Still dressed in my uniform, I write this in the early evening after having attended an eight-hour day of public schooling. The obstacles I have faced this particular day include a technical malfunction with a school newspaper article and a delay in being able to eat the lunch I packed for myself because of it. In Pakistan, children huddle under lanterns on concrete floors, poring over the day’s studies, trying to focus on English and Urdu instead of whether or not their status will change from student to refugee in the next twenty-four hours. During my classes throughout the day, I often hear complaints and groans when our teachers give us reading assignments. In Pakistan, over 70% of the female population is illiterate. I hear my peers in the hallways of my school counting down the days until the weekend or a holiday break, while, halfway across the world, girls my age are gunned down for expressing their desire to learn.
I view Malala as an inspiration: not because I feel that I can relate to her story, but because, in her, I see all that I have ever aspired to be. I am not Malala. I have not been raised in a war-stricken country. I do not step into a realm of fear the second I walk out of my front door. But I do search my own soul in the reflection of the shield of her faith. Now that I know of Malala and her story, it is my responsibility to expand my horizons beyond the pattern of ignorance, and to highlight the existence of those horizons for those that have been blinded by the sun. To quote a favorite author of mine, “Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” The reality of ignorance exists beyond a lack of knowledge. Its shadows reign in the failure to recognize that you and others are at all lacking to begin with. I stand with Malala in her belief that all it takes is a taste of opportunity, floating around out there somewhere, for someone’s life to be changed, and that those of us that are capable must do all that we can to show them how to reach it.
Gul Malkai and Malala Yousafzai are one. She continues to unlock the potential of one fingerprint on the history of the world through self-leadership. On October 9, 2012, she was shot for a greater cause than bravery. That sole bullet held all the odds against the fruition of this generation. With her survival, she has defeated them. Her impassioned flame has left a trail leading to equality and peace: the only requirements are to take up your pen and paper, and follow it.