Winter has witnessed me blossoming into a better version of myself, and the opposite. It’s the season where I got to explore new boundaries of what I was capable of feeling. Some of my best days indeed involved a sight of endless pile of white ice, but some of the worst did as well. It has seen some of my loudest laughs and some of my worst cries, and every confusion in between. It brought along some of the days that I’d miss a lot, and some others that I’d rather completely forget.
Winter, for me, was a time of forgiveness. Of independence, of figuring out what truly matters and what does not, of redemption. When there was too much emotion, yet too little space in one’s heart to process.
But it was a beautiful sight. Regardless of seconds, minutes, hours, days, which turned into weeks, which might turn into months, where I was aching; it was nonetheless always a beautiful scenery to remember those times by.
It was a summer of green plateau and turquoise ocean when I had my first, and possibly last, Acadian crush. He was a married man with a pair of the clearest blue-hazel eyes I’d ever seen in a person, and dark curly hair with slight golden tips hidden underneath a grey hat that made him look much younger than he actually was.
Luca Gauthier and I ventured into the Acadian, boreal, and taiga forests of Cape Breton Highland that morning of July 13th. He brought an apple in his blue backpack, and a tiny container of almond, ham sandwich, and celery sticks that his wife had prepared for him. “How are you?” He asked me. “Great, can’t be more thrilled,” I said. “It’s my first time in the region and I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months.”
A friend was once telling me about an Indonesian Muslim family that she knew back when she was still residing in a western country. The Mom is both religiously very devoted and yet open-minded at the same time, and she managed to raise her very young kids to be sharing similar traits. These kids pray, fast, and do all the obligatory deeds even though they were the only kids doing that in their school. At that time, I was wondering, ‘What she did was such a job. Was it not difficult to raise that kind of family in a country where Muslims are minorities?’
On the other hand, the family is not the strict type of saints as well. Exactly the type of spiritually obedient, yet nonjudgmental, ‘lakum deenukum wa liya deen’-sort of people.
Then a couple years pass, and I lived a life of being a Muslim in Edmonton. I grew from getting used to justifying salah jama’ in the first months, to trying to perform salah in their actual hours (still trying to get better!). From being okay with hanging out with friends while them getting drunk and me staying sane, to realizing that I was not comfortable and I’d rather find another circle that I could fit better. From never bothering to go to the university’s mosque, to trying to go their occasional events and performing congregational prayers there as much as I could do. All because of something I developed with each moment spent becoming the only person who does these among my friends.
I realized what makes me (and that teeny, tiny amount of everyone else who was doing the things that I also did)… unique.
Awhile back, I came across a blog post that was becoming somewhat viral at that moment, particularly among the Indonesian students overseas. It was written by an Indonesian student residing in a European country, who was describing how she always finds that the majority of Indonesians in that country seem to have always been only socializing with their own communities of Indonesians and rarely seem to be engaged with either the locals or the more internationally diverse communities. P.s.: she belonged to the opposite group.
For her, maybe her comfort zone is indeed in the circle of the locals. For others, maybe their comfort zone is people who share the same background, thus easier to pass along the jokes with or relate in any way. While it’s probably cool that someone enjoys being in the company of a diverse group of people just because not many people might even like that idea, it also makes the most sense for someone to be the happiest when surrounded by a rather homogenous society which shares the most similarities with them. Especially when it comes to the cultural or religious background that further defines our core values and general perspectives about life, which really accounts for who do you pick as your comfort friends eventually. Who would enjoy feeling constantly challenged just because they’re surrounded by those who do not see the world the way they do? It is absolutely just easier to live with those whom with we could be at peace together, is it not?
It was my first travel with the U of A Outdoors Club without my usual pals of the club. I remembered that I decided to go, even without telling them that I signed up because I knew that I had to find a new circle. Whether I liked the idea or not, I had to develop a new comfort zone. People who would get along well with me, and maybe share the same passion or interest with me too, to make it easier. Of course then this trip made the perfect sense. First of all, it was the Outdoors Club, whom people are pretty much equivalent to ITB’s LFM in a way that the majority of us listens to the similar type of indie pop/alternative/indie rock music, and we freakin’ love travels. Secondly, this particular trip was called Photography Trip, so it resembled LFM on a whole new level now. And it would make the most sense for me to find one or two new friends from the trip–that hopefully would help me to reconnect with new people.
Today was Saturday, but I forced myself to head to my office at the university anyway. As a home person, I would obviously rather work from the comfort of my own desk in my house if I could, but I could not. I just wouldn’t be able to be concentrate somehow, and so the only other option is the university because it’s the only other place where I could still practice my 5-time prayers. So, to the office I went.
I started pretty late in the noon, so I finished up pretty late as well. Even though it was a Saturday. By the time the city lights embellished the entire view from the huge window next to my working space, my room was the only space with the lights on in the entire Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences building. Sure enough, the idea of being totally alone during such hour in an isolated building deep inside within the very quiet part of the university kind of terrified me, so I decided to wrap up my thoughts and prepared to head home. My watch said it’s nearly a quarter past 10 already.
I took the only stairs connecting my floor to the first floor which was a dark, rarely used emergency exit. (I had promised myself to never take the elevators anymore for the health’s sake, that’s why.) I rushed my steps with my headphones on, playing some catchy tunes from Belle and Sebastian’s latest release, as I am not really a type of person who’s okay with being alone in the dark. I pushed the stairs’ door on the first floor, then was speeding up a little bit to be able to catch the bus. I was outside already. A moonless, mute nightfall was then unfolded ahead of me.