Last but certainly not least, the Daily Deac concludes its coverage of the Senior Oration finalists. Congratulations to all the students who made the Top Ten.
Today we invite you to enjoy “The Stronger Pull of Love” by Fahim Gulamali (’14).
The renowned Muslim poet Jalaluddin Rumi once said, “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” Rumi’s words have poignantly portrayed the feelings of my evolution as a first-year student, to my senior year here at Wake Forest. I came in to this university as a pre-med student; a potential biology major; a ‘heterosexual’; and an insecure human being. Today, I am leaving as a worldly religious studies major; an unfaltering feminist; a proud gay person; and so much more. I know that I would not have been able to come into my true self if, in my senior year in high school, I had not released my inhibitions and let the universe, a term I now understand as God, pull me towards the institution that I have come to love—Wake Forest University.
I spent my childhood in an imaginary space, one filled with magic and possible impossibilities. I would gallop on my trusty steed while trying to battle Voldemort to save Hogwarts. I would wrap myself in a bed-sheet and find myself flying to different parts of the world. I was happy because I gave the universe opportunity to draw me to my true loves. I was so in tune with the universe, that I sprinted towards all that drowned me with love and happiness.
Somewhere between the summer of middle and high school, I buried myself in self-loathing and insecurity. I weighed a mere 110 pounds and my hair began to thin. I had become conscious of my ‘otherness’—the fact that I did not fit into society’s stereotype of a ‘masculine’ person—and I invested my energy in hiding who I truly was from the world. I joined a flag football team when I had no interest in football and dated a couple of girls, while secretly spending time with someone of the same sex to whom I was attracted. Nothing was right in my life because I buried myself in my reserves and cut myself off from that which I genuinely loved. I was unhappy. And then, in my senior year of high school, I accepted the offer to attend Wake Forest University.
From the moment I stepped onto this campus, I started to evolve. Retrospectively, I began to grow into myself. I let go of my worries and what others thought of me. I dabbled in the things such as WakeTV, service trips through Global Brigades, and Amnesty International. Really, anything that caught my attention. I let my classes mold me, challenge my belief system, and ultimately help me learn more about myself than ever before. I allowed my friends to empower and support me in every decision I made, and to take care of me when those decisions led me down rocky roads. I delved into every opportunity that Wake Forest offered me, and I grew stronger when I was faced with opposition. Certain recollections flood my memory when the true essence of Wake Forest came to play a role in my life-the week of April 22, 2012, when I “came out” to the world as a gay person.
That specific week, I was learning about the role that the queer community plays within various religious institutions in Dr. Lynn Neal’s ‘Religious Intolerance in the United States’ class. This was when I realized that I could not hide a part of my identity any longer. I had grown so much already—I had let myself be pulled in the direction of so much love, and I did not want to stop. I called one of my mentors on the way back from volunteering at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital on April 26 and said the words —‘Imran, I think I’m gay. No—I KNOW I am. I have always felt it.” These words liberated me. They let me breathe more than ever. I was already at an academic institution that I loved, studying subjects I was passionate about, surrounded by supportive friends and professors that had become my family, and it was time that I was true to the world and myself.
That week, I confirmed everything that I had learned about myself and the Wake Forest community that surrounded me. Faculty and staff embraced me with open arms. Religion Department Administrative Coordinator Sheila Lockhart even went to the extent of opening her home to me when I thought my own home would reject me. My friends showered me with love and affection when I was learning to become comfortable with who I was while also grieving my old self. I slept over at different friends’ homes because I was too afraid to be alone. These human beings shared a part of their hearts with me so I could fully embrace that which I loved. They embodied the motto of this university—Pro Humanitate. They did not let me fall.
Today, I ask each and every one of you to let go and be free. To follow what you love and let your heart and universe be the guide to pull you in the right direction. I also ask you to help others realize the freedom that comes from following their intuition and pursuing what they truly love, as my friends did when I was afraid to do so. Be a voice for those who have been silenced by what philosopher Michel Foucault would refer to as the ‘the dominant discourse’—a voice for my gay identity in a majority heterosexual world, for example. In the end, let us all release our apprehensions and surrender to the stronger pull of love.