Before I’d reached the age of 25 I’d been held at gunpoint more than once:
1–In the cafeteria during the first publicized American high school shooting–Columbine.
2–At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem during the second Palestinian/Israeli uprisal. I was taken down to the ground because of my ethnicity–Palestinian-American.
3–Near a slum in Bali while helping impoverished Indonesian children.
4–At an Israeli checkpoint near Ben Guiron Airport. I was asked to empty my suitcase onto the ground while two M16’s pressed into the back of my head–a humiliation strategy to prevent Palestinian-Americans from returning to Palestine, Jerusalem.
Shocking, yes. Quarter life crisis… well, no, actually. Four times I was held at gunpoint and threatened within an inch of my life–and four times I thought, surely this is it, as the world seemed to move in slow motion with me held captive in it. There was shouting and banging, but it was the silence that was deafening. I felt numb and I felt dumb, unable to speak or even cling to coherent thoughts. And yet four times I withstood. Four times I survived. Four times I gained the wisdom of a woman four times my age.
I had to grow up fast. I had to face my worst fears. And by the time I reached 25 I felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders. I’d made it. I was alive.
But I am not a martyr. And I don’t write this list to implore sympathy either. These are moments in my life that ring truer and truer each time I draw them up in my mind’s eye. Because every time I look back, I do so with a strength and power I never believed possible. I recall these moments like beads on an abacus. I move the beads from one end to the other–from terrified to grateful. Every day that’s unfolded since each of these events occurred is another opportunity to live on purpose. And strangely, unexpectedly, it’s become empowering to push past 25 and realize that fear, even in the most devastating circumstances, is temporary.
Although I could recount each of these incidents in vivid detail, I’m more compelled to share how I turned my life around as a result of being held at gunpoint.
Another, more encouraging list that I hope will give you peace:
1–Every significant experience in your life can be viewed through either a negative or positive lens. Ultimately, our experiences are what shape us. So I ask you, who do you want to be?
2–Challenging experiences offer an opportunity to reflect not only on our own understanding, but on others’ perspectives–before forming a judgement. We all have the power to choose how we want to respond to challenging experiences that occur throughout life. You can choose to embrace or resist this.
3–Each precious interaction with another person is an opportunity to understand where you are on the evolution curve–and also where humanity is. I urge you to be open to change and growth.
4–Fear and ignorance are a dangerous combination when not embraced as teachers. You have a choice: you can feed fear and ignorance with negative thoughts, words and actions, or you can work to shift a possibly false perception that may be causing you poor health, broken relationships, or feelings of emptiness and inadequacy.
Ultimately, the most important lesson I’ve learned after moving through what some might consider a quarter life crisis is this: everything is temporary. Emotions, especially, are fleeting. And even if your emotions take root deep in your spirit, you can choose to let go of conflicting feelings at any time. One simple exercise you can do to help uproot unwanted emotions is to first notice your feelings, acknowledge them and then simply consider an alternative. Make the alternative your mantra every day until you begin to change your mindset. Now how does that make you feel?