Family

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.

If anything, even in my darkest moments it gave me comfort knowing that I had made the right choice, albeit a painful one.

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 felt like I belonged the moment I walked in

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.

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