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Saturday
Mar012014

Personal

This blog is seven years old. That’s, like, thirty eight years old in human years. Its knee is really starting to act up when it’s humid... 

I started Native Born because I had thoughts worth sharing. As a stay at home mom at the time, I wanted an outlet that where thoughts that went beyond nursing babies, playdates and photos of my children could take hold in the human consciousness. (Go big or go home, people).

 In fact, I think my first post was something about envisioning yourself outside of being a parent in those few moments you had to spare. I waxed philosophical about how too much emphasis on the children put pressure on the children and omg stop writing about your kids all the time — AND DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN! I said. Or something similar. I read that first post yesterday and am overcome by the same feeling I had when I stumbled on my high school journal. Something to the effect of, “Ah, you’re a sweet kid.”

The spirit of my blog in its infancy gave me a good footing in the social cosmos of the Internet. I pontificated on politics, religion, economy, injustice. Not to appear completely alienated from the vast majority of bloggers, I threw some posts about my kids in there for good measure. I’m a decent writer, so the subscribers grew quickly. I know because I looked at them every day.

I got some paid writing gigs. I got some paid editing gigs. I got followers on Twitter. I got lots of likes on a Facebook community page. I started calling myself a writer. I won an award or two. I got to speak at conferences. I got so much respect. So much.

And then I stopped in July. Like, just stopped. 

I quit all the things. I got off Twitter and Facebook. I stopped reading blogs. The Internet had magically appeared, sprinkled fairy dust on my keyboard and taken me to the social media ball. And then there came a day when I looked at my watch, saw the clock strike twelve and found myself with pumpkin guts all over my slippers. I guess this happens to a lot of bloggers. Busy. Lack of inspiration. Pumpkin guts.

Not me. That’s not why I quit. I conscientiously quit without even doing the requisite, “I’m going on a break, see ya when I see ya” post. 

You can probably imagine, this isn’t actually that hard. It’s kind of like breaking up with someone by not returning their phone calls. There were a few people who e-mailed and asked me what happened. I’m so grateful for those connections that I still maintain. But I didn’t really go into the why. Because I didn’t know. It’s taken me all these months to figure out why.

I believe that the Internet is a real community. I believe that it is a real society. It’s one that supports you and accepts you. It’s one that rejects and condemns you. And it’s also one that will tell you who it thinks you should be and will passive aggressively punish you for being different than what you are supposed to be. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Don’t retweet. Stop commenting.

Damn, the Internet can be a bitch.

 I think I fell out of love with the Internet the day that I realized that people were referring to me as a “Muslim blogger.” 

Look, I’m proud of being Muslim and Pakistani American. That is an important part of who I am. But I cannot be that person for you. That identity is useful to me in so many ways, and if others find it useful that’s a great little side effect. But that’s not the point of those identities, and being on the Internet was turning that aspect of me into some kind of commodity and to put it as poetically as possible, “That is super gross.” 

Visibility is important. In the climate of rampant Islamaphobia, it seemed like a good idea at the time to focus on these aspects of identity to foster awareness and tolerance. But, you guys, I am so much better at just being funny and relatable and having a good time. I’m not that "break down the barriers" gal. There are loads of other Muslim chicks out there that live, breath and eat the politics of tearing down those walls. It is an effort for me that is beyond the scope of my inner calling. If that makes sense. I promise it does to me and that’s what matters.

I’m a thoughtful, introspective human who is constantly evaluating my relationship with God and I refuse to do this in a public space anymore. God is between, well, God and me. If you hate Muslims, too bad for you. You miss out on a lot. It’s no longer my responsibility to make you un-hate them. Maybe, it's someone else’s job. And I will support that someone else as best as I can. But I want to be known for who I am in my entirety. I'm not your Muslimah Che. Or female Cat Stevens. Or, I don't know, Muhammad Ali. You know what I mean.

If you’ve been on Facebook, you’ll see that the hijab is an on and off again character these days. And the reason is… gasp… none of your business. If you have questions, I am cool with that. Ask them in an e-mail. But I will no longer be a symbol for you.

I cannot substitute for the very real experiences you must cultivate with people in your physical proximity. You want to know more about Muslims? Invite one to your home. Go to their home. This is not the space where connections like that can be made. Even with the podcast, that wasn’t about my being “the Muslim” even though we said that in the episodes. Mike and I were two people having an actual conversation. Sometimes we talked about Jewish-Muslim stuff and sometimes we talked about vampires. Friendship with the whole. That’s what that podcast was about. It was about cultivating an “in real life,” intimate relationship with someone unexpected.  

Have you ever walked into a room, and felt like everyone has already decided who you are and what you’re going to say? It’s a hollow, sad feeling. It’s a stifling feeling. It is the exact opposite of the feeling that kept me blogging so excitedly those first few years.

You go to these conferences and they talk to you about “branding” and “your brand” and you start to think, Whoa, that makes sense… people should know what to expect when they come to the site because that’s what makes them come back. But you forget, you aren’t selling anything. 

A brand cannot be vulnerable. I can think of a very few exceptions, of course. But, mostly, a brand can’t tell you the truth about when she’s scared or upset with herself. A brand has to appear to know what she’s doing. A brand is someone who does not actually connect, but wears connection as though it is a beautiful winter coat that protects her from the discomforts of true vulnerability and transparency.

I’m not a brand.

I think when they say brand at the conferences, they mean “values.” They’re saying you should stay true to your values. Ask yourself if your content matches up with your values. I get it. But just because I get it doesn’t mean I’m going to accept this terminology. I will not take the word integrity and dress it up in clothes borrowed from marketing jargon. If you want to make money on your blog, this is obviously a good strategy. But my space here isn't about money and it never will be.

This word "brand" in the space of personal blogging? It’s a mask, people. It’s a mask that keeps you from being vulnerable and open in a moment in our history where vulnerability and connection are in existential crisis.

I’m living a real life over here and I want to chronicle it. I want more than just the religious stuff, the political stuff, the controversial stuff to be here. I’m just done with tracking page views or writing/editing posts for money. I want you to be here because you want to be here and NOT because I constructed a brand that appeals to some specific need you have.

Because between you and me, you probably have everything you need already.

Be here so we can connect as humans. Tell me your stories. Listen to mine. Let's bring the personal back into personal blogging. It's not an exercise in narcissism. It's a an exercise in return. We erupted from the same tiny speck of energy billions of years ago. Could we, you and I, find each other again?

I started this blog when I was thirty one with a specific agenda, and that agenda doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I’m not too old to care about diversity and multiculturalism. I’m simply old enough to know that the only way to honor something is to live it, to tell its story and to not limit its definition by allowing it to define you completely.

Life. As it is lived. This is a personal blog and it will now become personal. 

A lot of you have been doing that for a long time.

You are an inspiration as you bring your lives into the light so that we may know the truth of what it means to be human.

All of those years, you have been my teachers. I may have looked like I was napping in class, but I promise I was paying attention.

And?

I’m ready to be one of you. 

Reader Comments (34)

Love you, rock star. XO

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I can absolutely understand why you walked away for a minute or 2. I remember having times like those (albeit for obviously much different reasons). But honestly? Some of us have missed you simply because you are a writer. And a damn good one. Welcome back. Even if on a smaller scale.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Melchor

I love you. I'm glad to see your face in my interwebs again.

My blog is dead I think. I haven't been there in so long I didn't renew it. I don't think I care, but I might later. My life got really messy and I stopped having anything to say. Weird.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Wait. You're Muslim?

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHomemakerman

I never got a chance to properly thank you for answering a question I had last Spring about a Muslim custom I ran into while working as a housekeeper. I was able to explain your answer to my coworkers and made a significant impact on that customer. It made a huge difference to that family and I am extremely grateful you took that moment to help me learn. I look forward to reading more and learning.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I fully understand. Not only have I missed your writing, I feel guilty for not really noticing that you had been on hiatus. It was easier when we started. Our kids were younger, we were younger, and we just had more time in general. I loved writing (I always have). My career has progressed, and now my afternoons are no longer lazy affairs. They are a frantic rush to get home in time to give the dogs 15 minutes of attention before dinner, and help soothe the nerves of my equally frantic wife after she brings both of the kids home from school/hula/swim/soccer after her busy day as a professional.

Someday I would like to restart the blog that I accidentally deleted many years ago. For me the biggest change was Facebook. It is truly addictive to see what all of my friends, old and new, are up to. Unfortunately, being a socialite means that catching up with everything on my wall daily and posting/reposting things myself is an enormous time suck. I love my friends, but I don't necessarily feel intellectually stimulated or personally moved by the day to day events on facebook, yet it absorbs close to an hour if not much more of my life each day.

I miss the "old days" when we would find interesting and talented bloggers and network via blogs. Our writing wasn't curtailed to 140 characters, or the need to add a photo so people would stop scrolling long enough to read it. We wrote not to get attention in a sea of people, but because we enjoyed writing. No doubt that world is still alive and well, but somewhere along the way I made a wrong turn and left the blogger highway and ended upon a 16-lane social media freeway. I'm lost, and I hate GPS. Doesn't anyone use paper maps anymore?

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRandy (RebTurtle)

Welcome back and thanks to Neil Kramer for introducing your blog. I will be reading again.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkenju

Oh, hi!
I'm so glad you wrote this. I love this online community but there is a lot I question, too. I've taken a step back, too--I certainly don't share too much online, and I don't really want to blog about the things in my life on a very personal level anymore. I've stopped writing about my kids on my blog, in great detail. I do love writing about fashion and shopping and travel, though. And I feel that for some reason, that makes people think I am not sincere. But it is what it is... We all change and evolve and come and go as we please. The one thing I love, despite what the content is on our blogs, is when the opportunity comes when we can be in the same room together, it's very easy to let it all out. I trust people I've met a couple of times more than some people I see all the time. I value that!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

Hi Faiqa,

It is good to see you. I enjoyed this. It is not easy carrying a blog for so many years, but I am glad you did and that you are still around.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I love you. I have missed you. Thank you for writing this. This is very close to why I took a break last year until recently and I came to similar conclusions. I'm a business woman through and through but I am not a brand.

Sweet girl, to me, you have always been, simply, Faiqa, and I am very grateful for that. I'm delighted to see you stretching your personal writing muscles again. You delight me.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

The whole "brand" thing is so squicky to me - ugh. I realized, had I given it any sort of effort, that if I wanted to be more popular on the internetz via my now very dead blog, I'd have to curb my language and start eing - basically, not ME. So I kept it foul- mouthed and silly, which is a large part of what I am. My other blog problem is that I am so intensely private, and I didn't want people I didn't know terribly well to know everything.
Point is, I'm a freak.
But you are a beautiful human being, inside and out. I am very blessed to know you, and your words are beautiful, elegant and thought provoking. YOU belong in print - anywhere.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

I've been so grateful for the few occasions when we've randomly poked our heads up from whatever we've been doing this year to intentionally say "hi i miss you". And hi I miss you. I feel like you're one of those people who will always be my community no matter what, because I can walk into your house and it's good. I'm not like that with a lot of people, really. You're a bright star in the world, who happens, to me, to be Muslim, although you make me feel bad about defaulting to the angry Muslim stereotype to see how uncomfortable I'll get. That is when I knew we were friends...also when in the darkest time of my life that you really didn't know about, you reached out to me and made me feel welcome and like you'd shank me if I didn't come visit. I also don't have many friends like that. You helped me save my life that time.

Anyway this is a lot of information for a comment but I just started typing, because this is what the freaks like me who have been doing this personal thing for a long time do. Just start typing. (Then hopefully you edit, but not too much. Not too much, hear???)

I don't even write much on my blog anymore. This has been a nice release. Thanks for starting up again so I could get my needs met. (That's also a lot of what personal blogging -- which I'd argue you've been doing to some extent all along anyway -- is, too.)

Welcome back.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

Try being the Canadian. And now a sober, irish-catholic rooted Canadian. When I say I don't know who I am anymore, I mean it. But then there's a glimmer of hope that I can be whatever I want to be.

I hope the same rings true for you. I love you and I never ever thought of you as my Muslim friend. I thought of you as that chick in Florida with the really cool husband. Hahahahaa just kidding. I love you guys. Miss you lots.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

:-)

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave2

"I want you to be here because you want to be here and NOT because I constructed a brand that appeals to some specific need you have."

I feel you so hard. Love that you're back. xoxo

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYvonne

Never, ever thought of you as a Muslim blogger. I can't even imagine thinking that. You were just you...Fica (spelled the way I say it in my brain).

Then again, I'm kind of a fool.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterB.E. Earl

This is why I always "failed" at branding myself. I am vulnerable, I write from the heart and sometimes I change my mind about things. That big old grey area, you dig? I've been blogging since 2005, won a "teen bloggie award" (still not really sure what that is), but I've never made money off my blog. I think that would take the fun out of it. I can't imagine the pressure you must have felt.

I've always loved your posts, and I'm glad you're back and dropping all those figurative hats that put constraints on your words.

Xoxo

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Someone else already took my, admittedly, not so original knee jerk snarky comment above. So here's another one in the same vein:

Wait. You're a parent?

How did that happen?

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNYCWD

When I started seeing you pop up on my Facebook feed again, I got so excited. And now that you actually blogged? GLEE.

Just happy to see you around again. :)

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Yes, I totally get this and I get YOU. I have also missed your writing but completely understand why you stepped back.

I was always leery of being "that blogger married to an Indian". As such, I was always conscientious about not blogging about my cross-cultural marriage too much, even when I received specific requests to write about it. Just wasn't my thing.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKelli Oliver George

Great stuff about "brand" that I've been trying to articulate to myself so that I could eventually relay to the world at large. Then there's other stuff about religion that I've thought about as well. And so much other stuff in here. Looking forward to more of your writing regardless of topic.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdaniel

As with Earl, I never labeled or branded you as a Muslim blogger. I always thought your posts on cultural insights applied to everyone that felt like they wanted a bigger voice in their community, in their state, in their country and in their world - regardless of who they were. As a hard core liberal in one of the reddest states in the nation, I get judged when walking into a room filled with people I have very little in common with. When I get thrown under the bus for not being "one of them", I remain the funny and cool guy that I attempt to be most of the time.

I'm just happy you are still blogging. It seems to be dwindling lately and when I read posts from those that haven't blogged in a long time, I fear to read the "goodbye" message. So welcome back, my friend. And I look forward to reading more of your posts.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermartymankins

I am so glad when you choose to share your thoughts on the Interwebs, whenever and however it happens. Thank you for always being true to yourself and honest in your expression. There is much that the rest of the world could learn from your example. I completely understand the need to write coupled with the desire to do other things. Hope you continue to share when you can. I always feel blessed to know you!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

This is beautiful. I'm glad you are back.

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTracie

I use the Squarespace 5 platform right now which doesn't have a reply feature in its comments. While I work on that upgrade, y'all are going to have to deal with the old school Blogger type reply where everyone gets a reply in one big comment. OOOOLLLLDDD SCHOOOOL!!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
@Megan: Ah, to be called a rock star... the highest form of endearment. Love you, too.

@MichaeI: You've always been a great supporter and I am so grateful for that. Thanks for missing me and welcoming me back.

@Lisa: Not weird at all. When life is messy, it's best to share with the people you know and trust the most. Sometimes there isn't anything else left for the rest...

@Homemakerman: Mostly.

@Nicole: I remember that! I love that you asked. I loved that you were concerned with doing the right thing. I feel like answering that question for you in the way we addressed the issue together was exactly how it should be, too. It was about helping you connect better with someone in your life. The things I'm writing about here have to do with people assuming that a connection over the web is somehow a substitute for doing what you actually did in your life and your world. I hope that makes sense. It does in my head.

@Randy (RebTurtle) I miss your writing. I miss reading blogs that don't have a specific agenda or mission. And I think every word in your comment rings true, so I can't think of much to add to all that. Except, hi. Good to see you. :)

@kenju Ah, that Neil Kramer. He's a peach. Thanks for stopping by.

@Loukia I miss being in the same room with you and seeing your pretty smile. Soon I hope!
Hi Faiqa,

@Jack Thanks, I'm gad I'm still around, too. :)

@Leila (Don't Speak Whinese) You are so not a brand, but you are the embodiment of what I love about blogging and the Internet. And? Of course you're a business woman. You're Japanese. I mean, I don't think it's even allowed to write Japanese without writing business within the next few words.

@Melissa: Thank you, my friend. I know you have always seen me as simply Faiqa and I have always cherished that.


@Sybil Law Your brand is being effing awesome. Too bad. You're a brand.And thank you for e-mailing me every now and then to make sure I was alive. I love you. Man.

@Laurie You are the reason I came back to the Internet. I'm not even joking. We'll talk about it sometime when you COME BACK TO MEMPHIS. Elvis misses you. We haven't really taken care of business around here properly.

@Karen I never had to worry about those first friends, among whom you are counted. I feel like you all saw me for me. And you loved me just for being me. And because you're clearly desperate for friends since Johnny Depp renounced his citizenship and you lost the coolness factor of being Canadian. XO

@Dave2 I think that sums it up.

@Yvonne It's probably not cool to say this, but I love that you love that I'm back.

@B.E. Earl When I think of what I enjoy about blogging, I think back to the beginning of this and I think of you and a few others. I think about the laughs we'd have - the serious conversations -- and then some more laughs. I feel like I lost that for a while and if I can't have that, then what's the point of my blogging at all.

@Jess I like this very much: This is why I always "failed" at branding myself. I am vulnerable, I write from the heart and sometimes I change my mind about things. Exactly.

@NYCWD Wait. You're a smart ass? When did that happen?

@Robin Thank you for missing me. It matters. It really does.

@Kelli Oliver George It's a fine line, isn't it? I think you should post your keema recipe, though. ;)

Great stuff about "brand" that I've been trying to articulate to myself so that I could eventually relay to the world at large. Then there's other stuff about religion that I've thought about as well. And so much other stuff in here. Looking forward to more of your writing regardless of topic.

@daniel It took me months to really nail down what I was so uncomfortable with when it came to the brand thing. I still don't know if I got it right.

@martymankins I remember back in January when you wished me Happy Birthday on Twitter and said I was missed. That was one of those moments when I asked myself why I'd stopped. I missed all of you

Rachel It's so terribly inconvenient to express one's self authentically, though. Oh, were this a world where we could marry ourselves to one agenda forever and just stick with that despite the inevitable changes in our scenery and our consciousness. Oh, wait. I think that's what being a Republican is... snort. I'm joking. Some of my best friends are Republicans.

@Tracie Thank you!

March 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterFaiqa Khan

I'm actually new to your blog (friend of a friend sort of thing). I just needed to say, I get this. Every word. If you keep writing, I'll be back to read.

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Glad to read you again! Now if only I had something to share on my own personal blog. Alas, I'm lost somewhere between inane and private.

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRen

This is my first time in your space. And it won't be the last. You left me in tears, you changed my heart, you opened my eyes. That is what brings me back. Thank you for having me here.

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

thank fuck you are back...and writing for yourself as opposed to what you thoughts others wanted you to write. i hate this whole brand thing so many people are trying to be. personally, i feel it gets boring when a talented writer harps on one subject constantly. their blogs get stale to me and i just quit going. or i glance at them in a feeder and rarely comment. variety is fun and exciting. honesty is key...being a brand isn't.

faiqa, you are so much more than a mother, more than a muslim, more than a wife, more than any one box someone would try to shove you into. that said, i hope you write about all of those things and more. you are so smart and so wickedly funny...any topic that is on your mind and that you feel sharing will be the perfect thing for you to write about. and i look forward seeing what comes next.

so much love to you.

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterhellohahanarf

I am fond of you. That is all ;)

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVikki

Took you fucking long enough. ;)

March 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

Beautifully stated, Faiqa. All of my favorite people are exploring these questions - not "How can I be more of what the world wants?" but "How can I be more of the person I know deep in my soul that I am?"

March 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

I'm a little late to the party. Honestly, I stopped reading blogs shortly after you stopped writing in yours. I'm pretty sure that's coincidence, but there it is. Today, Google let me know you were back, by re-pinning you to my "New Tab" home screen. I'm so glad you are back, I've been wanting to hear how living in Memphis has been. I think of your family often, because I have come to consider you friend. I'm not good at maintaining friendships, obviously. I thought you should know that while I never thought of this as anything but a personal blog, I was very happy to have found a person as interested in the world on a grand scale as I am. I have always thought that your politics, religion, mothering choices, and love for literature as parts to the whole, beautiful Faiqa. And it always comforted me to know that even though we made different choices along those paths, that we were still able to have open, honest, respectful conversations. I will always cherish that about you.

Also, you are funny. I enjoy your funny posts, too. (That's more heartfelt than it sounds, really)

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson

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