I would like you to know that I care, deeply, about my family, my friends, our environment, our health, our knowledge, and how all these go hand in hand. All the goals I set out for myself, since I was a child, have to do with this interconnectedness. At one point I wanted to be a radio-host, because I liked how they could talk to and with people, communicating important facts and sharing ideas. As I got older I wanted to become a lawyer, because I saw lots of injustice, and I wanted to be a part of the solution. As I realized that there were deeper, more significant ways to reach people, without having to meet them in court, or over the radio waves, I became interested in the arts: painting, drawing, music, theatre, literature. After I had kids I began to recognize the impact that teachers and the educational system have on school children, and I sought out ways to include freer ways of learning, deeper ways of communicating difficult messages, a variety of ways to explore our curiosities and surroundings. As my kids grow older, and become exposed to more serious subjects, I look for more innovative ways to show a variety of perspectives, so they can see that there are many ways to approach problems, and they can search for the best solution for themselves at any particular juncture. I imagine that when I get older still, God willing, I will reach out to yet another source of wisdom and means of addressing the specific issues that I, or my loved ones might be facing at that time. One can never remain stagnant, I for one, never tire of learning more, understanding more, and as I do, I tend to want to share this new found way of experiencing the world with people I care about.
I learned that nobody is perfect. I always was a bit of a perfectionist, a bit obsessive about aiming for perfection in myself and others. I guess you could have called me a bit of an idealist. After a lot of disappointments, it eventually hit me that I was being unfair, to myself and to those I sought perfection from. I became aware of the fact that the journey to being your very best is constant, and that satisfaction can be found in acknowledging that you didn’t give up, and that you were kind in the process. Being strong isn’t achieving your goals, it isn’t depriving yourself of satisfaction until you’ve obtained the unobtainable, it’s in the honest recognition that you have genuinely done your best, and that you didn’t harm anyone on the journey. If you reach your goals, but had to push and shove, humiliate, degrade, or otherwise harm others to get there, what are those goals really worth? On the other hand, what’s the point of pleasing everyone around you when it means you are denying your own self-worth and potential? So doing your best and doing it conscientiously go hand in hand.
What surprised me most in life is how much I can love. I never knew I could love so unconditionally and fully. This kind of love overshadows everything. I guess it follows, then, that probably what surprised me just as much, is that when you love this much you can loose yourself, and that’s something you need to balance, in order to live a contented life.
My favorite chapter of the Qur’an is Al Asr (103)
[By time (wal asr), indeed mankind is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous deeds and advise one another to truth (haqq) and advise one another to patience (sabr)], it’s a constant reminder to believe in humanity’s inherent goodness, to persevere in doing good, advising well (so thinking deeply about problems and seeking out the best solutions with pure intention and purpose), and to be patient, because with all hardship comes ease. Haqq (truth, honesty, due right, sincerity) and Sabr (patience in adversity and in good times: don’t abuse of your wealth and well-being, and be kind to yourself and others in times of adversity) are my constant reminders, through Asr (time). So to prevent myself from getting lost, or to find my way when I’m disoriented, I remind myself of this. It’s like a compass, or a glimmer of light, if you will, in dark times. We all have a purpose here, and if mine had been fulfilled, then I wouldn’t be here any longer, if I’m still here, it means I must continue to seek and persevere.
Friendship to me is an alliance, a pact forged by mutual respect and a desire to see each other succeed in whatever we set ourselves out to achieve. I look for honesty in people, sincerity, and openness. I don’t like mind games, I don’t like pettiness, I don’t like competitiveness. I’m not looking for a rival in a friend, but an ally. In order to help each other succeed, we must understand each other deeply, and the only way to do this is by being truthful, even when it hurts.
I remember three opinions, rather than pieces of advice, that constantly run around in my mind, and I can remember who gave them to me, where, when, and why. I won’t tell you the details, but perhaps I’ll share with you the spirit behind them. The first was not to do anything that I fear I might have to apologize for in the future, the second was to be honest with myself and not try to run away from my demons, and the third was not to fear making mistakes. If you combine them, I think you basically get the message of purity of intent, and faith in the bigger picture. I can’t say I followed this advice to the letter, but I do keep them in mind all the time.
The most defining moments in my life so far are six, in chronological order: becoming Muslim, pursuing graduate studies, having kids, moving to Libya, my father’s passing, and the Arab Spring. The first three opened up my horizons, and helped me to exercise deep analysis and thorough understanding, exercise patience, commitment, dedication and perseverance. The last three sort of put the brakes on my imagination, they made me realize the dangers of living only in theoretical applications to problems, they forced me to become incredibly flexible and less naïve about human potential. Living in your head, and thinking of all the possibilities is amazing, but living in a place where those ideals are made to bear on daily life, it really makes you reevaluate a lot. I guess these are what balance my perspective: pushing for an ideal that takes humankind’s limitations into account, and taking pride in your own abilities. I guess it feels sort of like when architects build houses in earthquake prone areas; you have to allow for a lot of leeway in order to maintain the integrity of the structure, and in so doing, you save lives. I gotta say, though, that having kids really puts everything into perspective and helps me keep priorities straight. I could not imagine life without them, I always knew I wanted kids, but boy am I glad I had my fabulous four: they are my pride and joy!
My spice for life is to keep a clear heart, in the sense that you don’t assume the worst, you allow yourself to play and cherish the small things, and you honor your place on this earth. My kids help me with this too! Aren’t they busy!?!
I hope that those who know me remember that I care, simply, but genuinely care.