The Preface

The start of a book. The most important thing and yet that which we forget about as soon as the chapter begins. I’ve always thought that life had a preface. And now I’m not too sure. I closed a book with the end of my university life a few months ago. I didn’t feel it ending though. Throughout the whole of summer I still was Ra’ifah Rafiq, third year english student at Queen Mary. When I returned from Zanzibar I still was ‘third year english student at Queen Mary.’ It wasn’t until I started at my new place that I began to feel the end. The finality of my university life. The movement to another. I was terrified. My first day, I called a dear friend very worried and anxious that I hadn’t made enough friends. I looked at snapchat at those still in my old institution and longed for the familiar walls of the mile end library. I felt very sorry for myself. I missed people. A few. But I still missed them. I missed not being new. I missed familiarity.

But, I’m pushing myself to do what I’ve always done. Adapt. Naturally, being the social bunny that I am, I decided to set up a whatsapp group for the 15 people in my tutorial class. This meant, approaching everyone in my class and getting their number on my phone (what a beg….and yet…how very Ra’ifah of Ra’ifah – If you know me you’ll know that this behaviour is not out of the ordinary). My take charge attitude is partly due to 1) getting to know new people even though I’ve been recently made a sceptic on friendships/overall ideas of whether we can actually know someone and their capabilities. 2) I’m homesick. homesick on passed familiar contexts. I’m not that big a fan of change. I like to stick with what works unless anything better is either more efficient and therefore, more profitable.

Nonetheless, I feel this change is good for me. Everything seems quite slow right now and I hate taking my time with anything. I want to get to know things. I want to know the truth of people. This is where another one of my worries manifests itself. I meet people and I’m second guessing their sincerity, their actions and words. (Refer back to my scepticism). Whilst my newfound pessimism has reduced the chaos in my life. It is an awful lonely way of living, mentally that is. I went from ‘trust everyone until they give you a reason not to’ to ‘everyone will fuck you over. It’s only a matter of time. So don’t invest unless you have to.’ Therefore, you can imagine why I’m finding it really hard to integrate. Enough of the dark stuff. Lets talk about the Law. It reminds me of science. I went into my first tutorial today having not done the reading because my social calendar did not allow for it, I felt so stupid. (Not stupid because I am intellectually inferior more because I hadn’t done my reading). Naturally, I also found myself sat next to a ‘Shirley Voong’. (Shirley Voong was a girl in my secondary school who was so smart and so organised and I loved her and envied her at the same. If you’re reading this Shirley, thanks for the competition). He knew everything. As a result, I rushed to the library to do my reading for the coming week and, cue procrastination, I am now in the library telling you about my new, very slow, very unfamiliar adventure.

I’ve always found that the people who I reach out to during these periods of change are the ones who ultimately become very close to me. And I thank them for it. It’s very weird because, I have had to recently rearrange my priorities in terms of really having a look at my friendships and sieving through the real ones from the ‘let-me-leech-on-your-insecurities-whilst-I-build-a-bank-of-them-then-emotionally-blackmail-and-tell-others-that-you-are-a-lot-of-work’, Which, as you can imagine was a rather sad task. My foundation is currently free from such pests. But, everything in life is a lesson. And events of recent months have taught me to trust my intuition (shout out to Anne) and to trust in my own strength. I momentarily lost sight of my strength. I forgot that everything I have hitherto achieved in my life, whilst others played their role, was of my own merit and my own intelligence. I am and will continue to recognise in the strength of my character and abilities. One of my worse fears has always been dependency and I have mainly focused on the financial aspect of it. But here I am, witnessing the beauty of being emotionally independent. I’ve been able to understand that everything in life is cyclic. People, will come and go and that is okay. Everybody comes into your life not as a mistake but as a teacher. You learn things about others, about yourself, you are introduced to new hobbies and interests, things you never would have imagined you’d be interested in. Your mind is further stretched and for that I thank everyone that has been a part of my life. If you are still here, horray, if not, be happy in the fact that you all have taught me so much.
I’m ending this preface by telling you that there will be no ending. My chapters will go on. They will be rewritten, reread, translated and immortalised. Because I will never end. This is the beginning of many great, very warm, very challenging, very rewarding beginnings. I will ace law school because I am Ra’ifah Rafiq and I do nothing by halves. I will succeed because anything else is not acceptable. Yes. I will face hurdles and fail and be down every once in a while but nothing will ever make me comfortable in mediocrity and failure. I am never a victim.

Yours

Ra’ifah

P.s – Now I have to go back to my reading…Also, I want to start a lifestyle blog and have been researching and trying to find a niche to cover that is me and not done by every other lifestyle blogger out there. I still hope to write poetry (which is what I’ve always had this blog for), but now, I want to vent, I want to teach, I want to inspire and trigger some sort of action – be it mental or physical – and I wish to find the confidence to do so very soon.

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Born Under Mercury

How do you go on? How is life lived with a fractured foundation? Are houses built on the crack of tectonic plates. Or does life reside beside the gaps.

I’m looking at a blanket of stars. Contrary to my sentiments of when I look at the sea. Stars make me hope. Stars remind me that from death is light. Beauty. Whilst the sea makes me terribly lonely, (I am yet to understand how this emotion manifests within me as beaches are always filled with happy people) stars make me feel included in someone else’s fate. I seem to childishly, or should I say, romantically, think that there is someone out their looking at the exact same dying star as I am. And this makes me smile. Within that second my lungs open up and I can breath.

One of my favourite designers, Zuhair Murad, had a whole collection inspired by the stars and the constellations. It is rather a beautiful thing. I forgive when I look at the stars. I forgive myself.

It’s a reminder

Every night

When one falls asleep. (Or cannot sleep like I)

That there is always something beautiful above you

You just have to look up.

I love you. I’m sorry.

There is life on the San Andreas.

Shipwrecked

This is not a diary entry. This is not an autobiography. Nor is it a profound allegory of life. My blog has always first and foremost been an outlet for my poetic elations. It is where the orphans of my mind can come to play. And I write under opium, not the actual kind, but the one that lives alongside the ventricles of ones heart. There again, they’ve come to play. Up until this point, writing prose on this site, the honest kind not the fictional one, was something that I have always been reluctant to do. I’m not an open person. Let me rephrase, I am not an honest person. Poetry allows me to coat the reality of my life in beauty. So that even the ugly has a night to dance with Prince Charming and doesn’t need to come home at midnight. The magic lasts forever in poetry. I’m not an honest person because the whole of my life, I have worn a mask. To be the fun, charming, socially active, foul – mouthed, loud East African girl. This mask has been on for so long that where it begins and where it ends can no longer be detected. I’ve believed my own story. But I want to start, how do you say, unpacking, no, rewriting my narrative.

Many times when I have faced a struggle that my mask cannot understand, I collapse. (Literally and figuratively). Literally – I don’t eat. I faint consistently, I seek unconsciousness in naps. I watch loads of shows to forget the life I’m living. Figuratively – I no longer recognise who I am. The mask becomes invisible and I see myself. This weak small 5 ft (I finally got measured) young woman who is incompetent in dealing with her own mental instability. I see that I am a stranger to myself. My hobbies have been cultivated, not lived. I even chose to have a favourite colour when I was 8 (dark purple) so that I wouldn’t be a weird person in my class for not having a favourite colour. That’s who I’ve been. I manufactured myself to fit in. One of the reasons I feel I did this was because, coming to England at the age of 5, different was something that was stamped on my forehead. I didn’t speak English, (whilst many think that my current rhetoric is brilliant, it took many years of training. I still get my tenses mixed and consciously have to ensure I get my pronouns right). As a result, I tried very hard to fit in. To no avail. On the other side lay my Zanzibari origin that I also had to fit into. I was pulled in many directions and, the mask was born. I consequently died.

Being so sheltered, (my uncle is deeply religious and wouldn’t allow me to do anything), my teenage years were a misery. School friends only existed in school. I’d have to get home by 4:30pm. I wasn’t allowed a phone until I was 18. This exclusion, whilst it got me good grades, ensured that I lived in the clouds, with my books. Till this day, I act out imaginary scenarios, not the kind that one does in the shower but full on other personalities and identities. This is the first time I’m owning up to this. When people say I’m enthusiastic, I think, brilliant. Fantastic, enthusiasm is good. But underneath the mask knows it’s because, people are new to me. Friendships are so important because I feel like I could lose them right away. I feel like I’d be told to stay at home and never leave and I’d be stuck with my books and my imagination. I know loss and loneliness like old friends. My mask says that I’m bubbly and happy. But I think this young woman underneath is scared and a sneaky introvert. She fears loss so much that she keeps many around her. She feels lonely in parties. She feels lonely in classes, she feels lonely in friendship groups. She very seldom makes Best Friends because, humans are fickle. They move on. They’re transient and shifty. She knows them well.

When I started Uni, that’s when I got to taste a bit of freedom, (the girl underneath the mask, not the mask herself. She’s met a lot of people, fell in love and been all over the world). First year of Uni was a shock. People of all different nationalities, personalities, origins and laughter. I made so many acquaintances but not friends. My mask was happy. My real self was still scared she never made lasting attachments. But I carried on. Seemingly happy. Seemingly buoyant and full of life. But I need an anchor. I anchor myself to one person at a time. And I seek this person out carefully. That I can entrust the mask and her other friend without them knowing, without telling them nothing about her. I had an anchor in between sixth form and uni. I spoke to him everyday. But it was always a one way friendship. I talked. They listened. It worked. Until, he could no longer listen. It hurt when I unhooked myself but I was quickly able to move on. Third year, I made another anchor. He was brilliant. (Funny how they’re all male) Warm. Kind. Funny. Similar interests. And some not that similar, that part was exciting. But the most important thing is that I respected him. Mightily. He was like a superhero to me. Like a professor Xavier. He could do no wrong in my eyes. And our rapport was in sync. Like, a good verse over a tight beat. (Brown Sugar reference: if not understood go and watch the film). I’ve never met somebody till this day that I meshed so well with. That I flowed with. He could do wrong but, somehow he was always right. He could be annoying but it was justified. I would be mad at him but I’ll stick up for him when he’s name popped in other conversations. I didn’t feel like I no longer needed an anchor as he was the water that my ship just rested so easily on. I was free to sway to any island as long as the water was beneath me. And I was happy. The mask was not needed around him.

Often what happens when people like this get too close, of the opposite sex that is, tensions arise. Sexual ones. In addition to being a complete sucker for a man with even the minutest level of power and yet, a man who can remain humble, calm and collected, I didn’t kill this tension when I saw it rising. It was daring. My mask figured, why not, don’t spit the fire out. My actual self was terrified, shy, scared as fuck but she was carried by her sister the mask and told her to take over. At the back of my mind I knew, I knew so very well that I would end up falling. But, the mask was strong. She could protect me. It would be fun she said. I hesitated, but heeded to her will.

It didn’t take long. I fell. Not hard at first. In fact. Not hard at all until the summer. But another girl got in the way. She was not better than the mask but with the events that have happened I’m unable to figure out whether she’s better than the girl underneath it. I think she is. Why else would I be in complete turmoil. He went for her instead. I was devastated. Used and abused. This mask that I had worn all my life, that I thought was perfect, brilliant, was also refused. By the one person I needed. The sea dried up. The ship abandoned. And whilst the anchor exclaimed his need of the girl with the mask. She knows it’s a lie. He wants things that can’t go well together. He wants a girl who wants her and another he wants. He disappointed me. I can lose everything but once I lose respect for someone, once the pedestal has collapsed, death isn’t far. Don’t get me wrong, I still love him. I’m always in search for him. But I understand when my presence will cause chaos. And I am certain it will. For him. For the girl he wants. And for myself.

And so, The Girl underneath was once again, left vulnerable. She can’t survive.
Two nights ago, I sat on my bed in my house in Zanzibar. My little sisters whistling snores lightly keeping the Mosquitos company. And I felt death. My lungs collapsed. I couldn’t move as I felt like a cement wall was pressing on my chest. My head was ringing. I couldn’t see. I was hopeless and I saw no end to my pain, I couldn’t sleep. Quickly I reached over to my phone, stifling my cries of agony and looked through my contact list. I couldn’t see anybody to call. I drafted a message to the Sea in my notes, confessing everything (I had already confessed my emotions, just not the brevity nor the length nor my sadness). I then contacted a dear friend of mine. The message read, ‘ I don’t know who else to speak to. I feel like shit. Utter shit. I can’t stop crying I just feel useless. Like, I never cried about this issue and today I can’t stop. And I feel like my chest is being pressed. I Dnt know what to do.’

No answer, it was late. I got up. Paced my house. Left and went into the courtyard outside. I looked up and stared at the stars and I woke up shivering in the morning as the call to prayer was being bellowed in the crisp morning air. ‘God is great.’
I had survived.

I’ve come to realise that I love with the intensity of a penguin. I love for life. To be honest, I don’t think this is love. I think it’s worthlessness. That’s What I feel. Worthless. I know what love is. Love is warm. Love is home. So I’m not worried that I’ve fallen in love. I have just lost somebody who made me feel, at peace with my inner self. Who I’d sit in silence listening to BeyoncĂ© because I’m only a chatterbox (my mask is) to those who are friends with this mask.

Now that I’ve lost my mask. I’m making a conscious decision to never put her on again. I want to find out about myself. I want to know what she likes, I want to feel what she feels and not be afraid to show it. I want to allow her to be mad and sad and quite. I think she’s quite. I don’t know when I’ll get used to her. This new person who carries my name, has my eating habits, my height and speaks to the people I have around me. This The Real Ra’ifah who isn’t who she is. She’s trying desperately to find somebody to latch onto but will never be the same again.
I think I need to latch onto myself. Wade in the tides on my own for a while. Fall out of intense like with the stranger who nearly had me. And fall in love with Myself. I’m not looking forward to it. I’m sick with worry and regret. Sick in homesickness. I miss Harvey. But going back is selfish. I’ve overstayed my welcome there.

I’m going to London in two days. I’ve made a to do list that I’ll probably never look at again. I’m trying desperately to stay afloat. I’m shipwrecked. And no one is coming to save me.