Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Fight


We broke up.

No more B. No more Long Legs and Butterfly.

I'll miss him, but Allah (swt) knows best. And I know better than going against that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The First Fight

As salaam alaikum,

Well, not really the first fight, but the first serious discussion. After this month, it was only going to happen. At the depths of it, it's like...I'm sacrificing what I once held dear, the want to end up with someone who believed as I do, to be with you. Because of that, there is a minimum of things I expect from you that at first I feel like I got from you and now, I feel like I don't. You are an interesting and beautiful person, you inspire me, you remind me a little bit of my father, a little bit of my mother and have the potential to be someone to fit right into my family and with me in a way that few other individuals could.

But you seem to not understand how I feel about you, and the place I put you in my life, and even with all the beautiful you are and how much I love you...if we don't get this worked out, if we don't see eye to eye at the end of this, then maybe we're not what either of us needs.

I feel like I'm sacrificing so much of myself and you're doing little to nothing in return. I feel like I'm working for this relationship and you're just taking things as they come, expending little more effort than it takes to respond to texts that I may send you while you're in the middle of coding, texts that I send you when I'm already wary of whether your busy or not and if I'm bothering you.

You talk little but I need you to say more.

So that's that. It could be that he'll leave here today and we'll have a better understanding of each other and our needs. It could be that we end here and we've parted ways. I don't want it to be the latter because, God, I've gotten so used to him being in my life...

But...I can't say. We just need to talk.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Adventures of Long Legs and Butterfly

As salaam alaikum,

Whoo!'s been a long week! I can't believe tomorrow is Friday so the week isn't over yet!

I've very much enjoyed the food I made this week. I'll have soup for probably another few days, so tomorrow I'll have to think about a non-soup entree to prepare. I'll probably do the barbecue chicken again, since I have a lot of barbecue sauce left over and all I need is to buy chicken. I'll make less chicken this time, though, so I don't get tired of it.

And the entree I think will be vegetarian this time. I think I'll be easy on myself and make fried rice or something. I have vegetables, so it's all set.

Also, alhamdulillah, the housing search is going along nicely. There's this second year student who lives in Brookline whose place I'll check out. As much as I'm not keen on moving back to the nowheresville that is the Longwood area, at least I'll be close to Trader Joes and Stop and Shop so I don't have to get my non-food necessities at CVS anymore. Although...Rubbermaid has come a long way since the old days of their plastic ware not being microwave safe, I tell you what...

Although, I am still cautious about heating plastic with my food...not only my distaste for melting (a specific phobia that is not as serious as it had been, but still existent...time was, I wouldn't be able to mention it here, even), but also because of the famed BPA. What's the use of eating organic if microwaving may kill nutrients in food and then the plastic you heat it in leaches chemicals?

Whatever. God looks out for us. A little chemical here, a little there...we return to Him in the end, as long as we intend the best for the bodies He gave us, at least I figure.

I may try my hand at a children's book at some point...or a pseudo-children's book. I got the idea earlier this week. For various reasons that will be kept confidential (but not so much in this partial disclosure), I had been freaking out this week. At the height of the freaking out, I sent B a kind of desperate email. I was afraid of how he was going to take it.

And, masha'Allah, he is so cool! I mean, not like in the popular way, but in the calm, collected way. I've cried in front of him at least twice, once because he said something really touching, and the other time...ehh, hormone soup. Hehe, serves four. Anyway, even with the freaking out email giving him permission to leave if he couldn't handle stuff (yes, it was like that), he took everything in stride, just like the day I cried to him about how much I loved my roommates and I wanted to give them a hug (yeah, that was definitely me being an estrogen bag, right there).

So he took it all in stride. It was no big deal, he had no reservations. It was business as usual. So after I found out that we were still okay, that he wouldn't be breaking up with me (soups on!), I was happy and wrote as my facebook status, "And so continue the adventures of long legs and butterfly."

And then I thought, hmm...that sounds like the name of a children's book.

Then I had a dream about my mother singing to me "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," that she used to do it when I was little and draw a little spider-in-motion by drawing a triangle superimposed over a star (so that the spider had eight legs). It was really cute, and in the dream, I said that I loved the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

I did like that song, but I liked Anansi the Spider more. Anansi was gangster. He was so witty and clever and I loved him.

So I imagined that the children's story would be about a Daddy Long Legs and a Butterfly. Long Legs is B because, hah, he has really long legs (and a short torso...when we sit next to each other, he's only a little taller than me, which is really funny to me, because he towers over me when we stand together). I'm Butterfly because that's what he always called me, even before we were official. Sometimes Mariposa, but butterfly.

And Long Legs and Butterfly would have adventures!

The illustrations would not be anthropomorphic, but the characters would be. Butterfly would be a free but sometimes frantic spirit who was giggly, good-natured but sometimes nervous to try new things. Long Legs would be the calm, collected voice of reason that helped guide Butterfly through the adventures. They would be best friends.

I just thought it would be really cute to write the story based on events in me and B's life...our own adventures. Base them on major things that happen in our lives and adapt them into children's stories about a spider, a butterfly and their other insect friends.

It would be something I would make for my children so, in a kind of sneaky, subliminal way, they'd get to know their parents.

...alternatively, I was thinking of making it a book of short stories, poetic prose if you will, about B and I, except it wouldn't be a children's book. Still, I would be Butterfly, and he would be Long Legs.

Hehe, my Long Legs. :) By proxy, hehe, if you will...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cooking! Now I'm tired...

As salaam alaikum,

I decided to cook for the week on Saturday. Wow. I think I have enough food for the week. It took me five hours, which my roommate thought was excessive...but then again, I've never seen her spend more than 5 minutes preparing food. My other roommate usually spends an average of 15 minutes on meals, whereas I spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours usually because, ahem, I'm actually cooking from scratch.

Anyway, come to dinner! The menu consists of:

Burritos with chicken, butternut squash and brown rice, served with a homemade black bean salsa

Tuscan vegetable soup, with a medley of spinach, tomatoes, carrots and zucchini, served with Parmesan cheese

Mango barbecue chicken, served with my homemade, tangy mango sauce

Tropical fruit lassi, sweetened with light agave nectar, over ice


The three recipes I have to thank for. I have a normally narrow repertoire that consists of fried rice, jollof rice, rice and stew, foo foo and soup, cabbage soup (the American kind), vegetable korma, tandoori chicken, mango lassi, fried chicken, baked chicken, pasta salad and quesadillas. Put those foods in rotation, and I get tired of them really quickly.

...I guess that's not the narrowest of repertoires, but whatever.

Oh yeah, and also Dominican rice and beans, tostones and fried plantains with mmmm batidas de lechoza (papaya) y piña (pineapple), just like I had in the DR. GOSTOSA!

Okay, so I'm not a slouch. My poor woman's attempt Indian food, my Nigerian food a la my father, Dominican standards and my very American standards and bastardizations of other peoples food. Not bad.

But I want to expand my repertoire of poultry and vegetables so that will give me greater impetus to cook food that I can carry with me and eat at school and, later, at work. I had started regaining weight...well, after a week in which my downfall was characterized by such act as eating a whole bag of jelly bellies in a day...

Womp womp womp.

But last week, I cooked on Monday and my food lasted until Friday afternoon. It was glorious! And I'm pretty much back to the weight I should be.

So, it's back in the kitchen...hmm, maybe next time I won't spend 5 hours cooking, but it took that long because it always takes a long time to cook something for the first or second time as you get used to the recipe and do things inefficiently.

However, standing on my feet for five hours without respite made my feet tired. If I'm ever the matriarch of a big family insha'Allah, I will bring a chair into the kitchen and keep idling interlopers out!

As I told my roommate, being in a relationship means my biological clock has come to a complete halt. Eerrrrrkkkk! No babies! It's like those commercials from the 90s for furniture stores. "No payments, no interest until 1998!" Okay. No babies until 2015! At least, seriously...

But I do look forward to having my own little family of cuties. :) I went to a spirituals concert last night with my public health mentor and her family. Masha'Allah she's got an adorable little family...three kids, 11, seven and three. The baby was at home and the seven-year-old was falling asleep by the end of the concert. She's an OB/GYN, clinical director of Women's Health at Children's/BWH and she works in community health centers (what I want to do, insha'Allah!). She helps me see that it can be done.

She had her first baby at 33, I think. That's a good age to start...the earliest I'm considering is like, maybe the last year of residency (thus 2015...I'll be 30...aaaaaahhhhhh!), since I want to do fellowship. Then, there would be a gap, and maybe I'd have one after in the second year of my practicing (2017-2018), so I could, like, get actual maternity leave.

That all depends on if, you know, I'm married by then, haha! B knows I'm a schemer...he'll be alright. He already said that he wanted four. He asked me how many I wanted. I said three or more.

My roommates, like my cooking time, think that four children is excessive. So do they also probably think that the meticulousness with which I cleaned the house was excessive. I do look forward to being the matriarch and sharing these responsibilities with my husband...until the kids are old enough to take over, muahahaha!

Seriously, who needs a cleaning service when you have children! Trick them into helping when they're young, and you've got service until they move out! That's my plan, anyway...

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I sent B a message telling him that one day I should cook dinner for him (I already made him breakfast one day), or we should cook together. Together, we can make a poor couple's attempt at Nigerian food. Together, we can rule the world...muahahahahaha!

Just kidding.

Anyway, back to work today...sitting for hours instead of standing!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elis Regina

As salaam alaikum,

Her songs are perhaps made more poignant knowing that she died at the age of 36 after battling years of depression and bouts of substance abuse. Even without that knowledge, listening to her voice, the sheer emotion that she injects into a song, and when so lucky, watching her perform on stage, gesticulating, dancing, doing her squinting-wide smile and laughing as she plays with the chorus and the lyrics...there is just nothing like experiencing songs as performed by Elis Regina.

I sing her "Aguas de Março" now as my default. In RMD, I imagine it as 18-year-old Desirée's theme song (as opposed to 15-year-old Desirée's "Sina" by Djavan). I barely knew of her when I heard her version of "Corcovado" with Tom Jobim and loved how the female singer enunciated each word, but I didn't know who she was. Then, while I was in Brazil, the first novela I saw when I returned from work in São Paulo was (what I discovered later was the remake of) "Ciranda de Pedra."

I watched the opening credits of the show and I was entranced, not only because the choreography was interesting for a period novel, but because of the song. See for yourself:

 Saudades total! I hear this, and I'm back in my little room in my pousada in Sampa in the winter, turning it on unknowingly to the all-powerful Globo and the novela das seis, wondering what I'm doing here in this country whose language I hardly speak. The feelings come back and I tear up a little...what a beautiful experience life is!

It was through discovering this song, "Redescobrir," (Rediscover), that I rediscovered Elis Regina, A Pimintinha (little pepper), A Furacão (The Hurricane).

I then found that she did a version of my favorite song, "Aguas de Março," and I slowly discovered some of her other songs. Slowly, because I have the tendency to find songs that I like and just listen to them for weeks before branching out and finding new songs.

So this weekend, as I was playing around with GrooveShark, I made a playlist of Elis' songs. So far, I am really loyal to ones I've heard before...but then there was this song that I've heard and liked by Lô Borges and I'd never heard the version that she does.

And as 70s as the music accompaniment is, her voice is timeless. I love that version of the has supplanted all other versions for me. Such passion, such energy, it's some of the best of Elis I've heard.

The song? "O Trem Azul," or "The Blue Train."

Here's the translation of the lyrics:

Things that we forget to say
Phrases that the wind comes sometimes to remind me
Things that remained a long time without being said
The song of the wind doesn't tire of soaring

You take the blue train
The sun on your head
The sun hits the blue train
You in my head
The sun in my head

The chorus is a cooler play on words in Portuguese:

Você pega o trem azul
O sol na cabeça
O sol pega o trem azul
Você na cabeça
O sol na cabeça


I read one of the comments. It translates to the following:

"I remember that the first time that I heard this song with Elis' voice I almost went mad. Even though I had heard the original, when I heard her and with that choir at the end, really, I cried."

Yes. Que emoção!

People say her daughter, Maria Rita, may be, in fact, a better singer than her mother. I do like some of Maria Rita's music, and she may be technically a better singer, but nothing will replace the passionate phrasing of her mother, and it's not fair for either of them to make that comparison.

Elis will always be one of my favorites because she sings songs the way that I want to live my passions in this life...full, fleshy, deliberate, meticulous, purposefully haphazard, casually in love with abandon.

Love is like this. It's like rediscovering the wonderful that life is that we learn as a child and are convinced that we're forced to forget as adults. Eu vou redescobrindo...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

26 / It's a Thin Line

As salaam alaikum,

Happy birthday to me! I'm three. :)

Okay, so yes, I'm 26. Twenty-six. Veinte seis. Vinte seis.

When I turned 25, for about three months leading up to it, I lamented the meaning of the year for me, my becoming older, more adult, exiting the 15-24 youth demographic for good (yes). But so many good things happened to me during this past year, I mean, alhamdulillah!

No more doom and gloom, I can look at 26 with a lot more optimism. In spite of myself and what experience I now have under my belt, arguably I have become more idealistic than I have been in past years. I have a better vision of what I want for my life and all I want to achieve. Whereas I said with my lips or in my head, maybe, before that anything is possible in God's world, I now believe it to be true. With one more year marking one more year of experience, of knowledge of the evil that is rampant in the world, perpetuated by the beings that God created to inhabit it, with a greater awareness of atrocity and injustice...I look back in the mirror at myself, alive, bright eyed and invigorated.

The implicit loss of innocence with age and experience does not weigh on my soul as I thought it would. Instead, it makes more real, more alive to possibilities to make right what is wrong and is in my power, to work together with others who I'm discovering share my ever-developing vision and fulfill the purpose of my life. It's made me more adventurous, more gutsy, more willing to err in order to learn, in order to consider myself, as I always was before, among the truly repentant.

Except now, everything is more real to me, because I understand more its nature, and I understand more the actual process of life.

So, in summary...(wry smile)...26 is like I've aged back a little bit. It's like I turned 24 from 25 and will be going backwards. It is enlightened, it is innocent and starkly aware even more of this innocence, the persistence of this innocence always, if protected. Twenty-six is like my first birthday as a real adult, if I hijack that 15-24 youth demographic designation and launch into 25-44. I feel like I'm new again, it's my first birthday again, and as someone no longer clinging to a emotionally turbulent but necessary adolescence, I can move forward to be actually who I've always wanted to be.


But it's a thin line. What's a thin line? Sigh.

I logged on to FB to see all of the people who left me birthday wishes on my wall. A lot of people have. And I know, as someone who scans to see who's had a birthday on facebook and sends out messages based on that (albeit personal messages), this is no big issue.

However, and unfortunately so, I was softened when I saw that MTQ had left me a happy birthday wish.

I had to step back like, errrkkk, what's going on with this? I have B now (though he has yet to tell me happy birthday...not that I'm keeping track, but my dentist office told me happy birthday before he did...they sent a cute e-card and everything! It made me want to set up a dentist appointment when I go home in a month...but I digress). I am happy. MTQ is history, only to be revived as the character Sadiq in "A Man's Hands," and as the basis of Mo in A Rose Much Desired. Heh.

So why did I soften? Why was I happy that he has kept up the annual tradition since I told him that I liked him by email after I had graduated college and was sure I was never going to see him again? Because it's true...he didn't tell me happy birthday on facebook (though we've been facebook friends for the same period that we've been friend friends) before I told him that I used to like him...back in the day...

And the answer's a thin line. What, between love and hate? No...a thin line between forgetting and not forgetting, between importance and insignificance. Misguided as it was, and as much as I realize what real love and an actual relationship is now, and as much as he is sho-nuff married now...he's still going to make me smile. He's still going to be somehow special to me. That's it, flat out, end of story, boom.

And I think the more and the sooner I realize that, the sooner I'll desist with the self-floggings.

Seriously. Yes, I'm with B, and he's awesome and here. He fits more into my life, we're both grown folks so we know more what we're doing and what we want. That's excellent. But a first love(-ish...if I don't count, you know, the loves of childhood) is always going to be that. The memories of good times, the memories of imagined significance, and the overall good person that MTQ actually is.

It made me smile that he still made an effort to wish me a happy birthday, and that he has for the past three years, even when belated.

Es tan corto el amor, y tan largo el olvido.

Because you'll never forget. And old habits (of thought) die hard.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Muslim speed dating, anyone?"

As salaam alaikum,

That quote was from me, back in July of last year in my entry "[uncensored]: Reaja / React" calling for some solutions to the ever-dysfunctional Muslim courtship world in the United States. I should have known that someone already tried it.

I read the article, and wow. Really?

I think it's incredibly ironic that the man who is setting these up (1) Married for love (which one of the interviewed fathers decried, saying that such marriages only last up to two years) and (2) Did not marry a Muslim. He married an Orthodox Jewish woman. And yet he's setting up a speed-dating service for (South Asian) Muslims too embarrassed to give their last names, some of them even to be interviewed, with stilted conversation that reminds us that, as a community, a lot of young people don't know how to talk to each other.

We ain't ready...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Congratulations, youth of Egypt, for doing something that your elders doubted you could do, standing long and strong for the liberties that are within our rights as human beings!

Thank you for educating me.

Rest momentarily for the long journey ahead.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Feminist Upbringing

 As salaam alaikum,

Me, wearing my favorite color (lavender) on my fourth birthday (1989). Lavender was my favorite color because it was my grandmother's favorite color. I never considered myself to have an actual, intrinsic favorite color.

When I was a little girl, my mother admits that I was girlier than she ever was. I didn't feel like I was that girlie. This little girl, K, who I remember from preschool, she admitted to wearing dresses every day. I thought that was silly and unnecessary. However, dresses were definitely indicated for birthdays. I loved dresses, wearing my hair down, playing with Cabbage Patch and Barbie Dolls, and among my favorite television shows were My Little Pony and Muppet Babies.

So upon reflection, I was probably a more girlie girl than most. At three, I didn't know what it meant to be a woman. I assumed, as an adult, I would be a mother, and I would be married to the father. When asked if I wanted to drive a car when I grew up, I said that, "The Daddy would drive."

And my parents nurtured my interests and hobbies. My mother, tired from her day at work, as she was still working full-time as a clinical social worker, would come home from work and tiredly played "Bahbies," with me, holding the "Daddy" doll while the "Mommy" doll invariably found herself in peril and called to her husband for help. Every birthday, I'd get a new doll, doll clothes for my cabbage patch doll, Naomi, or a RV for my Barbie family. In preschool, I was enrolled in both gymnastics and ballet, excited to wear the pink tutu and having aspirations to wear the purple tutu that the kindergarten girls wore.

And my parents did not discourage me when I announced what I wanted to be when I grew up: a ballerina (of course)...and a pediatrician.

My inspiration? My primary care pediatrician, Dr. R, who I remembered fondly for listening to my chest and giving me suckers at the end of appointments.

Fast-forward through my childhood, as my mother went from part-time to leaving her work entirely to be a stay-at-home mother after my brother's diagnosis with autism. I went from wanting to be a pediatrician and a ballerina to wanting to be an actress by the age of 8 to wanting to be either an obstetrician or an architect by age 12. By the time I was 15, I was still between being a physician and an architect, not yet convinced that I would write on the side, not yet convinced I would become fluent in Spanish. It was time to take drivers ed, and like every other 15 year old, that was my biggest priority.

My parents would tease me that, when I was three, I had informed them that the Daddy was going to drive. I probably scoffed and reminded them that I also declared that I was going to get my own apartment at the age of three so that I could have my own Christmas Tree.

My parents pretty much let me express myself as I pleased as a child, save for the limits of good child discipline. While I loved playing with my Barbies and named them and my stuffed animals, I also loved building houses with my Legos. I liked setting up the train on the train set they bought my brother and I one year. In kindergarten, I would play house with the girls, sometimes being the ignored grandmother so I could play some matriarchal role, while building constructing a mansion with my wooden building blocks when coming home. In elementary school, I learned all of the hand-clap games of childhood and collected rocks with the first grade girls who looked up for me for some reason when I was in the second grade.

Meanwhile, my parents made sure to enrich my talents at home, my father teaching me math so I could go ahead in the math book in class, my mother encouraging me to write stories, something that I loved doing since I was four years old, as I narrated and she transcribed stories about PJ Sparkles and her magic powers.

All of that culminated in me becoming the girl that I was at 16, smiling widely in my drivers' license that I obtained the day before school so I could drive myself to school with style in the 1985 Camry, the car I was driven in as a baby. That year, I would decide to apply to a liberal arts college with plans to be a premedical student, possibly considering a dual MD/PhD. I had not dated to this point and I had no plans of dating while in high school, as I would focus on my education and career development. My relatives didn't even have to persuade me as they thought.

And then I think back to things I used to complain about in my upbringing. My father at one time was hesitant towards me driving at a young age. He said he'd feel more comfortable with me driving if I were a boy and not a girl. At 16 and 17 and indignant at what my father said, I tried to emotionally sever myself from my parents and the way they did things. My mother never drove the car if my father was in the car...he insisted on driving. He liked to come home and have his food prepared for him, even after my mother went back to work part time as a parent advocate for families of children with special needs at the intermediate school district. I didn't like that. I rejected that. I couldn't wait until college, when I would be out from under the authority of my parents and free to be me...

...but it took me maybe this long to realize that I was always free. While I certainly developed early on ideas about gender roles while observing my parents (i.e. the Daddy will drive), never through my childhood did I feel that there was any career that was inaccessible because I was a girl, and I didn't limit myself as such. My mother stayed at home for much of my childhood, but neither of my parents did anything to indicate that this was the way to be. It was only as I grew to be a woman that I began to think about what type of role I'd want in family life, with a husband and children.

For my father, I could be anything. He actually preferred that I become an engineer. My mother encouraged my strengths and ultimately was more interested in my emotional well-being than the focus on my academic achievement from my father. Although I'm sure they weren't thinking of issues of gender when they were raising me (at least, not in the way that I do), they did a great job in balancing my interest in dolls and math, in biology and cooking without coercing me into a specific way of being.

And I think that's why I am who I am now, comfortable in my skin and the role I've chosen for myself in this world, as a future physician, public health practitioner, wife and mother, insha'Allah.

And if my future daughter shuns Barbies for insects and amphibians, I'll be right there with her, helping her maintain her collection.

And I won't tell my son that boys don't cry.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Me

As salaam alaikum,

So, Mubarak may step down in the next 24 hours? Once again, I get my most updated news from facebook status updates which refer me to news sources, and not the news sources themselves. Insha'Allah, whatever the announcement will be, and whatever the outcome of the announcement is, the outcome will lead to true steps towards democracy and do right by the people and their demands.

EDIT: Hah, well, never mind...

Maybe my last entry didn't do justice to how truly I am inspired by the young people, people my age, in Tunisia and now Egypt, especially, in bringing their grievances to the attention of a dictator. I realize, as I will be 26 in less than a week now, that I'm still young and the power of my youth in seeing others like me across the Atlantic doing something big and meaningful to their daily lives and their liberties to pursue their personal purposes of life.


Taking this back to the national front, I've been reading articles that are talking about how the face of the US youth is going to be drastically different from the aging least, in terms of race. In the New York Times especially, from their "Race Remixed" series to other articles about children in schools, it seems that soon enough, the school population is going to be majority non-white, with Latino children making up the largest minority. Articles have also talked about an increasing mixed-race population in schools and the fact that one in seven new marriages are interracial or inter-ethnic (yes!). My google calculator tells me that's more than 14%.


These two facts, in synthesis, have helped me remember who I was, and helped me redefine myself. Let's go back to six years ago, when I was 19 and about to turn 20. I was a sophomore in college. Unlike now, I did not doubt the relevance of my youth. I was confident in my God-given beauty and talents and the fact that I was going to be a catch for anybody. Of course the men stopped and gawked and whistled at me...I was young, I was well put together, and though I didn't flaunt it, it was apparent.

For me, this was the time to do everything.

I used to want to be a name it. I wanted to be a young writer, authoring my first novel as an adolescent, I wanted to be a young activist, though I did not have a cause. I wanted to be a young wife, as I had my eyes on the type of man I wanted to marry, potentially a younger mother than my mother was. I wanted to be young and religious. I didn't want to wait a lifetime to be spiritually evolved. I didn't find it necessary to bother through trials that could teach me something that, with maturity, I could know now.

I was young, I felt it, and I wanted to do everything now, now, now. I'd been this way since I was about twelve, when I decided that I wanted to become one of the most spiritual people on earth at a young age. I think my mother's shows on young people who had experienced near-death experiences and came back knowing the truth of things and spiritually evolved didn't help...

Fast forward to now. It's six years later. By my previous definitions of what I wanted for myself, I am a failure. I have not published my first novel, I was not an activist in youth because I never did find that cause. I am not a wife and I am unlikely to be a markedly younger mother than my mother was, who had me at 30. I'm learning that there is no substitute for experience when it comes to spirituality and though I was mature for my age, I recognize that the life Allah (swt) has granted me is building my faith in a way I could not arrive at spontaneously or through any specific religious endeavor.

But six years later, and though I feared feeling it for years, the feeling that I was failing has dissipated. And thankfully, because I was never anyone's failure. Taking maturity up a notch, because of the experiences I have and continue to have, I imagine more things about myself and tempering what was a youthful, erotic view on life to a more seasoned, romantic view of life.

At almost 20, I was in the generation that was going to change the world. I had graduated '03 from college, a year recited since I was 8 years old, and I just knew that our year, big things were going to happen. I imagined us rallying for our invisible causes, turning the world on its head. I was ready, for whenever the cause came about, I was ready for the revolution. I was going to do my part. I believed in several things, including interracial marriage. Especially as a Muslim woman, I wanted to marry someone not my own race to help promote multiculturalism in Islam, to do my part to help blur racial lines so that we could be brothers and sister in Islam without much regard to ethnicity and subsequent hierarchies.

At almost 26, I am in the generation that is changing the world and will continue to do so, as youths in solidarity, as youths in protests, as adults in leadership roles, pushing out the grandfathered refuse of those who came before us. As a future physician with training in public health, I will begin my practice at community health care centers with an eye for openings in leadership positions in my community, such as for medical director. I will make sure that the community health care center includes social programs that fit with my new community's needs. And later in my career, if it comes to it, I will be an advocate for community health centers, involving myself in political processes to make sure that they expand to cover the needs of even more uninsured and under-insured people in the US, residents, immigrants, documents or not. But for now, while I'm still a student, there is much for me to do. I'm completing my education. I'm reading the news, keeping myself informed. My passion lies in health for minorities, immigrants and the low-income among us. They make up are our real majority.

And while, if it were in my future, I would marry someone outside of my race, I recognize that this is not the only way and maybe not always the best way to promote multiculturalism within the Muslim community.

That's what I mean between the differences between eroticism and romanticism. I don't consider myself more jaded at almost 26, I just consider myself less lusty than almost 20. Eroticism has the passion but is superficial, in the moment with poor foresight, feeling justified in its existence but clouded with a sense of urgency and immediacy that blinds one to alternatives of the moment. Romanticism is the passion with more depth, more foresight, still idealistic but with hopes to touch the sky because of the idea that it is possible, not hope to touch the sky because it being possible is so hott.

At almost 20, I was a black American Muslim sophomore premed in college, majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology and Spanish, living in Ann Arbor, MI. At almost 26, I am an Igbo Nigerian-black American Muslim graduate student in public health concentrating in Family and Community Health with a focus on Maternal Child Health and a fourth year medical student living in Boston, MA. Because of my intended, I'm more Nigerian than I've been since our family friends moved away when I was 11. Because of my training, I know a lot more what I want to do with my life and my career, saving my activism for causes I'm most passionate about. Because of my change in locale, I've been exposed to a more beautiful and diverse setting and it lets me know that there's even better out there.

And because of these six years of learning, my spirituality means more to me and is more efficient.

Say hello to the new me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

[uncensored]: Stay Black and Die

As salaam alaikum,

One of my favorite quotes from the movie that I've never seen all the way through, but that I heard so many people quote before:

"I don't have to do nothin' but stay black and die."

Very telling, very reflective of frustrations many of my brothers and sisters in ancestry feel. My roommate thinks that the stress pathway being used to explain why all black women, even college-educated, high income black women, have higher rates of low birth rate and infant mortality than both white women and sub-Saharan African and African-born women of the same socioeconomic status is bullshit. But she also cherishes her fair skin, the legacy of her mixed background, and has probably seldom seen or felt the racism darker-skinned black women have.

It is not bullshit. It makes me angry when she doubts that stress of racism would have anything to do with the increased infant mortality in a population that otherwise should be as healthy as our sub-Saharan counterparts, if genetics mean anything.

I'm not as fair as her, necessarily (and she actually periodically rejects the fact that I am fair at all because I'm darker than her, and she has repeatedly expressed that she is the center of the universe, so what can I do), but I see the difference. I've gone into stores with my mother where she was treated like shit and I was smiled at and told to have a nice day. By black women.

Let me make things clear. I am not my predecessors in the Nation of Islam. You do not see me talking on here about the evils of the White Man. Some of that stress of racism is internal, not only within ourselves but within our communities, from our "brothers" and "sisters" in ancestry. Maybe not even ancestry. Blood used to be thicker than water. Siblings in skin color who must despise us as an extension of despising themselves.

I don't know. I'm just speculating.

Yes, things are internal, but racism is external, too. I still show my solidarity for the youth movement in Egypt, I still follow the stories every day, awaiting progress and next steps as another dictator bites the dust. However, even though one struggle at a time, I guess, let's remember how we treat our brothers and sisters. I read this article on, and it was unsurprising based on all I've known as I came into Islam, but still a damn shame.

"I learned something much different from what I believed," said Bala, a native of northern Nigeria and a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, who lived in Egypt for six years. "I thought [the Arabs] were our brothers in Islam, but they don't bother about that when you're black. ... They pretend that you are a brother in Islam, but this is different from what they hold in their hearts and in their minds." - Sunni Khalid, Egypt's Race Problem.

I read this and I can't really get angry. I was saddened at some of the sub-Saharan Muslims leaving Islam because of the racism they faced in Egypt. I feel for Khalid's wife, Zeinab, who gets treated like a prostitute because of her skin color, but I can't play like I haven't rode my fair skin in places where black people were disparaged. *cough*Dominican Republic*cough*. I can't get angry because it's the same story, every day, every time...

We know this to be true, the racism that inhibits the growth of Islam. We may have more babies than people in other religions, but we need to stop focusing on quantity and more on quality.

I was disillusioned long ago. It's not even a thing. Like that Nigerian student said, I thought we were all siblings in Islam, but then I discovered that people don't see us that way when we're black. So much for the interracial nature of Islam, the thing that brought me to Islam in the first place. So much for the Qur'an and the Prophet's last speech.

Staying black and dying is never enough for me. No racist can take my relationship with Allah (swt) away from me. So excuse me, I'm going to stay a black and Muslim until insha'Allah...

And I pray that, whenever I am so blessed, I carry my beautiful, black babies to term.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Socially Conscious

As salaam alaikum,

Last night, I talked to B. I didn't realize that I had fallen asleep, and then my body somehow turned on the phone, and I suddenly heard "Hello?" I tried to play like I wasn't just asleep, but he can always tell. He doesn't want to talk to me late because he doesn't want to wake me. Even though we're past the stage where I'd sleep with the phone by my bed and wait for him to contact me in the middle of the night, I still would talk to him at whatever hour of the night.

I miss him. The last time I saw him was Saturday, and I won't get to see him until Friday, meu Deus! If we're doing dinner, we'll have to figure out well in advance where we're going so it won't be the same fiasco as last time...choosing a place for nearly 2 hours. I don't want to keep a hungry man from his food.

One day, we should cook together...but I think that should be a weekend and not a weekday. Two grad students tired from a week of work will not produce a good product.

I woke up this morning to a not-impressive blizzard that will soon turn to ice, if it hasn't already. Oh well. The snow was pretty while it was just snow. The snow we got yesterday, I felt, was more meritorious of the term blizzard, even though it was nothing like what we got in January. I took my Advil, which I must take religiously on the first and second days of my cycle, but I feel less hormonal and can probably actually leave my room tomorrow without getting annoyed at my roommate.

...then I picked up my Kindle to read the news.

I haven't decided if I'll have time (or the money) to subscribe to any news source on my kindle when I can read the website for free (though with difficulty on the Kindle). However, because of reading the news, I've been up on so many things that I usually would have gotten second, I followed Tunisia and I caught Egypt's uprisings from the beginning. This is something I haven't done, really, since college and the first year of medical school.

I have my intended to thank for this, partially.

He's like me, and very socially conscious. But he is more so than me. One of the things that kept my attention when I first met him is how incredibly well-read he is in history and current events, not only of the United States and Nigeria, but the entire world. He knows a freakish amount about these things for someone who didn't major in history because in college, he self-educated himself.

So he's been watching Al-Jazeera English before all the cool kids jumped on the bandwagon to watch it for Egypt.

He's been busy with research for a while and hasn't gotten to read as much as he wanted to, but he still keeps up with current events...compulsively. He has an opinion about everything. The only thing that's different between us is that he has a bitter, disillusioned baseline about the world, and I guess mine is bittersweet.

There is a lot of bad and evil in the world, but there is also tons of good.

I just had a revelation a few months ago. The best among us, the heroes among us, are people who do good to reverse the bad that other people have put in place or are actively instituting. In the grand scheme of carnage, injury, starvation, destitution, assault, rights violations, natural disasters play a small part. People are suffering daily in the hands and policies of everyone from dictators to democratically elected individuals.

What does this discovery mean? For every bad thing that's happening in this world, there's probably a little person, or little people, on the ground, springing forth in grassroots operations, doing for self, working for their people who are suffering, and we've seen instances where that can make a huge difference and creep up to the policy level so there is still hope for everything.

Some are saved, some are not. Some problems have more activists than others. But it's not impossible. That's what I get from history and current events. Change is not impossible...

...all by the grace of God, but I don't push that with B, because I know that my belief in God is different than his belief, because of where I've been, the challenges I've faced and the resolution I've seen.

But it is refreshing to talk to him about anything happening in the news and he already has encyclopedic knowledge about it because he reads it in his free time, because he knows the history of the region, or if he doesn't know he's already up on learning it.

It's cool to be made a little bit better by someone. This is something that's within me, that I always wanted to do, and he's helping me to get back to that by being my partner in following the news.

Owly. :)