When you need to embrace the bitter version of yourself

By Athirah Mohammad

You may be the only person left who believes in you, but that’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

At some point in our lives, we often feel like giving up in the various journeys that we undertake. Most crucially, we tend to give up just before we are about to make a huge break-through. This is because one of the greatest ironies of being human is that we are always hardest on ourselves right when we should be most proud.

With that being said, that’s how Athirah leaned into her adulting journey, except now she finally sees the beauty and gift that comes from the art of struggling.

Born in Kuala Lumpur and later moved to live in a city and Federal Territory of Malaysia, Putrajaya, Athirah is a firstborn daughter, the oldest of three siblings.

Throughout her 21 years of life, she never knew that being the eldest child in the family puts her in a unique position until one incident changed her life in a blink of an eye.

Encountering any bad news about our loved one can be devastating, jarring and sometimes turning your world upside down. Those are what Athirah felt when she received a call informing that her father got into an accident four months ago.

Following the accident, her father suffered a serious leg injury which required him to undergo an operation to fix a little-known device called the “Ilizarov Frame”. He was not able to walk normally like before and up until now her father was fully depending on a wheelchair and crutches.

Acknowledging the fact that she holds huge responsibilities and being the backbone in her family, Athirah was constantly questioning her ability to do everything. She often observes herself in the mirror, critical as ever.

“Am I good enough?” “Am I doing great so far?” Are my parents proud of me?” “Do others see me the way I see myself?” These are among questions running in her mind since she was a bit vague to herself. In other words, she is blind to her own potential. She believed she would never be able to be a leader and there is nothing that she is good at.

Hence, these past few months were rough for her, where at certain moments she thought of giving up on many things in her life. Juggling between studies and never-ending hospital appointments were something new that she needed to adapt to. From a girl who is always bribed with everything from her parents to a girl who needed to do everything for them was very challenging for her, especially during this pandemic time.

There are times when she tends to compare herself with others, when the feeling of being left out was at the peak and she feels like nobody would be proud of her despite all of these challenges.

Anyway, without those experiences, she wouldn’t be as strong as now and could deal with the hassle of life. She now has become someone who often values herself and stops negative self-judgement. She realised that her hardest times could lead her to the greatest moments of her lives.

At certain points, she believed that all the ups and downs, bumps and glitched streets make the person she is. “Don’t wait until you reach your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take.”

Athirah Mohammad, a third-year student, is now pursuing her degree in Communication, specialising in Integrated Media Journalism. As someone who rarely values her own self, deciding to join IIUMToday was the turning point for Athirah to embrace her own ability and to push herself out of her comfort zone.

Reminiscing of seeing one’s name and work in print for the entire nation to read seemed “cool” to her as Athirah could never have foreseen that one day writing could be her career.

Believe it or not, currently she holds a position as head of Social Media for IIUMToday.

Knowing needs to improve her journalism skills, she enriches her writing skills by reading other people’s works. When asked about the sources that keep her being aware of the situation all the time, she picks news articles from news websites such as New Straits Times or The Star as her primary source of information.

She spends time going through those websites at least once a day just to see how angles are being played during events and to broaden her general knowledge on certain issues. Athirah believed that it helps to prevent her writing skills from getting “rusty”. Also, she would be able to keep up with what’s happening in the world.

Moreover, the book that she has been reading lately is The Art of Letting God by Mizi Wahid where this book re-defined the concept and mechanism of effort and Tawakkul. It gives new insight on the meaning of surrendering and relying on God – the truth that we are powerless creatures and yet we are still given the power to choose what to do in our life.  It elaborates on how to deal with heartbreaks and frustrations – and how to believe in God. It sets out a guide on how to have a positive outlook in life.

As a social media manager of an organization, she is also an active user of social media. Athirah preferred to use Twitter and Instagram in order to grab some viral news or updates. She also considered scrolling these social media as part of her “me-time”.

In life we are always asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Around four or five years from now, Athirah aims to be a critical reader and an active writer that would make a great impact for her audience. She is even excited to see more of her own journey, seizing every opportunity that comes in her way even if there is any other upheaval that life throws at her.

Athirah really hopes that for those who are struggling right now to “stay true to yourself, yet always be open to learning”.

“We are all struggling in some ways because we are all part of the same flawed human species. Thus, we should not fear failure but rather fear not trying,” Athirah said. ***

(This article is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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