When asked about my reasons for wearing a hijab, I answered, “It’s what good Muslim women should do.”
The questioner was quick to respond. As she voiced her opinion of my textbook answer, I immediately regretted my words. The reason for regret was that I didn’t always wear a hijab. I might be what some people would call kardus or cardboard, a negative term used to describe on-off wearers of the garment. Moreover, as my questioner pointed out, there are good Muslim women who don’t wear a hijab.
Then where was the fault? Did the reluctance to wear a hijab mean I was a bad Muslim? Or was there something inherently wrong in the statement itself?
This is the essay that got me a half scholarship to a Leadership Program in Australia… 🙂
To be a traveler is to follow in the footsteps of our nomadic ancestors—each new terrain uncertain but brimming with undiscovered possibilities. It is to be a rolling stone, constantly changing yourself to suit the environment around you, nature, circumstance and chance. Never is it the other way around—the way sedentary metropolitans build skyscrapers, burn forests for farming, and pollute the skies to suit them. Why do they not realize that it will cause a domino effect?
As with most things I know of, the situation is neither good nor bad. It is simply a constant stream of experience, upon which we row-row-row upon our boats of consciousness towards the next dream-like adventure.
However, having myself traveled from one continent to another—in both cases to live there, not just to tour—I’ve learned a thing or two about the ways of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not implying that I’m a wise sage or anything, simply a girl who knows what it’s like to pack up your suitcases and brace yourself for a new world with bizarrely different creatures, cultures, and conducts.
I grew up in two places. My mind and heart didn’t have preferences. It was a constant tug-o’-war between one country and the other—one which would often leave me puzzled and distraught during those years that they coin “puberty”. It wasn’t only the dichotomy between the two countries that left me so—one being a first-world nation, awed by the world, the other hectic and developing—but also the “big” thoughts, such as pondering the nature of life and the uncertainty of ever meeting my childhood friends again. But also, the Great Perhaps of it.
Scrolling through pictures on social media, you notice smiles and warm sunny days—the stars of said pictures being friends you once knew. I know of the wistfulness aching your heart. I know how it felt to turn glass-eyed at the airport, meeting relatives for the first time in six years. Only to cry yet again because you realized how different they were from you, how alien, because you were only a toddler then, and now a misshaped preteen.
However, to be a traveler is to have a novel view of life. It is to realize that you will never truly fit in, because you came from another place—while other people stayed in place. It is to develop a stoic attitude towards life, because, try as you might, you can never return to the past.
To be a traveler is to gain valuable experiences. With those experiences, you learn to understand the world. You learn about human beings—what brings us together, what we all have in common. You learn how to connect the dots of life, seemingly arbitrary at first. You learn that cherishing family moments is important, because they’re the people who will never leave you, while others come and go.
In the process, you might cry (for joy, for sadness); or you might laugh because you’ve finally found humor in it all. You might just become a better person—more compassionate, more thoughtful and understanding, albeit more sensitive. And in the end it’s all okay, because you’ve learned things that you otherwise wouldn’t have learned.
Ever since Sunday, 21st May 2017, there’s only been one thought clawing at the back of my mind. My performance during the AFS interview. I know it’s a silly thing to think about.
“Move on! Get it done and forget it.” — everyone, literally.
But, I’m not the type who moves on so easily. So, in this post, I will be mainstream and cliche and talk about my experience thus far in the AFS selection process, like so many other bloggers have done. ^^
And for those of you who are reading this in preparation of your own AFS selection test, then good luck! May the odds be ever in your favor. 😉
A while ago, I entered a competition called Genius Olympiad. Thankfully, my essay made it to the final round. However, the trip to New York and back is far too expensive. So instead, I’ve decided to share my essay here. Hope it brings you a little moment of reflection… =)
I’ve always longed to see the “spirit” of nature. Oftentimes I’ve asked myself, what would it be like to feel the heartbeat of a forest, or to hear flocks of birds take flight across wide open fields? What would it be like to observe, uninhibitedly, monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the thriving Amazon rainforest? What kind of person would I have been had I grown up in a world of dark starry nights instead of artificial city constellations?
Then, in fifth grade, I finally found my own “deep connection” with nature.
It was one of those days where the sun shone and the sky blazed blue, scattered slightly with clouds. The breeze blew, bringing scents of warm soto, cow dung, and burning wood, curiously all mixed into one. Panting, I made the final leap through the air.
“Yes! I win!”
Face crimson with sweat, my friend Alia staggered behind and planted her hands on her knees.
“You… got a… head start,” she rasped.
“I did not.”
Pushing aside a hanging branch, we stepped into the shadows of the forest canopy. Here, it was a whole other world. Here, light danced in strange ways before us, casting its rays upon crawling critters on the forest floor and fallen fruits. Branches rustled and creatures scuttled. The air was vibrant with the smell of the moist soil that pillowed our feet.
Treading lightly, we weaved between slants of sunlight, when a boom suddenly echoed through the air.
Thud. Thud. The sound was constant, reverberating through the foliage. We stood rooted to the spot.
“Do you hear that?” I whispered.
Hi internet explorers!
This is a little bit late, but today I’d like to write about 2017 and the daunting, exciting 361 days left we have ahead of us… before the year changes again, I mean.
A friend of mine says that we shouldn’t really celebrate the new year, because our new year is the Islamic one. By we she means Muslims, gang. While she may have a point, that’s a little bit extreme, isn’t it? It’s not as if I was getting drunk and partying only because it’s a new year. Instead, I believe it’s the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve done so far in your life. And what you plan to achieve this year.
Some people feel like the New Year is pressured with social obligations. Mustn’t we go out and make the most of the new year with our friends or family, or kiss that person beneath the fireworks? But it’s just another day. The only difference is, we’re restarting the cycle. It’s been ingrained into our minds to live life in cycles. That’s why we have rituals, festivals, birthdays. It’s a renewal of the soul, in a sort. You can read more about this in Myth and Reality.
Anyways, you might be wondering. Why did I put a picture of cherry blossoms up there and not fireworks or something? The most honest answer would be because I think it looks nice *cough* I took the photo *cough cough* . But, I could formulate two other answers for you. First, because it reminds me of the trip I took to Japan with my family at the beginning of 2016. We move through time in moments. The best moments are fleeting. So we record them in pictures, journals, and blogs. We’re obsessed with memories, aren’t we? And when you need to move on from something or someone, sometimes there’s still a nagging at your brain as you remember… and remember… Is that why it hurts sometimes to be human? Because we’re so preoccupied with memories we let them devour us, let ourselves obsess over them. Until we’re weak and crumpled on the ground, heavy with memories.
Wait, wait. How did I get so sidetracked?
Whales, let’s move on. The second reason I’m making off the top of my head. It’s because flowers symbolize cycles, don’t they? Withered, they fall to the ground, where their seeds scatter. And before you know it, they’re shooting out buds and growing into tall, lovely trees. In turn, more flowers fall, carrying seeds- regenerations.
So, that’s what the new year means to me. How about you?
NOT IMPORTANT THINGS
This year I have three resolutions:
- Study hard & passionately. Get all-A’s. (okay, okay. You might think of me as a nerd or whatever, but this is very important, people! Try asking anyone, “Do grades matter?” “Well no they don’t, young lad. Go out and be a stripper!”)
- Get out of my comfort zone and have a new experience.
- Be happy so that everyone around me is happy 🙂