Turning Lows of a Day into Highs


It looks I got out from the wrong side of the bed this morning. First, I tried to prepare for lunch while making the breakfast, and I failed to juggle. Putting soda in the fridge, sprinkling cheese over the burger patties, making smoothie, and adding fruit to yogurt-all made a long list of things to do simultaneously. The irony is that this was mountainous to the person who cooks once a week, so handles all four stoves together. Coming to my study-desk, the program to run data for my dissertation crashed on my laptop. I had to prepare data for a meeting with my academic advisor at 1 p.m. My reaction to that disaster varied from acts of a novice to those of a techy, but nothing worked. While getting ready for the meeting, I realized that my summer wardrobe is no more functional for these early days of fall. Ah, these girlie things haunt even when you are preparing to be one of the 0.2% elite population of the world with a PhD degree.

On the way to the meeting, I found every sort of obstacle – two red lights, a road work, a car violating traffic rules, and no place to park in the huge parking-lot of the university. After reaching the university, I realized that there were more surprises to come. I left my phone at home, and a friend was waiting for my text so we can have a coffee before my meeting. I went to her office which was empty as she was in the coffee shop – waiting to hear silly stories of a friend in a brown study.

“It happens. When you did not respond to my phone calls, I knew you would have forgotten the phone at home.” these first words of my friend, while greeting me, were music to ears. She had to run from the coffee shop to her office to see me before the meeting. And her reaction to all this hassle and labor was a smile. We managed a couple of laughter and a pun here and there in that 10 minutes’ chit-chat. The day started getting better. The academic meeting went well and we were able to run the data on another machine. But it was not over. I went to the library and the librarian refused to take back a book. When I insisted, she told that the book had no stamp of the library. How can it have. It was a book I bought recently. This novel by Emily Bronte was on the bedside for a couple of months and I took it to the library out of my fear of library fine. Isn’t it like the jokes we read about absent-minded professors.

I came back home and gave all this a thought. I am done with more than half of my dissertation. The feeling of accomplishment cannot make-up for the intensive labor of writing. This decision to go back to studies in mid-career has proved to be more laborsome than I had thought. Also, each accomplishment reminds me of the loss I have made in this struggle. I moved from Pakistan to the US with my family, just for my studies. Three months after starting the program, I lost my only son in a road accident. Each academic success reminds me of him, and every glory gets mixed-up with the image of his face with the brightest and loveliest glow. Also, my studies will be over in a few months. I will have to start a new life in a new house and in some new city. The fear of unknown is big.

But I think the worst impact came from a friend’s post on fb in which she mocked sob stories; calling them highly sellable. I write about grief and about my struggle to come out of trauma. Writing about your pain is not easy; it involves sharing your emotions, going back to golden memories, and talking about your fears and insecurities. My figures bleed when I write. So, it was painful to know that point of view about such writings.

But then I have to decide what matters more to me – the smile and open arms of a friend after all the pain I gave to her, or a ruthless attitude in an fb post. This post came from a friend who is a good critical thinker, I admire her IQ level. However, let me prefer warmth over intellect. Let me go for giggles and pun; for intellect, Plato offers Republic.

When I came back home, I was too tired to offer prayers. I thought the lows of the day were a genuine reason to skip at least reading the Holy Book after prayers. But sharing the pain with Allah Mian on the prayer mat and getting wisdom from His words turned lows into highs. While reading the holy verses I look for knowledge about man as a creature and God as a Creator. Today’s take was knowing that denial to truth is cruelty. And certainly, we are cruel to ourselves when we do that act.

Practicing my decision to close eyes to criticism, I am writing this piece. No idea it will sell high or low, but it makes me say things. Writing has become a catharsis for me. It makes me pour out the excessive emotions. I do feel pain while writing, but the relief after putting words on the paper is a nice feeling.

And yes, I am listening to all these cheesy Bollywood songs while writing. These SRK and Sallu Bhai songs are entraining me, like always. It is almost evening, and I am with high spirits. All set to go back to the data.

Isbah Ali Farzan belongs to the field of educational assessment. She has worked for UNESCO, American Institutes for Research, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and The Aga Khan University-Examination Board. She is a recipient of Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship, Endeavour Executive Award, and the Fulbright Scholarship. These days, she is doing her PhD from The University of Memphis-USA.

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