Finding my sense of self at UIC
When I came to UIC in 2014, I entered as a sociology major, thinking that studying society and analyzing social structures would be interesting. A year down the line, I added a second major, economics, as I fell in love with ideas around economic development, econometrics and answering questions.
This journey took me all sorts of interesting places. I worked as a research assistant studying the affects of race on decision making in a jury; I tutored economics to students from all sorts of backgrounds; I’m writing a thesis on the affects of mass media on the treatment of women in Pakistan.
When I came to UIC in 2014, I entered as a passive Muslim and apathetic Pakistani-American. Growing up in a town with no diversity, not only did I never encounter opportunities for me to learn about my traditions and heritage — I didn’t even have the language to describe who I was as a person. I was a statistic reflected in demographic surveys claiming diversity in skin, but not thought, or practice.
This lack of understanding took me on a journey of exploration, resulting in becoming the co-president of the Muslim Student Association, a civil rights activist and visiting Pakistan in 2017 (and finding my heart there).
As I walk away from UIC, I realize the most important knowledge one needs to have is not of an academic or industrial discipline.
Rather, it is knowledge of the self.
Who are you, and who do you want to be? Why are you here, and what are you doing here? The answers to these questions are infinite and come in a multitude of forms, but they all serve a singular purpose: to root you.
The most important things I walk away from UIC with are my sense of self, rooted in knowledge of who I am, where I came from and why I’m here.
My roots span from Wazir Khan Masjid in Lahore, Pakistan, to The Gambia, the beautiful city of Chicago, and all the way to St. Charles, Illinois.
My roots are treating others as the best versions of themselves, whether or not they’ve gotten there yet; my roots are loving and serving people as they are, not who I expect or want them to be.
My roots are Muhammad ibn Abd-Allah.
My roots are The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Purification of the Heart by Hamza Yusuf.
My roots span well beyond this page, and the point isn’t for me to list mine. But rather to ask you, reader, who, what, where are yours?
As a dear mentor taught me, those who are rooted do not uproot, and those who are rooted are not shaken by storms.