Seven years. Seven unsure years and tonight I can’t seem to fall asleep. It’s the jitter of excitement, the rattling of nerves and the fading voices of encouragement. Then the room fades to black. I am alone, where the shadows replay the last seven years and pundits provide commentary.
Somewhere along the night rhythm I switched off and found myself suddenly tumbling out of bed with the sunlight. The nerves were still knocking around in the pits of my stomach. My mind was still playing reruns of the last few years and my heart reminded me about the aches of old wounds. There is only one cure to this – a run.
Lap after lap, every time I choked I felt an energy surge to run a bit faster, to run with purpose – perhaps running was my way to ensure I don’t have to face this pain, which may dampen my day. When I got too tired to run, I started kickboxing. Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was my defences weakening but it crept in – the memories of the growth, escape from the shackles and the climb from my own grave. I had mistaken this remembrance for sadness, rather it was an appreciation to sweeten this momentary success. As I flipped my face to the sun and stretched I let it happen for the first time – I let happiness wash over, I let it sink deep into my roots and nourish me to into a golden state. This level of happiness was unreal and I was blessed with a mind which was determined to never forget the bottom that we came from.
For the first time everyone was ready on time to leave, no hiccups and general elation had spread amongst the family. Individuals of the household all with their own agenda and purpose for this memory being created.
Parents tend to know, in extensive detail, about the places where we spend most of our time. Unlike school there is no parents evening for them to appreciate the journey. For years they must have imagined what it looked like, with the tales of my university days to assist them. My parents never had the opportunity to obtain an education. So I felt honoured to invite them to the place that quenched my thirst for knowledge and made me cry and smile simultaneously.
Both of them were excited to meet the lecturers, for them University was a dream. They say we tend to push the accomplishment of our failed dreams and desires through to our children. I know I completed one of my life goals, but my parents waited a whole generation to see their dreams become accomplished. I remember Dad being excited to meet the lecturers but became star struck when he met them, unable to say anything for fear of sounding uneducated. In this society they felt alien, not quite right for the surrounding people. But they were far from it. I was only able to cross that stage with their support; from my father teaching me long division to my mother teaching me the alphabet. They gave me the building blocks, drive and sustenance to finish this degree. It was the endless duas, pep talks and manner lessons, which elevated me to become an independent woman ready to take on anything. I was honoured to have two people whose first language was not English present at my graduation; so they could experience how proud I was of them, for bringing me into the world and creating the circumstances for me to experience this spectrum of emotions and moments. Despite everything they took this rebel child and tamed her to see beyond the clouds and have hope always.
As I walked across the stage I felt it showering on me, the memories, the moments, the faces, the tears and hand holding but here I walked alone. Alone? People are only supports, they are merely the tide but you are the one who swims across the sea. Only you can muster the energy to make it to the other side. So there I was crossing the stage and I smiled and told myself for the first time, ‘I am proud to be you’. For years I crawled in my own skin wishing I didn’t exist, hating everything I was physically, mentally and intellectually. I guess I achieved another goal, I found and learnt to start loving myself. It is funny these are things most people do instinctively but I had spent the last 2 years training myself.
Both my brothers made my heart full with the joy they expressed, it made me feel important. My achievements had become their inspiration to achieve their aspirations against the beating winds. They were the ones who came into my darkness with a hand and courage to push me to continue when I wanted to quit.
Only Allah knows the divine plan behind why certain people are placed strategically into our lives. As I exited the Rose theatre, where the ceremony took place, I saw her standing outside with her confused broad smile and a colourful bunch of flowers. The emotions ran up to my face as I embraced her. In that moment, the bustle of the people slowed down as I recalled when this girl held my hand in the prayer room, looked me in the eyes and told me ‘You are stronger than this, don’t give in. You will graduate, I believe that you will.’ She was there on countless days wiping my tears, answering my 12am texts when I had given up life and the one who pulled me back to reality. She was instrumental in my recovery and was one of the three people who saved me from the unthinkable. I introduced her to my mum who cried as she hugged her and thanked her for helping me out of my personal hell in this dunya. We both looked at each other, the look alone was enough to cover what words could not and then she departed.
The sun was setting creating the golden hour, my highlight was shimmering but there was another light emanating from within me and had become infectious. My family took our last photos as the day came to an end, concluding with my father taking his once in alifetime selfie with me. I stared at this photo and didn’t see a damaged relationship between father and daughter, but just pure blinding love. Life is more than just chasing happiness, it’s finding purpose in all the little moments, it’s pooling all the events like ingredients to create a lasting memory full of gratitude and appreciation.
Drifting melancholy clouds,