Today I decided to write about why my heart sees a contradiction between the term of an Arriver and Survivor and why I choose to be called an Arriver rather than a Survivor.

After I left my home country, the people, friends, and host families here would tell me “you are really a survivor”.  I would feel happy but not really happy. After questioning my thoughts and feelings, I realized that we do not recognize how a single word can have an implicit message as well as an explicit message, how it can inspire or destroy someone’s dream within seconds.

Today I realized that people, in general, use the term “survivor” to compliment someone. The explicit message is that the person is “strong” after successfully overcoming tremendous challenges. Meanwhile, the word “Survivor” also has an implicit message because it reflects trauma and nightmare experiences in the past. I totally understand and respect that people mean to be kind when they try to inspire someone with compliments.

But, anytime friends or other people learn about my life story, they usually tell me, “Oh, you are really a survivor”. Then my mind and heart go right back to memories from years and years ago, and my heart shrinks. In a moment, my motivation goes away and I start feeling sorry for myself and all the pain I went through.

In reality, I see myself as a newcomer in the United States. I want to be called an “Arriver” rather than a “Survivor”. I believe life is not a straight path. It sometimes easily brings success and sometimes wants us to encounter challenges to achieve happiness. I left my country not because I wanted to, but because I was not able to have my talents flourish. My ideas, thoughts, and dreams were different from the norms and culture of my hometown. Then I chose to come to the United States, where my ideas are a good fit and I can develop my dreams. It does not mean I am a survivor. I chose to be an arriver in an environment where my ideas can align with the culture.

Let me explain the goal of my life journey from the aspect of a matrix. A matrix has different definitions in various fields in real life. The matrix in general means an environment where something develops. In mathematics, the matrix is a rectangular array of quantities or expressions in rows and columns that are treated as a single entity and manipulated according to particular rules.

From my understanding of the matrix definitions, I would call a country a matrix and people as elements of that matrix. Let’s say Afghanistan was a matrix; the Afghan people and I were the elements. The cultural norms build the structure and type of matrix. As an element of the Afghanistan matrix, I was very different from other elements because my ideas and thoughts were different from its structure. It was not possible for me to adjust my ideas to  the structure of Afghanistan’s matrix. As a result, I had to move into another matrix where I could be an element with a good fit to the structure of the matrix. So, I chose to come to the United States, which is a new matrix. I see myself now as an “Arriver” in this new matrix. This matrix aligns with my goals and ideas. The adjustment to this new matrix (the United States) does not need to have anything to do with the experience of being in the old matrix (Afghanistan). When one element does not fit in a matrix, it fits in another matrix.

Overall, the process of leaving my country and overcoming past challenges is not about being a survivor.  It’s about my intentions, my decision to live where I can be a good fit. I left Afghanistan and I chose to come to the United States to start a new chapter of my life because I believe my talents will flourish here.  As a result, I would like to be called an arriver in this new matrix rather than a survivor. Above all, the term arriver is more welcoming to me in this new society rather than the term survivor.

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