I used to apologise a lot, and in fact, I still do.
All my apologies chained my hopes and ambitions down to the ground. I thought I was grounded, but really I was bound to norms cultivated by seeds of insecurity and guilt. I think it has taken me a while to realise that not every day will be a day where I feel strong enough to fight against all the perceived injustices I face, but at least I am one step closer to being able to wear my dreams on my sleeve. At least now, I can actually have the clarity of thought to realise that there is something wrong with believing you are wrong for dreaming. At least now, I can see the chains that had wrapped themselves around me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe, let alone speak out.
It all started when I was born. A girl, a day late (as per usual), and healthy… except for that facial palsy. So I was already born wrong on three accounts: I was not a boy, I was not on time, and my face was paralysed on the left side. Thus began a lifetime of trying to prove myself to everyone I met, or hadn’t met. Thus began the coiling of chains, like a baby’s finger wrapped around your thumb, reminding you of responsibility you can’t simply shake off.
And since then, I have never been enough.
Why? By simple virtue of being a girl in a Pakistani family.
I have only been praised when it has seemed non-threatening. I can only be congratulated if I am a modest mouse who shies away from everything I have achieved, and disowns it, choosing to cower in the shadow and accept that I am just a stupid girl who was lucky that her parents let her do things.
Never mind the fact that I am ambitious and driven, or that I have sought out so many opportunities for myself. Society tells me that I am lazy and ungrateful. I am impertinent and arrogant. Society says I am something to be beaten into submission and controlled, because if not, I will become wild and reckless. Western, even.
It’s the life countless people in this world live, simply because no one is interested in Pakistani women, so much as mechanisms with which to exert power and exercise influence. It is degrading, and belittling, and women are made to apologise for it. Even when women have been used completely and utterly, they are still told that they did not do enough to do what they were designed to do.
I am not sorry that I have opinions, ambitions, and a clear heart. I wish to change the world for the better; money, status, or what other people will think are not the driving factors of my ambition.
Do you know what is?
For all society has tried to cultivate a negative duty in women where we don’t do things because of duty to be quiet, obedient, and submissive to a culture that bears no relevance to us, we have worked hard to ensure we don’t lose sight of our positive duties. I have been blessed with the privilege of being able to study in the UK, have success in internships and other initiatives, and create relationships that will last a lifetime and ensure I get to where I need to be. Yet, the only reason I have ever done any of this is so I can help other people. Every day, I work for these people. I work for my kindred spirits from across the world who have to face sexism, homophobia, you name it, and feel like taking their life because they do not feel they have one.
So no, I am not sorry that I have ambitions which are clearer and more honest than yours. I am a person. An ambitious person, no less.
You cannot kill my ambition, and you cannot kill a fact.
I am ambitious, and I am not going to apologise for it.