I’ve been struggling to write a blog post for the past two weeks. I would have just posted a story I have written, but it didn’t feel right taking a break from my blog for two weeks in a row. I’ve been in quite a… not sure if I have the right word to convey how I’m feeling, so let’s just say funk… I’ve been in a weird funk lately. I find myself experiencing much more downs than ups and my usually optimistic take on life has taken a hit.
They say practice what you preach, so I haven’t spoken to anyone lately. Staying in my own secluded bubble.
Before any of you optimists begin to prepare your responses to employ your wisdom of why I should always see the beauty in life and wah wah wah… It will probably start to sound Charlie Brownish to me. I’m not depressed. I’m also not a pessimist. I’m just being realistic with what stands in front of me at the moment. I have a lot to do, a certain amount of time to do it in, and I have yet to find the best way to accomplish what needs to be done. Cryptic much? This isn’t a post directed at anyone specific. This is one of those posts where I needed to put down a bit of my jumbled thoughts out there into the world and let it be. This is how I deal with the craziness in my life. Some of you walk it off. I write it out.
The reality is that I know exactly what’s making me feel this way. I know why I haven’t been able to multitask with my to-do lists. I know what I need to do. I’m still stuck. I’m at a point in my life that a lot of you in my situation (mid-twenties, unemployed, and unattached to anyone) are experiencing. I’m in limbo.
During limbo, we may reach a few different levels of insanity and anxiety about our future. Me? I think I’m just angry… At myself. Putting aside my insomnia, many of us, like myself, get to a point where we stay up all night or wake up early in the morning unable to actually get out of bed and stare up at the ceiling thinking, “What the hell is the purpose of my life? What was the purpose of EVERYTHING I have done to get to this point in my life? Why haven’t I painted my ceiling so that I would have something interesting to look at during all the times I spend staring at it?” All very reasonable questions.
This past year has been filled with many deaths of people that I know and people related to those I know and care about. Last night I attended an azzah (gathering to express condolences to the family of a loved one who has passed away) for the mother of a friend I love very dearly for the sake of Allah swt. My friend is not only my sister in Islam, but also a role model with her humble and bright personality and strength in deen (faith). Her mother was visiting her sister in another state for Eid and passed away on Monday from a car accident. While my friend’s aunt lived, having suffered only a broken leg, her mother passed away. Hearing of this death led to a thought-provoking conversation between another dear friend and I.
Nothing is certain except for death. Allah swt tells us in the Quran that everyone will taste death. This is the reality for all of us. Death is inevitable.
“Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.”
Quran, Surat Ali Imran, 3:185
If this is the case, if as Muslims we believe that before we are even born, our destiny is written with the exact moment that God will take our soul back to Him; if the afterlife and Janaat (heaven) is our true destination, then why live? Why put so much effort into our lives? What is the purpose?
As Muslims, we forget that our purpose in life is to serve Allah swt. We forget that this life is just the road, journey, to the most beautiful destination. We forget that even if this is the case, Allah swt asks of us to balance our faith with the pleasures of this life. We must continue to gain education, love for his sake, and enjoy this life in the best of ways.
I live by these words and hold it as my motto to life:
“Live in this world as if you were going to live forever; prepare for the next world (Hereafter) as if you were going to die tomorrow.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
Even if you are not Muslim, regardless of what you believe in, you know that not only will you not be able to escape death, but that our time in this life is limited. We must make the best use of our time. We must live it to the fullest with the awareness that it can be taken away from us at any moment.
We can’t stop living.
“Life is rich as we fill it with the things beautiful to remember.”
Life is challenging, but also filled with love, beauty, and adventure. One of the greatest blessings that Allah swt has given us is the ability to forget and move on. In Islam, when a death occurs, even if it may be a loved one – a parent, child, significant other – we must grieve, show emotion, shed tears and remember the beauty they brought to our world, but we must not get caught up in a cycle of despair. We must not inflict self harm. We continue living. Grieve for those first three days. Lock yourself away and allow yourself to pray and reflect on life and death. In the end, we must move on. We carry our loved ones in our heart always, but we must live our life to the fullest and make dua’ (supplication) and pray that God will join us with our loved ones once again in heaven.
When my friend put that question out there: what am I doing with my life? I pondered the same question. All those years of exhaustion and overwhelming all-nighters – were those straight A’s from first grade through high school necessary? Was it a waste of my time to get involved with all those clubs and student government in high school? All those AP courses, were they worth it? What made me think that spending my days hauled up in the basement of Geisel library at UCSD with nothing but my studies and crushing stress would amount to anything? Why was I so invested in the MSA and SJP at UCSD and what on Earth compelled me to take on board positions in the organizations that stole every free moment of my time and not to mention affected my GPA? Were all those silent tears and stress induced three months of the flu and bronchitis over school during my last year at UCSD needed? The sleepless nights at UCSD and AULA, where did they get me?
The reality is, that’s life. Life is about the hardships and challenges that strengthen our determination and aim to accomplish our greatest adventures… Right?
Now, I sit here gulping down my iced coffee with a monstrous loan to pay off from graduate school looming over my head, the fear of forever being unemployed and my novels never being published, and being stuck in the same city I was born and raised in. All those dreams and goals of traveling the world with my DSLR, paper, and a pen, can I still believe in it? My biggest fear of all: will I ever reach the point of being able give back to my parents at least a sliver of everything they have done for me? All this passion and effort, will I taste its honey before I die? I million more fears and questions spiraled out of control in my head.
I look back and realize that I regret nothing that brought me to where I am today. Everything happens for a reason. Living in the worries of our past will never do you any good.
"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I answered her bluntly and confidently with the first answer that came to mind (this is directly from the online chat we had):
Allahu A3lam (only God knows) what may happen but I know I need to make the best use of my time now for the sake of Allah swt because I don't know when He will ask my soul to return to Him.
I focus on my family, my writing, finding a job to be there for my family and to work for the sake of Allah swt; those are my priorities long before planning my life with aspects that society believes will provide happiness but may not happen... like marriage that keeps being shoved in my face.
Life is too short to expect happiness to come later and sit there waiting for it to appear.
Life is short, but each one of us is given the exact amount of time needed to fulfill our purpose. I know it’s hard to believe, but I must have faith. Not just tawakul (trust) in Allah’s plan for me, but faith in my ambitions and all aspects that make my life so wonderful.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
I had the beautiful pleasure of spending time with my mama and sister over brunch on Tuesday. While I would like to describe to you the delicious place we tried out that infused chocolate into every single menu item – yes, every single item had chocolate, vanilla bean, or caramel – I’ll spare you the details for another time. (San Diegans, check out Eclipse Chocolate! Trust this coming from a person who doesn’t care for chocolate.)
I’m not sure what we were discussing before I expressed to my mom that life is short. I can’t live by what society tells me my life should look like. With all that this world has to offer, how can I assume that life is to be lived and experienced in only one way. No one can determine my happiness for me. No one has the right to tell me or coerce me to assume that’s if I don’t carry a certain money-filled carrier, marry at a certain age to a specific type of man, and have a family that this will complete my happiness.
I put out there what may be the scariest words a parent wants to hear, or maybe anyone for that matter: what if God hasn’t written for me to live comfortably, marry and have children? What if I’m meant to live my life seeking knowledge and adventure? What if all I have to look forward to is the fruit of my writing being given to the world? What if I’m meant to bring entertaining education through my writing to present Islam and Muslims in the beautiful light that it deserves? Should I then assume that I will never find my happiness? NO! That is my happiness. My happiness is whatever I want it to be. I don’t know what Allah swt has written for me. I don’t know what awaits me in the future or how long I have to live, but I know that I must live in the now.
What I also know is that I will never settle for less than what I deserve. This is something that I promised myself as a child and it is a promise that will go unbroken.
“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.”
Unlike literature, we write our own stories. We are responsible for our own happiness and finding the life that survives the harsh winter conditions.
I believe that my purpose in life is to serve Allah swt. This is what makes me happy. I serve Him in more than just through remembrance, prayer, dua’, reading the Quran, and being the best Muslim through my speech and actions. I serve Him in my hunger for devouring knowledge and passion for finding peace in my writing. I serve Him in finding the beauty He has blessed in this life and this world. Beauty is not one for all; it is not black and white. We all know by now that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Those of you who know me well, already know that when I am at my lowest point, I find myself at the ocean. That is beauty. I can stare at the expanse of Allah’s blessing for hours. I find it incredible that so much life exists in the water, life that is continuously being discovered by humans. Still, there is so much that exists in the unknown. We are but a speck in this vast universe. We must live and learn.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
When we find ourselves being pulled one way or another, threatening to drown, we learn to pull ourselves out of the water and breathe.
Find your own space to think, breathe, and continue living – even if it's climbing to the top of the highest mountain and screaming until your lungs are dry. Perhaps it’s spending time in your kitchen cooking a delectable meal for your family. It may simply be to wrap yourself in a fuzzy, warm blanket with a hot drink and music or a book to enjoy. Let out all that energy. Let out all your fears. Remember your blessings. Find your purpose in life, what makes you smile. Live.
For all of you out there who are sharing the twenty-fifth year of their life with me, or are experiencing their mid-twenties:
"You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling unsure and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time."
To end my stream of thoughts, I am reminded of the words written by a brother in Islam I dearly respected. He passed away from a sudden and unexpected heart attack before his twenty-first birthday and a little over two months before his graduation from UCSD last March.
“"For some of us the flames of hope are merely candles; small dots of light in what appears to be an eternally dark night, and yet everyday my candle will flicker, and the voices of my mind will again begin to bicker. But the voice of the divine light will shine through:
'Look up to the sky... Just look up to the sky...'
And so I look up to the sky, and even though I can't see the sun...
I know its there."
May you live your life to the fullest and find a purpose and happiness in this world.