10 years ago, I was a fresh graduate arriving in the big city starting my career while returning home to my family after spending 5 years abroad. I was only 22 waiting to turn 23, and a bit plump (a result of snacking on chocolate digestives in front of the telly, as the Brits call it). Although i was very young then, I had already learned my lessons and growing pains within those 5 years – i had broken hearts, gotten my heart broken, been cheated on, been away from family, learnt the perils of being on my own, lost sight of my spirituality and then gaining it back. And so i thought i was already very much grown up.
Life since then has been nothing but a blessing, albeit a steep learning curve, to me. During the last year before returning home, I had just broken up with another boyfriend (i had a LOT of boy troubles back then) and was praying constantly to God to help lead me the way. I remember sitting at the prayer mat, crying, talking with Him in my head (ala Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love) requesting for a good, kind man for a life partner. And Alhamdulillah, He granted me one. In a week from that day, my friend/college mate, now husband, contacted me (we were friends since 18) and asked for help in introducing him to my lecturer for his final term project. An introduction turned to lunch in the college common room, which turned to a movie, which turned to a bus ride around the city which turned to him saying to me “I don’t know where this is going to lead us, but i’m glad that we’re starting something”.
And that something turned out to be engagement 1 year later, marriage a year after that (when we both were still 24), a miscarriage (which broke our hearts), a baby boy (now our beloved son) and lots and lots more growing up to do. Together. Looking back, i wonder why they say the first year is a honeymoon year – i think we definitely spent ours adjusting to each other and ironing out issues. How can you not? You get 2 adults who’re used to their own opinions and ideas, different backgrounds/upbringing and you throw them together in the same room – even best friends can start arguing with each other, in my opinion. When they say the highest rate of divorce is for marriages below 5 years, i understand why. Marriage, as they say, isn’t a contract – but a constant negotiation.
Time and time again, what i’ve learnt is that all the basics of life, and more importantly, religion, matter. You must indeed learn to be nice to the other party first, before you can expect anyone to be nice to you. You must sort out any issues you have yourself, before you can sort out somebody else’s. You must FIND yourself first, before you can learn to share who you are with another person for life. And in order to find yourself, you have to look deep within your core and remember that God created you, and to Him you will return. Everything else is just details.
Another core principle i hold on to now is that we need to take action whenever we are troubled about something. Been having fights with your husband recently? Book a weekend getaway, where hopefully the romantic setting can lead you to start reconnecting with each other (trust me, getting there is already half the job done). Been worrying about baby issues, like me? I have decided, after a year of trying, to book an appointment with a fertility specialist. Bored with your job? I’ve discovered that moving to a new place can be refreshing and exciting – although tiny baby steps, such as taking breaks between hours in front of the pc (and listening to music on headphones while working) help me a great deal (the salary raise upon moving jobs can be a big motivation too). The point is, complaining is one thing – actually making some steps to overcome the problem is another.
And of course. You probably know this is coming. Time and time again, without fail, always turn to God for help and prayers. Because we human beings are really nothing without His blessing that He has created for us – the blue skies that aren’t yet falling, the clear waters running from streams, the mountains that are as yet standing firm, the atom that magically balances itself to keep matter together (i took a particle physics course in A Levels – something about spin, quarks, magnetic force etc etc). In other words, we’re really pretty insignificant – and to me, that big picture helps keep things in perspective.
So what will i be like 10 years from now? Hopefully with all new good things happening within the next decade. A lot more growing up and understanding myself, with more attention and energy to pour on Umar and future siblings, as well as being able to extend more help to others particularly within my own bigger family. Hopefully i’ll look like a young 40-something (take J-Lo/Jennifer Aniston, discounted by half – heck, 70% – and i’ll be happy). Amin.