Out of the blue one day, as we were walking to a meeting, my boss turned around and asked, “So, what are your plans for the near future?” When he saw the puzzled look on my face he continued “…you know, don’t you want to move out and live on your own? Don’t you want some independence?”
I smiled. Where do I begin?
What he was referring to was the fact that I am a 30-year-old woman who, despite having a job that provides comfortable financial independence, is still living with her parents. It was incomprehensible to him. It’s not the first time I get asked a question like this from my colleagues (most of whom are non-Muslim Europeans), although usually the questions are subtler. Some of my colleagues have even assumed that my father must not be around, as that would be the only reason for me to be still living with my family!
So, where do I begin?
Let’s start with the word “independence”. Independence from what? My parents? My culture? Society? And independence of what? Thought? Action?
Sure, I’m all for one making up one’s own mind especially about the important issues in life, but why must one be physically separated from family in order to think for oneself? What does geographical separation have anything to do with it? If anything, isn’t one who is able to listen to others and make up one’s own mind more independent than one who has to be in isolation in order to come up with a personal opinion and follow it through?
Of course, I did not always feel this way. There was a time in my early-mid twenties, when I did think that living alone would make my life less stressful and more enjoyable. After all, I would not have to worry about giving a minute-by-minute account of my day, or having to explain and justify every action I wanted to do or person I wanted to see. I would also be able to spend a lot more time with my friends and go to a lot more classes and events, especially the ones that run late. And I would finally be able to wear what I wanted. It would also spare me having to listen to regular complaints about relatives or politics or whatever it is that is no longer as great as it used to be!
I would be happy to visit my parents often for I love them dearly; I just wanted some breathing space. And it would also help me feel that I’ve moved on with my life. If only I could move out, or if only Mr. Right would come along – any time now would be perfect!
A few years on, there came a point where I just got tired of waiting for marriage or a miracle to magically solve the issues I had with my parents (like that was ever going to happen!). I realized that if I opened up to my parents, and explained what I really wanted and how and why that made me happy, that they might actually understand. I decided to give it a try.
It turned out that half the things I was not doing, because I did not want to ask permission from my parents to do, my parents did not really mind me doing! More importantly, I slowly began to get over the fear and worry of sharing my plans and desires with them. No matter what their opinion was, we could still talk things through. After a few months of doing this, I realized that I had created my own problems in my head (or heart).
There were still a few things I wanted to do which they were not comfortable with. Sometimes I could talk them into accepting my views. Other times I just had to accept their decision knowing that I am pleasing Allah and that He would reward me for it in this world and the next.
And what a lovely feeling it is to be able to come back home and see their faces light up when they see me, or be able to help them out, write an email or find a TV channel – priceless!
So, where do I begin?
“Of course not—why would I want to do that?” I responded with a huge smile.