medical school is hard…

an excerpt from my last instagram/facebook post ~

“medical school is hard. it’s by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and probably one of the most difficult things a person can do- besides journeying through their own soul. med school is having out of body experiences trying to learn the inner-body, it’s countless hours of study, reflection, and tears. to me, medicine is dedication and discipline- an amana (sacred trust/responsibility) to my studies and to the people who will be entrusted to my care. medical school is a lot, for a lot of reasons. if I don’t respond to your text, if I forgot to FaceTime, please have some grace. it could be that I had an 8/10hr study day. it could also be that I took a mental health day and did nothing. it could be a million things, or anything, for me or for anyone- and that’s why we need to have compassion- with ourselves and one another. I/we make mistakes everyday, but I’m trying my best; and that’s all I (or we) can ever do~ and I’m so proud of that…. 🤲🏾 Ya Lateef…”

“medical school is hard”

Medicine is difficult as is, but I think the social context in how it’s studied makes it harder. I’m blessed to be able to study medicine in the comforts of my own home, with my parents and siblings beside me. However, with comfort comes convention. The same expectations, and prior roles of daughterhood/sisterhood/personhood sometimes stand. And that can strain a med student’s internal and external realities. It’s a reality that I’m navigating still, but I know I’ll figure out in due time, inshaAllah.

A list of things to normalize

A list that will probably be updated from time to time:

  • being satisfied with seeing ease in the journey of your descendants, and your junior peers
    • unnecessary struggle is not a right of passage. if you have the tools; use them. that doesn’t make you weak, less apart of that culture/journey, or less legit – (2:185).
  • viewing disability or illness as shifts in the context of someone’s life, as opposed to a weakness, or something that has to be”fought”
    • we are all going to die someday- that’s the only guarantee in this life? so what is this fight? who is the loser? what is lost?
    • is accepting, adapting, adjusting not a harder fight, and a more honorable one?
  • respecting both youth and elders
    • the doors to the Divine are often closest to those who have recently left the Womb, and to those who will be Returning, soon
  • … and on that note: aspiring to be an elder and an ancestor, rather than an old person
    • elders and ancestors impart wisdom. they guide. they advise. they heal. they step back. old people stay in the way. they keep tradition for tradition’s sake, often at the expense of what’s truly best

…on powerlessness

Do you ever have those days where you feel like you’re doing everything wrong? When things can’t seem to go right despite doing your best?

Did you miss a deadline? Were you occupied when someone really needed your help? Did you get flamed where and when you were least expecting it? Maybe all of those things?

When I get those feelings- especially a day like today, I think of these series of ayahs from Surat Al-Imran (26-27).

When I find myself “flunking” my way through my day, I’m reminded that the source of honor, of prestige, of strength, of knowledge and wisdom is not my own training, my own doings, or my practice- but rather, are from the Source – Al Malik, Al Aziz, Al Alim, Al Hakim. And to know that these “fails” have occurred with the permission of His hands, in which all goodness lies, in the context of this world, a ruhm (womb) of Al Rahman (the Most Merciful) makes those falls more gentle.

Sometimes we need those reminders (and they hurt) that we are not #1, that we do make mistakes, and that we have to make mistakes in order to learn, grow and change. And in those moments of deficiency, we should turn to the Source of Sufficiency to heal those parts of us.

And on the flip-side, we also need to know that these states and stations are temporary. If dry, crusty, dusty fields can become lush once more with rain and some fertilizer- than why can’t we? That provision, those skills, the keys can be given to us limitlessness- if we seek from the Source and put forth our best efforts.

Something that I really appreciate about Islam is the fact that there is duality in concepts, but also the same underlying themes. The visual I’m thinking of in my head for these ayah’s is a teeter-totter or balance scale of sorts- honor on one side and humility on the other, with a gentle, floating ribbon underneath connecting both sides, symbolizing mercy.

If you bottom-ed out on either side and stopped to reflect, there would be a gentle ribbon of mercy to graze you on that fall and give you context to what’s happening in the current moment. That ribbon could give you sweetness and healing, and help you to better balance out your scale. The ribbon, that boundary, would be your reminder that it’s always there for you, and that balance is key.

But imagine if you bottomed out- and you just stayed there: reveling in the honor, or wallowing away in your humility. If you weren’t conscious or reflective, you might strain that ribbon. The tension you placed may cause it to snap onto you, or worse, be pulled away from you because of that lack of reflection. – God forbid.

I’m thinking these ayahs will become my daily affirmations in my third year of medical school- being the least experienced person on the wards and getting screamed at by attendings… We’ll see… teehee. I pray to always have that ribbon beneath me and around me and to be mindful enough to feel its gentle caress, Ameen.

Wa Salaam,

Nichola ~

Why it’s important to put yourself out there

Salaam!

Long time no blog (InshaAllah that won’t be my opening sentence for much longer)!

The Perlas del Islam project started as my senior thesis in Spanish. I was awarded the Rocks Fellowship to travel across the country, collecting narratives regarding reversion in the Latino Muslim community.

At the beginning, I had a laser-focused vision for how I wanted things to go. I would present at academic symposiums, publish a paper – do all the “formal” means of presenting things. I toggled with the idea of sharing my work in a more social kind of setting, and uploaded one (yes one) video to YouTube without looking back.

Back in March, Juan Galvan (yes, Juan Galvan- author of Latino Muslims: Our Journeys to Islam) searched for #LatinoMuslims on YouTube. And he found my video there. From there, he reached out to me on Facebook and we scheduled a phone call. The project that I thought I somehow “failed” at, because I didn’t produce something publishable by the end of a calendar year, was not that at all. It’s a lifelong project. This is lifelong work. And you never know who is watching you, or who may be inspired just by catching a whiff of what you’re doing.

This post is not necessarily for my audience, but more so for me, a permission slip to go on the field trip of a lifetime. Please remember that:

  1. You are allowed to rebrand yourself, or your content at any time.

Don’t let anybody put you into a box of what you “should” be doing. What is your area of expertise? Where do you want to be?

And in the event that you do feel you are in a box: who better to climb out of that box, than your own self? (cue: Cinderella by The Cheetah Girls). Who better to realize that the very walls which are encasing you are not tangible?

2. You are allowed to change, grow, and progress.

You have to grow to get better. And that’s uncomfortable for sure. And maybe the end product of your efforts will be a lot different from the initial input… which leads me to my last point.

3. You might not know what the ending point is in your journey.

As many wise Instagram posts and middle-school posters have said: “the destination is the journey”, “comparison is the thief of joy”, and my favorite, Islamic reference: “Musa (as (aleyhi salam (peace be upon him))) did not know that Allah was going to part the sea. He just knew that Allah wasn’t going to leave him behind”.

Your life trajectory, your favorite foods, your culture even – are always in a constant state of flux. The sooner that you can accept this, the sooner you can start to truly be present, and really thrive along your journey(s).

To be completely honest – I don’t have any of these facts figured out. I think I have these realizations in bursts at times. This is a burst I’m hoping stays solidified as I’m writing now.

All this to say~

Perlas del Islam will be a space for “Pearls of Islam”. People. Experiences. Reflections. Stories. Media. Things that are pearls in their own respect, or relate to Islam directly or loosely. So be on the lookout for more diverse content not limited to just my work on Latino Muslims. So bismillah. On this day I start the first day of my second year of medical school, and on this day the second phase of this blog begins, too.

Wa Salaam,

~ Nichola

Time Flies

Assalaamu Alaikum everyone!

Now that my Fellowship has ended, thesis papers submitted, I have matriculated into medical school! (I repeat, I have matriculated into medical school!)

Alhamdullilah for this accomplishment.

I’m now at a point where I can document these trips from a pure love perspective, and not from a purely academic perspective. Thank you for being patient with me and this process.

It’s so *incredibly* important to think about how you want to present information about a community, especially when it’s your community, and a misunderstood community.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to posting more about:

  • Perlas del Islam’s preliminary research findings
    • Cultural Reversion Theory (my thesis!)
  • Reflections from traveling
  • Islam & Spanish + LALMA
  • Snippets from Interviews
  • YouTube videos ???
    • may start a channel in conjunction with this blog 🙂
  • Fellowships (choosing a project, finding a mentor)

See you soon :-*

– Nichola