Six years after my conversion to Islam and on my 31st birthday, I was still struggling – struggling to make ends meet, to raise a kid on my own, to find my place in the Muslim community, to figure out whether or not I should bother trying to do something with my writing.
Then a friend added me to a Facebook group right around the time I was finishing my graduate degree, and I finally felt like I could reconcile all the parts of my identity – I could still be loud, irreverent, punk, but also Muslim, bookish, and writerly. Turned out that none of those things excluded any of the others! There were lots and lots of people like me – only smarter – in this group. It was okay for me to be exactly who I was, and to question and kick back against things the way I was accustomed to.
[bctt tweet=”I finally felt like I could reconcile all the parts of my identity – no one thing excluded another”]
Someone in that group posted the call for applications for the Coming of Faith (what would later become The Tempest) writing fellowship. After reading the description, I knew I wanted a chance to be a part of what they were working towards – representing underrepresented voices in authentic ways and undoing the standard (and frequently misleading) narratives. I knew I was going to be competing against truly brilliant people who had achieved way more than I had. But I decided the worst that would happen was that I wouldn’t be offered the fellowship – oh well, right?
I was literally shocked when they contacted me and said they’d liked what they’d seen in my application. And suddenly this world opened up to me – one I hadn’t experienced truly before. Suddenly I realized my writing could mean something to people other than myself – that my voice and my thoughts might matter. Suddenly I felt confident – something I hadn’t ever really felt before (sure, I was really good at faking it, but beneath the thin veneer I was always wondering if I was really worth anything – I know, don’t cry, it’s okay).
[bctt tweet=”Suddenly I realized my writing could mean something to people other than myself.”]
Every time I take a minute to stop and catch my breath, I still can’t believe I’m fortunate enough to be a part of this. I’m finally writing the way I had always wanted to write. I’m finally contributing to something that feels worthwhile, something that matters. But this is where I am and I cannot imagine stopping now. I’m here to be a part of the storm that brings the changes we need.