By Abeer Farooqi
You turned 24 yesterday. You sat at a table with friends, giggling, giddy with the realisation that it’s your day (even though happy birthday concerts broke out at least four times while you’re in the restaurant), full of sparks, full of ideas –
You have been thinking.
You were a rebel in school, chaotic and loud, but you reformed in university, learning order and discipline. You learnt it so well that tonight you can’t help but feel you have missed out.
All that caged energy rumbles around inside, growling, clawing at you.
You will suspend its sentence this year. You will suspend judgement this year.
Enough holding yourself back. Enough holding yourself down.
You cheer and celebrate — how liberating!
It is time to peel layers off yourself and to erase lines.
You will set yourself free this year. You will suspend judgement this year.
You will not judge yourself. You will not patrol your conscience like that elderly man you saw in Dubai mall, who wagged a stick at the couple who stood too close to each other. Maybe you should dim the lights that flash on your ‘haram police’ squad car.
You’re in the car on the way back home, letting the wind whip against your face.
You are on a you-only-live-once high, you are afraid of growing older, and all this fills you with ambition.
You make a pact with yourself. The 24th year will be a year of trying — daring.
Let those shackles loose, you tell yourself.
You are so original.
You come back home.
Your mother opens the door. You know she came to town so she could arrange that table of flowers for you on your birthday.
The high washes off. Humility settles in.
You are full of nonsense.
You have forgotten what matters.
Maybe you haven’t been shackled. Maybe you are just principled.
Maybe you haven’t been pinned to the earth because of fear or reluctance. Maybe you’ve been grounded by values.
Someone told you once, “If you want to understand your values, think about what keeps you up at night.”
You know what keeps you up at night. It’s when you violate the trust of your family or friends. When you disrupt your connection with God. When you upset your mother. When you act with inauthenticity.
You feel at peace as you reflect on this. You try to remember the last time you rolled around in your bed, unable to sleep. You can’t.
You think this is quite a feat at 24. Maybe you are ahead; not behind.
You are grateful.
You are hopeful.
Yes, you will set yourself up to experience more this year.
You will do and dare.
But you will not set yourself up to regret.
To anyone else suffering from a quarter-life crisis and actively penning a bucket list: Stepping out of your comfort zone will enrich you. Shedding your core values, whatever they may be -to each his own- will not.