A question I am thinking about is this: “What does it mean to be you?”
Let’s think about that for a second. People think about this. Some people may not care, but its a big question. Who are you? What makes you the person you are? What does it mean to be the person that you are? If you’re from there are you expected to be like that? If you’re from here are you expected to be like this? If you’ve done that then are you expected to go through that? What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a mother when you never had a mother there to teach or guide you? What does it mean to be a father? What does it mean to be a father when your father was everything except for a father? What does it mean to be a Muslim? Does it mean you fit into a stereotypical role that one think they should play in order to be accepted within their communities? What does it mean to be a Muslim man/a Muslim woman? Does it mean you drop your culture/your language in order to pick up something else? What does it mean to be a woman/a man? What does it mean to be with another person in a marriage? Does it mean must be exactly alike?
In dealing with these big questions on identity, it is important to figure them out. Yes, there are more questions to be asked about identity so ask them. Ask yourself. Sometimes we fall into these superficial roles of just being who we are told to be. We just do what culture tells us. We just do what others expect of us. However, who are we? Am I really me? Or am I just what I was told to be? Or am I the person I want people to think I am? Am I putting on a front? Or am I really me? Am I really the person I am choosing to be? And how do I choose to be that person? What things make me who I am? And is that okay? Or not? These questions are all dealing with you. These questions are dealing with me. These questions are dealing with all of us. We can choose who we want to be. No other person can make that choice, but you. You are the author and the composer of your own life. You are the individual pulling out the pen and marking up your own sheet of paper. You are putting the notes down to this sheet of music. You are the lyricist to that song. This is you. You are the one holding the pen to that piece of paper. So, ask yourself “Who am I?”. In asking myself this question, I thought about something my mother told me this morning.
Today, my mom was like “Lauren, I don’t think marriage is about the man doing one thing and the woman doing another. Sometimes you have to do multiple things at once” and I agreed with her. So many times I would always say how simple things were. Allah said the man is the breadwinner and so the woman should worry about the home. However, what does this statement mean? In the Islamic tradition, Hagar was left with just her son Ishmael in Mekkah fending for herself after prophet Abraham left her due to Allah’s command. So, at that moment she became a woman having to protect, provide and maintain for herself and her child. She became independent. She became every role possible because it was necessary. So, when we think about the people we are and the role(s) we are expected to put on it is important to think critically about this. We sometimes try to simplify our identities when they are constantly changing and intersecting with one another.
How does a young father in his early 20’s that hasn’t spoken to or been with his daughter for the first three years of her life deal with his own child upon seeing her for the first time? What does he say? What would be the reaction(s) of his baby-girl? How does he raise her upon his religion when the parent she spends time with is of another faith? How does he mend these realities? Is there a black-and-white answer? Should there be?
How does a mother in her early 30’s deal with the issues of identity when she has two children with a third on the way? How does she mend her broken past pains and confusion of who she is with her current situation? How does this soul-searching mother with a broken heart find her way in parenting children when the world has taken her heart and placed upon it it’s footprints of oppression and devastation?
How does a young woman in her 20’s deal with the issue of marriage and fornication when her parents are wanting her to finish school until taking that next step in her life? Does she continue to fight for her right to get married to preserve her honor and chastity? Or does she fall into her desires? Should she find a hobby?
How does a young man in his later teenage-years find purpose when he is blinded by the world and without a role-model to guide him through this journey of life? How do he mend the world of those around him with the reality of the world in which he lives? How does he find himself when his parents are struggling to survive and with a father that never taught him the roles/the rules of manhood? Does he find this manhood in music/a textbook/movies/magazines/ads on billboards?
What do an older woman in her 50’s do when her daughters encounter the same issues she is facing? How does this mother in her 50’s tell her daughters that their roles as women and wives aren’t simple and pinpointed in a manual? How does she guide her daughters as wives when she is still fighting the issues they are trying to solve themselves?
What does a man/woman do when they are stuck between their religion and their ethnic/cultural identity? Is this a problem? How do they sort through this? Is there really a problem between the two? How do they find themselves within this religious-community when they are expected to play out an identity that is not them? How do they sustain their inner-most being when those within the religious-community are fighting against them due to ignorance/racism/sexism? How do they go forth? How do they fight for their right to stay and be themselves without having to assimilate(to fit in/take on the identity of the people)? Should they risk being different and make their own mark or just fit in until there is progress?
When we look at the different problems that some of us face when it comes to identity it is important to look closely at ourselves. Why do many of us try to define definite roles to ourselves and others? When we look at the roles that we have to play as people it becomes hard and sticky. We can’t always play one role. We can’t always play two. Sometimes we have to play other’s roles. What do we do when we find ourselves playing another person’s role(s)? Is this okay? Is this problematic? Where do we begin if we are trying to figure this out?
Many times people tell us to stay in our place. To not think too much about things. To simply accept our roles and leave it at that. There are no questions. We should just sit and follow through with culture/religion without thinking further. Why is this an okay answer? One thing that Allah tells people is to ponder his signs and to look around. We are told to think and to use our reasoning skills. We should look at the world we live in and think about the various identities that makes it up. In these various identities there people from different backgrounds, races, cultures, languages and lifestyles. We have to sit down and ask ourselves the bigger questions that no other person can answer for us. It is only us when we come across these questions with answers that we can only give. It’s not the responsibility of others to show us who we are. It is only us to discover us and what it means to be us. Yes, we are inspired and influenced by others, but we have to know about us. We have to be sure in who we are or else we will never be okay with just thinking we think we think we think we know who we are. We have to atleast be okay with ourselves and acknowledge that as long as we are in the world we will continue to grow as people, inshALLAH.
And I think it is important to remember something and that something is a quote from Louis Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong said “What we play is life”