New Semester, Same Old Struggles Written By: Anonymous
There's a sort of dread that fills my lungs as I prepare myself for the start of a new semester that already feels like it began eons ago. We are two weeks into a semester that I have no idea how to wrap my head around nor how to prepare for, given everything happening in the world and in the microcosm of the worlds we have created in our own minds.
I packed my bags with fresh notebooks and a fully charged laptop, filled my pencil case with new pens of hope and faith that this semester would be different; that I would keep an open, optimistic mind to the endless possibilities of learning that a fresh semester brings with it. I remember, wistfully now, but with great joy looking at the prospect of a blank agenda with pages that I had the permission to draw on in whatever colours, fonts, and styles that I wanted. For a brief moment, I almost believed in the illusion of tabula rasa.
We do not however begin with a blank slate just because the digit at the end of the year changed or because the semester has a whole set of new professors, new classmates and new courses on a completely new schedule. I have been struggling with this for a while because I believed in the magic and miracles of starting things afresh until I realized that we are all creatures of habits. The day, year or semester changing does not indicate true change until we decide to transform ourselves. The thing with self-transformation is though, it is the slowest and most challenging process because even when we are unhappy with our states of affairs, the energy required to change our lives around simply does not exist.
It got me thinking then how someone like me, who has felt like they are ashes scattered to the wind after the emotional, physical and existential burnout of the last semester, needs to evolve their patterns slowly until I build a healthier lifestyle. I am now working to understand myself better, understand my capacities better and also show myself grace and compassion to allow myself to make mistakes. This has been extremely challenging for me because I have often turned to others to show me empathy when I myself fall into a self-deploring cycle of anger and exhaustion.
A video I watched a while ago helped me remember that I am responsible for replacing new, desirable habits with old, unhelpful habits to build new patterns. Habits essentially are decisions that I no longer have to manually make, because the patterns leading up to those behaviours have become automatic through practice. I began to make a list of habits I want to include in my life and habits that were detrimental to me and started making an intention to work on what I could. Intention has been at the heart of my evolution because it connects me to Allah SWT and centers me in the accountability that Allah SWT cares and He is watching over me as Ar-Raqeeb (The All-Observing).
I am scaling an upwards Everest in this pursuit but reframing has been pivotal to my experience of the semester. I am realizing that the change I have been miraculously hoping for has to come from within and as a function of the changes I intentionally make in my own life and mindset. This is not an easy journey but I hold onto the faith that it is worthwhile and necessary if we hope to have sustainability in our own lives as we brace ourselves against the violence we see happening in the world. It is not an easy feat to carry on with normalcy when there is no such thing as 'normal' in the current sociopolitical climate. I pray that everyone has a fruitful and successful semester and that the troubles of the world, both on a personal and global level evaporate by His infinite mercy, Ameen!