong one.
On Monday, my friend approached me and asked me if I could do her a favor. Her older brother’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to buy him a watch engraved with the following letters: م ز ق.
The next day, I asked her what each letter stood for. She was busy and about to go to her next class but replied, “they stand for the family members who were killed in Iraq, my father and his two brothers.” I asked her to explain, and she said it’s a long story, one to save for another time.
Today, we went to the library together and she explained the story to me.
My friend and her family all lived in Iraq. They lived in a city which was majority Shi’a, and her family comprised a portion of the minority Sunni population. In 2007, her grandmother received a knock on the door, it was a man, her husband’s long time neighbor and friend, threatening to kill her sons for their beliefs. The grandmother told her family but nobody believed her, they thought she was going crazy.
ز was first. The day after Eid al Fitr. My friend and her whole family, her mom and her siblings all went to her mom’s family’s house in another town. Her father had to leave in the morning to go for work in his shop. My friend’s brothers went with him. Around Maghrib time, my friend’s mom noticed all her brothers leaving the house, she knew something was amiss, and so she demanded to go see her husband. They returned home to realize that ز was shot twice by masked men. The men tried to kill my friend’s brothers, but they hid as the father interjected. ز was the first to be killed because he “went to the masjid daily” and was the most “religious” a midst his brothers.
ق: Then came ق. He was the younger brother, he just married a month or so before his brother’s death. Everybody told him to leave the town, it was too dangerous for him to be there. He left, but 2 days later there was a knock on the door. It was ق. He returned because he could not part with his family, his wife and the baby boy who just entered the world. It was about a week after Eid al Adha; ق went to his shop at 9 in the morning to open up, at lunch time he called his brother working nearby. He asked his brother if he could send his nephews over to watch over the shop while he went home for lunch. It was over that phone call that the gun shot was heard. His brother ran to the shop to find ق shot in the head, killed.
م: Less than a week later, 4 days maybe. He left the house to go to the masjid for Isha prayer. He was exiting the house when he was shot. م didn’t die immediately, he managed to crawl to a neighboring house. The owner found him in the garden, took his cell phone, called the hospital and the contacts on the phone. م was at the hospital for 3 days, on the 3rd day the doctors said he was recovered enough to leave the next morning. That morning they found him dead, poisoned.
Soon after all these deaths a paper was slid under the grandmother’s door, it was a list of all the family members they wished to kill, ق’s baby boy was on the top of that list. My friend, her mom, and her siblings all left the city to go to the southern part of Iraq and then to Syria. She has never returned, but her mom has. Her mom went back soon after the initial move to retrieve their belongings, she was stopped on the road and everything was set to flame, she barely escaped with her life. My friend has nothing left of her time in Iraq, she has a single photograph of her dad, ز, and nothing of her childhood.
He knew it was coming, my friend said she only ever saw her mother cry once before his death, and it was during Ramadan when ز told her that he felt he was going to die. On Eid, the day before he died, her father told her mom never to wear black, to never cry, to take care of all of them. Before he left for the shop he kissed his children goodbye, odd because he would only ever leave with, “Assalaamu Alaikum”.
And after all this, the family left in Iraq still suffers. A cousin searches for her husband’s body 2 years after he was killed and his body thrown into the ocean, and another cousin remains in prison, each month being offered for release in exchange for an increasing amount of money, money the family continues to pour out to no avail.
SubhanAllah. This is not a case of religion, this is a case of forgetting to be human.
Your parents may just be the closest people to you who you know the least of. They had lives before you, lives in which you never existed, in which you were not their top priority. Your parents experienced the pains and joys of an independent life, of personal ambitions and desires. But the moment you entered the world, the story changed its course. You became the ambition; whatever was not lived in their lives was hoped to be experienced by you. You are here with the freedom of opportunity and education, and do it, do it all, but remember your parents as you stand in your greatness. Your life is yours, but allow your parents a share, for they gave up theirs for you.
My best advice:
Do it. Get it done. It’s only as painful, as laborious, as tiring, a task as your mind lets it be. And remember: it can always, always, always be worse, and it is always, always, always a matter of perspective. Distance yourself from yourself.
We pretend to dictate our lives to the second, but really, it’s all a show. There is nothing we have control over, nothing at all. It’s frightening, but comforting, too. What comes, will come, and all we can do at this moment is prepare ourselves the best we can, leaving everything else in the hands of the Creator. Pray and run, my friend calls it; pray for what you need, and run for what you can catch.