Tuesday, 03 May 2016
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
― George R.R. Martin
There is a startling identity vacuum that accompanies loss. Those caught in the wake of grief are often swallowed up by the feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and crumbling self esteem – something I never could have understood until we lost our great nation Somali Weyn.
For twenty five years, Somalia was such an enormous part of my life, it became impossible to imagine other countries becoming my home. Although for our nation we were the beautiful flowers, the amazing society with a million stories to talk about, the listening ear at the end of the day, we finished and destroyed Somalia by simple definable word so called “power,” not only called each other upon thirsty of that simple word, but also killed each other merciless.
When trapped on a crowded city other than your own with their properties, prosperity and filth; between dilapidated covers, and broken bindings, I escape and reach a world where love dawns on people, where words only matter, where I’m plucking hatred from people, where I’m being painted by sins, Ah! This world is so filthy! Shall I run now, Do I have a place to go?
I look around shocked because this is not what our culture and Islam taught us, I don’t know what to know. I looked for one like me (Somali) to help me out. I later realized that these people see us as terrorist and inferior, yet we used to be one of the most known mankind ever lived on earth. My country; is for love, so say its valleys where ancient rivers flow, the full circle of life under the proud eye of birds adorning the sky’s not only for health and wealth, but also see the blue of the sea and beneath the jewels of fish deep under the bowels of soil, hear the golden voice of a miner’s praise for my country according to them that is not who we are.
Hence, when I was in my home, we became everything to each other; for those many years, I saw my reflection in my country’s eyes. I knew I was someone because my people always praised me. I knew I could be sweet because I cared for my land and people, I was their sweetheart daughter. I was smart because I could innovate things in my country.
The day Somali Weyn was destroyed, I stopped knowing who I was! No longer did I have a mirror walking around, reflecting back to me who I thought I was. I didn’t have anyone to praise me, not that I had many at the time. Gone were the golden days in my life. The lack of physical contact left me bereft – I felt hopeless, less beautiful. Of course incessant sobbing that left mascara tracks down my face and a constantly running nose didn’t help.
Along with the physical shock to my body – that wonderfully included constant nausea, sweat-inducing anxiety, and frequent chest pains that left me doubled-over gasping for air – my mind decided to call it quits. While I had previously taken pride in my work, always studying up and reading to be one step ahead of every question, every task, I had suddenly inherited the attention span of a goldfish with a memory to match. Within that year, a co-worker would tell me something and 20 minutes later I’d have to ask them all over again what they had said. Then again in another hour, and at least twice more by lunch. I couldn’t think, couldn’t focus, and the years and years of facts I had accumulated for my work trickled out of my mind like a leaky tap.
I suddenly became as incapable and feeble as everyone around me felt so. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lawn mower. I couldn’t change a simple light fixture. I couldn’t seem to remember that my car keys didn’t fit in the house door. I bumped into every pointy surface, spilled all things spillable, and couldn’t put a shirt on the right way to save my life.
Everywhere I went, people were berth and while I knew, logically, it was merely out of discomfort, I began feeling more and more like a social pariah, as though my grief was the worst kind of infectious disease. I’d walk into a highway and instantly the conversation would stop. Or the whispering would begin, because the majority were killed, and the rest were living in fear.
It’s no wonder we were lost in darkness in just a year without any one giving us precautions.
Gone were the days I knew who I was, the clever me, the me who could take on the world. At best I was broken. At worst, I didn’t exist at all.
The hardest part in this was trying to articulate what was happening to me. That I had lost my identity – everything I thought I was. Everything I knew myself to be.
I needed to take back me.
I went to another country. I learned how to hang my own pictures in the house. I forced myself to shovel my own walk. I reminded myself to put on both shoes before leaving the house. On the same day with those small tasks underway, I began stretching further. I forced myself out of the house to meet new people. I tried new things. I played like them. I tried to live how they were living. I swam with dolphins and went speed boating. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, inch by painful inch.
Soon I began tackling the bigger things on my life’s list. I travelled, visiting places I’d never gone to but always secretly yearned for, then I took the biggest leap yet – I finally summoned the courage to leave work and go back to school, starting all over. It wasn’t easy. That first semester was one of the hardest things I’d done and every day I dragged myself to class, feeling beyond uncomfortable over the obvious age gap between me and the other students. My attention span and memory were still not what they once were (and likely never will be) but I hunkered down and forced myself ahead. Every new challenge became a new victory.
Getting my first A, finding a new job, surviving my personal trainer at the gym.And slowly, slowly I thought I began to find myself again but I was in delusion.Given my lack of hope, it’s not surprising that the latter actually makes me cry more.
But earlier in that day I said to myself, we should stay away from many falsity, and let us embrace the truth and reality, though we are facing a deep poverty, no one and nobody can take away our dignity.
Wherever I go, I do remember my home, away from me, I feel so alone, feels like losing one of my bone again, but for you my home , I am always in a right tone. Though my feet land on a foreign island, I will shine as light, brighter than a sun, among the aliens, I will stand as proud, I love my country, and it will always be my home…
Writer: Hani Kamal
Heriot-Watt University Dubai, degree of Economics
English teacher in Islamic Online University,