Life is a colourful maze and the people you interact with can turn navigating the twisted alleys into a fascinating tapestry of colours, shapes, fragrances and repugnant odours. I am finally able to close some very unfulfilling chapters in my life and look towards the future with renewed enthusiasm. I have tried to write something for several months. Considering this is the last day of 2015, it is time to finish the passing year with a few thoughts before I embark on new adventures in 2016 and beyond.
I realised my mistake within 3 months after moving to Pakistan, but I also accepted that mistakes are part of life. Moreover, being adult means taking responsibility for your decisions.There is a likelihood that even if had I chosen Denmark, the dream career would elude me. There is a chance the rebellious Muslim in me would erupt. Consequently, I like most ethnic minority Muslims, born and bred in Denmark, would had remained in the “us versus them” bubble of Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, and 3rd class citizen frame of mind. I would naturally had drifted in that direction, even though the Danes I interacted with would always say “…but you have to understand we are not talking about you. You are like us.” Yet I was not like them and I had too many unanswered questions about what it actually meant to be Pakistani and Muslim.
The reality is that since I left Denmark, the debates have hardly changed. The same issues are researched and discussed. The same complaints I used to make as a teenager, are still voiced by the professionally educated ethnic minorities. The only difference is that now they are included in the research statistics and hence given due consideration in national policy making. This sort of inclusion is what my parents always argued for when they were discussing social issues with their friends. Through numbers one can see how much ethnic minority communities actually contribute to society in general through taxes, businesses and hence employment generation. We are just as much a part of society as everyone else.
It was good I chose my roots over comforts, but it has been a long journey to finally accept this reality. I know Pakistani society, like it is my own. I know the Muslim world is as hypocritical, judgemental and prejudiced as everywhere else. Moreover, I have come to appreciate the inherent altruism, however faulty, of a democratic political system and the range of opportunities it offers. There is no such thing as a perfect world, a perfect country or a perfect society. It is up to the individual to learn to navigate the social conventions of society. Since I left an advanced society to carve my own path, and as I refused to act like a Roman in Rome; it was out of the question to join the rat race due to peer pressure, from people who thought they could take me for a ride.
Instead I went the other way, I wrapped myself up, like an old woman from a rural village. Albeit with a better fashion sense. I have proved that independence is a frame of mind. I proved that I was more Pakistani than the Pakistanis themselves, despite my heavily accented and gender confused Urdu. I have proved that you can still be spiritual and religious simultaneously, without being old fashioned or boring. I simply refused to lose sight of the things that mattered to me, such as family, respect, and professionalism. While simultaneously, trying to get along with people you are mentally and socially incompatible with, due to their arrogance and misplaced sense of entitlement. Instead of letting such idiosyncrasies affect you, just stay focused on the end goal and never shy away from aiming at perfection.
Choosing Pakistan and the Muslim world taught me the best life lessons. From my mistakes I learnt to grab every opportunity, however small, like my life depended on it. Do as much as you possibly can within the time you are given. This is because sometimes in life you only get one chance. When that chance is gone, you will always wish you had done more, or appreciated it better. This is a pointless feeling to burden yourself with, and no matter what people say, you will always regret the stupid things you do. Furthermore, you tend to find yourself making up for those mistakes later.
I also realize that when my community complains about racism, Islamophobia, being considered 3rd class citizens; however justified they may be, I still think they are much better off in their naturalised home countries, rather than in their countries of origin. In most cases, whatever they have today, they could never had achieved back there. Rather than focusing on the difficulties, be more appreciative of the opportunities you have in the Western world.
I saw my parents work hard while providing for my siblings and I. They were able to give us the best upbringing possible in safe and secure surroundings. However, they were also given the best by their parents in Pakistan, so they had a good idea of what to aim for. Therefore, never lose sight of the good in your life, however insignificant it might seem. Furthermore, greediness is just as bad as ungratefulness. Hence, life will only be as good as you make it.
I carry with me hard earned and valuable lessons. No prior life experience, relationships, academic or professional accomplishments can prepare you for the harsh realities of adulthood. Nevertheless, your common sense and instincts can guide you, but you also need to believe things will work out eventually. It is easier said than done, but sometimes this is the only way forward. Moreover, you have to believe in your own strengths because no one else will.
When I talked to one of my lawyer acquaintances in Pakistan about my broken dreams and subsequent disappointments, he said “who cares about broken dreams?” Then he looked at me intently and said “build bigger and better dreams. Just know you will do better than before.”
While looking forward to the future with enthusiasm about the adventures in store for me, I can finally close some difficult chapters and move on with my life without a sense of indescribable loss. Finally, to you my Dear reader, I wish you a very Happy 2016. May it be blessed with happiness, prosperity and success.