Change. We do it every day on a small scale. Change our clothes. Change our mind. Change the television or radio station.
What becomes more complicated is when we change cars, furniture, schools, homes, especially partners. What about changing religion? A way of life?
Well I am here to say Hurray for Change! Getting out of that daily rut, that bad habit, that dead end job, that abusive relationship, you name it; Change!
Having been the proverbial chameleon while retaining the essence of me has been challenging and enervating, but necessary.
Although I grew up in a small Midwestern town where most folk stayed put, I connected strongly with my father’s sister, one of the few birds of our family to spread her wings and seek out other habitations. Unlike the rest of the clan who stayed close to home and hearth, she left for nursing school in Chicago, met a young and talented resident, married and off Los Angeles she went.
In hindsight I see that the two of us always had much in common but as a young girl I only knew that something in my spirit responded to hers.
One summer she suggested I visit her in L.A. It was life changing. An enormous metropolitan city. An ocean. Mountains! Diversity. I had never heard of NPR or the classical music station she listened to. My mom cooked veggies out of a can so I had no idea how to clean the green beans when she asked! Lox and bagels, lobster thermidor, concerts at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic. In-ground pools, gardenias. My mind was spinning but my heart was loving it!
This exposure to so many different elements, sights, sounds, and scents at an early age created an immense change in every part of me. Another young girl might have been frightened, shy, out of her element, but it was most certainly a pivotal moment in my life.
Although I returned to my small town, I was immediately drawn to the foreign exchange students and inner city kids in high school. Thanks to some of those connections I traveled to Norway at 19 and headed to Vienna for a choral symposium the next year. Merely choosing vocal performance as a music major with an eye to singing professionally was quite remarkable – although I didn’t imagine so at the time.
Yet, I still lived close to home. Each summer there were music internships in other states, more different and interesting people to meet and places to see. Soon what had once felt comforting and familiar was becoming oppressive, suffocating back home.
To really break free with home, friends, and relationships is not an easy thing to do. Feelings are hurt, and relationships lost but still the need to keep growing, keep exploring, the joy of learning new things, eating new foods, exploring new avenues felt natural and right.
Names changed with partners and names reverted back to the original. I even took a stage name when I finally made it to the stages of New York.
That is perhaps enough for one lifetime but there was more to come. Although my passion had always been for the message within music and theater, I found yet a greater message when I encountered and embraced Islam. But wasn’t I, by now, ready for the changes to come?
Throughout all these changes, the person I know to be me – the soul, the spirit – is still the same young girl from the Midwest. The values, the manners, the ethics – the part of me that I am most proud of and continue to perfect as much as a flawed human can – remain the same. And perhaps that’s the greatest challenge within change. Staying true to one’s self, one’s values while everything else around is in flux.
Through changes in name, home, career and worship, those characteristics I hold dear were made ever stronger. The difficult paths I followed and some of the heartbreaking losses, only added layers of strength and conviction to stay a particular course for good, for kindness, for serving humanity.
Amazingly, I can see where each step of the way, each change, led me to exactly where I am today.
So who is with me? Can you change? Do you dare? Can your present life be different than it is right now?
Dare to change.