This I Believe

Aiman - Austin, Texas
Entered on May 23, 2007

I believe in providence – that everything happens for a reason.

I was a scrawny 11-year-old, with large round glasses and neon-banded braces, when I decided – entirely on my own accord – to don the Islamic modest dress, or hijab. It was my first year of middle school and I was not exactly what you would call popular. I dressed differently, thought differently, and believed differently from the majority of my peers – in fact I was the only girl in the entire school who wore a headscarf. While other girls giggled about their boyfriends and showed off their cute curls and fashionable mini-shirts, I held on to my simple headscarf and thought about all the ways things could be different – I could be back in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the city where I grew up, fitting into cliques of peers who looked similar to me, talked in languages I had been surrounded with in childhood, and treated me as one of their own. But that was not to be and for a reason. I was to struggle through the discomfort of standing out, of being different, so that I would learn to value my own strength and ability to stand for the things I believed in. I chose to be me and for that I grew to love me and to love those around me who offered new perspectives and unique experiences to learn from.

The struggle to grapple with my identity and fight silently for the right to hold strong my core values, rather than blending flawlessly into the currents of conformity, came at an early age for me, but it has shaped how I view every other difficulty, hurdle and test. Everything happens for a reason. If I am to emerge a better, stronger, more introspective and open-minded human being from the difficulty God puts along my path, then I shall seize it, struggle through it, and learn from it. And if success should cross my path, then I had better be mindful, for success too is a test of character. How grounded and humble are we when we’re riding high on the good times and whom do we remember or forget? These are the things that shape us as human beings.

Successes or struggles – getting the promotion you’ve always hoped for or missing the bus on the morning of your most important exam. These and the hundreds of other more mundane and sometimes more tragic events that cross our lives are links in the chain that maps our journey – and each and every incidence, whether it makes sense in the large scale of things or seems to occur out of nowhere, happens for a reason. God’s guidance is ever present – even in the most unexpected of circumstances. This I believe.