Month: September 2013

When People Disappoint

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Appreciate the people who stand by you during your tough times, for they may be the only true friends that you have. The ironic thing about hyper-connective world is how we little we actually connect in a deeper sense of the word. I mean, yes, we retweet each other’s tweets and like each other’s facebook posts, but when somebody asks, “How are you?” how many of them actually listen to your answer and say, “No, seriously how are you?”

Because they can’t. They can’t properly listen to you, I mean. This virtual world edits conversations and reduces the affect of body language and change of tones so that the only difference between one “I am fine,” and another is whether it is in Arial or Times New Roman. One thing that you learn with time is never to expect anything from anyone. How many times have close friends disappointed and how many times have strangers turned into heroes?  It’s like that quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

And sometimes you might spend so much time with somebody only to discover how shallow your relationship really is, and it ends up shattering at the tiniest hit. I don’t know why I’m ranting here today, but I have been disappointed a lot lately, and the thing with disappointments is that they change you, they change your belief systems, they change the way you view others, they even change the way you view yourself.

Then people say that to avoid getting disappointment, have zero expectations. Maybe they are right, but is having zero expectations about the people around us really easy?

Recently, one of “my persons” left and I didn’t even feel as sad as the old me would have been. Maybe because in this special case, their leaving might have been for the best (for them even though it was not for the best for me), and I realized that is the point you know you truly love someone; when their happiness means more to you than your own happiness.

I don’t seem to find a conclusion for this post. It sounds like rambling to me, so I don’t know what it sounds to you. I guess, today’s take home lesson is, “Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule…But love people who never look at their schedule when you need them.”

And tell me this, “How are you?”

No seriously, how are you?quote



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Since yesterday and I’ve been closely watching the #westgate situation on Kenyan TV (thanks to live streaming) and twitter. It is proving to be very difficult to focus on anything else at the moment considering there are still some hostages held in Westgate mall for more than 33 (not 38, typo in previous post draft). As I ordered my coffee in Caribou, I thought of those people who ordered at Artcaffe yesterday – some for the last time. As I wiped the coffee stains off the floor, I thought that someone would soon be given the grim task of wiping blood from the floor of the mall. There was nothing I could focus on and so I did the one Kenyan thing I still do; I went running.

I ran until my muscles went sore, thinking of the mother who was devastated even though her child had missed a bullet by an inch because it bounced back and killed someone else’s child. Then I ran some more. I ran until my sides ached thinking of the pregnant woman who died with her baby and the pregnant woman who gave birth under such stress then I ran some more. I ran until I was out of breath, thinking of the man who had the chance to escape yet chose not to because he wanted to protect other’s children, then I ran some more.

As I ran, I thought of how sometimes we wish we can run away from it all, the bloodshed and misery seeping out of the media, the angry questions we ask ourselves, “What is the world coming to? Whatever happened to humanity? How can people do these things then look themselves in the mirror? How can they look at their own children every night knowing they’ve killed someone else’s child?”

It’s hard to wrap your mind around all that happened. These were ordinary people leading ordinary lives, hanging out with friends, shopping for clothes, savoring the different tastes in the mall’s restaurants. Some might not even have wanted to be there, but they had to because of a business meeting or a Nakumatt job that put a roof over their head or the Junior MasterChef competition that was taking place at that time. One second people were taking pictures of themselves and posting them on Instagram and the next second tragedy struck, and those ordinary people suddenly became extraordinary, holding each other’s hands as they escaped, rolling the injured out in shopping trolleys making sure they were propped on toilet paper rolls to cushion their backs, taking care of someone else’s children even when their own were not in sight (because they were hoping that someone out there was like them and taking care of their children).

So after running for a few kilometers, I stopped. I realized that no matter how hard we try to run away from such heartbreaking news, we just cannot. It’s like we’re running on a treadmill where we start and stop at exactly the same spot. Whether the news happens in Baghdad or Pakistan or Syria or Kenya, it will always hurt whenever we hear about innocent lives lost, so maybe we need to stop trying to run away, and instead learn from those ordinary people who had become extraordinary during this incident; those who waited in line to donate blood, those matatu drivers who didn’t charge the passengers who were going to donate blood, those who already raised 11 million KES for Westgate victims in 6 hours, those who volunteered to make sure the police officers, media people, volunteers are well-fed and well-hydrated, and even those children skating to spread the word….

Image from twitter (@RobertAlai), skating kids urging people to donate blood
Image from twitter (@RobertAlai), kids skating urging people to donate blood

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this barbaric attack and those who are still stuck inside. I pray for peace and a world where this senseless bloodshed would stop and instead people would focus on building a more beautiful world empty of wars. And as the President Uhuru Kenyatta beautifully said (despite grieving his own personal loss during this attack as he has lost his nephew in this attack), “We are as brave as the lions on our Coat of Arms.”

So, don’t let these people divide Muslims from non-Muslims because as Kenyans, #WeAreOne.

A last word, @KenyaRedCross twitter handle announced, “Due to public demand we continue with the #WestGateMall Blood Drive tomorrow (Monday 23rd) at Uhuru Park from 9am.” So if you haven’t donated blood, think of the 175 people wounded, one of whom you could save. To Donate via M-PESA to Westgate Victims paybill number 848484.

Six Ways to Deal with Social Pressure

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A friend of mine once remarked that she doesn’t look forward to Eid gatherings anymore because people just make her feel inadequate. Proud relatives announce the successes of their own children and then ask, “So what are YOU doing with your life?”

A question that makes us cringe. Needless to say that people in our stage of life go through a lot of social pressure (which is defined as someone else’s idea of how we should lead our lives).  Maybe it is the way people in our societies are raised or maybe it’s because they have nothing else to talk about, it seems they are always waiting in anticipation for your next stage in life. Actually, it might seem they are more interested in your life than you yourself. If you’re single, they ask, when will you get married? If you’re married, they ask, when will we see a baby? If you give birth to a baby boy, they ask, when will we see a girl? Even some guys get asked such questions. It is as if when you were a child, they invested so much to ensure that by the time you are 26 you would be settled with a rich husband with three sweet children in your mansion, and you’ve let them down somehow because you’re single and “between jobs” (read u-n-e-m-p-l-o-y-e-d).

Their attitude towards your life is best expressed by the Turkish word, “çabuk! çabuk! çabuk!”(meaning: hurry! hurry! hurry!)

The problem is, as they bombard you with questions, they might not give you the chance to explain what you think you are doing with your life. They might not give you the chance to explain what exactly your personal measure of success is and how on earth you are working towards it  (or not). You don’t get a chance to explain that people are different, and different things work for different people, that the same recipe might not work for you because your background and preferences are quite unique. They don’t give you a chance to explain that you’re still figuring it out, and how you’re okay with still figuring it out, so the pressure they’re putting on you is not helping at all.

Amanda Bast said it best, “I am 26 years old. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I don’t have a career. I don’t have what people expect I should have, but I am abundantly blessed with absurd, exhilarating, and fantastic things I would have never dreamed up on my own. So please, my dear friends, don’t ask me what’s next. Ask me what’s now.”

But how do you deal with the social pressure? The easiest way is to use the Madagascar penguin technique of, “Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave.” You might change it to “smile and node” in order not to seem too weird. But more practical tips include:

1) Be comfortable with who you are. It’s easiest to become uprooted when you’re filled with insecurities about yourself. So to be comfortable with who you are, you just need to take the time to understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and to have reasons for yourselves, though you are not obliged to explain anything to anybody else.

2) Listen to their advice. Listening to their advise does not necessarily mean you have to implement any of it in your life. See what works for you, and adopt that, and select what doesn’t work for you and throw it out.

3) Treat them with respect.  Now a lot of times, some people get tempted to tell others to mind their own business, but understand that when they advise you on how your life should be, they might be doing it out of a genuine concern because in their eyes you are still the lost six-year-old who doesn’t know their way around life. So maybe it’s better to develop finesse and turn the conversation away from you by shining the spotlight right onto them and their children keeping in mind people love to talk about themselves (and their derivatives).

4) Have a support group. We always need that from time to another. Someone to vent and rant to. Someone to tell us that you shouldn’t worry about what they say as long as you satisfy the first scenario and are comfortable with who you are.

5) Deactivate your facebook account. Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself; you open your facebook account one morning and see your friend’s baby taking the first step and another friend updating her status with “Engaged” and a hundred photos by a third friend who has been to Malaysia during the summer. They might as well have tagged you with the question screaming at you in silver letters, “SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?” Since they are our friends, we will probably be happy for them, but just because we’re happy for them does not automatically mean that we are immune from feelings of misery because our lives seem to be as stagnant as the air at the tip of a pitot tube. There was actually a study I read once by German researches that witnessing the happy moments of your facebook friends could trigger feelings of misery and loneliness.

6) Most importantly, have trust in Allah (SWT) that whatever is meant to happen will happen so why do you worry too much when you know that you will get the rizq that has been written for you?

Walking in solitude
Walking in solitude

Because I Can

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How many times have you heard of a successful person say that a turning point in their life was when they looked at themselves in the mirror and told their reflection to do something, “Because you can”?
I personally look back at my life, and how I moved out of a job and into grad school. A lot of people around me couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that I was ready to be paid less of what I used to be paid. So at the beginning I met a lot of resistance. Yet what made me ignore them is that simple line, “Because I can.”
Back then, I used to look around me and I saw so many people stuck to jobs they hated because of their responsibilities in life (taking care of spouses, children, old parents), and I found myself thinking along the lines, “They can’t really quit because they have responsibilities. But I can, because later, I might end up in their same situation, with more responsibilities so I wouldn’t be able to leave.”

There is a famous story that is continuously used to talk about the concept of self limiting belief. In the past, people used to believe that it was impossible to run a mile under 4 minutes, until Roger Bannister did it on the 6th of May in 1954. The amazing part of the story is the moment Roger did it, a lot of athletes began breaking the 4 minute record. Why? Because they realized that they could.

So recently I discovered that the origin of the word “confidence” is Latin “confidere” which means “with trust”. A lot of times we might think that self-confidence is something we are either born with or not. However, it is something we can build somehow because most of it starts from inside our minds; it starts with what we tell ourselves. So maybe we need to learn to trust ourselves more and start believing, “Because I can.”

If you think at what you’ve been given, you’ll realize that Allah (SWT) has given you a lot of blessings that you could use in your strive to achieve something. Whether it is a talent or the opportunity to develop a skill. Even supportive people around you are a blessing you should never take for granted because sometimes you might not be willing to tell yourself, “Because I can,” so you might need someone else to push you and tell you, “You might think that you cannot, but yes, you can (In Sha Allah or if Allah wills of course).”

because I can