Over the last few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some inspirational and talented individuals and none fewer than this girl who I’ve written about today. With Emirati’s Women’s Day recently celebrated, it only made sense that we showcased and highlighted one of the bright sparks who has captured a nation’s heart and mind. Ladies and Gents; Amal Murad/A Leap of Hope.
Amal: The Graphic Designer
‘I studied so hard for 4 years, I graduated and started freelancing. The period where I started freelancing was the most awkward time because I didn’t know what I was doing [in life], I was lost and I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing. My mom and dad are both entrepreneurs, people who have started [and worked] from scratch. My dad used to work in the police force (now retired) now helps my mom with her business. I told them that I didn’t like what I was doing but their response was that ‘this is life you have to make a living’. My father was the type of person who encouraged us to go make a living after graduating and see the world. As women, people think we have it easy but we don’t. So I ended up getting into freelancing and I was actually good at it. When you’re good at something, people say don’t waste the opportunity, I hated it, I really didn’t want to continue with it. I spent endless nights doing projects. Any time I spoke to anyone in the family about this situation they would tell me ‘you haven’t done anything else, so what are you complaining about? What else will you do?’
So I continued with freelancing but I suddenly received an opportunity to intern abroad and would be representing the UAE. It was an internship where you were selected to be taken so it was a huge moment. I thought to myself that this could be a sign to change my perspective. I took the opportunity right away. It was about 2 months before I had to leave and my mum and dad didn’t quite understand what it meant to me. When the time came the realization hit them! The internship was in Venice, Italy at the international art exhibition. I was actually networking and mingling with people rather than just graphic designing. Once I got back, I just knew I had to make a change and this is where I started running.
It seems like I’m writing the same script every time but it never ceases to amaze me how all these individuals have come through their own adversities, no matter how big or small to even just begin their journey towards their passion. We know now Amal the graphic designer and artiste extraordinaire but now let’s take a look at Amal the inspirer & motivator.
Eight to Five
I used to play basketball and volleyball in school and college. I needed to keep myself liberated and bring that feeling back, so I decided to find a full time job. I worked in Sharjah but hated my job. A typical 8-5 where I spent so much time working that I didn’t have time to do anything outside of it because it sucked out all the energy from me. I had to push myself to go for a run after work. So I quit soon after. My family went berserk! He told how no one would hire me because I’m not loyal to one place long enough. I had no plan after leaving which is what got to him more. I luckily picked up another job with shorter working hours. In this process of finding this second job, even though I had shorter hours, I still felt the missing link. I’m known as the monkey of the family! In a good way though! haha. I’m the clumsy one, the one who’s trips over things and falls. I fell in love with stunt doubles, they all seemed like they were doing superhero stunts.
I fell in love with parkour. My cousin around that time was giving classes but I ran into another problem; I had never attended a mixed class before. Local girls don’t go to mixed classes, so it wasn’t normal. When I went to my dad and explained to him that I wanted to leave and that my cousin owned the gym so it should be okay. He didn’t mind but as long as I stuck to my values, it was fine. I still wanted to try it out but I wouldn’t change myself. Just be me. I was the only girl in a class of 14-15 year old kids in class. They were immensely talented. I wanted my friends and other girls to come and try this but they couldn’t because it was a mixed gym. It was so cool that I just want all these girls to see how great it is! This is where I decided to work hard and become a certified coach. This is where it becomes different because this is where you have to learn how to teach. For me, I was learning all the techniques and basics from scratch so it inevitably made it easier for me to teach the girls because I could show them every step and be able to know their [mindset and position]. I learnt so much about myself doing this. I don’t think my cousin took me seriously at first.
I sense a theme here..I think the moral of the unfinished story here is don’t underestimate the people you would think that don’t have the passion or motivation or you could and eat your words later. #humblepie
I made a goal to invest my time in becoming [qualified]. I had a hectic schedule, working 6 days a week from 8-2, be at the gym by 3 and teaching classes and my own training in the evening. For a year I had full days. As hard as it was, I felt like I was [accomplishing] something. People think I just became a coach overnight but they don’t see how much work and effort I put into making this a success. My friends didn’t see me for a long long time and it even took away from my family time. Fridays are usually family days but I teach Friday mornings. I come back home exhausted. My life is hectic but no one realises how much it takes to get it all done.
At this point, Amal was in a full blown passionate rant. I saw character, care, passion and motivation striving to improve herself and those around her. She sacrificed so much to get where she is, the biggest sacrifice being her family. Not seeing your family and friends to pursue a passion is one of the most difficult but necessary choices that need to be made. You look around at everyone I’ve spoken to, each and every one of them has had to sacrifice an important part of their lives to achieve success in their fields. There was one obstacle facing her and that was publicly displaying her work and ideology whilst still maintaining her core principles.
When I started teaching, I still hadn’t had a public Instagram account, so how would I convince women to come to my classes if they couldn’t see it. So when I started Instagram, I was nervous, having a local girls face on it and you’re open to criticism. You have your life out there. For me the biggest fear was people thinking that my parents didn’t raise me right, its scary. My parents raised me to be a strong women but I didn’t want people to think I was ‘free’ or they were too lenient. My dad saw how much effort I put into this and he’s always surprised when I do some of these moves. My friends know I love my alone time. I reminded myself I would not share too much of my personal life because then it doesn’t become my life. A lot of people don’t know but I’m married, I mean it’s out there but I don’t [actively] mention it. Its just not part of what I want to achieve. When I started posting with that intention, Alhamdullilah, people were very accepting of what I wanted to portray.
Its been tricky for the young parkour coach and for a local Emirati girl it isn’t easy to just go out there and start posting publicly but her belief and hard work in her craft has led to the support of her family and friends to pursue the one thing she wants to accomplish. With good intentions comes a just result.
When there’s a will, there’s a way and this young lady has only gone from strength to strength. When you put in the work, good things happen to you. Her family has been very understanding and she’s balanced her values and morals with her passion and it’s worked like a charm. Speaking of results, what happened next couldn’t have been more vindication for her dedication and hard work.
Just Do It
Nike approached me. This had to be the biggest sign that I was doing SOMETHING right. She said with relief and a huge smile on her face.
With Nike, they put us in a focus group and they discussed the struggles of being a Muslim, a girl and an athlete. They showed us a video of girls running around, being empowered and asked us if we relate to that. the first response I had was; No. They’re running around in sports bra’s and shorts which I can’t do. If I could it would make running easier but I have to wear layers so no. They’re not really showing the struggle of trying to grow up in a society where parents always ask the question: ‘What will they say about you?’ Its always been there, its with good intentions but we live in a society where everyone’s in each other’s lives, we live in a place we all know each other. Through the discussion we realised that this was built up in our heads, we never tried something and didn’t see this result, we just assumed that’s what the answer would be. I still get comments, very harsh comments, don’t get me wrong. Changing perceptions comes through hard work, I think if you do what you do, it’ll turn out fine. I got so much support when I started that I get goosebumps talking about it. I’m not the same person as I was before parkour. I know it’s cheesy but I seriously was.
The Eternal Vow
I broke my arm a few months ago and that was very tough on me. People said it’s because of what I was doing and people will always try and find some reason to place behind an accident. I’m a huge [advocate] of if it’s meant to be, then it was meant to be. I could have been at home or here at the gym and broken my arm. It’s all about the bigger picture. It happened one month before my wedding!
My first thought was ‘DON’T CANCEL THE WEDDING, I’LL BE FINE’. I don’t think if I didn’t break my arm then I wouldn’t be as close with my family and husband as I am now. I had lost that connection for a while even though they understood but I had lost some of it. I needed that one month of dependency. It was a good reset for me. It was a compound fracture, I was in so much pain, I was crying. I was mentally and emotionally [tortured]. After surgery, I felt lost; I had so much free time that I went back to my full time job.
It was time to reflect about life, marriage and everything is different after marriage. I still hadn’t had time to digest and understand what was going on because it was a busy time since the fracture with my wedding, honeymoon and Ramadan. My husband is straightforward and tells me to snap out of it. I lost all range of motion; I had to really work through to get it back. I learnt about my limits. Every time your with your thoughts alone, you’d go crazy. If I didn’t have the [emotional] support from everyone around me, I wouldn’t push past it as fast as I did. It’s all about patience.
I’m actually resigning from my current job to explore. If you ask anyone in a business environment, a lot of people will tell you to have a plan then leave your current position but aren’t you back to square one? The founders of Uber or Google risked everything to have their businesses. I really want to have the time to find myself and see what I can do.
Wow, it’s no coincidence that Amal has achieved so much success in her time as a coach, motivator and speaker. She’s put her heart and soul into this and has been rewarded in so many different ways. She’d even consider the arm break as a blessing in disguise to get closer to her family. The approach from Nike was a major boost and validation about her work and repayment for all her commitment, blood, sweat and tears. I can’t wait to see what she has in store after her resignation and what the future holds for her. She’s recently given talks at TEDx Fujairah, du and was appreciated by the Abu Dhabi Government on Emirati Woman’s Day in recognition for her hard work.
Keep going Amal, you have a nation behind you.