I was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina in 1993 to a Catholic Marine father and a Protestant accountant mother. We lived there for about 2 years until my father was killed in a helicopter crash over Georgia. As soon as that happened we moved to West Virginia where we would be close to my Grandparents on my Mother's side. Growing up in West Virginia is a hard business, especially in the small towns. I was faced with bullies, not because I was small or shy, but because that was how things worked. When I was about 5, though, my mom met a man named Matt. He seemed like a nice enough guy but as the weeks went on they descended into an abusive relationship. I began to pray every night to God that it would stop but it kept on happening. I was to young, at the time, to understand why and to just throw God out the window. Eventually we left after I had thrown my bowl of cereal at him when he tried to hit her again.
I grew up with those memories. The whack-ing sounds from behind closed doors when my Mom didn't want to do certain things, whether it was go here or do this it didn't matter. But I was still a child and not young enough to fully embrace the cynical aspect of life that would plague me in my mid teens. We moved back into our Grandma's house since we couldn't afford to buy one and I had a wonderful time with them. Everything went smoothly until 3rd grade when my mom met another man, a Pastor in a church in Wheeling. I figured he wouldn't be bad but I was keen to never leave them alone for a second without me having my pocket knife. I was told by my Grandfather that family was all we have. Always respect your parents and do everything in your power to protect them. He would tell me that even the youngest kid can do something.
Eventually they got married and everything worked out fine. We moved out. He got promoted to Bishop of the Methodist Church and we moved to Pennsylvania. These were dreadful years. The West Virginia jokes tore me down and then I was stomped on by bullies on my school bus. The chinks in my armor began to show and I prayed and prayed to Jesus and God and nothing changed. In 9th grade all my friends abandoned me due to a tick I developed which caused me to clear my throat ridiculous amount of times per day, sometimes till I was hoarse. I began to doubt the existence of God but still considered myself a Christian. Things changed over time and I became more cynical. I swore so much, made fun of so many people, and eventually I felt lacking. I ignored it as my stupid conscience trying to tell me to stop. Then over the summer my Grandfather died, the one on my father's side, and I took it hard. I had not really stayed in contact with my Catholic roots and I vowed I would do it now.
While in Florida visiting my grandma I heard her say some very unsavory things about Muslims being another breed of people, a disgusting insult to Christianity and so forth and I couldn't take it. It was disgusting how people could view someone else like that. I then did a lot of reflection and realized that that was what I had been doing this whole time.
My feelings toward religion grew sour at this point, yet I still attended youth group and church on the odd Sunday, just to appease my parents. I hated church. When I wasn't sleeping in the pews I was confused at how we could let all these idols and symbols take away from God, if he even existed (my thoughts at the time). Even Jesus seemed to suck worship away. The fact that the main holiday was on the same date as a pagan holiday had always had me in doubt. it was absurd in my opinion. And I renounced Christianity.
I began drinking heavily as soon as I went off to college, getting into trouble with my RA and the campus police didn't stop me. I started smoking pot and having sex most weekends.
Then I got kicked out of school for failing grades. My world was turned upside down and I felt hollow. I was so ashamed of myself and my actions. So ashamed that I moved out of my house and into my grandma's. I attend a local community college to get my grades up so that I can go back to my old school and succeed. It was down here, in these beautiful West Virginian hills, that I found Islam.
They say that when you are by yourself the Devil is more likely to get to you. Well it seems that by myself Allah was able to grab my heart. I felt a great calling to look at Islam and study it. I downloaded a Qur'an and upon finishing reading Al Fatiha I nearly cried. I knew I had found what I was looking for. I began talking to my wonderful friend from my old school, a Muslim from Egypt, and converted.
It has been the best decision of my life and I cannot wait to keep writing my story as a Muslim. I never felt this kind of peace in my life. I feel as if I stand on a beach at dawn when the waves are slowly rolling in. It is wonderful, beautiful, and no force on this earth could make me go back.
My Muslim identity is a secret to some and barely even known in my family. I told my uncle simply because I had to tell someone. Nearly all my friends know and have accepted me.
Allah has saved me and I could not be more happy.