It seems sort of apropos to write about my experience of being a woman and coming into my own as a person in the last few years on this International Women’s day. I left the country I called home for 20+ years to pursue a future that was barely tangible at the time. All I knew was that I wanted more for myself- from myself. Someone much wiser than me once told me it’s better to run towards something than to run away from something and those words still echo inside me every time I find myself at a mental crossroads.
I left my friends, family and everything with the innate comfort of being “known” to me, to emancipate myself. My greatest achievement as a woman, to this day, is that no tells me what to do, what to wear, what to eat and what I can accomplish in life.There is no one to delimit me. I have learned to lean on no one for “safety”, “protection” from the evils of the world or any facet of my well-being.
Growing up, in every religious study class, we were told that the greatest war one wages is with thyself- the “nafs”. As with many didactic lessons in life, the idea has been part of my subconscious for years without much use until I truly understood what it means for me. The constant battle many of us wage is not against temptations trying to lure us to purgatory, but with inner demons that have spawned from years of suppression and degradation of self-worth.
Libration to me probably means something very different from what it means to others or even other women who have had similar childhoods under the canopy of similar cultures. I took a huge leap of faith in myself to build a new life in a strange place surrounded by new people albeit with the constant loving support of my family without which all of this would’ve just been a pipe dream.
Over the course of this time I’ve learned a lot about being independent (paying bills, building a credit score, figuring out how to light a oven pilot light, navigating public transportation etc. ) but more important than all those little everyday struggles was learning to love and value myself. It was embracing the fact that my mistakes are my own, my life is my own and if I chart my own journey I will never regret it. A big part of this was ridding myself of the nearest and dearest toxic people in my life. When strangers criticize and judge you, it’s still easier to brush it off and hold your head up high as you walk away. When it’s people who share the same blood as that coursing through your veins, that painful barb is a slow burn that constantly eats away at you. You have to constantly remind yourself that you are okay, that you know better than to let it get to you, that their ignorance still comes from a place of love but it’s just as hard everytime.
Most religions find their foothold not in love but on a foundation guilt and fear. The society I grew up a part of you postulated the same in the name of religion. A place where somehow beating up your wife/sister/daughter is less frowned upon than a women baring her arms in public or a subtle hint of décolletage. The clerics expound heavily upon how you would go to hell for imbibing, eating haram and not covering your head but less so about how God is probably more interested in how well you treat your fellow human beings, how maybe real virtue is defined by respecting and venerating humanity then the length of your skirt or beard. Somewhere over the centuries we seem to have mixed up our priorities a bit.
I believe that I am more than just an object that needs to be protected from the world and sheltered from vices. I believe that I am destined to be more than a good daughter, wife or sister. I believed in myself even before I found a way out of my cultural and personal shackles. I believe that my personal unique identity is more valuable than my role in relation to any man. I will continue to fight against the currents that still try to pull me back even from thousands of miles away. I will continue to look past judgement of others who don’t know me or my journey. That’s my commitment to myself and to every other woman out there.
If you are out there fighting your own personal battles, know that there is an endless fountain of strength and perseverance inside you. You are not alone- there are millions of us out there rooting for you and girl- you got this.
I am extremely grateful to the wonderful people in my life who I get to call my own. They hold me and lift me up. I am blessed and loved and that gives me a strength to keep punishing my boundaries and challenging myself to do better- to do more.
I leave you with this. Peace out ✌️