Thought of the day

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. When I was two years old I moved to Jeddah, SA, I came back to Brooklyn by myself to live with family for almost two years when I was 8 years old due to needing to have a surgery. When I moved back home to my parents in Jeddah, about a year later I was waving my father goodbye at the airport as my mother, sister and me found ourselves living on our own in a Brooklyn apartment embarking on a new chapter. To this day I wonder how my mother felt as we boarded a one way ticket back to the States. How scared she must have been and how brave she’s always been. I always struggled with my identity, who I was, who I am and who I wanted to be. I found solace in writing. When my parents were fighting, I was writing. When I was in pain after every surgery, there I was with a pen and paper trying to write off all the pain. When society was telling me who I should be, I was writing about who I wanted to be. Writing has always been an escape for me. As strong as my mother always was, as much as she would try to hide her weakness I would always catch her hiding in despair. I always used to check on her secretly, I always and still felt the need to protect her but I didn’t know how to handle anything so I would write about our lives. I wanted to be strong like my mother yet I still didn’t want to be weak like her, at that time being weak to me meant being sad and alone. I saw my aunts with their husbands and my friends with their married parents and I saw my mother have no one beside her. I only held on to the image of my strong courageous mother. My mother was now a single mother struggling to make ends meet, had her degree to kick off a career and the weight of the world on her shoulders as we started a new life together. Just us three. It is very seldom for an Arabic woman to divorce her husband and be a single mother of two daughters.I always battled with what the perception of an Arabic woman should be and my reality. I always felt as though my sister and me were looked down upon. We were the only two girls in the family and around me who didn’t have a father in our lives. I saw my uncles with their daughters, girls talk about their fathers while mine was missing – an irreplaceable force and influence was absent in my life. I watched other kids enjoy the embrace of theirs, and I searched for a way to reconcile the meaning of my circumstance.  It was hard to explain, my father lived in another country, we were living here. I was ashamed of the fact that I had even lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and where my father was, so in my mind my past and my father no longer existed. I was ashamed of my circumstance and ashamed of my culture. I was very angry inside and tried very hard to be anyone but me as I tried to look for myself through all the girls around me. I cringed at the fact my grandmother wore a veil, I never wanted to be seen around her and hated how she used to force us to pray. Where is Allah I would always wonder, he isn’t answering any of my prayers. I resented the fact my friends were always out with boys, going to parties with so many stories to tell and I was sheltered or had nurses tend to me at home.I didn’t understand why my religion was filled with so many restrictions and others had no limits. I resented how these girls had their fathers to fear when I just had my mother to answer to. I resented the fact I was Muslim, especially after 9/11. I struggled with my body and how a Muslim girl should look like. I don’t need to be covered from head to toe to represent my morals. When so many girls would dream of getting married and getting out of their house, I was determined to have a college degree and be like my mother yet in many ways not end up like my mother. I looked up to her resilience and I didn’t want to know anything else nor did I want marriage to end up divorced like her. I saw her sacrifices and I saw firsthand the importance of a degree, having your own career and not make a man your everything like so many women do. Especially the stay at home moms and I was always proud of the fact that was never a role my mother played. Even when my parents were married my mother always worked, I get my strong work ethic from her and to this day I have never seen her break apart. She’s instilled so much in me, being powerful and not allowing anyone power over you. I am hellbent on my independence, where in many ways it also destroys me. My focus has been on being career driven because I don’t want to be reminded how I failed as a woman if I end up an unmarried  Arabic woman at a certain age. To this day, I still find myself struggling with the traditional Arabic girl versus the American Muslim girl. So many expectations from us, if we dress a certain way, if we have a few cocktails we aren’t good Muslims and so forth. We are supposed to be at home cleaning and learning how to cook, you are trained to be a wife at an early age but that was never and will never be, I always felt my aspirations were to big to be that typical Arabic girl. I lived a nontraditional life and still have such strong values believing in certain traditions. Not following the rules, doesn’t make me any less of a Muslim or any less of an Arabic woman. I even found myself trying to prove to everyone I am holy and I am a good girl. I even started to have a holier than though attitude because of how pure and good I was when I saw all these girls making the wrong choices and disrespecting themselves and religions – whether they had a cross around their neck or a veil covering their heads. It’s because of how our world teaches us to be, in the Arabic culture life is planned for you, you get married when you are young and if you don’t then something is wrong with you. Truthfully, I chose to see all the things right with me instead and proud of the woman my mother is and the women she raised. I am the American Muslim girl who was raised by a single strong mother, who moved out to another state to finish college, feeling lost hoping to find herself at just 22 years old. The best thing my mother did for me was allow me my freedom. The American dream versus the Arabic culture – here I am making both worlds collide. I never felt I belonged in Brooklyn; religion and Arabs with their prying eyes and one-sided minds were all over. I am still trying to accept myself in a world filled with judgments and expectations. Only through writing is when I find myself, only through growth is when I learn to be content with what I am to be at peace with who I am.

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