challenge accepted.

I often hear people say they want to be challenged in life, and then you challenge them and they cannot handle it. It is much like truth telling, everyone wants the truth, up until you actually give them the truth. I for one, always want to be challenged and I always want the truth.

Regularly I say how self aware I am. It is critical that in life we are mostly aware of our flaws but habits in general. Conversations or emotions can get extremely real if someone else is the one telling you about yourself. Now and again though we need someone to hold the mirror to us. Whether that be your partner in life, family, friends, whomever – but you need someone to occasionally hold the mirror and tell you like, “hey have you ever thought about it this way?” Or better yet be that person for yourself.

I am flawed, naturally but it is an everyday process to be able to look in the mirror and still love yourself. Love yourself to the point where you understand that self improvement is also a form of self care, self love. Self care isn’t always luxury but a mean for survival, and constantly working towards improving yourself is in addition to a form of self care.

I am not going to preach that it is 2018 and we need to focus on ourselves. The thing is, we should strive daily to focus on ourselves. To protect our worth, our successes our failures. Our alignment doesn’t have to be everyone else’s alignment but it paramount to recognize that healing and self care has no end point, no summation, no finish line. It is the act dedicating each day to finding yourself and loving yourself despite how cruel the world can be.  One thing I have learned through my entire existence is the importance of perseverance, that in the face of true love – yourself, you don’t just give up – even if the world is urging otherwise.

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endings.

As the year is ending, I can’t help but to think of all the things I gained this year, and just as importantly, lost. I hate the cliché, New Year, new me. I actually hate New Years all together, I have never fancied the holiday, I think it is entirely overrated and just an excuse for people to party and pretend that they don’t enter the new year with the same problems. Yes, I am THAT person.

Growth is essential at every turn of your life. Some people need Mondays, a new calendar year, or just a new morning, and that is fine, but my real question is – are you growing, are you evolving are you challenging yourself to change the things in your life that give you no joy?

I often see people be complacent in their life. I have done it too. With jobs, with living situations. I see it happen in marriages, relationships all too regularly.  Why do we insist on torturing ourselves? Isn’t it a form of torture – to continue an act that literally is breaking us slowly?

I have stayed in toxic relationships a number of times, Mainly friends… people who disguise themselves as your friends but really do not value you or above all are not kind to you. Why do we allow people to be rude or make us feel bad? I have struggled with this my entire life. I see the good in people, and I give them the benefit of the doubt, that no they care about me, that is why they say things that way. But here’s the catch, you can challenge someone without being rude or ruthless. Recently, my closest friend has been challenging me to see the world differently. Constantly pushing me out my comfort zones, but in the gentlest way possible. Showing me how my patterns are actually quite harmful to myself because I continue let people and situations have space in my mind that do not need to be there.

If someone does not add value to your like then they are wasted space. If the friends or the people in your life do not challenge you with TACT, then they are bullies. If people are not kind to you, what is the point? The world is cruel place as it is, why allow people – who are supposed to be our pillars, be unkind? Growth is also realizing that you do not have to have the same friends you have always had if they do support you in your journey.

I do not think I value anything more than time. It is the only thing I can offer someone that truly is priceless. Where you spend your time as well speaks volumes about yourself. I always heard the company you keep is a reflection of your personality. So spending time with those who bring no value to your life, is truthfully a waste. How do you manage to rid people who are wasted space in your life?

I often ask this question to myself to help differentiate between people I want to invest in and where I want to spend my time – since I value it so highly, as one should.  I read once, you’re nothing special if everyone has access to you. Spend your time wisely. Spend it with those who bring you comfort.

365 days. How did you spend it? 2017 was full of lows and highs, as every year is. It was complete of goals and failures.  We must take time to nurture our minds, to turn those failures into lessons, to push ourselves to be the best version of ourselves. I am exceptionally grateful for the losses this year, it taught me to survive. Mental health and inner peace is the new success, the new goal. My focus for the New Year is to become solution oriented and not problem oriented. My focus will be to say No where my heart is not happy, no matter who it is. My focus will be to live a peaceful life even if that means it needs to be done in solitude. Leaving anything and everything behind that is toxic. Turning 30 this year was additionally a great reminder on – how do I want the next 30 years of my life to look?

Endings, or new beginnings? I suppose it all depends on how you look at it. Cheers 2018, I am so ready for you.

fine lines.

As I get older, I started to notice fine lines around my mouth and my forehead. I kept thinking, how did I get here? Fine lines represent different things – old age mainly, but perhaps I should dig deeper than anti aging products. My prominent frown lines come from all the scrunching my face does on a daily basis because of all the stupid remarks people say. My fine lines around my mouth are a representation of how much I’ve laughed over the years, and I should be proud of that –  not try to reverse the process. But maybe I  should be more concerned with fine lines that aren’t really visible, and the damaging effects those lines have on me.

Between love and commitment there is such a fine line. Between being vocal and crossing over to disrespect. Between wanting what your heart desires and keeping others happy. Between being a manager and a leader. Fine lines are everywhere in our lives – so very prominent, so very tricky, but not always so visible, and the smallest step can cross you over to the dark side.

I tend to tread carefully, it’s who I am. At times, I think I am actually rebellious, but then I am put in situations where I am on the verge of those fine lines and quickly realize I am not as rebellious as I think am. I am not afraid to be honest, but I am afraid I’ll hurt someone with my honesty. I’m not afraid to make big moves, but I am afraid how those moves will effect me mentally. I’m strategic with most of my accords, even though I have A LOT of emotion, I start to think of all the pros and cons before making that decision. It usually is a battle between logic, rationale, and how I feel/what I want.

Fine lines represent courage. It forces you to be fearless. Whether its for your job, friendships.. relationships – you have to be brave and embrace the path that can change your entire life. If you always tread carefully on those fine lines, you’ll never know what is on the other side of fear. It could be love, an amazing business venture – and yes you’ll lose money at first, but its exciting, and thrilling, and the experiences are endless. I once read, fortune comes to those that are brave. It has resonated with me since. In order to get what you truly want, you can’t allow yourself to be complacent even if  that decision scares the shit out of you.

So yes, fine lines can be alarming and extremely intimidating, but they also portray progression, and progression is the key to a rewarding life.

May the space between where I am and where I want to be, inspire me.

30 reasons why

As I begin to reflect on the last decade of my life, I can’t help but to think of the lessons life has taught me. Some lessons I genuinely feel I could have lived without, but that’s the thing about tests – every so often, they come unannounced and it’s not about the preparation necessarily but how we manage the test itself.

I have a deep fondness for failing. Odd sure, but It makes me stronger. I come back ten folds. My 20’s were a collection of failures. Losses. Things I couldn’t control – that I so desperately wanted to control, but as I entered my late 20’s, I started to recognize that it was never about the failures or losses so much, but how I handled them. You hear this time and again, but it never really resonates until you’re put in a situation where all you have is blind faith, and that blind faith is the only element that can guide you in the darkness.

In your 20’s you’re a slave to your dreams, and can also feel bounded to the hopes and expectations your family has for you too, and then there is regret. The old servants of regret, linger – oh how they linger. My 20’s were emotional. High strung – even more than my teenage years (just imagine.) The beauty about 29, was I found myself calming down. Not being a slave to my dreams or expectations but simply understanding what it meant to relish in the moment and to accept what life had presented to me. To not let the hopes of my family weigh unusually heavy on me. To not let the servants of regret linger. It takes a different kind of strength to combat such emotions, and I don’t think it’s something that can be taught or something I have conquered by any means – but it is extremely empowering having more control of your emotions, over your thoughts and more specifically being able to distinguish between the two.

In honor of my 30th tomorrow, here are 30 life lessons that I value so deeply:

  1. Self love is the beginning to EVERYTHING.
  2. You can’t MAKE anyone love/like you. Whether it be family, friends, or a potential significant other. You have to accept that people are entitled to their own emotions.
  3. Don’t try so hard to get people to like you. I learned this lesson early on but still struggle at times. All that matters if YOU like yourself.
  4. Loving your parents doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything they say.
  5. Not listening to your parents – doesn’t mean you love them any less.
  6. THE ONLY PERSON ENTITLED TO MY TIME IS ME.
  7. THE ONLY PERSON ENTITLED TO MY TIME IS ME. (One more time, in case you missed that)
  8. No is a full sentence. You do not have to explain anything to anyone.
  9. It is okay to keep your opinions to yourself. (This has been my biggest lesson this year, I have to tell myself constantly, “it’s not that deep, Fatima)
  10. No need to overshare your life to paint this perfect picture.
  11. It is [very] OKAY to be different.
  12. You do not have to be present for everything. You will miss out on some events and that is okay.
  13. Mental health is JUST as important as your physical health.
  14. You have to let go of mental attachments. (The bane to my existence – I tend to get mentally attached, because I am naturally an over-thinker – but it is extremely important to allow yourself to surrender to what is vs. what you want.)
  15. It is okay to cry.
  16. Healing has no end point, no summation, no finish line. Its the act of dedicating each day to finding yourself and loving yourself, despite how cruel the world can be.
  17. Being self-aware. Be familiar with all your flaws. Be so enlightened, that no one can ever say, “you’re like this..” and be shocked.
  18. Truly understanding that physical beauty is temporary.
  19. Know the difference between poisons that can blind you and the poisons that can open your eyes.
  20. Compassion is the root to a joyful heart.
  21. Never settle.
  22. If you aren’t passionate about something, you’re not living your life right.
  23. Change is significant to growth. Never allow yourself to get complacent.
  24. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being able to adapt will take you far.
  25. Follow your arrow. The best gift you can give yourself is a lifetime of adventures.
  26. You aren’t entitled to anything in this world.
  27. Stand up for those who don’t have voices.
  28. Be your own hero.
  29. Be kind to yourself, FIRST and ALWAYS.
  30. My favorite, most humbling reminder: What is meant for you, will reach you even if it is beneath two mountains. And what isn’t meant for you, won’t reach you even if it is between your two lips.

Thank you 20’s, you were absolutely ruthless but the most incredible teacher I could have asked for. Thrilled for what my 30’s will propose.

Alhumdulliah always.

QTDNA: questions that don’t need answers.

This blog post comes from an extremely vulnerable place, and I give this topic a lot of thought – unintentionally mostly and some days intentionally. Perhaps, with wedding season in full effect or the fact I will be turning 30 this year, everyone has one burning question for me, “so when are you getting married?” And although, MOST of the time I think it comes from a good place, lets talk about WHY this question is heartless and others like it.

First off, why things aren’t happening in someone’s life, such as, “you’ve been married for one year, now it’s time for children,” is NOT your concern. Then after one has their first child, it instantly becomes about having your second… “what are you waiting for?” Basically the questions never end. People have already jumped onto the next hurdle and you’re still trying to relish in the first one.

Is there a race I am unaware of? What do we get if we cross the finish line the fastest? And it’s not just annoying aunties anymore, in fact it seems to me EVERYONE is extremely curious. Married friends and family members who just can’t seem to understand why you aren’t leaping to the finish line. I’m not even going to talk about the turtle and the hare, because we all know the cliche story, but in this case, is anyone really winning if they cross the finish line the quickest?

Listen, getting married isn’t the issue, or you reminding me that I am single. Yes, I am single and despite my disposition on marriage, when you bring up such topics with people, it can feed some undesired emotion that you didn’t even know existed. Especially with bearing children, or anything really. You have NO idea how bad this person might want the exact thing you are suggesting, and to brutally remind them of their struggles is not okay.

I’m a secure person. Certain comments always throw me off such as, “but you’re so pretty how are you single?” This is NOT a compliment by any means. We are ALL well aware (I hope) that finding a partner has nothing to do with your looks, and to normalize this in any way, speaks volumes about our society.

Let’s take this thought a little deeper. I often have really close friends or family members say, “you’re so amazing, how is that you haven’t found someone?” This is a nice claim, but let me tell what’s wrong with it. You hear it so much you truthfully start to think, “damn I am amazing why am I single? Essentially, what the world is telling you is, “you have to be doing something wrong.”  But that’s just it, relationships are not that black and white, nor is the process that simple. We’re so used to delivering cliche remarks, I honestly think people don’t even comprehend how these statements can resonate.

My mother always says, “tume apne bare mein, badi galth famiyan hain,” a famous urdu saying which translates to, “you have A LOT of misconceptions about yourself.” Basically, I ain’t shit (thank you Ruby for always keeping me humble, it is SO NEEDED.) And that’s my problem with those sorts of compliments, it cultivates this idea that we DESERVE a significant other. Look, we don’t deserve anything, you have to work hard at anything and everything you want or need in this life, and that is especially true with people. Also, because I know some really horrible people married, so personality does not dictate whether or not you get married, it’s determined by MANY other factors, clearly.

Additionally, there are those who give their unwarranted advice. Now advice can be fundamental, but to start off with accusatory remarks such as, ‘don’t be so picky, be open minded’ or ‘just be straight-forward and approach the guy yourself’ are not intelligent ways to grab my attention. In my mind I’m thinking, have you met me?? Do I need to spell it out for the guy… but that is an entirely different topic altogether.

My favorite remark thus far has been, “you’re too strong willed.” (insert eye roll emoji.) To blame the very person of why something isn’t happening, is telling the person – ‘its your own fault.’ Don’t get me wrong, I am self aware of all my faults and I am all for constructive criticism but for all one knows, that person has tried everything in their power, and you think you’re being helpful by offering unsolicited opinions? It’s cruel to be honest. In order to be an effective communicator you must embody empathy, and as a human race, we seem to be losing that daily.

I love those who advocate for marriage. They get all cliche on me and say, oh it’ll happen when you least expect it. I’m sorry, are you telling me you didn’t know you were going decide a huge life factor and it *gasps* just happened? You’re trying to tell me that you put no effort or time into something SO monumental, as society teaches us… and it just happened? That entire proposal you elaborated on instagram just happened? Please, stop with this carefree facade. Its demeaning. Relationships are meaningful and they don’t JUST HAPPEN. They take time and patience and sure, for some it is through family and the time is put in differently, but it doesn’t JUST HAPPEN. This a very careful thought out act. I for one, put thought into EVERYTHING I do, and even if meeting someone is the unexpected part, everything that follows is CAREFULLY THOUGHT OUT. So please stop telling single folk, it just happened – I know what you mean, I do, but it is not the same thing, and we have stop perpetuating these false concepts.

If you are not ready to have an in depth conversation about the PROCESS, then don’t proceed with unnecessary suggestions or comments. It is not small talk, it is literally stupid talk. No, I am not bitter, nor am I sad that my timeline hasn’t aligned with your expectations. I have no desire to constantly indulge in the reality that is MY LIFE, I do that enough with my mother, thanks. I am already quite aware what is and isn’t my life.

SO PLEASE STOP:

Asking my married friends why they aren’t having children. (Or why they aren’t as eager as YOU are for their second.)

Telling people what they MIGHT be doing wrong in finding a significant other.

Inquiring about why someone didn’t finish or start med school (God forbid someone doesn’t want to be a doctor.)

Reminding people (or in this case specifically, me) that they are single.

Maybe, just maybe we prefer it that way and if they don’t maybe they have blind faith, that when it supposed to happen, it will. I’ll leave you with my favorite hadith because it is reminder to us all to be sensitive to others and their personal lives:

“Know that if the whole community were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

 

the bigger picture.

Ramadan means different things to different people. Most people utilize this month to get closer to God and get in touch with their spiritual side. For me, this month has particularly been about reflection. With all the horror happening around the world, I’ve been constantly counting my blessings. How can you not? It’s hard not to wonder, how is it, that this is my life? I might be many things, but one thing I never want to be is ungrateful. I’ve done my best to really use this month to reflect on me and those around me, to gain perspective and wisdom. Another thing I tried extremely hard to improve and focus on is, patience. You can never have enough, it seems.

I don’t consider myself an angry person, but when I do get angry or upset – it consumes me. This month I focused on how foolish that is. We can’t control other peoples actions nor the things they say, but we can control how we react. The trouble with this is though, I might know how to control my actions but not so much my thoughts. How can I control those?

Prior to this month, I was angry at a friend. It took me awhile to stop caring, but it happened. It’s not easy to let go of the things we hold so dearly, but why let it ruin our lives? It was ruining my life. When I don’t understand something, my mind fixates on it. I recently had someone apologize to me for something they did five years ago. I told them it was too late and how none of that mattered anymore, they continued to say ‘better late than never’ but is that actually true? I constantly talk about closure, and how we’re the only ones who can make ourselves come to any sort of conclusion. Their apology was five years too late, and perhaps that apology was actually for them. I’m thankful I picked up the pieces a long time ago and rearranged them in order to suit myself. 

What I realize now, that not everyone thinks or more importantly, feels like we do, AND that’s okay. Either we accept them, or we don’t. It’s actually quite simple, we just make it complicated. Going through those emotions, brought me to this point, so perhaps the angry phase was necessary. It took me awhile, a month to be exact, to come to the realization, that there are bigger things than you and me. 

The only way to drive out darkness is with light. The only way to rid yourself of hate, is to embrace love. Any time you get angry or upset, in that instance just remind yourself how it isn’t worth the burden. Our hearts weren’t meant to carry hate or anger. 

As this month is ending, I just want to take a moment and reflect, on everything we’ve tried to achieve, everything we have to be thankful for. Think of those who are less fortunate, and do everything in your power to help them. Make sincere du’a (prayer) and give charity. Whatever your goals were this Ramadan, I hope you reached them and continue to strive for the bigger picture.

 

It’s Eid! Let’s eat 🙂 

 

truths unveiled

I know that it might be an interesting time to talk about this, but it has been a year and I couldn’t think of a better moment to speak out. I get many questions regarding my choice, at times I am ready to give people an elaborate answer and at other times I don’t see a point. I see it as a personal decision and isn’t something I felt the need to announce. If there is one thing I have learned its that people always see things as a loss or a win, and that is not the case in this situation. People are very quick to jump to conclusions, however I know that is inevitable. To clarify, don’t assume that I left hijab out of weakness or lack of faith. Don’t make the mistake to think I am less religious because of it or girls who cover are more religious. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. I was thirteen years old when I decided to cover. I look back at the signs and how I wasn’t really ready and at the time I had no idea what it takes to actually encompass hijab. I pushed through, because of course I made the decision and there was no turning back. As the years passed by, every moment I wanted to take it off, I felt like a failure. If truth be told, it wasn’t even my decision anymore. My mother was very firm to her belief of “what will people say?” I lived my whole life in that fear and perhaps I didn’t see myself as a failure, but the world would have, and my parents were not having that. Every time the topic came up, it was clear that if I took off the scarf, I would be a disappointment. 

The thing about disappoints and expectations is that they are unavoidable. It took me a long time to understand that. The mold that comes with hijab, I didn’t fit anymore. I never fitted that mold, my parents knew that, my siblings knew that, my cousins knew that. It’s not like I was wild or anything but the mere fact that I didn’t fit the description of what society thinks a hijabi should be. The burden of being a certain way was just too much. I hate that in our culture/society we have to be or act a particular way- and if you’re not that way, then people have some words to exchange about you. (However, I do realize this battle was never with the world and I, it was with my self) I wore the hijab and tried vigorously to fit this image of who a hijabi is supposed to be, and every time I went somewhere, I was expected to be someone I was not.

I once got a proposal JUST because the guy knew I wore hijab and had green eyes. It disgusted me. What if I didn’t even pray? He had NO idea who I was, and in that moment I didn’t even know who I was. He said he wanted a religious girl, and my aunt proceeded to say well she’s not “that religious” (that bothered me too) and his mother said, we don’t care, we want a hijabi. It saddened me that it was okay for hijab to be just a “trend” that it didn’t matter who I was, and what I believed, as long as I looked the part. 

Labeling people for what they lack is shameful. I struggled with this for many years and finally I came to a point in my life that if I wasn’t wearing the scarf for God, then I shouldn’t be wearing it. If you do things for the world, for people, and not yourself then you have it all wrong. I get ignorant questions all the time, “oh, is it because you wanted to show your hair?” for me, wearing a scarf was never difficult, I always had girls tell me, “oh my god, hijab suits you so well!” I’m grateful that for me, not once was hijab ever about appearance (because thats obviously the point) that part came easy to me. I started hijab in an era when there were no hijab tutorials, just me and a plain black scarf and two safety pins. It was the internal struggle that I couldn’t push away. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want to portray as a person? I commend thirteen year old Fatima for sticking to her haste decision, I tried, I tried with every fiber of my being- but unveiling myself this past year has made me even stronger and I have never felt more like myself. 

And before anyone puts their judge-y pants on, just remember a sin that humbles you is WAY better than a good deed that makes you arrogant.

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