The Sky Isn’t Always Blue and Other Things

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Originally posted;

Once in my previous job, one of my colleagues used to complain about the lack of blue skies in the region…He flew from South Africa to the Gulf region, what did he expect in a world where summers get so hot, Alarabiya news once reported a video showing people frying an egg on the road? Of course, the sky isn’t blue because the hot sun dispels the blueness out of it.

But we stereotype for a reason; it makes our lives easier. If we didn’t stereotype, we’d always study a new design of a door knob suspiciously wondering what it was. But we understand that due to its location on a door, that thing is probably a door knob not a door blob.

The danger happens when we extend this stereotyping to people, putting them into tiny, tiny boxes and labeling these tiny, tiny boxes using tiny, tiny words. Because if we look at ourselves, we are very complex beings. Yet we fail to acknowledge the same thing about others. They’re either good or bad, kind or evil. We would like to believe we know how we would behave in a particular situation, and yet the truth is, we don’t know unless we find ourselves in that situation.

The other day I came to the realization that I don’t like overly sweet/friendly/perfect people. My first reaction is, what are they trying to hide? My second reaction is to run the other way. During one of our psychoanalytical sessions, I realized I’ve been burnt by this personality more than once. In front of your face they’re all sweet and friendly. Behind your back, they’re totally different people. And I end up feeling stupid because I ask myself; how did I not see it coming? But that’s blatant stereotyping over there and maybe I need to change that about myself.

In uni, we had a professor who would say this whenever we would complain towards the stressful end of a semester, “Now you’re in the middle of the storm, and your point of view is distorted. You might change your mind about this once you’re out of the storm.”
So here’s a conclusion; As much as we would like to simplify things and pretend to be rational beings, we’re not. We’re complex beings who experience the world in totally unique ways. As I mentioned in “Reflect on Your Defining Moments”, we’re the triple integration of our personal values, experiences and social conditioning.

So celebrate your unique and complex being, and acknowledge that others are unique and complex as well….

And that the sky is not always blue.

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.

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Why Do You Have To Struggle For Every Little Thing In Your Life

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legs-1031653_1920A friend of mine voiced this fact once… “I have to fight for every little thing in my life…my family…my weight…my husband…my health” (she survived cancer).

But maybe she doesn’t see it in herself; she’s one of the kindest, strongest, most fascinating people I’ve ever met in my life. And I find myself thinking that sometimes our struggles exist to help us grow into the strong, compassionate people we’re supposed to be…As Srini Rao — author of Unmistakable — says occasionally in his Unmistakable Creative podcast, “some people go through post-traumatic stress, while others go through post-traumatic growth.”

This in no way or shape diminishes those who go through post-traumatic stress, but it also shows that pain and stress aren’t always the only thing waiting at the end of that long tunnel of life’s struggles. Sometimes what lies there is a sense of growth, wisdom, peace, and the inner security that you can handle hard challenges.

“What doesn’t break you makes you stronger,” is a cliche for a reason…Challenges build your resilience, your threshold for pain, your attitude in life, your support system. They also give you a chance to be grateful when you’re not facing a challenge. So don’t dismiss them just like that, as they appear in your life for a reason.

This is a reminder for myself more than others.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to leave your comment below and tweet me @ahechoes

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.

How Do You Eat Your Cereal? A Post on Individuality

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As a Kemeni girl in the UAE, I never felt like I truly belonged. When I brought mahamri to school, I felt embarrassed because none of the other kids brought mahamri to school. They would get sandwiches and crisps and Capri-sonne. I was sure they had no idea what that strange dark bread that dark-skinned girl was eating. Summers in Kenya were not any better. I didn’t fit in there either, even though they were fully aware of what mahamri was.

What I regret most from those days is that I spent so much mental and emotional effort trying to fit in when I could have spent it to stand out. In Linchpin, Seth Godin writes, “For hundreds of years, the population has been seduced, scammed, and brainwashed into fitting in, following instructions, and exchanging a day’s work for a day’s pay. That era has come to an end.”

I agree with him; “fitting in” is so yesterday. Nowadays, we live in a post-globalized world where social media has helped melt borders and introduce cultures to one another. And while many people might be tolerant towards intercultural differences, there are still some who are really hung up on keeping their own culture homogeneous so they try to destroy the concept of individuality. In other words, just like you’re born in the tribe, you’re supposed to eat, talk, think and behave like the tribe.

But that’s practically impossible, because we’re all unique. Take an example, ask everybody you know,

“How do you eat your cereal?”

You would expect the answer to be; with cold milk, but that’s not always the case. I’ve met people who never outgrew their love for baby food and like their cereal soggy with warm milk. Others have it with no milk. Then there are those who are sequential eats; they eat the cereal, and then wash it down with milk.

We may have gone to the same schools, hung around the same people, but we all experience the world differently. So today’s post is about celebrating your individuality; a skill that needs to be honed more in our Asian & Middle Eastern & African (AMEA) societies. Here are five practical ways;
5) Mix languages in a unique way. Some people are serial linguists; they use one language per conversation. However, many people in this part of the world are multi-lingual so be unique and mix words from different languages in a single sentence. Speak 3arabenglish for a while. Or as they say in Swahili goes, shoofil qurabu fog ilmabamba.
4) Engage in hobbies you enjoy around people who don’t. Sometimes, we hide our interests and hobbies in order to fit in, because we’re scared of the strange glances and the whispered comments, but we need to be comfortable with those “you’re so weird” glances. And in case you’re looking for a comeback to those who call you weird, you might say, “I’m not weird. I’m just unique.”
3) Be brutally honest. Even if it pisses people off. Especially if it pisses people off. Try talking to conservative aunties about ideas related to feminism and watch the fireworks. After some time, you might even start enjoying pissing people off.
2) Learn to say no without giving any reasons. Many times, we want to please others and end up saying yes to requests we would rather say no to because we’re trying to be nice. While it’s very easy for people to take things personally if you deny them requests, life has taught me, they just get over it and find someone else to do those things. And if someone really resents you for saying no, then – hint, hint – you don’t need such people in your life. So exercise in front of a mirror.
“Because I simply don’t want to.”
1) Be tolerant of other people. Mocking others for being different and judging them is just a sign of a closed mind. It cultivates the sort of environment that makes people bury their authentic selves, hide beneath masks and basically stamp on their own individuality. So basically, celebrate your individuality by allowing others to celebrate theirs.

So what are you going to try today to celebrate your individuality? Whether you decide to mix languages in a unique way, become brutally honest, engage in hobbies you enjoy around those who don’t, say no without giving any reasons or practice tolerance towards others, try it and tweet me on @ahechoes. Also don’t forget to tell me; how do you eat your cereal?

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.

The Next 13 Pages of Your Journal

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There’s nothing more annoying than to decide you’re going to journal everyday and then to find yourself sitting in front of an empty page waiting for inspiration to strike. With a hammer.
Since I wrote “Your first step to being a renaissance (wo)man”, many of you have started journaling so I’m posting 13 more prompts — in addition to the 21 prompts mentioned previously to help you discover yourself through writing. Can you guess why I selected the number 13? (Mentioned in the previous post)

If you’re one of those competitive school geeks, give yourself 2 points for each prompt completed and write down how many points you’ve garnered in the comments’ section.

1. Stick a photograph of yourself in your natural habitat. There’s an interesting story behind this prompt. I have a friend who was showing me their personal pictures and when we came across one with them in bed looking rumpled, my comment was, “Look at you in your natural habitat.” The response? “You’re not the first one to make that comment.” So what does your natural habitat look like? Is it hunched over a book in the library? Or with your legs crossed at the knees in a coffee shop? Take a photo, stick it in and write about it.

2. Write a fictional adventure story where you’re the hero and your best friend is the villain. This might sound strange as it would make more sense if you portray someone you dislike in real life as the villain. However, they always say the best villains are those that readers can connect to, and you’re more likely to bring out the positive traits of your friends than your enemies. Change the names, add a conflict, and voila, you’ve got yourself a story.

3. Write down your favorite quote (in calligraphy for 1 bonus point). Now write why it’s your favorite quote and was there any situation where you did something — or didn’t — because you remembered that quote.

4. Imagine you’re upset and crying over the washroom sink. Who’s the one person you would call to help you feel better? Now call them to say hello and write about that conversation in your journal.

5. Write about what you wanted to do as a kid. Are you still following that dream or are you doing something else? Is there a common aspect about the two things? Draw a venn diagram for 1 extra point.

6. Let’s say somebody called you up and said they’ll take you to an all expense paid trip to any city in the world. Where would you go? Write down the places in that city you would visit. Find those locations on Google Streetview and describe them in details. Write down the foods you would order. Finally how does this exercise make you feel? Extra 2 points for photoshopping yourself into that location and sticking it in your journal.

7. Write about an incident that really hurt you. Now tear the paper from your journal making sure the tear is obvious. Now, draw an arrow sign pointing to the tear, and write something like, “The pain was here. Now it’s gone.”

8. Desert walk. Write about the first thing that came to mind when you read those two words.

9. Write about something you really wanted a couple of years back that you don’t want anymore. What changed your mind about it?

10. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Do you even care if that tree made a sound or not? What kind of person do you think came up with that question? Write about their childhood.

11. Write about something that really annoys you about yourself/your job/the people around you. Write ten ideas on how to deal with it. Now close your journal and execute those ideas.

12. If January 2016 was a chapter, what would the title of that chapter be? And why? What about February 2016?

13. Read something on the news and do something about it. A long time ago, before radio waves and the internet, people used to do something about the news they heard because they were within its geographic vicinity. They’d hear that a neighbor’s house caught fire and would come together to donate things to them. However, nowadays we’ve become so desensitized with what’s happening because the news is no longer local. Not only are we geographically removed from the people these news happen to, but we’re also emotionally disengaged unless the news is really big and heart-breaking. Since we’re slowly moving towards a small-village kind of world with social media, it’s about time we start caring again, because part of being human is understanding that we influence one another simply by existing. Think about Newton’s law of universal gravitation which states that any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. So do something about whatever news you’re reading. Especially the smaller pieces of news. Write an email to the writer to ask more questions about an article. Write an email to a featured hero to thank them for whatever they did. Donate for a cause you’ve just read about. Don’t just sit there. Do something. And then write about it in your journal.

So how much did you score in this journaling exercise? Email me at or with your progress.

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