Unsurprisingly, I'm extremely far from where I thought my life was going in the begin of 2017.
I had just launched my apparel line, which is where the majority of my time and brain power was going. With that process set up, I was able to head back to the corporate world and get back to having a day job. My professional experience is mostly creative, in graphic design or art direction. However, I knew I didn't want to go back to the creative field and wanted to keep my creative outputs purely in projects I had full creative control, ie. my apparel line. I decided to look more into purely social media/marketing as my previous position involved social media strategy which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, Dallas, where I live, doesn't present as many opportunities in social media as say New York or Los Angeles. This is when I started looking at positions in New York. I got some interviews for well-known brands, but I ended up cancelling any further interviewing because I just didn't feel as excited as I wanted to be for a job that would require me to move away from my life for. So the search went on.
This is when I started attending Islamic youth events in other major cities in Texas, where I met amazing people that have become a big part of my life now. I'm so thankful God blessed me with such people that have helped me becoming a better Muslim. Having faithful, inspiring friends around you is something I now realize is very crucial to keeping one's faith strong. Community is everything.
This is also when I started considering going back to school for apparel design. There was a program a couple top schools in New York that offered associate degrees in fashion that could be done in one year. So I began working on my fashion portfolio, getting ready to send my application to these design schools. Still...unsure of what I wanted to do. Get a job in social media? Get a degree in fashion and be stuck with massive school loans? I had no idea. I just went with the flow.
I was brought to a few universities around the country to speak at MSA events about my life. They typically were interested in me sharing the journey in my professional career as a Muslim, especially in a western country (whose president was now Donald Trump....yeah). I wouldn't usually go for speaking events. One, I'm not one for speaking in front of people. I mean I could do it and be fine, but I just never chose to do it. And two, I didn't feel like I knew enough of where I was going to be able to essentially help guide others. I guess that spoke to my lack of confidence in my direction since I didn't know where I was going. But...I wanted to challenge myself. Break out the typical me and do things I didn't want to do. So I spoke.
RAMADAAAAN. This Ramadan was big for me, spiritually speaking. I was able to do a lot of soul searching and studying of the religion, enabling me to find a stronger relationship with God and I'm thankful for that. It really helped that I had a lot of fellow Muslim friends to spend the month with. I also did a WHOLE lot of decorating for the month—I wanted to really feel the ramadan-ness and felt it would help to change the enviroment for the time...IT WORKED. Taking the decorations down was so traumatic.
I started a collaboration with Youtube on a project called Creators for Change. It's an initiative trying to get Youtubers to create more content that address social issues (racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc...)—AND I WAS CHOSEN. Alhamdulillah. Basically, each Youtuber (about 30 in total) is given a grant to help us produce a video about a social issue we're passionate about. After Ramadan, they flew us all out to London for a bootcamp for us to work on our ideas for our videos. It was an amazing opportunity being around other Youtubers.
I still had little to no direction on what I wanted to do with my life. I did establish I wasn't going to fashion school. I got accepted into one of the schools, but looking at the total costs, it just wasn't viable. I was also worried I'd find myself in the same situation I was in getting my bachelor's in design—professors not understanding my specific style. The idea of moving their just didn't feel right so I declined the school's offer. On to the next unsure step...
During my time going to all these Islamic youth events, I was able to meet a group who offered me an opportunity to visit Turkey with a group of Muslims my age. Essentially, I'd just VLOG the trip and the expenses would be covered. SO I WENT. Turkey was so beautiful, I'd never visited a country so blatantly in love with Islam. It was inspiring.
Now because Turkey was just a couple of hours away from Jordan and Palestine, instead of flying back to the states afterwards, I flew to Jordan. I hadn't seen my family there in almost 6 years and didn't have anything holding me back in Texas so I went! I had the loose plan to try to visit Palestine as well. I had never been to the homeland. I spent 4 days in Amman, and purely by the will of Allah, I made it to Palestine. And I mean allllll of Palestine. I ended up meeting some random people that allowed me to latch on to their itinerary thru the country. It was honestly one of the biggest life-changing moments for me so far.
I'm still lost. I had been interviewing around for various positions, but nothing 'felt right.' It's really stressful not knowing where you're going in life.
This was a very difficult month for me and my family. We ended up flying out to San Francisco to attend my uncle's funeral. My mom's cousin, whom I had grown with, had passed away. I had visited him and his family almost every year as a kid. He was one of the closest uncle's I had from my mom's side. Unfortunately, he lost his fight to cancer and passed on from this life. It was a very hard time for my family but our faith in God's plan kept us going.
I was invited by to speak on a panel at a world forum in Turkey, hosted by TRT—which is apparently the Turkish equivalent of CNN in the US, or BBC in the UK. After the event, I was actually offered a position at TRT on the social media team. It was an amazing opportunity to be presented with, but I still had no idea what the next right move was in my life.
The Dubai Council for Arts & Culture hosted a business startup bootcamp, helping 10 Muslim lifestyle brands develop their company. Going thru the in and outs of starting a business. By the will of God, I was chosen as one of the ten! I had to cover the expenses, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. They knew of the two concepts for businesses I had going—my clothing line and Muslim lifestyle magazine I was developing. I also had a lot of family in Dubai so I'd also be able to see them after so many years. Ya boi almost went broke, but the trip was 100% worth it.
The startup training camp in Dubai really got me thinking about my clothing and magazines ideas. The thing is I only viewed them as side hobbies, not so much as 'businesses.' But the camp helped me realize these were more than just hobbies. The idea of getting my Master's in Business had come to thought back when I started my clothing line, when I realized I know VERY little about the business side of a brand. However, the idea quickly faded until a year later. I was speaking with a fellow Muslim creative and he brought up his plan to go to grad school for business. Boom. It hit me, that's what I should do. The idea came back to me.
That's where I am now. I'm currently studying for the Graduate entrance exam in hopes of starting classes for my MBA (Master's in Business Administration) in Spring semester at a university in my area.
I don't really expect people to read this entire timeline, it was more of documentation for me and what happened in my life in the past year. Yet again, I'm so far from where I thought I was headed in my life in the beginning of 2017. Started it off looking for social media jobs in New York, now I'm studying for my GRE to get into business grad school. This totally proves my belief that we have only so much control over the outcome of our lives. We can push towards one thing with every ounce of our being, but quickly be diverted by God's plan. I'm so thankful for every part of the journey and have complete trust in His plan for me.