Seven unsure years

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,

Shahe

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University Reflections: First Day

A young impressionable teenager entered university looking for success, with only a backpack filled with experiences from a small corner of London, Newham. I remember the day, the first day. My father and myself planned our route to another part of the UK using TfL journey planner, (which I later found was not the best resource for quickest routes). A mind can be very narrow if you’ve never left the M25. Having spent the last 18 years wrapped in cotton wool, my parents weren’t ready to let me walk alone to unknown territory. I still remember the milestone of walking to sixth form alone.

We took the train to Waterloo; father and daughter. His hands fumbled over one another with angst, whilst her feet tapped with excitement. At that time I didn’t know what waited ahead and had I known, the excitement would’ve faded, the worry would have set and it is possible, I would’ve turned back to the comfort of my home.

At Waterloo, we booked my ticket to Kingston on the southwest train. The butterflies started to flutter once I held the paper ticket. Somehow (I believe through emotional blackmail) I persuaded my parents to let me do the journey to Kingston by myself, but to compromise my father agreed only if he drops me half way. Hence there we were at Waterloo. He pressed my shoulder as his voice quivered, “My child, may you arrive there in good health. Call us once you get there, your mum will worry.” Now my father, you should know two things:

  1. He does not show public displays of affection – he believes fathers are an authoritative figure and to show affection would be improper. This is most likely due to example set by my grandfather, a navy command general.
  2. If he wants to express any direct love, he redirects it through my mother. So let’s read that again: My dad pressed my shoulder as his voice quivered, “My child, may you arrive there in good health. Call us once you get there, your mum will worry.” There is a handful of times a parent will be close to tears, each of these moments are one tin which the child etches closer to adulthood and further away from dependency on parents. This moment in time, we shared amongst the bustle of one of the busiest train stations in London, would not be recreated until the day I get married. A father who repressed his emotions and negates any form of affection, broke his shield and gave me a glimpse. Little did I know this was the beginning of many more to come.

I remember checking the platform several times on the overhead screens. So many places, who knew England had so many destinations. I looked for Strawberry Hill. Read the list, saw Kingston and walked timidly to the platform. Father as protective as ever wanted to follow through the gates and in true Bollywood style wave goodbye at the platform. Alas he was not allowed and for the first time of many, I boarded alone to a foreign destination.

The train ride was long, I was use to the pace of tube lines, to the underground life and city metropolis. But here I was going southwest leaving the city and into greenery more than what I had seen in a lifetime. I was a tourist in my own country. Amazed by this new side of England. Although, I had been soothed by the general rocking of the train, the palpitations returned as the train announced the next stop was Kingston. The butterflies were jumping, fluttering frantically as if they had been prisoners for too long.

The bus stops outside Kingston Station were badly sign posted. It was difficult to work out what stop to wait at when there was over 8 stops located in one pathway. I asked a guy in a high vis, his response, “Go look at the board love.” But I had looked, yet I remained… . I convinced myself to jump on the next bus no matter what it was. Luckily it was the 281, I walked quickly to the stop. Loads of people were getting on to the bus, so it must have been the right one. I confirmed with the bus driver and he told me how many stops to count. At each stop the passengers getting off would say ‘Thank You’ and when getting on to the bus would greet the driver and wish him well. This was a foreign concept for an East Londoner but it became a quickly adopted habit.

I arrived at the University and had trouble locating the entrance. It seem to blend in with the mix of modern historic buildings, but the bold blue sign gave it a way. I followed the buzz of people and bumped into a girl I recognised from a programme I did in college, she had applied for the same course. We nervously laughed and giggled and both pretended we knew what we were doing. In reality I was trying to consume this step I had taken, and by clinging onto this other person I thought no one would realise I was very much lost and confused.

Induction involved a ugly head shot, which resulted in my head looking like cross between a pumpkin and a potato. I am not exaggerating, when I first presented my ID for student discount the guy verbally agreed and launched into laughter. This photo haunted me throughout my whole seven years at university. We received our timetable and the heart murmur began, as if it was dancing off beat to a new song. I was about to begin a journey of a chapter I thought was written, but evidently it just started on the day I entered university with the remaining innocence of childhood and the optimistic start of adulthood. The prose of my university time was unique to all other life chapters. It called upon past and future events to influence my persona. It rewrote the soul, relinquished demons and redefined my values and core goals. No longer one to chase happiness, wealth and love. Now I ride a wave with long term sustainability: balance, health and kindness.

 

First day tips:

  1. Make sure you got your face looking good for your ID photo, the photo is taken so quickly so know your angles. When in doubt give your best grin. Don’t wear a coloured or pattern scarf unless it’s a neutral colour like beige.
  2. Use Citymapper app to navigate to your new destinations, don’t trust TfL.
  3. Don’t worry about making friends, no one knows anyone. It’s a blank page and a huge establishment you will find your niche of people.
  4. Be prepared to fake the confidence and approach people.

Return is Imminent

Alhamdulilah. One year, your life can be cast into the abyss. Actively seeking the light; an escape from the torment. Running away from oneself. Trapped by the demons, which inhabit your soul; created and fed with our very own hands.

It is not your fault, the circumstances gave the demons life. The moments when life failed you, the world failed you. The only mistake you made was not standing up. Allowing the whispers to take you. The real wins are the failures. There are lessons only found once the dust has cleared. They reveal a rarity of something magnificent. An uncovering of your true soul. One not conditioned by society.

I am proud of myself. From where I’ve come, the whens, the whats and the whys. There were moments, when my mere existence in this very moment of time was questionable and not plausible. I take pride in my journey. Some may not understand it. People will judge. But the beauty is, it is MINE! What I have learnt over this year, is to not wait for the acknowledgement of others to be proud of my accomplishments. I am in no need of their approval or hand clapping. In life the only person truely in your corner is yourself. Only YOU know the depths of the difficulties YOU have over come, only YOU are aware of the strength you poured in when YOU had none. We live in a world which has conditioned us to only feel happy with ourselves at the approvals, likes, retweets, envious congratulations of others. Because we are always doing it for the gram, fb and tweeting till the sunrise. But whilst our face remains glued to the screen, we miss the beauty of the world for what it is and miss the most important part – the documenting of our journey. The journey we will play back as we see a new generation of kids and we rock back and forth, thanking life and preparing for life after the dunya.

Today’s marks the end of exams; all I have to say is I’ve made it. Some know that this spec of a moment right now is euphoria in righteous tears of something which was deemed unimaginable.

Day 9 #100HappyDays

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How cute is this bottle? The size and cuteness of the bottle was not the reason behind my happiness it was the conversation that followed. My friend was telling me about her essay entitled ‘Alcohol without the hangover’. She then said this particular bottle is the alcohol without the hangover as an prominent ISOC (Islamic society) brother walked in. The brother had a beard and a thobe – he was of the serious kind.