Love, Life Stories

A dispatch from outside my comfort zone

I still hoped my writing might fly under the radar, but I would have no such luck.

“Outspoken” is the last word you’d use to describe me. I’m shy, I tend to keep to myself, and my idea of a bold move is parting my hair on the right side instead of the left. So how did I end up writing for The Tempest, a website that prides itself on pushing the envelope and shaking things up?

I spent the summer of 2014 in Washington, D.C., for an internship before starting my graduate program in the fall. During that summer I got to meet a bunch of other young Muslims in the area, including the unstoppable force that is Laila Alawa. I heard her talk about her website, Coming of Faith, now The Tempest, and liked its Facebook page.

Long after I left D.C., I remained an avid consumer of the content that Coming of Faith posted. It was very refreshing to see how the articles would give voice to opinions that no one else seemed to be sharing, but that I definitely related to. I appreciated how the website offered a unique opportunity for young women from marginalized populations to speak their minds. Sometimes I would even imagine submitting a piece of my own, but could never bring myself to make that leap.

This past fall I had done a lot of editing for my school’s policy blog and my friends’ grad school application essays. When I saw that Coming of Faith was looking for editorial fellows, I figured I could put my editing skills to good use for a cause that I really cared deeply about. I applied with the intent to remain behind the scenes without drawing attention to myself, as usual.

Then Laila told me that the fellowship would primarily involve me writing my own content. This gave me some serious pause. I wanted to be involved with this awesome website, but was I ready for that level of vulnerability? Could I bare my soul to the world like the writers of the articles I enjoyed? I made a split-second decision to just go ahead and pursue the fellowship despite my reluctance.

[bctt tweet=”Could I bare my soul to the world like the writers of the articles I enjoyed?”]

I still hoped my writing might fly under the radar, but I would have no such luck. Instead, during the first week my piece “My parents didn’t speak Urdu with me” blew up. As the number of pageviews climbed and readers started leaving comments, I was as terrified as I was excited. But going viral turned out not to be so perilous after all. I was moved to see how my personal experience had resonated with so many other people around the world. A bunch of my friends even personally contacted me to discuss how the article had affected them. The occasional negative reaction didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, and the rest of the team assured me that this was how you knew you had made it.

That experience gave me the boost of confidence I needed and it continues to grow with each subsequent piece that I’ve written. In the end, that’s what The Tempest is all about: empowering the voices at the margins, and providing a space for the stories and perspectives that people keep up on a shelf in their minds and are hesitant to share.

[bctt tweet=”Empowering the voices at the margins is what The Tempest is all about. “]

It’s been amazing to work with the group of strong, talented, unique young women that make up The Tempest team. Though I had my reservations in the beginning, I don’t regret becoming a part of it one bit. Frequently throughout my academic career, my teachers would remark, “You may not say much, but you have a lot to say.” I’ve always struggled to believe that. But through getting involved with The Tempest, I’ve begun to recognize that my voice, too, is worth hearing.

[bctt tweet=”Through The Tempest, I’ve begun to recognize that my voice, too, is worth hearing.”]