As another Ramadan approaches, I'm starting to become more reflective and introspective at a time that my incoming rotation will not allow me to be. I'll be on a surgery inpatient service for the duration of Ramadan. I just have to get in enough calories and hydrate enough during suhoor and before I begin my shifts at 5am, and I think I'll be fine, iA.
But also, as another Ramadan approaches, I reflect on all of the things I've wanted to be over the years, all of the things I want to be, and all of the things that I've tucked away, at least temporarily. One of them is a better Muslim. That definition has shifted over time and looks a bit different than it did 11 years ago when I fasted my first full Ramadan outside of my parent's home as an 18-year-old college freshman.
It looks different than it did when I was a new, 21-year-old hijabi.
It looks different than it did when I was a 24-year-old medical student, struggling with the fear that my first Muslim brother-crush, who was marrying someone else, was maybe the best, the last and the only chance I'd ever get at love.
It looks different than I did when I was 27, newly disillusioned with love and certain aspects of my religion and moving from east to west coast with hopes to realize my dream career.
I think that, more than any time in my life, my self-definition is fluid. That sounds wishy-washy. I mean that I realize that parts of who I am are continually evolving as I grow and learn. I do not expect to reach my destination and still have life left to live.
In essence, I will not attain "better Muslim" at once and then sit pretty for the rest of the time. It will be one of those life goals I will work toward until the end, whether that is the end of my life or the terminal decline of my cognition.
And while one could say that my Islam is all-encompassing of the most important things of my life, I also have other aspects of my life for which I recognize that I will not reach a destination before the end. These identities of mine are constantly growing and changing, and I thank God for that. It means I'm very much alive.
It also means I can't close my eyes and see where I want to be at any given time. I used to be able to close my eyes and see such vivid detail, from the color of my clothes to the height of my husband, to how many kids we'd have at our sides. With maturity these details have necessarily become more vague or are now nonexistent, replaced with an intangible placeholder named insha'Allah.
Because I couldn't have made up the last two years of my life when I was an 18-year-old freshman or a 21-year-old hijabi or a 24-year-old medical student.
And that removes the pressure I feel to be all that I want to be. I no longer feel pressure to be all of these things soon, as if it would never happen otherwise. I no longer feel pressure to be all of the things I want to be at once.
I no longer feel the urgency of being all the things I want to be. It's all insha'Allah, and for the first time in a couple of years, insha'Allah doesn't feel daunting to me.
I guess this is what it means to Submit.
There's so much that I am that I want to be as much of my life as I can, but I cannot, because of the earthly limits of space and time. I want to be all of these things, including a writer, an artist, a singer, a musician - a family physician, a public health practitioner, possibly a medical director - a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law--while carrying with the things I already am--a Muslim, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, the list probably goes on. I want to be all of these things at once because I enjoy each of them, in each of them I find meaning and purpose, in each of them I express a little of myself, and to several of them I aspire absolutely.
And for the first time, I'm okay with the fact that there may be some things that I'll never be. I'm not despairing right now with the possibility of never bearing my own children, but maybe I'll adopt or foster. I may never publish a fiction piece, but I'll keep writing. I may never marry, but I'll love and nurture those who are in my life. Not saying that they would not be hard to come to terms with, but I'm accepting.
Whereas when I was a teen, when I saw the future, I saw black, bleak, dark--whereas when I was in my early 20s, I saw future as a series of detailed ideals with a backdrop of grave anxiety--I can't see the future now, as I never was able to, really, and I'm placing my trust in God, the best of planners, while moving forward prayerfully with my own purposeful plans in the meantime.
By God's grace, I will be able to be all I want to be.