…And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, you inhale, and then exhale. Alhamdulilahi (Thanks be to God)My 21st year has been simply exceptional. It was a year of so many blessings – in circumstances, realisations, people, places, ideas, notions…gosh, a myriad of shapes and sizes! It was also a year of so many lessons and a year of growth – both mentally, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. Most importantly, it was a year where I realized so many dreams and aspirations…and I think its the enormity of the latter that has me literally blown away.

” And now that I am in at another crucial point in my life, I ask myself whether the realization that I could do and be anything I wanted to was actually a blessing or a curse in disguise. It’s potential as a curse being that I wouldn’t know what exactly my ultimate goal in life would be.”
These words were written by me in a college application essay in 2004. And about 4 years later, I can attest to the fact that I set some goals/dreams…and I achieved them (by God’s Grace of course). Allow me to elaborate:

1. I have always been an individual with many interests, and I think my greatest fear education/career-wise has always been that I will concentrate in a specific academic area and realise a couple of years too late that its not what I want to do. My dream in that regard – that I would be able to experience all I wanted to education-wise, have some flexibility but still have a clear idea of where I want to head. Realisation – I’m in Mount Holyoke College, have taken tens of classes in different subject areas of interest (both in the US and in France -theatre, writing, economics,arabic, french, philosophy, sports, geography, politics, maths, IT, etc), I am majoring in Economics and French, and I know that I want an international career that focuses on the rights of women and children, especially from developing countries.

2. Dream: I always wanted to improve my french and visit France and a francophone west african country. Realisation: I just got back from spending an extraordinary academic year in Montpellier France. My written french is above-average (both by my standards and grade-wise.lol), my spoken french has improved beyond conversational french, I have some customer service vocabulary, and I’ve even gotten some experience in translating/interpreting. As I write…I’m at Goree Island in Senegal (a francophone west african country.lol)

3.Dream: To be able to make a difference in other people’s lives…positively. Realisation: The fact that I can acknowledge to myself that I am making a difference in other people’s lives is in itself a manifestation of God’s wonder. I have had NUMEROUS opportunities to make a difference in other people’s lives, and I can only hope to God that I delivered on those opportunities the best I could – mentoring during Take the Lead with high school girls in the leaders, helping french students learn English at Playaway, writing articles and posting stuff on facebook and here on Circumspect (the name of the blog ur currently reading lol), writing on the MHNews on issues related to Africa and putting out videos on misconceptions about Africa etc

4. Dream: To be a role model to my siblings and to make my parents/family proud. Realisation: My two younger sisters (Ubaida and Maliha) decided they wanted to take up french lessons when they found out I was in France..”I want to learn french like sister Jemi”…the words of Maliha. My brother Hanif sending me an email to tell me that he loves my articles and writings and that he always looks forward to them, my sister Annatu who always asks for my advice and/or opinion on things I wouldn’t have no business interfering in otherwise. My dad’s facebook wall posting and e-greeting on my 22nd bday: Happy birthday Jemila. I wish we could be together as a family to celebrate your special day. But the distance notwithstanding I want you to know that I’ll be celebrating with you in my heart – a heart that is filled with so much love and pride for you now and always. – Daddy. My mum’s ever-endearing support and belief in me. There are many more from many other family members, but it would take weeks to get through them.lol

5. Dream: To be confident in myself and my abilities and to learn to love myself and God. Realisation: I understand myself now much better than I did before. I know when to take some time off for me (I call them rejuvenation periods), I tell myself the truth even if I would rather lie to everyone, and most especially, I have realised just how blessed I am, and I give thanks to God for that every chance I get. I have learnt things about myself I never thought possible-I am aware of my faults and weaknesses, accept them, and continually work at improving upon myself, and I can say that I established a good relationship with the Good Man Upstairs.

This is just a glimpse of all the dream realisations my 21st year came along with, and I couldn’t have done it without God’s unfaltering love and guidance, my ever supportive family (who although they haven’t seen me in years continue to keep me in their lives!!), my friends – I’m not naming anyone, you all know yourselves! lol – my acquaintances (people who I have connected with on some level even if we are not always in touch), and so many more.

I had many challenges last year…but they didn’t remain challenges as they either turned into successes, lessons, or mediums of growth. I cannot stress my thankfulness, and really, I am humbled when I look at the grand scheme of things.

So…for 22…all I can say is I will continue to do my best, to work towards my soon-to-be-set ‘new’ goals/dreams, and to continue to accept all the blessings that God continues to shower on each and every one of us all.

Alors…we usually hear ‘success stories’ or ‘stories about the ‘American’ dream’. If ever you doubted that real change happens in real people’s lives. Or if ever you thought you couldn’t achieve any of your dreams, or that something was impossible…I hope what I have shared will help you to…re-consider. Be patient with yourself. Know what your goal is and DO NOT WAVER…it might seem to take a while, but I can promise you that if you keep that goal in mind and work towards it, you will at the very least glimpse it in the distance (if you decide to change course that is), and soon enough, I hope to read a testimonial from you like what I have just shared about my own life. I don’t usually get THIS personal in my writings lol, but hey, its a new year – new challenges, new horizons! Stay blessed and thanks for being part of my journey so far!