By Mahrukh Abbasi
They say you’re going to love your 30s but I hated mine the minute they began. For most people, this decade is a time to break away from insecurities and become comfortable with themselves; I, on the other hand, couldn’t have felt less in control of my life. I was at a standstill and year after year, I was fading away – what I was really hoping for was to just disappear one day.
Let’s rewind to 12 years ago, when I wholeheartedly and willingly married the love of my life against my family’s will. My parents migrated to the US in the ‘70s and I was born in Houston, raised in Chicago. During one of my visits to Karachi with my family, I fell in love with a man 18 years older and decided to move to Pakistan and get married.
He was a history lover, a good conversationalist, a man with many interesting experiences and lots of amazing stories to tell. He didn’t earn much, but that wasn’t an issue … until we got married, of course.
After just a year, things became stagnant; he would rather spend his time at home watching TV or sleeping than going out with me. Life was dull and he wasn’t passionate about the things I was.
He never physically abused me but he made me feel unwanted and stupid for having the desires that I did – a more financially stable life, kids and adventures. I made myself feel better by thinking, “Well, at least he’s not a womanizer, a drunk, a gambler or a wife-beater.” But are those the only reasons to not want to be with someone? I couldn’t stop questioning myself or God. What had I done to deserve this?
One day, my cousin gave me the number of a friend of hers who was a therapist. That one phone call changed my life. I started going for therapy once a week and the sessions helped me pick myself up and brush off the negativity around me. I found happiness outside of my marriage. I got a job at a magazine and crafted a healthy work routine. I made friends and went to various locations around Karachi to cover stories. It was during this time I fell in love with writing, a passion that gets stronger everyday. I wrote about people, culture, food and I absolutely loved it. My life didn’t just revolve around my husband and wondering how to make him happy. There was more to it than I had imagined, and now I could breathe again.
One of the highlights during that time was tuning into The Breakfast Show with Khalid Malik on FM89 while getting ready in the morning. I used to tell my co-workers, “This guy puts me in a good mood every day!” I became a regular listener and started texting in during trivia questions. I loved listening to his multi-lingual birthday songs and “jaag jayen” wake up calls. I would tell people, “If you haven’t heard Khalid’s show; you’re missing out on life!” Weekends became boring and I couldn’t wait for the week to start so I could hear Khalid talk again. I felt like I knew him; he talked about car-shopping, his apartment being haunted, his nosy neighbours; in more ways than one, he became my sweet escape. His joyful voice transmitted a healthy energy in my life and I just couldn’t get enough.
After eight years of marriage, I decided that I did not want to continue with the relationship. I remember reading a quote by a self-help guru Jim Rohn, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.” That’s exactly what I did. I was ready to crack my shell and live the life I wanted, without any restrictions and commands. I decided to file for divorce and book a ticket back to Chicago. I wasn’t coming back to Pakistan again.
It was during one of these planning days that I ran into my secret celebrity crush RJ Khalid Malik at the mall. Khalid had come to watch a movie, and I was star-struck! I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked him if we could sit and talk. I don’t know what came over me, but I wanted to keep talking to him more and more. Little did I know that this wouldn’t be our last meeting.
I randomly ran into Khalid again at my cousin’s house two weeks later, and this time we had more time to chat. After three cups of chai and lots of talking, it felt like we were old friends. But did I fall for him over one conversation? That was not part of the plan.
A few weeks after, it was time for me to head off to Chicago for good. Needless to say, I was dealing with a roller coaster of emotions – from being married to filing for divorce and moving back home – and it seemed like it was all too much to handle. I needed to calm down, and I felt the need to speak to Khalid one more time before getting on that plane.
“Don’t go,” he said. “We’re just getting to know each other.”
How can I stay I wondered? “This is not the right time,” I told him, and that was the end of our discussion. But I am a woman of faith and I knew that whatever Allah wills is for the best.
Soon after, Khalid and I were Skyping regularly. He became my friend, my confidante and I knew I was in love again. Three months after my move to Chicago, Khalid came to meet my family. I was surprised that I could matter this much to him. We visited museums, attended festivals, and watched movies and comedy shows. I was having the best time of my life. I felt like a teenager once again.
Before he left, Khalid asked me to marry him and move back to Pakistan again. This time, I wasn’t going to act like a love-struck fool, and I didn’t say yes immediately. After everything I had been through, could I be with someone again? Was I ready to be married again?
Khalid and I had long talks about how life changed us, and how we had learned from our past experiences. We wanted positivity in our lives and we wanted peace within – but we also wanted to be each other’s true companions instead of just room-mates. Khalid and I dreamt of a family life together that was surrounded by love, compassion and forgiveness.
We married in 2013 and our love has only increased since then. God blessed us with a daughter the following year and now we have another child coming any day. If I could describe happiness in one word, it would be Khalid. I have never met a man so gentle and caring. He always puts his family first, he randomly shows up with flowers or drags me out of the house for a breakfast treat. Sometimes he surprises me and says, “Baby, we have a movie date tonight!” and at other times he shocks me by saying, “Let’s pack, we’re going on a vacation!”
Khalid encourages me in any line of work I choose to do and supports my decisions, even when I’m not too sure. This man knows how to keep romance and friendship alive in a marriage; and, to me, that is the real magic in any relationship.
I would never change anything in my life. My past choices have helped me become who I am and if you take those away, I wouldn’t know how to be grateful for what I have now.