Sunday, January 15, 2017

Envera, 24 years old, Sarajevo (Bosnia)

“I’m perfectly incomplete, I’m still working on my masterpiece!”

My name is Envera and I used to wear hijab. My family is Muslim, I was raised in Islam and
my whole life I believed that my parents are quite liberal, until I did what I did two years ago.
Once I started wearing hijab, it was never questioned nor thought of- not even in their
craziest dreams- that I might stop wearing it. It was God given, so to say; that once made,
the commitment cannot be broken, ever, no matter the personal development or the change
that one might encounter in life. I have to say that my parents, and myself, were quite
unprepared for everything that unraveled after.
Before recapturing the whole story, I have to say that my parents are wonderful people.
They’ve been working hard in a post-conflict country so me and my brothers can have
everything a kid might need or desire. They’ve been trying to teach us compassion,
empathy, friendship and how to be good people in general. I honestly hope they’ve
succeeded, for sure they’ve had more luck with my brothers than me, but one out of six in a
patch must be broken. They have supported my brothers and I during our education, looking
to bring out the best in us. Sometimes I think that if they weren’t so interested in our growth,
maybe I would be a completely different person and that my natural curiosity would get shut
down by the rules of our cruel society.
I started wearing a hijab when I was 13, fresh out of primary school and ready for high
school and the world. Trying to think like an adult, I chose the one school that, according to
me at the time, would give me the best possible education; the whole world on a plate. Now I
see that I was just a little victim of mediocre marketing and quite convincing students who
claimed their lives changed when they have became part of this institution. So in october
2006 I became a student of madrasa in my hometown. And not to talk a lot about it, but it
most definitely wasn’t what I hoped for. It felt more like we were educated to be good muslim
wives than academic citizens, but don’t take my word for it because I am bitter due to the
information they have presented us with. Or better to say, haven’t presented us with.
Fast forward to the university years and the first year of complete fear, panic zone and loss.
My circumstances changed and I was far from home, just to find myself completely alone
and friendless for reasons still unknown. don’t get me wrong, but looking at it from where I
am today, it was the best thing that possibly could have happened to me at the time. Of
course I was heartbroken, I do have some feelings, but it is more their loss than mine.
During those months I slowly started to surround myself with a more diverse group of
people. With people who questioned everything, who knew what they are doing and why,
people who had a vision. And slowly, I started having clearer ideas myself. But not only that,
I’ve started finally doing things I loved and dreamed of. Volunteering, traveling, meeting new
people and places and growing, but also being a representative of my country. The little
problem was that I was still a big representative of a religion (hijab is kinda hard not to
notice, duh) even though I’d been slowly coming to realise that there are some things that I
cannot stand behind and just let go.
I didn’t let the little concerns bother me. I moved on and lived my life happily as a student
can (happiness was there once a month, if I was lucky, but I enjoyed it regardless). I
graduated, got a job, decided to leave everything behind and moved to Azerbaijan for a year.
Pretty easy, huh?
Well, it was. But also it wasn’t. My parents thought I was joking; I broke my grandma’s heart
and I’m pretty sure my uncle had a little anxiety attack because ‘it’s war over there and I
might die!’ Still being as stubborn as I naturally am and with a new vision and a passion in
me, I left. I don’t know whether or not my parents silently proud of me, we never spoke about
it, but I sure know I was. I felt like I finally had my own life in my hands and I could shape it
the way I want; the way it’d fit me. And that’s when it all started really changing.
I still am not sure why or how it all started, but my ideas about the hijab, more importantly my
dedication to it, shifted and I’ve started to become more aware of how much I don’t want it
anymore. It might be a different culture that influenced my personal culture and made me
rethink; it might be the freer air I breathed because I made the rules or it might just be the
blossom of my personality that happened then and there. I’m still thinking about it. Revising
and retracing every step I’ve taken. Because no matter the sound of words here, it wasn’t
easy. From the first moment that the idea developed in my brain, I knew my family will never
support it. I knew I’d have to choose between me and them from the very beginning.
And I hid for a while. I lied to myself, but that couldn’t have gone on forever.
It took hours and hours and oceans of tears to just get ready to express this desire of mine
to my parents. It took years of patience of my best friends to convince me that everything will
be okay no matter what.
And in the moment when I said it and when my dad rejected that this might become our
reality and future, my whole world broke down. Because in that moment I knew I’d choose
myself and I’d be alone. Because I knew I’d have to break their heart (unwillingly and
unfortunately) to save my own. Because I knew no matter how scared about the future I
might be, I would not continue with something sacred (for some people) that I do not stand
behind anymore.
So we broke each others hearts. We abandoned one another. Me and my family broke up.
My dad used to be my prince in shining armour, but from that moment on we became the
biggest strangers on earth. My mum was silent (as any good wife should be- lol) and
begging me to be a good daughter and to follow the rules, to break them just in the slightest
ways and to adjust to the average perfection of life I could have had; the same averageness
many from my original surroundings were adoringly fitting in (no judgements whatsoever,
just expressing my opinion about certain types of life).
The thing that surprised me most was the sudden involvement and interest of everyone;
from close and distant family members to family friends and acquaintances and the
harshness of their judgement.The curses and pleads; the direct opinions and indirect advice
and the bullying in different forms and by different people. But also the support and
understanding of some others whom I’ve never thought would be so kind and protective. And
the transformation of this into the biggest lesson of my life.
Two years (and a bit more) after taking off my hijab, the frozen relationship between us is
still the same. I’ve missed birthdays and weddings, gatherings and holidays, but they’ve
missed my growth and development. I know we’re both losing like this, but I am done asking
for forgiveness. I haven’t done anything wrong; I’ve simply changed and have grown.
At the end of the day, I’m not sorry for the change I’ve brought into my life. It taught me a lot
about me and it changed me even more.
And despite the clash with my family, I am happy.
I’m not completely sure what the point or the conclusion of this story is or should be. I will
leave it to each and every person that might read my words to decide for him or herself, but
my advice to parents would be to remember to leave their kids to create and shape and
construct their own lives. All with the mistakes that you think they might be making. It’ll teach
them more than your societal rulebook.
And you kids, believe in yourself and try to understand what you want your life to be and go
for it!

Ex- bula out!