Farishta is one of the recipients of the Fawaz Kannout Memorial Scholarship Fund. Awarded in conjunction with the MALA Scholarship Program this scholarship recognizes compassionate and ambitious individuals who are committed to strengthening and serving their communities through cultural engagement, inclusive discourse, and progressive thought. To learn more about MALA’s Scholarship Opportunities, click here.
How does one develop an identity? I propose this question only because I have yet to obtain an answer. My first encounter with my identity, or lack thereof, occurred in the year of 2014. I was attending my last year of high school and it was during this faithful year that I went through a shocking and earth shattering event. And really, it wasn’t the event itself that led me to the place I am today but rather the experiences and understanding of the world I gained that tore my peace from me and brought me to face a harsh reality.
Growing up, I lived in a fantasy that I had created for myself despite the circumstances I was living in. While I had lost my father only at age two, and migrated thousands of miles away from my homeland, I believed in God’s love more than the bruises on my mother’s face as gifted by my stepfather. I believed more in the fact that God would save my family from the evil of the man that was supposed to protect us after my father. I can’t count the number of times I would pray for God to make him leave, holding my little innocent hands up to the ceiling but really finding God in my heart and willing with my entire self with intense concentration in the hope that maybe tomorrow would be that fateful day. Yet days passed. Then months. And then years; and all the while, as this man refused to acknowledge his responsibilities, my oldest sister toiled her youth away to remedy the void that we would have felt otherwise for the lack of a real father.
My sister was coronated as the breadwinner only because she was the eldest and since it is customary for men to carry this title in my culture, after my father passed away, it was only my sister who was able to fulfill this position. Hence, growing up, although I had a very close relationship with my religion as a Muslim, I decided I would never lead the life of an Afghan woman. I did not want to feel as helpless as my mother seemed in her broken second marriage. Thus, in the winter of 2014, when my stepfather finally decided to leave, seeing my mother broken all over again was like the perfect curse of a prayer answered.
I, as the eighteen year old teenager, couldn’t understand why my mother was so upset over someone that had made every second of our lives so torturous. Why she felt betrayed by the same man that painted the title of yateem (orphan) on our foreheads? That was the first time I understood that nothing would be alright, even with answered prayers. It dawned on me that while God had given me what I had been praying for, life did not configure with an equation of wanting and obtaining equaling soundly to a flawless happiness. Just this minor factor threw me down the hole of an unrelenting fever of depression. In the span of a few months, I lost all my friends, my academic ambition, and the greatest part of my identity, my faith. I refused to pray for anything, believing that if I did, I would unknowingly ask for something that would once again take all my happiness away from me.
Over the last few years, in the midst of the load of school work and my job, I have to admit I have found a better identity than I could have ever had. An identity that doesn’t include any parts of myself, but rather the strongest parts of everyone around me. Now, I choose to identify as my mother that bravely ventured to a strange nation only for the sake of her children’s future. I choose to identify as my father, who died fighting for justice against the Taliban. I choose to identify as my sister who sacrificed her life, her youth, and her wants to give us a better life. Furthermost, I choose to identify as the Muslim, who has been bestowed with a God that only speaks the language of love, offers His servants the Hand of mercy and a Heart of forgiveness.
I don’t live through myself anymore. I live only through the good around me and the good given to me every day of my life. I live through my blessings and my trials. So if you asked me who I was today, I really would have no answer. Because I’m not one person, but little bits of everyone else.