Signs

In 2002, a movie called 'Signs' was released by M. Night Shayamalan, starring Mel Gibson. The premise of the movie is that a family starts discovering crop circles being formed on their land, which leads to the father (Gibson) questioning his faith as events during the movie unfold.

But no, this post is not about alien crop circles. Sorry if I disappointed you!

I truly believe that we are always given signs in our life either leading us away or towards a certain path. Some of us have experienced these events and some of us may not have, and some choose to attribute them to coincidence, luck, or a higher being. I'm not distinguishing between religions or cultures or beliefs, I'm speaking very generally in this post as many of my friends have admitted to having signs appear in their own life.

I for one have had many appear, and I've tried to be more in tune to them as I've grown older. And I do attribute them to spiritual causes.

The first clear one I recollect and that has had the most significant impact on me so far happened in mid-January 2004. I was checking my email that day and for some bizarre reason, I had an urge to click on the 'junk folder' link, which I had never done previously. So I did just that and started browsing through the emails. The email at the top caught my eye, it was from Tufts University advertising their occupational therapy graduate program. I had never heard of OT, but looked into it and two weeks later, had submitted by application package to Tufts and no other school (I had missed Canadian deadlines). In mid-March I received a bulky letter back from Tufts...I had been accepted, one of 20 candidates out of 80 applicants.

I admit that my GPA after undergrad wasn't the greatest, and I had done alright on the GRE. I was a med-school wannabe who wrote the MCATs 3 times and BARELY improved each time. I had almost abandoned my BSc degree since microbiology felt more like stinky bread mould (Another sign? I met two English professors who changed things around, Margaret Hadley and Vivienne Rundle, to both of whom I owe so much).

That email was sign #1, especially since I did end up becoming an OT haha! :) It would have been a different story had I failed.

Next! In June 2005, while studying in Boston, I decided to attend the Canadian OT conference in Vancouver. While in attendance, I walked by a poster presentation by an organization called Renfrew, and I was psyched to see that they were based in Calgary. I knew nothing about OT job opportunities in Calgary back then, so I stayed and listened to the poster presentation, and 'checked out' the presenters! One ended up being my future manager, and the other a co-worker.

I was also forced to leave Boston early before my work visa expired in October 2007, so I returned in June 2007 to start the relocation process back to Calgary. That was when Renfrew's job opening came up. I frantically applied the same day it was posted, and was one of two new OT hires that fall. It was then that I knew that things would be ok despite the early relocation and the circumstances I was facing.

In May 2008, a group of Muslim professionals presented at Renfrew regarding the religion and its basic tenets. I was a non-hijabi back then, but everyone at work knew I was Muslim. The director of my department then announced that Renfrew would be contracting 0.6 FTE OT to a mental health project at two Muslim-populated schools. While I was spiritual at the time, I wasn't involved with the community at all, apart from attending Eid prayers twice a year. But something about this project just hit me. During the presentation break, I literally sprinted to my director's office and asked if I could be considered as the OT for the project. I remember being told that it wasn't certain if a Muslim OT was wanted or a non-Muslim, but that she'd let me know. A month later I was officially on board, and I started with the team I'm currently with in August 2008.

During that summer, it was suggested by a friend that I should think about wearing the hijab (another sign). I was skeptical and extremely scared, so I processed and mulled over it for a while. Ramadan started September 1st that year, in 2008, and it was my first day with the mental health team at one of the schools. I had decided that I'd wear the hijab for the entire Ramadan, and then see how it went. It was the toughest thing I did, regardless of all the encourage I received.

After Ramadan, I wore the hijab during my project days and on the weekends, but I just couldn't for some reason wear it while working at my other schools. One day, I didn't wear it to a project school and a GRADE TWO boy loudly informed me: "You're not a Muslim if you don't wear a hijab". Let's just say we had a little heart to heart about respecting a woman's choice to cover up or not and how we speak to adults.

It could have gone either way, but in April 2009, I had a huge gut feeling that I went with, and since then, my hijab has not come off. I take that gut feeling as another sign.

So why did I blabber about all of this? Because since August 2008, my life has been drastically different. On the outside and inside, I'm a different person. I think back and wonder that if the project had NOT come along, would I be where I am today? God knows, but I don't think so. I had NEVER thought about wearing a hijab before someone suggested it to me. I would not have been able to get through the transition had I not been in a Muslim environment 60% of my week. Three years ago, I imagined my life taking a completely different path than it did.

I've had internal signs too. In November 2010, I had an urge to volunteer overseas, something I had forgotten I had wanted to do for years. In March 2011, I spent two weeks in Morocco doing just that. I've come across a few people in my life who gave me severely negative signs, and while I ignored them, they were eventually strong enough to cut ties with those people. I pay attention to those kind of signs MUCH more sooner now!

And this past June, I had a constant nagging in my head about not wanting to go overseas this summer. And if you know me, you know that I'll travel anywhere at the drop of a hat. But something was not sitting right with me and it never did...and our trip never worked out. And I mean, roadblock after roadblock after roadblock came up. It's amazing and I'm so grateful.

So all of this is the culminated reason why I am so passionate and dedicated to my career. It gave me everything... confidence, solid friend and support network, spirituality, and a chance to make a difference in a community I had wanted to be a part of but didn't know how to. And now, our project has received a 3-year extension until 2014, and I've stepped into the project coordinator role. I'm so amazed and blessed that as a Muslim female I have this chance to make a difference. Only in Calgary and only with Renfrew. I hope this explains the nerdy OT posts and all the research and reading I do! I am truly blessed with what I've been led to.

So when I think back to that sign of needing to check my junk email in January 2004, I smile to myself and shake my head in amazement. It's been a life-transforming journey over the past 7 years, and I can't wait to see how the future unfolds.

And I wonder what the next sign will be? :)

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