This piece won first prize in the 2017 Sitara’s Story ‘Letter to your Mum’ competition.
You have taught me many things over the years. As I go through the inevitable process of growing up, I am realising that life is full of challenges and surprises. Those challenges have and still make me feel nervous, apprehensive and discouraged. However, I have found out that challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life more meaningful. You have always encouraged me to strive, thrive and excel in life by taking up new challenges.
Among many important things, you have always encouraged me to fight something that we think is not fair. As a brown Muslim girl, I am a part of minority in this society and often there are matters or incidents which do not seem fair or right. Rather than just enduring and accepting these injustices in silence, you have taught me to speak about it, to act actively and openly to confront it. You have taught me not to allow myself to be a victim as I should be the one defining my life, not anyone else. In the car way back from school, when I once began crying because I felt discriminated, you told me to not take the unfairness without objection or without standing up for myself and my views. This inspires me to this day. In a way, through this simple message you told me to be strong, to not give up and persist. Whether it is the little things like calling someone out for believing a stereotype about women or a sexist comment, I know that I should stand up for what I believe in no matter what. Speaking up against discrimination is not necessarily complaining or whinging, it also can contribute towards changing the society in our own way. No change comes easy or in a day, it needs several little steps to break down the boundaries.
You have also inspired me to break stereotypes, to fight them- especially when the stereotype has to do with my skin colour or my gender. From a very young age you have taught me that stereotypical ideas should never stop me from working for and realising my dream. You have always encouraged me to do whatever I want, to dream big, to work hard, and to be honest with what I want in my life rather than giving in to social pressure. When I was little and was told by a boy in my kindergarten that I couldn’t become a paediatric surgeon because ‘that was a job for boys’, you immediately shut down that idea. You said, ‘some boys have an absolutely nonsensical idea that they are stronger than girls and that they can do everything while girls can only do a few things. They seem to forget that women can do everything equal to men, but they also can do things that no man can ever do- they can bring life to this world.’ That day you instilled two things in me. I probably couldn’t see it in the same way at the age of four as I can now being a twelve year old. However, the underlying message was that no one should alter my view of life or change the way I foresee my life. And the other is I can do whatever I want regardless of what others say and that I can be as strong as I choose to be. I could let people walk all over me, or have a mind of my own and control what I thought and what I wanted.
Mum, you have always advised me not to compare myself to others. You have said many times ‘the only person you should be comparing yourself to should be you. Others are irrelevant.’ In today’s society, social media continually puts pressure on someone to look better, do better in life, to live in a better house, to show off a better lifestyle to get more likes, more followers, to get more social acceptance and applause. We can get resentful of what others have that we might not have. However, in most cases we forget what is posted on social media can just be an illusion. By comparing ourselves to an illusion, we are ruining our self-esteem and confidence in the process. It is not that easy to be unintimidated with all the social pressure created by social media. Instead, we should be like flowers; they don’t think about competing with the flower next to them, they just bloom.
Another important thing you taught me is words we use can be very powerful. They can both destroy and inspire. Words can hurt us, regardless of whether the words were intentional or not. It can affect who we are, what we do, what we wear. And even though it is the 21st century in a very progressive country like Australia, there are still comments made about people, women especially, that can tear a person down. As the saying goes: ‘your lies are bullets, your mouth’s a gun’; you have shown me the all the positives impacts of using our words to inspire and build instead of hurting and destroying.
‘Everyone is as big as their dream’ you keep telling me. There have been times when I might have dared to dream big or have underestimated myself. And in all those times you have stood beside me to gather my inner confidence to keep going. You have taught me how believing in myself can help me realise my dreams. These dreams may seem small now, but this mind-set of high aspiration and being courageous would help me achieve even bigger dreams in future, I believe.
So Mamoni, thank you. Thank you for teaching me all the lessons that will equip me for the future. As I grow older, I know that these lessons will stick in my mind as I face newer challenges and overcome them with each passing day. Thank you for looking after me, teaching me everything I know about life, and making me into who I am today. I know I most likely annoy you to death at times, give you unnecessary worry lines, but thank you for always being there for me, and often taking the roles of both my mum and dad.
Lots of love,
Your only daughter.