I started fasting when I was 13 years old. My first Ramadan I was so excited and so proud of myself for being able to do so. I would go to school (where I may have been the only Muslim), even go to gym class, all while fasting. Year after year, I fasted religiously (pun intended), making sure never to miss any days (except those from which I was exempt). Growing up Ramadan was always an important part of life for me and my family. Getting up in the morning for seheri (suhoor) with everyone, my mother making us all parathas and eggs, making sure to get our caffeine fix for the day, and finally saying fajr prayer (something I rarely did outside of Ramadan). I grew up in a small, close-knit Muslim community that always made sure to share plenty of iftaar dinners during the month. Growing up, Ramadan was a beautiful community- and family-oriented time for me.
Then I came to grad school. My first year at grad school Ramadan went very well. I was lucky to have a wonderful Pakistani family living a few doors down from me who lovingly expected me to join them for iftaar dinners every day. They were new to the country, and I was new to the city, so we newcomers shared our Ramadan. The next year, they moved away and I moved to a different neighbourhood, on my own. My classes, scheduled class work, and practicum kept me busy and social during Ramadan, making the month go smoothly.
It was my third year in grad school when things began to change. For the first time, Ramadan became a lonely and depressing experience for me. When I fasted, I became depressed. When I didn’t, I was happier. And at first I could not figure out why. In fact, that year my roommate was Muslim, though our different stages in school and life circumstances kept us from spending a great deal of time together. Nonetheless, it confused me. But eventually, I figured it out. [Read more...]