I may not be the exact ideal woman my mother had in my mind when she gave birth to me, but I will be the woman God wants me to be, and that is all I need.
My parents gave me everything. They had me when they were in their early twenties, a prospect I can’t imagine doing myself. Whenever I or my sisters had problems in school, our parents were there immediately resolving the issue with teachers. Whenever we wanted to try out new activities, be it tennis, dance, violin, or circus, we were the first ones at the door, regardless of the financial pressure it placed on our parents.
They love me unconditionally, and now as I begin my journey into womanhood I am forever grateful to God for blessing me with parents who support my dreams, even if they might not fully believe or understand it themselves.
In school, like most other Brown children, Medicine was deemed one of the three (other than Law or Engineering) appropriate degree routes to ensure we have the right solid foundations to start in life and aren’t left to struggle financially like our parents’ generation. In British TV, fewer than 2% of writers are Black. In the arts, BAME make up just 17% of the workforce.
So it’s no surprise growing up as a Brown Muslim girl, the glass ceiling seemed low enough for me to see, but too strong for me to shatter. Without nepotism, or a trust-fund allowing artists to safely make mistakes, many are drawn away from creative fields and towards ones where a clear career trajectory with a stable income can be seen.
During my work experience at a hospital, I remember spending the first hour talking to one of the practitioners about how I feel Medicine is the sensible route for me, but in my heart, I would rather pursue the arts and do what I love. I recall crying on the second morning of my work experience, having zero motivation to get out of bed because of how uninspired I was at the thought of being in a hospital for another day.
Regardless of expressing to my mother how I agreed I would do Medicine to “earn enough money to write”, it still came as a surprise to her when I chose to not study that at university at the very last minute. Deep down, I always knew it wasn’t right for me, and part of my reason for taking a gap year was to be able to write freely, and choose what degree is actually best for me.
During the Covid lockdown, I’ve had to choose what degree I’m going to do, which may decide the rest of my life. Now that I’ve chosen not to study STEM for the next four years, I hear little remarks every so often like “do you regret your choice? …. will you make money? …. It’s a waste of a degree”. I understand where these feelings come from, but I know that I cannot let my faith be destroyed by those without it. I cannot let my parents dictate my life forever and be fearful to try something different, because of their limiting beliefs or unfulfilled dreams.
When I got my A-Level results, which were not my flush of A*s at GCSE, and my Oxford rejection letter, my mother was deeply upset, probably more than I was. She was working towards completing her masters when she gave birth to me; and due to a lack of support and deeply misogynistic cultural beliefs, she was not able to pursue her dreams then, but is trying again now, over ten years later.
All I want is to make my mama proud. For her to feel as though her giving up her life, for me, was worth it. I pray to God every day that she is rewarded for her hard work and unconditional love, in this life and the next. Because of this pressure I placed upon myself, there were moments in the darkness of the night where I’d be up, crying, stressing, panicking over whether I have made a mistake, that wanting to be a writer and a broadcast journalist and a radio host and so many other things is completely unrealistic and I’ve thrown my whole life away before it’s even started, so I turned to God.
I was born and raised a Muslim; we prayed, fasted, and gave charity. Whenever I felt in times of difficulty or need I would reach out to God, remembering the verse:
لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا (Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear).
I always knew that I was a slave to God and that one day I would die, leaving behind all the riches of the Earth – but that knowledge didn’t stop me from feeling empty, as though I was always reaching for something bigger and better, wanting to be someone who creates an impact.
Reclaiming my spirituality has been a huge shift for me. To trust that I will become everything that God wants me to become isn’t saying that I will take a step back, be lazy, and not work hard, but understanding that my goal is to feel content, rather than to have lots of social media followers. That my journey is unique to me, and I am divinely guided by my Lord who will not let me pursue what is not right for me. It is only by realising this that I learned to trust God more than my parents. While I still value and respect the opinion of my parents, they are human at the end of the day, and cannot predict how my future will turn out.
I am becoming a woman with many commas after her name, a woman embracing her femininity and spirituality. A woman filled with love for life, who loves to write and be surrounded by nature. I may not be the exact ideal woman my mother had in my mind when she gave birth to me, but I will be the woman God wants me to be, and that is all I need.