My last personal essay was in January, a few weeks after I came to Edinburgh. I talked about the beauty of this city, loneliness, the campus, the foot-dragging…Now, two months later, my thoughts are more chaotic than ever.
My time has not been disappointing. I have thought, learned, loved, hated, believed, disagreed, connected, feared, misunderstood… Did you notice how all these are ‘active verbs’? This is not to say that I have not been affected and not been at the receiving end. I am fascinated by the activeness of these verbs, that is the active quality these verbs posses; I am interested in the way that I consciously did them to produce an effect or achieve a goal. Perhaps, that’s another topic in it’s own right..
Before coming here I talked with friends who had done study-abroad experiences to prepare myself for what was to come. I was terrified, absolutely terrified. Everybody told me to go for it, take the jump because everything was already going in my favour- getting accepted into the programme, all my finances were in order, got my visa quickly and easily- but I was still so afraid. I didn’t want to leave behind what I had in Doha, I didn’t want a change to happen to life as I knew it, I really did not want to try new things. (I avoid asking shop attendants if they have stuff in my size, how can I live in a new country all by myself???) Chaos was headed my way and I didn’t want to feel anything new because I had already, I felt, done enough thinking and feeling and imagining and all that stuff the past whole year. So, I was fine. No, I was more than fine. I was great. I loved my classes, I had great relationships with my professors- a huge thing because for a while I had been feeling I wanted a change from my ‘greater-social circle’ (not my friends, I adore my friends [one day, I will do a whole essay on them and I still won’t be able to do enough justice to each], but I mean the people I met, those beyond my immediate circle); so my professors provided most excellent company. I was comfortable in the city. I was in love with the city. And then I left and life as I knew it changed.
I was told my time here will be life-changing. I don’t know about life-changing (perhaps because I’m just over halfway through), but it has certainly been pivotal in making me a bit different. I am more tolerant, less judge-y, more critical of my beliefs and their origins (religious, personal beliefs…) I question everything but I also leave some things be because not everything needs to be over analysed, no matter how much you wish they were different, some things will always be a certain way (oh, the disappointment associated with this one is quite a bit…), and lastly, it gets tiring after a while, so tiring, to always question so much… I have become less religious, too, I think, but also more- I feel I might have lost the kind of discipline I used to have with regards to certain aspects of how I practised Islam.. but I’ve also gotten closer to it.. I’ve taken out everybody who used to be in the equation- my parents, the societies Ive lived in, books on Islam I read…and just begun to think of where I stand in respect to God. Just me. I know, I know, no one else needed to be in the equation in the first place, but that’s how it was for me, and it’s just taken me a while to get to this point. And it’s been so tough, so very tough… It’s kind of scary, you know, to strip yourself of excuses. And with the kind of freedom that’s present here- I can do anything I want- I am proud of myself (!) to have still maintained a strong center of gravity amidst all the madness, excitement, ecstasy here.
When I was a kid, I used to look at pictures of beautiful places and think: If only I saw all this in real life, if only I lived in a place like this, I’d be happy. Now I’ve done both of those and I don’t know how much truth that statement holds.
I’m not trying to go on an Meredith Grey angsty whining spree, I’m trying to understand the concept of happiness we are drilled in from when we are kids. You always think if only this and this happened, would I feel happier, awesome, successful, cooler etc- you place an emphasis on the necessity of outside conditions to make you happy. And then you see all these Zen quotes on beautiful images of mountains and sunsets and these people giving talk shows telling you its all about the way you see things and how they got out of so and so difficulty…
I’m not saying then that happiness solely is dependent on one’s state of mind, or on living in a house on an isolated pier. I think you need a bit of both. And time. A place which works for you and the necessity to condition one’s state of mind. This is open to discussion and I guess depends on everyone. I find it difficult to believe that this so very difficult emotion can be acquired so ‘smoothly’ by anyone.
So, in a respect, I am happier (because I love being in stunning Scotland) and I am more grounded in myself (than I was earlier because I don’t surround myself with a**holes and bullies anymore); I’m just wondering.. it’s just..i don’t know if this happy is different from happy. (WAS I DOING HAPPY WRONG MY ENTIRE LIFE?) Is there a Lesser happy and a Greater happy? You know that happy they always talk abut in movies- the one you get after finding your soul mate or getting your family back together after struggling through a lot of odds and all? I like to think that’s the sort of ‘happiness’ that old people in their late twenties need to think about.
So you can see why I wrote in the start that my thoughts are “more chaotic than ever.” I’m not too worried though, I don’t need to understand this concept of happy too much just yet- its a mammoth emotion, everything takes time, and I’m still… happy! It’s all good.