Dawla was a student in my English composition class six years ago. We’ve happily kept in touch. Recently, I asked her to write about our friendship. I post this not to sing my praises (although I’m honored by her kind words) but to highlight how we, as older women, can touch the lives of women much younger than ourselves. Thanks, Dawla. The stage is yours:
I met Barbara six years ago when I was a student a the community college where she taught English; she’s had a positive impact on me ever since. I definitely didn’t expect to be approached so warmly. I have also been influenced throughout our encounters by her writing. It’s rare to find friends in your culture or outside of your culture that accept you and share your values and motivate you. I’ve found that it’s valuable to have positive relationships when reflecting on life and our purpose.
Barbara has showed me kindness. I am a Yemeni Muslim woman in my twenties, and she accepted me despite our differences. Our differences have never prevented her from reaching out, whether it was with my writing or my aspiring endeavors. I never felt uncomfortable asking, and I trusted her judgment. Not being judged based on what I wear, look like, and believe in encourages me to reciprocate. Gaining perspectives outside of my customs is eyeopening.
Barbara has motivated me to pursue my education and my goals. She’s educated, wise, and helpful. I like seeing that knowledge is something worth pursuing and sharing, that learning can be a lifelong journey. I have encountered cultural, nonreligious beliefs that there’s something wrong with women pursuing their education and providing for themselves and their family. Therefore, it’s empowering to be raised in a knowledge based society and to have the opportunities and insights to pursue my education.
Barbara is bold and joyful. I noted this through her writing online, teaching, or pursuing new things. She writes books, and writes about womanhood and life’s triumphs and struggles with enthusiasm and hope. I love seeing that there’s nothing wrong with being confident. I have been known to be a bit timid. After I started adapting my Islamic attire, I learned in my own way about confidence and strength. It took a while to realize the benefits of being myself.
I don’t have complete control over what happens as time goes by. But I know what matters most and what I want to guide me. What better way to live life than with bravery and optimism? Barbara faces her life by choosing to be lively and upbeat instead of resentful or negative. That’s inspirational and incites a hopeful outlook on life that I want to grasp!
Thanks, Dawla. It was a pleasure to have you in my class and to work with on your writing. I look forward to watching what life holds in store for you. You have a bright future thanks to your brains, energy, and determination.
Dawla sent me this info when I asked for a short bio: I enjoy learning about new places, art, and history. I came from Ibb, Yemen to North Carolina around summer, 2001. I love raising my 9 month old son. I have a great passion for entrepreneurship and health, which I hope to incorporate into my endeavors. Photo: The photo above shows young women dressed in the hijab, the head covering that Dawla wears.