Who Were You When You Were Five?

(Disclaimer: #AudioBlog will likely not be available this week because of issues I hope will resolve soon. So just enjoy this week’s read itself. 💜)

As any avid reader of this blog knows by now, this summer of self-reflection has included insights that appear in poetic form (any avid reader of this blog also knows by now that I have the same birthday as Maya Angelou – maybe she’s guiding me from above?)

“Who were you when you were five?” is a question that I’ve not only asked myself in the last year, but a question I’ve also posed to friends who are in the midst of an identity crisis or possible career transition or simply just talking to me during one of our regularly scheduled 20-minute-turn-hour-long phone calls (hi Andrea.)

It’s a question that, I believe, gets you to your core truth. It’s your essence before life and societal expectations got in the way. Before other people’s opinion influenced your likes and dislikes. Before you were told who you’re supposed to be.

It’s a question that, I believe, needs an answer before you can answer any present-day identity questions.

And while I had asked myself the question in the past, and could effortlessly answer it, what I didn’t realize is the importance of truly thinking about it, and doing something with that answer…until a poem, one that started with that exact question, revealed itself earlier this summer.

Who Were You?

Who were you when you were five?
Go back to her,
Become alive.

Who were you before you changed?
Go back to that,
You’ll be the same.

Who were you deep down inside?
Go find that girl,
Don’t just plain hide.

Who were you before all this?
Go find yourself,
She can’t be missed.
– 💜SK

This is the only photo I had easily-available access to that I think I was close to five in?

The poem felt very…instruction-like.

Who was five-year-old SK? Well. She was a girl who read things (even phone books), watched things (TV and Disney movies), created things (like fake shows with her brother and her stuffed animals), happily talked to strangers (i.e. her mom’s coworkers), practiced her signature over and over (maybe for autographs, maybe just to sign a checkbook?) and drew asymmetrical dress designs just for fun (yes, specifically asymmetrical. Maybe it represented a preference for the unconventional?)

The other thing young me did a lot of? Sing around the house. Specifically…to Disney songs.

And 5-year-old SK, because of her love for singing, wanted to take voice lessons in Fresno. When she asked or hinted at it, 5-year-old SK’s request was denied. Whether it was a feasibility thing, or cultural reasons (my mother having this notion in her mind that it isn’t ‘proper’ for a Pakistani girl to be a performer – similar you could say to the mother in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel likening Midge’s comedy career to that of…someone who sells their body for physical gratification), the truth is… 5-year-old SK wasn’t able to fully explore something she really liked.

So three decades later (yes, after writing this poem), I changed that.

Yeah. I’ve been in music classes for a couple of months now.

Yes, in Fresno.

Yes, just like 5-year-old SK wanted.

And for now (and maybe forever), it’s just something I am doing for me. A private thing, a sacred act, a therapeutic activity.

Self-expression…but just for myself.

It’s for 5-year-old SK, and also 10-year-old SK (who showed up at talent show auditions in 4th grade to sing A Whole New World but who turned around and went home before having the chance to take the stage.)

It’s for 5-year-old SK, and also 14-year-old SK (who showed up to audition for a performing arts high school in Fresno, but who once again, turned around and went home and enrolled in the academically advanced school instead.)

It’s for 5-year-old SK, and also 20-year-old SK (who fully intended to take a voice class on the side at USC, but who got caught up in her broadcast journalism major – you know, the academic way to work in TV.)

It’s for 5-year-old SK, and also 30-year-old SK (who’d sing all the time in her car, but would never do it in front of a stranger.)

Really…I’m just doing it for any-age SK. Because it’s always been a part of me. It’s a part of who I am.

My first lesson took place the week of July 21. When I entered the room and saw what sheet music was waiting for me, it felt like this musical exploration was destined. The song that was waiting for me? Amazing Grace. Yep. A song about salvation. It felt fitting, as taking part in this hobby, one that was just for my own enjoyment and not any professional pursuit, nurtured and saved a neglected part of my childhood identity.

Needless to say, when my voice teacher asked me to pick a song to work on in August and September (a song I’d perform at a hypothetical future recital in a post-social distancing world), I went back to the poetic revelation, and leaned into that.

Yep. I opted for a Disney song.

Because that’s who I was when I was five.

Recommended Listening: Barack Obama Amazing Grace

I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

(Because I just love Obama. He’s artistic AND a President. So talented. Enjoy. I’ll see you guys next week. – 💜SK)

P.S. I haven’t directly told my mom about my lessons, yet. I’ve told her I’m going to artistic therapy and we work with music (it’s not a lie because my vocal coach definitely has sat through sessions of me being emotional over lyrics and also knows the happenings of my personal life. Basically a therapist.) I’ll tell mom in due time (I just prioritized other, more important (favorite?) things to be open about with her instead this summer. Hopefully she doesn’t read this blog post. Or…actually…no. Hopefully, she does.)

P.P.S. I left the lesson for the very end of this blog post because it is not a formal lesson. The lesson (and this may be the norm moving forward, TBD) is that as a reader, or just as someone who experiences another person’s story (song, film, show, etc.), it’s up to you to interpret your own lesson. Because as you experience your own life, lessons won’t ever be wrapped up in concluding paragraphs, handed to you by the Creator, something easy to digest and effortless. In life, finding the lesson requires sitting with what you experience (like a blog post) and figuring out for yourself exactly what it means for you. 💜SK

ICYMI…PREVIOUS BLOG POST: Trust the Process (and Finish Your Unfinished Business)

START THE JOURNEY FROM BLOG #1: Am I Too Scared To Start Things?

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Samia Khan directly!