We are thrilled to post a brand new piece written by Shahd Thani, for our Growth theme! We hope you enjoy
My birthday looms closer and I contemplate adulthood. This past year has been full and I am so thankful for the Grace of Allah for all the possibilities. After three years since I graduated from Bachelors, I finally started my first job. I am almost at the end of studying Masters in Marketing. The highlight of my year, though, has been writing Just Another Emirati Kinda Love Story. I posted my last chapter on the 5th of July and with that I completed my first novel. It was a labor of love that spanned 9 months of waking up early on Friday to pound out the latest installment.
This is a story about my fresh start, except it was not fresh or timely in the least. It was messy, full of wrong turns, and the inevitable tears that come with feeling like a failure. We live in a city that believes in the Possible. We are not ingrained to take the word “No” for an answer. We are the generation that is deeply influenced by the success of the UAE. Every single one of us feels the legacy of Baba Zayed, our families, and our present on our shoulders. The need to achieve drives us to climb insurmountable mountains. I thought I would get my fresh start when I graduated from university. I thought my fresh start would be in every single job interview and I was always hopelessly optimistic. I thought my fresh start would be beginning Master studies in Wollongong, but all my fresh starts proved elusive.
I remember in 2010, I interviewed for a government place and there was that resounding click that happens when you just feel it in your bones that walking through a particular door is part of your destiny. As I greeted the receptionist, my gold Kate Spade bracelet banged hard against the marble desk and the sound it made reverberated in the empty hall. My eyes widened in alarm but the receptionist was reassuring. I was nervous but as I met the interviewer, I felt my heart pounding. I took notes and tried to ask the right questions. The whole time, I kept telling myself not to ruin this. It was my only chance at a job. It was my calling. It was my only chance at being an adult. I emailed a thank you letter when I got home. I waited for the call to come. I called back a few times. Nothing. Little did I know, two years would pass before destiny would come knocking. I wore my Kate Spade bracelet, still deeply grooved with a scratch, and went to work. Funny enough, I met a childhood friend from KG who had started working just three months earlier. I keep thinking about being at the right place but at the wrong time. I keep thinking there is a purpose in the way things pan out ultimately.
There were other interviews after that first one, but they all led to dead ends and frustration. I blamed the financial crisis. I blamed a lot of things, but mostly I blamed myself as a failure. I decided applying for Masters would give me control over my life. When I eventually started Masters in Strategic Marketing in 2011, I was intimidated by the building. It was more diverse than I was used to and I had no idea how to talk to classmates. Every class I walked into, I prayed that I would find a group who would last till the end of the semester just to get through projects. I remember my friends helping me with projects, those in business majors, trying to teach me how to apply business theories to papers. I never got the grades I thought I deserved. I realized I had left Bachelors far behind and it was a different world. I once had a whole group drop the class only to be left at the end of the semester floundering to join another. The trip to and from the university took over 40 minutes. I remember sobbing filled with the dread of failing. It was not just about failing a class, but the deep weight of insecurity suffocating you into thinking that you are doomed not to succeed. It was pure stubbornness that kept me going. Until I walked into Marketing Communications, the instant the teacher suggested we form groups, I felt a panic attack coming on me. I couldn’t wait for the break. When I walked back into the class, I noticed a classmate carrying a Harry Potter book. She was also the one who called out “She can be in our group” It ended up being a family and we jokingly called it “The Dream Team”. A Harry Potter book and three semesters later, that girl is one of my best friends, an Untitled Chapter member and hopefully we are going to graduate together.
When 2013 reigned in, “Just Another Emirati Kinda Love Story” ,was in its 14th chapter. I woke up early on Fridays to continue writing. Every week, I met new people and the comments poured in. When I first wrote chapter one in Japan, I truly believed it was a scene to just be shared with my friends. I have written so many beginnings to novels and discarded them for something else. I posted the chapter a few months later in an effort to test the waters. I found myself reading and rereading comments, weighing them, and planning chapters based on feedback. Twitter offered me the pulse of society and I listened as people told me their stories. They told me memories of their childhoods triggered by my words. A friend of mine likes to say that my life began when I started writing the story. The truth is, when I began writing the story, life filled me to the brim and overflowed. There was so much in my life to juggle, but the story had to finish. Would Sultan and Buthaina get a happy ending? Would Khowla and Salem finally come to an understanding? Would happy-go-lucky Hana’s plans ever succeed? Would Mayed finally stand up for himself? Every one waited dutifully for answers that even I was trying to find out. On the fifth of July, I finally finished my first novel. I had friends I have always known, friends I just met, readers old and new, grieve the ending of the story.
Allah’s Grace manifests in different ways and its only now that I’m on this side of the road that I can truly count my blessings. We like to think that life is a straight line. We will get discovered and published writing blogs. We will graduate and find that job we always dreamed off. We paint things with the expectation of perfection. Nobody ever tells you that life is a maze and you may pass a milestone then completely miss the next one. Nobody tells you that adulthood can take you back to being a teenager changing schools and being scared of not being liked. They make light of it as it’s behind them, but all of us have to stumble before we learn to stand. I was scared of starting over. I was scared of failure. I was scared of life and maybe I thought I was not grown up enough for life. I know now that every step I took led me to who I am meant to be. I am a writer, a soon-to-be author and I belong to words and life.
I am no longer afraid.
Author: Shahd Thani