You don’t notice it while it happens, but looking back, this year was one of radical change and growth. My father survived cancer, my mother survived a heart attack. I was laid off, broke my foot, discovered my Alopecia diagnosis, then hired at my dream job. I lost friends, but have never been closer to my family. I’m leaving 2015 with the mindset that what is coming for me is better than what has left, and it’s okay to outgrow people and situations.
It took me 25 years to understand the importance of self-care and self-respect. These are often so easily neglected. My Alopecia is most likely triggered by stress, and looking back at the time of the diagnosis, I can see why my hair fell out. I was overanalyzing every facet of my life – why didn’t I have a career? Why was I still living at home? Why didn’t I get into the grad school of my choice? Why didn’t I fall in love? These questions ran through my mind, even at a subconscious level. It’s easy to mask this while living in LA – the city offers distractions. But the superficial lifestyle promoted here is another prop used in this place. Although Los Angeles is home, I found solace in Berkeley. I visited there twice in the past year, once to see my best friend who was a student there, and another time for the Afghan American Conference.
The AAC was probably the most impactful event of 2015. The existential crisis of being Afghan and American was one I believed I experienced alone. Sure, some Afghan friends collectively shared this, but I never anticipated that such a large network of Afghan American professionals and students existed who understood the depth and the importance of our identities as refugee children. For once, I was in a room with not only intellects, but with deep-thinkers, with revolutionaries, with free-spirits and with some of the most compassionate people I’ve met. Those three days shaped me into who I am today, and have taught me that the fight is a good one, and that I have friends in many places. I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my piece, Collective Guilt Across the Afghan American Diaspora.
Social justice was another central cause of my year. Burqas & Beer took off, and with it, my commitment to solidarity, awareness, and the spread and practice of social justice took off as well. I find empowerment in empowering others, and have decided to dedicate my life to it.
I began my blog to cover the news that doesn’t get headlines and the issues that aren’t spoken on. I believed I could constantly update my network, about Afghanistan, about Syria, about Palestine, about black lives in the U.S. I wanted to magnify every cause I cared for on this site. And in the beginning, I did so. But I quickly became exhausted with the heartbreak, with the walls we ran into, with the continued injustice. The recent spike in Islamophobia exacerbated this – and my blog has taken a back seat to my life. Adding fuel to this, I conflicted with members of the Afghan-American diaspora, and quickly realized – I am not the voice of many. On the contrary, my personal beliefs and the way I encounter situations is not typical of my nationality or my religion, and this can be lonely. I often had to bite my tongue or quit typing to avoid tension with those more orthodox and conservative in my community, and although I may share a religion and a nationality with these individuals on a superficial level – they do not see me as one of their own. And I have now accepted that this is okay; I can’t be the voice of 1.6 billion Muslims or 1 million Afghans across the globe.
This leads me to another lesson I mentioned earlier: what is coming for me is better than what has left, and it’s okay to outgrow people and situations. Why spend your time with individuals who did not welcome you with open arms? Why fight for acceptance or respect in a room full of people who undermine your power? Why keep quiet in the face of those who speak ill of you? I decided this year to leave those situations, and to defend myself out loud: my mind and my body are my temple, and I will stand up for myself when no one else will. Moral of this paragraph: talk shit, get hit.
I’m entering 2016 with a healing foot, with my hair left in patches. With a new job and a new outlook on life. I often felt New Years resolutions, promises, posts, anything really, were wack – just cuz it’s a new year doesn’t mean shit will change! But for the first time in my life I feel the air differently, I feel it on my skin and in my bones. A time of great change and growth, and I look forward to my mid and late twenties with excitement. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I am thankful to my Creator tenfold for everything I have been blessed with.
I wanted to especially thank: Briana Edwards for taking the beautiful pictures I used for this site. Gina Doost for making me a guest blogger on What The Doost and allowing me to gain exposure on her blog. The Tribune for posting my work. The Afghan American Conference organizers and participants for welcoming me with open arms. My best friends Ovsanna Arakelyan, Sadaf Azami, and Nargis Ahadi for constantly supporting my blog and being there for me unconditionally. All of the Afghan WCW’s who let me interview them, and everyone and anyone who has commented, liked, subscribed, and shared my pieces.
Last but not least, I am so forever grateful to my Creator, to the OG, to my rock and my strength, to the Peoples Champ, ALLAH SUBHANA WA T’ALA. Nothing I do is without Him and everything I do is for Him.
Remember what Rahim Khan always told Amir:
“There is a way to be good again”.
Peace & blessings y’all, have a Happy 2016!