Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘From the second that I put it on, I instantly felt this relief and this sort of weight lifted off my shoulders.’

Jericho

“I call it my ‘hijab story.’ I am a visibly Muslim American woman because I wear the hijab, which is a scarf that I wear on my head as part of my wardrobe. It’s a way of dressing modestly, which is something that Muslim women do, traditionally.

“I didn’t wear a hijab when I was in high school, but people that came into my life later, in my adult years, just assumed that this was part of my life always. Growing up, I had a very normal childhood — great time in school, great friends, went to college.

“I was about to start medical school and there were certain things going on in my personal life. I just felt like there were obstacles and I was at a point where I was feeling down. I like to be very positive and always have the glass half-full approach to everything that I do. So that little bit of sadness that just kind of stayed with me, no matter what I did, was really bothering me and I needed to get in touch with my spirituality.

I used to always hear the saying that if you take one step towards God, he’ll take a hundred steps towards you.

“I needed to do something that would help me feel more at ease. I used to always hear the saying that if you take one step towards God, he’ll take a hundred steps towards you. And I just said, you know, maybe this is what I need to do right now for me. And so, I decided that I was going to wear the hijab.

“It was a big decision because I knew the responsibility that came with that — everybody was going to look at me as sort of a symbol of this religion. So that meant that even though I’m not claiming to be the most pious person, I didn’t want any of my actions or anything that I did to tarnish or give a bad representation of my religion. It was a big commitment and I certainly wanted to do it when I was ready for it. I didn’t want to start wearing it and then take it off because then it gives people mixed signals and confuses everybody. I took all of these things in my mind and said, ‘You know, I think I’m ready for this,’ and decided to start wearing the hijab.

“And from the second that I put it on, I instantly felt this relief and this sort of weight lifted off my shoulders. That feeling of sadness and overwhelming feeling of anxiety, or whatever I was dealing with at that time, literally just vanished with like a snap of a finger. And I never looked back since then.”