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It was muggy outside when the dim light shone through the windowed doors. The sheets were crumpled at the edge of the mattress as Aisha woke up, trying to escape the morning heat of Kuwait. The clashing of glass against glass is heard, giving intel that someone was downstairs sorting dishes. Groggily, Aisha made her way downstairs, her sight showing her a reflection of what she's come to know as home. A small trip to her family's home in Kuwait, resulted in something much stronger within Aisha. In front of her sat her Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, seven cousins, and a few family friends. This was her first Saturday in the family home, and was unaware of the breakfast hosted every weekend in their kitchen. Aisha’s never been around this many people who know her name at once, and that she could call family. A warmth radiates up through her toes and into all four chambers of her heart. Although Aisha's heart called this home, her brain wasn't sure if she was allowed to yet. Instead she set her mind aside and grabbed a plate to begin to eating.
Later that day Aisha and her cousin, Nora, spent time in their small home rummaging through photos. Photos of grandparents and great aunts and cousins third removed. It was then, that Aisha's grandmother placed her hand on Aisha's shoulder, and presented Aisha with a photo.
“Is that her?,” Aisha asked,
already knowing the answer to her own question.
“Can’t you tell? You look just like her,” her Grandmother praised, in response.
Her mind pondered the thought of how she could know someone she's never met. How her brain didn’t even flinch at the knowing, that the photograph in front of her, was her mother.
The photo displayed her mother in the streets, arms open, smile wide, those on the sidewalks in motion, as she stood as the nucleus of her surroundings. It's often unusual to take photos out in public in Kuwait, this hinted to Aisha that at one point her mother must have been adventurous, daring, and quite frankly, fearless.
“Who took this?”, Aisha inquired, as she was taken aback when she learned it was her father who took this photo.
Her father who avoids topics regarding her mother at all cost. Her father who takes just one day a year to remember her mother, Aisha's own birthday, the day her mother passed. To imagine her father as someone who used to adore, was difficult for Aisha. Her grandmother let her keep the photo, the one thing she’s ever had to connect herself to her mother.
This series of events led Aisha to believe that this trip was the start of something much bigger than herself, something that would alter her life eternally. Aisha spent the first few weeks of her time in Kuwait with that picture by her bedside. That picture serving as her first friend as well as her first foe. Aisha laid awake in bed one night, the photograph between her fingertips, her brain analyzing how this made her felt. Because that's what Aisha did, she analyzed. Aisha was a speculator, her whole life every action had a motive, every movement had a purpose. Aisha was always in control of the things around her, and for once, Aisha truly felt out of control. How could one photograph make her feel so much? She tries to tell herself it's just a memory of the past, just a second of captured time from a million yesterdays ago. But she succumbs to the fact that, no matter how hard she tries, this image will stay parked in the lot of her mind.
Aisha comes to a conclusion that if this is the one thing she’ll be given of her mother, she must take it and use it. Use it as her fuel, her passion to make creation, Aisha decides, she must use what she's got, because what if this is all she's ever going to get? Aisha would tell a stranger she lived two childhoods, one where her mother was alive, and one where she wasn’t. Because, even though Aisha never met her mother, her mother was everything that Aisha could of asked for. Always whispering in Aisha's ear to get ready when her alarm was too selfish to wake her up, or telling her she could do better after every failed test. Her mother would hold her on the bad days and caress her on the good. Her tangible presence may have been mere imagination, but Aisha will promise you that if her mother was here, that their voices would sound exactly same, because she’d heard them in every nightmare, every daydream. She lived a motherless childhood, in her brain, at her back to school nights, during her afternoon walks. But during midnight stirs and scribbled through dream journals, she lived everyday alongside her mother.
Aisha felt that she could build something with this photograph. This was the first thing Aisha ever got stuck on. When she returned to her home in Brooklyn, after a long three months in Kuwait, she felt renewed. She crossed the streets with purpose and held a camera like it was the brown hand of her child self, so young, delicate, waiting to store memories. Her mother's photo has ignited a desire within her to create and capture moments bigger than herself. It's all she could think about lately, and all she could ever see herself doing from this point on; capturing people in moments that solidify and never burn out their existence.
Nevertheless, Aisha knew she needed to pursue this passion of hers, but was blindsided by her forgotten thought, of how her father would react. When seeing her father for the first time in three months, Aisha felt that her glass was half full, but that she just needed more water. Around her father, Aisha never felt full, always a half of a heart missing. Aishas father was tough, jaded, traumatized, and cold. He never did quite get over his wife's death. Aisha always felt guilty and allowed him to grieve his whole life, because to her, she owed him something. Owed him good grades and awards and achievements. She owed him the best of the best because that's all she could ever offer up. Even at a young age, Aisha knew that she could never give her father what he truly wanted, which was, to have her mother back. This left her with a ghostly childhood and and a runaway mind.
She was fretful about telling her father, she fears he might believe that she has more potential, that she can create a more fortuitous legacy for herself. And she was right, her father was indecisive about her confession. He claimed that he raised her to use her brain and be able to support herself. Aisha knew it was all out of love, at least she hoped. But upon telling her father what sparked this within her, he settled down. He grew tender at the mention of the photograph, and grew gentle once he got to hold it in his own hands. He was silent, as Aisha waited apprehensively for his response. Aisha knew her father was a man of little words, but really hoped, that just this once, he’d say something. The silence grew fleetly, his eyes never breaking contact with the photo, “Okay,” he mustered up, “Go on, you must get started if you’re going to be successful.” Aisha recognized the symbolism in her father's simplistic word choice. This was a moment she would guard forever. A moment she would take care of when sick, and tuck in at night. Something she could never quite stop reflecting on because in this moment she stopped being that little girl. That little girl of her childhood, so young and frail and afraid of what her father thought. Afraid of what her mother thought. This moment, was the instant Aisha started living for herself.
It had been a few months later, since her conversation with her father, and Aisha was experiencing a bit of turmoil. She found it difficult to start up her brand of photography. She was particularly interested in street photography, and would spent days until nights capturing what was around her. Although, after a few months, Aisha found that selling her work and getting her name out there was harder than she had anticipated. She didn’t want to give up because she’d love what she had been creating. She also didn’t want to let her father down. She felt that she had to prove to her father that this was the right decision for her. She couldn’t have convinced him to believe in her, and then fail, it could not end like that. Even though, Aisha wanted to put her all into it, she was making little to no money, and barely had enough money to pay next months rent, on her new loft. She came to the conclusion that she must get a part time job. Even if she were to be miserable the whole time, she needed some way to get income coming in.
In the later weeks, Aisha started working at her local grocery store. There was a heavy weight on Aishas heart. She knew she hadn’t failed, and she knew that this was only temporary, but she couldn’t help feeling that she settled. Settled for a lifestyle, that just wasn’t made for her. She had trouble ever picturing herself being successful, Aisha really wanted to stop beating herself up over this. After a bit of time, Aisha decided the only way this could work was if she evenly split her time between the two activities. She came up with a plan to work during the days, and then do photography at night. If she would have to go sleepless, she would have to go sleepless. Aisha just knew that she could not give up her love of photography completely, she had to have some kind of balance. So, that's what Aisha did. She worked during the days, longing for the nights. And although work was dreadful, Aisha finally had something to look forward to.
Aisha would go out during the nights and shoot beautiful scenery. Aisha would shoot taxi cabs on Tuesdays, from the top of buildings on Thursdays, even some free shooting on Fridays. She became immersed in the art of photography. Eventually, smaller steps were being made to showcase Aishas talent. Because of all the people that Aisha was taking photos of, she became curious. She decided to begin a people of New York series of her own, where she’d interview and spend time with a stranger and get to know there stories. She’d video tape them and then later upload to YouTube. Along with each person, she’d do a shoot with them on the street, really get a feel for this person and their story. She’d take those photos as well and upload to any other social media site of hers. It took a lot of work, and a lot of sleepless nights, but she knew she had to keep pushing through, that one day it would all be worth it.
Aisha started to have quite the online following, but not enough for her to do anything substantial with it. So, Aisha keep doing her usual routine, which one late night, led to Aisha meeting someone she was sure she’d never forget. It wasn’t too late that night, as Aisha went on a walk through central park. Central park was one of Aishas favorite places, it always comforted her to be around nature. It was seven pm, slowly reaching the sunset, when she he decided to approach an older woman to ask if she would like to be in her people of New York series. The woman agreed upon the proposal and Aisha began to ask her the usual set of questions. Although, what had stunned Aisha, was when she asked the woman the question, “What is your ultimate goal, and have you ever achieved it?” Aisha always loved hearing people answer this question in particular, she found it really compelling to listen to others responses. The woman took a long while to form the answer. Aisha got worried that she had been prying a little too much. She went to change the subject when the woman interrupted her, finally having a conclusive answer. The woman said to Aisha, “Well, that is quite the loaded question. Although, I’d have to say no. And I say this because, my life contains no real goal. Of course, I have had desires, dreams, places I want to grab hold of and never let go, and I’ve gotten to some places before. But it seems that when I get from one place to another, when I make the check on my list, there's just another place to go. So yeah, I’ve achieved greatness, but I’ll never been done. And that's why I’m saying no, because have I achieved my ultimate goal? I don’t think so. I think my ultimate goal will never end, but being within that ultimate goal, always centered toward that ultimate goal, that's why I keep moving forward.” Aisha was moved by the woman's words, speechless in fact. What the woman had said had really put things into context for Aisha. She thanked the woman for answering her question so thoughtfully, and moved on to the rest of the questions. After that, Aishas day went on as normal. Same routine as any day, except now Aisha understood her surroundings much clearer. Aisha recognized that she was living her dream, her ultimate goal. She finally got to remembering who she was doing all this for; her mother. This mystery woman highlighted, very clearly for Aisha, that she must not wait to reach her goal, or her journey will so slowly pass her by. She was thankful for the woman, those words now held a special place in Aishas heart, and she often remembered them.