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I woke early that morning, got dressed, and prepared for work. When I opened the door and stepped outside, the streets were still silent. I had a busy day ahead, traveling to three different places for work and study. With no time to catwalk like a stylish girl, I left my high heel shoes at home.

I listened to music on my headphones as I took a public taxi to my office. I daydreamed, imagining a new painting I was working on. When I looked up, a bundle of flashy and glamorous bangles caught my attention. They were hung over the handle of a nearby car, and at every traffic bump they jingled. Hearing the sound I imagined I was at a henna night party where a beautiful girl was dancing. I smiled as I thought how much the driver must love his car.

Suddenly, another sound snapped me out of my daydream. It was loud and for one terrifying moment, I thought it was a bomb blast. I thanked Allah it was only the traffic policeman’s stick hitting a car. I was alive and I would make it to work that day after all. I put my heavy bag on my back and climbed out of the car to walk the rest of the way to the office.

Blood and dark, burned oil stained the street ahead of me. I realized I had exited the car at the exact site where a car bomb exploded just the day before. The memory of the attack made me despondent. I thought of those who had lost their loved ones in the blast and the children who would not see their mother or father again. I thought about the people who were still between life and death in the hospital, and I thought of the bombing martyrs and their families.

As I passed the bus station, I was reminded of other explosions in Kabul, like at Deh Mazang Square this past July and in the Shah Shaheed neighborhood last year. Then I realized I could not remember the locations of other blasts because so many had taken place in Kabul and all around Afghanistan.

I walked fast, carrying the weight of my heavy thoughts and feelings. When I crossed the street, though, I saw a man opening his shop and a couple buying a pair of small, cute socks for their coming baby. I then saw a little girl buying a notebook for her new school semester and an old woman buying a dress for herself. I saw three girls sharing one umbrella while reading their chapters at the bus stop, and I heard music playing in all the shops I passed. Along the street, I saw many people waiting patiently to find a day’s work for the promise of three hundred afghanis—enough to buy bread and vegetables for a family.

Everywhere around me, I saw people living their lives, showing signs of hope for better days to come. My city, Kabul, is still a normal city—even when there is a bomb blast one kilometer away.

Each day I leave the house, I know it might be my last goodbye to my mother. But I still leave the house. I walk strongly and purposefully toward my goals. In my work, I train women on life skills and dealing with trauma. I take leadership classes. I create artwork to inspire social issues, humanity, and peace in my country. As I press forward, I tell myself that there is no time to be despondent. There are responsibilities to tend to. There is a half-finished painting. There are jobs to complete.

Shaista Langari is a contributor from Afghanistan. This piece was originally published on World Pulse. Sign up to get international stories of women leading social change delivered to your inbox every month here.

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