- Courtesy of Nohal Mekkaoui
BY NOHAL MEKKAOUI
Published April 23, 2014
Change centered itself squarely into my life when I was accepted as a transfer student to the University of Michigan in Fall 2013.
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It violently grabbed me and painfully swallowed me in its entirety. It made me question filling out a transfer application back to my old school every single day of my first semester. It crushed my confidence so thoroughly; I literally reverted to whispering on the rare occasions I did speak. It kept me up many nights to tell me how inadequate and undeserving I was of this privilege called a Michigan degree. I yearned for the comfort I had within my Dearborn community, the seemingly simple worries of fulfilling my community’s expectations of who I should be. I watched as my friends continued their lives while I stopped living mine. I noted the physical aging of my parents every weekend I went home, and acknowledging it brings tears to my eyes even while I write this. I saw my brothers grow up to shoulder the responsibilities and worries I once shouldered so they never would have. And the guilt. The guilt was overwhelming.
First semester ended and after second semester ran much of its course, I gradually came to the conclusion that change was my savior. It began an adventure that set the tone of the rest of my life. I saw myself grow to become one step closer to the leader and change maker I have always dreamed of being. I was intimately introduced to intriguing topics in feminism and history and public health and science. I watched as my sister matured and our relationship flourished in sinuous growth. Things I never thought of doing, I did here. People I never imagined knowing, I met here. Words I never had the insight to say, I said here. It was beautiful and empowering, humbling and limitless, exciting and motivating. I stopped thinking about what I wanted to do and began asking how can I do it better?
Change saved me.
I became part of the most life-changing movement of my 20 years of living called #UMDivest, and using “life-changing” is an understatement. The #UMDivest movement made my single-bodied presence amongst an overwhelming 40,000-student population impactful. It opened my eyes to the injustices of our institution, the frameworks of racism experienced by minority groups on campus, the disgusting disregard of human rights for capitalism, and the painful ignorance the majority of my community chooses to be part of. It also opened my eyes to what compassion and hard work can accomplish, to the importance of sustaining each other when our institutions refuse to, and to the actual meaning of change. I met people so genuine that I wish I could selfishly spend every drop of forever in their presence. The empowering moments I shared with the supporters of the movement will never be forgotten. The strength, passion and resilience will forever be missed in the Edward Said CSG room, regardless of who occupies it now. I grew a sense of fondness and respect for the term change.
As a woman, as a Muslim, as a feminist, as an activist, as a person of color, I have come to appreciate change as the best cultivator of personal growth. It has become the best friend of all best friends. It is loving and forgiving. Change taught me that it is okay to mess up. It is okay to try your best and fail. It is okay to be awkward. It is okay to love and be very wrong. It is okay to hurt so much it feels like your heart will burst – sometimes. It is okay to be uncomfortable only because that is how change is brought about. We live and we learn – so cliché but this is a saying I live by and will forever live by. These are the experiences that make us who we are and lead us to the purposes we were meant for in this life. If I could kindly give advice, it would be to stop gripping on to the past so tightly and embrace the beauty of the unknown in the journey ahead. There’s a purpose to this madness blessed with the name of life and trying to control every aspect of it is both impossible and exhausting. If it’s coming, it’s coming. If it’s meant to happen, it will. You just do keep doing the beautiful human you call you until that time makes its grand entrance.
Michigan in Color is the Daily’s opinion section designated as a space for and by students of color at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about MiC, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.