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  • Rashida Mustafa

Climbing the Trek Alone: How I Reclaimed my Liberty




I cannot recall a moment in my life when I wasn’t told what needed to be done.


I knew by the way mom would curtly nod with an eyebrow slightly raised showing disapproval if the clothes weren’t folded to her liking or a shake of the head and a muffled grunt of irritation upon leaving the granite kitchen-top dirty while cooking a meal in the kitchen. Upon reflection, these occasions seem trivial, frivolous even, and not of great significance considering how a series of incidents with deeper impact remain fixed in my memory. And yet, these isolated flashes of snapshots- seemingly harmless- collected in the recesses of my mind offer intense insight when in contemplation.


Sometimes our perception of abstract qualities is a direct reflection of our limited exposure associated with it. For the longest time, it did not even occur to me to voice my opinion or simply refuse that which I disliked .. Perhaps it was the result of remaining utterly ignorant, and thus I learnt from life itself.


Compliance in a woman is expected and a lot of times misconstrued. An opinionated woman is more often than not subjected to scorn, undermining her confidence and sweeping her self-assertion under the rug in one fell swoop. Sadly, this is a situation every woman has had firsthand experience with at some point in time or the other.


This feeling of perennial acquiescence began to agitate me with a vexing, forward-reaching sense of want that needed to be filled but did not find a channel until much later.


For most of my adult life, I have grappled between wanting to fully embrace the joy or regret of making my own decisions. There is a bittersweet lesson to be learnt from failures, those which come with bad decisions, and those that cannot be lived through unless the freedom to ‘decide’ is exercised.

To many who are reading, this may sound peculiar. Ever heard of not being given the ability to ‘decide’? Yes, it is quite possible when the availability of this option is unknown. Here, I had better mention the influence of communities, culture and environment that play a huge role in shaping our perspectives. The sheer dismissal of will and a sense of self that may very well lead to an avalanche of possibilities- be it education, career or relationships- essentially languishing in an unused rubble tucked in her ribcage. I mourn that loss. The feisty fierceness that couldn’t ignite flames of power and change. Voices of influence not used to initiate the breaking of glass barriers. I am aware there is a distinction between the various worlds that women today inhabit, the privileged minority that gets to exercise their birthright- to decide, to dream and to make choices, in short, live fearlessly. A toast to them, but the struggle is far from over. We need to keep fighting to build and bridge the coming generation to ensure it isn’t trapped between binaries.


Freedom to me more than anything else means the ability to make my own choices- good, bad, downright disastrous and yet feeling fulfilled. Fulfillment is a space that I take complete ownership over, the experience is not generalizable, but singular. Having the choice around where I live, who I marry and what career I want are all forms of freedom. Oftentimes women pay a heavy price in order to get there but we keep on trying because we know that others have succeeded, and we are not willing to acknowledge defeat.


There is nothing more beautiful, I think, than the relentless resilience a woman owns, and that became my cloak of self-confidence that helps me overcome the low self-esteem festered in me due to years of being dependent and reliant on others to make crucial decisions for me.

Until I discovered my buoyancy and pried the discontent out of my heart. For, after all, everyone who wishes to gain true freedom must trek the climb alone, and since there is no royal road to the crest, I learnt to zigzag it in my own way. I slip, I fall, I stand still, and I run against the edge of hidden hurdles. Every struggle is a victory. However minuscule, it is deeply cherished. Now, it seems strange to me that there should have been a time when my spirit was oblivious to its innate power.


But how did I claim my freedom?


This glorious gift of paving my own path. For years I have lived my life in the shadows until I decided to step outside, become a discerning and critical observer of self. I conquered my fears, having but one thought “If I fail, I fail; but if I don’t it’s a choice well made.” I have since altered my life tremendously.


I’m a single mother today, I teach; I read in the happy-go-lucky way I love, here and there a line; nothing pleases me more than to have a kitchen warm and toasty with the aroma of a pie baking or a curry bubbling in a pot. In an idle mood, I write poetry- tracks of life and bitter evidences of struggle and sorrow, of unrequited love or one that boasts of eternity (oh yes, I’m quite dramatic that way). And this to me is freedom. Choices well-lived, or freedom as what I call a beautiful privilege and I resolve to be myself; to live my own life and write my own thoughts and enjoy each liberty big or small, I believe I richly deserve and so does each and every woman on this planet.


….And know, that in the dawn of sunlight there is

transformation. You see, we are all one. Seeking,

receiving and sharing our right!



Connect with Rashida on Instagram: @words_in_bloom


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