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.

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i don’t mind.

We hear the phrase, ‘be mindful of others’ regularly. Especially with social media consuming our lives, we consistently hear people say, ‘pay attention to your surroundings, be present, be aware, be mindful.’

Growing up, my parents really wanted to embed mindfulness in to us kids. To be quite honest, it’s all they cared about. If we were sitting and someone (mainly elder) was standing, we should be mindful and offer our seat. If someone came to visit, I should be mindful and offer water, or chai. If someone was complaining about a situation we should be mindful and offer help. To constantly be aware of others needs. Growing up, my sister would jokingly refer to our mother as a social worker. Despite having three kids, she took on tasks for people like it was her job. Both my parents really. They were so kind to open their doors and have people stay if they ever needed a room or food. Literally anyone could call my parents for help, and you’d never hear a no. Never.

I am truly grateful to have witnessed such kind, extremely giving, and mindful parents. They not only taught us to be respectful to others but to always show compassion to those in need. And they really taught us to be attentive to not only others’ experiences but their feelings especially.

Desis are ALL about emotions. I mean just watch any Bollywood movie and see how we like to pull at peoples heart strings with emotional blackmail… err situations. Being mindful isn’t a dreadful thing. It’s a wonderful attribute but is there such a thing to be too mindful? I genuinely don’t think I have EVER made a life altering decision without listing the pro’s and con’s of how OTHERS might feel (and when I say others, I mainly mean my parents.) Sure, I’ve been selfish and did things I wanted but I also drove myself pretty crazy up until I made that decision.

I find my mindfulness has spread to other areas of my life. With friendships, with work. I have a hard time saying ‘No.’ Because, again my parents taught us to always be mindful of  people’s feelings.  I don’t quite know how my parents provided for three kids and were able to take on more than their share – because I find myself struggling. On one hand I want to be able to make everyone around me ‘happy’ (I say happy but I know it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy – a general consensus if you will) but on the other hand it can take a huge toll on one’s sanity.

My friends who are amazing wives struggle between what their husbands want, what her parents want, and what her in-laws expect from her. She’s busy in her own life and of course has a voice but is also extremely mindful of keeping the harmony. I often listen to their struggles, pause and ask, “and what do you want?” The most daunting question of all time. We’re so wrapped up in trying to balance the beam. I truly believe they forget what they even want to begin with. I don’t want to make the bold statement that more often than not, women are asked to be more mindful than men, but in this case I’ll say it.

I once read a story that really resonated with me for many different reasons. A couple gets married and they make a pact for the first couple of weeks they won’t let anyone bother them no matter what. The guys parents come and they ask each other do we let them in and break the pact? The guy says it’ll be okay, they’ll be fine. The following week the girl’s parents are at the door. And of course not wanting to break the pact she convinces herself that it’s okay, they’ll understand. After a couple of minutes, she can’t take it, she tells her husband we should let them in, what if it’s something important? She opens the door. Fast forward a couple of years they have a son and then a girl. On the arrival of their daughter, the husband began to cry and the wife jokingly asked why are you crying? And he replied, “because the one who’s going to open the door for us, is here.”

I know plenty of guys who are mindful. I know plenty of women who are not. But there is something about this story that really resonates with me. The girl felt so many emotions upon opening that door. Firstly, to not want to disappoint her husband if she did open the door or feel guilty if she didn’t open the door for her parents. I often find myself at a similar crossroad. When my co workers say no to my boss for an extra task, I start to think of the all reasons why I should take the task. Mindfulness. It pops up everywhere.

For once, I’d like to be mindless. To solely make a decision based on my needs, only. We often spend our adult life fixing what our childhood broke and I’m not sure which part is more broken now.

My parents raised humanitarians, and as grateful as I am to them, I’m also upset they set me up for failure for my own sanity. The world wasn’t raised the same. The guilt that consumes me when I don’t fulfill a task that’s asked of me, will be the death of me. Many would say, this is a personal problem, and that’s feasible. Nevertheless, how is one to turn off being mindful? That’s just it though, there is nothing noble about not giving grace. It could be I’ve been on the right side all along, although for the sake of my sanity (and others like me) it’s time to fathom that No is a full a sentence and completely okay to use every once and awhile.

I do mind.

the root of all evil.

Why is it as children we have more empathy? As we get older, we somehow lose that. I wonder what it is about aging that makes us less connected to those around us. I once felt horrible for someone I didn’t really know, and granted his loss/pain didn’t have anything to do with me, but when the person who caused him the pain asked me one simple question, “how does that affect you?” I was dumbfounded. What response did I have for this question. Oh, I know, the fact that I am human, and when others are in pain, it has an impact on me. The real question is, why don’t YOU feel something?

All of the atrocities going on in the world have affected me. How can I sit comfortably in my home knowing innocent children are dying. I almost feel guilty that my “problems” consist of filling out grad school applications, losing the five pounds I might have gained during Ramadan, and working on building my website. I mean how is it that this is my life, and that is theirs?

Social media has played a vital role in spreading awareness on the violence happening in Gaza and Israel. I love that my twitter feed is filled with prayers for those who are suffering, with the hash tags of FreePalestine, PrayForGaza. As much as I don’t want to see the gruesome images, I realize how they are key in getting those who aren’t informed, to face this reality. I do believe there are other effective ways of raising awareness, and of course I always feel words are just as strong as images, if not more. 

Now perhaps updating a status isn’t really saving the world. I know this. I have a success story though, that made me feel different. I’ve been reading all these articles my family and friends are posting, and a part of me felt I shouldn’t add to the flood of posts. After Israel declared ground invasion, I felt various emotions and posted a status. Sadly enough, not many of my non Muslim friends liked my status. One friend though, started doing research and educating herself on the crisis in Israel and Gaza. She called me two hours later, bawling, literally crying like a baby. I tried to console her, but what could I say? Did I feel happy that this affected her so deeply? Happy wasn’t the word. Relief? Yes, relief, that’s it. Relief that the problem was acknowledged at all. I quickly realized, that I brought this on. I brought her to these emotions. She kept crying and saying that could be Layla-her 8 month old daughter. She kept saying to me, this isn’t about Muslims or Jews, this is about humanity. How can the Israeli government ruthlessly continue to murder children, and say we are defending ourselves?  If everyone could feel that sort of empathy, compassion, then perhaps there could be change. The root of all evil, isn’t just the acts of injustice, but the lack of compassion shown towards these injustices.

If you feel as if you’re choosing sides, then YOU are a part of the problem. This isn’t about sides, this is about the inhumane affairs occurring. If you see an explicit picture of those who are suffering and it doesn’t make you almost reevaluate your life and take a moment to count your blessings, then YOU are a part of the problem. If you feel this crisis doesn’t affect you, then YOU are a part of the problem. When innocent children are dying and we sit idly, we have tremendously failed as humans.

*And before ANYONE wants to jump down my throat about facts- I am very well informed about the crisis, and my heart goes out to everyone effected from these events, those in Gaza AND Israel. 

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