The Girl in the Hijab

Last night I had to look through all the documentation for the website, fill out a W 9 – which was harder than I thought it would be, for the record. Not the filling out of the form. That’s common business knowledge. The obtaining of and e-signing of the form was the issue.

I did all that and then typed up my first article. It took me 45 minutes, and that was with me not fully concentrating on the topic – answering messages from friends, posting to the Facebook page, etc.

I was going to do another article this morning, but I thought maybe I should wait to see if this one gets accepted, make sure I’m doing it right before I just submit a bunch of articles for review. So now I wait again. That’s okay. Once I see the results I’ll know how to move forward.

I actually did get up at 530am though, I was excited to get going. I wrote up this mornings blog post and realizing that I couldn’t write a new article just yet, I edited that piece I’ve been talking about. The submission process was a little more difficult than I anticipated as none of the buttons on the website seemed to be working. I sent an email to them, and hoped that by the time I got home this evening that it will be fixed.

I stayed up past my bedtime last night, turning out the light at about midnight. I found myself sitting on my bed, watching traffic whiz by my open window, just in awe that this is really happening. Yes – they are literally short, factual internet articles, it’s not necessarily the ‘writing’ I do on a daily basis. But someone read the factual article I submitted and said, “Yup. She’s good enough to hire.” Diversity is so important. I can write this blog, and I can write these informational articles. I have that gift with words, and I’m lucky to have it. Everyone has to start somewhere. And at the end of the day, as long as I do this right, I’m going to get paid for my words. Period, point fucking blank. Any step towards my goal is cause to celebrate. And honestly, the fact that I thought I had misstepped made the acceptance that much better.

I did almost forget to post today’s quote, and rushed in my bedroom at 840am to snap the photo and post it to the Facebook page.

“Be curious, not judgemental.” – Walt Whitman

I knew exactly what I was going to write about when I read it.

Let’s to back almost eight years ago now, August of 2012. I had just had Chase, and separated from his dad. The boys and I were living with Grandma while I got my shit together, me sleeping on a blow up mattress in the living room and Chase in his pack and play. There was a spare bedroom, and that’s where Matt slept. I hadn’t worked in almost a year, and was still recovering from my cesarean. I was not in a good place, suffice to say. I knew I needed to get my shit together, though. So I had put in a bunch of applications in hopes I could at least get a damn job. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

I was called in to interview at a realty company on the South end of town. In Toledo I’ve noticed there are classifications to different sides of town, but in working through out the city I’ve determined that every side of town has a good side and bad side. Everyone had always told me to stay clear of the south end and north end and east side. . . that the area where I had resided and worked for the previous 7 years was the best area to be in.

I found the realty office to be in one of the sketchier parts of the south end. It didn’t deter me though – I needed a fucking job.

I interviewed, and apparently well, because I hadn’t even pulled back into the driveway back at Grandma’s apartment when they were calling me back for a second interview. . . right then and there. With the owner. So I ran in, asked Grandma to keep an eye on the boys a little longer, and drove back.

I got the job. Step one complete.

The company was a realty company, but a lot of realty companies do both rentals and sales. I was a little bothered that I had been hired in as an administrative assistant and not a property manager. At this point I had been in property management for about six years, and a manager for five of those years. Income was income at this point, though. At least I was in the field I wanted to be in. And I had no doubt I’d climb the ladder once they saw my knowledge and drive in action.

I went in organizing files and putting in office supply orders. I was bored to tears. . . except the staff was a very unique blend of people. There were several people who were gay, an older African American lady who handled the realty portion of the company, the maintenance crew came from all walks of life. . .

And there was an American girl who sat in the back and assisted the owner with the sale portion of the business, who wore a hijab.

She was absolutely beautiful, and intrigued me immensely. I was the new girl though, and other than asking her if she was low on office supplies, I kept my mouth shut. She’d step out of the back office once a day and politely let me know to not bother her because it was time for her to pray, and she would shut both doors to the area while she did.

As time wore on, I did in fact climb the ladder, and in fact all the way up to maintenance supervisor. I was in charge of walking into houses and deciding what needed to be done – carpet, paint, repairs. . . I walked into the business thinking I had all of this knowledge, and I really knew next to fucking nothing. I learned quickly though. I seem to remember talking of some of my adventures at the job so I’ll skip that for now. I will say that up until my current property, it was the most interesting job I’ve ever had. I actually think that my maintenance supervisor job was a little more interesting and crazy, because it was such a variety of clusterfuck. From houses to apartments to duplexes, good parts of town, bad parts of town. $1200 a month rental homes to $299 a month studio apartments. . . I was in charge of fixing it all.

Through this, I got to know the girl in the hijab.

I don’t remember what the catalyst was, but at some point I remember standing in front of her desk and telling her that I was desperately afraid of offending her because I was absolutely ignorant of her religion. She was so kind, and so understanding. She told me to ask her any questions I might have, she was more than willing to educate me.

I asked a lot of questions. From the absolutely ridiculous to the very complex.

The job was crazy, and as I got more comfortable with my coworkers, I found she had an ear for my troubles and never, ever judged me for my swearing or rather candid outbursts about odd tenants and issues. We laughed a lot together about the craziness, and talked a lot during the times we were in the office building alone together.

One time she called me while she was out running an errand:

“Hey, I’m going to Panera, Do you want anything?” she asked when I answered.

“Oooo. What about that ham sandwich thing they have?” I instantly said.

“Amber. . . you know I can’t touch ham,” she laughed.

“Well, fuck. Get me turkey then.”

It was literally as simple as that. She always was kind to my ignorance, and a patient teacher.

I was in high school when 9/11 happened, and there was so much hatred towards Islamic people, and anyone who practiced the religion. I’ve never been one to hate someone based on religion or skin color, I’ve never been an overly judgmental person. I discussed this with her though so I could better understand. All I knew was what had been on the news, and the fear mongering that had occurred shortly there after. She educated me on the difference between the true religion and the extremists in the religion. “Allah is loving. Allah wouldn’t want harm to come to anyone,” she told me earnestly. She explained how she had converted and why, and told me so many things about the religion that were truly beautiful. I found out she had also lost her mother young, and I believe that’s one of the things we bonded over, as sad as that may sound. People look for others who they have things in common with so someone understands them, I think.

She moved to California before I left the company, and it was probably one of the saddest things in my life to that point. She helped keep everything a little sane at the office. I could exchange a look with her when shit was out of hand and our boss was being a little over the top, and feel better. I would often openly cuss out a customer after hanging up the phone with them, and she would laugh and make a joke about it. I could give her my honest opinion about anything from my relationships to work related stuff, and know that she would give me the best advice she could, and she would always have my best interests at heart.

I left the company in 2014 after being there almost two years. I had gained a fuckton of experience and knowledge, but I knew it was time for me to move on, despite me absolutely loving the job.

She and I had stayed connected through Facebook and Snapchat, and I loved following her on her adventures. One day she posted that she was on a mission to go through her friends list and send each person a message with the things she loved about them. I thought it was such a sweet idea, but I was still shocked when I woke up to a beautiful message from her one morning. It hadn’t occurred to me that she would also be sending me one.

She and I don’t talk much anymore. . . I catch glimpses of her on Facebook now and again, but she does a lot of travelling so there are months when I don’t see anything from her at all. I did reach out to her this evening to let her know I’d be writing about her, and I did ask permission to quote the message she sent me. That morning, in November of 2015, just months after dad had passed, I sat there and cried, absolutely beside myself with her kind words, that I so desperately needed to hear. It was actually the last message we exchanged on messenger, and when I went to message her I read over it again, and tears came again, five years later.

I was almost finished writing this when she messaged me back and gave me permission to quote her:

Hey girl heyyyyy, 

I know you saw what I'm doing so I don't need to explain to you 🙂 Your name starts with an A so, lucky you, you're one of the first on my list. 

So here we go.... 

First, I am very proud of what a wonderful mother you are to your boys. They are so very lucky to have you. I always am worried that because I didn't have a mother growing up, similar to you, that I might not be as great as I hope to be. You give me faith and hope that will not at all be the case and that instead I can channel my love for her into my love for my children. 

Next, you went through some crazy stuff in your life. I can't imagine how hard some of the things that you have had to deal with are, but know that people are so proud of you. people who you would never expect to be proud, they're proud. You're doing the right things and you're such a strong person. May God continue to add to your strength and courage and may He reward you for all that you do with a beautiful family and a man that is deserving of your goodness. 

Finally, you're so much fun and so great to be around. I loved spending time with you and you were terrific at your job. It's not easy to be good at a job that is stressful, but you handled it in such a classy and perfect way. Plus, like I said, we were laughing and being crazy despite the crazies that busted out windows and did all that other crazy stuff. Thanks for having a positive attitude. 

Not everyone in this world can understand me or respect me. You are a wonderful example of someone who is different than me but that can find commonalities that we share and bond over those. 

I'm honored to be your sister in humanity. Sending all my positive vibes your way and was so glad to have you as part of my life in this life and hopefully in the next ❤ 

In that message she taught me yet another lesson – no kindness goes unnoticed. I walked into that office scared to death. Not because of all that I had witnessed in the wake of 9/11, but because I was afraid of somehow inadvertently offending her in my ignorance. And instead of judging me for my ignorance, she taught me.

At one of my darkest times, when I was beating myself up because I thought I was failing my boys, when I thought I was absolutely failing in life, she saw the good in me. She taught me that you have no idea the impact you can have on another person by simply being yourself. She taught me that even when all I see are my faults, other people see a strong, capable, fun woman.

Be curious, not judgemental. You never, ever know what you can learn from another human, despite your different stories and backrounds.

The girl in the hijab will forever be one of my favorite people. For her kindness and openness, and helping make one of the more crazy parts in my life a little more bearable, and for all that she taught me in the short time that we knew each other.

Published by: A. Elizardo

Single mother to two amazing boys, sister to an inspiration, and the daughter of two opinionated, sarcastic, fun loving individuals that are no longer physically with us. Music, writing, reading, my family - living and gone - are what keep me going as I put on my rose colored glasses and navigate us through this crazy world.

Categories friendship, Grateful, Quotes, Self Discovery2 Comments

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