The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Through The Years

"When did you know you were growing up?" I asked Mentor.

Her spoonful of Sticky Mango Rice stopped halfway to her mouth, as she thought for a while. "When I was in the UK," she answered, finally popping the spoon into her mouth.

"I was seventeen and that was the first time I saw a woman smoking and Muslims drinking in public. I was so amazed that I wrote home immediately!" She chortled at the memory.

"What did your mother say?" I leaned forward, my own dessert forgotten.

"My mother was so worried that I would attempt to satiate my curiousity by jumping on the bandwagon that she called me immediately after receiving my letter! She very calmly asked me how I felt seeing these unsusual sights. When she was satisfied that I merely found them fascinating and not seductive, she told me that what these people did wasn't wrong but it wasn't right for a Muslim woman. Being able to hold on to my traditional values in a modern society, do my own laundry, pay my own bills and feed myself made me grow up."

I thought about my sojourn to Australia ten years ago. I was a budding young writer on a journalism scholarship. Thanks to my work experience, I was only required to spend nine months there to obtain my degree. Just enough time to flirt with Australia, teeter at the brink of what could have been true love and bade a tearful farewell. I have dreamt of returning but never quite bought that ticket.

Unlike Mentor, however, crossing an ocean didn't help me grow up. Sure, I did my own laundry, paid my own bills and fed myself but I was too scared to leave my little shell to truly explore the world's offerings. I believed that if I didn't subscribe wholeheartedly to my parents' world view, I would be lost in the wilderness forever. And so I put on my self-righteous cloak and effectively robbed myself of the invaluable growing up years.

Today I look back at Australia and the years that followed it, and my heart breaks. I've spent half my adult life judging others for not being like me and the other half, judging myself for not being like others. Neither was paradise. And I have discovered that I am a late bloomer in the EQ department.

My past has suddenly decided to pay me a visit and I've found myself wading through a sea of memories. The big waves are merciless and sometimes I thrash underwater wondering if I'll make it to the surface this time. And then I do but the sting of saltwater is sharp and doesn't wash off easily.

Maybe it's going to be another hard week. Or month. Or year.


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