July 4th, 1987, my mother cowered under a bed in a rented room
didn't know what the word "fireworks" meant, and there weren't many Farsi
speakers around, so she assumed the noises she heard were explosions.
wasn't totally unreasonable – just months earlier she was living in a Pakistani
refugee camp after being smuggled across the border from Iran. She was there
because four years prior, a cleric decided that declaring herself a Baha'i was
reason enough to expel her from her final year of pharmacy school, burn her
family's house to the ground, and bar her from meaningful employment.
year, she turned 24 years old. The year I turned 24, I enrolled at the Harvard
life is not mine, it was not free, and it definitely did not happen by chance.
Opportunity was not "given" to me – it was purchased. My life was paid for in
full with a year in poverty in a camp in southwestern Pakistan, with a night
huddled under a blanket in the bed of a Toyota Hilux fleeing from the bullets
of the Iranian border patrol, and with four years sewing baby clothes and oven
mitts with borrowed machines to sell in secrecy because earning a wage openly
would mean yet another home set aflame.
do I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? Well, if I'm very lucky, I hope
to make my mother proud.