portrait by j tanner

When I was seventeen, I spent so much time studying that my teacher came to our house and told my mother, “Don’t let her study so much that it keeps her from sleeping. She needs to rest.” But I wanted my father to be proud of me. I wanted to pass the exams for a public university so he would not have to borrow money for me to go to a private university. I studied too much, even though my father kept saying, “Everything has a limit, my daughter.” I became so tired my mother had to shop for me and I wore whatever she bought. Sometimes my clothes were too short or too long, but I did not care. I cared only about studying.

One day after I came home from school and cleaned our house, I felt confused and I could not remember some things. After a few days, I did not recognize anyone but my mother. Doctors came to the house, but they didn’t know what to do. We went to Pakistan where my mother found a new doctor. He told her I should rest and not study too much. He gave us a prescription to help me sleep and said to come back in one month.

After one month we went back and this time the doctor told me a story. He said: “When I was younger, I was not going to parties, I was not meeting with guests, I was not playing outside. I was thinking ‘when I finish school, then I will rest.’ But when school was done, I told myself, ‘when I finish university I will rest and I will have free time for my family and friends.’ But when I finished university, I told myself ‘after my master’s degree I will have free time.’ But when I finished my master’s, I said ‘after I become famous, I will rest.’ When I became famous, I said ‘after a few years at my job I will have free time for my friends and family.’ Now look at me. I worked and served my country for twenty years. Now there is no time for playing or going to parties. My father and my mother are both dead and I will never be able to speak with them again.”

The doctor began to cry. He wiped away his tears and told me, “I don’t want to say that you should not work hard. Work as much as you can. But give some of your time to your friends and to your family. That’s why I wanted you to come back to visit me. I don’t want you to do what I did.”

After that I began to spend time with my family and a close friend. I helped my sisters, played with my younger brother, and I spoke with my family for one hour every day. Day by day I got used to spending more time with my family. My mother and my father became my friends. I am so much happier. They are my friends.

By Shogofa Az, age 18

Photo by J. Tanner