• Marya Kazmi

Awakening A Waymaker



By definition a waymaker is a person or thing that prepares the way for another; a forerunner, a precursor; a prelude. It took me many decades and a lifetime of mistakes and learning to embrace my trials with appreciation for who they have made me. My journey to being this Brown Girl in the current moment has been an awakening of my soul. What I always felt was a lack of belonging as an irregular puzzle piece in a world that never fully had a space for me to just be.


I’m wonderfully comfortable and happy to be the irregular puzzle that I am. It is what makes me so uniquely Marya Firdausi Kazmi. Down to the origins of my name. It’s a name that is not only uncommon to non South Asians, it was a rarity in the community I grew up in also. There are a total of 2 other Marya’s I have met in my life. One of which was actually named by the influence of knowing my family. In contrast, my two other sisters are named Amna ( pronounced Amina) and Ayesha (Aisha). Those names transcend races and cultures, while mine is an anomaly in all. I don’t know what compelled my father to pick it, but I think he created my destiny before I was born.


The name itself has an even more fascinating story given my life trajectory in religion and faith. It was not originally a Muslim name. It was the name of a Coptic Christian from Egypt who married Prophet Mohammed. He liked her name so much that he kept it at that rather than provide her with an Arabic Muslim Name. Which might be why it hasn't been common within the communities I grew up in.


Nevertheless, it was an unusual choice sandwiched between my older and younger sisters, Ayesha and Amna. So my dad must have just known my fate was a whole other trajectory than anyone else around me and that is entirely what I have always done as the black sheep and waymaker I now embrace.


I started to push back on the concept and confines of religion when I was 12 years old. At the time it was with immature responses of being a (relatively) rebellious teen. I thought all I really wanted was to put on makeup, wear short skirts and date boys. All of which were completely against the grain of my religious family. I didn’t have the wisdom and understanding to recognize that it had little to do with the rituals and constrictions of religion, but more about my awareness when something was not right for me.


I have to first explain that Islam is a beautiful, peaceful and very spiritual religion. I take so many aspects of lessons I have internalized through stories of what we call the Sunnah ( sayings and doings of Prophet Mohammad) but it was never for me. What I mean by this, is that every moment in my life when I was told to turn to religion to give me clarity and peace, I felt no solace and actually questioned myself more for a lack of connection to the practice and beliefs.


When I became pregnant with my first son with a man I was “dating” in secret, it was a shock and a lot for me to process as a daughter of a conservative Muslim family. (You can read more about that story in my piece on Revolution before Romance.)


During this pregnancy, my father encouraged me to connect with religion to help guide me. For an entire year, I would stand behind him and pray the fourth of the five required daily prayers, Maghreb. I wanted to feel the connection to God and faith that my father promised me would come and give me clarity in a moment where I felt the most abandoned and hurt that I ever was in my life. As hard as I tried, my mind would never focus and the Arabic words would rattle off my tongue easily, but with no meaning to me.


I felt more and more distanced from religion than connected. But I kept doing it and trying to lean into Islam because I saw how my father filled with so much pride and peace when I did. In addition, my strained dynamic with my mother started to mend when she saw me following the path and way she always hoped I would. So for almost two years I played the part of being the good Muslim girl. This was a complete 180 from what I and my parents had always seen in me. They loved it and were filled with hope, while I felt I was fading away from myself and still lost.


Then life kept moving and my son’s father returned to the picture after his prolonged absence through this time. I saw him as my future and who I was meant to be with spiritually because the words I heard him say aligned with what I wanted. As many of the messages and promises he had at the start, faith and spirituality faded into something unrecognizable to me as well. It was yet one more thing that divided us. In hindsight I know it is because we are on two drastically different intellectual and spiritual planes. That would never have given either of us happiness because he has no idea where to place this irregular puzzle piece in his life. I was so lost in surviving the control and daily hurt I felt, spirituality wasn’t even on my mind.


Then after seventeen years I left him and I embarked on establishing myself and healing. I never thought about the faith I needed to make it through that process, until it started to become difficult and painful. All I had ever known was Islam and piecemeal ideas of different religious practices. None of which helped me.


In my three years since leaving my marriage I have met people along the journey that opened my eyes to a deeper spirituality, which has been my awakening and transformation. It started with books and affirmations. Then I made a space for an altar that honors my ancestors, the earthly elements and other items that give me peace and grounding. I researched by asking questions and trying different things out. Some friends have helped guide me with specific prayers to my ancestors and mantras of appreciation.


Now for the first time in my entire life, I sit and choose to pray in a formal way, but one that makes sense to me and connects me to something higher. I feel the eyes and guidance of my ancestors that have passed and those that are unknown from generations before my birth. I sense changes in my life before they arrive and I feel protected by a realm beyond an earthly definition. And although I watch my family question this and make comments about how it makes no sense or is a fad, I know in my heart that for the first time in my entire life, something I cannot see or touch and simply have to have faith in the existence of, fully makes sense to me.


I am an extremely intuitive person and know myself very well. This has been my awakening and led me to the healing journey I am on. It has also been the source of drive and direction to me becoming Brown Girl Interrupting. I am grateful for the people who have directed and guided me to this path, I don’t know if I ever would have found it on my own. And now that I have it, I feel that I can get through anything life throws at me on my own without the need to find my sense of belonging. What I know now is that I was never meant to fit in, I was meant to be a waymaker and forge the path that I move through.


My awakening was my clearing and now I continue to find ways to guide others on this journey to awakening their souls and hear the song in their hearts that guide them.