Throughout my life, every elder in my life have yelled at me and peers (siblings, cousins etc) to switch off lights and fans when we exit a room. “Are you paying the utilities? No? Ok then switch off the appliances”. 

It’s not that I ever disagreed with the sentiment (saving money has always been a priority), but I suppose I agree with the sentiment that much more now that I live on my own. One of my (temporary) housemates has the (infuriating) habit of leaving the central kitchen light on (rather than one of the smaller ones) because she doesn’t like getting up in the middle of the night and navigating the kitchen in the dark to get a drink or something (why she needs the central light vs one of the smaller light beats me). I have successfully refrained from yelling at her anything about the utilities because after all she’s paying too. Still.

I just still find it hilarious that when I came to America, switching off appliances is presented as a solution to save the Earth. I mean, yes, saving the Earth is important etc., but my bills take priority over everything. 

$5 off my utilities might just mean I get to indulge in Froyo. 

I promised myself that I would write and read more during the summer, but so far, I don’t think I have done enough of it. 

It may have a lot to do with the ~academic exhaustion~ I put myself through. 

There are two different parts of ~academic exhaustion~. The first is that in a capitalistic society, every individual must work, work, work, work. But it’s not that every individual must work,it’s that every individual must be productive just the way capitalism demands it. No deviations are allowed. 

For instance, let’s take the example of a college student and a single mother who is a housewife. Not unemployed. A housewife. My mother is a single mother who is a housewife and every time I go home, it boggles my mind how much she does, and (though has her moments like everyone else) stays very much mentally afloat. 

As an undergraduate student who is studying the humanities, not only am I expected to study hard and have a good enough GPA, but I’m also expected to do things that boost my resume. The latter is a constant part of my anxiety. I’m part of student organizations that I’m passionate about (Muslim Student Association and Asian American Association for the most part), but being part of them also mean resume building. There have been moments when I have questioned myself if I stick to doing so much as part of student organizations because of my passion or because of the very real material advantages they could provide me. Leadership. Skill. Experience. All three of those are real. After all, I would not know how to work with people if it wasn’t for my involvement student organizations. I do a lot of management work for my student organization. 

But that’s not all. Student org work easily take more than 4 hours out of my week. And then there are the classes and the homework. And the various jobs I have held down. I would have held down an internship too if I could afford it. But since I can’t, I juggle multiple jobs and hope for the best.

It’s all very exhausting. I’m used to getting too little sleep and functioning on too much coffee. Most students are. And this is what I call ~academic exhaustion~ part 1. 

I like to think I have a solid resume. Not for any big shot job after college. But to survive entry level jobs. And then I compare my resume to my mother’s. 

If I stop to think about it, the work that my mother and I do are very similar. She manages the house (I manage events and the organizational part of my student organization). She manages the finances (I work very closely with my org’s treasurer). She does a whole lot of driving around to keep everything running (isn’t that logistics or something in professional lingo?). She’s part of PTA and is a huge advocate of her own and her community’s children. But because it’s all for the sake of a home, and nothing that she does is ~professional~, her resume doesn’t count for shit. As such, she’s afraid to apply for jobs. 

This, is how capitalism devalues one person and gives false hope to another. I have seen way too many peers graduate from college and go into barista jobs afterall. 

Then there’s the second part of ~academic exhaustion~. Which doesn’t really have anything to do with academia, but much rather with the work of healing from trauma. I have been working on healing from my childhood sexual abuse, and the more recent upheavals between myself and my mother. I’m getting where I want to get, but being a college student while actively healing from trauma can be very exhausting at times. Especially for someone like me who likes to devote her energy into one project at a time.

Which brings me to the now. When I stepped into the summer and into the void when I didn’t have classes, my mind shut down. And by shut down I suppose I mean more that it silenced itself, rather than spiraled towards a break down. 

Because there is so much to do at any given day during the academic year, and because my reading is so structured, I often don’t get to read what I want to. But I have been taking good classes and the material that comes to be is good.  I usually skim them quickly to churn out a paper and file them away to pursue more diligently later.

Except my brain refused to process academic information for the first two months of the summer. And now it will be the last month of the summer in two days and I’m anxious that I haven’t pursued anything that I really wanted to. 


Because my brain stayed blank and refused to concentrate on much, I sat a lot quietly on the deck and looked at the sky. (Or in case of my current job, where I paint and trim, I sat a lot and stared at blank walls). It felt as though my brain was recharging after a long drain.  So I let it recharge.  Read fiction. Tried to cook. Had a lot of monologues with myself. Slept a lot. 

It strikes me that we don’t think much about the therapeutic nature and need for silence. Even though there are apps on our smart phones now which give us white noise so that we sleep more peacefully. But those experiences are neatly contained within a certain time frame. And I can’t help but wonder how that affects our mind. 

The first couple of weeks, not having much to do and not being able to concentrate on much made me endlessly jittery and irritable. Had it been the school year, I would have found something to do. At times when I couldn’t concentrate on my academic work, I did paper work for my student organization. When I couldn’t do either, I slept. 

There was no real time to be. 

I don’t think people realize that many of us become fast paced because we’re forced into it as a habit. And just as we become fast paced habitually,so must we teach ourselves the habit of standing still. To be. And it doesn’t happen in a matter of days. Or during a journey to a far off state or country. 

A state of being, wherein one finds peace at one’s core, is something to be cultivated. Like a garden. No doubt there are people who do it through their fast paced lives. But I wonder how many people exist in the in-between spectrum of needing to be in fast paced environments, and the need to be standing still, and if in a capitalist society, they really find time to figure it out. 

Capitalism has a parochial, almost vulgar way of choking us by not giving us time to investigate our inner core. It strikes me that this is such a frightening kind of violence, because it does not really leave tangible evidence of its violence behind. It is a very difficult kind of violence to investigate. And that makes it the more terrifying. 


But. As I was saying, I haven’t read and written much this summer. Yet it’s funny. I’m looking forward to spending a year being after I graduate just doing as much as I can. After all, I watched the documentary on Grace Lee and discovered Roxane Gay’s writing. I keep bookmarking activists and feminists and civil rights leaders to read later. It’s like hoarding a treasure for later. This is what I am going to do in peace when I have the time. And that time will come soon. In the meantime, I’ll be as productive as my body can be, and I’ll try to intellectually challenge myself. 

It is quiet a lot of work to cultivate a habit. My current habit that I’m trying to cultivate is to remind myself that I must gauge and judge my production by my own standards, and not by capitalism’s. 

messy hair and bedrooms-


my life is organized chaos,
it’s mismatched socks and 
stringy morning hair.
my life is knowing exactly what
i want when i don’t exactly
want it.
it’s choosing take out over 
a home cooked meal because
at 8 pm, sometimes you’re just
too tired.
my life is a blur, i keep crisscrossing
the edges of it all-
i never liked to put things in rainbow
order, i kind of liked red next 
to blue 
and orange next to green.
i might have once believed that 
i could follow one narrow path
and lead a life i expected was
what everyone wanted,
but it didn’t take long for me to stray-
i like that i can’t quite figure
out what is going to happen next,
or who i am going to be
i am wrinkled linens and 
uneven eyeliner,
and i’m okay with it.
there is a certain flow in the midst
of all this madness 
and i’m just riding the wave,
i am a sloppy drunk
and a sloppier lover
and as long as you accept me
for me
i think you might just like
this hectic life i’m leading.

(via exhalingcatalysts)

Perhaps the most annoying part about being a woman in a patriarchy is that we are not even allowed our insecurities in relation to ourselves. It has to be about a man. 

If a woman hates her body, it has to be because she thinks a man doesn’t find it attractive. And I get that, I get that there are women who are anxious about the desirability of themselves. And then there are ten thousand advertisements and posts about how a man sees a woman and falls in love with her and what she really looks to another’s eye etc etc etc. 

It’s great. It’s sweet and thoughtful in its own space and context. But not all women hate their bodies in relation to men. 


Everyone has ideas and opinions about my body. There are women who are envious of my curves and members of my family who think I’m not petite enough, so not healthy enough. I am not denying the health part. My body is not healthy. I don’t care about curves and desirability anymore, though. But as everyone is busy forming opinions about my body and telling me said opinions, i rarely have a space of my own to envision my body in relation to my self. 

My body is a burden.

It stretches and shrinks and reacts however it likes. There’s no control over it even though it is mine. And I should have control over it. There are a hundred ways to teach yourself how to react appropriately and another thousand ways to present yourself. I don’t disagree with all of them. And neither am I doing it for men. Self validation comes in another hundred thousand forms but of course, I must be doing it for a man, or for some other societal standards which are made by men. 

I don’t care anymore. I simply don’t care anymore. 

My body is not a safe place. My body is a traitor all of its own. It refuses to bend itself to the things I want or should want or is appropriate for whatever context it is in. It refuses to fit where and how I want it to fit and it refuses to step out of corners and boxes where it has fit itself snugly. 

I have found a cynical solace in quietly negotiating myself with this truth. That no matter how many “I love your curves” or “I love that dress on you” I hear, I am not going to be comfortable in my body. It will bulge, it will shrink. and my body and myself will be forever in a war with each other. 

I hate my body. And it is OK. After all, my body is not mine. It is everybody else’s perceptions. It is treated as everybody else’s perception and I don’t have the strength to fight this battle. So I will critically look at it in the mirror or ignore looking at it in the mirror (whatever the day brings with it) and get on with my life. There are ten thousand other things in which I could spend my energy on instead of teaching myself to love my body in whatever fashionable way it is in the moment to love it. 

Peace and solace comes in ten million different ways. 

Tags: own writing

I suppose traveling so much would give anyone at least a little bit of culture shock. But I seem to be experiencing it in small doses almost constantly. 

For instance, the way so many Americans take their lunch. They usually grab a slice of pizza from a nearby place or bring a Lean Cuisine - something not particularly appetizing from what I hear but edible and filling (Lean Cuisine is not halal so I really wouldn’t know). In both Pakistan and Myanmar (and various neighboring countries)  people take their lunches in a tiffin. One layer of rice, one or two layer of curry. Taking their time with food. 

It’s not just with adults in these countries. Most school children, as young as elementary school children, will have a full tiffin for lunch. In America, young children get something from the cafeteria or snack on lays and cookies as their midday meal. I marvel at this phenomena every time I’m home, because my younger brothers tend to get cookies. My younger sister, who is in 7th grade, is often given a wrap or fruits. Still, not comparable to my tiffins. 

I was sitting in a friend’s office today chatting when she and her friend were deciding where to go out to lunch. I was invited along but I declined, explaining that I had made my own lunch and brought from home. As I explained the concept of tiffins for lunch, I realized why I still make an effort to make my own lunch. “If I brought in Lean Cuisine, my grandmother would be severely disappointed with me!” 

Came across a quote today by Napoleon Bonaparte that talks about how religion is the reason the poor don’t murder the rich.

It struck me how this could be interpreted in two ways. That religion has brainwashed them etc etc (isn’t there a Marxist quote that goes around saying that and is taken out of context) or that religion allows (allows? Helps?) Them to retain their humanity. I think I’ll concentrate on the latter.

Because honestly, I’ve been in angry places where I’ve also doubted God and struggled with my brand of theism and spirituality. It’s not a good place, not for me. And so the question of religion comes to the forefront. I have a friend, converted into atheism from Christianity who has taken to posting memes about the various people suffering around the world. An African child with no water to drink. War in Syria. Other portrayals of human suffering. And so the question of spirituality, of God, come to the forefront.

I think Osama was right when he said that in instances of disaster, the question shouldn’t be “Where is God” but rather “Where are God’s people”. And so, It’s not that religion keeps us from killing someone because otherwise we’ll be punished, it’s more that religion and spirituality can be a great force that reminds us of our own humanity. A lot of Black activists have said that in considering Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, peoples and activists instantly knew they didn’t want to kill their oppressors willy-nilly even though they had a right to. And this was because activists retained their humanity, their core of compassion, and turned it around to help their own communities. Their core was not so damaged, and their humanity was not going to be further damaged by participating in negative (rather than “hurtful” ) kinds of actions. Their core needed to retain this humanity so they could serve their own communities.

I think religion & spirituality plays a huge role in that. It gives people hope, it helps people retain their humanity, their compassion, their integral core. It helps people from keeping destroying themselves. Negative actions can destroy a person’s inner core. Religion and spirituality helps with that.

Which has nothing to do with the oppressor. The oppressor is thrown in the periphery. The oppressor does not matter.

Gallery Notes
Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan 1979 - 2014. Organized by Dr. Deborah Hutton
The exhibit “Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan 1979 - 2014” is an exhibit that was organized to reflect on the past 35 years of Afghanistan and it’s  constant state of conflict. However, as Dr. Hutton  said in her opening talk, the intention is to see the cultural evolution of Afghanistan through war, rather than simply seeing it as a battle torn country or a savage country, two polar opposite imagery constantly projected to American. Artists in the exhibition include Lida Abdul, Rada Akbar, Gulbedin Elham, Qasem Foushanji, Mariam Ghani, Moshtari Hilal, Aref Karimi, Orna Kazimi, Aman Mojadidi, Najibullah Musafer, Rahraw Omarzad, Abdullah Shayagan, Zolaykha Sherzad, Amin Taasha, and Mohsin Wahidi.
The journey starts from 1979, the year when Afghanistan was invaded by Russia, but the journey does not start from there. Dr. Hutton mentioned in her talk that her first introduction to Afghanistan were ancient miniature manuscripts which depicted various points in the story. Art and visual culture, therefore, is nothing new in Afghanistan, but as everything else that evolves in society, art and visual culture has also evolved in Afghanistan in the context of it’s past 35 years. As featured in the exhibit, art in Afghanistan takes various forms, from carpets and other textiles which are traditional forms of art, to video art and other installation pieces which are only possible in the context of contemporary modernity. Combining, recreating, retracing, and creating anew, the exhibit features the remarkable dynamism, resilience, and energy of both the Afghan artists, who do not shy away from historical or contemporary art forms, and the Afghanis from whom they draw inspiration.
Given the breadth of the artists and their work featured, I am unable to go into depth about the various themes that stand out in this exhibit (war, refugee and migration, every day life and Afghanistan evolving, gender, the relationship between the State and its Citizenry and so on). I will however, comment on three artists that particularly stood out to me. 
Qasem Foushanji, the bass player for Afghanistan’s only metal band “District Unknown”, often plays with “unclean and dark spaces of life in his abstract work”. He comments that “most of the people ignore such aspects, because it is not beautiful. But showing it more can be a way to create solutions.”. His Melting Words,featured in the exhibit, combines calligraphy with abstract art, reminding me of religious street art in Pakistan dripping on a warm rainy day. Juxtapositioned thus, Melting Words is a reminder of Afghanistan’s religious and cultural history which bears no clash with the “modern age” that Afghanistan is entering. It is a reminder that regardless of what viewers may think of Afghanistan in the context of Taliban and their brutal rule, Afghanistan has no qualms with its religious aspects, and not only prides itself on it, but is equally determined to bring those elements with it as it transitions into a State that grapples and ends the various civil conflicts still brewing within its borders.
Moshtari Hilal, [x] Afghani artist who works with illustrations, collages and drawings, has four works featured. All of them ink on paper art pieces and distinctly “modern”, Hilal’s pieces plays with political and sociopolitical messages, portraying them with a bit of satire and a hit of  exaggeration to catch the viewer’s gaze and hold their attention. My favorite piece by her, Catch Me If You Can instantly reminded me of the various conversations around the hijab and niqab that I have been privy to. Lila Abu Lughod’s Do Muslim Women Need Saving would be a good article to accompany this piece for Hilal’s American viewers. The niqab and hijab will always factor into the lives of women from this part of the world, and conversations around this subject will evolve as States transition into different political eras and their Citizenry react to it, but ultimately, it will be the women who will ultimately decide their relationship  with religious wear.
Or perhaps the piece wasn’t at all about religious wear. Who knows.
Aman Mojadidi, “Afghan by blood, red neck by the grace of god”, attempts in his work to "disturb identity, challenges authority, and exposes hypocrisy, and reinterprets reality" all the while, exploring "the geography of self".  Using his anthropological and ethnographic background, he attempts in his work to try and understand the fractured world we live in. In his Love Letters From Home, Mojadidi explores the relationship between the State and its Citizenry, how the State can immobilize and infantilize its citizenry by  dictating their moves, and how it burdens the psyche of the citizenry who is constantly bombarded with high level security risks which are then normalized with the incessant reminders (“updates”) and a constant onslaught into the private life of the citizenry. Also factors into this relationship is how a neo liberal, neo colonial state is only in communication with it’s worthy citizens, (the American consulate in communication with it’s citizenry present in an invaded State), how the unworthy citizen is cast aside, portrayed in a linear fashion as befits the situation, and further infantalized and brutalized from not only monopolizing on the portrayal of the unworthy citizen, but also of impersonally leaving them bereft to deal with an unfit situation that the unworthy citizenry himself created. Drawing up dichotomies between the State and Citizenry, between different Citizenry, and exploring it through a medium which invokes nostalgic love, the viewer is left with the brutal reality of war as it exists as a normal for many people in Afghanistan. 
The exhibit no doubt explores many different themes, which all squarely fit into the theme of transnational and global politics. Integrated within these themes are the aspirations, commentary, hopes, and goals of the artists themselves for their own country. For American visitors to the gallery, I hope the pieces are not only though provoking, but also spur them on to further educate themselves in the varied and various themes that increasingly arise in our transnational and global conversations.

Gallery Notes

Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan 1979 - 2014. Organized by Dr. Deborah Hutton

Read More

(Source: skeletonsandfeminism)

Gallery Notes 
                Wangechi Mutu’s Fantastic Journey at the E.Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum of Art deals heavily with the theme of bodies (versus simply dealing with the female body), colonialism, Mother Earth and all of the in between spaces. A Kenyan artist and sculptor who works and lives in Brooklyn, Mutu is considered to be one of the most important contemporary African artists, and has received much global acclaim.

One of the first pieces I noticed was the installed piece, Warm Tree,  is of what looks like a tree but what has been created of discarded cloth, lint and other fabric. I think it “ties” the entire exhibition together well, because here’s a “tree” that looks like a tree, but is damaged by everything that has been thrown at it through the years. Though soft, it still looks sturdy, and so tells the story of what happens to the land through the years of colonialism, and “development”. Placed strategically, it is a silent haunting reminder of what happens to nature around us as various interpretation of development is projected on this landscape.
                Another piece that also really caught my eye was Family Tree which is a collection of 13 individually framed collages, [website] An art piece that essentially works as a double story telling piece which incorporates both creation myths and the history of Africa, the artist reminds us that the Africa that we see today, hear of today, did not come about in a vacuum. She reminds us that the continent has a complex and varied history, in which she did not always a hand, but which ultimately shapes it today for what it is.
Across the entire collection, many pieces were “cut and pasted together”, i.e. things, and images that we encounter in our everyday life were put together to create images and pieces that were abstract, but which also had a haunting reminder of the world we live in. We essentially live in a world where we are bombarded with many different images of Africa (the subject of the artist in this exhibition) which often differs from what is real on the ground, and also does not take into account the varied history of the continent. She reminds us of what industrialization did to a continent, and that human advancement can be as damaging as empowering. Mutu has done an incredible job of creating a conversation between many of these aspects of her continent, and invites the on looker to think about Africa rather than simply gaze into it.
Selected works from this exhibition can be viewed here.

Gallery Notes 

                Wangechi Mutu’s Fantastic Journey at the E.Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum of Art deals heavily with the theme of bodies (versus simply dealing with the female body), colonialism, Mother Earth and all of the in between spaces. A Kenyan artist and sculptor who works and lives in Brooklyn, Mutu is considered to be one of the most important contemporary African artists, and has received much global acclaim.

Read More

(Source: skeletonsandfeminism)

There can be a lot said about love, particularly, the love that is born in war, in trauma, in utter destruction. 


In America, people say “I love you” rather easily I think. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s dropped easily within conversations, among short farewells. It’s a good thing. Love is a force that stabilizes, that  sustains.

On the contrary, it is often said about South Asian peoples that in everyday life “we don’t show enough love”. I have heard a lot of fellow desi immigrant kids say “We never saw open gestures of affection between our parents”. I think for the larger part, it is true. 

But I think, somewhere woven in my upbringing is this core belief that love should be done rather than said.  It is easy to say three simple words, it is not that easy to actively do them. 

So how do you do love?

The simple answer is: I don’t know. But there are a lot of examples around me. My grandfather often tells this story of our grandmother when in their younger days, he’d stress over his files and accounts and would get frustrated when they weren’t computing right. And she’d come around and shut them quietly and would tell him to relax for a bit before he went back to them. And he’d say, always with this smile,  that when he’d go back to those files after a relaxing nap, they’d always compute perfectly the first time. 

And in that moment, in that story telling moment, they did love to each other. She told him to take a break. He would retell the story, appreactingly, affectionately. 

I’m not going to say their love is ever lasting, sustaining. He wasn’t always good to her, and he didn’t realize it. But he tired to make amends at the end. But there are these windows, always these glimpses that I see. 


My grandmother is a very hospitable, caring person. I don’t think she’s ever let anyone out of her house without food. She’ll always pack me with extra roti rolls whenever I leave home for college. Always takes care that not only I’m well-fed, but I’m well fed on my favorite foods. She does that with everyone.

It’s a very simple act if you think about it. Making sure that someone is sustained. But it speaks volume. I think the last  time she told me actively that she loved me was when I was a bratty child. But even now, even when she shies away from words, from too open shows of affection, she does love. 


Immigration, and we’re talking about “voluntary” migration here, is a violent process. It displaces people, tears them apart from families, from their social networks, from their language, their foods, from their everything. Migrant peoples often put on a brave face, try and make a new life. And often, these people are already suffering historic trauma. Burdened by legacies of colonialism, their environments too often perpetuating various elements of other emotional and psychological abuse, many migrants don’t really know how to love. 

But they bear love. In broken ways,  in scarred ways, glimpses through a window. 

Trauma is re-emphasized through generations. And so their children grow, trying to make sense of it all, in an environment already hostile to them, in an environment where social support is already minimal. They act out, they stay, they gather broken pieces and try and put together a mosaic or they get up and escape. Against all odds, against all the taunts, they shore up their sanity-ies, make something out of themselves to move their communities forward. 

Migrants and their children bear love, do love, rarely say it enough. rarely celebrated enough. They make me want to tear my hair out, and simultaneously humble me. 

Re-inventing identities and lives: Growing up in diaspora

Part 1

Being an immigrant means tearing your psyche apart a little. Displacement from home communities have a lot of effects, and not all of them can be quantitatively dissected. Maybe that’s where my pain of diaspora lies.

My academic work has been solidifying lately into the direction I have wanted to go in. At the same time, I think I have taken an active interest in how my psyche, as an immigrant and a racialized minority in the US develops and grows. I suddenly want to talk again. So here is part 1. And here will be subsequent parts whenever I get to them. 

- - - - - - - -

I still remember my first day in America. We had to wait a long time because my uncle couldn’t take time off until the evening  to come pick us up from JFK. And I remember feeling underwhelmed. I was expecting Islamophobia right at the airport. I hadn’t slept for the past 28 hours or so, and my guard was high up through the roof. But the feeling I still distinctly remember from the first day and week: underwhelmed. I was so underwhelmed by everything. There were tall buildings in New York? Big deal, we had tall buildings in Myanmar too. And that was a third world country governed by military. 

My grandfather had told us JFK was a beautiful airport. You call this beautiful? I thought. It was all glass and ceiling, glaring white light compounding my exhaustion. Gold metallic benches. I thought of the airport I had left in Myanmar. There was a portrait of a dancing celestial fairy on one of the walls. I had wanted to stop and admire it, hadn’t had the time. In Singapore airport, there were little gardens with waterfalls and massaging chairs. Free wifi too. All free for travelers. 

JFK was cold metallic benches and self consumed people. I was tired and underwhelmed and wanted to sleep dammit. 

 - - - - - - - - 

It’s hard to capture myself accurately from those days. There was so much energy and at the same time, I was free falling through limbo. School admissions. ESL tests. I encountered my first Islamophobic person within the month that I came into the US. It was covert and overt all at the same time. My sister and I had not known how to react. Heck, we didn’t even believe our own ears when we heard the comments and confirmed it with each other when we came back home. There was so much residual shock. There still is. 

And then there were the ESL tests. Everyone was so surprised my English was so good. And that my sister and I were apparently so smart! They didn’t know what to do with us and at the same time, we became new flashy gadgets that everyone wants to play with.

I felt like I was in a whirlwind but at the same time, falling endlessly through limbo. I had goals. Get out of high school. Go to college. Go to medical school Become a doctor. Go back home. It was solid. Focus. So much was starting to fall apart of me months after we arrived. Focus.

 - - - - - - - - 

This wasn’t the first time I changed school. I wore shalwar kameez. Not to be brave, but because I honestly wasn’t interested in jeans and t-shirts. I didn’t have any and regardless, the shopping wasn’t going well either way. 

Perhaps if I hadn’t stood out so much with my hijab and shalwar kameez I would have assimilated within the student body with a bit more ease. Or if I’d had the courage to battle the cafeteria from the beginning. Which came at least half a year after I had been in school. And it wasn’t even me braving the cafeteria line, it was me finding a quiet spot to eat lunch and read that my loving grandmother had packed for me. 

Oh. And I read a lot. All the time. If I there were lapses in class time, my book would be out. I’d read through lunch. While waiting for my ride home. It was my escape. 

Somewhere where I had friends. 

 - - - - - - - - 

In schools back home, students stayed in one class room all day while teachers came in and left as bells rang for different periods. Lockers would be in the room, you made your friends in the room, the room became an important staging area for everything social. It wasn’t like you didn’t make friends outside the room, but your classroom became your home within the school. 

In America, this entire system was on it’s head. Rushing from one room to another. Changing faces. I have always been an introvert, so I didn’t know then how to make friends with people I didn’t have to interact with half a day. And since I wasn’t an ESL kid, alienation became inevitable. 

And anyway most of the ESL kids were Israelis we never could agree on anything since we couldn’t agree on the Israeli  - Palestinian issue. And the hispanic kid was gay. Or talked about gayness too much. And well, he was a boy. Not welcome on my radar.  

But I wasn’t alienated. There was a black girl and a few South Asian girls  who would reach out subtly, unconsciously. The first to talk to me, the first to stand up for me when needed. Like an invisible body guard that moved constantly around me, subtly pull my awkward self into their group of friends even though I would stubbornly, silently, passive-aggressively refuse. 

It was then that I created my “tough girl” persona. Started the process of recreating myself. If I didn’t want friends and anything to do with this country and leave as soon as possible, well, I was going to do just that. And nobody was going to mess that up for me.