One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Maahum Hamayat (NSU ’24), who lived in 1506A wing during her senior year. She was a wing guide for 06A, and was involved in Heliotrope, Track, and was President of MSA.
Beep beep beeeeep. Dazed, I hit snooze several more times before I realize I’m running late. One page of rushed Qur’an later, I pin my headscarf, the Hijab, into place and cram books into my backpack. I should have packed it last night… but I fell asleep at my desk while studying around 2 am. Oops. The daily 7:55 am sprint for my 8 am class ends when I peer into my classroom at 8:01. Oh God, I’m late. I chose to sit at the front, and my teacher patiently waits for me to settle. My roommate sympathetically passes me a croissant. In class, I force myself to be awake. Its test after test, assignment after assignment, and I sometimes feel trapped in the tides of trying to retain information. But while doodling henna designs on my notebooks, in fleeting moments, I glimpse freedom.
My days at school blur together, making me feel like a space-time traveler. Sophomore year and junior year vanished after I blinked twice, and senior year is coming to an end. But through the challenges that come from living and learning with Illinois’ ‘best and brightest,’ I know I have an outlet. Even if only for a few minutes during each prayer, my religion is a warm blanket in the storm of the unfamiliarity of the future.
Wearing Hijab empowers me, but I often worry about its impact. I feel empowered to use the hijab as a way to showcase my identity as an American-Muslim woman, but more than anything, I wear it for myself. Ever since the life-altering day in fifth grade when I first wore a hijab at school, it has been a wild ride of discrimination and fear, but also self-love and acceptance all at the same time.
At school, time moves fast. To focus my life’s camera lens, I listen to nature around me. The last few chirps before the birds go to sleep is the peak time for Maghrib prayer. In the ever-changing present, coming back to my prayer mat every day is my medication for hardships. Line by line, the sound of Qur’an recitations melts my math frustrations away for a while, reminding me that human connections are important, as the Prophet used to keep ties with his family, friends, and even people who he didn’t agree with. I call my parents for the night, telling them the crazy news of the day, and what essay it is now that I only have one hour left to submit online.*Just like that, my time at IMSA is coming to an end. My three years at IMSA have been a whirlwind of emotions and memories. My grades weren’t the best. I cried many tears and pulled countless all-nighters, thinking that I wasn’t good enough. But through these years, my faith in my religion became stronger.
At first, I didn’t tell anyone at home that I went to IMSA. “We don’t want the Evil Eye on you,” my parents explained. “Once you achieve your goals, always be humble. At the end of the day, it’s because of God that you came so far.” I trust God to bestow opportunities upon me, but I know that it’s my job to take them in full stride and work for them. I push my chair away from my desk and reach for my backpack, forever unzipped because I always feel like I need to be doing something, creating something.
I might not be attending college in Chicago, the place I’ve called home for the past eighteen years, but I know that family and friends are just a phone call away. My belief in God and the foundations of my religion will also help me strive to better myself. In the future, I yearn to create something new to add to the art that exists in the world. In addition to my paintings and drawings, I want to make discoveries in medicinal research and research more about Islam. IMSA has given me a taste of what is yet to come, and for that I say… Alhumdullilah** for everything. For better or for worse, I will never forget you, IMSA. I hope you remember me.
*Here are my favorite study tunes:
Chinese Traditional: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D-Nj64uMW8&list=PL8oP-g66wukNlAvTYqQh6BzqUb6nptpYh&index=13
In English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHOrHGpL4u0&list=PL8oP-g66wukMM9a3VpFv8t3SkqBQZMZqI
**Praise be to God in Arabic