Opinion The Norm Breakers Issue

Finding my way back to a lost self

If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. ? Kristin Hannah.
Illustration by Umayma Al Hinai.

My life was simple, simpler than it is now. It drastically changed the moment I entered the marital nest. Once I did, I began to repeat the mantra of many married women of my region who had embarked on this journey before me: ‘Your responsibilities are your husband, your husband’s family, your children and your family’. I did not realise I was making a mistake when I said those words to myself, when I breathed them in every single day.  I did not realise it until I got a wake-up call—actually, not one but three.

I miscarried twins last year, miscarried my third child in my second trimester during Ramadan and on top of that lost my dear grandmother, one of my biggest supporters and one of my favorite people in the world.  I was devastated. I sat helplessly wondering what was happening and why it was happening.

As human beings, we have this habit of sticking to traditional ideals, beliefs and actions. That is why we sometimes forget to question if what we are doing is right. When I gave myself some time to reflect, I realised why it was all happening. It was because my mantra lacked one more person: me. I forgot that I had a place in that mantra and that I should have been the first.

By throwing its biggest storm in my face, life itself seemed to be asking me: where have you been in the equation of your life? Why did the mantra lack a presence of ‘you’? That very second, it dawned on me like a cold hand touching my shoulder. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to find my way back to myself, the real me.

When I look back now, I realise I had slowly lost bits of myself over the years. I rarely read, and it is my favourite pastime. I rarely wrote, and it is my passion. I neglected my body and my health. I spent all of my time trying to please everyone but myself. I forgot that I can break—that the less I give myself, the less I can give to people, and the more withdrawn I become.

Do not get me wrong; marriage can be a beautiful thing, but everything beautiful has to start with you. You are important: your well-being, your self-esteem, your mind and your body. The events I went through taught me that for me to be stable and happy, I have to take care of myself mentally, spiritually and physically. I have to be comfortable with myself so that I can give selflessly and never want anything in return.

Life can throw storms and hurricanes at you, tackle you to the ground and break you so many times, but in the end, you learn how to get up. You learn how to face a new dawn with bravery made of steel. I finally came to the conclusion that a person who loses herself will never find her way back until she decides to find herself again. Only after finding yourself can you truly live, and I have decided that from now on, my mantra would be: ‘My right is to myself first and to my husband, children and both my extended families’.

Mariam Al Qubaisi is an Emirati storyteller. To see more of her work, visit her page on Instagram.