A Bicontinental Life: Finding Belonging in People and Purpose

A Bicontinental Life: Finding Belonging in People and Purpose


Bonne Année 2022!

As we start this new 12 months filled with hope and unlimited horizons of chances, I wished to hook up and reflect with a local community builder who has known as the FM location her property for more than a decade.

Ms. Amena Chaudhry is a globetrotter, DEIB Strategist and Fairness Mentor whose knowledge and skill to set acquired know-how into observe to superior the community is actually inspiring.

I truly feel fortuitous to have uncovered from her and collaborated with her in several local community projects.

Following time you run into her, question her which local community projects she is presently doing the job on!

Skol! – Cyusa

In which do you feel at dwelling? Where by do you get in touch with property?

I struggle with how particularly to solution this, even to myself. This is a person of those deceptively simple questions. Home… is these a elaborate notion for me. I grew up sort of like a nomad—my spouse and children moved properties and towns really a little bit about the Toronto (Canada) space in addition to the numerous attempts my parents built to resettle again in Gujranwala, Pakistan, their “home.”

When I fantasize about the plan of house, I believe of it as a place exactly where, more than time, my individual self is weaved into a larger sized whole—the gift of staying nested in a multigenerational loved ones and group, a multitude of close friends and neighborhood members, who are keepers of all of your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Individuals who know your joys and sorrows. A position and folks that keep all your reminiscences and you keep thiers. This is the variety of belonging that you’re born into, that you obtain as a present, devoid of owning to get the job done for it.

Outside the house of the fantasy globe, existence has felt for me more like being in exile. I have uncovered that house is not so significantly a location but an working experience, or, as James Baldwin stated, “an irrevocable condition.”

Increasing up in Canada, I saw my moms and dads and other immigrant households close to me performing difficult to recapture or recreate an encounter of the kind of dwelling and belonging they had to depart guiding, the belonging that could not be packed in a suitcase and carried throughout the oceans.

As for myself, I’ve experienced to perform really difficult to build a sense of belonging. Making residence from the inside out has been a finding out approach of trial and mistake. In an odd way, the nomadic life presented a clean reset with just about every transfer, to start off all over again.

And even though that was unquestionably difficult, and frequently nonetheless is, the lifetime specified to me has taught me a large amount about how I relevant to myself and to other folks about me. On the one hand, I had several alternatives to build long lasting and deep connections with people…but on the flip side, I got to working experience unique environments. I was able to pay back consideration to how individuals master to belong to by themselves, to their cultures, to their communities, and possibly most notability to belong to a little something bigger than all of us. That some thing that often feels so out of get to nonetheless connects folks to their goal and to just about every other.

I figured out from my observations as nicely as my individual ordeals. Lifestyle as a nomad, in exile from a geographical house, taught me to be deeply curious, to inquire questions, to check with “why?”, and most importantly, to middle story-telling as a way to discover and speed up belonging for myself and others.

I’ve uncovered that house can be a mixture of geography, folks, and purpose—true belonging for me happens in time-certain moments where I get to current my full and real authentic self to the globe. Every now and then, I’ll get a style of that, in a seem or a scent of a unique food stuff, or a conversation that surfaces a childhood memory. At times this happens in times wherever, regardless of the extensive distance between our lived experiences, I am honored to witness and maintain room for anyone to share a aspect of who they are, a element that they really feel they ought to disguise from modern society in buy to belong.

“We imagine from time to time we’re only drawn to the good, but we’re truly drawn to the reliable. We like persons who are actual more than all those who disguise their accurate selves beneath levels of synthetic niceties.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

These I-am-yours-to-treatment-for moments could possibly just be just one of my most favored ordeals of belonging. They are so abundant and so densely packed with belonging, that they last past an conversation or two, and ripple out into conversation with many others.

Nonetheless, I do have deep yearnings for a life that could have been. Had my parents not migrated. I assume that individuals of us who increase up and are living among worlds, we hardly ever get rid of the longing for that further type of belonging, the privilege of being born with deep-established roots.

“We frequently lead to ourselves suffering by wanting only to live in a environment of valleys, a entire world without the need of battle and issues, a earth that is flat, plain, constant.” ~ Bell Hooks

And while I discover myself longing for that sort of belonging, I am pretty grateful for the really exceptional and loaded lived ordeals that the Universe lined up for me.

What is a little something that has delighted you about the FMWF place? Is there a unique interest or action you’ve pursued through your time listed here?

Indeed! The FMWF region is the initially area in my daily life that I’ve lived in one put, a person property even, for lengthier than a calendar year. My relatives and I moved to the FMWF area in the summer of 2007. So, sure, when we’re currently dealing with a reasonably mild winter, I know the punch that the midwest winters can pack!

FMWF is also the 1st city in which proudly owning a home turned a possibility for us. We ended up getting a smaller residence within just a number of months of shifting listed here that just transpired to have a good house.

Growing up, living in apartments and rentals, I keep in mind hearing my mom and dad yearning to farm and homestead. They missed their link to their land and farm animals back home, and the means to self-sustain most of their fundamental wants.

With zero gardening working experience and a terrible keep track of record with indoor vegetation, one of the initially issues I did when we moved into our house was get started uprooting our yard grass and scheduling for a back garden. I started experimenting with growing and preserving the meals I grew. I bought linked with a couple of the nearby gardens, begun volunteering with a seriously type and mild gardener up at the Probstfield Local community gardens, and joined a couple of community residence gardeners’ teams. 1 of the best joys of gardening has been to mature develop I grew up ingesting but could not get in the local grocery suppliers below. This calendar year, my biggest accomplishment was an particularly effective okra crop and 400 garlic bulbs. Following year’s garlic crop is by now in the ground: 1300 cloves in all!

One more interesting edge of the FMWF area is the dimensions of the region—it’s huge sufficient to have a variety of chances, but modest more than enough to get adequately linked with people and experts in really considerably just about anything you want to master about.

Right before the pandemic, I made use of to connect with regional knitters and acquired quite nifty with knitting gloves, socks, scarves, and hats. My following objective is to hook up with some area potters and check out my hand on a potter’s wheel!

What has it been like dwelling in the FM space? How do you come across that means in this society/local community?

When I 1st moved to the FMWF area, I have to acknowledge, it felt like I had stepped into a portal and time travelled back to the 1970s, to when I was nonetheless in elementary faculty in Toronto, Canada.

So numerous of my possess encounters and experiences in this region, and stories that I have been blessed and honored to get from my prolonged melaninated relatives, felt like deja vu times from my earlier.

In a way, this is a single of the additional ineffable ordeals of growing up in a variety of contexts and among two pretty unique continents: you expertise pasts and offers that would be beyond access experienced you lived a existence deeply rooted in a person geographical and cultural context. Dwelling involving worlds is an knowledge that can often sense like a rewind and speedy forward—while college students in Canada ended up utilizing ball place pens and paper to discover their time tables, my classmates and I in Gujranwala were being utilizing a “takhti aur kalam”, a picket plank and a pen fashioned from a reed stalk.

In my formative years, I grew up looking at and encountering my local neighborhood heading as a result of similar demographic modifications as FMWF has knowledgeable this past 10 years.

And now as an grownup, I serendipitously have settled in a very identical surroundings wherever I can lend my guidance and lifetime experience. In its place of being just impacted, I can actively add to the growth of my now-neighborhood.

The option to make this good quality of contribution, my particular function, has probably been the motive I have established my roots right here. Increasing up, there were being definitely times in which life would experience random and chaotic. I did not know this growing up, but if we are client and curious, our wait around can frequently be rewarded by the Universe’s for a longer time system to join us to where we are necessary the most.

I saw this extremely special will need and in shape very early on soon after transferring to this community. So I deliberately immersed myself in specialist growth prospects, marriage making, and volunteering ordeals that would support a vocation trajectory to wherever I could be of support to my new home. A short while ago that has led me to launch my very own DEIAB consulting business—Zarafa Consulting LLC.

How has your journey and daily life ordeals as a result much impacted the way you relate with the globe all-around you?

Journeying as a nomad, you discover to determine what possessions are carry-able and what are not. You understand to see and identify decline, grief, and apply non-attachment. A lot like a proficient backpacker, I have acquired to carry just the essentials!

Really do not get me mistaken. I am not perfect and certainly didn’t start out in which I am these days. There have been tons of heartaches and failures. But I have acquired to benefit and cherish these, also.

I am the solution of an individual who’s lived all her everyday living in amongst many worlds: whether or not that be amongst in between Toronto, Canada and Gujranwala, Pakistan involving faculty daily life and household lifetime among Christian and Muslim contexts in between loaded and weak neighborhoods in between male and feminine-segregated spaces involving Urdu/Punjabi and Urdu/English…and a few far more in-among areas that are more challenging to identify.

I grew up in a rigid and disciplined household surroundings, learning two of the most fantastically poetic languages, Arabic and Urdu—oscillating amongst sermons steeped in pretty literal interpretations of my religion and the deeply nuanced, poetic, and metaphorical verses of the Qur’an.

I can not seriously consider of any aspect of my existence where by I was not relocating by means of time at multiple intersections of dwelling in-in between. This dwelling in-between has been like sitting at the heart of a quite active intersection— tons of visitors visits an intersection, typically pauses, but it all leaves. This publicity to a massive volume of ordeals has shaped who I am nowadays and how I relate to the human and non-human world all around me. Residing in-among informs my method to lifetime, to difference, and incredibly a great deal flavors the Variety, Fairness, Inclusion, Obtain, and Belonging (DEIAB) operate that I do.

I have uncovered to pay back interest to and recognize human actions. And to issue it. To problem our assumptions and beliefs when actuality contradicts them. And in comprehending why we do what we do, I have learned that we can unlearn what isn’t helpful and understand new approaches of getting.

I have uncovered to obstacle myself. I’ve uncovered that to do so efficiently, I have to adore and settle for who I am. This has taught me to be certain that people today who interact with me, who associate with me, experience held by compassion though remaining challenged to develop into far better variations of themselves.

I would attribute my disposition in direction of real curiosity, means to foster deep connections in spite of differences, my honesty and no-nonsense approach to fairness work, my unrelenting concentrate on centering the requirements and encounters of these most deprived by culture, my moral compass, my humor and wit…I would attribute all of this to acquiring lived existence at the margins.

There were being a handful of autobiographies I was introduced to in my formative decades and a couple of later on that opened up my imaginings for a just and additional equitable environment.

In the tales I examine of Helen Keller, Charles Darwin, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Victor Frankl, and in the tales my mom would share from her individual childhood, I noticed the limitations of self-advancement and own development. There is no “me” devoid of a “we”.

Seeing my moms and dads and so numerous other families all over me operate tirelessly, normally keeping 3 to 4 careers, I figured out that equivalent possibility isn’t actualized at the person amount.

My marriage with gardening the earlier 10 years has shed even more clarity for me. If a seed does not grow, or a plant does not carry out to its comprehensive possible, I didn’t “fix” the seed or plant—I paid out interest to the soil substances, the h2o, the lighting…I uncovered strategies to alter its environment, techniques to change the procedure in which it was escalating.

Dwelling at the margins, I’ve figured out to see inequity and exclusion as the intended outcomes of programs (vs. personal people’s efforts), and to then style answers at the two the unique and systemic amount.

Ideal? Of study course we have to have food items pantries to decrease hunger for all those going through hunger and hunger suitable now. But, we also require to name what procedure(s) foods insecurity is an final result of, and then what alterations need to be built to people systems, so that we can reduce the want for meals pantries.

That is how I orient myself in all of my work—I bring recognition to therapeutic our systemsIn my perform as a DEI Strategist, I see my job as a setting up inspector. It is my task to enable determine the constructions that are out of code and dangerous, to advocate fixes so that the creating is safe and sound. As a home-owner, I know as well very well how irritating that is, proper? It doesn’t sense the greatest when I have to pour in my income into repairing a setting up I did not make! But I also know that investing in a sound foundation and making composition are essential for my renovations to be truly worth the financial commitment.

What is a desire you have for the FM community?

Ooooh, this is a scrumptious query! I have so a lot of wishes. If I experienced a magic wand, I’d absolutely incorporate a several mountains and a lot far more trees! I definitely would!

A person wish. Let us see.

A handful of many years just before the pandemic, I had the prospect to check out my hometown in Canada. And the put is absolutely nothing like I remembered it. I was in awe of how built-in and prosperous and vivid lifestyle there is now. At the very least by actions of demographics and visible culture, I couldn’t recognize a dominant tradition.

When I imagine about it, this transformation took 40-some yrs to realize and a good deal of it was accidental.

I guess, my would like and hope for the FMWF place is that it doesn’t get us 40 decades to get to a spot of deep, genuine belonging for anyone. We have access to so significantly much more information and facts, interaction, innovation, and background nowadays than what Toronto experienced again in the 60s and 70s.

I hope that the dominant group and society in our location finds means to accelerate integrating itself with the switching demographics and leveraging its obtain to distinction to accomplish a tradition of inclusion and belonging.

What is one gift of awareness or being familiar with you’ve collected about your life span that would be keen to share with the audience of this article?

We all hold essential assumptions about the character of human beings and about change. And they are not just ideas— these assumptions demonstrate up in how we act, what we say, who we have interaction with, and how we effect human and nonhuman lifetime.

1 of the understandings that I came to significantly afterwards in my lifestyle, in the previous two decades, that I wish was intentionally launched to me as a boy or girl, is just one of the seven main assumptions of The Circle System (indigenous teachings and practice).

The assumption is: All human beings have a deep drive to be in superior relationship with each other.

Developing the techniques to see the units operating behind human behaviors in blend with this assumption has assisted me give so a great deal more grace and area for my relationships to evolve and develop. And to direct blame and aggravation to methods rather.

I am a single of my worst critics. This assumption has taught me to spend notice to what I have command more than as very well as exactly where my accountability lies in not reproducing systemic harms.

There’s also an Islamic follow that goes hand-in-hand with this assumption. I mentioned that I had to learn nonattachment before on. In my previously years, a whole lot of that apply was associated to loss of product matters, men and women, and associations. But as I have grown to align myself with my private objective, I have experienced to learn— and am frankly nevertheless learning—to follow this non-attachment from status and from social acceptance.

“To be rooted is potentially the most essential and minimum regarded have to have of the human soul”. ~Simone Weil

Learning to not need to have or want social acceptance goes versus the need to belong and to be recognized. But in the line of work that I do, this is a very important, non-negotiable ability: to not be connected to what persons say about me. Essential not just for the integrity of the perform, but for me to be certain that I reply and act from a location where I keep this core assumption to be true—that all humans have a deep need to be in group. I just cannot get so harm that I’m not willing to give individuals room to grow. I just cannot enable myself be so impacted that I give up on folks. I have to remind myself that the function I invite men and women into is the perform of transformation and change. And this work is tricky for people today and units. If I’m attached to being liked, I will not have the courage and travel to invite people into transformative improve.


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Genie Mathena

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