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A Letter to my Niece: I am Forever Grateful

For my dear niece, to whom I am forever grateful.


To my dear niece, Nadera Royah, whose name literally translates from Arabic to English as a divine dream come true, who is my dream come true: the light that shined into my life and brought me out of the darkness.

I hope that your life is always a joyful trip to Tata’s (grandma’s) house and that the taste of chocolate maintains the same sweet flavor regardless of the struggles you face along your journey. I hope that the love that currently surrounds you continues to grow strong and deep and that no evil person crosses your path.

I hope that you never change yourself to appease the standards that this society puts upon you, that you embrace your own unique weirdness, and that you accept yourself as you eventually grow into your own skin. I hope that you learn to admire other people’s beauty without questioning your own and that you come to love your dark eyes, full lips, and olive skin. I hope you’ll see them as proof of your existence, of your Palestinian heritage, and that it reminds you that you’re a product of your ancestors’ love for you. I hope that you come to love the country that generated you while also being able to find a deep connection to your roots and “homeland” – even from thousands of miles away. I hope that you stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves, that you acknowledge the discrimination and racism that exists in this universe, and that you will fight to make sure your brothers and sisters are being treated with the respect and dignity that each human deserves.

I hope that you have the courage to resist any temptation that this world has to offer, when situations come up and you have to decide between right and wrong, and when the right path can seem like a lonely one – I hope you take it anyway. I hope you resist anyone who tries to stop you from becoming the person you’re bound to become. When you’re hanging with a group of friends and a bottle of alcohol or a blunt gets passed around, I hope you can acknowledge and hold on to your values and “pass”, even when you’re the only one doing so. I hope that high school and college parties don’t faze you or make you feel like you’re missing out on any type of experience. I hope you have friends that won’t make you sip or smoke anything without your consent and respect the choices you make in life, regardless of theirs. I hope you have friends who lift you up, who grow with you every step of the way, and who don’t feel threatened by the beautiful soul that you have come to be or by the eccentric energy that you bring to the table. I hope your creativity and imagination continue to thrive in all stages of your life, and that what makes you unique will continue to push you to strive beyond the limits set for you or that you set for yourself.

I hope that you never change yourself to appease the standards that this society puts upon you…

There will be days when you will cry uncontrollably and those when you think you won’t be able to make it to the next. You will have days that seem to just be against you, when the hate and greed in the world seem to prevail over the love and good in the world. There will be people who will tear you down, there will be people who don’t want to see the good in you, and there will be people who want to hurt you. There will be times when you make mistakes and the only thing you can do in these situations is learn from them. There will be times when you have to battle your ego, and lose touch with yourself, but it is only to make you stronger and find out who you really are and what you are made of.

You will be hurt by people and you will hurt other people, some close to you and some who have crossed your path once; how you show yourself in these situations will define who you are as a person. I hope you grace these heated situations with patience, compassion, ease, and dignity.

I hope you come to love yourself unconditionally, and that you don’t accept the love you think you deserve but the love that you really deserve. I hope you won’t be controlled by any drug or substance, that you can live above the influence, that you remain in control of your own mind and body, and that you don’t feel the need to take anything to make you feel differently. I hope that anxiety and depression don’t come into your life, but even if they do, that you can take the pain you feel inside and turn it into something beautiful. I hope that you find a hobby that can make you escape the feeling of being hurt, scared, or alone and that this healthy escape can be the weapon you use to combat any anxious or sad feeling you have. I hope that you come to realize that channeling anger and sadness by creating something beautiful from it can heal your wounds.

I hope you always know that I will always be in your corner, rooting for you along the way, because you are brave and courageous enough to conquer this world. To an exuberant two year-old girl, who is not only a beacon of hope and love in my life, but has also been and forever will be a friend of mine. Nadera Royah, you are a solid and prominent figure in my life, one who picks me up when I am down and puts a smile on my face when I am at my lowest.

When you’re old enough to read this, I want your view of life to be that of a trip to the park — filled with excitement and fun. Sometimes you will fall and get hurt, but just like you would on the swings or the monkey bars, you have to get back up, hold on tight, and try again another time. I hope you learn to move with the flow of the wind, but most importantly, I hope you know you are always in control of the direction of your journey and the choice to continue on that path is yours all along the way.

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