Post-Eid Thoughts

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A belated Eid Mubarak to those who celebrated yesterday! So it’s been a while since writing last; life has gotten busier as I’ve settled into a new rhythm in Baltimore: CrossFit workouts, cooking at home, work projects, train rides to DC to see my love. What follows are some reflections on the past few months, namely how much changed for the better.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise with me saying this: six months ago fucking sucked. Standing at the beginning of what would become a soul-crushing two month period thanks to my divorce process getting underway, life seemed hopeless. Yes, on the surface I maintained a facade of what equates to the meme below.

Underneath it, however, I was entering some dangerous territory. You know, that point in which you numb yourself because life has become a complete clusterfuck on a daily basis, you’re thousands of miles away from any true support network of family and friends, and work-life balance is a joke.  My tiny victories included getting up for work, not having an anxiety attack on the commute in, and being able to eat. These issues would worsen over the following month with the divorce actually being finalized, which involved many hours wasted navigating Qatari bureaucracy (something that, even when life is okay, wears you down quickly) and one of the busiest periods at work.

At its peak, I wanted nothing more than to just end it all: car crash, pills, anything to do away with the pain, guilt, and maybe even offer the people I hurt some feeling of justice. What kept me from attempting anything? Well, a combination of things: faith in the idea that life would eventually get better and holding onto the surah mentioning that “with hardship comes ease” (spoiler alert: it did); acknowledging that I needed to exit what was proving to be a toxic environment for me; Rhytha Hejaze, who showed unwavering kindness and taught me the importance of taking time for oneself and being unashamed about it; a supportive community at F45 – the Pearl (shameless plug: they’re awesome); deciding to not turn to substances to cope.


Returning home brought its own forms of new stressors, such as figuring out housing in a city that I’d never lived in before, working in social media in what I perceived as being far more advanced than Qatar, but thankfully many of these fears abated quickly. Al-hamdulilah, my transition to a new life in Baltimore came pretty easy so much that I often tear-up thinking about where I was just a few months ago. Perhaps the biggest blessing since being home is meeting an incredible partner that allows me to be my truest self around her; she’s into the same music (this totally made me go, “Holy shit! A Muslim woman who’s into metal and hardcore?!”), is a fellow history enthusiast and major, loves animals, loves family, and has a desire to explore the world. Needless to say, I’m in love and damn, it feels good.

Had you asked me when I boarded that Qatar Airways flight back in mid-June what my life would look like a few months into the future, I wouldn’t have imagined any of this, but I’m thankful for how it’s turned out. For the first time in several years, I can say without any sarcasm that I love life in every sense, from living in beautifully strange Baltimore to reconnecting with my family to meaningful work. These are the things that no amount of tax-free income or glitzy new material item can top, in my opinion, and here’s to never sinking that low again.

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On the Sidelines

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Likely you’ve seen the news coming out of Charlottesville, VA this weekend – a “Unite the Right” rally; counter-protests; the death of at least one person after a car intentionally slammed into those opposing the white supremacists. People scratching their heads as to how we arrived here, look back on the decision to vote in the current president of the US and all the general xenophobia that came into public discourse. As a former history major, let’s set something straight right now: American history is littered with instances of ultra-nationalist and ethnocentric political movements…and surprise! They all weren’t based in the South. Oh no, the Northeast and elsewhere seen as being “more progressive” contain(ed) their own special variety of hateful legacies, i.e. Know Nothing, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner.

My point in sharing this aside is to show that what is happening presently has context, both in the distant and recent past. With that in mind and looking back on how people have confronted these types of movements before, a few options are available:

Bury our heads, close our ears OR confront, engage, and educate.

The first option, in my opinion, is useless and only allows hatred to continue to grow. Look at where we got by thinking Donald Trump was just a joke and totally couldn’t be elected, saying people won’t let this happen. Well, it did and now a lot of people I consider friends have to pay for it in the form of street and online harassment, as well as physical violence.

Let me be clear, fellow white identifying people who want to be on the right side of history: we need to do better.

Here are some ways you can help turn back the tide against what’s been going down since a Trump presidency became a real thing:

  • Educate yourself: Read about American history and the different forms of oppression dealt to people of color in this country from its inception.
  • Reach-out: Chances are there are individuals in your community that could be shown solidarity, not in a one-time, token gesture, but through developing a genuine relationship. Offer to get to know a coworker, a business owner, etc. and stop letting fear of the Unknown dictate your life.
  • Address bigotry as it arises: When you witness someone, be it family or a random person on the street, harassing another individual speak up against it. Report hateful online comments or profiles; file reports with your employer. Make it known that there’s no place for xenophobia, period.
  • Support businesses that welcome diversity: Nowadays most businesses have some type of online presence that can help make this clear or you know, ask people in the community. If Americans understand one thing, it’s the power of purchasing power to help wake up people. If you find a business that is supportive, show them some love and tell others.

Bike MS: City-to-Shore Ride

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Hi all! Next month I’ll be joining my father on a 100-mile bike ride in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. As part of this initiative, each participant is encouraged to raise money, which helps funds research and support services for individuals affected by the disease. If you’re able to contribute, even $5 (less than the cost of one beer, one boujee coffee, or one dessert), it’d mean a lot, and I’ll make sure to give you a special shoutout on my social channels as we get closer to the ride. You can donate here

Stay tuned on 23 September for updates from the ride. I’ll be posting as we peddle from Cherry Hill to my hometown, Ocean City. Lots of love and thanks ahead of time for your support!

Written on the Train

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"A Legacy of Distrust"

Finding it hard to remember what year it is,
16 years later, two wars later, a legacy of distrust remains,
We can't seem to let it go (why should we?).

Neighbors hide from one another, turn away at the first sign of a raised voice.
Friends still forced to be your devil: beaten, cursed behind closed doors, subjected to fears of the Other.

Nothing changes when it's always "someone else's problem."

Reconnecting

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Spent the weekend in Washington, DC staying with my former roommate of 4 years, Scott, as well as seeing members of the Columbia Heights (DC neighborhood) halaqa community. This city represents so many firsts for me: living fully away from home; using public transportation; going to shows; getting a “real” job; dating someone not of my cultural background; finding a Muslim community that I felt at home with.

Being away for a few years made me realize how important and unique some of these experiences were. Specifically, the first and last ones  have helped to shape me into the person you know today. Sharing a space with people who were totally unfamiliar taught me how to push past the initial fear of the unknown and work together – invaluable skills for my time in Doha. In my case it also led to me developing friendships with other guys that were equal parts emotionally vulnerability and humor. Being a person that didn’t have many male friends growing up, such relationships were unfamiliar; I’d grown up often connecting better with females. Relocating to the US presents a chance to reconnect once more and pick back up where things left off.

On the Muslim community front, I can’t fully explain how it feels to be back among spiritual peers who love unconditionally. Last night I got the chance to hangout with some of these people, many who I hadn’t seen in years. We spent hours discussing modern dating, sibling relationships, biking, digital bullying. Yes, some of these things came up in Doha among friends, but this felt different. This was especially apparent when talking about my divorce this year, which some friends didn’t know about. Breaching the subject for the first time caused me to feel initially hesistant as I have worked up this stigma in my head of being a divorcee. Al hamdulilah these fears were misplaced.

With this next chapter just getting started I’m excited to be a more active and better friend to these people/communities. One thing I’m looking forward to most in this area is bringing back the DC Townhall Dialogue Series and inshallah expanding it to NYC alongside friends. More than ever it’s time to dive headfirst into topics like domestic abuse, Islamophobia, and much more among Muslim peers and take action. Stay tuned for more details as things come together. Friends overseas: come join us! Just saying an American holiday might be nice 😂

Your Life in Baltimore, Week 1

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Salaams! Damn it, it feels awesome to be living in Baltimore right now: awesome housemate, public transportation, cheaper cost of living, being closer to friends and family, a music scene that I can connect with. Oh, and work is pretty solid, too: first week on the job and already getting to dive right into running an account for a flooring client that actually knows what it wants from social! The workplace itself, while maybe not as culturally diverse as Doha, definitely feels like a good place to be right now. Because of all of these factors, I’m finally feeling creative once more, something that’s been dormant for years.

Will these feelings last? Not sure, but I do know that my gut is telling me this is a solid decision I made. Mentally, I don’t think I can fully explain what it’s like to leave behind a place that left me depressed and unmotivated. Yes, I do miss certain aspects of life there, especially some really amazing people who were rocks for me, but fuck, now I actually love living. It’s as if each day I’m waking up with the excitement you might experience right before meeting that cute boy or girl you’ve been crushing on for a while – that’s the giddiness I’ve got. It’s manifesting in ways that were there from before, but faded: resurrecting the townhall dialogue initiative in a new city with friends; biking any chance I get; trying out CrossFit to push myself. All I can say is al-hamdulilah.

First Week Back

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It’s been one full week since arriving back in the United States, and it feels great mostly. Many of my worries about reverse culture shock have dissipated thankfully. The biggest one was that I would perpetually be saying internally, “Well, this isn’t how it was in Doha” or “Man, in Qatar I’d not have to deal with this.” This internal dialogue has been replaced by almost childlike wonder and re-discovery of the things left behind in 2014, namely the small joys of being close to friends and family again.

The past week has been filled with what might seem mundane to others, like running errands with my parents or working out with my brother, but it’s these things that no amount of tax-free income could ever replace. Looking back at the time before leaving for Qatar, I would’ve scoffed at some of this stuff and probably rolled my eyes at my sentimentality. I mean, who really romanticizes grocery shopping or sitting at the dinner tables hearing a parent discuss small town politics? Well, I do after being through some emotional hell and wanting to do myself earlier this year. My Dante-like journey has shown me the incalculable value of these small moments and connections.

If you’ve lived away from home for a while, have you felt similarly? What things do you look forward to most when returning to be with family or friends?