When I was a kid, I wanted to be many things: a SeaWorld whale trainer, a vet, a pilot, an author, an ecologist, a botanist… and even a superhero. The older I grew, the more my passions changed as a result of my life experiences. I wore the hijab at 11 years in a public school, and gradually I learned to overcome the struggles of feeling isolated, and to stand up for myself and others who were targeted by slurs. Despite the struggles, however, the most important thing I’ve learned is that regardless of people’s beliefs and lifestyle differences, we are fundamentally the same. The human condition dictates this as we all experience the same emotions, fears, and desires. I want to show the world different stories about the eclectic humans on our amazing planet, and ultimately shift perspectives and drive change as a result. Thus, at the ripe age of 20, I tell people who ask me what I plan to do after college that I want to be a storyteller.
I believe that everyone’s got a story. The terms “good” and “bad” people are nonexistent because people are just as complex and ever changing as the stories they tell. I think the fluidity of these stories is what draws my fascination to them. As a Muslim, we are taught to be empathetic to other people, and to ultimately leave the moral judgment of someone’s character to Allah. As a storyteller, I have to maintain a very open mind, and be able to objectively write about people’s flaws, sins, and inner demons alongside their strengths, hopes, and dreams. These two identifying components- as Muslim, and as storyteller- are what shape my identity and push me to pursue my life’s passions.
From a personal perspective, I consider myself as an artist, and I like to tell stories through any medium: art, comics, film, writing, whatever it may be. I dabble in a myriad of mediums in an attempt to convey different messages about the human condition. Currently, I am a Communication major at the University of South Florida. I find bitter humor and truth in the shameless knowledge that I’m a broke college kid, but I sure don’t plan on staying that way. Alhamdulillah (praises to Allah), I was the humble recipient of Islamic Society of North America’s Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh scholarship, which enables me to continue my journey of self-growth at my university. I’m eternally grateful for this investment to my education, and I aspire to make every use of it to become a beacon of knowledge, hope, and light for American Muslim youth as I tell stories about all of the marginalized people whose voices aren’t heard.