Updated: Feb 2
Here's a story I never shared with you before...
When I was 19 I joined a pyramid scheme company behind my husband's back (I was engaged to be in a fixed marriage at 18 back in Saudi Arabia) and bought a $2000 SAR (approximately $533.18 USD) product to be a member. After I joined, they gave me CDs with lectures, talks and training to become the best salesperson, and to build the wealth I heard about in the recruitment meeting.
The woman who recruited me and my two cousins had a Prada bag. I was swoon. At a time when even H&M and Zara were considered expensive brands. Funny enough, the first time I shopped at H&M was after I filed for divorce and I was getting ready to leave Saudi to come to Canada at the age of 24.
But that is not the point of this share, the point was one of the CDs had this British Indian man standing on a stage at the company's Annual Convention (where everyone who goes comes back fired up and starts making bank) and giving a speech. And while I was in awe of him speaking about having a bathroom with heated floors (which was very unimpressive to me for the obvious reason of being in Saudi Arabia), it was him on stage, speaking that swooned me. Him on stage sharing stories, thousands of audience members laughing, feeling moved, inspired, and transformed by every single word he was saying.
I wanted that.
Yes, the wealth he talked about. But I wanted the stage. I was swoon. In a time when I was covered from head to toes in public, and my voice was considered "haram" (forbidden) to be heard by men who are not close family (aka only uncles, brothers, husband, dad and granddads shall hear a woman's voice). Other men are considered foreigners, and it's a sin to let your voice be heard by them.
In 2017, at the age of 29, 10 years later... I took a leap.
I stood on the TEDx stage, talked about fate, chance and choice, and shared my story of being covered up since 3rd grade to choosing to take off the hijab.
My TEDx talk had 3 times more dislikes than likes, the comments were filled with hate speech, harassment, and promises that I'll end up burning in hell. Most of those comments were made by old school friends, family members and my community in Saudi Arabia. Alongside that, came death threats.
Since that backlash, I've engineered my public presence to be small, I was playing big, but I was keeping it contained and carefully crafted. Heck, I was named Top 40 Under 40 by the chamber of commerce in the city I lived in. But a part of me knew, that there was something bigger for us, more is yet to come, and that was all just the beginning.
I know I'm meant for a stage. I know I'm here to speak. I just know.
This year, 2022, is my year of Untamed Self Expression. The year to take the stage, even the virtual stage gives me the shivers, I feel the alignment, I feel the power, I feel my power.
This is me, in excitement and trembling fear that can't shake my confidence, I say it... I am here to speak, I am here to serve, I am here to share stories and teach powerful tools. I'm meant for a stage. I am meant to speak. I know. I just know.