We live in a society which has a profound admiration of personal achievements and extravagant social status. One of the underlying presumptions of this system, what we take for granted, is this idea that everyone has this ‘real’ version of themselves that must be uncovered, and then actualized. We are all too familiar with this ideology - it’s the basic premise of any movie where the hero finds their true calling. It’s the belief that colors statements such as “you know, I’m just not a math person, I’m much more creatively minded, like an artist” or “I’m a psychologist because I’m a people-person.” The idea is that once you finally figure out who you truly are, you’ll excel at its corresponding profession because your studies and work truly reflects your ‘real You’, your specially-designed custom tailored role in the world that only you can fulfill.
Perhaps for some, you find in yourselves this feeling of confusion, or at least unsure of what your purpose is in the world. If that’s the case then I have good news for you, because being lost or unsure of your future is in fact the reality of life. In a society where we emphasize roles and labels, and figuring out who you really and what you should be doing in the world, the feeling of uncertainty can be overwhelming, as if you need to figure it yourself out as soon as possible. But that’s only because we’ve allowed social norms to determine how we should feel about this uncertainty. Instead, I urge you to welcome the feeling of not being sure of your purpose is in the world, of what you want to study, or work or develop as skills. This is precisely the sort of uncertainty which you channel then in faith, for faith is baseless without the uncertainty of the world. This is the whole point of relying on Allah in matters of the unseen knowing full well, as Allah says in the Quran [Yasin:83]: “So glory be to Him in whose Hand lies control over all things. It is to Him that you will all be brought back.” Thus at the end of the day, our ultimate destination is standing in front of your Lord, where we will be asked “what have you done?” It doesn’t matter then what you have achieved, or what your position was in the world. Rather, what matters were your intentions, and the decisions you’ve struck. Indeed, the very fabric of our lives is made of decisions, small or big. We cannot procrastinate making a decision because we are unsure if this is something represents ‘real Me’, nor assuming it will assuredly produce the best possible outcome. Instead, we make an informed decision, based on the best possible evaluation of circumstances, in light of our transcendental, social and individual responsibilities. Bear in mind here that best does not mean perfect, as uncertainty entails our human best will never be perfect. We then rely on Allah, keeping an open mind and an open heart towards all the potential outcomes we must adapt to, to be service of God, our communities, and ourselves, always remembering that we can develop into anything with enough determination.
And determination is the key word here. When we believe in the myth of the ‘real Me’, for example that ‘I’m more analytic, but not very sociable’, we expect that if we’re put in the right position appropriate to who I think I am, life will be easier. Blindly following who you think you are, you’ll always look out for what’s the most convenient place in the world to develop as an individual, as a necessary function of the characteristics you attribute to your ‘real me’. This logic is inevitably circular: “this is who I really am, and so when I find myself in such a situation I’m very comfortable, so it must be who I am.” This of course explains why people who haven’t figured out what they should be doing in life have it so difficult; they can’t entertain the same circular logic of finding the easy route, so they often then just choose any profession or field of study blindly, just hoping to get by. But we shouldn’t just choose paths in our lives that are the easiest, nor should they be chosen arbitrarily. Rather, we choose those that are wisest, and wisdom entails seeking what’s best for yourself and others depending on the specific time and place, without imposing predetermined thoughts of what that path should be (‘the real Me path’) of any kind. Here I promise you: choosing the wisest route will inevitably lead you out of the comfort zone of how you’ve always seen yourself and then, and only then, will you grow as an individual. By choosing the wisest route with determination, without allowing the false image of who you think you are determining your destiny, you truly develop and open to the world of ihsan (excellence).
Thus, this is a tribute to all those who feel lost and confused about their role in life. You have an amazing, but difficult, road ahead of you to reflect on the openness of your opportunities, without sticking to a pre-confined version of yourself in terms of social roles and definitions. I encourage you to not choose the easy route in life, but the wisest, for the benefit of your own soul and those around you. Know that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your role is in the world, as long as in your best wisdom you made a choice, submitting your uncertainty sincerely to the Will of Allah. With determination, and by remaining open and critical to yourself, a vast open sea of opportunities lay ahead.