The most peculiar part about change.

The steadfastness of life that I have come to know seems to be in utter flux these days. It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it certainly is…different.

26 is a very strange age when it comes to managing expectations of how events are meant to unfold. You’ve surpassed the youthful milestones of ages 18, 21, 25 that you spent years anticipating. When you reach 26, you come to the conclusion that things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how hard you try to carefully coordinate the pieces so that they all fall into their rightful place.

To set the record straight: I’m not saying I feel old. I’ve grown to resent that word and all that it stands for. God knows that if I read this ten years from now, my 36 year old self will warg back into present-me for a well-deserved smack in the face.

It’s just that at 26, the difference in mental maturity in comparison to the past few years has never felt so tangible. From the flow of my thoughts and my inner monologue, to the measured precision in my actions, to the numbness towards certain emotions that would have once threatened my inner peace.

Of course, it’s natural. It’s all real now. The days that make up the rest of your existence move much more rapidly, and every decision you make feels weighted – almost as if there’s no more room for spontaneity, only calculated moves to eliminate risk. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the rains of castamere doesn’t just come falling – it’s pouring. (I really hope these Game of Thrones references still resonate during my ten-year reread.)

Like the risk of losing your lifelong rocks: your parents. On the first day of Ramadan, the only time of year where I feel a natural inclination towards spirituality and tranquility (cue the Ramadan Muslim sneers), I found myself in the dreaded yet overly familiar emergency room at Weiler with my mom. After she was discharged the same day, I breathed a sigh of relief – only to draw the same breath back in when she ended up right back in the same place the very next morning.

Fortunately, she’s fine now, but nothing like a good ol’ health scare to thrust you back into the throes of reality and how fragile life is – and why meticulously planned decisions become necessary.

Lesson #1: There is no such thing as forever.

My relationship with my dad has certainly changed over the years. In 2014, after suffering a major stroke, life turned upside down for the scowling man who had once been the source of much of my anguish growing up. Suddenly, I found myself swapping roles: I became co-parent, along with my siblings, to a capricious and finicky old man who with all his eccentric ways of life, was now more vulnerable than I had ever known him to be. And I wasn’t ready.

But here’s the thing – life doesn’t give a shit if you’re ready. Like the most trying of battles, these are the sort of left-field curveballs that love disturbing the lull of your so-called normal life to settle itself comfortably around your shoulders. It’s like a pregnancy discovered too late – it doesn’t matter how you feel anymore, it’s your responsibility now.

Lesson #2: Things change, people change, feelings change too.

Made-for-radio hits have this magical quality to them. Car karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes – there’s nothing I love more than belting the lyrics to a decent jam at the top of my lungs. It’s funny though, how the lyrics are almost always meaningless until and unless you find yourself in a similar context to that of the song.

The last couple of months have been topsy-turvy, to say the least. As I mentioned, losing anything you’ve come to lean heavily on is bound to leave a massive impact.

Is it hard? Obviously. But to my credit, adulthood has granted me the gift of being able to move forward without visibly exposing my internal distress. I’m kind of awed, given that one of my key characteristics is the fact that my face is an open book, whose pages gleefully give away the spoilers to any secrets I might want to keep to myself. Just a few years ago, my life would have been in shambles if such an event occurred (which it did.) Yet here I am, alive and kickin’

This isn’t my first rodeo, but it’s my first taste of this version of adulthood. And I think I’m starting to like it.

Lesson #3: The period of growth following change is crucial.

I’ve grown wary of some of the individuals I surround myself with because of their intense aversion to change. Another trait I’ve come to appreciate is being able to recognize certain faults or flaws I have and making some effort to rectify these flaws, or at least get better at addressing them.

When the lull of your day-to-day finds itself shattered – the cause being death, a breakup, some sort of loss or heart wrenching event or otherwise – be mindful that you will experience mental change. Every action and decision you choose to take will bear their consequence. Being wise and not succumbing to the abyss of bad choices is hard, but once those choices adapt to becoming your new normal, it’s the end.

On the other hand, it doesn’t even need to be that drastic. Sometimes, it’s the little things that are slowly building in the shadows that are the most ominous; whose repercussions we fail to acknowledge until it’s too late. In direct contradiction to what I said earlier, there are times (like I’m experiencing right now) that everything seems to be moving in the right direction, until one thing suddenly changes. And then another. And another. The monotony that we once despised becomes that which we crave, because change is hard.

I’ve always admired the ones who remain stoic no matter what happens to them. My friend Sammy offered choice words recently that resonated with me: “You don’t need to have an emotional reaction to everything.” Probably one of the more difficult challenges in this era of the outrage culture.

It’s important to make the choice to, when facing adversity, practice behaviors that will help you grow stronger in the long run. Make the choice to not give in to whatever hurt you. Acknowledge and address personal characteristics that do you and others harm, especially when you find yourself confronting them time and again.

You know what they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

 

Yesterday, I was racially profiled by the police in my neighborhood.

I was dressed in a dark blue shirt, rolled up at the sleeves and buttoned over an aztec print red crop top. I was wearing black leggings, navy blue and brown oxfords, and carried a mini backpack on my shoulders, just spacious enough to carry the new J.K. Rowling book, my wallet, and a few makeup essentials.

The only thing I hadn’t voluntarily put on was my brown skin color.

I arrived at the train station just a few minutes early in meeting a friend, whom I will refer to as Jen. I glanced at the the cops that were stationed in front of the other entrance of to the subway. The uptown six train had just stopped moments before, and masses of people were exiting the station. I was the only one there at the time not heading out or upstairs to a train. Through a gap in the crowd, I met the eyes of one policeman, who held my gaze briefly before tearing away to look at something else. I noticed that the others were determinedly avoiding looking at me.

I felt uneasy.

In the back of my mind, I already knew what was going to happen. Since I wasn’t going anywhere at that particular moment, it hadn’t happened yet. Jen arrived only five minutes later, although it felt like I was waiting a lifetime. By then, I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t happen, that I was being paranoid.

We strode towards the turnstiles only feet away, and I was in the middle of pulling out my Metrocard when it happened: a man clad in a navy blue police outfit unfolded his arms and approached me.

“Excuse me miss, we need to check your bag.”

My heart sank. I felt the heat rise up in my cheeks, humiliated. I followed the man to the check station, where I dumped my bag unceremoniously onto the table. I started to open it up, and the security stopped me.

“You don’t need to open your bag”, he said shortly. I pulled the rope that seals the bag shut, and he proceeded to rub some sort of cloth over the bag. I’m no expert in security checks but I have no idea how a piece of cloth identifies whether there is a homemade bomb or drugs concealed inside a small backpack or not. A few seconds later, I was free to go. The cops thanked me graciously and bid me a good day.

Fortunately, my sunglasses were able to hide the tears of fury and indignation that had sprung to my eyes. It had struck a nerve when they thanked me; I only snatched my bag back and stalked away.

I felt targeted. I was reeling with the injustice of what had just happened and the feeling of despair that there was nothing I could do about it.

Jen had been carrying a handbag much larger than my backpack. Although sharing part of the same ethnic background as myself, her eyes represented a nationality that set her apart from the targeted demographic.

Why do I believe that this was an act of racial profiling and not a “random” security check? Simple: this isn’t the first time I was stopped. On another occasion about two years earlier, I was in my train station accompanied by a friend who is Caucasian. He was wearing a large sized backpack, I was carrying a purse. The police happened to be randomly checking bags that day. Guess which of us was lucky enough to get searched?

As I am typing this out, I realize with a heavy heart how easily disregarded my story will be, simply because it isn’t a story. This is something that happens to people of specific backgrounds on such a regular basis that it has become the norm. It is widely accepted that this can and will happen; that is the ultimate tragedy here.

I was browsing the website Reddit the other day, and a photo that was on the front page caught my attention. Submitted into the subreddit “r/funny”, the photo in question was taken by a Sikh male heading into a security checkpoint at an airport. The photo in question:

Image

Highly amusing at a glance, but when you get to the core of the issue, it starts appearing less humorous. This is real life for many, many, many people.

A more serious example: Seema Jilani, a Muslim and American doctor, experienced blatant racism at our very own White House Correspondents Dinner. Jilani, a physician at Afghanistan married to a noted journalist, shares a story that sends across one message: it is become increasingly apparent that no matter your profession or social status, your level of patriotism or lack thereof, one can and will be identified by one factor and one factor only: whether or not you fall into a certain category that is doomed to be discriminated against forever.

My personal issue may seem infinitesimally small next to much larger problems occurring in the world, but it all starts from the beginning. These are mild examples of the ongoing issue of racism and discrimination in a country that exhibits much more deep seated events like this one.

Change is a word that is often thrown about by people, especially when they experience something shocking for the first time. What exactly is change? How can we make it happen? How can we make people understand the pain of being racially targeted, when millions of people just like myself will never experience what I did because they are a different skin color from me? How can I stop the tens of thousands of men and woman, young and old, from being stopped at the police station, frisked in the street, for no reason other than being who they are? How?

I initially intended to relay my story as calmly as possible, but it ended up turning into something of a rant, so I apologize that. But really, I am open to suggestions for change. Anything.