This is something I wrote to give you a little background information on me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, living it. 🙂
How I Stumbled Into Enlightenment
On this night, in the late summer of 2012, my journey to enlightenment began. As I walked up the stairs with my best friend, I was a nervous wreck about what I was about to do. Neither I nor my best friend wanted to knock on the door, but we both wanted this experience. Finally, after entering the apartment, we realized that they were just as excited as we were. One of the guys made tea, while the other tried to hold a conversation with us. I wasn’t excited about us having tea together. That wasn’t the knots that were in the pit of my stomach. The knots were from actually hanging out with foreign people. These people were not just foreign, but they were from an Arabic country. We did not know anything about Arabic people except what was portrayed to us by the media–which was mostly about 9/11. But, as the night went on, a new feeling grew inside of me. I had a million questions, but I didn’t know how to ask them, or where to even start.
I grew up in a very small, country town. A town where everyone is scared of the unknown, like foreigners. I grew up an only child, getting everything I could ever dream of. But still, there was something missing. I wanted to be passionate about something. I tried hobby after hobby: softball, piano, guitar, and painting. Everything was exciting at first, but I got bored so fast. Nothing could satiate my hunger for something bigger than small-town Baxley, GA. I wanted to see things, and learn that the world had more to offer me than family gatherings and high school functions. In my world of Baxley, everyone pretty much stayed with his race. It is so shameful for someone in my family to date a person who isn’t white. My father realized that interaction was necessary to be socially accepted, but there was a line, and I didn’t dare to cross it for fear of shameful embarrassment by my father and peers.
In college, young people feel like there are opportunities to change their lives forever. They think about starting a new beginning, new friends, and new experiences. My first year of college was exactly like being back in my hometown. I went home almost every weekend, talked to my parents about everything, and I didn’t do anything to displease them. That is, until Jordan and I met these people from a seemingly different world. Since then, I have learned that their are humans all over the world with different ethnicities, faiths, and cultures, but they were just that–humans. They had ideas, opinions, and thoughts much like my own. Now, it seems so ludicrous for me to see people thinking the way that I and my family thought. Seeing people that have prejudices against an entire race or religion just seems so ignorant, now; I am always embarrassed of how I used to feel.
Now, two years later, I am a senior in college. My major is International Studies, and my minor is Arabic. For once in my life, I feel the passion and hunger I see in people who know exactly who they are, what they want, and where they are going. Now, because of a simple encounter one night, I wake up everyday with a desire to learn more. Arabs make up the majority of my friends. I’ve never lived outside of Georgia, but I feel as if I have traveled all over the world. I have become so close to the Arabic culture, I almost feel like I am a part of it. Everyday, I strive to make it more a part of me. I have climbed more mountains in the past two years than I did the twenty years before that. My family, with the exception of my stepfather, disagrees with me. They are all scared of this unknown culture. Like the rest of the world, they only think of Arabs as a harsh, women degrading culture. They are scared of what might happen if I go to the Middle East, or even gets close to their culture. But I know differently. I have seen the passion and careful thought they put into their everyday lives. Weather they are worried about dropping food on the floor (because it is disrespectful to God), or getting up at five in the morning to pray, they always make room in their everyday lives for religion. I get that, even if no one around me does. It is the most peaceful religion I have ever seen, and that’s why I decided to become a part of it in on July 3, 2014.
In the future, I want to teach international college students in America the english language and culture. After I get my masters, I want to move to an Arab country to teach English. I can’t just be one of those Americans that get out of bed each day doing the same mundane thing. I want to live an exciting life, and wake up everyday loving what I do, whether my family likes it or not. I will teach everyone I know that judging someone based on color or religion is ignorant. I never want my children to grow up thinking that just because people are different from them, they are inferior. I don’t want future generations to be racist, prejudice, or even separatist–which is how my father put it. I think that each person can learn something from every individual he or she encounters. I am excited to educate people about cultures other than their own. i don’t want anyone to feel like they have more to offer than the next person, and I also don’t want anyone to feel inferior to the next person. There is just no good excuse for racism anymore. I have been lucky enough to be taught the Arabic language by my professor Yousef Salhi. I have not only come to love the culture and language of the area, but the dominant religion, Islam, as well. Yousef Salhi has helped me immensely with all three of these areas. If I complete my goal of teaching in an Arab country, he will be the first one I say thank you to.
Some people will believe and teach the same morals and values of their family their entire life, whether it is right or wrong. Some people, on the other hand, get enlightened about something they thought was right and turn their whole lives around, including the generations that follow them. I was lucky enough to find out in just the nick of time, so that I can graduate with a degree in something I love. If I excluded dealing with all races except my own, I may not ever have found something that I am excited about. I feel enlightened, and I want others to get the same experience I did, no matter what field it is in. I have fallen in love with the Arabic culture and language, and I have realized that my small city isn’t the center of the world. There is a bigger picture, and once everyone starts thinking about it, the world will be a much less ethnocentric place to live in. This area of the world, The Middle East, has started a fire inside of me, and I feel, hope, and pray, that it will never be extinguished.
To add to this:
I am now almost engaged to the love of my life. Also, I told my parents that I converted (or reverted) to Islam.