January 2017 I had a mental breakdown at 3am in my car.
I was dropping a friend off so she witnessed my meltdown.
I proceeded to list reasons why I was sobbing and couldn’t string together a sentence.
I won’t bore you with the list. Plus a lot of that shit isn’t mine to share.
My friend called bullshit on it all.
“You’re not loved,” she said.
I asked her what she meant.
“Your home life, it isn’t right.”
I had a moment of clarity.
I was in a terrible marriage.
I tried to avoid eye contact with my friend. She didn’t let me hide.
I was in an unloving marriage. That shit will kill your spirit.
It was choking mine. That became apparent to me in that moment.
But, I was hesitant to let the truth wash over me like a baptism.
My friend asked me what was holding me back. There was clearly a block. I wasn’t convinced I could be a father unless I lived under the same roof as my daughter.
I’m so glad my friend challenged me on this.
I’m of Pakistani origin and was raised in a very patriarchal family. I grew up believing that there was only one way I could be a father. And that was to live with my daughter.
I had to shift that thinking in order to file for a divorce and start my life over.
In my culture the belief is that you sacrifice yourself for your children. I am the by produce of this thinking.
May I be frank?
I grew up in a miserable home. Money wasn’t an issue, but it was miserable.
Breaking the cycle. That’s all I could fixate on.
I approached things differently. If I could become the best version of myself, I could become a better father.
If I can set a better example, then my daughter will benefit.
Mindset wise, this was a major adjustment for me.
I’m writing this 11 months since I saw my daughter off at Heathrow Airport. She moved to Dubai with her mother and a global pandemic has gotten in the way of us travelling to see each other.
But, I couldn’t ask for a relationship with my daughter. She’s felt comfortable coming out of the closet to me. I called her on Father’s Day and she greeted me with:
“My guy, how are you?”
I cracked up.
Last year she made me an animation for my birthday. This year for Father’s Day she made me two Star Wars themed hand drawn illustrated Father’s Day cards.
I love hearing her talk about her desire for racial justice and LGBTQ rights.
I love witnessing her passion for saving the environment.
I love giving her space to be herself.
I love letting her explore her thoughts in conversation with me.
I love her.