You Can Fly If You Want To

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| This is the 444th story of Our Life Logs |


I guess it all started when my father got his big break. During his rookie years, the law firm he was working for had been given the chance to represent a business tycoon. My father was entrusted to be a part of the team leading the case. It was supposed to serve as a learning experience for him, but he did not merely sit and observe; he made history.

The scandal against their client was proving to be a titan—you would not need a compass to see that things were going south. That’s when my father stepped in; his boss was desperate and decided to give him a chance. That chance saved the law firm. My father was able to prove the client’s innocence in just two hearings. An impossible feat. But he pulled it off, and that’s how in 1977, at the age of 32, he got the name, “The Golden Rookie.” Since then, opportunities started looking up for him. He got recruited by an international law firm, moved to Bahrain and started a family.

So that’s a little bit of my family history; now back to me.

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I was born in 1988 in Bahrain. We were a family of five. Being the only daughter, I was loved by everyone and always got the attention. My parents were such icons, they were always out, attending parties or holding dinners. Everyone in their circle wanted them to be a part of their event. But that never bothered me, I was happy in my own space. I got everything anyone could wish for and more.

My parents always fascinated me. I looked up to them and want to be successful like them one day. I wanted to make a name for myself and marry someone of high status. This was just the road I was supposed to follow, but what I didn’t know was that nothing was so simple. I had no clue how privileged I was, until it was taken away.

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Fast forward to 2002, my parents thought it was time we moved to a better place to start a new life: Ontario, Canada. This is where I started to understand what real-life struggles were. Here, I was no longer the child of a powerful couple. We were just ordinary folks; I was ordinary. All that glitz and glamour we had in Bahrain had come to an end. Canada was much more civilized, expensive and modernized; it was on a whole other level.

Throughout my entire life, I never had to work for anything, whether it was making friends, studying or anything for that matter. Thanks to my parents’ influence, people always came to me and there was nothing I could not afford. But now, I was attending a public school and no one knew who I was. Nobody cared about who I was. I had to learn how to compromise, how not to have everything I wanted the moment I wanted it, and that was agonizing for me. How could I get used to this?

But I had no choice, there was no going back. After all, I was living in an independent society where people my age no longer clung to their parents for emotional support. Life was becoming harder for me. I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t know how to. This worsened my anxiety.

I should probably tell you about my childhood breakup now. Ever since I was a young girl, my parents had decided that I would marry my cousin when I grew up. He was a charming boy and intended to follow my father’s footsteps. I was never against the decision. A successful man like my father? It sounded great to me! I can’t say that I was in love with him, but since it was a choice made by my parents, I had no reason to decline. I trusted them. Everything was going smoothly until my fiancé’s parents started making strange demands. It started with odd favors and loans and eventually, they became dependent on my father for everything. That is when my father called off the engagement.

This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but to me, it was nothing short of devastating, since things had always gone my way. It felt like a rejection and affected me in more ways than I could have imagined. Soon I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. And now, living in brand new environment in Canada only worsened my anxiety. I couldn’t deal with people and completely isolated myself from the outside world.

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Nevertheless, life went on. To deal with my anxiety, I began seeing a therapist and the broken pieces started to formulate. As the years went by, I was able to graduate high school, got a degree in sociology, and secured a job in a social services firm.

Then, I fell in love with a co-worker. He swept me off my feet, making me feel like I was the only girl in the world. Once again, my life was furbished with the love, care and attention that I witnessed in my childhood. It was finally all coming together. I had been craving for someone who could fill the emptiness within me and for a moment, this infatuation proved to serve the purpose.

My therapist had also told me to move on from the past and chase what I wanted. So, when the man I was in love with proposed, I didn’t hesitate and said, yes. We soon got engaged. I thought I would finally have my happily-ever-after.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened. Soon I found my fiancé was a “mama’s boy;” in fact, he gave the term a whole new merit. His mother controlled every aspect of his life. She kept coming between us. I tried to make things work, but in vain. Within a year, both sides burnt out, and we decided to call the engagement off.

I sunk into depression deeper than ever before, and I started to believe that I was incapable of being loved. No matter what I did, there was nothing but hopelessness for me. My mental health affected me to the point that I could not work anymore. There were days when I would lie motionless on the cold floor of my room and wouldn’t feel anything but numbness. Either I would eat mercilessly or I starved; there was no normality. I gave up.

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In 2018, when I turned 30, my parents decided that I should get married as soon as possible. By this point, they had lowered the bar to the bare minimum. Someone introduced to us a 40-year-old man; a software engineer, earning well, and belonging to the same class as ours. That checked all the boxes my parents had, so they urged me to get married to him. Even though he was a divorcee, it didn’t stir any eyebrow raise as I was also “rejected” twice—two of my engagements broke, remember? This was an utter sin for which I was punished. I was forced into marriage despite my unwillingness.

Of course, such a marriage couldn’t turn into something beautiful. I lived in misery from the very start. My husband liked to prove me wrong all the time, perhaps just to claim his manhood. Lying beside me, he would talk to other girls, compare me to them, and talk awkwardly about my body imperfections. I was never loved, only used. I was assaulted and tortured, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Every day I woke up with a positive thought that today would be better than yesterday, but it always turned out to be worse. Not only my husband, but his whole family treated me like a servant, as if I were an animal. I talked to my parents about this, but they just told me to “please them;” besides, it was probably me who “wasn’t doing right.” I was appalled, but I obeyed. I did what they asked me to. I tried my best, compromising my self-respect for the sake of my relationship, but nothing worked.

I longed to live a life where I could be myself, where I could be loved for who I was, where my point of view was given respect. Instead, I was trapped in a place where I did not belong. I spent many sleepless nights thinking about what I should do. I wanted to walk out of this relationship, but what about my parents? What would the society say about us? Day by day, I was sinking more into the bog.

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One night, after being married for three months, I finally decided that enough was enough. I did not want to be in this marriage anymore. My parents, in-laws, and relatives—everyone was trying to guide me and influence me according to their own perceptions. No one ever asked me, “Anna, what do you want? Do you need our help? Are you okay?” No one even bothered to act as a mediator to settle the dispute. I was so disappointed; apparently, they only worried about their own ego and what the society would say to them if I took any step towards divorce. With that realization, my mind became clear. I knew my direction.

So, I filed for divorce. I admit, for a while I felt alone and ashamed. No one in my family or friends had ever gotten divorced, so I was being judged. My mother was supportive to some extent, but my father said, “Anna, you have disappointed me. You should have compromised, at least you should have thought of me. Now everyone will ask me why your daughter has taken divorce. How am I going to face the people?” This literally broke me and I felt embarrassed. Then there was everyone else. Their immediate response was always, “I am sorry for your divorce. How did it happen?” And I was asked if I felt like a failure. How awkward and insulting!

But now, I had freedom; I had control over my life. No amount of insult could beat a free heart. I decided that I would focus on self-improvement to bring me back the peace I deserved. I started reading about religion, God and his plans, his love for his creation. I started to accept myself with all my flaws. I understood that life wasn’t eternal suffering. I traveled alone without the baggage of responsibilities. I went to Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, and also visited Bahrain after 16 years. Through it all, I regained my confidence and understood that I was more than just a divorced woman. I did not shut myself from the feelings; instead, I learned to accept them and control them.

Currently I am doing my Ph.D. in gender studies. This may not be the life I envisioned but is a life I am perfectly content with. I can proudly say that I’ve fought my own battles and I am responsible for where I am and who I am, without a regret.

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The person I am today is a polished version of what I was a year ago. The trials of life helped me discover my hidden power; the divorce allowed me to start my life all over again. When I look back, I see that in my pre-divorce phase, I allowed others to walk over me, from my engagement to my cousin to moving to Canada and then from getting engaged again to my failed marriage. I never thought about what I actually wanted until this last time. It was not until my divorce that I truly felt the power within me. I’ve since realized that I have always had the wings, and that I can fly if I want to.

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This is the story of Anna Mishael

Anna, about to turn 32, is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in gender studies in Canada. Originally from an influential family in Bahrain, Anna didn’t know much about hardships until they moved to Canada when she was 14. She had several failed relationships and eventually entered a bad marriage. She fought her own battle to get out of the toxic relationship and is now single and happy. Anna loves to travel, read, and spend time with people who are facing mental health issues or are going through a rough patch in life. She hopes that one day she can become a motivational speaker for those who are seeking ways to accept themselves. She believes that true power lies in acceptance.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on October 17, 2019.

| Writer: Anna Mishael | Editor: MJ; Kristen Petronio|

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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