As we are moving into week three of Courage at UUCC, I find it to be the perfect opportunity to share some knowledge I have personally acquired from this beautiful yet equally scary (at first) act. This one act of courage unlocked all the doors which held me back, depriving me of my freedom; freedom to think, act, and live the way a person is supposed to live with his or her own free will.
It is true to say that each one of us is born with the right to our own freedom. It’s our birthright after all, but when chained by life’s unfortunate or unseen circumstances, that same freedom becomes a choice. It’s important to know that regardless of our circumstances, the choice of freedom is available to each one of us at all times even when it seems impossible. Remember, whatever seems impossible, just needs a little bit of ‘courage’.
So how do we choose freedom when it seems impossible to do so? The answer is simple: by choosing to act with courage. I invite you all to think about an action you can take today which instantly creates a shift in your life towards a result or impact that you really wanted yet were afraid of. Once you get past the feeling of being scared of the outcome, results, or going out of your comfort zone boundaries, you will notice the full freedom that comes with it. You can become the co-creator of your own life.
My personal story of how I went from being chained to boundaries set by others to flying with courage on my own is way too long for this blog piece, but I will share a bit in hope to inspire others who may be wearing my old shoes. Fifteen years ago, as the little seventeen year old girl who was forced to become a child-bride to a complete stranger in a foreign country and a mother at 18 and then again at 20, I struggled to believe that life was still in my control. That belief didn’t last too long though once I grasped the hand of courage.
At 19 years old and pregnant with my second child, I realized that it was either time to jump into the sea at that very moment or stay in an abusive marriage and the toxic environment which I grew up in for the rest of my life. Furthermore to raise my children in that dangerous environment was something I could never accept to do. I looked into my baby’s eyes and chose to jump into the deep sea without knowing how to swim, but had faith in God that I would learn. From that point onward, I promised myself not to merely exist, but LIVE. I was anyway living as a single parent since the time my son was born, providing for myself and my babies including the one still inside my womb by not letting the stresses of life impact my unborn child. So staying as positive as I could regardless of the situation was a beautiful challenge I took on and successfully so. So what did I do? I took the leap of faith with the courage I found within myself. I took back my power as the creator of my own life and for the sake of myself and my children, took the decision to get the heck out of the mess. To get out the mess which had layers and layers of complications and consequences, I took the first step forward by picking up the phone and calling immigration to cancel my stranger ex-husband’s visa. I knew the divorce would take years due to many obstacles put in my way by the people who thought they owned me (stepmother and uncle) and the stranger whom they married me off to, but I held my head high and put my focus into a very clear and necessary goal at that time, my college degree. All I could think of was the degree and to finish within four years (the competitive me hated the thought of staying behind regardless of how different my life was from all the other normal teens my age whom were off to college for a once in a lifetime experience). Little me, 19 at the time, would not accept to understand that my situation was far different from all of my friends who didn’t go through a forced marriage at 17, did not have children, and weren’t living in dangerous and toxic environments. Deep down though I knew the reality of my situation but I also knew that if there’s a will, there’s always a way! Maybe I just didn’t want to accept the fact that the obstacles of my current situation might come in the way of obtaining a college degree. Maybe I was very aggressive about what I wanted for the sake of myself and my babies. Whatever it was, it was the best attitude I could have adopted! So that’s exactly what I did, I went against all the odds and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in no time. I was so proud of myself for dealing with my situation in a positive way instead of using it as an excuse not to even try going for it. I took it as a challenge. I did what it took to get through and graduate. Even if it meant going to my classes with my son and being pregnant with my daughter or taking several trips from the daycare to my university (35 minute drive each way) just to feed my newborn because the daycare would call me during my classes to inform me that my daughter would not drink milk out of the bottle or a dropper. Even if meant taking both of my children with me to classes and requesting my professors (a BIG thank you, if you’re reading this) to allow that to happen or staying up most nights to complete assignments and studying for exams with two babies demanding for attention. Even if it meant making college, the children, and working several jobs with no time for anything else my whole world. Even if it gave me a lot of stress and tears when my children would be sick and I would have to make several doctor and hospital visits (including hospital stays when my son would be burning in temperatures over 102 each week) and having my worry triple by a million while still trying to focus on assignments, exams, and all other aspects of my challenging life. Even it meant that I was in the middle of fighting for my divorce to a stranger from another country whom I was forcefully married to at 17. Even if it meant I had to work long hours to provide for myself and my two children along with obtaining my college degree and being a single mom. And yes, even if it meant to not have anyone by your side to tell you that everything was going to be okay except for the divine and the warmth of my babies (I honestly can’t thank God enough for being by my side and guiding me through spirit). YOU know what? I did it! When I look back at life now, it amazes me to think how I made it through that very difficult phase and to have accomplished as much as I did, but then it hits me. It was something that I naturally learned a few years ago; it goes like this: It’s all up in the mind and the attitude we go about in life. I kept my mind and attitude FOCUSED and POSITIVE and most of all, I believed in myself and in my own power which led me to create a better life for myself and my children.
It took courage to do what I did and I realize that the courage was within me from the beginning. I just had to find it and take action at the right time. I invite you too, to find the courage within you to speak up for and live your truth. Also to speak up for what’s right and become the voice for those who don’t have one. After all, we are all connected to each other as one.
Editor’s note: Aliya Abbas also has a personal blog at https://aliyaabbasblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/story-time-against-all-odds/ and her work has been published on Huffington Post.