Have you ever felt like an outsider?

I have. I always felt like I was different. As a kid I didn’t know it was okay to be and so I struggled, trying to fit in and be liked. To do things right.

All that repression led me to rebel against conformity during my late teens. It was exhilarating, yet daunting, as I navigated the fine line between authenticity and the desire to belong. Little did I know, my expression was silently inspiring others, casting me in a light I never saw myself—in their eyes, I was a rock star, fearless and free.

I studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn after High School. There I discovered a love of literature, history, philosophy, science, and a burning curiosity about world dynamics and politics. Political philosophy in particular drew my interest, and sparked an idea I thought would demonstrate by methodically comparing them with religions that religions were no more than concoctions of human imagination. 

In 2001, Exhausted by the concrete landscape of NYC, my friend Andrea and I left for a cross-country road trip. We hiked and camped miles away from civilization, drank from and bathed in streams, stared at the stars and ran beneath them alongside raging oceans. It was a time I felt most free and most alive. Little did I know that in the bare white sand deserts of New Mexico – I was being prepared for momentous change.

Wake-Up Call

After our return, I witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11 in 2001, from my classroom window. I was distraught and felt helpless. Escaping the uncertainty and fear I felt living just across the river from ground zero, I traveled to the other side of the world. 

In my anger over what happened, coupled with my fascination with political philosophy, Islam being attached to the 9/11 attacks enhanced my determination to help people use their own minds instead of relying on ancient make believe. 

My project necessitated that I read the ‘holy’ books religions are based on. Which meant I had to read the Quran. And so I did. I read it for about a year before a conversation led me to become curious about Israel and Palestine.  My curiosity compelled me to travel to a war zone – the West Bank of Palestine –  to discover the truth that seemed so elusive. 

I witnessed suffering. I was tear gassed, faced with m16’s, stood feet away from tanks as my heart beat intensely with fear and my entire body trembled. 

I listened in the night to gunshots and tank cannons, and calls to prayer.

I shielded myself and others’ lives from gunshots with just my passport. I saw dead bodies and people grieving over losing everything they ever had. 

And I met and experienced the most patient, kind and generous people I have yet to ever encounter. 

I drank warm milk, fresh from a cow and ate chicken I had played with a couple hours earlier. 

I experienced people who found happiness, joy, magnanimity and gratitude within themselves, amidst destruction, devastation and hopelessness all around them. 

Embracing Truth, Then Losing Myself

I had been an anti religion intellectual, yet my project to destroy religion led me to accept Islam. I found it hard to explain and to answer every nay-sayer so I fled to a part of the city where no one knew me to learn and grow as a Muslim in peace. 

I left the art world because I didn’t believe I was the type to ‘network’ or schmooze, which I learned in school was the only way to become a successful artist. I worked low wage jobs. And I freelanced. Eventually I went into teaching and studied for my master’s, but cut it short when I met my husband.

I married my husband soon after we met and had five kids in 6 short years. I worked so hard at being a good wife, a good mother. Sleepless nights and self-sacrifice. Eventually I found myself unrecognizable. I had lost all touch with myself and I felt I was hanging on by a thread. 

My once strong and capable body was crumpled and weak. Pain lived with me every day. The only respite I found was in the brief moments of sleep before one of the five kids would burst into my bedroom with a problem. Nightmares, thirst, unexplained crying, sometimes simply looking for comfort or attention. Each time I would jump up without hesitation. 

There are Two Types of Givers. 

Between laundry and cooking and cleaning and entertaining, I had become the unsuccessful kind of Giver. 

I gave everything. I gave so much until I couldn’t feel anything anymore when I looked at the most beautiful sunset, or the sky I had once run beneath in excitement. It was as if I was dead inside, empty, numb.

I knew something had to change, but multiple attempts to pull myself out resulted in negligible success. I started writing, and established a blog about my religious journey. I wrote for several publications and loved writing, but eventually I could no longer compete with all the demands on me, the constant interruptions and lack of sleep.  

My husband and I started several businesses together, but each time I struggled to focus and give them the necessary attention.

Taking the Reigns

It had been a dream of mine to allow my children to ride horses. In the first half of our marriage, finances were tight, as my husband 

One day I was invited by my child’s riding instructor to get on a horse, and when I put my foot into the stirrup it was my first step towards becoming myself.

I created this impossible goal of becoming a horseback archer, and just like you describe, things began to take shape. What I learned along that journey is also powerful, learning to cooperate with another living being, the fear and the self control, getting back up when you fall, the failures and inclination to give up or lose hope are all present.

And now, all this has led me to this beautiful coaching journey. As I began fixing my body it reignited my love of anatomy and health, I got certified as a fitness coach and in nutrition coaching. Interpersonally, I  was so overboard with humility, that when I auditioned as a fitness coach in a gym where I knew the owner, the owner was in actual disbelief that I was so good. 

The way I was showing up was still hiding, making myself small. I was kind, but lacked confidence. I was capable, but too afraid to share my skills with others. 

Coaching Changed My Life

I began studying coaching and that’s when I felt I truly found my professional calling. I began working with a mentor and studying with some of the top life coaches in the country. 

Part of that journey involved hiring my own coach. With her help, and the help of other coaches along the way, I have dramatically transformed my life and the way I show up. My marriage is thriving in our 20th year together and I’m enjoying my children more than ever. 

I’ve seen the lives of the women I’ve worked with so far change so much for the better. 

I used to believe I was only a leader of myself, but now I realize I’ve always had the potential to be a true leader. And I’ve realized how important leadership is for every woman to embrace and get good at. 

Our world is shaped in large part by women. Wine. Who raise children, who teach them, who have so much influence over the men in our lives. More than we tend to realize. 

Now it’s my mission to help empower and strengthen women, mind, body, heart and soul. And I believe that in doing so, we are contributing to so much more, because when women are strong, everyone wins. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *