To Live Your Own Life

Sohila Mahmoud’s experience to share with all the women around the world

Have you ever felt like there’s a part of your life you couldn’t bring yourself to talk about? I certainly have. For the longest time, I lacked the courage to even think about it. Then, one day, I made a choice. I decided it was time to turn the page, to begin a new chapter. And to do that, I realized I needed to leave the past behind and share my story. It’s not always easy, but taking that step has been a crucial part of starting afresh.

I wanted to talk about a personal experience I had, and perhaps some girls in some countries face this problem too.

Growing up in a large Egyptian family, I was always taught that there were specific roles and expectations for girls. I didn’t have any problems with this until it came to marriage.

In my final year of university, my family surprised me by wanting to arrange a meeting with a young man because they believed this was the ideal age to get engaged or married. I was shocked and not ready for marriage at that point in my life and I wanted to tell them that I had another plan but I was always afraid to tell them my thoughts.

When I expressed my feelings to my father, he was disappointed and did not speak to me for a week. I felt hurt and misunderstood, so I decided to meet the guy but explained to him that I wasn’t ready for marriage and I was trying to make him feel like I wasn’t right for him, what I found next was that it wasn’t right for him because he also didn’t know that I didn’t actually want to meet him. However, things took an unexpected turn when the man asked to meet me again to discuss the engagement.

The guy asked my father to  talk about taking the next step and getting to know each other better. I realized that I couldn’t meet him again because I see my life differently. I had been thinking about getting married at this age as my sister did, but then I realized it’s not what I want.

I’ve always dreamed of living my own life, finding a good job, and being independent. This was the first time my family didn’t agree with me, as they always supported me in everything I did. But what makes it harder for me is that most girls in my community get married or engaged at my age, so that pressure was hard to ignore.

I told them that I couldn’t see myself with him, even though they saw him as a “good opportunity” for me. I wanted to meet someone on my own terms, not because of family pressure. But in my family’s eyes, this meant I wasn’t mature enough and just influenced by movie love stories. At the end, my family told the guy that I wasn’t ready for marriage at this age. At the same time I can understand them as they always wanted the best for me.

After finding a job and becoming independent, I thought my family wouldn’t bring up marriage again. For a year, they didn’t mention it. But deep down, I worried about what would happen if someone spoke to my father about me again. 

I was afraid to tell them when friends got engaged or married because it might bring up the topic again. If invited to an engagement, I’d make excuses not to go.

Then it happened – the same guy spoke to my father again after a year and a half. My father was convinced he was the best “opportunity” for me. When I told him that all this time had passed and nothing had changed for me, he thought I wasn’t mature enough and asked me to meet the guy again.

I felt conflicted and wondered if I was afraid of commitment or not ready for a relationship. But then, something unexpected happened – the guy found a job abroad and suddenly travelled without telling my family.but actually he reached out to me directly before travelling for the first time, expressing his wish to meet me again in the future.

I didn’t know how to feel about this news, especially since my relationship with my family wasn’t perfect at the time. I didn’t tell them that he had contacted me, keeping it to myself. When I told my friends about it, they didn’t seem to understand my perspective, making me question if the problem was with me. 

But deep down, I knew that the problem wasn’t with me. It was about what I truly wanted, not what others thought was best for me. Despite hoping for a happy ending, the problem still lingers, even though it’s not being openly discussed.

I’m unsure of how this situation will affect me in the future or how it will impact my relationship with my family. All I want is to live my own life and be content with my choices.

I wanted to share a few pictures from my trips in Europe (which you can see in this text). Each one holds a special place in my heart, so I’ve given them the title “My First Time…” It’s not just about the places; it’s about those moments when I did something for the first time or discovered something new about myself. 

Sohila Mahmoud had joined Oyoun in 2023 through Kulturweit Incoming Program. She wrote this text during her stay in Berlin.