Finding Your Passion

I sometimes wonder if I am living out the dreams I have for my life. While I am blessed with an amazing job in a field that I love, I often wonder if there's something more or different I could be doing. It's been six years that I've been working with this mental health project and schools and the third year I'm coordinating it. While each year is new and different, and we have a lot of leeway to determine programming, I'm starting to feel that I'm getting into somewhat of a rut. This could be perceived or real, since when I do look back over even 3 years, our program has come a long way. But perhaps for myself, it's either not as challenging anymore or I don't feel like I'm doing enough or going big enough. I've come to learn that I enjoy pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo, especially within our Muslim community. But I think that the time has come for something different.

After an enlightening conversion with my boss today (and seriously, I am blessed to have an awesome boss, how many people can say that?!), I realized that I need to do some serious soul searching and figure out what path my career is on. As much as I love my field of occupational therapy, I've already done the direct service route, worked in mental health and now am working at the programming level. I feel as though I need a different or more specialized direction perhaps. And while starting a family is something Asif and I are looking forward to in the future, I think that if I start to make plans now towards something sustainable even when we've had kids, then perhaps that's the route to take.

When I think back to the past two years and what I'm really passionate about within my job, I have to say that it's delving into the world of sexuality from an Islamic perspective. To many, this sounds weird and I'm sure more than a few eyebrows are raised, but this is one area that fascinates me even two years after I started looking into it. For such a taboo topic, it's amazing how much Islam has to say about sexuality, yet do we realize this? I remember how many meetings we had to hold for the Islamic Sexual Health Curriculum to be developed by Islamic Studies staff (it took over a year to put together 4 lessons), and how frustrated I'd get since (no offence), I could have done the research and thrown something together in a quarter of the time. I remember looking at the curriculum and how that was done was to cut and paste Hadiths into the Alberta Education health outline and add few words of advise from an Islamic perspective. After running the curriculum this year, I realized how much was missing. We don't talk about domestic violence, rape, respect towards women, female genital mutilation, honour violence...and why not? These are all related to Islam and sexuality, and more so than anything else, mental health. I'd want my kids educated about all of these areas. I want them armed with knowledge to protect themselves and others.

So Allah knows, but I think that this is where my passion lies. It makes some sense, since I ate up the book "Living West, Facing Easy" on this very topic by the ONE expert (i.e. PhD) in Islam and Sexuality in the WORLD (Google it), Dr Fida Sanjakdar. I was nodding violently through the whole book and reading long paragraphs to Asif, amazed at how much sense things made to me. And then I ate up the book "Love, InshAllah", lent to me by a dear friend, within two days! Again, this topic of Islam and sexuality enthralled me...there's a hidden world in the deep underbellies of Muslim communities and we're not exploring it. There's positive aspects of Islam and sexuality, but more negative. We have teens in sexual relationships and young girls getting pregnant and married off. We have young boys addicted to pornography (another topic I need to blog about). We have children being sexually abused and nothing being done about it, and marital rape being defended by a verse in the Quran when it's misinterpreted that women don't have any sexual rights/control over men or deserve to feel pleasure as men do. When are we going to stop intervening after it's too late, and start thinking from a prevention perspective? This is my focus.

So yes, I think I've found my passion (Allah knows). I luckily have an amazing colleague at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre and we have plans to publish a paper on what we've helped develop and run with kids. We're hoping to be in contact with Muslim experts in this field, so that we are armed with the knowledge we need not only for the kids, but for the concerned parents who refuse to talk about these topics with their kids. We are planning a conference in Calgary in the fall on this topic for any interested families and professionals. All these plans are tentative and require a huge InshAllah of course. But moving forward, I have a good gut feeling.

And yes, as always, I'll be praying for guidance towards what my destiny is. Perhaps it will turn out to be something else. But I have to do something with all this time I have until I find out, and so, I'm marching ahead on good faith that sexuality within Islam is where things may be at for me. For now, anyway!

The take home? Don't be afraid to splash in a few puddles and get dirty. And...change only happens when the status quo is challenged.

May Allah guide us all.

Comments

  1. I myself had to deal with the dilemma of juggling being an art educator or being an artist. I am also in religious studies but that is another issue. Anyhow something I have found to be true now that I am older which I was told when I was younger: "Don't rush things eventually your exploratory interests will become an hierarchy of interest and you shall gain a greater sense of direction in your life." Another statements I am finding true despite being cliche is money won't buy happiness, nor will marriage make you happy, simply learning how to enjoy life day to day regardless of circumstances is what shall make you happy. In other words doing without wanting. When I finally started doing such in regards to friendship activity with people because it is simply a thing one needs like food and sleep rather than wanting friends and hence trying too hard I found I was making friends without even trying or really feeling the need to it was just natural.

    As for Islam and sexuality I actually got into religious studies due sexuality and marriage talk weirdness with my Afghan friend I only mentioned in summary in response to your friendship paradigm piece. So as awkward as it is to say my foundation for my perspective on Islam comes via the lens of the 'most intimate of friendships' (aka marriage). I think that heavily influenced what parts of the Quran I resonated most with during my first reading of it. Furthermore the subject of Muslim women marital rights is something I have done research for at first to simply better understand where my friend who was trying to figure out how balance out what she wants, Afghan Culture, Islam and 'Islam', etc. Than later for academia purposes because I felt like I could speak about it from more than cold hypothetical academia. I won't go into detail here as it just be easier to point ya in directions of pieces I did on such if interested but I find there's a lot of Islam vs culture mistaken for Islam at the heart sexuality and marriage among the Muslim community.

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