Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In The Middle of a Bookstore Aisle

When I was a little girl, I used to love going to book stores. I'd walk through every section, trailing my fingers across the wide assortment of spines. Some were thin and bony, others were plump and juicy, some had glossy covers, while some were rough to the touch. But there was one thing that kept me coming back for more-the smell of the pages of so many books, stiff with anticipation, just waiting to be read.

I'm pretty sure that's where my love of reading came from. I literally had my nose buried in books. I would pluck these gems from the shelves and stand in the middle of an aisle at Barnes and Noble. I'd lift the book to my nose, inhaling, and as I exhaled, I'd always find myself grinning from ear to ear.

Last night, I was sitting in bed reading a book that I'd been meaning to read for quite some time. It'd been sitting on my nightstand, collecting dust, while I was away at school. Last night, I finally began to read it.

About 13 pages in, I had the strangest urge. I lifted that book to my nose, took a quick sniff, and then laughed at myself for being so silly. I continued reading, but I just had to lift it up and smell it once more. This time I really took it in, and all of a sudden, there I was; little, 7 year old, 2nd grade me, standing in the middle of an aisle at Barnes and Noble, taking in the smell of a previously untouched Nancy Drew mystery that was just begging to be read.

They say certain scents are connected to certain memories, to certain feelings. For each person, that scent could mean a different thing. And for me, that smell of books meant passion. It was a passion for knowledge. It was a passion for the peace that came with getting lost inside of a story for hours. Inside of a story where I was untouchable. Inside of a story where nothing could stop me from being who, or what, I wanted to be.

As we grow older, we tend to leave behind our sacred spaces. Sure, I still enjoy reading books of all kinds, but the magic, the passion, I'd lost it for a while.

Just because you've "grown up," don't lose sight of what it is that kept you going when you were younger, what it is that kept you passionate. Because, those odd rituals that we performed when we were younger, will serve to rejuvenate us and recharge our passion for life, and for living.

Monday, June 4, 2012


As I write this, I'm 33,000 feet up in the air, on a plane back to school. It's a pretty cloudy night and words can't even do the view outside my window justice.

We all love to think that this world, the material, palpable earth that we inhabit, is the cream of the crop. And so often, we forget to look outside our own window and realize that we are all a part of something so much bigger.

Too often, when we think about 'tomorrow,' we picture ourselves married, with a stable job, a nice house, a 'ballin' car, beautiful kids, and what we tend to assume is a perfect life. Only a handful of people think about 'tomorrow' and see a society of equals, a society of prosperity, a society of a content and happy people.

As the youth of today and the leadership of tomorrow, we need to take it upon ourselves to stop looking at the world with such a one-dimensional viewpoint, and we need to allow ourselves to take in the 'bigger picture,' and ask ourselves, "How will I contribute?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A First Grade Tragedy

When I was in first grade, I was quite the daredevil. The six year-old me had not a care in the world. I remember always attempting the most "dangerous" stunts, trying to impress my fellow finger painters.

It was one fateful day in January that misery, embarrassment, and I, got together for what none of us knew would be a disastrous recess. A disaster that, nonetheless, would go down in the great history books of Brookside Elementary's first grade catastrophes.

I remember sprinting out of Mrs. Donavon's classroom as soon as the bell rang for our 15 minute recess. I pushed past the line of my classmates that were pulling their arms through their jackets, preparing for the cold, dark tundra of a playground that was the result of a rainy night. I shoved my arms into my jacket as I ran, zipping it up tightly as I turned the corner out of the hallway. The chilly air slapped my face, my nose was stuffy, and might have even been a little runny, but all I could see was the makeshift sandbox pushed off to the side of our "soccer field." There was a teeter-totter, a pair of swings, and shiny new monkey bars. All of this was compacted into a small square of sand, walled off by a thick border of concrete.

I stood on top of the hill, taking in a deep breath of icy air, exhaling, smiling at my kingdom. I ran down the hill carefully, making sure not to trip over any of the imperfections in the land. I reached my castle. I was queen of the monkey bars. There was no first grader alive who would dare challenge me, and those who had the courage to try, fought valiantly, but never managed to usurp my throne.

I climbed up the three step ladder and stood there, waiting for the gaggle of first graders making their way to where I stood. I wiped the first bar clean of the built up condensation, treating the monkey bars like they were my most prized possession.

I smiled at my friends, feeling on top of the world, and then, one meek little voice called out, "I bet you can't skip bars when you play on here."

The taunting sound of May's voice made me furious. I glared in her direction and then climbed to the top of the ladder, my right hand holding the first bar, my left rested on my waist, I grinned, "Watch, and learn."

In my excitement, I grabbed the first bar with both hands and kicked my feet off of the ladder. I reached for the second bar, almost grabbing it, before I realized I was supposed to skip. My hand grazed over the second bar and reached for the third. My short arms reached, my fingers strained and finally, I managed to grab a hold of the third bar. So far, so good, I thought to myself as I reached for the fifth bar. I let go of my dry and safe bar number one, only to grab a moist, slippery fifth bar. I let out a little shriek, as I knew what was coming, and I shut my eyes tightly. I could feel myself begin to fall towards the ground, and I clenched my fists. The fall was a long one for a short first grader like me, but before I knew exactly what had happened, I heard a slap, a THUD, and then a crack. I felt a sharp pain shoot up my leg and I let out what must have been a long and loud scream of agony.

Hearing a collective gasp, I opened my eyes. Everyone had backed up a little and was staring at me, eyes wide, color drained from their faces. I turned my head, surveying the scene around me. I had landed in the splits, my left leg was in front of me, buried in the sand, and I smiled. Thank God I wasn't hurt.

I turned to examine my right leg, expecting it to be buried in sand behind me, but when I glanced at my right foot, an involuntary scream erupted from my mouth. My right ankle had slammed straight into the concrete, and was now throbbing, turning blue and increasing in size.

As soon as I processed what had happened, I blinked once, twice, and at my third blink, the tears came pouring out. The young boys and girls that were so used to seeing the courageous front I put on, had no idea how to react. I sat there, in the same position, for about 5 minutes. I finally heard a voice, "Move aside! She's hurt! She's right here! She's hurt herself!!!" One of the 3rd graders I used to play handball with had gone and called a yard duty to come check on me.

Tyler, my favorite yard duty, knelt down on one knee next to me. He smiled at me, then before I knew it, he lifted me up in the air and put me on his back. As he piggy backed me to the nurse's office, I turned my head back, watching my castle shrink before my eyes. The group of my friends had dispersed, and a few of them followed me and Tyler up to the school building. I buried my head in my savior's back, not wanting anyone to see me let even one more tear fall from my eyes.

Tyler deposited me onto a comfy chair in the nurse's office, and then went in to grab her. The nurse came out and saw me, defeated, crying, beaten and bruised. She shook her head and muttered something to the effect of, "Poor thing!" and set off to work, bringing me ice for my ankle, phoning my parents, and requesting that my backpack and school supplies be brought to the office by one of my classmates.

His name was Nick. He was my best friend and my biggest critic all in one. We spent many lunch times playing handball on the courts, tetherball with our friends, and climbing the monkey bars. As soon as he walked into the nurse's office, I wiped away my tears, biting my lip to keep me from crying anymore.

"I brought your stuff." He held up my backpack, making sure I knew he was here as my friend. He set it down on a chair and walked over to me, "Can I see it?"

I bit my lip, embarrassed of what he would say, but I slowly removed the ice pack to reveal my fractured, swollen ankle. A huge grin spread across Nick's face and he looked up at me, "THAT IS SO COOL."

I smiled as the nurse walked in and rushed Nick back to class, and I kept smiling as I went to get my x-rays, chose the color of my cast, played around with my crutches, and went to school the next day.

I learned two very important lessons that day in first grade. The first, that pride comes before destruction. One should be humble, and never boast about what he or she was blessed with. And the second, make sure to have at least one good friend by your side at all times, you never know what he or she will do for you. And for that reason, be sure to be the best friend you can be, because you never know when you will get a chance to change someone's life for the better.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The First Woman President

When I was in fifth grade, I went on a whale-watching field trip. I remember being excited, shoving the crumpled $20 bill my dad handed me, deep into my back pocket with the money I had previously collected from my mom.

I hopped into the front seat with Dad. He never drove me to school, but today, I had to be at school by 6 AM and Dad had so graciously offered to take me. I smiled up at him as he drove me 20 minutes away to my school. I looked up at my dad, filled with admiration at the man that had raised me.

He turned and smiled back at me and we began to talk. Somehow the conversation got to the topic of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I beamed at my dad when he asked me the question, and without any hesitation I blurted out, "I'm going to be the President of the United States."

I know that every kid that is born and raised in the US-at least once- dreams of becoming the President. What separates me from all of those kids is that my dad was probably as excited, if not more, for my campaign for President.

At once, he began coming up with slogans for me! Telling me, an innocent 11-year-old who knew nothing about politics, and just happened to be sitting in his passenger seat, who would be on my cabinet, who my vice president would be, and what party I would run for.

I was elated. Forget that I had no idea what he was saying, but he actually thought I could become president!

The reason that this story is so important is because I was raised to believe that I could honestly become anything I wanted to be. It didn't matter if I was a girl, it didn't matter if I was a Muslim, it didn't matter if I was only 11 years old! I could be whatever I wanted; whoever I wanted.

So, for anyone that decides to read this story, I want to be that figure, that my dad was for me, for you.

Stop worrying about everything that you believe is holding you back. Stop using those things as excuses. The only thing holding you back from attaining whatever- whoever- you want to be, is yourself. So throw away all of your inhibitions, and seek out that personality that you want to strive to embody.

Really think about this, and ask yourself: Who do you want to be?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where I'm Coming From (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1:

Thinking for so long that I wanted to be an English teacher, it came as a shock to me when I came to college and realized that I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

People around me had known since elementary school that they wanted to be a dentist, a doctor, an artist, a politician. People around me knew what they wanted in life- and that honestly scared me.

I enjoy writing, that's no secret. In fact, I love it. But a career as a writer? That wasn't something I could see myself going into. Sure, I liked to entertain the thought of going into journalism; covering some hard hitting stories that would uncover piles of lies, piles of corporate filth.

But that was just a fantasy to me, nothing more.

So I began to sit back and really think about what I wanted in life. I had it engrained into my mind, and probably the minds of others too by now- I wanted to make a difference. But that didn't help me in any way. You don't have to be a doctor or social worker or a teacher to make a difference in this world.

That was the reason I had so much trouble sorting my thoughts.

Anyone, with the right intentions- regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or education- can make a difference.

Luckily for me, it was as if fate decided to lend me a hand, make my decision easy.

My older brother asked me to read through his paper for law school. I begrudgingly gave in, not looking forward to reading, what I assumed, would end up being the driest, least interesting piece of writing I had ever had the misfortune of coming across.

I instantly fell in love.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was as if I had finally grown up and made a decision I knew I could stick with.

I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to become a lawyer.

I had never really felt this way about any career paths I previously wanted to take.

I instantly began researching what I needed to do in order to separate myself from the thousands of applicants I'd be competing against. I decided to take a Poli Sci class and test the waters. My mantra very quickly became Law School or Bust...

But the one thing I did differently from my previous 'career epiphanies'- I didn't tell a soul that this is the path I wanted to take. And for some reason, now I'm comfortable sharing this with anyone who chooses to read my blog, even skim through it perhaps.

So, keep me in your prayers, in your thoughts, in your mind. And hopefully, if/when I'm a successful lawyer, I can help this world in the ways it needs to be helped.