So here are my dreams laid out for the world to see. Here is the absence of the weight of expectations, of the practicality of them, and simply dreaming for the sake of dreaming. Dreaming big is terrifying; dreaming small is imprisoning. So I’ll try to stay in the middle of the spectrum.
1. To publish poetry.
I am currently working on my biggest passion project yet – ‘Speak.’ I have written in many different modes before, but free verse poetry is by far the most expressive, especially given the weight of some of the subject matters. From sexual violence to advocacy for equal opportunity, I wanted to collate a comprehensive work that explores all the sharp edges of femininity. It always astonishes me how long a single poem takes to write – it can range from a few hours to several days of frequent revisions in order to choose the words, balance the themes, find symbolism, interrogate the original text, etc. But the end product brings me such joy to have created something that intends to revolutionise.
The collection has technically been published in The Feminist Wire and Right Now Magazine, but I would love to see it as a collection of poetry that one can purchase from the Amazon Kindle Store. I’m not opposed to self-publishing, though I am under the impression that traditional publishing goes through so many hands that the final product is the best it can possibly be. But very rebuttable.
2. To join a writing critique group.
It has been a long time since I received a compliment about my writing; it has been a long time since I have received a critique, too. Most of my beloved friends are not artists or writers – they are lawyers, entrepreneurs, and social reformers, and people from all walks of life. I appreciate them in my life so much… but they are not readers or writers.
So understandably, when I show some of the projects to some of my closest friends and their eyes glaze over, or they give me a wide smile ‘Ramisa this is great’ with a quick scroll. Bless them; I find it kind of funny. On the one hand, it emphasises that I can have close connections with people who don’t relate to every facet of what keeps me up at night. On the other hand, however, I do sometimes wish they made more of an effort at trying to understand. But I suppose I’m a naturally curious person and try to understand the people around me instinctively, whereas it may not be as intuitive for others.
The reason I started writing was for the purposes of a challenge. I never wanted to be published – only intellectually stimulated. Ever since I left the writing communities I had considered my virtual home – i.e. Inkpop, Figment, Wattpad – I was both liberated and lost. Liberated, because leaving those communities mean I can work on projects that don’t necessarily conform to the status quo of the websites. Lost, because to explore outside of the status quo is a slow burn journey and I was walking alone.
Today I joined another critique group and was amazed – and overjoyed – because people were engaging with, critiquing, complimenting my works again.
3. To write with courage
You see, I have the tendency to write as concisely as possible without the flair. I used to tell myself it was ‘professionalism’ and for the ‘purposes of readership.’ They were good excuses because they hid the real reason: that I was scared to ‘overwrite,’ so to speak. I feared to leave myself to bleed on a page. So I saved myself by placing a screeching brake of a full-stop before I could crash. It also means, of course, I never felt the adrenaline of almost crossing my own boundaries.
But maybe part of my lack of courage is because of the defined social/cultural norms I am trying to satisfy in my writing. I remember monitoring my writing to ensure there are no mature or romantic themes. Sometimes I hear the faint words of my mother say: ‘People become what they express. You can write about an affair in a drama and everyone will assume it’s an autobiography.’ So Bangladeshi culture tends to still adopt an author-centered focus, where it assumes that an author cannot write outside themselves. And so we are deliberate in everything we express – slicing enough to draw blood but before it hits an artery.
Maybe one of the first times I found myself breaking out of the shell is when I touched upon my experiences with mental health and emotional contagion and acknowledging that I am a highly sensitive person. It’s a gradual process, but writing openly about women’s rights issues when I come from a politically neutral family (only on the outside, of course) is a big step forward.
4. To publish children’s literature about Islam
One of the things I would love to do is pursue a Masters in Creative Writing (Children’s Literature) from Macquarie University after finishing up my arts degree. The very thought thrills me. After getting my Masters, I would sit down to write books for Muslim children. I have grown up with a pervading sense of diaspora – as one of many Muslim girls brought up in a Western world – because the values taught by Islam are so contrary to mainstream twenty-first-century culture. Shielding your children from the conflicting world will not mean they won’t be exposed to those ideologies; it only means that once they are, they will not know how to critically think their way through the situation to reach their own conclusion.
Religion and logic are not mutually exclusive to me – they co-exist and complement one another. But how the pieces fit together is something we need to explore and nurture, especially at a young age. We need to acknowledge that we live in a culturally, religiously and spiritually diverse world, and learn how to explore these different areas with an open mind, but keeping our heart embedded in our own philosophies.
See, I have been guilty of only ever exploring concepts with an open mind without forming an opinion. I was an explorer who worried that building a home in only one location means I will never leave those four walls. But intellectual curiosity should be the balance between venturing outside and having something to return to at the end of the day.
5. To become an advocate
Irrespective of whether I become a professional barrister or not, one of my goals is to get the qualification. I have heard of too many injustices – mainly of women in family law cases with unjust orders because of their socio-economic status or ability to communicate in English – to stay silent. I want to be an advocate for the voices that are silenced, and that is a recurring theme in many of the things I do, including the Speak project.
But also because I love speaking, communicating, writing, expressing and I am motivated to hone these skills. For a long time, I felt ashamed of these qualities – I have been told my entire life, within my cultural confines, that these are subordinate. They are not culturally connotated as ‘useless’ per se, but secondary to the ability work hard in order to conform to a stable and lucrative lifestyle – i.e. the medicine or engineering dream, though the latter less so in contemporary times – was the greatest pursuit. And to reach the pursuit requires, generally speaking:
- Medicine – Strong work ethic, ability to memorise and regurgurate large amounts of information without necessarily a logical pattern
- Engineering – Ability to critical think and manipulate numbers, spatial intelligence
So clearly not expressly needing the skills I was interested in developing, and had a genuine interest in.
I started to truly accept myself once I reconnected with Islam again – Allah (God) gives all of us different gifts and pathways. It is a disservice to both yourself and the world if you do not utilise your purpose, and submit to only practical but worldly considerations, such as stability and finances, without dismissing the gravity of the consideration. The search for purpose may not be practicable at every stage of your life, but it should never be anything less than a lifelong pursuit, or you risk a metaphorical death long before a physical one. Also another lesson in Islam – everything should be calculated by taking into account the fact you will die, not as a means of spending everyday in lament or fear, but to truly re-evaluate how you are living, how you want to be remembered, and what you leave behind in the world.
Professionally, the area I want to specialise in is health law. With its convergence of practical ethics, technological progressions especially with the introduction of artificial intelligence, it sounds like such a fast-moving field! And also very inter-disciplinary in the variety of cases you may receive. Now, I have absolutely no experience in this field, but I alhumdulilah (n.b. grateful to God/Allah) have an internship at Queensland Advocacy this January to explore the field. I am so excited but nervous about the opportunity. Excited because the internship deals with legal research, the Mental Health Law Act (this is why I chose to go to law school in first place!) and assesing clients. Nervous because of that typical intern feeling wow this is such a big responsibility I don’t want to let anyone down or make any mistakes! and sometimes forgetting that making mistakes is part of the learning curve, as is the very dauntng experience of completing professional tasks as a fresh-faced, only-textbook-knowledged university student.