When the day comes and I am lying on my deathbed or breathing my last breath, it is important to me that I can look quickly back on my life and feel that I lived it to the fullest.
I thought I was doing well until recently.
I can say with a certain degree of confidence that throughout the various phases of my life I have lived in a way that the Nadia of that phase wanted to live. I don’t have any regrets I can think of. Even when I have made horrible horrible mistakes I know that I made them consciously and decisively. I am aware they were mistakes. And in the process of making those mistakes and in their aftermath I have learned much about myself and the world around me.
I periodically ask myself, “Nadia, if you die now, will you feel content with the way you have lived your life?” And the answer has almost always been, “Yes.” Sometimes it has even been, “Hell, yes!”
I look at those phases of my life and I see a Nadia who knows exactly what she wants and she goes out and gets it.
I have lived through minor phases of confusion when I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted. But these phases never lasted long enough for them to have a significant impact on my feeling of contentedness with how my life was generally moving. More importantly, throughout these phases I had things happening in my life that fulfilled me despite my confusion.
The thing that has most fulfilled me has always been the fact that I was doing things for others. Whether it was being involved in spreading the word about Islam or raising my young children or communicating science to the world or teaching other journalists how to communicate science or teaching young university students how to be good journalists; all these things gave me tremendous joy.
That is until much of what I had a passion for beat me down to a pulp or I became disenchanted with it for various reasons.
Being able to do things I love like all the traveling, meeting new people, and learning how to keep fit has been wonderful. But I have discovered that these are things that I love doing within the broader context of doing for others. Even when I do these things for myself I have always made a point of sharing them with others in the hope that maybe they will click with someone.
I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. I ask myself, “Nadia, if you died today would you feel content with how you are living your life?” I find myself answering, “Not anymore.” I’m fine with my life up to a certain point and then it feels like it just stopped.
I find myself in a situation where my life and my decisions are too affected by what others in my life are doing and want to do: my children, my husband, and my ex-husband. My whole life feels like it is on hold for others. But it is no longer the good feeling of passionately serving others. It is more of a bad feeling that I am of little concern to others.
I am left feeling lost. What is it that I really want to do? What I think I want to do feels like it is so irrelevant to others and so impossible to achieve that I am not sure what it is anymore.
I long for that feeling of being passionate about something but I cannot for the life of me grab hold of it again no matter how hard I try.
The situation in Egypt undoubtedly plays a role. It has affected all of our lives in various ways. It has affected our options. It has affected our ability to feel hope and optimism. It has affected our lifestyles, our finances, our family lives, and our social lives.
But I can’t help but wonder whether I have also given others too much control over my decisions.
I look back on my life, all the way back to childhood, and find that in too many cases a man in my life has made my decisions for me, sometimes making it seem that I played a role in the decision-making process whereas the reality is that I was manipulated into agreeing to whatever that man wanted.
Never once, for example, have I decided where to live. I have never chosen the house I have lived in, the neighborhood I have lived in, the city I have lived in, or the country I have lived in. Never. I think about that and it just feels so sad.
Some choices such as what I have studied at university, how I dress, what I eat and drink, things I have wanted to study but didn’t, and work I have wanted to do but didn’t, and dare I say what I believe in or don’t believe in, these are all things that have at one time or another been directly or indirectly influenced by a man in my life.
Is this the case for any human being? Are all our life’s decisions majorly affected by others? Can men say the same about how their lives are shaped? Are they as affected by the women in their lives? Have I allowed myself to be more controlled than I should have? Or do I just have a perception of being controlled? Or are people’s lives in general too controlled by others? Is it an equal and reciprocated control? Do children control their parents’ lives as much as the parents have controlled theirs? Do wives control their husbands’ lives as much as husbands control theirs?
My life is on hold. I sit at home and wait. Yet I do not know what it is I am waiting for. Most likely I am waiting for others around me to live their lives the way they want. But do I not have the same right? Should I forcibly seize that right? But whatever I choose now will have a drastic effect on those around me. That is how messed up things have become. Whatever I choose will be a bad choice for someone important in my life. The larger problem is that I do not even know what I want to do. I know what I used to want to do. But I have lost so much hope in some of the big dreams that I do not want to think about them anymore or even consider them as options. I have never been like that. And it scares me.
Will I end up an old woman, sitting alone on her couch, watching crap TV, having few people around her who remember to pick up the phone and say hello, and thinking to herself, “What was the purpose of my life? When I die, I will leave nothing behind me. I will have left virtually no mark on this Earth. It will be as if I never was. What was my purpose?”
I need to regain my sense of purpose.