My life is officially on auto-pilot. Or cruise control. Or maybe it has even become like an automatic transmission: depress the brake, shift to the Drive gear, depress the accelerator, and go. That’s it. No clutch necessary, no sense of speed necessary, no intuition of the car necessary, no foot coordination necessary. No nothing. A real boring process. And my mind is reeling at the indolence of all, as I’m one who prefers manual transmission.
I never thought the degrees of modern latitude would lend themselves to existential or spiritual crises for someone of my age. Sure, we hear about mid-life crises, all the time in fact, but it never occurred to me while trudging though undergrad exactly how much freedom is to be had once academia was behind me and how this freedom could lead to a similar set of crises in the youth. Before graduating, life seemed formulaic: navigate through the K-12 system (as best you can), avoid prison (this part of the formula applies specifically for Black males), go to college (if you can afford it), get a degree, get a job, get a wife or a husband, get a house, get some children, etc. There was a road map of sorts, a goal, a dangling carrot I could see if front my face and one I could reach for. The carrot was especially alluring for me as I was someone who felt, being Black and underprivileged, I had something to prove to society at large. I had to prove the racist, prejudice people wrong, didn’t I?
At some point along the way, by the will of Allah and only by His will, I got the coveted carrot: a nice, plush engineering right out of college with a salary much larger than mother ever had even after working for twenty-two years. A ghetto hood rate became a nuclear freakin’ engineer/physicist, almost like a Cinderella or an ugly duckling fairy tale. A ghetto hoodlum with such boon. Subhan’Allah. Who’d a thought? That’s stranger than fiction and a blessing to be sure, al-hamdu’ilah, one I seldom feel worthy of. A decent supply of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene.
Good, right? I made it. Masha’Allah. But now what? What’s to be done afterward? The true heft of the world seems to be measured in questions, not in mass units (grams, kilograms, etc) or weight units (pounds). The good questions are the heavy ones, the ones that are difficult to answer, the ones that fry your brain, leaving you at a lost for words and stupefied. (I think educators know this more so than anyone else). And these questions have bore their weight on my nafs – my soul, my very sense of self – for quite sometime now and I honestly see no sense of relief is in sight. I have ideas to slake this angst, outlines for potential paths I could take, but these are clouded with notions of fear and uncertainty. I know I shouldn’t be afraid, for “fear is the mind killer, the little death that brings about total obliteration.” But knowing, as they say, is only half the battle.
I pray to Allah for strength, wisdom, and courage in the hopes that He might guide me out of this oblivion. He granted me the wisdom and courage I needed to venture outside my comfort zone those many years ago when I was looking for guidance and I know, if I keep my trust in Him, He’ll do it again. Insha’Allah.