With Aisha Jallow
Are you a leader or a follower? Do you dare go your own way, or do you feel safer in following others even if they might not lead you where you want to be? It takes a lot of courage to march to the beat of your own drum. People are often much occupied with questioning what others are doing. They jump in conclusions and share their opinions with other gossiping people, but they seldom go directly to the source of their interest to ask questions. I am sure that most people, who do something that stands a bit outside the social norm, are happy to share their thoughts and beliefs with us.
Why are we afraid to ask them? Maybe because we find that we don’t understand what they are telling us. What they are doing or saying is so strange to us and new phenomenoms are often a bit scary. Some of us, who are very opinionated, don’t want to take the risk to learn something new that might influence us as much that we would change opinion. Heaven forbid! No, it is always easiest to stay put, keep your old manners and opinions and never change anything.
”Why can’t people nowadays be satisfied with life as it is? Why do they always want to change things?” Because this is how it is and has always been. Even the elderly people who lived in caves, at the beginning of humanity, were complaining at the time.
”- Why can’t we hit the foreigners in the head with our clubs, just like in the good old days?”
Perhaps because if you hit them first and ask questions afterwards it might be too late to ask them. Communication is a corner stone in our society. We don’t only need to tell others our intentions – if they are a matter of public concern – but also need to ask questions. It is very easy to build our opinions on prejudice, but are they always correct? You might feel that they are correct at that moment, but what if the winds are changing and suddenly it is YOU who are in the spotlight? Wouldn’t you prefer that people would ask you what you are up to, instead of hearing that people have been talking behind your back? Of course you would, so why not treat others are you wish to be treated yourself? That is a simple ancient rule we can find both in the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an.
There is a profound freedom in following your own path – what resonates for you. Everyone has an opinion, I’ve come to that realization rather quickly. However, one of the simplest yet profound truths I’ve learned is, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
What a way to live: going through life being what is true for you despite what anyone else thinks!
When we live our lives according to others’ opinions, we fall out of rhythm with ourselves and trip over our own feet; we disrupt our natural flow. Our heart/intuition (the inner voice) becomes so faint because of the noise, we unconsciously ignore what resonates as true for us in order to satisfy the opinions of others. Where is the freedom in that?
Freedom comes from dancing to the beat of your own drum.
We all deserve to give ourselves permission to live an authentic life, acknowledging that each of us is our own unique individual person. Look at your fingerprint. Not even one other person on this planet has the same one. Imagine that! This means there is no one else in the world like you, literally. You are your own standard – created distinctively, on purpose. Your blueprint is a one-of-a-kind!
It’s time to get back into your rhythm. You can only dance with the flow of your life when the beat sounds familiar. And the beat will only sound familiar when it’s coming from your own drum.
Does all this sound a bit confusing to you, selfish even? It is not proper to follow your own flow, walk your own path, do what you dream of without any concern of others! I agree, to a certain point, but why is it better to deny yourself and your inner wishes? You might wish to correct me and tell me that it is easy for me to say. Perhaps you believe that just because I live in Europe at the moment life is great every moment. It is true that I have food on my table every day and I live independently from others, but it hasn’t always been that way. I appreciate my food so much more because I still remember how it felt to look into an empty fridge hoping that my mother would come home with something to eat after a long days work at the factory.
My father was a lorry driver and he wasn’t home a lot. That was just as good as he had a serious drinking problem which affected his temper. My mother supported me and my sister; she never got any money from my father so she had to work double shifts at the factory for us to survive.
My sister is six years older than I so she went to school and I was forced to stay at home all by myself. The days were long and scary for a little girl! What I had to eat for the whole day was a cold boiled potato which I dipped in some fish sauce. I was not allowed to leave the house because the environment was not safe. As we were very poor we lived in the worst neighbourhoods. The small houses lay close to each other, the gardens were full of trash and there were a lot of stray men with drinking problems.
When my mother left the house in the morning she made sure that my sister was going to lock the door properly before she went to school. There I was, locked in for maybe eight hours before anyone came home. Thank God the house wasn’t set on fire because I would not have known how to get out. Imagine this little girl, all alone and afraid of every noise she heard. My mother had warned me of the stray men so I was always terrified of every knock on the door or banging on the windows.
I hid myself under the bed, quiet like a mouse and hoped that whoever it was standing outside our door would go away.
My life as a small girl didn’t allow any dreams, so I hid them in my heart.
Life was no paradise then and even if my life has improved a lot there are still children who live under similar conditions.
Am I selfish when I want to pursue my dreams? No, I’m not, as long as I consider others. I don’t have to give up everything for the sake of others; I only have to modify my dreams a bit so they fit in to my current life pattern. As a young girl I had a dream of becoming an actress, but I didn’t have the means. I lived in a small town and there were no acting schools there or youth clubs that arranged acting lessons. I had to keep on dreaming until I was 33 years old and a mother of three. Suddenly (or finally) there were going to be a historical play in a town close by and I decided to participate. I had got to know the director of the play through a former colleague of mine, and he told me of this play.
I have always loved history so this was going to be a remarkable combination of acting and digging into history. My youngest child, my daughter, was only a baby when we started rehearsing, but that didn’t stop me. I made sure that my two sons were taken care of at home, either by their father or my parents’ in-law. I brought my baby with me, had packed all that she needed and took the car to the rehearsal. If my baby was crying there was always someone who carried her and comforted her if I was busy. If my baby was hungry I stopped for a while, fed her, and went back to the rehearsal. It was tough and stressful many times, but I was so happy when I finally had got the opportunity to perform!
It took a while for the father of my children to accept that I left him with the boys, but he got used to it. He noticed that I was happy when I was doing something for my own sake that I was dancing to the beat of my own drum. He couldn’t hear my music, but he accepted the impact it had on me.
Do you think I was selfish to leave the house with only one of my kids and left the others at home with their father? I can tell you that it took a while for me to get used to fulfilling one of my dreams. As a woman I did not care about myself, and only focus on my family. That is how many of us are brought up, that is the traditional way, but what about creating new traditions?
Traditions have never been constant, they have always changed even if not drastically. The thing with traditions is that they change slowly, they are taught from generation to generation. People tend to forget details, or add new details they believe were correct. Sometimes some details are consciously altered because they feel dated.
I had to fight to be able to fulfill some of my dreams. I still haven’t fulfilled all of them, but that is the beauty of it. What would I do if I had nothing to look forward to? Life would be so boring, dreams are helping us to find the creativity to make change. Imagine all the dreamers back in history, all those who didn’t listen to others who told them that their dreams were unrealistic. We wouldn’t have airplanes, cars, ships, mobile phones, light bulbs, refrigerators and all the other gadgets that are a natural part of most people’s lives nowadays. What if humanity would have settled down on their caves and had been content with things as they were? What if we still be hitting each other in the head with wooden clubs and picking lice from the hair of each other? Life is not constant, nor traditions, it is a process.
Have you asked yourself what is YOUR dream? Have you told your dream to someone?! What kind of reaction did you get – positive or negative? According to our tradition we say In Shaa Allah when we have spoken about a plan or an agreement for example. This old tradition is also Christian, the saying ”God willing” ends the sentence and it is a nice way of showing us humble to the grace of God. The problem is that if we settle down with this saying, and wait for the magical spiritual moment to happen, we might be waiting until someone is carrying us away from there. God is in our hearts , but he doesn’t do the job for us. Having faith in God will help us endure moments of hardship, but it will not prevent them.
A dream can be small or large; the size of it doesn’t matter. What matters is how important it is for you. Perhaps you have dreamt of a flower patch in your garden, but have felt that there are more important things in life than that. If you suddenly one day find an old tire and have some leftover paint you can make your flower patch without any cost. You paint the tire, let the paint dry and fill the tire with soil. Gather some seeds from wood flowers and plant them in the soil and – voilà – you have the flower patch you dreamt of. Dreams don’t need to be ignored, they can be modified. Listen to the sound of your inner drum and dance to it.