I wanted to begin my review of this year with a quote that I loved so much when I was younger. It was a quote about how the tiniest, most momentous decisions are usually the ones that have the most impact on our lives. This quote was supposed to show the biggest lesson I learnt this year, which was that being present and being conscious of every decision we make is important; but I couldn’t remember it. This quote from a book I loved so much, chanted almost everyday and doodled on every surface like a prayer was nowhere to be found in my memory. I tried and tried to remember but I failed and I searched for it everywhere but that too, proved futile. My failure to remember this quote showed me instead that the biggest truth and lesson that I’ve learnt this year is that I have to a certain extent, somewhere in the throes of life, lost myself.
I’ve been in pursuit of my degree for a while. It’s one of those degrees that takes longer than others and comes laden with expectations from yourself, your family, friends and community. They confer on you the title even before you’ve earned it, and constantly remind you about how you’re meant to make everyone proud. They tell you how you’ve chosen this path in service of God and humanity and you smile, nod and say some words in agreement knowing deep down you only chose it because it was a challenge and you needed to prove yourself wrong, but you’ve been over it for a while now and you’re really just going through the motions till you get it over with. How long do you tell a lie before it begins to haunt you?
In my pursuit of academic validation, I slowly walked into the trap of tunnel vision. The deeper I walked into this tunnel – led on by the ropes of all that is expected of me rather than what I expect of myself – the more I let go of the other things that made me, me. And now as the end approaches, I can’t recognize myself. I feel like I’m neither here nor there. Just a leaf floating in the wind. I let go of all my dreams to pursue just one and now I can’t remember what my other dreams looked like, what my ambitions were, or what my hopes were. I’m finding it hard to create new ones as well. How can I become the best version of myself if I can’t even remember who I was, and I don’t know who I am? I feel more confused and directionless than ever because as a person who thrives on dreams, not having a hold on my dreams is akin to hopelessness.
This year I’ve also had to confront fear. I can’t say it has been a good or even a productive confrontation but at least, I fully acknowledge its existence. It’s something that I ignored and allowed to grow inside of me for so long until it began to heavily influence my decisions and my life. I’m determined to uproot it although I don’t know how, but I will find a way. Cowardice has no place in my life.
This year hasn’t been all hopeless however. I still have the best gift which has been given to me in recent times, love. Not just in the romantic manner but also in the form of friendship and family. It has been as beautiful as it has been challenging, not only in itself but in the way it has made me vulnerable and thus opened me up to a wider range of emotions than I knew existed. I’d always considered myself to be a highly emotionally intelligent person, but all these new emotions that I barely acknowledged or felt before challenged that notion. And I’ve come to learn that the ability to properly feel the highest-highs will also come with the ability to feel the lowest-lows, and it is okay to feel the lows. Pain no matter how deep is really just as temporary as joy is, and those are the burdens and the reliefs of being human.
I’m also learning mindfulness, and being conscious of every single act, from picking my clothes to drinking water. I believe passiveness is the reason many bad habits form and we don’t realise until they’re permanent fixtures. As a Muslim, I’ve come to understand that passivity is the antithesis of my beliefs, that’s why we are asked to pray five times a day. To pray before we eat, or drink, or walk into the bathroom or all the other practices that used to seem unnecessary. Now I understand that they are rooted in mindfulness. In practicing mindfulness, I seek to be a better Muslim. Praying five times a day is the most essential step of that mindfulness for me and it’s the part of my faith that I’ve struggled with the most, but I hope to be more consistent and less afraid of the struggle.
I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic about the year to come, because as I grow older I’m forced to come to terms with certain painful truths and realities about myself and the world in general that I’ve been sheltered from. But more than ever I believe that I need to hold on to my principles as a person and although I may not have an exact hold on what those are yet, I am determined to fight fear at every turn and I will continue to hold on tightly to the good that I do. I may also be going into the new year with more questions than answers and more fears than dreams but what I know is that if it all burns down to the ground, I will not despair. And I will do the work it requires to build it all up again. And as they say in Iceland, “Þetta reddast (it will all work out okay)”
Through this all, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for my mother and my grandmother and all the women that came before me. I am thankful for my sisters by blood, or soul, or both and all the other women that are with me. I am thankful for friendship and enduring love. I am thankful for provision and for good health. I am thankful for my ability and willingness to question, and to learn and unlearn. I am thankful for the talents that still endure and hang on even after years of disregard and neglect. I am thankful for the challenges that came before and the ones that lie ahead. I am thankful for yoga and tea. I am thankful for art, that reminder that we are not alone. I am thankful for science, that reminder that although we are nothing in the grand scheme of things, we are still special. And I am thankful for my faith that always comes back to me and lights the way, even when I go astray.
Reading this was like looking into a clear lake and not seeing the bottom. Isn’t it ironic that the clearer life is, the more you realize you don’t know the dimensions of it? Suzie, we are glad to join you on your walk this year. We pray your path grows brighter with each step you take.
Thank you very much for this and happy new 2019 in advance.