Jealousy, Freedom & Friendship
This is a guest post by Haritha, a Syrian Ex-Muslim
About half a year ago, I moved into my first place in the US, starting a new chapter of my life. One day four months ago I was passing by the pool at my apartment when I heard joyful sounds of laughter. Some of my neighbors were laughing and having fun together with their friends.
Their laughter felt like a dagger to my heart. How could I have felt any other way when I had just been disowned by my extended family? When families want to punish dissenters, they choose one of two strategies: they either try to destroy you, or they “erase” you as if you had never existed leaving you to suffer a slow lonely death. My extended family settled for the second option. It didn’t completely work–not to the extent they desired – thanks to my wonderful parents and siblings who were the only thing keeping me sane. I stood erased from the lives of dozens of family members, simply put I had never existed in my extended family.
Even though I was in pain I did not have regrets. I did not for a moment forget that it was my choice — I could have continued to wear the mask they wanted me to wear, lived peacefully, but lived a lie. I didn’t want to live that life, and chose to be free, fully aware of the consequences.
If anything, even in my darkest moments it gave me comfort knowing that I had made the right choice, albeit a painful one. I fully acknowledge that I felt jealous of those that didn’t have to face such a choice, as well as sad at how my extended family had the power to hurt me. Would I have left faith if I were a man who was comfortable lying to himself?.
I clearly remember thinking that I could view my situation as an “opportunity” to fill my life with new friends, that cared for me unconditionally. I knew I’d need to be patient as such people were hard to come by.
But here was the surprise: it didn’t take me the years I had anticipated; but a mere *two months*. I joined Ex-Muslims of North America and went to one of their national events in Chicago. I felt like I belonged the moment I walked in but more than that I knew it happened the evening after I came back from Chicago. I was passing by the same pool in my residence when, again, I heard the laughter of friends having fun together. It was almost an identical situation to the one I was in only two months ago, except for one thing: I didn’t feel any pain this time. Not only that, I felt that if any of us were to feel jealous of the other, it would have to be *them* who had reason to envy me and not the other way around. There is very little chance that their friends and community was as wonderful as my own.
Today, while I have built up many wonderful relationships in my new life, nothing quite compares to the feeling of belonging I felt in Chicago with EXMNA. I cannot overstate how my life has been made better as a result. One thing I can say with certitude is that whenever I pass by people having fun and laughing at the pool, instead of jealousy I feel a rush of contentment – I share my life with the most amazing friends possible.