I suppose the strong desire many parents have for their children to become doctors and engineers is somewhat justifiable. What is wrong with wanting your son or daughter to follow in your footsteps and be financially independent? Absolutely nothing (or so it seems). Your chosen field of study and your happiness are directly proportional. My parents will tell you this is how the world has always been structured. People in STEM will always be considered more successful than people in the arts, and the sun will always rise as Earth completes an axial rotation. My parents will also tell you how tragic it is to have a daughter who could read and do simple math by the age of three, has an IQ above 140, yet chooses to apply so much of her mind to “trivial” things (i.e. reading and painting for pleasure, watching a popular anime, learning phrases in Ancient Greek and Latin). Yet there remains a moment in my memory where I felt truly understood by them, and by extension felt the most powerful. It is secluded from the others, as if encased in glass.
The months that lead to this moment were unforgiving. Ramadan happened to coincide with my 4 final exams. I would quickly eat something with negligible nutritional value and have a strong cup of espresso at Iftar, then return to my bedroom to study until the early hours of the morning. It was a common occurrence for me to doze off at my desk, face touching a textbook that was undoubtedly a breeding ground for bacteria, the pen that I had been using lying somewhere on the floor. I was a creature made of sleep deprivation and anxiety. My parents noticed this, but weren’t concerned. I have always been prone to these kinds of fits, and they are both neurosurgeons – of course they’d be aware of any changes in their daughter’s health and address them if they were serious enough.
Exams inched closer. I began to daydream of summer. Two months between one school year and the next seemed vast in my mind. How much could I accomplish? I decided that I wanted to learn to play an instrument. Preferably the piano, as it had the widest range in pitch and involved both treble and bass clef notation. After I had written my last exam, I strode out of school with my calculator and pencil case in hand. My mother had parked nearby; I sat in the passenger seat of our black Chevrolet Camaro and braced myself to be interrogated. Predictably, I answered a set of questions about the length, difficulty, and composition of the exam. A few minutes into the drive home, the subject of our conversation became my Eid gift. I seized the opportunity and declared that I wanted piano lessons as my gift. My mother’s expression became thoughtful, and this incited excitement somewhere deep within my core. But she merely informed me that it would be a huge commitment and take away valuable time I should be using to study if I planned on getting a scholarship to university followed by an acceptance to medical school. Besides, she wanted to consult my father on the matter and get his opinion before making a decision. I’ll translate that: it meant “no”. I was distraught.
I didn’t mention the piano lessons again. I spent the first days of summer break volunteering at the hospital and sitting at the library, flipping through novel after novel. Eid approached, and my group of friends decided to host a party. I was horrified, yet I decided to put my introversion aside and attend. After the event, I planned to return to my bedroom, sip french vanilla coffee (my caffeine intake knows no bounds) and not see another human face for at least a week. Intent on making this vision a reality, I was striding purposefully up my house’s marble staircase when I caught a glimpse of something in our guest bedroom. My pulse began to bound. I flung the door completely open, gawked at the sight before me, and barely contained the urge to shriek. There was no longer any furniture or embellishments in the room. Except for the piano.
It was a stunning concoction of polished oak and gleaming keys that seemed to draw each ray of light in the room, begging me to press them. A collection of sheet music lay across the top. Beethoven’s 5th. Allegro Appassionato in B minor. Tchaikovsky’s Works. And a smaller slip of paper with a phone number and a name written in my father’s flowing, elegant handwriting: Alexandria Aguillard, piano instructor. My first coherent thought was “Is this a lucid dream?”. Then a sense of wild triumph ensued. I was victorious, my parents were beginning to listen to me and understand me as a person. They had finally embraced my interests, ambitions and desires. I grinned as I realized how much planning it must have involved. Purchasing the piano, deciding which classical pieces I’d enjoy playing the most, and finding an instructor offering lessons nearby. Not to mention arranging for me to be away from home as they cleared the guest bedroom and lugged it up the stairs. I was still surveying my surroundings in utter shock and awe when my parents traipsed into the room. Their smiles were so broad and bright that for an instant I was convinced I would be blinded.
Although it feels like ages have passed, this moment is engraved in my memory. And I believe it will remain so for my entire life, as my parents and I coming to a mutual understanding made me feel capable, teeming with untapped potential that no force could stop or overcome. I can attest to the fact that sometimes it is a thing as simple as acceptance that makes us feel the most powerful.
Almas Khan is a sixteen-year-old artist, aspiring author, and avid consumer of dark chocolates. She lives in a small Canadian city where she spends most of her time with her nose in a book, longs for a kitten, and does schoolwork.