Exit West and Don’t Turn Back

In the novel Exit West, Mohsin Hamid writes a beautiful story regarding the migrant experience. The aspect of the story that struck me the most, however, was the emphasis on time and, more specifically, how to deal with the past. Throughout the novel, Saeed and Nadia frequently move from one place to the next, often in horrible conditions. Yet, despite all odds, they are able to move on and start their own lives without getting caught up in the past. I believe this is because they take the following approach: accept the past for what it is, value the aspects of it that deserve to be valued, and acknowledge that the past cannot be changed so it is best not to hurt yourself worrying over it.

The first significant move was Saeed and Nadia moving from their home country. That was a huge decision to make, especially for Saeed. They both had to leave behind their homes in which they had spent and dedicated their whole lives. Saeed even left his father, who had refused to go with them. They were able to cope with this traumatic departure by understanding that they had no choice but to leave, and still value the time they had in the country. Specifically for Saeed, he maintained his religious practice of prayer that was taught to him by his family, which allowed him to feel connected to his home even if it was in the past.

In my opinion, the novel’s most significant life development was Saaed and Nadia moving away from each other. I, being a rather nostalgic person, had trouble understanding how two people who cared for each other and went through so much together could possibly let go of each other. I realized, upon reflection, that if Saeed and Nadia had tried to cling to the past and stay together, it would have only been harmful. Splitting up was by no means easy for them, but it was the best for each of them so they could develop as a person and move on with their life.

I learned that, although there is value to the past, you can’t expect to live in the past and still successfully move on into your future. The more time you spend looking back at the events of your past unnecessarily, the more time you waste in which you could be growing as a person.

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