College Essay: My Family’s Translator

Should I open the door and unleash Godzilla and her demon child on the household? Nope, not going to happen.

“Hadia, I’m sorry,” I say, shutting the door behind me. “I cannot go in there. Mama will kill us if we wake up Dania.” My 13-year-old sister rolls her eyes but begrudgingly says nothing in retaliation because she knows I’m right.

“We can ask her to talk to baba tomorrow,” I tell her as I throw myself on my bed and unlock my phone to the latest chapter of my BBC “Merlin” fanfiction. I sense her glare from across the room.

“But look,” she says, flipping her phone in my direction. “There is only one more of my dress in stock!” Eid is coming up and we are going to Chicago to celebrate with my cousins. My family and I always dress up for Eid. Hadia refuses to borrow any of my clothing because everything I own “looks like it came straight out of ‘Bob the Builder’s’ closet.” Younger sisters. Always keeping you humble.

“Fine,” I sigh, knowing full well what the answer will be. “Then you go ahead and ask baba.”

Money is scarce in my household, so my siblings and I are conscious of our spending. As the eldest daughter in an Arab household, my siblings usually ask me to reason with our parents. I’m the designated spokesperson.

“Can you pleasssse go ask him?” she whines. “Baba will listen to you.”

She said please. This must be stressing her out.

“Alright, I’ll talk to him,” I say with resignation. She nods and gives me a thumbs-up, but I can already feel my heart rate start to spike.

I anxiously step out of my room and stand at the top of the stairs. My stomach is in knots. The urge to vomit is sudden but not surprising. My nerves are all over the place. I start to fidget with my hands. I take one big breath and step downstairs. Instantly, I step back up. Nope, I need more time.

I am not scared of my dad. He is the most chill person I know. But for some reason, I get the sudden urge to lock myself in my room every time I need to have a conversation with someone. I overthink and over- analyze the interactions I have with people. It affects every aspect of my life. Ordering food? It takes me a whole 10 minutes to talk myself into calling our local Domino’s. Shopping? I feel like a mannequin on display. Dear store worker, if I need help finding a piece of clothing, I will ask. Leave me alone.

Growing up with four younger siblings and an absent older brother, I am constantly forced into positions where I must take the lead. Attending conferences for my younger siblings, translating English for my mom when we go out and communicating with my neighbors. I’ll be honest: it was difficult at first. I remember I was 9 when I made the executive decision to hide in the bathroom of the mall cafeteria. Anything to avoid ordering Subway sandwiches for my family.

I can confidently say ordering sandwiches is not an issue anymore. Taking on my role as the older sister forces me to deal with a lot of my anxiety. So even if I still feel anxious or overwhelmed, I know I am capable of more than I credit myself for. Like my sister always tells me, “Get over yourself. You are making this way worse than it needs to be. Now gooo.”

The little brat has a lot to say for someone who can’t ask baba herself.

After pacing in my room for a quick minute, I rush downstairs before I psych myself out again. My nerves are at a high until the very second I ask, and of course, baba says yes.