When I left my home for Salamanca, Spain, I rushed my decisions, thinking that it will turn out all fun and roses in the end. I booked my accommodation a day earlier, packed my bag 30 minutes before my flight, and left for my flight an hour before departure. The result: the check-in lady told me that I had missed my flight (don’t worry, she let me in after begging furiously), left with my phone only half charged, took a phone charger that did not work, switched my mother’s computer for mine, and didn’t know how to reach the hostel at which I booked after landing. To top it all off, I forgot to read my plane ticket, which told me to switch my bag at the airport before changing flights, which caused my bag to arrive a day late. All this, added with a sever case of loneliness after being with family every day for two weeks, caused me to go into a kind of depression mode.
In the end, al7amdulillah, everything turned out well. My mom told me she didn’t need her computer, I bought another phone charger, and my accommodation turned out to be four minutes away from school. I thought that this was just another case of slipping up, which it definitely was, but it all turned out to make sense to me about two weeks later…
Walking back home, kind of lost, a few days into the Spanish course, I passed by a Kebab shop on the side of the road. I went in, and ordered a ‘kebap de pollo’, and started talking to the chef. On knowing that I am a saudi, he insisted that I give my number to his friend, another saudi, saying that his friend would be upset if he saw me and didn’t tell him. I liked that character, and evidently, the chef did too.
We met up, and long story short, he liked me, and offered to give me a place in his apartment. Awesome! I noticed the proximity to the school, the silence of the streets outside, the size of the apartment, and the facilities he bought both to live simply and comfortably at the same time. We got to know each other more, and put aside each other’s faults: my habit of leaving the doors and lights open and trouble tidying up after I am done, and his slow, almost lethargic, approach to work, school, and getting to do important things. But once he starts, he does not stop, however small the task (be it throwing a tissue in the bin from five meters away).
Just today, upon observing my habits of eating and leaving the plates on the table, he decided to tell me what he thinks. “Abdulrahman, you and I, have different approaches to life, but each of our styles completes the other’s.” I am listening. “You like to start things, and I like to finish them. But I do not like to start things, and you do not like to finish them.” This opened a whole field of thought in my mind. I suddenly understood what I have been thinking all this time. I could list a hundred things that I have started, or tried to, but never finished. I get motivated to do something, finish the bulk of it, and lose interest towards the end. I never pay attention to the details, the final touch, the little things.
I’ll give you two examples. When reading the Quran, I noticed that I think of the big picture concepts, reading far between the lines, looking at the link between the ayat to find out what concepts lie behind. Listening to tafseer however, I found that many look at the way the Ayahs are put in the Surah, the words are put in the Ayah, and, yes, the way the letters are put in the word. This was hard for me to practice without guidance. On trying to act the ayat of Allah, I found I would come up with an amazing plan, that if done would transform me, and start executing this plan… but soon to realise that I lose focus to quickly. I need something else to drive my motivation, some other concept a day later, and another the next. This is the only way I can keep going…
Another small thing. A few weeks ago, I was fascinated by the Spanish word “pues.” Meaning nothing, but being so useful as both a filler and a sign that one wants to continue talking, I fell in love with the word. I understood it, but could not integrate it in my everyday speech. I had to force myself to say it ten times per day, counting the times I did on a small paper. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to be addicted to the word, to not stop saying it. But I couldn’t. Today, I remember my goals, and how I came to forget them over the course of a few days, and start trying once again.
The solution? I do not know. I am here with Jameel, and hope to learn much from my time with him, knowing that this time will end, like every other. There is not enough time to start without finishing. Better to finish than to start something else. But better to start than to have never finished.