Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

Truth can be either objective or subjective. Objective truth, or that which is true no matter what anyone says, always triumphs subjective truth, which is derived through opinion and perception.

People have always criticized the first word in the title of my blog as "claiming too much", and I would agree. But I am not claiming that everything I say is true, I'm simply claiming that everything I say is my true opinion - meaning, I won't say anything I don't truly believe.

People have also always criticized the last word in the title of my blog. And I've struggled to define why I decided to follow that path as well.

The day my teacher, Mr. Schneider, gave his students the assignment to create a blog changed my life, but I didn't know it just then. It took me a long time to realize why I chose this path, why I created "Truth from a Teen".

I started TFAT when I was 14 years old, with a mission to have my voice heard. But back when I was 14, my voice was different - and not only literally. The meaning of my voice being expressed was completely different. I was willing to express the voice of one demographic oppressed by stereotypes - the teenage voice.

But as I evolved, as I matured, I began to recognize and implement a different voice. A voice that was oppressed by innumerable stereotypes. The American voice. The Muslim voice. The Muslim American voice. The middle class voice.

But it was still, and always was, and always will be - my voice.

I started Truth from a Teen thinking I was representing the teenage voice, but as I've grown and matured I've realized that is not my purpose. I AIM to represent the teenage voice, the Muslim voice, etc. - but I cannot claim that I DO. I cannot claim that everything I say is reflective of a demographic's views toward a topic. I can only speak my own opinion based on fact and fiction with the hope that it resonates with other's.

By creating this website, I found a new avenue for my opinions through the internet - through TFAT, through Facebook. It isn't only my life I'm sharing, I'm sharing something we all have but are afraid to express - perspective. I truly believe we are all equal and are all capable of things of equal caliber, and my goal is to inspire those who aren't capitalizing on their perspective.

We are all amazing people. Each one of us, whether we have the ability to see and hear or are blind or deaf, are all social animals who drive on our perception and the doubt of other's.

I do what I do not only because I love to do it, but because I am able to connect with people of all different backgrounds, able to express my opinions, able to hear other's, able to perceive, and express my perception.

This is what I want to do and I'll keep on doing it even after TFAT ends.

And that's the truth.

Speech: "3 Is Not Just A Number"; Aadil Malik - Student Council President

Well, its certainly been a long time since I last posted on Truth from a Teen, and the reason is not that I took an intentional break, but that I needed a break that I didn't think I would take (wow, that's a tongue twister). It has truly been a weird couple of months. It may have seemed like I've lost sight of my blog, forgot about things - but honestly, as weird or as unpredictable as these months were, I wouldn't change a thing. I turned 17 last week. Whenever I think about my website, just the title of it, I think - is this what I want to do? Truth from a Teen? Because if the title remains true, I only have two years left. Two more years of writing on this website. But this drought of posts on my website, this neglect, its all taught me something. Its taught me to take a step back and appreciate what I have. Be grateful. To make sure everybody I love in my life knows it. Over two months, I've reshaped my attitude on what my future holds. I've met incredible people, been granted amazing opportunities, and now with deepest conviction I can say that wherever I'm headed, whichever road I take - I'm ready. Because I know that I have the overwhelming support of people who deserve my eternal gratitude. And last and most, I know I have my faith.

This past August, at the end of my school year as a Junior, I ran once again to be re-elected as President of my school's student body for the third time, the last time.

Here is the speech I gave that allowed me to win one last time. Unfortunately, I had about 4 or 5 people recording the speech, and every single person has some sort of technical mishap. Therefore, I don't have a video. But I do have the words. It was a long speech, but here it is for those who want to re-read it.

"3 Is Not Just A Number"
Raise your hand if you know who I am.
Raise your hand if you know I'm going to win these elections.
Raise your hand if you know I'm not going to win.

You want to know what's funny?

Most of you raised your hand to at least one of those three questions – questions even I do not have the answer to. Questions I have asked myself every single year and every year, I have struggled to answer. I've finally figured out why. The answer does not lie in my hands. It never has and never will. The answer lies in your hands.

I've had a lot of time to think about this moment. I've been thinking about it since 9th grade - imagining myself standing here in this very position. For the past 1,031 days, I've walked the halls of 535, making sure every step mattered. Making sure every step was a step forward. There's something about these halls that make me feel like this is where I belong. In tenth grade, I used to sit at the fish pond during lunch, now known as the Cougar Den, just so I could hear the sound of students opening and closing their lockers, taking those steps of purpose, climbing up the stairs, I would hear the entire school roar, the entire building sharing one thing, one beautiful thing – cougar pride. The school would come alive. People would ask me why I sat at the fish pond for lunch, many times alone, on days 1/3/5 on the six day schedule-- and I would tell them because I just needed some time to myself. Because I needed some quiet.

But honestly, all I needed was noise. The noise that encompassed Collegium Charter School. The noise that epitomized the opportunities this school has to offer, the possibilities, and the pride that I hoped to ensure lives on.

For 2 years, TWO YEARS, I have been fortunate enough to serve you. You are the reason I have kept on doing this. The hands I have shaken. The opponents I have faced. The students and teachers and staff who I’ve spoken to. The mistakes I have made. The victories we have accomplished. It has been a long journey.

And for that – the simple two words do not accurately express the magnitude of my gratitude, but I will say them because better words escape me.

Thank you.
I need your help with this. When I put my hand in the air I need you to say “Say What”. Alright?

(Say What!) Louder than that. (SAY WHAT!) Louder than that. (SAY WHAT!!)

3 is not just a number But Aadil Malik is just a name (Say What!)

3 is not just a number But Aadil Malik is just a name (Say What!)

A name I exclaimed and aimed to bring acclaim to
A name that became a fame I framed the same cliché saying to.
Who is Aadil Malik? (RH – say what)

And now the answer to that question that perplexed me for two years is vivid clear
And it is not as simple as I am or as complex that it might require a lifetime of searching
The answer is clear in my presence in the present as I present the presumption that I procrastinated from realizing in the past
I said it every time I went on the morning announcements; it is my signature, slogan, soul

Who is Aadil Malik?

Your Student Body President.

But Aadil Malik is just a name, 3 is not just a number (Say What!)

You see, as I silently stepped onto this stage this sense of urgency escaped me and transformed into something so significantly special
As I see you all staring at my shy, scared, skinny presence with support, my nervousness submerged into serenity and I somehow suddenly recognize why this is what I am supposed to do.

Serve you.

I’ve received compliments and criticism. Maintained confidence and rejected skepticism Believed in this school and the students and teachers in our possibility to grow And to sum it up all I can say is – YOLO.

But I’m not invulnerable. I’m not invincible. I’m not superior. I’m not larger than anyone nor do I believe that.

In this colossal world filled with miniature hearts Egos demanding nutrition, minds deficient Desolate souls, eyes imploring recognition Stagnant stenches, tongues soaking in pride Sin and cyanide, who am I?

Just like you, I’m human.

I’m not the best, better than the rest Trying to impress, more or less But let’s let the truth be known

I am not alone. No.

Just because I do does not mean my ego needs to be fed Just because I receive does not mean I demand respect Just because I write does not mean I have to be read

Or be listened to. Or be heard.

I am not perfect. I am not alone.

To be honest, what I am, is in love. I've never truly been able to say it before, but I'm saying it - and I'm not scared to say the word. LOVE. I am in love with THIS. Every aspect of it, every breath taken, every word uttered, every complaint heard, every criticism given, every feeling felt, every emotion shown, every pound of our hearts, every beautiful moment, every lie, every truth, every sin, every sight, every intricate movement, every dance, every status posted on Collegium Charter School Student Government’s Facebook page, every pep rally, every Homecoming game, every morning announcement, every interaction, every decision, every mistake, every relationship, every shape, every number, every letter, every photo captured, every championship won, every teardrop, every laugh, every smile, every thought, every beginning, every end, everything. Everything.

This is beautiful. Representing Collegium has been the best two years of my life. And I’m perpetually grateful that you allow me to experience it.

So what is it about 3? Is it a triangle, a hat-trick, or as Mr. Sterious likes to say: a ripoff of Pat Riley Is it a mere number, is it a representation of my legacy? Does 3 just represent my plea for a third term?

Honestly, it could be any of those things – but it isn’t.

3 is a date. February 3rd, 2012.

The day I received three text messages while in school – one from my Dad, and two from my cousin each carrying the same message:

I stood in front of my locker staring at my phone and read my Dad’s text. “Muzammil has passed away. He was only 19, Aadil.”

I walked towards my cafeteria and Mr. Williams saw me, and I guess he saw that my face was filled with shock and worry so he asked me if I was okay.

That's when the emotions finally hit me, that is when the empathy filled my heart. I began to cry.
After I had calmed down, he let me go into the cafeteria and I sat down at my table and started to eat my lunch, but as soon as I put one piece of food in my mouth, my stomach felt a deep disgust. Thoughts were racing in my brain of the time back when we were kids when my cousins and I would make fun of him and not talk to him because we thought he was weird.

I was in such shock that I couldn't even talk to anybody for the rest of that school day because these pessimistic introverted thoughts rushed in my brain of how hypocritical I was and how my morals contradicted my actions and the way I treated people and treat myself. I felt condescending, egotistical.

I felt egotistical because I remembered when my Dad had told me about him two weeks before his death and after only 10 minutes I had totally forgotten what he had even said. I felt egotistical because I went on with my day and didn't even have the decency to ask my Dad how he was - or even call him or his father myself.

And I felt hypocritical because I didn’t even begin to care until he died.

Everyone who figured out began to tell me "Sorry for the loss of your friend", but in reality, I didn't LOSE a FRIEND. I honestly wish a FRIEND was what I lost, but instead, I lost the opportunity of becoming one. I lost the opportunity of becoming a better person. I lost the opportunity of treating him with the respect he deserved.

The reason I bring up the story of Muzammil is because it was probably one of the most unexpectedly impactful moments in my life so far. The doctor initially thought he had pneumonia. However, after doing multiple tests and scans, they had discovered a significantly large-sized tumor on his heart. He was only 19, three years older than me.

I couldn’t begin to imagine how he took the news, the emotions he felt when he was told, the rush of thoughts he had about his dreams and goals in life coming to a sudden end.

We too often take life and the opportunities bestowed upon us for granted. Muzammil had everything going for him, and his opportunities flashed before his eyes.

Not for one second do I want any of you guys to believe that I am not taking this seriously or that I am doing this only for myself. And not for one second do I want you to believe that I am ungrateful, because without all of you, I wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t be here today.

I barely knew him, but Muzammil’s legacy has allowed me to reconsider my appreciation.

3 represents a lot of things. From that day on, I learned to never let my appreciation for something go unheard, to never let the magnitude of my gratitude be disguised by false pride, and to always be grateful for what I have because it could all go away in an instant. 3 represents Muzammil’s legacy, and now it represents ours.

I’ve learned over the years I’ve served you as President that there is no strategy, no campaign. There is simply me and you and the school we harbor. A center of education. A center of Cougar Pride. I believe the seniors can attest to this feeling of not wanting to let go of this school. Wanting to stay one more day just to remain a high school student.

Cougar Pride is not something small. We spend most of our days, most of our lives here at school. Cougar Pride is not merely a saying – it truly is something big. It is what won us championships. It is what will make this school continue to grow. It is something that, as we leave this school, we are proud to say we spent our time here.

Our Cougar Pride is what I hope to ensure lives on. Our Cougar Pride is not defined by the color of shirts we wear but by determination of the person wearing it.

My goal here isn’t to be able to write Student Council President on my resume I’m not here to play games, I’m not here to claim fame, I’m not here to entertain I’m here to expand my brain, obtain knowledge, and retain it. Represent you to best of my ability, sustain Cougar Pride, and maintain it.

It doesn’t matter if I win or lose because the fact will remain the same - I love this school.

And as I move on through my journey here, become a senior, and embark on my final year, I promise that nothing will ever change that.