As I waved to my friends and disappeared quickly down the subway steps, I shook my head. Laughing to myself – or maybe it was at myself, I jumped on the 6 train right as the doors slammed shut, heart beating rapidly.
The year was 2014. It was the night before the blessed month of Ramadan. Before we parted, my friends and I had just reassured each-other that it would only be 30 days.
Thirty days before these late nights, being crazy teenagers, worrying our parents sick would be our reality again.And so, I had laughedat what I thought was our little secret.
Little did I know, we had not just parted. We had parted ways.
Little did I know, that Ramadan, my life would change…
OK guys, as promised, your fave ordinary human girl is back – with a bang, literally. I might have banged my foot trying to rush downstairs and complete this article, he he. I’m trying.
All jokes aside, that little snippet is a memory that is distinctly at the front of my mind. I can remember it as easily as I can remember where I was the morning the twin towers fell.
Scientists call these memories flashbulb memories. Most of us ordinary humans can’t remember what we ate for breakfast the other day, or what we wore, let alone what was on our to-do list unless we wrote it down…see what I did there? Anyway…
These so-called flashbulb memories are created when our brain stores traumatic or life-changing events especially well. We vividly remember where we were, what we were doing, what time of day it was and even who we were with.
My point is, that night – five years ago, was such a memory. In my first article (never thought I’d say that!), I mentioned that 2014 was when I first fell, head over heels, in love. Before I found myself, The Beloved Found me.
Since this blog is all about changing yourself into a better you, I thought I’d start from the beginning. No, this is not a religious lecture. If you’re not Muslim, no, I’m not trying to convert you. There are lessons here for everyone, I promise.
I’m drawing attention to this memory because it was, and I’m quoting myself here, “The first major change in my life.” This is my journey. Yours may be different, and that’s ok.
To catch you up, I had mistakenly grown up with the idea that Allah Was this distant figure who would reward you if you did good, and punish you if you did bad. Simple Kid Terms.
As a teenager, I thought a little differently. Allah Was only Who you called on when you wanted something really badly, like an A on your physics test when you didn’t really study enough or more pocket money. Kind of like a fairy godmother.
He Could also be Who you asked for protection when you were really scared. You would be reciting the Ayatul-Kursi really, really fast when you were coming home from school at night; it was later than you were supposed to be out. You were paranoid that the man behind you was a serial killer…who would disappear with you – into the darkness.
Ooooh…just got goosebumps recalling that memory.
To sum it up, I didn’t know Allah beyond that. First, as a Reward-er or Punisher and then, as a Special Wish-Granter or Protector.
They say hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, I think, what about all those times in between?
And if I expected Allah to Give me so much, what did He Want from me,if anything? What was my purpose in all of this?
I’d always had this gnawing feeling in the back of my head that kept nagging me to think deeper. That Ramadan, it was suddenly all I could think about. Who was I hanging out with? What did they have me doing? Where did they have me going?
And most importantly, what did they have me becoming?
This brings me to the FIRST and ONLY Lesson this time…
Be careful who you’re friends with. Who your friends are is who YOU are.
Shockingly, I even posted this quote by Jim Rohn on my Instagram back in October of 2013. This was long before I “embarked” on this life-long struggle to change. Long story short, I kept putting it off – which used to be one of my greatest weaknesses, I’ll admit. I always got distracted and refused to confront reality.
Until some Force beyond time or space Pushed me to the ground, on my knees.
In the Ramadan of 2014.
It was well into third week of Ramadan when I started asking these questions more bravely. It starts with a curiosity, I guess, that was nurtured by LOTS of research. And some sort of intention, of course.
I would say aloud, “If there is a God, then show me a sign.” “I’m so far from happy.” “In a crowded room with my “best friends,” I’ve never felt so alone.”
“Is there something more?” “How did all of this just happen?” “What’s the point of doing anything if we’re all going to die?” “Just to leave something behind for others?” “What if humanity ceases to exist – who will remember or benefit from my legacy then?” “Convince me if You Exist.”
With the innocence of an ignorant teenager, I relentlessly asked these demanding questions.
Mentally, spiritually, scientifically – they were assaulting my mind and I was hungry for answers. That was my intention.
I wanted the truth, and nothing but that would fill the suddenly gaping hole in my heart.
It was the very heart I had tried so hard to fit this world into. Much to my chagrin, the grades, the friends, the lavish lifestyle – doing what I wanted, when I wanted to just didn’t seem to fit.
Keeping my mind and options open, I started researching into all the major world religions. I told myself I would run away if and live in the subway if my parents kicked me out as a result of my choice. Gratefully, that never happened.
The hours turned into days which turned into weeks. Time flew by. As soon as the month had began, it was about to come to an end. It was the 27th night…
STAY TUNED FOR MISH’S METAMORPHOSIS: PART II – TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3 at 9PM EST! (Or earlier, if I manage my time better – a HUGE weakness, which I MUST turn into a strength – a future blog post, God-Willing.) And no, it didn’t end happily ever after…the first time.
– Your Ordinary Human Girl
P.S. I set a Thursday at 9:45pm deadline for myself this time. I was so nervous writing this article because I thought I wouldn’t have enough time to “perfect” it. But I did it, Alhamdulillah (All Praise and Thanks to God). Another behind the scenes lesson learned: JUST WRITE. SET your deadline. MEET your deadline. The length or content can always be edited after you write that first draft – like I’m doing now, 10 minutes after publishing it, he he. Just Write. Get it out there.
Hey, you wonderfully curious, full-of-potential human. Yes, YOU there! How’s it going? Really, let’s take a minute. I want to know how you genuinely are, as a friend.
Let’s do something crazyright now.
Get up. Grab a pen and paper and write down the #1 problem in your life right now.
Go look in the mirror – while having Siri read-along this article, of course.
What do you see?
What are you struggling with? What habits are you trying so hard to overcome but it just isn’t working? What life did you used to dream of in the good ol’ days but today, it seems so far out of your reach?
You take that first step and try to start that new book/business/LIFE you’re passionate about or travel more or focus on your health or maybe you just want to lose those few extra pounds. Maybe you want to be a better mom, sister, brother, dad, husband or wife.
You could also just want to quit a bad habit, like learn to spend less on yourself, and save instead – or help others more. Maybe you’re super ambitious and want to do both.
Truth be told, you’re a slave to your desires and you’ve forgotten how to be free.
Sadly, you try SO hard to follow through for hours, a day, or if you have more willpower than most people, maybe a week and then it just doesn’t seem worth it anymore.
Maybe a little bit of change does happen, which you make sure to celebrate a LOT.
In the end, though, the costs outweigh the benefits for you. And just like that, you give up, and go right back to where you started.
Every. Single. Time.
Does this sound familiar?
It was my reality.
Ok so how did we get here? Are you just another millennial girl trying to get us to go green?
Well, I did promise complete honesty when I started this so here goes…story time, folks! Full Disclosure: I have a passion for story-telling so feel free to scroll down till the end if it’s not your thing – I’ll still be your friend, promise.
Two weeks ago, it hit home for me. I was teaching a Saturday class for kids on Qur’an – the book Muslims believe was Revealed by God as a guide for humanity. On this particular day in time, we were discussing the different kinds of pursuits a person can have.
Huh? Pursuit? Well yeah, I mean we’ve all heard it in the American Dream, right?…”Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of…happiness.” Or is it?
Interestingly enough, in my (part-time FBI Agent curiosity that I like to label) “research” of a few verses of the Qur’an, I came across a couple of new perspectives.
First of all:
I found out that the pursuit of happiness is the lowest form of pursuit.
Huh? Did you hear that right?
Yes, it doesn’t take a lot to be happy. And no one is ever happy all the time – its not the way life works.
OK…so what’s above happiness…?
The pursuit of impact, on the other hand – is the highest pursuit. I read all about the lives of human beings who had changed history. Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Einstein all made the list.
They were people of impact. They didn’t care about the fame or the money or the records they beat – they wanted to solve a problem for the “greater good.”
What sets these incredible people apart from the rest of humanity is that they never stopped fixing themselves and their ideas. The praise didn’t matter, no. Neither did the money. They were after something more.
Forgetting everything society had taught me, I resolved right then that I wanted to die as a person of impact, so Help me God.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. A version of it is in the Bible too.
Traditionally, it’s thought to have meant that God – you’ll also hear me talking about Our Creator a lot, so just think Higher Being if you’re still in that agnostic phase – Does not Give you more problems than you can handle, in His Perfect Wisdom. Whatever you’re going through, you got this sis – or bro, we’re all equals here!
God Will Alleviate your burdens if you turn to Him and ask Him for Help. While this is reassuring, what’s possibly even more incredible is the actual, deeper meaning. Prepare to be mind-blown…
According to my research, I found out that the actual meaning of that part of this verse (Qur’an 2:286) IS….drumroll…
GOD HAS NOT BURDENED US WITH ANYTHING BUT OUR OWN POTENTIAL.
Oh My God, when that sunk in, I seriously almost fell off my chaise!
Why did I react like that?
Excellent question. OK, try to stay with me – I know you can. What this verse simply means is that if we have a talent for writing and *ahem* we keep delaying that book or blog, or if we dream of having our own business but repeatedly put it off, or if we simply must hit the snooze button and can’t get out of bed early because it’s i’mpossible – WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN POTENTIAL.
What really terrified me though, is Lesson #2:
We will be held accountable for using or failing to use (so scary!) our true potential in this life.
Look at the high standards God Has for us – even when we do not believe in ourselves.
Now you’re thinking, “Ok, great. How motivational. Was this supposed to be a religious lecture?”
If you’ve come this far, I’m truly impressed. You must be exceptionally curious, like me. Back to the story!
I went home after sharing what I learned with the kids from several paragraphs ago, who were so incredible by the way (Pro tip: I charmed them with Poki Sticks).
As I settled into my cozy bed with my fluffy pink blanket, a thought popped up in my head. “Shame on me. How can I preach something I don’t practice? What integrity do I have if I am telling these young minds to break their bad habits while failing to do the same myself?”
Isn’t that hypocrisy?
Yes, I had dropped some bad habits in the past. Yes, I had made some effort to do the right thing some of the time. Yes, I sometimes made crazy to-do lists that were rarely, if ever completed.
That day, I realized I had flattened out. I had stopped changing and so, had stopped truly living.
I swear, it was like a fire was ignited in me.All of those Rumi quotes hit me, all at once. Even “What you seek is seeking you” finally made sense.
I decided, in that moment, that I was going to change...
Not the world (yet), but something even more radical.
I was going to change myself – or die trying.
I tried really hard not to resort to clichés here. However, a much wiser human than I is reported to have agreed with what I just said…
Youmust be the changeyou want to see in the world.
In my entire 20-something-year-long life, I’ve never been this motivated.
As you can see from the picture of the stunning sunset, that was back in 2014. I was an itty bitty teenager determined to change the world.
More importantly,it was the year in which I fell, head over heels, in love with God for the first time.
That was the first major change in my life.
And the rest is history…
Just kidding! Life’s not perfect, ok?
Point is, I just never got around to doing all those big things the little girl in me dreamed of doing, being, ACHIEVING.
I had resorted to being average – just good enough.
Over the years since, I have come to learn Lesson #4:
Change is not a linear path.
Although I have held tight to my principles, I have slipped and fell many times. There were pesky habits, like chronic procrastination (or my claim to fame as a night owl) that always hindered me from maximizing my potential.
After that initial revolution, that little voice in my head would discourage me and say, “You’ve peaked already. Your time is gone. You’ve changed as much as you could.”
Little did I know that the enemy of progress is complacency, and complacency is death.
A tad dramatic? I’m somewhat of a drama-queen, I guess. In fact, naïve little me was all set for Hollywood in the fifth grade. It seemed only logical. After all, I had perfected all the accents – especially the Harry Pott-ah one!
I digress. So where were we?
#10 millionth Lesson learned:
It is NEVER too late to change, and keep changing.
This lesson is what life is all about. As long as you are alive and you are cognitively aware (i.e. your brain is functioning), YOU HAVE HOPE.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many mistakes you’ve made or how far from your goal you are. If you let your past hold you back, it’s kind of like saying,”Hey, I’m so dirty! What’s the point of showering?”
You, alone can make your decision. It’s Day 1, or One Day, starting NOW.
If you and I can master this, together, we can be unstoppable. We can truly change the world by changing ourselves, first.
This latest awakening officially started 12 days ago. I used to have a fear of failure, which prevented me from pursuing my dreams. Not anymore, though. You Only Live Once, right?
I’ll tell you, with raw honesty, that I can’t stake a claim to success yet. I’m not there yet. I won’t be there until after I die. And that’s ok.
Because then, God Will Judge me. And if I pass? You’ll know I was consistent.
At the end of the day, YOU have to live with the human in the mirror. YOU are the most famous person you could ever hope to meet (besides God). God-Willing, YOU will change YOUR life.
It’s worth mentioning here that one of my favorite Instagram accounts is Dr. Aaliya Yaqub’s. In one of her posts, she writes that everyone’s path looks different, and that’s ok, too. If you want to compare, compare yourself to who you were yesterday and strive to be better!
Be hard on yourself, but at the same time, don’t be so hard that you fall off track after a single mistake. Love yourself enough to forgive yourself.
The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.
Be patient, she writes. Be humble. Your time is coming.
People talk about the Before and After transformation. No one pays attention to the in-between: those sleepless nights, that constant battle between what’s easy and what gives you life, that hunger that sometimes fades in and sometimes out.
You get to see me struggle from Day 1. You get to hold me accountable.
You get to see that if I can do it, so can you!
At least that’s the hope.
I hope that one day, after I’m long gone, this can be a loving community of supporters that uplift each another to reach their full potential! Hey – a girl can dream, right? 😉
Since tomorrow is not guaranteed, if something happens to me tonight, I leave you with this:
Even if I don’t get a single reader on this post, I will be a very happy ghost knowing that I just went for it!
Low-key, I guess I’m trying to be a sponge and absorb all this knowledge I’ve been missing from the highly successful people of all time. How? By a childhood habit I’m bringing back as a goal!
This isn’t the Scared Straight program. Or is it…?
Gotcha there, didn’t I? It’s never the end till it really is – that last breath.
OK Mish, can you wrap this up before I doze off? Someone get me an espresso.
Right now, I want you to do something, my dear friend. After learning so much together, I feel like we’ve known each other forever.
You have so much to give to the world.
Get up, tiger. LOOK at yourself in the mirror.
But first, and I’m serious – take a selfie.
Let’s mark this day in history, when YOU made the choice to CHANGE the world.
Are you ready? Let’s repeat it together:
I AM the #1 Person Who WILL Change MY Life.
TODAY is DAY 1 of the rest of MY life.
I will BE the change.
Guess what happens next?
What You Seek is Seeking You.
– Your ordinary human girl
Behind the Scenes:
P.S.: I started this article with this excuse for not having a blog post up today (wait, did I just publish my very first blog post?!): Currently ironing out the details of my Dec 15 SOLO getaway to Turkey & Dubai for the first time ever – much to the chagrin of my dear parents who are a little (read:extremely) afraid I will get kidnapped!
And heck yeah, I’ll be blogging+vlogging the whole she-bang both here, on my site and on my new insta @mishcanchange. If you’re insanely curious to know what I’m up to, go ahead and hit the link…whether you want to see me succeed, fail or just watch!
Also, I took a risk and quit a job this week that wasn’t helping me grow. More about that this Thursday!
P.P.S.: Great Book Recommendation to get you jumpstarted on the road to change today! Just hit the link and it’ll lead you to Brian Tracy’s “No Excuses.” Obviously not all the wisdom here is mine, gosh.
If you have made it to the end, you can honestly check a box off your own list that says, “Read a book!” Someone verify this – please, before I get in trouble…
I would totally write more (ha ha!) but I can’t miss my bed-time and I must be up at the crack of dawn – one of my goals since forever! Hope to see you around and go through this crazy adventure of life together 🙂