“I am not my arrangement”

I am 20 years old, I am a Gambian-American Muslim woman, and I am married.

My parents did an arranged marriage for me in high school, and during the summer of my freshman year at Princeton, I traveled with my mother to Gambia to get married.

Coming to terms with this part of my life has been the most difficult experience I have ever experienced. In the beginning I did not think much of it. The night I got engaged, I prayed silently that night to Allah, and told him that if this engagement was good for me then for him to let me come to terms with it and if it was not, for him to not allow it to happen to me. After I prayed, I felt much better, confident that Allah would always do what was best for me.

I did not always think that way, as I grew older, more aware of my situation, and more nervous about my future. I suppressed this fate of mine and instead worried about grades, college applications, and my extra-curricular activities.

This suppression, this silence succeeded until my freshman year at college as it became more apparent that I would be married at the end of the school year. I went through depression and anxiety, I was not so sure anymore of myself and of God because if he always does what is best for me, why was I in so much pain.

I am forever thankful to the great friends that came to help me during this hard time, the ones who made sure I woke up to go to class, the ones who prayed for me and with me, the ones who called me to me sure I was okay, and the ones who told me they loved me no matter what I chose to do.

In making my decision to go to Gambia and get married, I had to come to terms with my anger, the anger I had projected onto myself, the anger that made me hate my culture, the anger that left me confused in terms of where I stood with God.

I decided to forgive myself, my parents, my circumstance and give it a chance.

I went to Gambia with my mother and had a cultural wedding ceremony. While in Gambia, it felt right to be married, it felt good to be loved by someone else, and it felt good not having to worry about what other people thought.

My flight back to NY was the only time I felt the surest about my decision, but once I came back into the American fold and into the Princeton fold, I doubted everything I had done leading up to this point. I did not tell many people about my summer and I felt that I was hiding a part of me.

I realized that it was time for me to come out. It was time for me to let me people know my story. It was time for me to understand that I am not my arrangement, that although it is a part of me, it does not have to define me completely.