I am in this funny phase of life where time moves quickly and so do I with it. The amount of growth that takes place in even a week astounds me sometimes. I don’t know if I were to meet the woman I was even six months ago if she would be able to recognize me at all. At night, when the building is quiet and the big window in my room has gone dark I sometimes sit and try to count the ways I have disappointed, surprised, and honored myself in that very day alone. I often lose count. Or fall asleep trying.
I once heard someone say that you don’t fully come into yourself until you hit thirty. That your twenties are all about trial and error, about taking a girl and racing her to the threshold of womanhood. The way you stand, the way you write, the way you are able to sit in silence with yourself for a week all tumble into place one after another, shed themselves, mold themselves, soften over time.
And that’s the thing about me-ness. It’s weird. You go through life trying to find a place to fit in until you realize, by your own awakening or by the nudging of a parent (love you baba), that you truly can’t find any place that will hold a mirror to your own self in the ways you wish. You are unique, in your own code of DNA, in the string of life experiences that have led you to this moment, in your ancestors, in your trials and suffering, in the blessings you have been gifted and the times they arrived at the doorstep of your heart, in the names of the people you love and have loved and who love you, in the passages of ground your feet have crossed, in the rhythms of laughter your ears have been attuned to throughout your years, in the ways you have prayed and have failed to, in the ways you have believed or tried to, in the ways you have thought about the sky and your favorite food and death for the very first time. No one else has that exact combination of wonders that makes up your wholeness and consciousness and memory. No one else but you. This time and this place, in this city and this house, having ridden the bike you did or didn’t, having learned the things you did or didn’t, having bloomed in all the ways you hoped and never expected.
I have often found it to be easy to get frustrated and deeply bruised by my own mistakes. Life moves fast but somehow not fast enough. Sometimes too fast, and I arrive at a milestone with half the courage and character needed to make it to the next. But I am trying to teach myself to treat life like a friend. To be kind to her, to hold her gently, to tell her that she is strong and worthy of love, to sit beside her through the muddied terrain that she has been presented with, because that’s how relationships blossom, that’s how love manifests, that’s what cherishing the people in your heart means. Celebrating, witnessing, and appreciating all the big phases and the little ones.
There is a phrase used often in common parlance, “hindsight 20/20”. In my own short life, it has proven itself to be made of striking truth. There are moments when in them, feel like they will never end, feel like the pain is too much, feel like they have broken you beyond repair. But eventually, once you make it past, years later, you look back and realize it simply couldn’t have been any other way. That each piece was laid perfectly, with no mistakes. That they each led to the fullness of your story, that they each played a part in crafting you.
I am so many things and one at the same time. I am me, she is the daughter of a Sudanese immigrant but also the daughter of a powerful African American woman who can name the name of the first slave brought to this country from her paternal line. She is the child of a man who taught classes on Islamic studies since the age of thirteen but is also the daughter of a woman who found and fell in love with Islam in graduate school. She is Muslim but loves her Catholic grandparents. She is the eldest of her sisters but the youngest of her friends. She is able to be silent for days, be alone in a huge city, wait by the river for an hour, weep at the sight of it all, but still call home, home. She loves biryani almost as much as she loves gumbo, knows all the aunties in the masjid faces but not enough of their names. She reads Kant and Kwame Ture in the same day, nuzzles her notebook with musings on philosophy and black identity, decorates her to-do list with expectations that are too high and a long list of deadlines that she never seems to meet. She speaks English and loves in Arabic. Cries watching Little Women every, single time. She loves her community and wants better for them and doesn’t know if she has enough room in her plans to hand over enough of herself for its healing.
That makes me complicated and oddly shaped, cut strangely around the edges and quilted in a shocking pattern. So people meet me and want me to match them. Want to fit me into a tight space or a perfect right angle and I can’t, no matter how hard I try, be that without giving up so much of myself I lose my own name. Sometimes I want to be loved so desperately I am ready to place the parts of me that are mine on the auction block just to be, to say “I belong here” or “this is people just like me in every way who understand the crevices of my heart without explanation”. But I would sell myself to an illusion, to a mirage that is unable to be attained.
And so, of course, no person out there will get you, like you get you. And only Allah knows you better than yourself.
So that the next step in the journey I guess. Holding onto to everything I have been blessed with, bracing the hardships I have been blessed with, nameing and numbering all of the scars I have been blessed with, and learning that The Only One I am here to please, whose expectations I need to meet, who’s definitions of beauty and authenticity, or righteousness and brilliance, of Sudanese-ness and American-ness, is God alone.
To Him we belong and to Him we return.
And as most hard and weighty things are, it is all, always, painfully and solemnly, much easier said than done.