It’s A Girl’s Life Gets Real – “REAL Girls Doing REAL things”, is a collection of inspiring interviews about REAL girls. Teeba is my first interview and I am very excited to share it with you all! Each letter in R.E.A.L. stands for a unique and important quality: Resilient, Empowered, Authentic, and Leader. This new series is shared on my blog and on @itsagirslifeblog Instagram. The spotlight will be on girls who have grit, girls who have faced challenges, girls who have passion, who are driven to action, and girls that make a difference.
Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a AMAZING Thanksgiving and I hope you take a few minutes to come on this journey today and meet Teeba Marlowe. Before I even started talking with her, I knew she was just perfect for my project, REAL Girls Doing REAL Things. She eat, breaths, and sleeps R.E.A.L. I can’t wait for you guys to read her story, its such a special one.
Teeba lives in Cleveland Ohio and is a 17 years old, originally from Iraq. She was 19 months old with her father, Furat, and her brother, when their taxi was hit by a roadside bomb, in Iraq. Her face, head, and hands “ had been severely burned.” Teeba has spent the last 12 years of her life, living in Cleveland, recovering from the frightening and terrible accident. A Clevelander, found this photo of a little girl, Teeba, and knew that she had to help. Teeba was then brought to Cleveland at age five, and has been living here, with her American family (Tim and Barbra) ever since. Between now and the accident, a lot has changed, let’s get right into it and see how R.E.A.L Teeba is now!
This summer, Teeba and I had a chance to talk about her life then and now. On the blog today, you will be reading our interview.
You were so young when the accident happened, what do you remember?
It’s kind of difficult to explain, I was only 19 months old, thankfully I do not remember the crash, but I do remember very bright lights, and the next 40 days of my life were pitch black. I remember feeling hot and being in the doctor’s office. The doctors, where I am from, don’t really understand how to take care of someone. They were really aggressive with me. I think that is where most of my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) comes from. They would tie kids up and be very abusive. I remember most of the recovery process.
I know you were only 5 when you arrived in Cleveland. What were your earliest memories? What was it like to leave your parents and your brother?
I first came from my home, in Iraq, to Jordan. I lived in Jordan for six months waiting for my visa. I lived with my grandmother and when we finally got the papers, we headed to America. My grandma was very traditional, very conservative, would not let me eat any of the food in America, she made me walk beside her at all times and was very dismissive of all American help. Because to her, America was her enemy. We missed a lot of our flights and then we finally got to Chicago. From Chicago, we then took a flight to Cleveland. I remember my grandmother didn’t let me sleep on the plane because we had to be aware of the surroundings. When we got off the plane, in Cleveland, there was all these reporters, and there was Tim and Barbra who helped me get to America. It was so strange to me to see tall, white, blonde hair, and blue eyed people. Barbra soon handed me this little teddy bear, who I still have now. I named her Binty Shatra, which means good girl in Arabic.
Tell me about a time when being resilient was really important. Tell me about a time that your mindset impacted your situation and or actions.
When I moved to America, I didn’t really have enough time to process and comprehend what was happening. At that point I had to go with the flow. Something about me is that I have terrible PTSD, so when I came to America to get my surgeries, I was so hesitant of the doctors, to not let any of them touch me.
Do you have a quote or saying that you return to, to help ground yourself and to keep you going?
I started to strategize and use the thought of my family back home. I was thinking that they were excited for me to get better. They were back home waiting for me and praying that after the surgery, I would be better. I realized that the surgery was temporary, the pain was temporary, the anesthesia was temporary. If I could get through this surgery, then I will be more beautiful when I wake up. Not that just being beautiful was the overall prize, but to restore what has been destroyed.
Now I have some specific questions about your book. As I said before, it is very well written. What made you want to write about your story?
My mom and I have always been photographed for the newspapers and media. We didn’t really think about it until years went by and there was an article in 2014 that came out. Harper Collins read that article and reached out to us saying they wanted to help us write our book and publish it. I didn’t want a book. I am not a big fan of reporters because they pressured me to speak about times I didn’t want to be revealed. After I wrote my selected parts for the book I was done.
How long did writing your book take?
Writing took a year and a half, I don’t know about how long it took for publishing because my mom and dad handled that. It took longer than anticipated because there was translating that had to be done from Arabic to English.
Was it challenging to put your feelings into words?
It is definitely a challenge because I still don’t know exactly how I felt since I was so young when the event happened. I am still just going through the motions of what happened. It is a very strange feeling, a feeling of unsurety. Sometimes I am mad about the situation, sometimes I am actually happy and grateful for it, and sometimes I am very upset. I don’t always know how to explain all these feelings and convey it to someone who doesn’t understand or someone who has never been through a traumatic war.
What was something you learned from writing your own story?
No matter how you plan your life, it will change. It can change for the better but you always have to be ready to respond to what the universe does or says. Remember to never give up no matter what is happening. Keep holding on because you don’t know where it can take you.
What do you like to do most in your free time?
My number one favorite thing to do is dance. Whenever I am not studying, I am dancing. I also love to sketch. I have recently learned that I love to read, I never used to like it until now. I am also very dedicated to my studies. One day I hope to become an optician or a pediatric anesthesiologist.
What are you reading right now? Do you have any suggestions for other readers?
Reading some things for school but my all time favorite is “A Thousand Splendid Suns” BEST READ EVER.
Have you given any thought to plans after high school and beyond?
I want to become a doctor so I will probably go to med school. I know that I want to participate in a program called Doctors Without Borders. I would love to travel around to countries that need medical attention.
That is the end of the interview with Teeba. She has a truly remarkable story and hearing her story made me recognize how simple my life has been. Hearing about the ability of having strength and courage can get you through every day life is truly inspirational. It’s eye-opening to hear stories, like Teeba’s. It forces you to put your life in perspective and it encourages you to believe that you can be strong and have courage too when a difficult situation.
You can read more about Teeba’s story in her book, A Brave Face.
I had such a memorable time talking to Teeba, a fellow student, at a local high school near mine. I am so happy to be able to share her inspiring story for Real Girls Doing Real Things. She is definitely a R.E.A.L. girl!