Surviving 2017

I climbed into the Lyft with my friends, the words “Happy New Year” ringing in my ears. As the cold seeped into my glittery dress, I finally began to internalize what it meant to finish out 2017 in the same place I did last year — in more ways than one.

The shared sentiment in my friend group was that this past year was hard. Many of us were pushed beyond the limits we had set for ourselves. We began new chapters in new cities, explored the relationships we had built in our lives, and reckoned with some of the most asinine political hellscapes we could have ever imagined.

And just like that — in a haze of music, colorful lights, and champagne in plastic cups — it was over.

Well, I learned a few things along the way.

The first is, you really must live your truth. By any means necessary. In the handful of reflection and revelation posts I published last year, I wrote about finding the courage to move out of inertia towards happiness. A large part of doing that is — and it seems almost stupid to point something this obvious out — figuring out what it is that makes you happy. In 2017, I took steps towards journeys that I’d mapped out years ago. This brought me a career change, a different and healthier outlook on life, and renewed faith.

I’d spent so much time holding on to the dreams my parents had for me — and the identity they’d crafted out of love, fear, and protective instincts — that I found myself living a lie.

It wasn’t until I quit my job and moved back home that I could finally begin to piece together the parts of me that made sense — the parts that fit.

I made lots of changes. I started eating more — making up for all the meals I’d missed in college and while I was abroad. I began freelancing, which gave me some disposable income while granting me the freedom to explore the projects that had been languishing in the back of my mind for years. I set goals for the next year, which helped me decide what my priorities were. Finally.

And last week, before the year ended, I was able to say my Shahada — my proclamation of faith. Though the conversation with my parents was incredibly painful, I have never been more confident that the path I’m setting on is the one I need. The one I want.

I am incredibly blessed to have been welcomed home by so many strong people. When I first considered reverting to Islam, I reached out to a dear old friend who shared his own experience with me. It was an intensely personal story, but one which mirrored so many aspects of my own. I talked to Muslims from all walks of life — some who had been practicing since birth, and others who found renewed faith through their own determination. Each question was met with grace, understanding, and open arms. And when I shared with this small circle that I had finally said the Shahada, after three long years of questioning and reading and studying, I was greeted with joy.

So, yes. In 2017, I became a Muslim.

The second lesson I learned is that living in reality is better than dealing in expectations. I only recently realized that I had unhealthy attachments to the idea of people, and not grounded attachments to the people themselves. This created a lot of strain in my personal relationships because I was unable to communicate my goals and intentions with people I cared about, and I was unable to respect them for who they were instead of what they represented to me. I was often left hurt and disappointed — and so were my loved ones.

2017 ushered in a period of intense self-reflection to discover the root of my issues with relationships — from the emotional abuse I endured in high school and college, to my romanticization of the mundane. It caused me to develop a more discerning eye for how I approach relationships, goals, and my vision for myself. And things changed — for the better. I began prioritizing friendships that had been neglected, developed a healthier methodology on approaching conflict, and engaged in radical self-care.

And the third lesson is this: Life is too damn short to be entertaining maybes and half-truths. In my countless conversations with my friends, I’ve repeated time and time again that “we’re too old for this shit.” And we are! At the young age of 23, I’ve already grown weary of falling victim to the seemingly harmless habits of other people. People are fallible beings: sooner or later, we end up being misled by confused intentions, and Bad Communication. But in 2018, I challenge the people around me to figure out how they may be unintentionally hurting people the people they care about, and I challenge myself to stop being collateral damage — enduring fallout from other people’s grand schemes.

From my second and my third lessons, I’ve learned to just accept people for who they are. Not who they claim to be. But what they actually say and do. This is about more than getting a text back from your friend, your lover, whomever. It’s about understanding that waiting for someone to treat you with common decency and respect is going to age you in unpleasant ways. You deserve so much more — which means it’s time to set boundaries and actually adhere to them. By doing so, you give yourself a fighting chance at finding people who will respect you, and who can love you without exploiting you.

In 2018, I am committed to finding joy. It can come in small forms — like through more phone calls with friends you miss. Or, it can be something as drastic as moving to a different city and surrounding yourself with new experiences and better people. Whatever it is, I know that in order to find it, I must continue to investigate my truth, and my relationships with myself and the people around me. It’s a deceptively simple resolution, but one that hopefully will challenge me to always be honest with myself about who I am and what I want.

With love,

N

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