I remember when I was eleven. I wished I could be an astronaut when I grew up. I heard there had never been a woman on the moon and I wanted to be the first woman.

One night I told my father about my wish. As I was telling him what made my head fly, he smiled, wondering if I would reach my goal or if I was dreaming. We had a guest visiting that night, a relative who came from far away, and when he heard us talking, he said to my father: “Would you stop your children from imagining all these impossible things?”

Suddenly all the pictures in my mind disappeared—the moon, space, Fatima in an astronaut suit. They were replaced by a question: “Is being an astronaut impossible?” After that, I stopped wishing my big wish.

I don’t know when I was put down for the first time, but I know how it hurts when there is nobody to support you and give you a smile as you keep moving.

I can list how many times people put me down every day, but this is not such a big deal. I can defend myself. If I want to be a leader, I have to be strong and not worry about those who would like to see me drowning. But what hurts too much is when I realize how often I put others down.

This makes me feel ashamed of myself. When I put others down I am actually learning to put myself down. I am learning how to think negatively, to look for weaknesses and never learning to appreciate, but to lose self-confidence.

I am fifteen now and I know that I won’t put down others as I mend my self-confidence. I know now that our relative is not going to destroy my wishes even if I do not go to the moon. But it is disgusting to be put down by others, and more disgusting is to put others down. I want to say, Just stay strong! In developing countries like Afghanistan, people hate to encourage you, but the thing you have to do is to be strong!  

By Fatima H.

NASA photo, taken by an Apollo 11 astronaut in July, 1969.