What I have learnt, Episode Thirteen: Dragons, Fire, Swords, Things like that.
Hello. I am Muslim Bri’ish [and alive. Bad taste joke, might delete] Hannah Baker, and welcome to my thirteenth tape.
Today, I learned – from a Tiktok video that my friend Tasnim had sent me – about something called ‘positive psychological projection’. And it links rather well to some other things I have learnt, about how we are known to project ideas and such onto other people. As well as romantic crushes, there, apparently, exist such things as ‘identity crushes’. [There are also ‘celebrity crushes’. This counts as a separate category, apparently].
Positive psychological projection: ’tis something I seem to have done quite a lot. But, the truth is, they really are projections… You isolate a narrow set of traits, in a person. You become convinced that this must be the entirety of said person. The fact of the matter is: those particular traits that you, in your mind, have singled out… they say something about you. Those things spoke to something that is already within you, whether, at present, active or latent. You love the fact that this person is gentle, helpful and laconic? You can appreciate this beauty in them, and work towards doing the same. You love that this other person is vivacious and adventurous? It is yours to work towards. That this person is not afraid of revealing subtle quirks, like bringing a cake to share, to school? Dude, you can do that too.
And, to quote a snippet from a book that I had found on Pinterest: for many people, you are the ‘woman across the room’, too.
So long as we are beginning from whom we already are; whom we know ourselves to be. And then, there is always, always, always, room for development. But, still, beginning from whom you are, and not anybody else.
Today I learnt some random words. ‘Inosculation’: what a cool concept. When the parts of two trees basically merge, and begin to grow together. ‘Stilted’: pompous use of language, when it is excessively ‘flowery’ and inaccessible. I’m sure there was another one, but I can’t seem to remember it, sigh. [I’ve come back to this a bit later. The other word was ‘isomorphic’. When things have more or less the same form/shape]. I just love words so much: I can’t believe we get to have them, and know them, and use them, and learn them.
Today, I did some things. Errand-y things: there are always errands to run. I went outside, also, to use my fire mesh for the first time; I learned that, as well as the wood pieces and paper to burn [I used the British Empire worksheets I had accidentally printed too many of] you need something to get the fire properly started — today I used the brown paper bag that the woman at the ice-cream shop had put my ice-cream cup into, the other day. My parents and brother had gone out; my nan popped her head out of the window, and asked me what I am doing. “Agun,” I said [‘fire’, in Bengali]. My nan is so thoroughly used to my moments of madness (‘spiritedness’) and I think she finds it, at once, alarming and endearing. Like when Tasnim had come round, and when we prayed in the garden.
“It’s a bit cold though, isn’t it?” my nan asked, in Bengali.
“Yeah,” I smiled, and said, jokingly, also in Bengali: “Hence the fire.” My nan bloomed into laughter, as she does. She has the most ebullient laugh, the most cheerful of smiles.
I miss Bangladesh quite a bit. Making little fire teepees had been one of my most favourite things to do, there.
Challenge. Every day, I come to better know of the nature of this Dunya. And how every single thing we have been told in the Qur’an is, how you say it fil ‘Arabee, Sahh [‘true’]. I have my challenges; I must be active in the face of them. [That being said, I have also been through depression, before. And depression can make ‘being active’ extremely, extremely hard. It is all about our individual circumstances, and what we are able to do, and what we then do, in light of them.]
Today began as a brand new day. With all these tasks to complete; all these blessings to uncover; all these things to feel — good and bad.
Today I met my brother’s friend Sam. He looks rather like my old, old friend Luca, and his family are (‘is’ or ‘are’? I know not) from Istanbul, Turkiyyë. Apparently, during a little school trip, Saif had pointed out our house to his friend, and then, somehow, my mum and Sam’s mum had arranged for him to come around.
The boys watched ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ (a show that I kind of secretly really enjoyed watching with my brother, last year. This one, and ‘Free Reign’, which is about horses) together. Sitting on separate sofas, silent and engrossed; I sat on another sofa, eating. Sam just would not talk to me. I tried to ask him how he is; if he wants to watch something else; if his name is short for anything. Blank, blank, blank. He just did not want to speak to me – or even look at me – at all, at first.
Then I asked him who his favourite character from ‘HTTYD’ is. “Toothless,” (the dragon) he said. And the conversation had finally commenced! I said my favourite character’s Astrid (she’s super cool and tough). Sam asked me who my favourite character from the books is: apparently, Astrid does not exist in the book series. He said that his favourite is a character called ‘Camicazi’, because she is “so cool,” and “a master escaper!”
I guess Saif didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his friend, so when I sat next to him, he didn’t tell me to “STOOOOOP!” today. And Sam found most of the jokes made in the TV show really funny. A most endearing sound: the sound of children’s laughter, Masha Allah.
Saif’s friend had some snacks at ours, and said that he generally doesn’t have these things at home [which is a really good thing, and I keep trying to get brother mine, also, to have healthier food]. So Sam was really excited about the Krispy Kreme doughnuts my dad had brought, bless him.
In my current role as a teacher, I think about the fact that I’m teaching my students new words; about etymology; about random interesting facts… and they’ll remember me as a teacher, much like how I remember my teachers. And, in my current role as big sister to an eight-year old:
I remember going to my friend Asif’s house, and his big sister Lana spending time with us, sometimes. I also remember going to my friend Luca’s house, and his big sister Bianca, who played hide-and-seek with us, this one time. Now I’m a kid’s big sister. And said kid has friends. I want to be a ‘cool big sistah’. [‘Cool’: yesterday, after meeting Maryam’s friend Naima, I worried I had been too awkward, too… weird. According to Maryam, Naima found me “so cool and sweet”, Alhamdulillah [relief]. ‘Cool’, though: what does it really mean?]
“From what violent chasms is my most intimate intimacy nourished; why does it deny itself so much and flee to the domain of ideas? I feel within me a subterranean violence, a violence that only comes to the surface during the act of writing.” — Clarice Lispector
“There is none more conformist than one who flaunts their individuality.” — Rabbih Alameddine. Interéssant. I think I’m going to ask some people what they make of this, and whether they agree with the thought or not.
Every single day, life moves. It, to use a word that my friend Aatqa and I kept, kept, kept using, last year: it flows. Life moves; life is every day; life is struggle. There is such… what is the word… satisfaction, triumph, energy, to be found, in the struggle. The opposite of struggle, the absence of it, here in Dunya would be… (a word that I learned the other day,) ‘indolence’: just comfort, ‘ease’, nothing really pushing you to do anything at all.
I like the idea of running. And of resting. And running, again. And walking sometimes. Just moving, with life dearest.
Life: a series of conversations. With Allah, with the people whom we are lucky enough to love. With the natural/physical world, and with the self.
Things are not ‘perfect’, thank God: Alhamdulillah. There are things to do, and to learn, and to develop. People to feel inspired by; standards to be raised, by witnessing the strengths and goodnesses of others. Failures to feel; triumphs, certainly, also.
Today, Farhana called me during one of her (home-uni, self-given) study breaks, to play the F.G. game. So I learned more about her. And I learned that she thinks my greatest strength is how I am brave enough to be myself; to be ‘weird’. I wonder if people see me as being unpleasantly weird. Or, pitiably so. I hope not. But, yes, even in spite of when my Nafs, for example, brings me to compare myself (the truths of me) to (impressions of) others: I know I would rather just be me, and carry on. Develop, beginning from whom I already know myself to be. Alhamdulillah: Allah made me.
I have just planned some lessons, for my Year Seven History class, on the history of Ireland. I cannot wait to tell them about the not-particularly-enthralling lots-of-Irish-people-in-my-area story. I do believe in having and maintaining a helpful and healthy helping of ‘professionalism’, but ultimately, human beings connect with other human beings. Students and teachers. Not obedient, silent rule-followers, and robotic, authoritarian rule-dish-out-ers.
This half-term’s unit for Year Seven English has been: autobiographies. And here I am, writing my own autobiographical works. Subhan Allah: everything is connected.
Words and ideas I am really liking, right now: courage. Security. [Strength. Beauty. Trust. Faith. Hope.]
I also really want a sword. Not to actually use or anything. Just to play around with [sometimes, when I am home alone, I pretend knives are swords. Once, before Ranga Mama and Suto Mami put window stickers up in our kitchen, a stranger outside saw me…… doing this……]. But swords are so… gorgeous, sometimes.
[Incidentally, I had been the one to have picked my brother’s name. ‘Saif’. It means ‘sword’ in Arabic, but I’m not sure if I’d known that before calling him it…]
I love the idea that ‘courage’ and ‘security’ are not the absence of their seeming ‘opposites’. Having ‘no fear’ would be insanity. Having no doubts or insecurities; not at all caring about what others would think… would be arrogance/insanity. It is all about the fact that we have these human intellects. To feel the doubts, fears, and all the rest of it. To be able to reason; make choices. Weigh up our options, and act. Sometimes, for example, there are things that are more important than fear. And I think, ultimately, what defines us is the choices we make.
To be secure enough to really want to share goodnesses; to be courageous enough to always (try to) be kind.
I love the idea of balance. For example, of strength, and gentleness. In men, and in women, alike. The fences, and the flowers, and how, with both, there is such quiet power, such beauty.
I have just learnt that baby brother mine is “the fastest kid in Year Four and Year Three”. And, since I’m faster than him: I’m faster than all these eight- and nine-year-olds. Yeeeee boi. Adult woman ego boost, jk.
“We came as rebels, and found ourselves to be heirs.” Someone, on British Islam: native Brits, becoming Muslim. I love: the idea of a form of Islam that is quintessentially British.
How weird, and alarming, and burning is it, to realise that we will never, ever be here again? This thought makes me want to do some courageous shiz.
Today, I am glad that my clothes smell of fire. And, that part of that song keeps playing through my mind, and I can’t seem to stop humming it: “Fire. Won’t you // put out the flames?”
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.