For a long time, I felt lost without school. I graduated from university in the middle of the pandemic and so I never got the closure I needed. When I closed my laptop on that Wednesday afternoon after submitting my last exam and opened my work-issued laptop the following Monday, I didn’t process that I had just undergone a huge life transition, that I had just lost a huge part of my identity. I was no longer a student. I had always been a student, for as long as I could remember. And the thing about being a student is that everything is laid out for you: your schedule, your goals, the deadlines by which you need to achieve those goals. And I had just lost that, which meant I had to figure it out on my own. But this was in May, and so for a while it just felt like any other summer internship. I let myself just do my 9 to 5, and then do whatever I wanted from 5 to 9. I could finally catch up on all the new Netflix shows. I could finally scroll endlessly in the evenings without feeling like I should really be studying. I could finally fill my weekends with fun instead of scheduling the fun between catching up on lectures and meeting with club teams and applying for jobs. And that’s all it was: fun, fun, fun, fun. Until it wasn’t.
Somewhere along the way, as the leaves changed colour and the snow fell then melted, all the free time started to weigh on me. The empty schedule felt heavy. I became acutely aware that time was moving forward but I wasn’t. School was no longer around to push me forward, and I realized I felt lost without it. How am I supposed to come up with a plan for my future if all I’ve ever done is follow the plan that has been laid out for me? What’s the goal I am supposed to be working towards if I’ve always just worked towards getting my degree? What am I supposed to do with all this free time when all I’ve ever known is being busy? Wait, what was that hadith? Something about taking advantage of your free time before you become busy…
Ibn Abbas reported that Prophet Mohamed (SAW) said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before your busyness, and your life before your death.”
It struck me that all five applied to me. I am young and able-bodied, alhamdulilah. I have a steady income for the first time and I have more free time than I have ever had, alhamdulilah. And it finally clicked that life is just starting for me; school was no longer monopolizing my time. I sat in awe at the opportunity that Allah (SWT) had blessed me with, and suddenly everything became clear. I remembered that my ultimate goal is to please Allah (SWT) and so all the goals I make for myself moving forward should be aligned with that. I remembered that there is so much that pleases Allah (SWT), from helping a neighbour to striving to change the world for the better. I felt confident that I could dream big because Allah (SWT) only judges us on our efforts and not on the outcome, which was a stark contrast to what I was used to in school. And I sat there wondering how I could’ve ever felt lost without school when I could always turn to the Guide Himself.