I’ve wanted to write. My heart was willing but my muse had decided to do the disappearing act on me.
I’ve wanted to write but my words fell over each other – each one begging to be picked – every time I opened a blank page to pour out my thoughts.
I’ve wanted to write but have found myself confused, faced with many choices of things to write about, born from the experiences of the past month.
I’ve wanted to write… and today, I shall succeed.
I write from a place where I’ve been before. My words are inspired by a colleague who, through words, phrases and paragraphs, was able to help me put my current situation in context and remind me of my destination. These same words are inspired by a talk I had with one of the Starfish International mentors who was headed to University and faced a problem of choices: to study what she really wanted or to study what her family/society expected her to. Many of us have been in this place before and while she listened intently and thought herself lucky for talking to me, I felt even more blessed to have had that exchange with her. As I spilled my words of encouragement and shared my story of facing the same situation and how I arrived at a decision, I had no idea how much those words could do for me now.
It;s been a week and two days since I returned to Morocco for my final year of studies. The year started out roughly even if, to a certain extent, it was expected. I left my home, family and friends in The Gambia to return to a week of accommodation problems which was only made bearable by the intervention of our diplomats here. However, this period has seen me going through different phases ranging from stress, mild depression, homesickness, through to questioning my life’s choices and being comforted by the knowledge of a near end.
In the questioning phase, I became aware of another truth: I was taking it all in good stride because I was happy and comfortable with my choices. Nearly four years ago, I made the decision to break the hold of society on my academic choices and listen to the voice within me. I listened to but politely discarded the advice from many people on the dangers along the path I’d chosen and the benefits of going with the flow and conforming to society’s set norms. I’d spent three years of secondary education in the Science class studying Physics, Mathematics, Further Maths (as if Math wasn’t enough) and a host of other subjects deemed fit for outstanding students. Naturally, I was expected to head out to University to follow that course and become a doctor or an engineer. I excelled in these classes but I wasn’t happy. When the time came, I knew I had to take a stand. I listened to my heart.
I would be lying if I said the journey has been easy. I’ve been studying in a language I’d only learnt for six months. I’ve felt greatly handicapped by this in many instances. I’ve gone through humbling experiences and challenging ones where I’ve had to work harder than usual to prove my capabilities. I’ve broken down a few times, fearing that I would no longer be able to cope. I’ve lived through moments where the fear of failure clouded everything else around me, even my faith. I’ve had to adjust to new ways of living and have been on the receiving end of many a racial remark/act. I’ve had enough reasons to lie back and surrender, but I didn’t. In the face of all those reasons, I had a strong one to keep me going. I chose to do what I love and was ready to sacrifice as much as I could to see my dreams and wishes come true against all the odds. I look back at certain events within this period and doubt if I would have held on and stood my ground, ready to face the challenges and overcome them if I had listened to society and went ahead to do something I did not love. I had listened to my heart and I can always feel it guide me through the toughest of experiences, for within it resides my love, my faith and my hope.
I spent the greater part of my summer as an intern at Starfish International and it has been one of my best experiences yet. Everyday spent with the founders, coordinators, mentors, volunteers and students granted me the opportunity to look deep down and find meaning in what I do. Of the things that marked me greatly were the words that made up the Starfish anthem and pledge. Saying, singing and hearing these words everyday reaffirmed my belief that I had made the right choice and had no room for regrets. They reminded me of the power of trusting my instincts and making my own choices, while teaching me to take responsibility for them too.
Often, we are faced with such dilemmas. As humans, it may be natural to want to conform to society’s set rules. We are afraid to walk the road less chosen; afraid to clear a path in the bushes and make it our own. We feel safer following a path that has already been traced, usually with signs and hints of what to expect, what to avoid and how to take each turn. Sometimes we do this against our own will, choosing to trash our desires with the hope that we can still be happy. Some find happiness in this; some settle for whatever good thing comes their way; others get to a point of regret where the insistent calls of the heart can no longer be ignored. I am glad I listened when the call was loud enough and the tugging strong enough to pull me off a road that could have led me to a place where disappointment, regret and maybe unhappiness would prevail. It is certainly not the solution for everyone and I’d be wrong to think what worked for me would work for everyone else. However, I strongly believe that when we make our choices while staying true to ourselves, it becomes easier to deal with challenges that pop up along the way. I share some words from the Starfish anthem:
Walking through my life
I’ve found that my very best friend is the one inside of me
There’s a small voice in my heart, when I stop and listen
It’s there guiding me… guiding me
Oh, it’s just a little voice
But when you have a choice
Listen to your heart
I wish you all a happy new month and hope that our wishes and dreams are not stunted by the limitations of conformity and the urges to stick to the status quo. Listen to your heart!