The way I walk, the way I talk, the way I view the world, the way the world views me—these are all products of my experience, a mix of good and bad, welcome and unwelcome. But what guides me through the day, what calibrates my conscience and sets the perfect example to follow, is my understanding that I am a reflection of my mother.
For International Women’s Day, I couldn’t find anyone better to write about than the one woman I represent: she who calls me “son”. Having dedicated the last twenty-one years to empowering me above all else, I find it fitting to share a few words about just who she is and what she’s pushed me to discover.
Many have read references to my mother in the past. As my de-facto editor-in-chief, she plays an important role in the maintenance of this blog. As my mentor, she plays an equally important role in the development of my critical thinking. And as my mother, she plays the most important role of all: preparing me for the world outside.
Empowering. She wears a hijab. In the post-9/11 era, wearing a hijab in a corporate environment in the heart of the financial district in Downtown Chicago isn’t the easiest task. She’s mastered the English language. The accent is there and even though the stigma accents carry in this society oftentimes works against her, she’s proud of the identity it signifies. She walks with her head up, taking advantage of her Palestinian roots. She writes, she volunteers, and she cares. She laughs, she addresses all with respect, and her ambition is genuine.
She’s also the best teacher I’ve ever had. Of all the life lessons she’s ever taught me, one sticks out beyond the rest: the student is a representation of the teacher. The son is a representation of his parent. Ultimately, I am a representation, a walking reflection of my mother.
She has given me the tools, the willpower, and the push to get me going. Independently, I am capable of only so much. But with her, I can do so much more.
Although International Women’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is just one day of the year, know that women like my mother—our sisters, daughters, mothers, and mentors—deserve recognition every minute of every day. Without them, where would we be?