This I believe…Never Say Never
“I will never move.” That’s what my mother used to say adamantly. Seven international moves later, she has been forced to acquiesce. In the last five years, I have moved five times. After a life of surprises, I’ve realized the importance of keeping an open mind and a supple will towards the future, of believing that one can go anywhere, surpass all expectations, cross all boundaries; I’ve realized the importance of never saying never.
“I will never move out of Pakistan.” In the country of my birth, the home of my ancestors and comrades, I could never imagine moving beyond the bounds of my little town. My childhood was an embrace of warmth; I ran freely in my gated town all day, the milkman placing milk on the porch steps, waiting for the muezzin’s call for prayer in the evening, dancing in a shimmering kaleidoscope of color at Eid, picking ripe mangoes from the mango tree in my garden, living a life in ignorance that a world existed beyond what I had always known. But this was soon to change.
I was seven when I moved from my childhood home, Pakistan, to an unknown land of arid desert: Saudi Arabia. I was divulged into an exotic culture; the mystique of the women, draped in layers of black cloth, masking their bodies and identities, fascinated me; I watched the nomads drift through the desert landscape, riding proud atop their camels, with their belongings tied in a cloth behind them; I remember the calm of the pristine coastline of the Arabian Sea, twinkling in the night with lights from oil reserves. I had gone to Saudi Arabia expecting it to be a replica of Aladdin, but I found it so much more than any two-dimensional storybook land; the people are inexplicable, their mysteries hidden in the sand dunes. Once I adapted, I willfully thought “I will never be able to live anywhere else.” But this was proven false, when at the age of eleven, I moved to Toronto, Canada.
Toronto stands as a vitriolic memory in my mind. It is a city of culture, a fusion of races, a convergence of cultures. I had been afraid of being ostracized or spurned by my Western classmates, but I found a menagerie of people from Albania to Morocco living in accord, willing to accommodate my culture shock. My culture shock was similar to being plunged into a bucket of ice, a cold so extreme that it becomes difficult to breathe. I remember my shock at the public displays of affection and the scarce clothing of women, the excitement at pressing the button at crosswalks, being introduced to western culture in full force as a teenager, and the joy of seeing snow for the first time. I loved the city, the clash of culture, religion and language, the freedom. I became a part of the city, and the city became a part of me. Of this, I was sure now, I could never move from the city. A year later, my father was transferred to Swan Hills, Alberta—the middle of nowhere.
From concrete to grass, from the city skyline to the background of the rocky mountains, from mall-going city lovers to outdoor campers, from a city of with a population of three million to a town with a population of 1700, I was transported to a different dimension once again. Blanketed in snow for nine months of the year, Swan Hills had awesome natural beauty: clear mountain air, surrounded by lakes, forests and valleys. It was a magical town, my childhood fairytale replicated. I was settled at last, I thought, with my adopted country as my home, I would never move.
Two years later, I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since then, I once again moved to Canada and back. To believe in life’s tractability is a naïve assumption, since its compliance to one’s plans is rare. Rather than feel rootless, I feel as if my roots have spread in the soil of Earth. I have crossed boundaries of nations and cultures, my ignorance of cultures and people has lessened, and I have developed a belief in humanity after meeting kindness in every land. At times I think that life can’t throw anything at me that I haven’t encountered before, from being able to adapt to different cultures to extreme climates, but I know better now. I will never say never.