In 2013, I graduated from University of Toronto, Canada with a degree in Biology and Psychology in my hand. Upon reflecting about who I am today, I found that my university years had shaped me quite a lot.
There were a number of things that I can do to fill my time in between classes, tests, and exams. But, I chose to invest my time, energy, and money on a few specific things. The main reason why I chose these few things is because I want to spiritually grow to become a person of benefit to other people. That was what I chose to be my reason for choosing certain things.
I believe it is our choice to choose a reason, and that reason will be reflected in our daily doings.
To spiritually grow as a person, I don’t limit myself to the mosque and personal acts of worship only. I believe spiritual growth takes root inside, but it expands outside. Meaning, you can’t be spiritually mature if you only benefit yourself.
Choosing friends was among the first things on my to-do list. Partly because that was my father’s advice; to seek good friends. Being in a foreign land, you need to have a strong and healthy social support. Considering that spiritual growth was my aim, so I sought out friends who can help me achieve that goal and who have a more-or-less similar aim in mind.
I figured that if I want to find good friendship, then I need to be in a place where I would most likely find them. I was in the prayer room one day in Ramadhan and met a Pakistani brother who invited me over to attend a small halaqa organized by the MSA, just before iftar (breaking of fast). I did join them and that was my introduction into the MSA.
I persisted to stay with them by volunteering my time and energy to help them in whatever way that I can, like sorting out tables and chairs, cleaning up after events, being an MC, etc. Along the way, I met more and more good people to befriend and each has helped me with my spiritual growth in some way.
Not only that, the organization served as a platform for me to serve others, while honing my intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, like my English speaking skill
. This is especially true when I decided to seriously join the MSA as an executive member. I started of by being the Brothers’ Events Coordinator, then moved up to become the Vice President, and in my final year, I became the Senior Advisor. Each position had taught me valuable lessons.
Being a part of a spiritually conscious and socially active friends had shaped the environment that I was in. Using a tree metaphor, that was the land I chose to grow myself in. That was my choice. Whether it was in my rented house or on campus, I was with friends who can remind me when I forget.
Having a good environment is only a part of my investment. Like I said before, I invested my time, energy, and money in doing specific things based upon my aim. I can’t rely too much on my environment and diffuse my personal responsibilities to it. A good environment alone won’t do the trick.
So I need to invest on myself now; to spiritually grow by gaining more knowledge and understanding about my roots (Islam). Being a university student, time felt like it was my enemy. Too many things to do, but too little time; a sure recipe for a lot of excuses to come out. In reality, I had a lot of time. What I didn’t have was good time management.
Amidst my time wasting of watching TV shows and playing games, I made an important choice: to invest my time, energy, and money to study Islamic knowledge. I picked a few weekends as my time to do just that. I looked around and found a few Muslim organizations which organize open class sessions on weekends.
These sessions didn’t happen on all weekends and they didn’t touch upon the same topics. There are variously topics, each explained in a one weekend course. Here’s the catch: each course was not free. I had to pay for each course.
The course fee didn’t deter me that much, since I was determined. I saw the value in the knowledge, just like I saw the value in a smartphone. You pay for the value that you see. I paid. For each one I paid. I wasn’t rich. I was on a government scholarship. Some students ran out of money before the next “payday”.
I am not saying that I am an excellent money manager. I paid for luxurious things to back in the day, and I am not proud of it. But I am proud today to admit that I spent many dollars into knowledge. It helped me in my spiritual growth. It helped me to stand on my own two feet.
A good environment is a blessing to have, but without self-confidence, you would be dependent upon the environment. Sound knowledge (and sound understanding) breeds self-confidence. It answers questions and concerns, and it gives you a peace of mind.
Why am I telling you all of this? I didn’t write this post to brag about myself, rather to steer the conversation towards you. I am trying to tell you about how important your choices are today in shaping who you will be in the future. The choices you make in university will surely shape who you will become after you graduate.
You choose your friends. You choose what to do with your time. You choose how to spend your money. You choose where to spend your weekend. You choose all of those things, and in return they will shape who you are.
Let me be honest, I didn’t make all the right choices. I made mistakes. I only shared with you a few choices that I made right and these choices had a huge impact on who I am today. Start examining your choices and see if you are making the right ones.
Your university years is a wealth of opportunities in both directions; opportunities to do good things and opportunities to do bad things. Choose wisely which direction you want to take. You can choose, and your choice becomes your investment.