no brad, i don’t care about your bbq with your buddies last weekend

There’s always this cliche that you need to find yourself in the world and discover who you are. In today’s world when you go online you find every space of creative thought is saturated. It’s almost exhausting at least for me to think about the amount of stuff that people are producing. You go on snapchat and you see crazy amounts of content that is being produced, you go on instagram and you find people painting, making sculptures, almost everyone is doing photography. I’m trying to figure out if it’s just me or do we live in an age where everything is played out. Like everyone has done it already. You have a great app idea…it’s probably gone. You want to start cooking stuff and show the world, well there’s 10k other folks doing it as well so good luck. In a way this upward climb used to be about challenging those in your local vicinity, 2 or 3 other people. Now you compete against the world. And let me tell you, it’s freaking exhausting.

Like when I wanted to write this piece I was thinking of all of the things that someone potentially wanting to read would think about it and go through in their heads. The reason for this is because of the idea of always being public. There is this incessant need inside me now that feels that if I don’t garner any comments, or garner any likes than I have failed. That’s not what writing, art and creativity used to be. There are stories of individuals who have painted 800 plus paintings and threw them out because they weren’t satisfied. There are individuals who have written amazing poetry, stories, and various art that weren’t even discovered until after their death. Do you think they went around thinking, “oh let me paint this painting, it’ll help me gain more followers.”

And in the off chance that you do make something inspiring today or write something worthy, don’t worry…it’ll be forgotten of within a few days, perhaps a few moments when your consumer is distracted by the next notification on their respective app.

But even in the thick of all this noise, it’s important to find yourself. So how does a Muslim Indian American who doesn’t want to sell out his belief system, values, and culture manage to ‘find’ their creative self amongst an ocean of distracting noise? I don’t know, but you know what, I think that’s okay. I don’t know because I’ve always been too scared to be me. In an age where liberalism is king, having a belief system in and of itself is a crime. You write too much about the religion and people will think you’re boring or you’re being too preachy. But what do you do when religion is your thing? Like you never went to school for this stuff, and you are a techy guy but deep down you love religion. It’s the only thing that you believe to be real and what kinda keeps you together through the thick and thin of most things. How do you confront a challenge which tells you to put that away while being creative. Don’t bring it to work, don’t bring it to your writing, don’t bring it to your conversations, don’t bring it to the dinner table.

But that’s asking me to not bring ‘me’ to the dinner table or stopping me from bringing ‘me’ to work. When I take out this big portion of ‘me’, my religion and my beliefs and I give you the secular version of me, you’ll find me blah.

This is why I hate work dinners, and I’m sure most do as well. It’s because when I’m asked how my weekend went, I probably spent it researching some obscure topic of jurisprudence that no one in their right minds would care about. Or perhaps I spent it learning about the minute differences in creed that one group of Barelwi’s have vs. another and what constitutes heresy in their minds and what doesn’t. I’ll read long articles on topics of 21st century gentrification in Mumbai and unfortunately none of those things compare to the exciting story of my co-worker Brad who tells me about the dope BBQ he had with his awesome pals at his cabin at Lake George.

And you know, religion is my thing. But that’s not everyone’s thing. Some people have some weird “things” and that’s perfectly alright. I know for example that a friend of mine, a mathematician and previous management consultant enjoys making hip hop beats. Yet for him to repress a side of himself that reflects “him” and to bring only a select version of himself to the table isn’t fair. Yet it’s tough just being you, and finding you isn’t easy. I write this piece cause I haven’t found me and on this quest I’d like to share my thoughts.

This is what I contend with in this bizzaro mind of mine where I would love to write about religion and what it means to me, but what I don’t want to be on top of a misfit, is being lame. I don’t think religion is lame, astaghfirullah, quite the contrary. But what I have found is that many folks who write in the name of topics on Islam end up being lame. And I’m just deathly afraid of being lame. It’s like those spoken word halal artists that somehow just don’t fit in. Like they got this whole hip hop thing going on but then they toss in corny rhyming couplets about jannah and love for God and hard as I try I can’t get over how lame it sounds more often than not. That’s my fear, the fear of lameness which stops me from being me. Maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s just part of the journey. Perhaps what it means to find yourself is to find bits and pieces along the way and as you move on in life you kinda put all the pieces together.

Well, either that or perhaps deep down I take comfort in this holier than thou moment I experience while listening to ‘Brad’s’ stories of ziplining last weekend in the Poconos while I proceed to tell him I did nothing exciting. I pray it’s the first part and not the second.

til next time.

~salaam

muin