Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Long Car Rides with Daddy

It's been a long New Year's Eve. After work, I drove home to pick up Daddy and we went to Philly to visit my sister. I like long car rides with my dad. It gives me a chance to talk with him without any distractions. Ever since his neck and back surgeries, it's been hard to hold a conversation with him. He's either in too much pain to concentrate or too drugged up to show he cares. It can be annoying or even embarrassing and most of all painful, but it's the truth.

It's just the way it is.

I don't know what it was-- maybe just the emotional weight on both our shoulders of overcoming another year -- but my dad and I had a particularly special conversation on our drive back from Philly.

What made our conversation special could have simply been the fact that I can't remember the last time I've been able to speak with him about such deep subjects for as long as we did... but it was more than that. It was the manner of our words and where we were, physically and emotionally, when we spoke them.

Though 2013 may just be a number, it's hard to forget the significant changes associated with the year. It's hard to overcome feelings of sorrow and it's hard not to pray for a lighter burden or for conversations with my dad like I had today to be a normalcy - not a rarity.

But at the same time, I've learned this year to not ask for a lighter burden but for broader shoulders; to not ask for more when I think I have less but to appreciate what I have today and consider all that comes tomorrow a blessing.

The truth is my parents are getting older, as am I. Time can't be stopped. And with new hours, new days, new years -- come new responsibilities, new lessons.

The car ride with my dad today - coincidentally only hours before 2013 is no more -- was special because it reminded me to value all that came and all that comes, but perhaps most important:

All that is.

Happy 2014. Stay blessed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blessings in Disguise

Friday marked the final day of the first semester of my college career. As many of you may already know, I haven't had a great semester. In fact, I can recall more negative experiences looking back at these past four or five months than positive. It hurts to even think about it.

I had some pretty serious health scares, and my parents had and continue to have even worse. I had really bad luck, and I made some life-changing mistakes. And of course, all of these had an impact on my academic performance in college.

I reached an all-time low, both physically and emotionally. Happiness became a rarity. I felt hopeless, lost, scared. I faced trials I never thought I would have to, saw and felt things I never wanted to, and went through experiences that I will forever try but never be able to forget.

Yes, I'm only 18 and yes, God-willing, I have plenty more of my life to live, but I felt and feel even now that these past few months were the worst I've ever lived through. It's more than failing tests and car accidents and illnesses -- it's the pain. It's the memory and it's their consequence.

I've tried to take solace in the thought that maybe all of this was expected. But I never could have expected to go through all I did in such a short time. Honestly, I expected the opposite.

I realize now that I can never take solace in expectations. The only consolation is faith. The only comfort is in knowing how each and every trial and tribulation I've been through is a blessing.

It was easy to complain. It was easy to seek sympathy and empathy and pity. It isn't easy to move on. It isn't easy to view misfortunes as blessings and remember my privileged status.

The fact is -- I have to. Some experiences were so tough that I'll probably even always regard them as the worst I've ever been through. What I can't do is regret. What I can't do is not move on.

I'm not the most religious person but there's a Qur'an verse that always hits me whenever I recite it. In the chapter titled 'The Beneficent', this verse is repeated multiple times after listing the many blessings we enjoy in this world: "So then which of the favors of your Lord do you deny?"

Yes, times have been tough.

They've been tough for me, you, and everyone else. It hurts to think about it that way, and it is easy to not. But the truth is -- each hardship is a blessing in disguise. Each disease, sorrow, sadness, hurt, distress is a lesson to be learned.

Each misfortune is an opportunity to grow into a better person.

It's easy to lose hope, and I did. But now, I look back at my recent past not with regret, but with wisdom. I look at my scars as stories.

I look at this recent past as the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I look at my future with hope.

Stay blessed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Poem I Wrote Some Thousand Feet Above Florida

As I was flying home from my vacation in Florida this morning, I decided to write a poem to reflect on my trip. This is what came to mind some thousand feet in the sky above Florida:

And there --
like the sun finding its niche beneath the horizon,
like the marks of feet soaked by the sea;

The memories.

They appear when eyelids close
like oysters hiding pearls
or apples harboring worms.

They round our squares
and sharpen our vertices.
They pump our beat
and raise our hair.

They exist for us.
They are us.

And etched in the past,
they become nothing more than
lost shoe-prints
deserted fingerprints;

Shared breath.

Love once had.
Life once lived.

Memories made.

Photo taken on 11/30/13 in Cocoa Beach, Florida.