24 Mar

Chapter 7: Influence of societal norms on crushing dreams (part 1)

Earlier, I posted Chapter 1-6 of my new series of blogs, which will collectively form an online book. Below, I have attached Chapter 7.  For Chapter 8, click here.

Chapter 7: Influence of societal norms on crushing dreams (part 1)

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Since this is primarily a fictional story, please do not take everything I write too seriously.

Two days have passed, yet it feels like only two minutes have slipped away, lost in the constant stream of responsibilities and pursuits. Being fully immersed in the financial markets and the complex world of technology, time has lost its meaning for me amidst the whirlwind of analysis, decision-making, and constant adaptation to the ever-shifting fast landscape. Nowadays, years feel like days, and days feel like hours.

In this endless cycle, moments blend into one another, leaving little space for reflection or rest. Every day feels like a storm of meetings, transactions, and the never-ending pursuit for an advantage in the arenas of finance and technology. Despite the relentless passage of time, the sight of grey hair on my head serves as a constant reminder that each passing day steals away precious moments that can never be reclaimed. Despite working non-stop and tirelessly putting in long hours, my motivation extends beyond mere pursuit of fame or fortune. Yet, amidst the flurry of my rushed existence, few seem to grasp the underlying drive propelling me forward.

Once again, it’s around 18:00, and the evening is veiled in darkness, almost as if night has already descended outside. A festive atmosphere of the new year infuses the streets, which are brightened up with many lights. I find myself standing behind the window once more, gazing outside as the temperature drops. People, some stuck in traffic jams, rush home from their daily work. It feels that for many, the priority lies in living to work rather than working to truly live. This sentiment resonates with me as well. Yet, from my perspective, I see a lot of potential and ambitions in many people, despite the wealth of advancements and opportunities accessible for everyone worldwide, going unrealized because people are cautious to adopt new lifestyles and technologies.

Of course, it has also been difficult to adjust to all new opportunities due to the lingering effects of the previous worldwide financial crisis, which continues to impact people today. Consequently, many still harbor nostalgia for the 90s, yearning for a return to that era. However, they overlook the crucial changes made since then, which were essential for fostering abundance and addressing global challenges post-2020. They forget the struggles of millions to find enough to eat and the unequal distribution of wealth worldwide in previous years. They ignore the painful experiences of countless children, the hyperinflation that plagued the world, the tears shed by innocent mothers and children, and the wars fought globally, all driven by the pursuit of wealth. They choose to ignore the reality that millions grappled daily to obtain basic necessities such as food and shelter, and that children bore the brunt of these inequalities, enduring hardships that robbed them of their innocence and childhood.

While lost in my thoughts, the door opened, and Elara entered. She greeted me with a gentle smile, shrugging off her white coat and leaving it draped over a nearby chair. Since I introduced Elara to the reception, I gave her permission to walk in whenever she wants. She also knew how to find her way around.

“Brrr, it’s getting cold out there,” she remarked. “I’m glad to be here. It’s nice to see you again.” We exchanged kisses and made our way to the coffee machine to grab some coffee. After some small talk, we returned to the café. Elara grabbed her laptop and asked, “Shall we continue from where we left off?”

“Yep, that sounds like a good idea,” I replied.

“In our previous conversations, you mentioned that you visited Afghanistan multiple times. Could you tell me more about the significant influence it had on you, in much more detail?” Elara asked.

“Of course,” I said. “Let me start by stating that despite growing up with all the material comforts and privileges imaginable, there was a persistent emptiness within me during my childhood. This feeling was particularly intense because I hardly had the opportunity to know my grandparents. Though I cherish the few memories I have of them, visiting them in Herat amidst the chaos of war and Taliban rule, growing up without a sense of rootedness and being everywhere and nowhere left its mark on me. Even as a child and later as a teenager, there were moments when I thought about giving everything up to spend more time with my family in my hometown. Seeing other children delight in simple pleasures like spending time with their grandparents made me long for that connection even more. Honestly, living here in Europe, I’ve always found it puzzling why many people don’t value family ties as much, neglecting to visit their elders regularly. It’s sad because they don’t seem to grasp how quickly time passes and how precious those moments with loved ones truly are”.

“Yeah, I agree with you,” Elara said. “I’ve noticed this too. I used to conduct interviews at nursing homes, and it was heartbreaking to see many residents complaining about not receiving enough visits from their grandchildren and even own children. They felt neglected and forgotten”,

“Yep,” I said. “That’s exactly what I mean too. It’s ironic how the things that are most precious in the world, especially in the Western world, are often undervalued.”

“I will now share more about my childhood, as it has significantly influenced my life and experiences,” I continued. “I truly think that many young people in today’s world could gain valuable insights from my upbringing. Through sharing my story, my intention is to highlight the significance of staying true to oneself and following one’s instincts, rather than succumbing to societal pressures and expectations”.

I glanced at the table, observing the moonlight casting its shadows upon it, and continued, “At a very young age, around five years old, I knew I wanted to do something significant, to live with a greater purpose and contribute to the world in a meaningful way. There were also times when I believed I was sent to Earth for a special mission, thinking that every child around me was here to fulfill something significant, something that would contribute to the future of humanity. These thoughts shaped my upbringing. This conviction stemmed partly from my exposure to travel and entrepreneurship, witnessing diverse cultures and realities. I wanted to leave something behind for humanity as a whole, as I harbored dreams even from a young age of doing more than just living a simple life.

Additionally, being in places like my hometown of Afghanistan, where poverty was rampant and opportunities were scarce, further fueled my determination to make a difference. I vividly remember playing with other children, always imagining myself as a hero. Even with my Barbie dolls, I started to transform them into versions of Wonder Woman and scientists, rather than dressing them in pink and portraying them as princesses.

I recall a time when my curiosity about science even led to a serious classroom disaster,” I smiled.

“How did that happen?” Elara asked, intrigued.

“Well, as a kid, I was always curious about how things worked. One day during a science lesson, I’m not sure what came over me, but I started mixing chemicals together, and suddenly there was a huge vapor. Everyone panicked and ran out of the class. I followed them, leaving everything behind. Soon after, my table caught fire, filling the room with smoke and a bad smell. It was a lesson for me about the importance of understanding the consequences before experimenting.”

“I ended up getting suspended from school for a week,” I chuckled.

“Marya, you’re really quite the adventurous one,” Elara laughed.

“Yeah, I’ve always been curious about the hows and whys, and as a child, I often acted without thinking. Even nowadays, it’s still a part of how I approach work and life,” I smiled.

“Meanwhile,” I added, “as I got older, some girls in my class started teasing me, saying things like, ‘Look at this weirdo who thinks she’s a man and acts like one.’ These comments slowly made me lose interest in hanging out with girls as I grew up. My circle of friends became mostly boys because I felt understood by them. I could spend hours talking about science, technology, and the ideal world, whereas girls didn’t even show interest in starting such conversations.

As I grew older, there were moments when I began to resent being a girl. You see, occasionally, my uncle and Elena would take me along when visiting other Afghan families, especially for celebrations. It was during these visits that I noticed a clear division of labor: women and girls were usually found in the kitchen, while men and boys of my age sat in the living room, sipping tea and chatting. This separation puzzled me because I wasn’t accustomed to such strict gender roles. I couldn’t comprehend why girls my age were expected to assist their mothers in the kitchen while boys relaxed in the living room. I voiced my confusion, questioning why the boys weren’t helping us. Elena explained that it was because they were boys, and household chores like cleaning and cooking were typically assigned to women. I challenged this belief, refusing to accept differential treatment based on gender. With confidence, I often grabbed my plate and joined the boys where they were sitting. I refused to assist and stated that I would only lend a hand if boys were also participating. Even as a child, the segregation between boys and girls seemed nonsensical to me. Our physical abilities were the same—I was certain I could outgame and outrun most of the boys. So, why should I be treated differently just because of my longer hair and minor physical differences? Elena used to dismiss my concerns to the other women, attributing my behavior to a lack of understanding of cultural norms. Perhaps she was partially correct. I struggled to comprehend these cultural expectations and found them arbitrary and unjust. It was during this period that I began to question why I had been born a girl and not a boy, often lamenting to God about this perceived injustice.

You know, growing up, I frequently encountered Muslims who would question even my name. When I told them it’s Marya, they would argue that since I am Muslim, it should be Maryam. They were convinced of this and claimed they were correct. Initially, I would try to reason with them, explaining that my name was indeed Marya, not Maryam, and that it was my birth name, and my entire family was Muslim. However, it seemed like they were unwilling to accept what I had to say. They would give me funny glances and make remarks like, “If your family names their kids after non-Muslims, they must not be good Muslims!” I even received comments like, “Afghans are lost; they are not true Muslims; we are,” from others as well.

I couldn’t understand why they were so judgmental about my family when they didn’t even know them. I began to realize then that there was no use in continuing to defend myself. As I grew older, I eventually just agreed to be called Maryam rather than Marya whenever someone insisted on doing so in order to avoid getting into an argument. I found it pretty hilarious. Why were they fixated on my name so much? And what did it have to do with religion anyway? Why couldn’t someone be called Helena and be Muslim, or be called Marjam and be Christian? My curiosity was sparked by this question.

Because of my extensive travels and exposure to various cultures and religions, I found it hard to comprehend. Everywhere I went, I heard the same sentiment repeatedly: “Our religion is the purest, the only true path to God.” Whenever I questioned what would happen to those who followed different religions, the response was often: “Well, others are not worshiping the true God, and they won’t end up where we do.” Some even claimed to be chosen by God as messengers to guide others to their “right path.”

In many places I visited, I noticed a common trend: people fervently believed in their own religion and condemned those who followed different beliefs. Each culture and country seemed to assert that they held the ultimate truth, and their religion was the only one that offered a genuine connection to the divine.

To tell the truth, I always found it kind of silly how obsessed people could become with labeling religions and then associating them with specific nations. What puzzled me even more was this tendency for some to see themselves as the chosen ones, while casting everyone else as the “lost souls.” In my view, we’re all cut from the same cosmic cloth, interconnected as children of the universe and its Creator. The world is in a constant state of flux in my eyes; nothing stays stagnant. While it’s true that humanity progresses, there are moments when it seems like we’re holding back. Some folks cling tightly to their narrow viewpoints, seemingly fearful of embracing the global village concept. They’re hesitant to relinquish their preconceived notions and attachments, missing the opportunity to perceive the world as one harmonious home for us all.

Click here for Chapter 8.

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