I Wanted Columbia So Bad, I Didn’t Have a Plan B.

At Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 8.08.44 PMthe start of 2015, I lined up all my ducks in a row, knowing I wanted this year to be better. I am a nut, I read my horoscopes, I am into astrology, I think manifesting and belief is power, and most importantly I meditate. These habits throughout the years have fluctuated, but I definitely have faith in them. 2014 was an interesting year for me, I started it out working on one of the most demanding projects of my young career with Vice NEWS and finally returned to the United States permanently. I also, if you know me, went through a divorce. The magnitude of the changes in my life at first was very overwhelming.

Divorce is the hardest decision I have ever made, I broke my heart and my ex-wife’s because I knew there was something better for the both of us. The emotions you feel can be debilitating, it was extremely hard some days to wake up and even get out of bed, but every morning that I forced myself to function made me stronger and more confident. Coming back to the U.S. I had a plan, I wanted to become the person I know I am and that I am supposed to be. For many, the fear of losing what you have and the unknown would stop a person from turning their life totally upside down just to have to rebuild it over again, but when you feel in your heart with utmost passion and belief that your existence is valuable and there is a greater purpose, you make that decision.

I was now divorced, broke, a freelancer who lost most his network, back at my parents home, and not sure where to go in life. So I started with the basics, I started a committed routine of exercise and meditation. I knew if I healed my body, my mind, and my soul, that I could start to feel some ownership over what felt like a big storm. It was the best thing I could have ever done in my life. I learned to treat my body like the beautiful temple that it is and I reconnected myself with my mind. I found all the abundance I thought was missing was right in front of me. My heart and soul grew with gratefulness for the simple things. I quickly regained my confidence and decided to do something that had intimidated me for years, apply for graduate school.

I have always believed in two things about myself, but they were not always in sync. First, that I am an awfully hard worker and second, I get what I want. I guess at times I find myself to have a lot of audacity. When it came time to apply for graduate school, I had planted the seeds years before. I already knew my choice, Columbia School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City, the top school in the world for my profession. Years ago I had flirted with the idea visiting the campus and befriending many Columbia J-School students and alumni, but at the time the shitty rationalizing part of my brain told me I wasn’t good enough. I was convinced that my degree from Cal Poly Pomona and the work I had done was not up to par with Columbia’s standards. But, when the shit hits the fan you dig deep and go after what you want.

I started the process of applying for graduate school in September. I decided that I would also consider UC Berkeley School of Journalism, you know just in case… I visited Berkeley’s info sessions, popped up randomly to see the staff, and really get a feel for the school, but those visits left me feeling empty. See I had left my heart in NYC and I knew I wanted to be at only one school, the catch was that the school just needed to want me back. So when November came, I did my applications for Berkeley, but the energy was not positive, very toxic actually. I had too many minds telling me how to write my essays, what work I should submit, and how I should really focus on going to Berkeley because of my chances of getting to Columbia seemed slim.

I wanted Columbia so bad, I didn’t have a plan B.

Luckily, Columbia’s application due date was Dec. 15th, just enough time for me to center myself and make the application a fluid and satisfying process. I collected the work samples I was proud of, letters of recommendations from those I trusted and had seen me in my best light, and I wrote three essays, that may or may not be brilliant, but were my voice. I submitted the application and began manifesting my life in NYC. I would wake up most mornings and head to the famous Runyeon Park in Los Angeles, run till I felt sick and then meditate. I reminded myself every day of all the beauty in my life and how powerful each one of us truly is. I would show gratefulness to the universe for giving me confidence, composure, and the audacity to want something amazing. I believed, like all of us should, that I deserved this.

Relentlessly, I thought about NYC and Columbia J-School, so much that I believed I was going to be there no matter what. I had no choice, remember there was no plan B. See I didn’t want to attend Berkeley, but I considered it a litmus test and it also triggered many people around me saying I should start planning for the worst. Well, I maintained my “no mind” philosophy, which I adopted from the great movie “The Last Samurai,” and didn’t listen. I was determined to be at Columbia, so I continued doing what had brought me this far, I believed.

Sure enough, a few weeks later I received my admittance letter to Columbia Journalism School. Booyah!

Listen, 6 years ago I was working in an industry I did not like, no college education, and my future felt bleak. Over the course of those 6 years, I married a beautiful woman who changed my life forever, she gave me a new way to look at the world and helped me find my passion. I finished college and quickly entered into a profession that is aligned with my existence. Our marriage didn’t work out, but I do not think of it as a failure, it was a success. We both grew immensely personally and professionally and I believe became better individuals because of it. I thank her for that.

As I gear up to make my move to NYC to start J-School for the fall I want to express my gratefulness to everyone who has touched my life, whether negative or positive. I have learned so much about my existence this last year and that we are beautiful creations always evolving. I am impressed with the resilience of the soul, that even in times of pain and despair that we can still nurture ourselves and blossom. I give my love and thanks to you all from the deepness of my heart. Hello New York City! To all of you, visit me!

By: Adnan Khan

Instagram: @khancious

Twitter: @AdnanKhancious


Ramadan the Great Act (Arabization)

Practicing religion for others – that is the problem with Muslims today. If in Islam the actions of an individual are measured by their intentions and following the 5 pillars.  Then why is there such a compulsion to be Arab like?

Even converts in the United States adopt clothing, mannerisms, and even speak like Arabs when they accept the religion. This practice extends from the Arabization of regions during the introduction of Islam by Arabs.

Some argue that the Hadith prescribes their practices, which are recorded sayings or actions by Prophet Muhammad. This is where my philosophy comes in. As authentic as we can believe the Quran is the Hadith is merely a complimentary text. It is not a substitute for the revelation by God. Especially, since Hadiths face the same criticism that Muslims make towards the Bible, which they say has some inaccuracies and is written by man.

Today, many people have adopted more than just Islamic practices. They include Arab and/or the tribal culture of Islam. These are customs and traditions that the Quran does not prescribe. The debate can go on and on about what is true to scripture and what is really just the mimicking of Arab counterparts.

I observed this firsthand on the eve of Ramadan in Dhaka. Everyone became holier than thou.  Men flocked to the streets with their thawbs (Arab dress for men) and tupis (white caps). The use of or words like “inshallah”, “mashallah”, and my favorite “astaghfirullah”, were overused as their tusbeehs (prayer beads) hung from necks, wrists, and dangled from pockets. 

I thought the Hefazat (Islamist group) were holding another hartal. But when I saw several women in hijab and burqas I realized that there was something different floating in the air.

Bangladesh is an Islamic country. More than 85% of its population is Muslim. But people use the Arab ornamentation as a way of peacocking their beliefs.

It is that time of year to find forgiveness for your wrong doings after all. Yet, while wearing the Arab attire, the cheating, lying, and backbiting still continues. The inflation in Dhaka is painful during Ramadan, even for the basic necessities.

Since Islam was founded in Saudi Arabia, Arabs claim to hold the true essence of the religion. Non-Arabs are conditioned to believe that the Arab way is the Muslim way. It is a phenomenon known as founderism. Instead of pursuing to be fit Muslims they strive to become Arab. Here in Bangladesh, my fellow brown brothers and sisters see their Bengali identity as inferior and conform to be more Arab like.

Now I was raised Muslim and I understand the significance of some of the practices. But, when does it cross the line of fulfilling religious obligation into convincing everyone around that you are authentically practicing the faith?

It is a paradox. Everyone competes to prove his or her authenticity, but not to impress. Rather it is a fear of being disqualified as a true Muslim.

Flaunting faith becomes more important than practicing it. Instead of faith being personal it has been made into an act of public display.

Much can be learned from the religious minority in Bangladesh.

A Hindu cannot flaunt their faith publicly as they will be ostracized. Their faith remains inside of them, in their homes, with their families; that is a different type of conviction.

For a religion that is supposed to be universal, Arabization has diluted its true value.

Whether for just the month of Ramadan or the whole year, many non-Arab Muslims will dress like Arabs to give them the identity of a true Muslim.

Maybe you will wear your Muslim on your sleeve and you might think you will receive respect, but by doing that it becomes less personal, the sanctity dies, it belonging to you dies, and it is commodified.