Browsing Category: my education

what aisha khan taught me

Aisha Khan was found alive and well and now all the speculation begins. I didn’t realize when people were posting prayers for God to bring her back safe and sound, they meant only if she was a good little Muslim girl. I don’t care why she left. I am just happy it wasn’t because some drunk guy raped her and left her in a ditch or something equally horrific. I pray that she finds peace and resolution for whatever caused her to disappear in the first place.

Over the last week, the first thing I would do every morning is come online and check for news of Aisha. Most days, there were just more stories of searches being organized or a new media outlet picking up the story. But in addition to that, there was the outpouring of support from thousands of people who were praying for her safe return, who were offering words of support to her family, who were crying along with her father and mother and praying that Aisha was ok.

Whether Aisha left over something trivial or over something significant, it took great courage to come back in the face of all the media coverage and attention this case received. I’m not sure I could have done it. 
I hope Aisha can see that her life is meaningful, that there is a great web of people who cared for her without having ever known her. I hope that is something we all can see. Whatever pain or suffering that each of us is going through, there is still so much humanity in the world and if we seek that in people, we will find it.

You can be angry as you want that Aisha wasn’t abducted. You can demand to know what really happened. You can feel like you were deceived. But not me. I am thankful for Aisha Khan. She reminded me that there is nothing more important in the world than my family. She showed me that compassion and beauty live inside of my America. She made me realize that sometimes the best outcome is the one that you didn’t realize you were praying for.


Sometimes I feel like I can’t write enough about loss. I am scared terrified of losing things. Ever since I was a little kid I’d think about losing my parents or my brother or sister. Now I am scared of losing Feraz, my friends, my job or so many of the thousands of amazing blessings I have in my life. Lately, my fear has been especially heightened because I ran across this blog. The author, Nie, was your average woman, probably more happy-go-lucky than most. She had a great life complete with the perfect husband, four kids and a strong faith. Then, her and her husband were in a terrible plane crash in which they lost their instructor and good friend. When the plane hit the ground, it burst into flames burning 84% of Nie’s body and putting her in a three month long medically induced coma.

Three years later, she has gone through many ups and downs and has struggled with the aftermath of the accident. She has many positive things going on in her life, a beautiful life growing inside her, a supportive husband who has been with her through everything and her four children. But, she lost something on the day of that accident and her accident is a reminder that life is so incredibly fragile.

When I look at my apartment walls, when I look at the street I live on or the office that I work in, I realize that one day I will not occupy these spaces just like I no longer occupy my apartment in Turkey, or walk the streets of Ann Arbor or sit in the classrooms at Oakland University. That time moves forward and we are always leaving things behind us, and one day we will leave it all completely, one final time. But it is only death. And although it is unsettling, death does not scare me.

It is something like that plane crash that scares me. The idea that one look away from the road, one crazy person coming into your home, one instant that you might relive in your mind forever can change the trajectory of your life. Is this fate? I don’t know but I don’t think so. If it was fate, perhaps it would be easier to come to some reconciliation.

Making sense of murder.

Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart
and bids it break.

In the village that I was born, there was a murder this week. A dispute went too far and a group from a nearby village killed a young man that lived close to where I was born. After the group of brothers murdered him, they called the boy’s father and said, “Come collect your son’s body. We have killed him.”

A few weeks ago, we read the papers and there was a story about a husband and wife walking home with their son when the husband and wife were gunned down. The wife died and the husband suffered minor injuries. What was first considered a racially motivated attack turned out to be a murder plot, orchestrated by the husband and his mistress.

A few weeks before that, there was the murder of three young men in Birmingham, UK during the riots in England. As these men tried to defend their town, they were run down by a car, none of them surviving.

These deaths have been on my mind. There is a sadness for the families of the people killed and a grieving for those moments before death when these people realized that this was how they were meeting their end. In violence. In hate. Their farewell drenched in the worst of this world.

What will we think of when we die? And will others think of us when they die? Is there a way to redeem that last moment for people who are about to die? A few years ago I was in a really bad car accident and I was sure that there would be no way I would survive. As car after car hit me, all I could think of was God and the people that I loved, begging God to have mercy on me and begging God to have mercy on them when they learned the news. I was scared but I was ok because truly in that moment I knew the love of God and I knew the love of all the people I held close.

We can’t control what will happen to us and we can’t end all violence and we certainly can’t evade death. But we can help make each others time here easier. We can be kind. We can smile. We can make someone feel loved. We can ease someones burden. I.P. Richardson wrote of death:

‘Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears
but laugh and talk of me
as if I was beside you….
I loved you so –
’twas heaven here with you.’

We can’t stop all the horrible things in the world from happening. But through our love, we can help create something beautiful here on earth. That is something.

An old friend found again

Today, after a long hiatus from my favorite poets, I visited Pabula Neruda. And in the middle of the day, I felt like I had gone away on a vacation, or walked on a lonely road at the edge of the world. I felt very far from where I was and I was reminded of how powerful good writing is. For the last six months, most everything I have been reading has been very technical. Even in my free time I find myself gravitating towards readings that are work related. But yesterday Feraz surprised me by having signed me up for a writer’s conference that is happening this weekend at Johns Hopkins. Writing will never be my career, I will most likely never see my words in typeset at a bookstore and perhaps I will never write another ‘novel’ but writing has been my faithful companion from the time I learned to hold a pencil and today the echos of a great poet and the gentle caring of a husband have brought that old friend back into my life. As I reopen the sole lonely folder on my desktop called “stories,” I leave you with one of my favorite Neruda poems. 

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voide. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

The Happiest Day of My Life

My mom always tells a story that both makes us laugh and horrifies us. It is about the happiest day of her life. She always starts off my making sure we know that she is not qualifying the story. She says, ‘That happiest day of my life wasn’t when I got married, or when I had my kids or when I came to America. Nope. It wasn’t any of those days. The best day of my life was the day that I got my driver’s license.” She might clap her hands or be laughing when she recounts this story because that is how happy it makes her to think about it. She talks about the sense of freedom she had that day. Her whole life changed in a magical, beautiful way.

I never thought I would be able to look at my life and say there was one happiest day. How would I recognize it? What would it look like? Would it smell different? Would it have a special taste? I assumed the day would be full of signs, of laughter, of lots of big, crazy things, like that one scene in that terrible movie 500 Days of Summer when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is walking down the street with everyone singing and dancing and there is a blue cartoon bird over his shoulder.

My perfect day was nothing like that. It started at seven in the morning when I woke up after four hours of sleep in the horrible Crowne Plaza (Never stay at the Crowne Plaza in Albany! It was awful!). I went outside and the first drops of rain began to fall on a bitterly cold morning. I pulled my suit jacket close around me and did not get any warmer.

I walked as fast as I could to get to the meeting room where I would wait for almost three hours until they reached the Ys and I could give my interview. A few minutes later a piece of paper was signed declaring me to be of good moral character and qualifying me to take my oath of admission. And in those moments before I took my oath, I began to think of all the things I can never forget.

I will never forget that little village I came from. I will never forget all my family there and especially my parents who brought us to America so we could have a chance to be something. And not just something, they always supported me to be what it was that I wanted. And before my parent’s boast that I am a lawyer, they say that I care about women’s issues and one day I will help women all over the world.

I will never forget all the places I have traveled and all the faces I have seen. I will never forget all the little children and all those little eyes that hold dreams and potential and power, that if unleashed could change the world. If someone would just give them a chance. I will never forget that it is a simple twist of fate that separates them from me.

I will never forget that day in the fall of 2005 when a big envelope came from the University of Michigan and I knew that my life would change forever and I thanked God for this chance and I begged Him to never let me forget the feeling of gratitude I felt in that moment and to make me worthy of this blessing.

I asked the same of Him on Friday. As I took the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and as I joined a profession I have dreamed of joining since I was a young child, as most people in the room looked bored or annoyed to have to take part in this arcane seeming ritual, I tried not to cry and I asked that I may be worthy of the blessing I am receiving and when I am working late nights and weekends I remember that this is not a burden but the fulfillment of a dream I have long wished to realize.

It is not the happiest day of my life only because of what happened in it, but because of what it represents about the roads that I have walked on and the hope it can bring for the roads I still have to travel. It is a day that helps me understand my mother’s own happiest day. One that wasn’t tied to marriage or family or expectations. It was a day that was her own and signified something about the roads on which she had traveled and still had yet to see. After all these years, I can finally understand that look on her face and the excitement with which she tells her story.