Ramadan Reflections: Day Twenty-Five — Sounds Like You

Today, I almost stopped writing reflections.

Unfortunately for you, reader, I did not. I am attempting to keep the promise I made to myself at the beginning of Ramadan: write every day. So, here, I am, writing another day.

Yesterday, I wrote about being exhausted by the state of the world, and I have not quite overcome that yet. It will take some time. I made the mistake of checking social media, only to find that Nabra Hassanen’s memorial was set on fire. I had to unplug and stay away for the rest of the day. I am still tired.

I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking of quitting on this series, and his response was, “Well that doesn’t sound like you.”

He is typically right about everything; this was no different. It didn’t sound like me. This made me think about what does sound like me. What do I hope people think of when my name is mentioned? How is this different from what actually comes to mind?

In a perfect world, those two things would be the same. Of course, a perfect world is not something we have. As I sat there, drifting into the realm of hypotheticals and daydreaming about how I hope to be known, I abruptly stopped. I had it all wrong. I needed to redirect. I have little control over anyone’s perceptions. I am frustrated by the fact that people are so quick to label Nabra Hassanen as a bad person or her death as anything other than a hate crime.

People can have pretty awful perceptions.

I am not sure I have the energy to care much about how I am perceived anymore. That is not to say that I will stop working to be a good person or that I will cease caring about the world. I simply will not concern myself with how any of that is perceived by others. That was my entire adolescent experience: worrying about what everyone else thought. I spent so long trying to convince myself that I was good enough. I used to worry about being good enough for others; now I worry about being good enough for myself.

For me, being good enough for myself means living in a way that is in accordance with my beliefs. It means that I am being the best version of myself. This can look like different things for different people, and I have had to remind myself that self-preservation is not selfish. It is OK to do things for you.

We often encourage children to live a life of integrity by asking them how they want to be known in the world. We suggest that they should want to be known for their kindness, honesty, etc. We are telling them that how others perceive them matters and that they should care about what other people think of them.

Surely, there is some halfway point — a way to emphasize the importance of living an honorable life without doing so only to be deemed honorable by others. When I thought about what sounded like me, I left “me” out of it completely. I immediately went to a place of wondering what other people thought would sound like me, instead of what I thought would sound like me. That is clearly something I have to address myself as well.

Ramadan has helped re-focus my priorities in many ways, and this is one of them. I can care about what my husband, family, and friends think. I can make room to care about a few perceptions, but cannot make what everyone else thinks my top priority. I would stay this tired all the time. Perhaps this realization is what will help pull me out of my exhausted state — knowing that I have to push forward for my own sake, because forging ahead, even when tired, is what I hope would sound like me.