How we met.
Aisha was also a UMBC student. I met her almost 10 years ago during her sophomore year. We were introduced by a colleague who thought that she needed someone to connect with on campus and that I would be that person who could help her. I remember being struck by how she was very quiet and seemed unsure of herself and lacking in confidence yet still she exuded a kind of quiet strength underneath it all. It was as if she did not know how to dig deep and access that inner strength and become the woman she so wanted to be. She struggled with not only coming into herself but also with the reconciliation of two separate and distinct cultures – of how woman were often raised or perceived in her family’s country of Pakistan and how to be the woman she wanted to be in the United States.
Her parents are both from Lahore, Pakistan. Her father had been living in the United States for about 15 years before he married Aisha’s mom whom he met in Pakistan. After they were married they moved to Dallas,Texas where they started a floral business together in March 1982. Aisha is the eldest of four children. A year after her youngest sibling was born, the family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland. All of the siblings were able to go to college. Aisha chose UMBC for her studies. My role in her life was that of mentor and friend. We spent hours talking about things that were affecting her studies and her life in general with me listening. She was struggling with making decisions about her career and graduate school. What I find is that most young people, no matter where they are in terms of financial status or social status, need to have someone in their lives who will just listen to them. Most of the time, they already know the answer but have not given voice to it. They know what is right or wrong but need to be guided in how to vocalize it and internalize it so that the decisions they make become their own and not just voicing the decisions that others try to make for them. They need someone to listen without making judgments about the choices they are considering but who can offer insight to the pros and cons that should be considered. They also have a fear of making the wrong decision – making a mistake or failing in some way. But the truth is, we all make mistakes and we all fail at some time in our lives. We are human. The important thing is that we have do is not let ourselves be defined by the mistakes or failures we make. What defines and shapes us is how we pick up and move on from those mistakes or failures – how we let them make us a better, stronger, wiser person going forward.
We also need to give ourselves license to make the best decisions that we can for the circumstances that we are facing at the moment. When you are in college, you are making so many decisions about classes, majors, jobs, life choices – all of which are very important. However, it is also a time when you are learning a great deal about yourself and your ability to make decisions and choices. Sometimes it is difficult to make that one decision about what you want to do the rest of your life – and I think that’s just fine. My career went from the left to the right and then back again. I made several choices along the way and each one built on the previous one because I gained more knowledge and more experience. But it was a journey that I chose and one that I have enjoyed. For Aisha, I tried to be there for her as her biggest champion helping her to see that she could make the right decisions and guide her in her process when she needed the help. She could speak loudly with that inner voice and have confidence that she was being heard.
Aisha graduated from UMBC in 2006 with a degree in Psychology and later went on to complete an MPA in Policy Management and Health Policy at American University. She is now successfully employed at the National Committee for Quality Assurance in Washington, DC as a Senior Health Care Analyst. Her greatest strength is her gentle kindness and her way of finding joy in the simple things in life while at the same time being a very strong and decisive woman. With all that, I am sure that she would agree that her most amazing and proudest accomplishment is her beautiful daughter Hannah and that with the love of her wonderful husband, Naseem, she will continue her journey as the strong, confident and beautiful woman that she is. They were married in a wonderfully joyous traditional Pakistani wedding full of color, music, love and celebration. I was honored to be present for the celebration.
I sincerely hope that the journey we have taken to get us this far together, will continue for many years.