When Dreams are Shattered

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Smiling became a mission and I felt my jaws were aching and pleading me to stop smiling. The tips I accumulated were burning a hole in my pocket. I felt multiple knots in my stomach.

My obsession to change myself led to maxing out my credit card. The next three months were spent exhausted, hungry and drinking as much coffee as I could to curb the hunger. There is no surprise that insomnia followed. My self-esteem was the lowest it has ever been, my jaws ached and the glamorous customers caused pain behind my eyes.

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

Please find below a guest post from one of our readers. We’ve changed the few things to seal the anonymity. Please read this with open mind. It’s a very hard story to pen down and takes a strong courage to share something like this.

 

 

When Dreams are Shattered

 

 

 

I feel anxious, impatient and frustrated as I wait to hear back from my travel agent. Majority of the online sites advertising flights are just lies. Despite immediate confirmation, it only takes a few hours before a cancellation email follows. I am simply exhausted with all that has happened in the last month.

I arrived in UAE late October with dreams of making it big. I was supposed to take the stage and have been preparing myself since November.
Initially, I wanted to be an air hostess but while that dream was still a dream, I saw the advertisement for a job in a luxury resort in the hospitality industry. Indeed, a dream come true. Every day you spend at least one hour in front of the mirror – perfecting yourself before the show begins. Mid-day you touch up as your hair and make-up has to be perfect all the time.

There were very strong objections to me taking this route. I had parents who were part-time trying to talk me out of it and a brother who simply refused to talk to me full-time. Why can’t you work here? What is the purpose of this degree, if you were going to work as xxx?

I fell in love with the UAE in September, it was a small gift to celebrate my distinction and I have been dreaming about it ever since. Upon our return, I immediately started saving and planning for my move to the UAE. Airhostess were too restricted so I decided to temporarily take the route of the hospitality industry while till I find something grand that suits me.

Secretly I wanted to pursue modelling and I thought maybe I can make a break through here. As expected, this did not sit well with anyone in my family but I persevered and arrived to the UAE in October.

I chose a nice studio with a hefty price tag. The rest of my hard-earned money went towards a dietitian, a personal trainer, a dentist, a hair artist and a make-up artist. This got me through the strenuous days and the plastered smile I was becoming an expert at. By the third week, I would look at my credit card bill with trepidation. But the journey had just begun…

My brother paid me a visit in December – he called it a surprise visit, I called it spying. My brother has always been careful and sensible with his money so the fact he spent a fortune on a ticket to visit me did leave me feeling shocked.
Our first argument broke over my outfit. He was waiting outside my building, so I had no time to get into something he considered ‘decent’.
Next argument was over my fridge and my pre-packaged health meals. He was stunned. He was also very hungry and I started to panic. There were too many clues around to give away what I was up to. The next few hours were spent arguing and then we calmed down. The more he walked around my studio, the more upset he became and the more I panicked. I have never felt this level of exposure. He ordered home delivery and while he ate, I nibbled on my salad with hemp seeds and nervousness. I refused to have a single bite from his meal.

The next day was even more miserable. He went shopping and came back armed with copious food items. To make peace I apologised and told him that this was a temporary job which required me to dress a certain way. He responded with: “So the requirement is for you to look like a mannequin, paint your face and wear these absurd outfits and eat nothing. Just look at you, I hardly recognize you.” The more he pushed the more I filled with rage until I finally admitted, “Okay, fine. I am in queue for this modelling assignment.” He left the next day and left emptiness in my apartment and in my heart.

Smiling became a mission and I felt my jaws were aching and pleading me to stop smiling. The tips I accumulated were burning a hole in my pocket. I felt multiple knots in my stomach.

My obsession to change myself led to maxing out my credit card. The next three months were spent exhausted, hungry and drinking as much coffee as I could to curb the hunger. There is no surprise that insomnia followed. My self-esteem was the lowest it has ever been, my jaws ached and the glamorous customers caused pain behind my eyes.

The credit card bill led to a second late evening job and when I stumbled home after 1am, I was shattered. My feet hurt, I had an intense migraine and my clothes stank. Every time I looked around there was someone better looking than me, with better hair, a better face, a better body and more money than my entire extended family or I could ever dream of.

It had been three months since I last heard from my brother and the young ones were clueless as to what was happening. There was no contact from anyone. The only regular contact I had was from my father’s sister.

And then came the good news, I was asked to audition and given a probationary period. They told me I will begin in March but due to the global pandemic, Dubai had become a ghost town. The luxury resort was semi-empty and I was told to pack my bags and go. Yes, as simple as that. I was given unpaid leave of four months and the typical statement “we will contact you.” I scrambled back to my studio apartment and decided to wait out the quarantine period. My mind was torn between going home or staying – I was already to close to making it. My dietitian was online, my trainer was online and the food was making me sick.

The agent got back to me with the news that India is in lock down and all the shows are cancelled. Ramadan begins in April/May so there will be nothing happening before then. He advised me to go home and reconsider my decision as things will get worse before they even begin to get better. “It will take you 10 years, let me tell you, if you want to be even a fraction of of Azul A (a former model). You’re trying too hard and you don’t display anything unique. You could maybe be in the middle but never a show stopper.”

I can’t go back, I thought fiercely, a matter of pride and my dreams.

I am currently wait for the flight to return home. I’m exhausted beyond belief and the brother I always made fun of, I always looked down on, is my saving grace who is pulling me out of here. I feel guilty, bringing him to the point where he has to put all his hard-earned money in paying off my debt and getting me out of here. And I want to go back, more than ever. Once I go back, I want to sleep for days and give my skin, my nails, my hair and my body a break. I want to erase this experience from my mind. What was I becoming? Why did I push myself to become this? Why is it that something that looks so glamorous is in reality a complete horror? Why did I fail?

And then I realised that perhaps I was saved from a bigger calamity and maybe it was the acceptance of the united prayers my family made for me return to sanity.

 

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Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

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