Growing up, I always believed that I would be a writer. I had plenty of journals and diaries filled with moments from my life but I can’t tell you where those diaries are now, because I never held on to them. I am what you call a Disposer, and by that I mean I like to purge my clutter, physical and emotional. I always found it so liberating to empty my closets as well as my emotional baggage every few years. I would go through my journals page by page, reliving the events of my life…where there were things I never wanted to remember or think about again, and I would tear out those awful pages, rip them up into small pieces and throw them away.
If you searched under my bed or way up behind the shelves in my closet, you would have discovered an old, dusty shoebox filled with mementos from years past. Pictures of old boyfriends, friendship rocks from best friends, love letters, and always my sacred diary, the kind that had a lock and key to my life…the life I felt was filled with holes and an emptiness that I could never quite explain.
One day, I decided I didn’t need that box anymore. I was going to begin a new chapter in my life, and open up to a clean page, erasing everything that had ever happened to me. And so, I threw away that box that held my past and my memories, and I felt strong again. Now I could be someone else, someone who didn’t have an abusive alcoholic grandfather, someone who didn’t have a bipolar mother, who didn’t have a schizophrenic aunt, or a father who emotionally abandoned his daughter.
Years later, the urge to write came back to me. I decided to major in English Literature and took a Writing for Publishing course in my last year of college. My professor believed in me and encouraged me. I had even started a new journal, but this one was no better than the previous; it was filled with sorrowful pages of my empty escapades with partying, drugs, gossip, and shallow friendships, but mostly with the feelings I had about my then crumbling relationship of five years. My new page was looking tattered and torn. I would pore over the pages and read them again and again, unable to believe this was the “new person” I had become.
The hole inside me grew larger and the emptiness became vast. I was convinced that I had to write a book narrating the lives of the young and the rich. It was all so fresh in my mind then, as fresh as a cocaine addicted mind could be. This book would be my outlet, my attempt to chronicle the true lives of seven young people, and reveal their struggles with money, drugs, relationships, depression, bisexuality, and suicide. Something was missing from my life (and theirs) but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. If I would just write about it I might be able to save them…maybe even save myself. I began to write that book in college but once the semester ended, so did my willingness to finish the book. More time passed, until I could barely remember that life and I decided to dispose of those memories as well.
I continued to believe I would be a writer, but I became afraid of what I had to say. I wanted to lock all my memories and experiences away in a place where they could never be found, so I moved on, trying to start fresh and begin yet another chapter. I wanted to be someone else, anyone but myself.
I was afraid to be exposed. If they knew, what would people think? Would they judge me? I thought to myself better to keep this stuff tucked away deep inside.
Meanwhile, the hole in my heart had become infinite and the emptiness so numbing that I crumpled to the ground night after night sobbing uncontrollably. In my desperation,I did something that I had never done before yet felt so natural; I looked up, raised my hands and called out God for help.
It is said that in the face of death, hunger, and desperation even a non-believer will find themselves calling out to their Creator. And I now know this to be true. I can say with certainty that that hole inside me was the absence of God. I was missing His light and His guidance. That day when I finally fell to my knees and asked for God’s help was the day my life finally turned to a clean page.
Alhamdulillah, I took the Shahada almost 7 years ago now. As a Muslim, I realize that I can never fully let go ofor forget my past. It will always be with me and has shaped who I am. But Allah heard my prayer. I was finally able to start over, and be someone new. I am now someone who lives to please Allah (swt), and raise a righteous family.
I always believed that I would be a writer, but now I am finally starting to believe that I will be.
Serene Issa is a loving mom of 3 who aspires to be a writer, and enjoys curling up with a good book, getting lost in the woods on a hike, and cold rainy days sitting by the fireplace.