We are delighted to conclude our Growth theme for a brand new debut author of the website, please welcome Bahar Al Awadhi and her debut piece titled “Growing Pains”
Sarah dreamed of a brighter future for herself. She felt as though she was caged, even though, it was a luxurious and expensive cage, but she felt restrained and bound by the cage bars. She could see across the horizons, across the deep blue sky, yet it all felt so distant. She wanted more for herself – she wanted more than what the previous female generations of her family had achieved. Sarah was expected to live her life according to rules governed for her. These rules didn’t make sense to her as she knew of the potentials within her.
She looked back and remembered herself as a 10 year old. She could see herself running around, jumping over walls, and chasing butterflies across their backyard. She would often find herself playing along with the boys and had the stamina to keep up with them in football and other sports. Even as a child, she felt different and stood out from among the girls. She couldn’t see herself playing house, having dolls, and throwing tea parties. She was bold and outspoken. She had this innate courage to go after her what she wanted, no matter what her parents or society dictated.
Yet here she was, at a crossroad, and concerned at the turn her life was about to take. She had finally achieved her goal and reached the point where she was ready to fly out and follow her dreams. She had gotten accepted to the University of Oxford and that too with a scholarship that was awarded to only a handful of applicants every year. It had always been her dream to continue her education at one of the oldest and most prestigious schools from around the world. Now that the acceptance letter was in her hands, she felt confused and worried. She didn’t know how she was going to break this news to her father. Sarah and her father had always been close, but he didn’t understand why Sarah always had to be different from her counterparts. Sarah’s father was a kind, simple, and conservative man, strong in his traditional beliefs and need for conformity. He didn’t like conflict and didn’t like his family to be the center of attention and gossip. He came from a big family, where everyone’s affairs were always open for discussion. They all followed a similar path and believed that their children should also follow suit, especially when it came to the females. They were an overprotective family dictating the future of their children.
Despite her concerns, Sarah knew she couldn’t stay silent on this. She had come too far to give up now. She had to face her father and ask him again now that things had materialized and she had an acceptance letter in hand!
She decided to wait for the right time to approach her father and put forward her news. She didn’t want to catch him at a time when he was already frustrated or tired from work. Sarah chose to approach her father on a weekend when his mind was free from any work related issues or concerns. She intentionally decided to bring up this issue when he had just returned from Friday prayers because that was when he was most calm and at peace. She joined him in the living room and nervously sat next to him as he rested in front of the TV.
“Baba, I have some exciting news,” said Sarah cautiously.
“Oh, what news is that, my dear?” asked her father as he raised his eyebrows and looked towards his little girl.
“Remember how I always wanted to study at Oxford? I just found out that I got accepted and got a scholarship. Isn’t that great?” Sarah’s voice quivered as she went between feelings of excitement and apprehension.
Her father lowered his gaze and remained silent as he heard the news.
“My dear Sarah, I am so proud of you and always knew that you have what it takes to be accepted at such a fine university. But, I’m afraid – “ her father paused for a moment with a loud sigh before he continued, “I don’t think it is a good idea for you to pursue this.”
“But baba –“ shrieked Sarah, but before she could continue, her father interrupted her.
“You are a young, vulnerable, girl. I just don’t feel comfortable sending you all alone to a foreign country where we have no family. It is not safe. It’s not right. What would people say?”
“But this is not fair. Who cares what people say or think? This is my future!” lamented Sarah.
“No, I cannot allow this. I’m sorry” stated Sarah’s father.
Sarah was in tears as she sat there listening to her father crush her dreams. Everything that she had worked for seemed to be falling apart. She stared into space for what felt like an eternity, in a state of disbelief and hopelessness. Where would she go from here?
Sarah’s father, sensing her disappointment, tried to console her by telling her of all the options available to her closer to home.
“You don’t have to travel across the world for an education. We have excellent universities here with the same program you want. You can follow your dreams right here and be with your family”.
Sarah couldn’t hear anything else her father said after that. She felt as though her head were spinning and she imagined being stuck in this same cage that she always felt trapped in. She didn’t know what to do, so she quietly left the living room and went to her bedroom so she could be alone and drown herself in her sorrows.
Sarah spent the next few days angry at the world and cursing her fate. She felt alone in her problems and as though no one understood her. She felt betrayed by her father who had always been there for her. She had always looked up to him and felt as though he would always protect her. Now she felt that she was, in fact, being overprotected, and held back by him. She couldn’t understand why he had to stand in her way of realizing her dreams. She just wanted to make him proud of her. She wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable. She just wanted to branch out and continue her education in a diverse environment. She knew she wouldn’t be able to go as far if she stayed within the same confined state that her life currently was in. As long as she stayed here, she would be held back. She knew of her potentials and yearned to reach them. Why was her father limiting her potential?
Sarah continued to feel down and had to drag herself out of bed each day. She was no longer motivated to do anything. One day as she was moping around the house, she overheard her parents talking about her.
“She is my only daughter. She is my baby girl. I can’t let her go. This is a big change. Who knows what could happen if she goes off alone?” Sarah heard her father saying as she hid behind the door that separated her from her parents.
“Sarah is a big girl now. She is mature and trustworthy. She would never do anything to lose our trust or defame the family” interrupted Sarah’s mother, “she has worked so hard to get here, and it would be a shame to hold her back from such an accomplishment”.
“Sarah is lucky to have these opportunities in front of her. I would hate to see her miss out like I did. I always wonder what could have been had I had the opportunity to also travel and continue my education. I think this would be a great learning experience for Sarah and I am sure she would be successful.” Sarah listened to her mom, as she suddenly felt her emotions rising again. She suddenly felt revived again, listening to her mother’s encouraging words. It reinforced her feelings that what she was after was truly worth it. She must continue to fight.
She mustered up the courage and barged into the room, confronting her parents, with a speech that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“Baba, it is true. My only intention is to make you both proud. I just know that I can achieve so much more if I take this opportunity. Yes, it is a life changing decision, but one that I am ready for, and one that I am prepared to fight for. I am determined to learn and succeed. I know that with this opportunity, I can only grow. I want to explore and I want to expand my mind. Mama is right, I have never done anything to tarnish our family name and I never intend to. “
“Baba, I will always be your little girl. You have given me so much love over these years. It is from you where I have gained this confidence and this desire to learn and continue to grow. I have such big dreams, baba, but I want your support and your blessings. This will only bring us closer. I promise that no matter the distance, I will still be your little girl. I will always be –“ Sarah stopped there as she broke down in tears. She just couldn’t hold them back anymore.
She looked at her parents, who were both looking back at her with mixed emotions. She knew that they could see how much she wanted this. She knew that she had made an impact on them as they were clearly moved. Sarah’s dad reached out to her and put his arm around her, and softly said, “Bring me your acceptance letter. Let me have a look at it.”
Sarah’s heart fluttered as she heard those words. She felt dazed. Could this really be happening? Would her dad really consider letting her go off to Oxford and follow her dreams? She closed her eyes with gratitude and dreamed of what lay ahead.
Author: Bahar Al Awadhi