Parallel Journeys from Ohio & Abbottabad: Part Two

Written by Ezza Naveed and Edited by Dana Bakke | Aug 22, 2017

In this two part series, students Emma and Ezza share what they’re feeling leading up to their arrival in San Francisco to attend Minerva, an undergraduate experience that will expand their worldview and challenge their assumptions. As they look ahead to the next four years, their experiences highlight unmistakable similarities, despite vastly different backgrounds. Last week, we shared Emma’s letter to Ezza; below is Ezza’s response. Read on for a glimpse at their parallel journeys, which will shortly bring them to the same city: San Francisco.

Dearest Emma,

Thank you for your letter. I hope you’re living your last few days in sweet Ohio fully ー college is just around the corner! Recently, I have found myself lost in a sweet reverie, and I’ve penned down this letter to share reflections from my last week at home. This is something I often do, and it’s helped unwrap my soul.

In Abbottabad, I often watch the clouds. They always span the horizons, from the sunset in the west to the mountains in the east, before bursting into a beautiful summer monsoon rain. Right now, I am like those clouds ー my soul is fit to burst! I’m overwhelmed at the gravity of my situation: studying oceans away from home in a city so very foreign to Abbottabad has always been a distant dream. Now that the dream is, at last, translating into reality, I realize that I hadn’t thought it was truly possible.

Just yesterday, I sat in my small bedroom, packing for that very dream. Powerful emotions overwhelmed me, and tears began to flow. I smiled at the photos my friends had sent me, all with similar messages scribbled across the back: “many more fun memories to come,” “can’t wait to see you next summer,” and “remember to call us.”

A year from now, I know I’ll be be packing a suitcase with different faces and photographs.

Later, I tucked a novel under my arm and walked downstairs to my mother’s bedroom. I lay down beside mum and smiled at her. She stroked my hair. “My little girl leaves me in less than a month,” she whispered, struggling with her smile.

I want to be gentle with myself but firm with my ambitions.

Ever since I lost Papa, I would sleep beside her, giggling until our joys lulled us to sleep. The bed was always warm when I lay down because she often went to sleep before I did. But I know I will sleep in a cold bed for the next eight months. I will be alone, and I will have to teach myself to be ok with that.

This morning, I flipped open my spiral notebook, lingering for a moment on the photo of my father that I keep between the pages, and groaned at the sight of my summer checklist. Get so-and-so vaccines, it insisted. Learn programming. Write a few dozen essays. I’m all up for the great adventures that Minerva promises ー I’ve told everyone I know and love about the incredibly amazing journey that awaits me. But to have to learn to code before the journey began was a part of Minerva I had not expected!

While scrolling through the Python website, my phone buzzed with a text from a friend I had met online ー a Minervan. As I wrote back, I realized my social circle would soon shift completely. I would be living amongst culturally unique human beings from all over the globe. The thought made me euphoric, but it hit me that there might be a price to pay: would I maintain my lifelong values, or would they evolve into something else?

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I will definitely evolve and grow, and develop new values ー which means forsaking some old ones. I want to nurture love, to care, to observe, and to learn. I want to be gentle with myself but firm with my ambitions. I want to abandon my preconceived notions about the United States and the wonderful human beings I will encounter, and open my heart to the change that awaits me, even if it lies outside of my control.

San Francisco is a new beginning, and there’s always beauty in new beginnings.

I still have a few more days before I leave my hometown, and I know that there are many things that I can still control. I choose how I react to the stress of preparation and departure, how I prepare myself mentally and physically for the drastic changes in my environment. I can also control how many Kurta shirts I stuff in my suitcase before I run out of space! Instead of allowing anxiety to overwhelm me, I am choosing to empower myself now, before leaving Pakistan.

San Francisco is a new beginning, and there’s always beauty in new beginnings.

This particular new beginning will be all the more beautiful because of what it means to me personally. When I arrive at the end of the month, I will be able to revisit the places that my father travelled to and loved. I’ll recreate the images and memories that floated before me when he weaved tales of wonder about San Francisco, one of his favourite cities in the world. I will walk the roads he walked, meet the friends he had made, and take my own photos with the cable car on Nob Hill.

Right now, in the solitude of my rooftop in Abbottabad, I get to savor the monsoon rains. The wind strokes my hair, half covered with a pink hijab, and the dry but pleasant air feels warm against my skin. Within a few weeks, this will change; my skin will be wrapped in layers of salt left by the kisses of the coastal winds of California.

There will be moments that San Francisco will fill me with joy, and also moments when it will make me uncomfortable. In all moments, though, I promise to welcome its air with a smile. I’m making an active choice to let San Francisco whisk me away with its wonder and grandeur, with its natural and human-made beauty.

AIl I can think of now is how excited I am to really meet you, our classmates, and this incredible city later this week. Take care of yourself till then!

Yours sincerely,

Ezza Naveed