Finding My Own Path
by Hamde Daoud
In my life I have seen many things. The one thing that seems to have shown its face more times that I can imagine is the feeling of high expectations. What does it mean to have high expectations? Does it mean a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future? Does it mean a belief that someone will or should achieve something?
When I was in high school, I worked as a waitress. I worked every weekend, holiday and summer break which meant being a teenager meant nothing in my life. I would come home smelling of pancake batter that had crusted on the seam of my back slacks, patches of gooey maple syrup on my forearm, and a creamy substance of what could possibly be moisturizer for my hair. I didn’t care though. Every second spent in those four walls meant I could buy my own school supplies, the hottest new clothes and whatever was left over would go to my younger siblings. When I was younger, I would always ask my mom if I could have a twin. I wanted someone who looked just like me, acted just like me but did whatever I said. Yep, I was bossy. Ask any of my siblings and they will tell you just that. I thought my life couldn’t get any better than this.
It was a Saturday night and my house twinkled with the tiny lights that gleamed down the hall towards my room. When my house twinkled with lights, that only meant one thing: Ramadan was upon us. Every year since I can remember my family and I would watch the movie, “The Messenger.” In most American homes during the holidays people usually are watching “Home Alone,” “A Christmas Carol,” or some kind of Charlie Brown movie. Not us, we watched the amazing story of our Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). That night I couldn’t stay up and watch the entire movie so I hit the sack early because those pancake-battered slacks were waiting for me.
Have you ever had the feeling when you’re sleeping and you can feel your body swaying back and forth but in slow motion, and then the swaying starts to feel like you’re in the wide-open ocean during a severe thunderstorm? My mom said to me, “There is something wrong with your dad!” I jumped up as if I were never even sleeping and ran down the small hallway to my parents’ room. “Dad, what’s wrong?” In his husky voice he replied, “I can’t feel my legs and it’s really cold in here!” I said to my sister who was only 14, “Call 911 NOW!” I turned to my dad who had tears in his eyes and hardly any words now coming out of his mouth. His eyes told me everything he wanted to tell me and more. I could hear the paramedics trying to get through our very tight front door of our apartment. With his last bit of hope, he said, “There is only one God and Muhammed is his messenger.”
My parents came to the United States in 1982 from Ethiopia. My father worked for the Ethiopian government as an attorney and my mother was a goods trader between Djibouti and Ethiopia. They came to the States with my two older brothers and hope. I was the first U.S. Citizen, and first female to graduate high school and college in my entire family. That’s something to be very proud of, my father used to tell me. I didn’t understand then, but today it’s worth more than gold to some. My father and I were twins. In my eyes that meant something great. I always wore his expectations of his first daughter on my sleeve as a badge of honor. It meant the world to me. I was his little girl who could do no wrong. His daughter who knew the importance of our culture, religion and reputation of being a Daoud.
Finally, I graduated high school and was off to college. I couldn’t go too far, so I settled for a trinket of a college in Roseville, MN. Regardless of what the school was, it was college. My father had been sick for three years and was finally coming home. It was weird to have him home again. He sat in a brown chair where the backrest was super high. He sat there staring at the television. I wondered if he even knew what was going on in the world today. It had been three years that he was cooped up in that small hospital room. That weekend I took off from work so I could spend more time with my father. I missed him so much. It felt like old times. His friends came over and said he looked really good. The nurse took him back to his room so he could rest. She wasn’t trained to check his feeding tube, that was my job. I checked his blood sugar but the machine had an error code. I phoned the doctor and he said that if the machine wasn’t reading his blood sugar then it was way too high. I was asked about any symptoms that I noticed and responded that he had ice cold legs and his chest was hard as a boulder. Inside I started to panic because I had never seen him this way. I spoke with my mother about his condition. My father’s cousin who is an Imam, a person who leads prayers in a mosque, came to bless my father. We all surrounded him in my younger brother’s tiny room. As our father began to take his last breaths, I stood to his right and held his hand and I could feel a small but tight tug, my brother held his head and rested his palm down his face to close his eyes for the last time.
When a parent dies you feel a sense of clarity, that you can handle anything else this life has to offer. You think to yourself: I have been through the darkness and I overcame my darkest time. You can never say I have been through it all, but nothing else could possibly be worse than this. I’m not the most religious person but I do have beliefs, faith. I believe that everything happens for a reason and whatever happens is to prepare us for something harder down the road. My mom always says that I am the strongest child she has and there isn’t anything that I can’t handle. I think that’s how I became her favorite child. God has tested me in ways that I may not still understand even today but because I kept my faith that I will be happy. My mother says that is why she named me Hamde. The name Hamde comes from the Arabic word meaning praise. In my culture, the name means thank you God. My mom says that she was blessed with a girl after two boys that reminds her of her late husband every day. My twin.
In 2006, a film called “The Omen” was going to be hitting the box offices in early summer. I had an addiction to demonic movies. My friends and family thought I was crazy. I didn’t care. In that moment in my life, I was happy. Not as happy as I could’ve been, but still happy. I was six months pregnant with my first child. My family didn’t approve of my child’s father so they made a choice to disown me. My baby’s father was a drummer and had a huge gig in Wisconsin playing for a breakout R&B artist, Amerie. My best friend came to stay with me while he was out of town. I had a normal ultrasound the next morning, so she went with me. She was so excited because one she had never seen an ultrasound before and we both were told young that we couldn’t have children so this was just a bonus for both of us. The doctor came in and squeezed the warm gel on my stomach. First thing we noticed was the look on the doctor’s face. He said,”I’m sorry to tell you but your baby’s heart is not beating.” The date of my appointment was June 6, 2006.
In my life I have been through many losses. Even after these iconic moments in my life, I am still here. These moments have laid long thick braids for me to always find my path back to my faith, my journey. Those bumpy braids will always lead me to where I’m going because I know the length of my hair. I never let my days stay dark. Today I stand thirty-seven years young, still driven by my love for education with the support of my family and my amazing son.