Here are my full thoughts that I sent to the writer of the Today Show article I contributed to.
1. EVERYONE is going to talk to you. You’re about the become the token Muslim girl to Americans and the token convert to your Muslim friends. I know that now the only time people talk to you randomly is when some guy that sits behind you in Political Science has a question about the War of 1812, but times are a’changin’. People are going to start talking to you about religion EVERYWHERE you are. You cover your hair, like I said, and you even wear abaya, the long black dress. You might want to sit down for this next part – you even sometimes – depending on the location and your safety – cover your face (not a religious requirement – just something that makes you feel safe and good). WOAH. Bare with me. What’s important is that this leads people to say sometimes amazing and inspirational things and sometimes less than inspirational things. It happens DAILY. From the lady buying grapefruit next to you in Kroger to the cute little couple trying to say hello to you in Arabic, to the little girl who will make your day by asking if you’re a princess… you’re going to have a LOT of conversations. Better get over it now, because it’s your new favorite topic.
2. You’re going to be faced with a BUNCH of crazy stereotypes. On both sides. You’re going to learn to laugh a lot and be REALLY quick on your feet. You’ll be called a terrorist, you’ll be told to go back where you came from, and people will talk to you as if you don’t speak a word of English. Guess what? You’re not a terrorist, nor will you ever be, you’re FROM Cleveland, and your English is superior to a vast majority of Americans (How am I? I’m WELL. I’m not GOOD). And, on the Muslim side, some people will think you’re a spy for America, they will think you’re an avid picnicker and that you know every lyric to Yankee Doodle. You’re not any of those things either.
3. You’re about to realize that we’re all the same. Truly, we are all brothers living under the same God. In addition to this, there are universals. Grandpas are always wise, kids love to break rules, and ALL mothers love to feed you. Don’t tell a Jewish mother, a Puerto Rican mother, or an Indian mother that you’re full – you’ll get yelled at. The only difference will be if it’s in Yiddish, Spanish or Urdu.
4. You REALLY love Islam. I know that you didn’t ever consider yourself religious before reading Quran and learning about religion, but you get pretty darn religious. It’s a good thing. It brings you peace, it makes you complete, and it inspires you to be a better person every single day. You will find happiness beyond that which you have ever imagined, sweetheart. I’m proud of you.
5. You got this. Hannah, my dear, you think that you will NEVER be able to learn the first prayer. You will. Within three days, you will. You will go on to learn dozens more prayers, thousands of words in Arabic, and you will be better than you could ever imagine. You will gain a knowledge that some envy – and, most importantly, you will continue your thirst for knowledge for many years. Fast forward five years and you love it a hundred times more than you do right now.
6. You’re still single. I know, I know. It’s not what you thought. The truth is that religion is not the magic cure to finding a spouse or to making a guy like you. It’s a lifelong commitment to God, not to a man. And no one can change your relationship with God, not even a tall, dark, handsome Muslim hottie. A man can bring religion into your life, but only God can bring you faith.
7. You’re still you. Yes, you look a little different. You wake up at the crack of dawn to pray. The sick part? You love it. You look at the world – and the news – in SUCH a different perspective. You’re a way better version of yourself, you’re a billion times happier, you’re smarter, you’re more compassionate, and you’re more appreciative. But, you’re still you. You still are a terrible driver. You still don’t like Greek yogurt. In fact, you HATE it. You’re still passionate about helping people. You still giggle obnoxiously and you still dance around your house in your underwear, just you spend extra time making sure ALL of your blinds are closed so your neighbors don’t see. You’re amazing, a rare gift from God to the world, just like everyone else, just like you are today.