“Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.” – Wayne Dyer
A few days ago a young woman from Afghanistan reached out to me on Facebook. She came across my CAJ page, and messaged me not knowing where else to turn:
“I’ve lost hope. I’m not able to make the changes I want to. No one knows what I want, and I don’t get to make decisions for myself. I’m miserable. I’m living in Afghanistan and women are not respected.”
We went back and forth for a while. Living in America where women are being heard more than ever with the #Metoo movement, and are able to speak freely, pursue school, have an abundance of opportunities, live independently and command respect, I felt a lingering desire to understand this young woman, and the circumstances she was born into.
“I have dreams to go to university in America. I’d like to be a university teacher, or work on Wall Street. Do you know Wall Street?” She asked curiously.
“Yes, very well. I went to graduate school near Wall Street.” I replied, feeling somewhat guilty. Sure, I’d been to Wall Street many times. But, I was always in a rush to get to and from class. I never appreciated it, nor absorbed the freedom of choice it represented.
Throughout our conversation I assured her nothing is out of reach — including coming to America to go to college. We talked about what a different world it is here for women, and how much she’d enjoy living in the states.
I truly enjoyed talking to her, and learning more about her. Yet, our conversation left me haunted. For the rest of the day I thought about her. I thought about her dreams. Her wishes. Her hopes. I imagined what her day-to-day life must be like — doing “womanly” household chores, being obedient and staying silent. And then, I imagined her second life, the secret one that no one knew about. The one where she logs into Facebook and transports herself to a whole new world. In this world she’s allowed to dream, desire and wish for more than she currently has. She can say she wants to say — assuming the made-up identity of someone else of course — and be who she wants to be. She is free, if only for a fleeting second, before her parents check in on her and she once again masks her truth.
On Tuesday I published an article about how to stop self-censorship — I never once considered forced self-censorship when I wrote it. This profound realization of choice — one that we have so much of in Western countries — left me stunned, and utterly grateful.
All of us have struggles. All of us go through challenging circumstances and events, and while I don’t believe in “comparing” struggles, I do believe certain people come into our lives to humble us, and to teach us. For me, she is that person. After conversing with her, my blessings became more apparent than they’ve ever been because at the end of the day, no matter what, I always have a choice, and that’s powerful.
She has a choice too, although hers isn’t as black and white as mine. Hers is deeply embedded within a patriarchal, developing country that tells her she’s a second class citizen, and that her ideas, aspirations and dreams don’t matter. But they do. And as a fellow woman and human being, it’s my job to do whatever I can to help her.
You see, NO matter how far apart we are from one another, or how different our lives might seem, we’re all connected at our core. All of us are having this physical, human experience that unites us in a bond stronger than distance and circumstance. ESPECIALLY AS WOMEN.
I am her. She is me. She is you. She is all of us. We are one. If someone comes to you for inspiration or advice, make sure you take a moment of your time to give them your attention. For all you know, you might be changing someone else’s life, and they might be changing yours too…
*P.s. if anyone knows of college scholarships or other programs available for young, marginalized women living in developing countries, please get in touch!
About Antasha Durbin: Antasha is a spiritual writer, life-long student of the universe, and psychic tarot card reader. Her website, cajspirituality.com, is dedicated to casualizing the spiritual experience and making it attainable for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Follow her for free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living.