2016 delivered me my guts for breakfast. No, I didn’t star in Hannibal, but I starred in the real-life enactment of my most terrifying vision. I thought I couldn’t go on. I thought, “This is my worst nightmare, this is what I never thought I could survive if – heaven forbid – it ever happened to me.”
Somehow, in the depths of my frustration and self-pity, my attention shifted for just a moment, and I began to think of the people I admired most. And it came upon me that everyone I fiercely admired had not become the people they were because their life was blissful and smooth; rather, they had risen like a Phoenix from the ashes, illumined by the very fire that destroyed them. Through fire they transformed into magnificent creatures, and I commended them for it. We do not admire the sloth, which lives an easy life and encounters few challenges; but we are dumbfounded by the Phoenix, who, in spite of total obliteration, soars.
“How can you rise, if you have not burned?”
― Hiba Fatima Ahmad
Sure, I envied people who lived easy lives, people who never seemed to have had a curve ball thrown at them – the people who seemed to have everything handed to them, as though everything was ready for their arrival, like a perfectly stocked 5-star hotel room.
But I applauded those who slept in slush and dirt, and lived to tell the tale. There was nothing glorious in the weekend get-away to The Hamptons – perhaps it was reality-TV worthy, but there was nothing particularly glorious about it. Yet there was something juicy and fantastic, something gripping and awe-inspiring in the story of survival – the story of the woman who slept for days without food and water, without so much as a map or a guiding light – and survived.
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”
And so I admired those who had every plausible reason to never get back up, to succumb to defeat, to raise the white flag and declare total defeat. The people that we would happily throw money at for the rest of their lives, because they went through so much that they deserved to lie on a couch with their hand in a bag of potato chips literally forever. The people that had every right to give life their letter of resignation – but instead, they looked the challenge dead in the eyes and said “Okay. So, I’ll burn. But then I’ll rise”.
And so, I find myself genuinely thanking life for giving me the opportunity to rise. And I find myself wishing that 2017 will be full of curve balls, because my psychological muscles have never had so much definition, my character has never been more resilient, and now that I’ve withstood what I thought I never could – now, I am fearless.
And it’s only once we’ve overcome our greatest fear that we can run untethered towards our greatest dreams.
So I really, truly hope, with all the love and empathy and camaraderie in the world, that your 2017 is absolutely chock-full of challenges and despair, of heartache and disappointment. I hope all of your carefully thought-out plans get blasted to smithereens in the first week.
But above all, I hope you are forced to face that from which you thought you would never recover. And I hope you’ll choose to rise. Let 2017 be the year that you rise.