Thursday, 11 December 2014

“Giving up on the age of 12" (By Mohammad Zafar)

Also published on Virtual Mosque:

I distinctly remember an incident from when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I was with my family staying at our cousin's apartment while my cousin was outside in the hall playing with some friends. I, of course, stayed inside not wanting to go and join myself voluntarily. By chance he came and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends. I was hesitant at first but deep down really wanted to come. His sister and mine both encouraged me seeing I was the only boy in the home to go and join them. I couldn't pass it up so I eagerly, yet nervously, tagged along. As I stepped outside the door I remember smiling uneasily wanting to just feel accepted and enjoy hanging out with others for a change.

But as the door opened, the awkward smile I originally displayed quickly vanished. I had barely taken a step outside when one of the boys saw me and immediately made a rude remark at my appearance, essentially mocking me in front of everyone else.

I was so disappointed that night that I still remember it till this day. Although the memory has never kept me awake at nights or brought back nightmares, it still provides me with a very personal experience of complete rejection at a young age; at an age when one cannot make sense of their surroundings.

I did not want my cousin’s friends to make fun of me especially since I had enough people doing that to me in school. Extremely upset and disappointed, I hung my head down not even bothering to look straight and cussed back at the boy while he returned the favor. As we continued to exchange our extensive grade 5 vocabulary insults towards each other, I decided to then simply make my way into the apartment not wanting to talk to anyone anymore.

I wanted to be in a place at minimum where people could put up with how I looked even though they resented it. So I entered the apartment and went into the corner of one of the rooms just trying to pass the time and feeling embarrassed of how I looked, who I was, and what purpose I was serving on this cold planet. This was not a onetime incident, by now I was used to hearing insults but I could not get myself used to the pain those insults brought with them.

But much to my surprise the kids in the hall had all come back. The older brother of the boy who made fun of me, the mature 14 year old, came to apologize. That was quite something; I certainly did not expect that from him.

He insisted his brother was an "idiot" and wanted me to come and join. Then my sisters and cousin heard–oh god I really did not want that to happen. It was already embarrassing enough to hear insults in front of the other guys, but I didn't want to be reminded of it again in front of my family.

I moved closer and closer to the corner of the room hearing everyone argue back and forth. It was a bit of a happy-go-lucky argument. They would all throw jokes and argue at the same time while I simply kept a straight face in sheer disappointment thinking "why are they all doing this? Do they find this funny?"

The older brother however was very courteous. He had asked me several times to come and insisted his younger brother would not do or say anything like that again. I just kept saying "no, no. It’s okay, I’m not upset. I just don't want to come".

The argument, very lighthearted albeit, finally ended. I was probably the most disappointed after witnessing it despite not even taking part. Everyone had finally left and there I was alone. Alone – a place which always welcomed me.

The incident had however left a very sour taste in my mouth. This was not like those days when a boy at school would abruptly throw a basketball at the back of my head to amuse others or himself. It was not like those days when I was at a wedding while adults stared at me with what seemed like pity and sometimes even disgust. It was not like those days when my best friend would make fun of me to raise his status amongst the cool kids at school. No, this was different. I just felt and knew it was different.

All I wanted to do that night was to be a part of a group who accepted me for the way I was and the way I looked. I couldn't change my appearance, I just wanted to feel welcomed, play with the guys that night and feel a part of a group for once. I did not want to be alone. I did not want to be left out. I just simply wanted to belong.

I had tried and tried to fit in on many occasions before but since I could not change my appearance, I was rejected again and again and again. The more effort I put into fitting in, the worse the rejection felt. It was not easy to get rejected and try to muster up strength to give it a shot again, then only to see the same results.

It was at this point where I told myself: "I have been trying so hard to fit in all my life...I do not want to try anymore."

This is a moment I hope no one, especially those who are young, ever have to succumb to. I did not want to try anymore and I really meant it. Essentially I gave up on life. I gave up on people. I gave up trying to look for good in this world. I even gave up thinking there was any good in this world. For people like me, I convinced myself that night, there was no good! It grew in me anger, resentment and disregard for others. These feelings would only grow from there. I became extremely anti-social. I figured at that point the pain I felt when trying to fit in was simply not worth it. Perhaps if I stayed away from people altogether I would not feel this way anymore. My room became a sanctuary and a place I could always go and know would not push me out and make me feel unwanted.

I hope no one ever has to face a time like this.

Things would change however. Couple of years after I had surgery to repair the issue and now well into my adulthood I feel I perhaps talk too much at times. But I wrote this piece because strangely enough I found Allah's love and company through incidents like these. If anyone has the right to complain about life being unfair then I think I would be one of them. But today I have no complaints and as an adult I am glad I actually went through these experiences.

The pains that these experiences brought never made sense to me until adulthood. But if it were not for these “pains”, I would not know what rejection felt like. I would not know what a shattered heart torn already felt like when it would tear up again. I would not know what days and nights of involuntary loneliness felt like. I would not perhaps come to know my purpose on what sometimes can really be a cold planet.

I always had a wish to grow up and help others. I simply needed to be trained to do that. How else could I understand or relate to someone’s struggle if I had not gone or experienced it myself?

This is why I think it is so important to think positive of God because only then will one find the gems hidden in the most difficult trials of their life. You may not see the fruits of your labor and even why you were put into such hard trials for perhaps years onward. But I for one with certainty can say: It is never unfair. In fact, it is always worth it.

If there is any topic, or experience, you would like me to write about in this blog please feel free to let me know: