[This is not a follow-up post to my last one. I simply don’t have the energy to come up with a title right now.]
I used to think that when I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s I’d be happy. And I was, for a short while, until I got into the daily grind–going to work, coming home exhausted, putting up with real responsibilities that I couldn’t shy away from because people were depending on me. First, I was like: being an adult sucks. But I have big aspirations, and those convinced me to keep going. However, what I hate most is that I’m not living up to my expectations of myself. I wanted to be great teacher, a great daughter, a great sister. But all I can do is offer half-baked attempts at being this “great” person I wanna be.
Thank God my undergrad years are over but I failed miserably during my first semester at an Islamic uni. I was so happy, so well-prepared, and I had so many expectations of myself to do well in all my classes. These weren’t just classes for me–they were the center of my existence, the hope that had pulled me through my undergrad years…I had told myself during my darkest moments that it’d be one more year, one more semester, one more month, before I’d be able to “break free” and do what I love most–study Islam. But as always, I put more on my plate than I could handle. I was excited and prepared for classes, so I took on a full load (15 credits), but I didn’t take into account that I was also a full-time teacher.
I was excited to teach, incredibly energized and prepared for a new year. There were so many things I needed to learn, so many things I needed to do, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t find myself shying away from responsibilities. But my procrastination caught up with me and so did my lack of self-discipline, and by the time November rolled around, I felt like I wanted to quit teaching forever. Later I found out that first-time teachers all feel this way during this time in the school-year. So I trudged on, with renewed conviction.
A few months later, a lot of things changed and I found myself being complacent, not being consistent, not devoting time to spirituality the way I’d promised myself I would “as soon as I graduated.” All the expectations which I had laid out for myself (and didn’t fulfill) left me feeling utterly miserable and ever-so inadequate. Even now, as I write it takes a lot from me to think straight, to make sense of my situation, to try and learn what Allah wants me to learn from what’s happening.
But somehow, one good thing has happened in the middle of all this chaos.
I became grateful. I had never been a grateful person, but I had made du’a to Allah sometime back to make me a grateful person. The ayah kept coming to my head that teaches us that gratitude brings more. What it brings more of, I don’t know, but I knew it was good, because Allah had commanded us to be grateful. And so I tried. I thanked Allah even if I didn’t feel it, even if my mind was screaming complaints about this thing and that. Even if I had debts to pay that totally emptied my wallet, even if I had family problems to sort through, even if I saw no end in sight to some of my worries, I was grateful. I started to reflect on my blessings–the most obvious ones like food, water, shelter, warmth, family, friends, a job, an education. Allah granted me this new gift of gratitude and I am so grateful for it. So even in the darkest times, when things don’t seem okay and my dreams look so far away, I am able to have hope in my Lord because He never forsake me. And every time I asked, He gave. He gave something greater than what I had asked for even if I may not recognize all of it.
Every hardship brings with it ease. I used to think ease meant solutions. But it doesn’t have to. Ease can be the peace you find in your heart when everything else is in chaos, it can be the good friend who listens to you when you need to just get if off your chest, it can be patience, it can be gratitude, and it can even be the willpower to get off yourself out of the situation that you’re stuck in. If it wasn’t for reflection on my state of mind, I might not have been more motivated to take charge of my life. I have always been an optimistic person, but maybe I need to learn to really steer myself in the direction I need to go, and for that, I need self-discipline, another gift from Allah. But Allah is Al-Wahhab, the Giver of Gifts and I am certain that He will grant it to me.