2017 was a hard fucking year.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Social Work, began a Master’s in a city I was completely unfamiliar with. I left my friends and closest community in Chicago. I lost a father figure. I gained another one. I experienced significant levels of depression. I fell out of love and fell in love again. I watched black and brown bodies continue to be tortured and oppressed, but in public ways, more public than I had experienced in my lifetime.
With all of 2017’s difficulties on top of a white supremacist president, it is shocking that I have not become harsher, more jaded. The only reason I made it out of 2017 alive is that I was reminded of gentleness that occurs every day: Shanzeh Daudi.
If you are friends with Shanzeh, you know that she is dramatic, gullible, and believes in the goodness of everyone. She never takes a bad picture. The littlest things can make her ecstatic. But she is also wild, and free-spirited, and will stop at nothing to protect her friends and family. Shanzeh taught me that faith can be a stronghold, and in a year like 2017, it is okay to cling onto faith — at times, it is all we possess. I have witnessed her ask us for things to pray for as she travels, embarks on a new journey. “I am going to Ann Arbor, anything you want me to pray about?” And we recite our prayers: help me get over X, pray I finish this paper, pray I make it out of this depressive episode alive.
Shanzeh changed my faith in 2017. Faith in people, faith in the world, and faith in God itself. Faith in myself, in my ability to grow and change and fall and stand up again. Faith is not strictly religious, but spiritual, mental, emotional. She reminded me to take time for myself. To reflect on questions, I never think to ask myself. Do you love them because you need them, or because it is naseeb (destiny)? What does it mean to let someone go who is not good for you? What does it say to leave a loving space to grow within your own?
Shanzeh’s faith in me gave me the courage to walk away from activism for a few months if only to rejuvenate. Her faith in me gave me the courage to attend a school 1,000 miles away from my community and sit through hours of lecture to receive a degree. Her faith gave me the strength to walk away from people that may love me, but are not suitable for me at this moment in time. Her faith is the reason I am who I am today. And that type of faith is irreplaceable.
Thank you, for continuing to be a gentle, young soul to counteract my old, dead soul.