Spice it Up
I didn’t really know this while I was growing up, but I spent quite some time proving that it didn’t matter how different I was than others. I was proud of the fact that I “fit in” and didn’t seem to have to “fight” to win a spot at the “cool-kids-table” in middle school. I was also a bit of a roamer, and unabashedly popped in on many different lunch time tables, including the teacher’s lounge (why?), without too many questions being asked. Everyone was so separated and I wanted to be included in all of their worlds. They were all so different, but we never talked about these differences. I felt it was my sole 12 year old purpose to prove that these things didn’t mean anything. That it didn’t matter.
But it does matter.
I was brought up on a religious belief that we were made into nations and tribes not so that we may be divided and fear one another, but so that we may get to know one another and learn from each other (Quran: Chapter 49, Verse 13). We were all made dissimilar, even within specific nationalities, religions, etc, for a reason.
If we were all the same here’s how some things would be:
- Life would be very mundane.
- We’d probably all be quite stupid.
- Fashion would be atrocious.
- Civilization would rapidly cease to exist, because an organism or society that doesn’t change, dies. If we were all the same, I doubt there would be much change going on.
Granted, one could argue that if we were all the same, we would know nothing more than what we were, so that which was boring would simply be routine. Well, we can all rejoice in the fact that we are not all clones of one another. And when we are done rejoicing, let’s begin to fully embrace these differences. Regardless of who, or what, you believe in, it is clear, even to the blind eye, that as a human race, we were given the gift of variety. The differences in our universe go even beyond humankind. We learn from the apes, from plants, from studying galaxies, and water cycles, so why not be enthusiastic about learning from each other? Variety is the spice of life.
I am different. I am a Muslim American. I am an African American Muslim. I am a Muslimah African American. I am a Muslimah African American Theatre Artist. I am a Vegan Muslimah African American Theatre Artist, who will forever call her parents mommy and daddy. I am a person–who is different–than the person who is sitting next to them on the subway–who is different than the next. Hello world! We can meet each other and learn from one another before we jump to conclusions. We can educate ourselves just by simply opening our mouths, speaking and embracing who we are.
When people first see me, they expect me to act differently than I do when I first open my mouth. Now layer that on top of their reaction to the first time they see me dance with strangers in the street, and you’ve got yourself a whole new world of unearthed expectations. I remember towards the end of my junior year of high school someone said to me, “Whoa. I’ve never met a Muslim like you before.” My friends and I all smiled and laughed, because this was probably true. I remember someone responding with, “Well, you just haven’t met enough Muslims.” I’ve carried that with me ever sense, and hold onto it whenever I meet someone who may act differently than the archetype I may have of them in my head.
It comes down to this. All of our experiences, everything we have individually been exposed to, is the matter which makes up our entire being. It is our civic duty to bring our rituals, our interests, our humor, on occasion our drama, our tastes, our favorite idioms, and our true selves to life’s dinner table. We can spend so much time and energy trying to prove that we are not different or that our differences shouldn’t matter, but they should. We are all made up of a medley of spices and we owe it to ourselves to experiment with how these seasonings can blend together. If we were only given paprika to work with, then our tastebuds would be overpaid and underused. All carrots and no tomatoes make soup a bland dish.