My First Fast
On the first day of Ramadan this year, my Mom and I watched the sunrise tinge the sky orange and then melt into a bright yellow morning. Even though the day had started the same as Ramadan usually does, with prayers, date smoothies, and big portions of eggs with fava beans, it felt different. Heavy. It was my first time participating in the fast. My parents fasted every year, and when I was younger I couldn’t wait to be old enough to do it, too. Now that the time had finally come, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how to feel.
Our house was peaceful and almost silent, and mom pulled me close. “I watched the sunrise with my mom when I fasted for the first time,” she whispered as if she didn’t want to interrupt the serenity by speaking too loudly. “You’re part of something big now, bigger than all of us,” she said. “When it gets difficult, remember your community. Remember all of the other girls like you, sitting with their mothers, about to participate in the same experience.”
How difficult could it be? I’d been hungry before. Plus, my mom never complains, and she doesn’t even drink water during her fast like I do. “I’ve got this,” I said. “I can be strong.”
At school, I spent the lunch period in the art room, alone. The noise of the cafeteria next door cut the silence and amplified how lonely I felt. All I could think about was what I couldn’t do: eat; sit with my best friend, Luna; go to recess. A month started feeling like an eternity. My strength didn’t feel so strong anymore.
“You can’t do this” echoed around in my head, so I stood to go and eat with my friends. I could try again tomorrow, I reasoned.
But then my mom’s words, “You’re part of something bigger than you now,” stopped me. I couldn’t let her down. I couldn’t let my community down. I took some big breaths and mustered all of my strength. My mom was right: it would get hard. Unfortunately, it got harder faster than I expected. The rest of the day went by in a blur, but I did it.
At sundown, my parents and little brother, Behn, and I broke the fast together as a family. When I looked in the mirror before bed, it surprised me that I looked the same when I felt so different inside. Muslims around the world felt close to me now that I was fasting. All the girls my age who were fasting for the first time too felt like my friends, even though I didn’t know them. It felt like we were helping each other stay strong somehow. When I thought about it that way, as if every member of my community all over the world were doing it for each other, the harder moments felt easier and worthwhile. The lonely moments felt less lonely. I knew I was making my community proud.