As I sit here listening to the symphony that is New York City on a snow day: beeping horns, slammed-on brakes, frustrated voices, I am ever so aware that I am not living in a small town anymore where snowfall beckons tranquil words like “tiptoe” and “flutter.” No, no, I will not be able to hear the tiptoes of my fellow people, nor even their stomps, but I can hear their raging horns, those unremitting reminders that I live in a city where patience is about as hard to come by as a cab on New Year’s Eve. And yet, although the disparities between city life and life in suburbia are evident, it is not these variances that my mind seems to be narrowing in upon at the moment.
Earlier today I sat in my bed hoping to get the news that my first two classes of second semester graduate school would be cancelled. I’ve been flu-stricken and bed-confined since Friday and the thought of trudging through the battlefield that is Manhattan in a snowstorm to get to class was too much for me to handle. Not to mention my brave hero Seamless had been slower than usual today at heaving my ten gallons of soup and orange juice up the four flights of stairs to my apartment, so I was not fully fueled and ready to face the challenges ahead. You would think this waiting would have reminded me of all those nights I’d stayed up waiting as a child watching the TV screen scroll through the surrounding townships to see if I could find my school’s name on the cancellation list. The thought of a snow day excites every child I have ever known…even the nerds like me who would cry when they had to stay home sick because they didn’t want to miss what was going on in the classroom. Yea, I was that kid.
But, no, this wait was different. Because as I listened to the loud noises outside, I thought not of the soft patter of snowflakes on a cold night in my hometown in Connecticut, but rather of the gunshots and bombs heard outside a home in a small town in Pakistan. I thought of Malala.
It’s strange to think about this. Two people waiting at different times in two completely different worlds for an answer to the same exact question: Will I go to school today? Except, the difference here is, my question went a little more like “Will I have to go to school today” and Malala’s was “Will I be allowed to go to school today?”
At about one o’clock today I got the news that my school would be closing and I wouldn’t have to make my way through the blizzard to my classes. Five years ago, Malala Yousafzai sat in her home and heard the Taliban deliver the threats over her radio that girls were no longer allowed to go to school. 50,000 girls would lose their education because of this broadcast.
Now my worries don’t seem so large because outside my window I am hearing horns, not gunshots. And if I was going to have to walk to school today I would have been concerned about slipping on ice, not having acid thrown in my face. I wanted my classes to be cancelled despite knowing that regardless of the fact that I may have the flu and live in a noisy city, I would still be safe walking to class. Malala did not want her classes to be cancelled despite knowing that she was not safe walking there and that she could have been targeted at any moment, just like the corpses strewn across her village, left out there by the Taliban as an “example” for her people.
From this moment on I will never take my education for granted. Not that I have in the past. And not that I think it’s wrong to get excited over snow days. We live in a different world. Our worries are different here. But, after watching the documentary below and hearing Malala say at the age of eleven, “In the world the girls are going to school freely and there is no fear. But in Swat when we go to our school we are very afraid of Taliban. He will kill us. He will throw acid on our face. He can do anything,” I really appreciate what I have so much more. I am a woman and I am able to go to school freely, and not only that, but I am able to pursue the career that I want through higher education. This is how it should be for everyone.
When I say everyone it reminds me of a post I wrote almost a year ago today, on MLK day, where I said this:
“It isn’t until we all believe that the change that we want to see in this country and this world, and which we demand from all of our presidents is not the responsibility of one person, but EVERYONE. This is what I see when I look at that word: Every person becomes one. Every individual affects the oneness of our nation and our world. Think of a synonym for every: “each.” Take away the “one” from eachone and you get “each.” Take away the “each” from eachone and you get “one.” Each=one. They are equal. “Each” does not mean two or more. It means one. It means ONE person can make a difference. Now that we have a better grasp on the equivalence of “every” and “one,” let’s go back to the actual word, “everyone.” Replace “one” with “I am.” We use this phrase in order to convey our individuality and inform others of our relation to the world as a whole. I am Kelly. I am female. I am here. Saying “I am” means we are going to reveal something about ourselves. Now, reverse “I am” and put it back into the word. Everyami. Reverse the whole word. I may rêve. Rêve is the French word for dream. I may dream.”
At just eleven years of age, Malala Yousafzai had a dream. She had a dream to become a doctor. This dream has since changed due to the violence inflicted upon her home in Swat Valley, Pakistan. She has become a symbol of peace and hope for her people. She spoke up for the right of girl’s education in Swat Valley when even adults in her community were too fearful to raise their voices. And this bravery almost cost Malala her life as relayed by her in a speech to the UN below:
“Dear friends, on the ninth of October two-thousand and twelve, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life—except this: Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Malala has a dream: “let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.” And a means to achieve it: “let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” So as I spoke of before, I may dream, because I am part of the “everyone” and so is Malala. Our worlds may be different and I am deeply saddened by that, but that doesn’t mean our thoughts have to be. Education is power. The more we learn about the world around us, the more likely we are to achieve our highest ambitions. As we hear stories like Malala’s, our minds become aware that our dreams are not the only ones that matter. And it isn’t until we start helping others work towards their dreams, that ours will start to make sense.
I don’t know about you, but those horns are sounding pretty melodious to me right now. And I’m going to stomp happily to school on Thursday, so that my stomps can be heard. Because I am proud to be a female studying hard every day to achieve her dreams. And that’s a privilege that not everyone in this world is given.
So, dream on, dreamers. We’ve got a whole world to change.