When I was your age, I used to think big. I used to think deep. I used to even think that I was capable of changing everyone’s lives. At that early age of my life, people’s problems seemed too shallow. Too clear. Too easy to solve. I did not understand why they would stumble over them. Things like trying to get married, or wanting to protect your husband from marrying a second wife, or finding a good wife for your son all looked trivial. They were too small in comparison to my situation at the time. What was my situation?
Well I was a little girl with very big dreams. Too big for my age. Too big for everybody to comprehend or swallow. “An astronaut! You want to be an astronaut! You better have a more realistic dream” shouted my 10-year-old-cousin when I gave her my secret. It was no longer a secret after she announced it to everybody who of course found it a joke to laugh at(Except my mom. She didn’t laugh. She has always believed in me.)
When I became a teenage, I changed my mind. I did not want to become an astronaut anymore. I realized that I hate science. Well, may be I had bad science teachers. It’s always easier to blame it on someone else. But hey! Don’t do that! Always take charge of your own decisions. But what did I want to become at the time?
A writer. I wanted to write about those people in my society with their small dreams. I wanted to give them solutions and get them to have a real life. It always makes me feel better to make someone’s day. So, I started to write. A lot. Actually, that was how I spent my summer vacations. Not only that, I started to write for kids magazines too. My articles soon got recognized. Things were promising and I thought I was very close to achieving my dream. But then I did not find readers for my writings. Nobody had time to read and evaluate what I wrote at the time except my younger sister who has always been so supportive. She actually started to deal with me like a celebrity after my articles were published in Majid magazine. She thought I became famous and that people would want to take my signature. That was overrated.
At an early age, I found out the main reason why writers in Saudi would work two jobs; one pays to feed their children, and one pays to feed their passion. I did not want that kind of life. It seemed too complicated and demanding.
So I decided to quit and shut down those pinky flames of passion. At the time I turned 18 and had to choose a major for my future. My vision was foggy and so I went with English literature because that could open so many doors for me. Being a student of English Literature means you will decide what to do with your life in four years. After you graduate. That seemed like an enough time to get you know yourself well throughout the study period, and thus decide on a clear career path for yourself. However and for most English Literature graduates, it was not. Most graduates would go our into the world without the slightest idea about what to do with their lives. That is why it would be easier to just go with the flow. This means teaching and finding a good enough man to marry.
What did I become after I graduate?
I became involved in a profession which I hated with passion, simply because it was the easiest career path for women in Saudi at the time. Most Saudi women preferred it because it’s hassle- free. I shocked myself choosing it but I knew it was temporary. I have always hated being responsible for someone’s academic failure or success. I know that’s the responsibility of the student, but to most Saudis, a teacher is always the first to blame when something goes wrong. Just like how I blamed my science teachers earlier.
I hated correcting papers and giving criticism to others like I rule the world.
Instead of doing that, I focused on guiding my students to finding their true passion. I became the teacher I wanted to have as a student. Even though I was not that kind of teachers who gives grades easily, my students loved me so much. I treated them fairly, or at least I tried my best. I was respected. So much. Even after I quitted that job to take a different career path in journalism and social media editing, they continued to contact me.
Yes, I became a journalist for a short time. That was the only way to get stories from people. People in the Middle East are so private they would not open up to you until they could trust you. Professionally. That’s when they can judge you and know where you are standing. They tested me, and I passed the test. I proved myself trustworthy. They gave me their secrets for free. That was a rich material any writer can dream of having. They were happy. I was happy too. They were happy because they can reveal secrets about their lives and relationships, find solutions to their issues and get rid of that burden. They feel lighter after they talk to me. I was happy because I had exclusive accessibility to some amazing story materials. Funny enough, readers would always think those were my own stories. At the time, I was also active in social media content creating. So, I was getting a lot of stories from people online and in person.
But, why did I go back to writing?
Because I have always been a writer. Deep down i have always visualized myself with a MacBook in front of me, a handsome man (hey! Talking about your father of course) and a kid or two besides me. Your father is the one who supported the writer I am like nobody did (well, may be because that means me staying home most of the time, and taking care of you guys, which he really likes! At the end of the day he is a Saudi man who wants to feel like a manly man. But who cares! I am happy too!)
He believes in my ability to make a difference in the world. He laughs at the criticism people give at my stories. He believes in my life philosophies and has always taken my side, even when he disagrees with the content. I am at ease being the sometimes silly, moody, quiet, child-like, spoiled, unpredictable woman I am and he has always liked all my corners. I could go on forever to tell you how a perfect man he is. I won’t. He isn’t. He becomes hard to deal with at times, and by the time you grow up you will have witnessed so many of our little fights. Things like deciding where to eat, or asking me in the last minute to wear less make up because suddenly my makeup (which I always wear in the same way by the way) becomes too much in his eyes. All that can cause small wars. Similarly, when I’m late, or when I take too long to call or text back, or when he interrupts me while I am writing only to tell me about his day. Yesterday, he brought a poor homeless dog home and expected me to take care of it. Of course he got upset when I refused but that did not last more than a few hours. You will sometimes wonder how we ended up being married in the first place.
Believe me, we are not different. We are the same; we are both imperfect. We will not try to introduce ourselves as a perfect couple. We never did. We just love and deeply respect one another, no matter what. That is the secret to why we are happy “most of the time”. Please discard those “happily ever after” conclusions in the bedtime stories we will tell you before you sleep every night. I’m sorry darling, but there’s no eternal happiness between couples. You see? we have our times like every married ones. But we survived. We always do.
I cannot promise you happiness because by the time you grow up, you will find that happiness differs with time, with age, with the change of circumstances.
If there is anything your daddy and I can grant you, it will be this: we will never judge you. We will never ever dictate what you should do with your life. We will never give you a book with instructions on how to discover who you are. That will be your journey to make. But we will not tolerate that you choose to have no journey. We will not accept that your only journey becomes waiting passively for the right man to come and provide you with bits of life whenever he wants. You have so much more to offer to the world besides that.
Life will treat you well, I’m certain of if. But you will have your own share of disappointments. You will experience times when you feel like you belong nowhere. Times where you want to escape society to live elsewhere. Times when you let go of people you thought would be friends for life simply because you have changed. You will have your own share of times when you are indecisive of whether you should cover your head or not.
You will have times to think whether you should get married or not. Whether you should have babies or not. You will have hard times deciding if you should become an astronaut, a writer, or even an engineer.
Whenever you encounter such feelings, don’t panic! Don’t rush to people looking for solutions. Don’t ask for approvals from anyone. You can choose to cover your head or not to cover it. You will need to go through deep spiritual journey to settle on a decision and stick to it. Even if you had to forcibly cover it at some places, you will need to decide which way to go. There is no use of covering your hair while deep down inside, you want to uncover it. Some will hate you if you cover and accuse you of horrible things. You will hear words like”terrorist”, “bomb”, “hate” connected to you. It’s okay. It will be actually better in your generation. Public harassment of covered women are worse in my days. Those haters will know one day that a headscarf symbolizes Islam only. It is never a sign of anything else. Some will know but they will choose to hate you anyway. You can’t make everyone likes you. Ignore them. Choose your battles wisely.
Some will hate you if you don’t cover. They will secretly or publicly call you names and judge you, and if you decided to uncover after being covered for sometime in your life, a few people will drop off from your friends’ list. You will do that because they would think that you are not religious anymore. They would think that you are easy to get. You would need to constantly justify everything to them. It’s exhausting to keep friends with such people. Don’t turn them into enemies though. Vibrate love into the whole universe. Take time to meditate. That will help you become at peace with your own core beliefs. That’s how you will serve Allah. Your mission is for Him alone, not for anyone else.
You can be anything and everything. You can be a writer, a nurse, a movie director, an engineer, a teacher or all of them. And still be a girly girl. Don’t let people tell you what to do with your life. Don’t give them that power. Don’t give us that power either. Nobody can find your own sunshine. Not even your soulmate. (By the way, I apologize again for I will lie to you. A soulmate does not exist. No, your daddy wasn’t my soulmate at first. I wasn’t even certain if we would make a good match. Well, he said he knew I will be his since the first time he laid eyes on me, but I never guessed. We somehow knew though that we belonged with each other, and that’s how we created soulmates of one another. A soulmate is created. It’s never found. I repeat; a soulmate is created. You make it. You create it. It doesn’t come readily.)
It took me so long to come to understand the lesson. I just wished someone out there would tell me that I don’t have to make friends with everybody in any stage of my life, I don’t have to rely on a soulmate to make me happy, I don’t have to choose a one clear-cut career path and stick to it for the rest of my life. But I learnt. And I am sure you will learn too.
Don’t worry if you didn’t understand my letter now. One day soon you will figure out everything and this letter will make complete sense to you. Till then, enjoy life. One moment at a time.
Mom and dad.
I’m Noor and I’m Saudi. I enjoy writing about others stories, dancing and eating bagels.
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Have a wonderful 2016.