Short piece submitted to Man Repeller's Writers Club and published on The Mighty Site as well as Hestia “UK Says No More” Blog.

Defining love comes with so many varying narratives and it’s certainly about more than just romance, which is why I’m not writing about any lover of mine. Frankly, they aren't worth penning (or typing) anything about. Instead, I’m putting down in words why loving myself has been of indispensable value to my being. Sounds cliché, I know, but up until now, I haven’t been able to write about my experience behind it. Hell, I still find it hard to talk about. Nonetheless, here it is, laid bare. 

Innocence, fragility, naïvety; just some of the characteristics typically associated with a teenager. Suffice it to say that I was all of those things aged 15. How then does a girl that age navigate her life after becoming a victim of sexual assault? Well, I traipsed around loathing every part of my being for a long time. Also, I genuinely believed that I wasn't worth someone else’s love let alone my own and surfacing below the trauma was my confidence, trapped there by my fear of being judged. I was completely convinced that I had been and always would be labelled as “damaged goods,” and that no one would ever want me. The only thing I can liken it to is when you get a cut that doesn't stop bleeding, it bleeds and bleeds until you get it stitched up. What you're left with is a permanent scar; a sign of imperfection. In this day and age, with images of perfection plastered everywhere you look, it was hard not to feel the way I did. 

The thing is, the memory of what happened is worse than what happened itself. It is that same memory, however, that made me realise I wouldn't be able to feel love without having a good relationship with myself-scars and all. I had already let the perpetrator get away with what he did because, well, threatening to “financially destroy” my family definitely put a spanner in the works. Letting a pathetic excuse for a human being get away with a crime was one thing, I couldn't let him get away with negatively affecting how my future panned out too. 

I, like most people, desire to be desired. In order to be desirable, I knew that ultimately I needed to accept who I am and also think about the kind of person I would be happy to be. Granted, this sort of thing doesn't work itself out overnight. It’s been nine years since what happened, and from time to time I still ask myself  “am I damaged goods?” Only to answer “no.” It has taken a very long time to say that with conviction. Feeling a sense of self-worth has been hard to grasp, but what I’ve been through has taught me how to do exactly that. It is certainly ironic that for the very same memory that falsified my self-image I have also learnt how to love who I am. 

Identity, Religion & Home

 Blog post published on the website AMALIAH.COM.

There are 24 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes and 40 seconds from the point of which I'm writing this until the day I turn 24. At this very moment all I can keep thinking about is whether or not to question myself, what I want in life and who I am. 

Up until around four months ago, I thought I very much knew where I stood when it came to a number of different elements in my life. To note, the areas that have changed the most are where religion is concerned. The thing that has changed the least is my desire to have a family of my own. The two have become interchangeable and intertwining. It’s a strange clarity I didn't expect to grace me with its presence this year. When I explore the deep running roots in my mind as to why for so long I rejected the notion of Islam, I realise there is only one that stares me in the face yet I had an army of various and intangible excuses to justify myself. But I don't want to justify it anymore, it has little to do with the choices I have made as an individual, the inability to understand how I could possibly fit into my surroundings, the blue eyed blonde haired popular girls at school who thought it was cool to have an “exotic” girl a part of their clique, the teenage years of rebellion, the men who found me attractive or even the dumbfounded curiosities I wanted to explore just to say I had experienced them. The truth is, being able to blame a higher being for the suffering I have endured in my personal life is the only real reason I chose to reject my religion. It wasn't until someone recently asked me whether I had planned to bring the children I want to have as Muslims or not, that I realised I was not being honest with myself.

Time passes, and in that time it is unnerving how vast amounts can change. Throughout the month of Ramadan, I kept thinking about how, when I have children, I would bring them up. I also thought about how so very little of the ideas of my future I had built up in my head were plausible. By removing myself from the religion I grew up with, I would also be removing myself from my family. It wasn't as I had always thought, that they pushed me out for not being the same as them but rather it was the very opposite. They would never reject me for the choices I make, it would be me rejecting them. 

Religion to me means home. It’s the love that my family runs on like clock work. It’s the heritage of my Father’s family, defining the very acts and statements they made in its name. It’s the mutterings of prayers I can hear my Grandmother making quietly in her armchair. It’s the thing that binds my Mother and her sisters together as a strong female unit. It’s my brothers and cousins praying all together on Saturdays no matter the space they are in and how many of them there are. It’s the only way I can connect to the memories left of my Grandfather. It is and always has been in every part of my life, when I wanted it and when I didn’t. I could never walk away from what will always be home. So, aside from providing the family I have of my own one day with a physical home, I want to bring them up knowing that there isn't just one definition for it. 

I now have 24 days, 32 minutes and 49 seconds until another year has passed. For a change, I am settled. Im not afraid of not having achieved everything I wanted to. All that matters to me now is how the thoughts that form my blurry goals make me feel; a sensation I would love to be able to lament in words, sadly though scouring the dictionary hasn't come up with anything satisfactory for me yet. Let’s revisit this subject in another 389 days and I might just be able to say.