In college, I was an avid blogger and often contributed my pieces to the opinion section of the KY Kernal, the university’s newspaper. One post in particular that I wrote in November of 2010 resonates with me now, as I look back and consider the evolution of hijab and my story.
This is my story. However, ask any Muslim girl who wears (or even doesn’t wear) a hijab and hers will be different. There are those who choose to wear hijab at a much later age than I did, and Muslims who still struggle with the choice to wear one at all.
At the time of writing the article, I had a limited idea of what my future would look like. I never imagined that just a year or so later, I would pick up the mirror holding my image and drop it to the ground. That day, I had decided that I wanted to explore life without hijab.
Everything I believed fell into pieces and I felt that divide, a sweet sharpness.
A wise friend consoled me by sharing that now I had the freedom to pick up and put back together only the pieces that I chose. At the time, I was too panicked to really understand what that meant. But in the past few years, I keep going back to that mirror metaphor, especially when I struggled with the idea that I was now a stranger, a lost person.
I recall a heartfelt moment with one of my best friends, as she sat and watched me pack for my big move to New York City in 2012. Unbeknownst to most of my family, NYC would be my foray into anonymous living— there, I could not wear hijab in a judgement free zone, even if it only lasted a week, a month, or a year.
I was still stinging from the thoughts that “I was no longer me,” and that I was delving into something I could never turn back from. Would this experience alter my core being and essence? Would I begin to talk and act differently? Would this adversely affect my relationships? I shared my concerns with my friend.
She looked me in the eye and said, “Fatimah, you are 100 percent the you that I’ve always known and loved.”
A weight lifted. I needed to hear that. Though I knew I had to learn to lift that weight off of my own shoulders, my friend provided a necessary reflection to remind me that despite my inner turmoil, I was still who I was.
Dropping the mirror didn’t mean I had to give up everything, or that I would become unrecognizable to myself or others. In fact, the large pieces were easy to put together, like my personality and my values. It was the smaller, more unrefined pieces that held the most questions. What beliefs and ideas would I choose for myself? Not yet having the answers influenced my perspective, certainly. But, I’ve come to see this as healthy growth, even when it was painful at times.
I wrote that newspaper article in 2010 with an openness to other stories, but didn’t acknowledge the the limit to my understanding. After pushing my boundaries, I realize there’s still so much I don’t know, and can’t know until I live it myself.
As I revise my own story and reflect on my evolution, I feel humbled knowing that I can’t truly predict my life one year from now. Perhaps change will come slowly, or like before, all at once, but surely, I will continue to become whole.
Call for stories!
Do you have a “I’m struggling with hijab” story? A “struggling with faith” story?
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