In my seventeen years of living, my family has moved from place to place, three times. Each time, it involved a different culture and a different lifestyle to get used to. When I was two, we moved from North Carolina to Saudi Arabia. When I was twelve, we moved to Iowa. Then, when I was fourteen, we moved to Ohio. By the second move, the security of “home” was gone. By the third, my eyes had adjusted to airports, airplanes, and luggage. This was my life: only drifting, transience. No roots, no permanence.
I yearned for a place to belong. But where? In my sophomore year, I found it— a library in New York.
In the fall, I returned to my high school revived and empowered. I helped organize a Syrian refugee clothing drive, volunteered at a hospital, and tried to help ESL students transition into the American lifestyle. Realizing the value of change, I started with my community. I began teaching in an Arabic Saturday school, teaching kids the value of words: how they could make or break someone. I also peer-tutored in my school, giving every student that came to me an additional lesson that regarded life: watch your words.
Before that moment in the library, I let others define me, based on titles they chose to bestow upon me: “terrorist,” “Jasmine,” even “American” by the Middle Easterners. But during that moment, despite the rootlessness and transience of my upbringing, I was able to solidify a strengthened sense of self: philanthropist, activist, Arab-American. That moment made me realize that I am so much more than those confining titles: I’m the daughter of hardworking immigrant parents, a seeker for social justice, and change.
Maybe I am different from everyone else in this world, but so be it. My identity is just that: mine to own, and mine to shape. In time, I’ve learned that while my identity already has changed, and will continue to do so, I can embrace it for what it is: a medley of unorthodox traits, ardors, and goals, blending into a singular vibrant whole.