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Posts tagged ‘Living Abroad’

30 Days Till 30 … Day 29: Farewell My Twenties…

Alas, the moment is near. In a little over 24 hours my twenties will be over, forever! It’s an event I face with mixed emotions. I am overly excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Excited to start a new, more mature and, potentially, more exhilarating phase of my life. Overwhelmed with the feeling that I am turning the page on my twenties, which have been much more eventful than I had ever imagined them to be. It feels like leaving behind a very close friend or companion, knowing for a fact that you will never, ever see them again! I am not sad, heartbroken or depressed like I’ve heard occurs with many at this point. If anything, I am humbled, thankful and grateful … on many levels.

My twenties were rough and tough but were also gentle and kind. They were eventful yet quiet. They were heartbreaking yet heartwarming. They were full of tears and smiles. They included the lowest points of my life so far and the greatest. During my twenties I lost some of the people closest to my heart to illness, death and life yet I also met some of the people who will forever remain in my heart no matter what. I have lost some people who I thought were friends yet I made the best real, lifelong friends. The tides of my twenties were high and rough when they came down crashing upon me, yet when they settled, the waters were calm and glistened beautifully in the sunlight!

I come out of this decade stronger, disciplined, well-taught, independent, confident, intellectual, knowledgeable, firm, responsible, mature, willing, optimistic, with a clearer vision of who I am and what I want and, most importantly to me, with my feet planted firm on the ground and my head held up high! During numerous points I thought my twenties were going to break me. I even had points where I had not even the slightest hope of seeing my thirties! However, God chose to keep and protect me. He chose to give me a second, third and fourth chance at life. Time and time again He would come to my aid, lift me up and give me a reason to start over.

The most beautiful outcome of this decade is my beautiful children, without the slightest doubt. I love them more than anything in this world and would do anything to see them happy and well. I intend to spend the rest of my life living up to their expectations of me, being there for them, supporting them and being the stepping stone they need towards leading their own lives. I intend to do everything I can to give them everything my parents gave me and much more. I intend to do my best to see them better than I ever even aspired to be! My children are my life from day one and nothing on this Earth can change that.

I am thankful for every illness I had, every mishap that occurred, every bad relationship I had, every friend that betrayed me, every person that stood in my way, every obstacle I faced and every person who tried to bring me down, for all those circumstances made me stronger and taught me lessons I could have never learned otherwise in life. I am thankful for every healthy day, every right decision I made, every successful relationship I had, every friend that stood by my side, every person who helped me advance in life one way or another, every obstacle I overcame and every person who has ever encouraged me, for all those circumstances made me realize how blessed and loved I truly am.

To every person who has had a major impact on my life, thank you for being part of it. To all my school colleagues, friends and teachers. To all my university colleagues, friends and professors. To all my professional colleagues, friends and managers. To all my entrepreneurial clients, collaborators and supporters. To all the doctors and nurses who have helped me in the past and continue to do so today. To all my friends, family and neighbors. And of course, to all my blog followers who return day after day to encourage me. I love you all and thank you for being such wonderful individuals. I am humbled by the experience of meeting you and learning so much from each and every one of you.

I do not want to start naming names because the list will soon grow so huge and I am bound to forget mentioning someone and that’s the last thing I want to do. But to all my sisters out there, the women who support me every day and show me their love every way they can. To the women who have always held me up high and never once lost faith in me. To the women who love me from the bottom of their hearts just as much I love them. To the women who sacrifice every single day for the sake of their families and loved ones. You, ladies, are my rock! Without you, I would not be the woman I am today. No one has had as great an impact on my personal growth as you wonderful women. I am sure you know who you are and I pray to God, every single day, that He protects and keeps you and your families and loved ones. I pray that God grants you all your wishes and deepest desires, that He helps you out of your calamities and that He rewards you greatly for instilling happiness in my heart as well as those of others I am sure. You are all fabulous and I know that you will all receive your hearts’ desire, whether in this life or the next, because you deserve it.

I am grateful that coincidence has led my parents here on birthday and they will be celebrating this important milestone with me. I could not have asked for better parents. They have always been there for us, supported us and held our hands until my brother and I crossed to safety. My dad is the hardest working man I know and may possibly ever know! He has done everything he can to give us the life he never had. My mother has the tenderest heart and has always been my best friend and adviser and I hers. She sacrificed so much, much more than I could ever iterate, for our happiness as a family. She is truly a remarkable woman and my only regret is that I am thousands of miles away from her and cannot give back a tiny portion of what she has given us all her life. I wish my brother were here. I wish my deceased loved ones were here. I wish my lovely friends were here. But all those people are in my heart and I know that they will make my day special no matter where they are. I love them all with all my heart and I wish the living happiness, peace of mind, lots of love, success and everything else their hearts desire. I wish the dead peace, forgiveness and that their graves are pieces of heaven that they are enjoying right now.

Like I said, I wish if some people who are no longer present in my life were here to wish me happiness on the days to come. But it is God’s wisdom that he has either taken them out of my life or out of life as we know it altogether. To my maternal grandparents, I love you and I miss you every day. My children will grow to know how much you meant to me, to us all. I hope you are resting in peace. To my paternal grandparents, I miss you although I have never met grandpa and hope that you are resting in peace. To uncle Hamdy and my dear cousin Karim, your deaths cut me deep and I miss your humor, kindness and sweetness. My children would have loved to meet you. I hope you are resting in peace. To oncle Mohamed, I only saw you a few times but you mean so much to my husband and thus to me, you are missed. To each and every person who has ever meant something to me one day, I wish you all the happiness and success in this world and the next.

Finally, I’d like to thank my husband for stealing me away for the better half of my twenties. Our family is a beautiful one, one that is unique and cannot be replaced nor replicated. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us. Thank you for being someone our children can look up to. And thank you for always trying your best.

My dear twenties, you have been such a loyal companion and we have been through so much together … I shall never forget you! I now leave you behind but the memories we have, the lessons learned, the experiences we had shall live on forever. With time, I promise to hold on to your highlights and let go of anything else. I could not have asked for a better companion the past decade and can only wish that my thirties will learn something from you. You will be missed but remembered fondly. I pass you on to someone else, knowing in my heart and mind that you will help them the way you did me. Thank you for taking me in years ago as a fragile, shy little girl and now letting me out a much, much better version of myself … a strong, confident woman. I love you and always will, my loyalest of friends 🙂

Bring it on thirties … I am armed and ready 😀

Courtesy: Google Images!

Courtesy: Google Images!

30 Days Till 30 … Day 27: What Should Growing Up Really Mean?

All too often, the two are used interchangeably while there is a huge difference between growing up and maturing! Growing up, simply put, means aging. The process of growing in age from day to day, month to month or year to year. Growing up, in itself, does not necessarily mean than an individual has added to their knowledge, aspirations, goals, perceptions, character, personality or anything else! Maturing, on the other hand, signifies personal growth and development in body and mind.

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Courtesy: Quotes For You

Yes, growing up should, in theory, imply maturity as well but I have found the case to be different on numerous occasions. And they weren’t just random occasions here and there, there’s a substantial number out there, which is actually very sad to see. I have seen 20-year-olds who are more mature than 50-year-olds. I have seen uneducated people who are more mature than highly-educated ones. I have seen single people who never traveled more mature than mothers who have traveled and live abroad. I have even seen the same individual become less mature with time! If you think about it, it’s really fascinating that such a phenomenon exists, defying all logic.

So, what should growing up really mean? Well, it should be synonymous with maturing. But what does being mature entail? In my opinion, it’s the little things that show how mature you are. Like how you deal with certain situations, how you perceive certain things, how you interpret certain events in life, etc. Here are a few points that I use to ascertain maturity, whether in myself or others. It is by no means comprehensive, and I do tweak it when applying it to one individual versus another but, as a framework, it works beautifully every time!

1- Know where you stand in life. Have defined dreams and goals that you can work towards attaining.

2- Know your worth and know that it is not defined by what others think.

3- How do you treat those who have done something unforgivable? An immature person will tell them off. A mature person will show them the exit door from his life.

4- How do you react to unpleasant situations? An immature person will either lash out or whine. A mature person will either let it pass or respond accordingly without blowing things out of proportion or overreacting.

5- How do you treat those who wronged you? An immature person will either throw false blame or lash out. A mature person will be patient and try to understand why what happened did happen and either explain things to make them clear or let the whole thing go.

6- Know yourself. What you want or don’t want. What you care about or don’t care about. What is important to you and what isn’t.

7- Know when to let go. Whether it’s of the past, a current situation or relationship, an unattainable dream or a friend. Knowing when to let go is a sign that you are mature, know what you want and are in control of your life. Knowing who to keep in your life and who not to keep is a sign that you are aware of your surroundings and have enough self-confidence to not fear loss.

8- Do you make up your mind on issues that matter or do you let the media and other outlets make up your mind for you? Do you hate a certain group because you believe they are terrorists although you have never done any research on the subject? Do you believe that all women of a certain race are gold diggers although you  have never met one yourself? Do you believe that all members of a political party are idiots although you’ve never had a political discussion with one of them?

9- Know the worth of others in your life. Are your friends important enough to keep or can you lose them over disagreements such as those concerning politics or religious issues? Is your partner important enough to you or can you lose him/her over a dumb argument? If others have chosen to have you in their lives and you don’t appreciate that then it tells a great deal about you.

10- How do you spend your money? Do you save a certain sum? Do you blow it all off on stuff you want rather than need? Do you pay off debt first and then indulge or does it not matter? Dealing wisely with finances is one of the strongest signs of maturity.

11- How do you spend your free time? Do you read books or play video games? Do you go running or do drugs? Do you travel or do you lay on a couch and watch mindless TV? Not everything you do with your free time has to be intellectual. But it should be useful and add to your personal growth one way or another, no matter how small.

12- How much control do you relinquish to others? An immature person is easily swayed by what others tell them or even impost on them. A mature person knows that they are in control of their own lives and only those important to them have an advisory role in their lives, no less and no more. They are in full control and never relinquish any of it to another soul.

13- Do you express your feelings or do you bottle them in out of embarrassment. It’s some people’s nature to bottle in feelings, and that is fine, but if you do so out of embarrassment then it’s a sign of incomplete maturity. You should be secure enough to know that you are entitled to your feelings and that there is nothing wrong with expressing them openly.

14- How do you treat the weak and less fortunate? Do you lend a helping hand or make fun of them? Do you understand that their struggle is much more profound than yours or do you ridicule what they have to face on a daily basis in life? Do you understand how substantial your kindness towards them is, if even by smiling at them, or do you treat them as if they were invisible?

15- How do you use your knowledge? Do you try to pass it on to someone else if you could or do you just keep it for yourself? Do you use it for good or evil? Do you help others using your knowledge or not use it at all?

16- How do you treat those who you will not benefit from financially, socially or professionally? The bus driver, janitor, cab driver, waitress, doorman, nurse, etc. If you treat them the way you wish to be treated then you are mature. If you treat them as if they would not make a difference in this world if they just happened to disappear than you are immature and, sorry to add, a selfish child who needs a lesson in respect!

17- How do you treat your parents? I don’t care if you are 17 or 67, your parents are your parents. They sacrificed a lot, dedicated their lives to raising you, tried to give you what they never were able to have. They deserve your respect, gratitude and support.

18- Are you charitable or not? It doesn’t have to be through giving money. In Islam, even a smile is charity. You can help others by being there for them, listening to them, lending a helping hand, removing harm from the road, counseling, advising, giving food, giving shelter, helping someone find a job, etc. There are a multitude of ways to give back. Only a mature person realizes the importance of such an act and knows that we are not on this Earth forever so doing good is a must.

19- How do you deal with loss? Whether it be someone who died, someone who shut you out or someone that you let go of. The way you deal with loss could be through regret, guilt or anger if you are immature. If you are mature it could be with patience, understanding and forgiveness.

20- How do you perceive calamities? Are they another way the world is against you or are they a wake up call? Are they one more unlucky event in your highly unlucky life or are they an opportunity to repent or get closer to God? Are they something bad that always happens to you in particular of all people or are they a way for you to become a better person?

21- Be able to make yourself happy! Don’t always depend on others regarding your happiness. I know it’s easier said than done but I used to depend on the people I love for happiness, throughout the years I have trained myself to have my happiness depend on me rather than others. Of course, I am not 100% in control yet, and may never be, but at least no one has the whole set of keys to my heart’s happiness anymore.

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

Courtesy: FacebookQuotes4U.com

22- Do you give credit where credit is due no matter how you feel about the individual in question? Giving credit to or showing gratitude for someone that you actually dislike or even detest takes a lot of courage, strength and maturity.

Finally, I’d like to add that if you believe that you are immature, don’t pretend to be otherwise because others will very easily see through you. It’s better to admit it to yourself and work on it. And if you happen to be married or are in a relationship where having children is a possibility, please do not bring children into this world until you yourself have grown up and matured! That’s not for your sake or that of society even, it’s for that child’s sake. The more mature you are, the more you will be able to guide your child and be there for them and protect them. So please, put that in mind before  you do the closest person to your heart the gravest injustice.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 23: Shout-Out — Part I

Today I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my new and existing followers for their tremendous support and encouragement. Your beautiful comments and emails put a huge smile on my face every single day.

Today and tomorrow’s posts are dedicated to all of you. I have not had the chance to check out everyone’s blog as thoroughly as I’d like but plan to make time to do so after I am done with my “30 Days Till 30” posts. Please allow me to introduce you to each other and let the world know about your fascinating blogs. I am blessed to have followers from all walks of life, with so many diverse interests and passions. You are all amazing!

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My number one fan: Charlotte Wise

This blog belongs to the BEST photographer in the United Kingdom! Seriously, if you don’t believe me then go check out her website (http://www.soulimages.co.uk) or find her on Facebook. Not only is she a talented photographer, she has passion and fine artistic taste. Charlotte loves what she does and sacrificed a lot to make her business happen and that’s what distinguishes here from many others. She gets 100% positive feedback, all her customers are more than satisfied. She’s such a sweet soul in real life too who loves and cares for all her friends and family. If I could be half the woman she is, I’d be more than happy!

Here’s what she had to say about herself and her venture; “I’ve always loved to take pictures, and at long last am able to turn this into something I can now offer to others. Nothing makes my heart soar more than capturing the essence of something, either a person in a portrait session or the beauty and feel of an event such as a wedding. I am always on the lookout for that special moment, and at the ready with my trusty camera to capture it and hold it down long enough to transform into a memory, a window into your life that you can keep and treasure forever. Less is more in my world, and the more natural and quirkier the environment the better. We’ll create informal, natural, sweet, crazy and wonderful images to carry through the years! I am reaching the big 3-0 soon and live in Harrogate ‘oop north’ with my gorgeous husband and truly scrumptious baby girl. I love to travel and so would happily roam the country (and beyond!) to capture these memories for you. Please contact me for a chat or search through the galleries to get a feel of the type of thing I do. There is also my blog which details both professional and personal escapades, as well as my facebook business page to have a roam through. I can’t wait to hear from you soon!”

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Daniel Gonzalez

In his own words, Daniel introduces himself to us; ” Hey! I’m an entrepreneurial, inspirational, and dancing kinda guy. Gonzo is my nickname…My real name is Daniel Gonzalez <- Make the connection? I strongly believe that everyone deserves a dose of inspiration in their lives. Wouldn’t you agree? My inspiration is in motivational quotes. I also get inspired when I dance. Did I mention that I dance? Yea I dance… =D One of my dreams is to be able to travel the world and teach all kinds of dancing in multiple countries! I also aspire to inspire at least one person (like yourself) everyday to be a better YOU!”. There’s more to his story. You can find his inspirational blog here.

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BreakRoomStories

In their own words, BRS founders introduce themselves to us; “Break Room Stories (BRS) bringing you waiter stories and more since 2012. More specifically our site is a waiter blog intended to give anyone in the food service industry the opportunity to share the most ridiculous story you have. Funny, gross, horrible, embarrassing  it’s all fair game. We post stories about everything from the most intense waiter rants and bartender pet peeves to a little staff on staff action and host nightmares. The more unique, hilarious, shocking, or ridiculous the better. BRS was founded by a notorious group of individuals who have worked or currently work in the food service industry. We all come from various walks of life but the one thing we have in common … was the tendency to get a little chatty in the Break Room of our respective establishments. If it happened to one of us we all heard about it. It was after years of abuse and story after story that we decided to get the rest of the serving community together to see what trouble other servers were getting themselves into.” There’s much more on there about their mission. You can find their hilarious blog here.

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TheGirl

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “I created The Reporter and The Girl blog to journey among life’s most uncertain and abysmal path when forming love-lust-hate relationships. I’m in my mid–twenties and have moved back to New York City after 6 years of term papers, tailgate parties, and three day weekends, on all 4 corners of the United States and abroad. Now that I am semi-permanently stationed in the Empire State and in my white-collar/blue jeans career; I thought that I could venture out and make a romantic connection.” She uses her own life to write a chapter based story and post it for all of us to follow, learn from and comment on. You can find her artistic blog here.

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thomasmaxwell12

In his own words, he introduces himself to us; “Hey! I’m a pretty outgoing and spontaneous kinda guy, one of the reason I got my nickname “Simple Tom”. My real name is Thomas Maxwell though :P I’m a firm believer that you can be anything and everything that you want to be. I believe that you should have the opportunity and ability to be able to achieve those things in your life. I absolutely love helping people in anyway that I can. Whether is sponsoring kids in Africa, or buying someone a coffee. My goal is to make you smile or even inspire you in anyway I can :P  And one of my BIGGEST DREAMS is to build a well in every single country in Africa. I have a huge passion for children and Africa! Its something that rocks me to the core every time I think about building these wells and then visiting them :)“. There’s much more on there about him and what he does, he also happens to be Daniel Gonzalez’s (above) mentor! You can find his blog here.

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Jordan Latour

In his own words, Jordan introduces himself to us; “Hey there, thanks for checking out my blog! Now, what can I tell you about myself..Well, I am a IT Professional by trade, now earning an residual income online. I’m from the small city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada; which is frequently called “The center of the great lakes” – because of it’s geographical location directly in the middle of the great lakes. It’s a great place to grow up, and it’s still a place I call home. I took Computer Networking in College and got a job in as Network Specialist at a local government agency. When I’m not working with technology, you can find me playing musical instruments like the guitar (primarily), drums, and keyboards. I love educating myself about what is going on in the world, and tend to ask big questions about the universe, time, and reality.” Jordan’s blog is very interesting and full of useful tips. You can find it here.

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Alex

In his own words, Alex introduces himself to us; “I have been practicing meditation for five months now and I am also trying to evolve spiritually. With that in mind. I am hoping I can teach other people how to do it and how to understand what it is you would like to do with your life. I am currently 21 years young. My birth country is Latvia. I have one sister, uncle, grandmother and my mom. I grew up without a father and was always surrounded by girls, which I sometimes believe is the reason of my emotional state. I grew up as a very gifted child, ever since my childhood I never really fit in anywhere, mostly because of my own mistakes and stupidity, and as the years went by that stupidity only seemed to grow bigger and bigger. At the age of 13, I already knew what it is like to get drunk, what it’s like to search for scraps around the town and turn them in for money so me and my friends could buy junk food and alcohol. It’s very common for children that age to start drinking and smoking in my country. I put a lot of stress on my whole family during that time, at the age of 14 I was continuing to drink and party but I also dropped out of school to be with my computer all the time. I will never forget the day when I clicked on a link inside of an old-school chat program called “mIRC”, it was a link that lead to a website dedicated to hackers, but it was very much new and only in the early stages, but for some reason I instantly got attached to it and for the next 4 years I spent most of my time online learning how to hack, learning English and getting to know the internet in a way that most people don’t. But what is funny about this story is that, I very much believe if I didn’t look at the chat program at the time I did, this blog, nor my past would exist. It was a 1 in a 1000000 chance, and I took it.” Alex’s blog is very emotional and he speaks a great deal about his struggles in life and how he overcame them. The blog is called “Blissful Blog”, you can find it here.

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H!

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “Me… most of the time I think I come from another planet and I was send here to do something GREAT… I don’t know exactly what yet, as I lost the instructions, but I promise when I find out you will all KNOW!!! This blog is about why everything I believe and do is great….at least for me and my cats! I love cats, I love running, I love being fit, living well, and have lots of fun! Nothing strange … so far !!!” Her blog is called “Fun Girls Live Better” and it is, well, fun to read! You can find her blog here.

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Matt George

In his own words, Matt introduces himself to us; “My name is Matthew George. I have had a life long love of photography since I was twelve years old. My father built me a black and white darkroom in the basement of our house when I was in high school. From that I was able to experiment and hone my photography skills. I use traditional film and digital Nikons. Two unique pieces of camera equipment I have  used to photograph is an Apple iPhone and Polaroid SX-70 camera. Most of my photography consists of photojournalism and nature genres. I have an Associates degree of Applied Science in Photography from Antonelli Institute of Art & Photography, as well as a BA and MA in Business from American InterContinental University. I hold a single subject Visual Arts teaching credential from National University to teach in high school as well as a multiple subject teaching credential to teach elementary school. Here are some of the content standards for teaching Visual Arts in California. I currently am employed by JUSD as a photography and art teacher at Rubidoux High School. I am married to the most beautiful woman, have a wonderful son and precious daughter, and blessed to enjoy lots of quality time with my family.” Matt’s photography is absolutely beautiful. You can find out more about him and his talent here and here.

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Valeriu D.G. Barbu

In his own words, he introduces himself to us; “Valeriu DG Barbu, poet, writer, playwright Romanian origin, settled in Rome, Italy about he… can speak others, not himself … Literary Blog created by Ms. MARIANA FULGER, while it was impossible to send own the posts. Public express a thank alive. The blog contains a part of my literary workshop, posts and articles an extraordinary man, Valeriu Cuşner, who has closely followed my writing. Gratitude to my books editor, Mr. Constantin Lămureanu by “Anxiety Metaphysical Publishing House” Constantza, that published my six volumes. Gratitude to all those who was with me in various ways. unto you all good reading, lasting joy and be healthy …” His blog can be found here.

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Jun E Caniel

“Jun E Caniel is a line of limited edition apparel and accessories made from eco-friendly and/or recycled materials. High quality products feature designs inspired by the original artwork of Tiya and Jay Caniel. Jun E Caniel was created to encourage artistic expression and social activism, under the belief that global change can be brought about by altering others thoughts through key words and phrases. Uplifting and positive phrases and graphics are featured as a means of inspiration to others.” They have a wide selection of eco-friendly fashion items. You can find their website here.

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jseeber

In his own words, Joe introduces himself to us; “My name is Joe, and I am currently 27 years old, living in Whistler, BC, Canada,  for snowboarding.  My whole life I’ve been drawn to excitement and adventure.  I go where ever my heart leads and don’t think twice about it.  I have this habit of once I find my calling, I become obsessed with it, and I’ll follow it to wherever it may lead. I’m originally from a small town called Elliot Lake, Ontario but moved to a bigger town called Sault Ste Marie, Ontario in my early teens. My whole family is from the Soo and it’s where I call my other home. When I’m not snowboarding you can find me in the gym working out or at the local martial arts facility practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I love reading, I mostly read personal development books, I’m on a strict regiment of always improving myself as a person and offering as much value to the world … JoeSeeber.com is a website about winning at life so that you can win at life. The majority of my posts will be based on being Physically, Mentally and Finacially Wealthy because I believe you need to have a healthy balance of all 3 in order to truly succeed at life.”

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katy

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “hullo. I’m Katy. that’s Katy with a Y. my middle name is Anne. that’s Anne with an E. I am 16 years old. I have mouse brown hair and coffee colored eyes. I am 5″3. or something. I have a birthmark on the right side of my face that I named Ivan when I was little. my shoe size is 7 1/2 to 8. I play music of all kinds, and too many instruments to name. but I named them all anyway. I’m fairly certain you could classify me as ADD. doctor who makes me heart happy. so does hot tea, ballet slippers, books, and soggy chalk. sometimes I like to pretend I’m a vegetarian. I write music for anything from solo piano to full symphony. some people call me an introvert. but it’s debatable, I suppose. it’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I don’t like being around them 50% of the time. don’t take it personally. one time I had a goldfish that died the day after I got it, and I gave it a funeral anyway because I like to think that I’m caring. I’m in a one-man-band (thus consisting of only me) called Paper Theory, and if you check it out, I really will love you forever and always. if I had to dye my hair, I’d dye it red. I do love red hair. I really love fluffy animals, and just animals in general, but specifically hedgehogs. I plan to befriend one before I die. this is where I came from. I love Jesus more than anything else in the whole wide world. also, I like to sing to myself. A lot. so that’s me. Katy Anne Maisano. [KAY-tee ANN my-ZAHN-oh]” Katy’s blog is so charming and fun. You can find it here.

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chrisman2college

In their own words, they introduce themselves to us; “We are a group of (mostly) college students who all graduated from the class of 2011 at William Chrisman High School. We have decided we’re going to stay in touch throughout college/life, as most high school friendships crumble at the sight of a new chapter of life. This is our brave attempt at avoiding this norm.” There is so much on there about each of the friends and what they are trying to do is simply fantastic! You can find their blog here.

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lesleycarter

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “Traveling and adventure have encompassed my life; from white-water rafting, skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, rock climbing, biplane flying, dog sledding, base jumping, kayaking, surfing, boogie boarding, rappelling, and caving, I’ve tried every “bucketlist” item I could imagine. Rock climbing and a trapeze act were even part of my wedding day in Jamaica. I’ve been to 34 countries and I envision 100 more. Following my dreams of traveling and experiencing life to the fullest has taught me that the world is full of endless possibilities. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advanced English, a Bachelor of Education degree in Secondary Education, a Masters in Literacy, 8 years of teaching, and a vast imagination, I  decided to put my writing and editing skills to the test. Bucket List Publications is the accumulation of all of my wildest dreams come true. If you’re an online travel agency, airline, in-flight magazine, destination magazine, tourism board, or any of the like, then I would love to speak with you. Please send me an email about who you are and what you’re looking for and I will be happy to talk with you more about how we can work together.” You can check out Lesley’s super adventurous blog here.

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메간

In her own words, she introduces herself to us; “I struggle daily with myself.  It seems a constant battle just finding the courage to go about another day, in hopes that my anxiety and fears will be minimal at best.  I don’t know how it began or even if there ever was a beginning.  In some ways, I know that it has always been a part of me.  It was only until recently that this monster was given a name and I was finally able to breathe, knowing that there is something legitimately wrong with me.  For those of you who also struggle with this monster, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is no small matter and finding some validation is relief at last.” The blog is so touching, emotional and courageous just like its author. You can find it here.

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Dave Hunter – Reaching Utopia

In his own words, he introduces himself to us: “My name is David W. Hunter born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 1988. I am experienced in web development, digital advertising, visual effects, recording/producing/composing/creating music and technology in general. I’ve lived in many different towns and cities in both Ontario and British Columbia and currently reside back in the Sault. I took computer programming in college and worked with various companies involving web development, IT and digital advertising. To be honest, working these standard 9-5 jobs was a great learning experience and I am glad to have done it. They taught me that I certainly don’t want to grind at a 9-5 just to build up a pension and finally relax. Why should I have to devote all my valuable time and energy into making someone else rich and giving up 8 hours every single day of the week. Why should I have to stay in town because I have to go to an office building monday through friday? The reason is because that’s what we are trained to believe. We are told that we HAVE to go to college/university to get a good job and work there until we’re 60 years old so that we can have enough money to live afterwards. Personally I want to wake up at whichever time I choose and do or go wherever I decide. I want to travel and enjoy any opportunity that interests me without being held back financially or by a responsibility to my J.O.B. The most important thing though, is that I want to do this NOW, not later when I’m 60+ and might not want to or am not capable of doing everything anymore.” There is so much more on there about Dave and his diverse posts are very captivating. You can find his blog here.

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Inside My Glitching Mind

The author doesn’t tell us much about himself except for the fact that his name is Alexey Markovich, he’s 35 and lives in Belgorod, Russia. His blog is about “Philosophy, Psychology, Memetics, Photography, Surrealism”. I have read several of his posts and I find them very artistic and insightful. You can find his blog here.

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To be continued tomorrow …

30 Days Till 30 … Day 21: The Past

We all have a past. Some of us have one that is dark while other may have a more colorful one. Some have had to deal with traumatic events, tragedies or the loss of loved ones while others were cheer leaders, team captains and prima donnas. No two pasts are identical, similar maybe but not identical. Yet we all have this universal understanding that the past needs to be put behind us and forgotten! I never managed to figure out why until recently. I finally had to accept the answer I was trying so hard not to accept … because we were taught to!

If we had a rough past, we were advised to put it behind us because it will spoil our present and prevent us from looking forward to the much better days that lay ahead. If we had a happy past, we were advised to put it behind us because no matter what happened back then there is no guarantee that life will continue down the same path, so we should not raise our expectations and hopes too high. It’s like there is no way we and our past can coexist in peace. Either it will destroy any prospect of happiness for us or we need to bury it deep. I cannot disagree more!

Your past is an integral part of who you are. It doesn’t define you but it did help shape you. Everything that you are is, directly or indirectly, an outcome of your past. Your past experiences shape your personality and character. Even the choices you make today are based on the lessons you learned in the past. So how can we detach ourselves from it and behave as if it never happened? There’s a proverb which is well-known back home that I wholeheartedly believe in; “whoever leaves their past behind gets lost”. That means that we cannot find our way in life without coming to terms with our past. Furthermore, no matter how hard you try, your past will shine through, one way or another, there’s no running away from it really. What we should do, in my humble opinion, is learn to make peace with it and realize that it has already gone. We moved past that point in time and there is no going back. If it was painful then it can’t hurt us any more and if it was happy then we have those wonderful memories to forever cherish.

Making peace with your past is extremely important. Your past is a reality, not a figment of your imagination, and so you cannot truly behave like it never happened because deep down inside you will always know that it did. If you do not make peace with your past it can haunt you, possible for as long as you live! If you are blessed with a strong memory like mine, you will remember everything from your past including how you felt at the exact moment something happened, what was going through your mind and every other detail that has to do with it no matter how small. Why would you want to agonize yourself every time you remember something unpleasant or feel hopeless every time you remember something amazing and think to yourself that it can never happen again? Making peace with your past is the only way you will be free of it! When you take that step, you will essentially relinquish its hold on you and set yourself free.

Many can argue that it’s easier said than done, and I agree completely! Coming to terms with your past, especially if it was dark or traumatic, can prove to be extremely challenging. More often than not we do not have all the answers. Why did that happen? Why me? Could I have prevented it? Was it something I did? Was being punished for doing something bad? Was I being rewarded for something good? How could God let this happen? And many, many more unanswered questions that race through our minds giving us an overwhelming sense of overburden. The trick is to be OK with not having the answers! How many things around us do we not have an explanation for yet we manage to function normally on a daily basis? It’s the same thing, whatever happened, good or bad, know that it was God’s will and He did it for a reason that either you will come to comprehend and appreciate or will remain unknown but He knows it was the best thing for you at the time. From my own experience, when you stop looking for answers they come running right to you!

My past was full of ups and downs. As a child I was generally happy, especially that I knew that the privileged life that my parents had given us was something that not many enjoyed. However, changing schools every 3-4 years was tough. I had to leave behind people who I grew to love from the bottom of my heart and it was never easy. Facebook and other social media didn’t exist so I knew that once I left that was it. I was a very shy child and didn’t adjust easily so starting a new school was a complete nightmare for me. I also felt detached from my extended family back home. We Arabs maintain really close relationships with our families, even the extended family, so being away all the time made me feel like a stranger amongst them when I would go back home on vacation. There were a few bullying incidents, a couple of times that I was accused of doing things that I didn’t do but was punished anyway and I was going to drown twice during swimming at school. Those were the main highlights of my childhood.

My teen years were calmer, I was focused on my studies so they were not that eventful. I was adamant on not taking any private lessons and on making my Arabic (written in particular) stronger. I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career so when it was time for my I.G.C.S.Es I went ahead and took 13 subjects instead of the recommended 8 just to keep my options open! I had a lot on my plate but it all had to do with academics. Then came the day I made the decision to wear my Hijab (the veil) and that was when my life turned up side down. I found an influx of support from strangers or friends that I had just made at university but it was met with an equally strong sentiment of rejection and disdain from those closer to me. I found myself facing an emotional and psychological battle waged at me from those closest to my heart. I persevered until I rode out the waves of their negative emotions and temperaments but to say that it was easy on me would be the biggest lie of my life! I still maintain my position regarding my decision and the only regret I have is not taking that step much sooner than I actually did.

Then came the most recent phase of my life, my twenties. To say that my twentieth birthday was disappointing would be an understatement. I was so excited about turning twenty that I blew it up in my head but it seemed that others didn’t see that coming except for my wonderful university friends. My academic studies went extremely well and I made the best of friends, the lifelong kind, at my beloved university. I could not have had better education, met more wonderful people or developed myself any further than I did at The American University in Cairo. I love that place with all my heart and am so grateful that my father was able to send me there and I am so proud of myself for keeping my scholarship going all 4 years.

I believe that I learned the most in my twenties. I met all sorts of people and had all sorts of experiences, good and bad. I made friends with lovely people who are always there for me and made friends with people who stabbed me in the back later on; which taught me how to differentiate between both early on in the relationship. I made a commitment to my wonderful husband and made prior commitments to a person who had no personality whatsoever and was completely different on the inside than how people perceived him and to another who had an unfounded ego the size of the galaxy and didn’t know what it takes to be in a committed relationship and how to respect others outside of himself; which taught me how to tell what people’s characters are like early on in a relationship. I grew closer to many of my family members and was trampled upon by others when my life didn’t go as they had planned; which taught me who really cares about me and who doesn’t. I had managers who cheered me on in my career and others who were biased and tried to stop my career from advancing; which taught me who has work ethic and who doesn’t. I lost all my grandparents and a beloved cousin and uncle; which taught me a lot about pain, loss and the fact that this life is not worth a mosquito’s wing, just like the Quran states! I had to make major life decisions on my own; which taught me my own strength. I survived a lot of things that no one my age is supposed to go through; which taught me about myself and my capabilities. I survived a fatal Pulmonary Embolism when I was 25; which taught me to be humble, thankful and not take anything in life for granted. I gave birth to my beautiful children who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Overall, I’d say that my twenties were heartbreaking since the true colors of so many people who I trusted blindly showed and most of them were horrible, horrible beings on the inside. However, I would not have it any other way! I learned a lot, was spared a lot and grew a lot. If I had had a smooth-sailing decade I would have probably not advanced much in my life. I would have not been as wise, mature or knowledgeable. I now go into my thirties with a lot more confidence and optimism. I know myself much better now, including my capabilities and strength. I know others much better now, how to identify those worth my trust, time and devotion and those who are not. I know what I want in life and am not scared to let people in if I want to and show them the exit if I need to. I am not as naive as I used to be nor am I as caring about what others think.

So, due to my past … the good, the bad and the ugly … I am stronger, wiser, independent, more self-confident, self-sufficient and happier! I do not need any outside validation, do not care what others think of my beliefs or actions and know that as long as I am not doing anything to displease God, hurt others or cause any kind of harm then I can do as I please. I know that my family is the only entity that I would willingly give up my life for and that surrounding myself with those who love me and support me is key to my well-being. I know that anything material is a plus, but is not important in itself, inner peace and the well-being of my family are the only things that matter. I know that my past does not define me, it empowers me!

 

30 Days Till 30 … Day 15: Q&A

I would like to thank all my new and existing followers for coming back to my blog on a daily basis. Your comments and positive feedback mean the world to me and encourage me to keep writing. Over the past couple of weeks I received several emails that included numerous inquiries about me, my background and my likes and dislikes, amongst other questions. I responded to some of them but didn’t get the chance to do so for all of them so please do not feel offended if you have not received a response yet, I’ll do my best to address them all before the weekend.

I noticed that many of the questions were recurring and so decided to cease the opportunity to let all my readers get to know me a little better and maybe tell me more about themselves in the comments, if they wish to of course (please do ;)). Allow me to do so in a Q&A form to make it simpler and easier to follow. I will also paraphrase the questions to make them short and to the point.

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Q: What does your name mean?

A: My name is actually two parts and a connector, Heba-t-Allah. It means “a gift from God” in Arabic, “Allah” here being the one and only God Muslims, like myself, believe in and worship. Most people call me Heba (the short version of my name) and, although I love my full name very much, I do not mind it at all. Here’s a fun fact about my name, did you know that the English name having the same meaning is Godiva? Yes, the lady … and the decadent chocolate 😀

Hebatallah in Arabic

My name written in Arabic

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Q: Where do you come from?

A: I come from the enchanting land of Egypt. More specifically, I am from Maadi, a beautiful suburb in the southern part of Cairo. It lies on the east bank of the glorious river Nile. Maadi got its name centuries ago and is the plural for “Ma’ adiya”, which means ferries in Arabic! The suburb was named so after the ferries that operated on the river Nile, transporting people from one side to another. It has a character unique to it, lots and lots of greenery, serene atmosphere, historic villas in certain parts of the suburb, tons of roundabouts (which can confuse even the smartest of “outsiders”) and countless businesses and activities aimed at serving expatriates, since many of them prefer to live there. It’s the perfect blend of all three major religions sporting a number of mosques, churches and one of the few synagogues in Egypt. A number of embassies, international schools and libraries as well as the Egyptian Geological Museum and the famous Maadi Sporting Club (where many old movies were filmed) are located in Maadi. One cannot forget to mention the railroad as well, Maadi originally started as buildings around the railroad and then expanded into one of the top 3 suburbs in Cairo.

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Q: Where did you go to school?

A: That’s a tough question to answer! Eventually, I am hoping to dedicate a post to each school I’ve been to but, frankly,  it feels like such a daunting task that I keep putting it off. I’ve been to a total of 5 schools. Yes, 5 schools in a total of 13 years of education (I’m counting KG1 and KG2 here, or if you’re more accustomed to the American system of education then pre-school and KG)! Two of those were in Egypt, one in Ethiopia, one in Cyprus and one in Hungary. They all had one thing in common though, they were international schools that followed the British system of education. My parents strived to give us the best education and I believe, from all my heart, that they did just that and more. Their sacrifices have not gone to waste.

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Q: Where did your parents work?

A: Aha, I knew that question would come up at one point or another 🙂 My father is a retired Ambassador and my mother worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well but chose to take one leave after another, for the most part of her life, in order to direct her efforts into raising me and my brother and supporting my father on his diplomatic missions. We spent every 4 years in a different country, going back home for a single year in between travels.

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Q: What are your favorite past-times?

A: I love, love, love to read. My love for reading goes back to when I was a toddler. My favorite books are novels; the bigger, the better! I am an avid reader and can easily go through a 700 page book in less than a week. It’s from there that my love of writing evolved. The use of colorful, rich words to invite others into my mind and paint a picture in their own has always captivated me. I started out by writing poetry and that evolved into short stories and then this very dear blog of mine. Another past-time of mine that not so many know about is that I like to draw using charcoal or charcoal crayons. I also enjoy gardening, walks on the beach and organizing.

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Q: Where do  you get the inspiration for your blog?

A: Everything I write about in this blog stems from my own life. I do not write fiction, until now at least. Topic ideas can come from my past, present or future aspirations. They may be inspired by a conversation with my spouse, a friend or something I saw or read. I don’t really have a single source of inspiration, anything that touches my heart or that I feel needs to be addressed or may be of help to others, I write about. Sometimes I am hit with a number of ideas all at once. When that happens, I choose the topic I have more to contribute towards or the one most pressing.

Q: Why do you mention your family and friends so much?

A: I am a grateful person by nature. I also like to give credit where credit is due, it’s only fair. My family is the most important thing in my life, in fact, they are my life. And so, they are an integral part of everything I experience and end up writing about. My friends are the best in the world! I truly believe so with every fiber of my being. Those girls are my rock and they inspire me to be a better woman every single day. I have such wonderful role models who give me so much to live up to. And so, they too are at the core of every event in my life.

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Q: Why do you abbreviate people’s names rather than give them full credit?

A: The reason why I only put the first name then an initial rather than the full name of an individual is to protect people’s privacy. It is out of respect that I do so not otherwise. I also never write about anyone and not let them know (unless they are deceased or I have lost contact with them for one reason or another). Anyone mentioned in a post is notified once the post is published. That way, I am not speaking about anyone behind their backs (even if what I am saying is positive) and at the same time it gives them a chance to relay to me any remarks they may have.

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Q: Where did the idea for 30 days till 30 come from?

A: The answer to this question will make much more sense to anyone who has read my “Intuition” blog post. I actually dreamed of this idea! I’ve been building up to my 30th birthday for a while, planning what gifts to get myself (this will be the first year I do so and I’ll write more about that later on), doing little special things for myself and taking things a bit slower in an attempt to enjoy the last few weeks of being in my 20s. But I also wanted to do something that will serve as a summation of all what I learned, well not all of it but you get the idea, and didn’t know what. Enter that dream with served as an “aha” moment. Not a bad idea, eh?

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Q: Where did you learn your style of writing?

A: I don’t have an answer to this one! I am sure that I have a style of my own but I hadn’t really thought about it nor even noticed that I do until I received that question. I asked the sender to give me more time to get back to them on this one and to help me out by telling me what they think my style of writing is. Everyone else is more than welcome to do the same.

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Q: Why do you live in the USA rather than back home? Is it because of the revolution?

A: We did not leave because of the revolution, if anything, we wanted to go back and participate in it once it started. After we got engaged, my husband received a wonderful offer in Kingdom of Bahrain and so he relocated there and I joined him after our wedding and honeymoon. We stayed there 4 years during which I started my own business and we had both our kids. A little less than 2 years ago, things started getting rough in Bahrain because of the protests and they got very dangerous, especially on the kids. As much as we loved living there, we felt it our duty to protect them and leave. We chose the USA since my husband was born here and it seemed like the most logical choice. Him getting a job offer here didn’t hurt either.

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Q: Are you with or against the Egyptian revolution?

A: My family and I support it 110%. Egypt is a beautiful country. It’s rich with its history, culture, resources and kind-hearted people. It’s the glue that holds the Arab world together, much like a mother embraces her children. It deserves the best and should get the best and so do its hardworking people. Anyone and everyone who does harm to it, doesn’t let it rise as much as it’s capable of, oppresses it and its sons and daughters deserves to be ousted. No one is bigger than Egypt and each and every ruler who is responsible for its well-being should know that. Egypt’s people will never give up on it and that should be the one thing that every ruler should always remember and fear.

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Courtesy: Hossam Saad Designs

Courtesy: Hossam Saad Designs

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Q: Do you plan on staying in the West, even after the way you have been treated because of your Hijab?

A: Humans are prejudiced, that’s a fact of life. The West is prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims. The East is prejudiced against the West. Arabs are prejudiced against each other. It’s just how the world is. Do I wish it were different? Yes, of course I do. My religion and upbringing both taught me that we are all equals and that we were created to live together in peace. It is our false sense of superiority that created all this hatred and bias … not to mention the extremists amongst us. I cannot change other people’s views of me, nor am I interested in doing so. I only care about God’s view of me, people’s perceptions say more about them than they do about me, if they reflect on me at all. I fought hard to wear my Hijab and I’m not about to let some closed-minded people change my mind. I am also a woman who has beliefs, principals and values and I am strong enough to stand by them no matter what anyone thinks. If I run away every time someone challenges or attacks me, what would I be teaching my children? To me, Hijab isn’t just a means to be closer to God or a mere dress code. It’s my freedom! It’s my freedom of choice, my freedom of speech, my freedom of expression. People say Muslim women are oppressed and brainwashed. On the contrary, if I were brainwashed then I wouldn’t have had to fight my way into wearing my Hijab. If I were oppressed then as soon as I had the chance I’d break free of this commitment. With all due respect to everyone else, women who blindly follow the latest fashion regardless whether it suits them or not and who steep into depression because they don’t look exactly like the “perfect” images of other women thrusted at them by the mainstream media and who let society dictate how they should dress, behave, talk and live are the ones who are oppressed and brainwashed in my eyes. I have the utmost respect for women who are unique, who are themselves and only do what they feel is right and suits them. A woman in control of her life is my kind of woman, not a woman that society controls her.

30 Days Till 30 … Day 8: Friends

When we were young children, having friends was the most important thing in the entire world. In fact, the more friends you had, the more popular and happier you would be. At such a young age, all that mattered was that your friend wouldn’t make fun of you, play with you in the playground at school and that s/he would make sure to invite you to their birthday party!

Now, our outlook on friendship and what it entails is completely different. The importance of friends in our lives takes a completely new  precedence. We now have the luxury of choice, something we didn’t have much of when we were younger (that kid who talks to you on your first day at school becomes your friend, whether you like it or not). Gender, personal characteristics, mutual interests and even political views play a huge role in deciding  who we befriend and who we decide to remain just acquaintances with. We’re also more mature now, so when we are friends with someone and then we grow apart, the world doesn’t end, we know that we still love and respect each other but circumstances, whatever they may be, lead to the fact that the dynamics of our relationship has changed.

But how important are friends, really? And do friends necessarily equal a social life? Those questions have to be answered on an individual basis, no two people are alike and their take on friendship is no exception. Personally, my friends are very important to me. I don’t make friends easily only because I have learned over the years that not everyone is genuine (surprise :D) and so I am careful who I am friends with and tend to keep the ones I have very close to my heart. A friend has to be someone mature that I trust, confide in, respect, love, care about, willing to take care of, is there for me and is someone who wants me in their life just as much as I want them in mine. They also have to be someone who expects all these qualities and more in me and, hopefully, finds them! I don’t like gossips because they’ll simply gossip about you the same way they do about others. I don’t have strong confidence in friendships that result from doing business either, so I keep one eye open when such a friendship develops and tread lightly.

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

I may upgrade or downgrade relationships, if deemed necessary, but I rarely cut anyone out of my life completely. I did it 3 times in my 30 years (OK, 29, I still have 22 days to go :)) on this planet and I am glad I did because betrayal, backbiting and ridicule of my wonderful religion without doing research aren’t in my dictionary, especially if you are someone close. Those people I remember with both fondness and pain. I am not the sort of person to hold a grudge nor would one mistake, no matter how big, erase every good that a person has ever done in my eyes  but I am also someone who does not forget easily (I am blessed with a strong memory). I remember them fondly for all the good moments and sweet memories we shared and feel pain whenever what they ended up doing comes to mind. I do love them though, and believe that I always will! So why did I let them go? The first reason is that I believe that they wanted to be let go! If they cared about our friendship, they would have behaved differently or at least tried to rectify the situation after the damage had been done. I know that I am notorious for giving second chances but I too have red lines that cannot be crossed, just like everyone else, and a second chance doesn’t always drag out to a third, fourth and fifth. The other reason is that I gave each of them a chance to admit fault (even if unintentional) and make things right and they didn’t take it. Finally, a lesson that I only learned in the past few years led me to be at peace with my decision; if someone only causes you pain, anger, stress, illness or any sort of negativity in your life then it’s better to let them go otherwise your life will be poisoned! I believe this with all my heart and as I grow older I am learning the value of this lesson more and more with each passing day and wish I had learned it sooner. I am not a big fan of cutting people out of my life so I encourage you, my readers, to try taking every other possible route before resorting to such an extreme measure. Don’t do yourself a disservice in the process though. If whoever you cut out decides to make amends or apologize, welcome them with open arms and forgive them but maybe rethink the dynamics of your new relationship just to protect yourselves, at least that’s what I would do.

To me, friends and social life are not the same thing. I have very close friends who I haven’t seen or heard their voice in 17 years! I also have acquaintances that we meet up with regularly and have fun but wouldn’t call them friends. Friendship is more profound to me than being equated with a social life. Of course a social life is important, but not as important as good friends. Many people may argue that you cannot live without a social life, well, I can and I did! When we moved to the States my husband’s job entailed that we switch states every 2-3 months so there was no way we could make friends in such a short time. We lived without a social life for two whole years, just us four! It was difficult, granted, but we have so much fun as a family that it didn’t really impact us that bad and it was doable. I am not saying it’s advisable, I am saying it’s possible. However, I cannot see myself without any friends. Quality is more important to me than quantity (which isn’t important to me at all, actually) so one friend is all I need to keep me content. I think it’s a gender thing, I don’t know about men but I don’t think any woman can survive without that one confidante in her life, at least. It’s about feeling understood and not having to explain every single thing you feel, think or say. Even if a woman has the most amazing partner, she still needs her girlfriends. We also tend to talk a lot, and I mean A LOT (yes, I admit it) and not every man is capable of listening attentively that long, if you know what I mean 😉 Another thing is that when we talk to our partners, they want to help by doing something, they feel like they need to fix your problem and if you aren’t talking about a problem to begin with then they lose focus and can’t get the point of what you’re saying. Not women, we know exactly what our friend is saying and can tell whether she’s just venting and needs someone to listen, needs advice or is in deep trouble and needs us to assemble the troops.

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

So cherish your friends, make them feel loved and make sure to do an effort to keep them and to stay in touch. It can be a call every few months, an email every few weeks or a chat twice a day! It doesn’t really matter as long as the love and respect are there. What matters is that you are there for them when they need you and that you let them know exactly how important and precious they are to you. Appreciation is such a wonderful thing and feeling loved and appreciated can make a whole lot of a difference in someone’s life. So, enrich your friends’ lives by letting them know how important they are to you, you may make someone’s day or change their lives forever by doing so.

I love all my friends, those I still talk to and those that I lost touch with because of my travels and life in general. I keep bugging most of them by thanking them again and again for all what they did, and continue to do, for me and, sometimes, my family. I make a real effort to find and reconnect with people who I lost touch with because it’s important to me that they know that they touched my life. Just two weeks ago I managed to find someone who I had lost touch with 8 years ago and about a year earlier I found several friends that I had lost touch with 17 years ago! So, yes, I am adamant and I don’t mind spending a decade or more trying to find someone who I truly care about and love. I hope that inspires you to hold your friends dear and close to your heart and to let them know how much they mean to you.

Charlotte W., Yasmina H., Dina S., Iman A., Sally E. and Sally W. … you girls are my rock, I love you with all my heart and cannot thank God enough for having you in my life. May God protect you, your families and loved ones and I hope that your lives will always be filled with people who are just as amazing as you are xoxo

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

Courtesy: Zerotips.com

30 Days Till 30 … Day 4: Life Lessons

Every day we live, we learn. Maybe we don’t realize it, maybe it doesn’t really register in our minds that we did, but we do. It may be something trivial that we shrug off within minutes and it may well be a life lesson that will stay with us forever! No matter what it is, it’s something new and it’s something that did register .. in other words, it matters!

When that happens you change, you evolve. Sure, some transformations are more substantial than others, but even small changes are significant when it comes to one’s growth. In my personal experience, the more “out there” the situation is, the more you learn. The harsher and more painful the situation is, the more you learn. The simpler and less complex the person is, the more you learn. The more unexpected and sudden the experience is, the more you learn.

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

In fact, it isn’t really about the quantity but more about the quality of what you learn. Personally, whenever I learn new things about myself I feel like this new-found knowledge is more valuable than anything else. That mainly stems from the fact that up until my early twenties I don’t think that I knew much about myself at all! Sure, I know the basics about my personality and my character and such, but how much did I know about who I really am? Not much, if at all! I learned about my true passions, strengths, weaknesses, limits, dreams and goals during the better part of my twenties. Yet I do not regret waiting that long to learn. I believe that the timing was perfect. Had all this knowledge been bestowed upon me earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I probably wouldn’t have even been able to comprehend most of it to begin with! The teens are such overwhelming years, so much goes on in your life and it all hits you at once. Is it really the right time for self-discovery? I don’t think so. In order to evolve you need to be stable first. You cannot build a house without foundation so how can you expect to use the building blocks of your very self on quicksand?

I am thankful that I figured “me” out! I am now able to handle a lot of things that I know I couldn’t have possibly been able to deal with 10 years ago. I am now more in control of my life and who I let in and who I show the way out to. I am now able to stand up for myself and my beliefs and not care what anyone thinks because I know that my opinion is the one that counts and that, as long as I am not doing anything to upset God from me, that’s the only thing that should matter. I am now more confident with regards to raising my children and teaching them what I think they will need in life and what they’ll need to lead them to God’s blessings after what I hope will be a long, happy, healthy, successful and prosperous life. I am now a woman, not a little girl, who is invincible!

So, in light of what I have learned so far (and I have still got a long, long way to go … if God gives me the time), please allow me to share with you the top 30 life lessons that I have benefited from most:

1- You matter! And if anyone in your life does not comprehend that then you need to re-evaluate their presence in your life.

2- Be authentic, no one can do a better job at being you than yourself. Being a copy of someone else or changing for someone else is the biggest disservice you could do to yourself and to the world, which will miss out on your awesomeness!

3- Hear everything that is said to you and that is being said around you but only listen to what your heart and mind tell you to listen to. Hearing is a passive activity, so take what you hear and filter it and only listen to the stuff that matters. Consider the rest to be white noise and discard it.

4- Don’t be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the shyest person to ever exist (my friends used to call me “Tamatmaya”, which means “Tomato” in Arabic, because I blush ALL the time … it happens less now but still happens way too often), have faith in yourself and speak up whenever you need to. You’ve got it in you. You have the courage, you just don’t know it yet.

5- Give second chances, and third, and fourth! But only to the deserving. To the people you truly care about, to those you believe deep down inside are good enough, to those who hit rock bottom and need it, to those who need someone to believe in them. Don’t make a fool of yourself in the process though, and don’t allow anyone to hurt you. Know when to step back, evaluate the situation and, possibly, walk away.

6- Don’t be afraid to walk away. The first step will be the hardest, but a few years into your journey you will look back and thank your courageous self for taking that step.

7- Be kind and give, always. Did your friend talk about you behind your back? Did the love of your life let you down? Did your superior throw your efforts to the wind? Did the cab driver drive right past you? Did that kid make fun of you when you were 7? It doesn’t matter, simply because it says more about them than it does about you! So, be kind, don’t let their harshness change you … be kind. Give whenever you can. Call it charity, call it giving, call it gifting … just give. The act of giving is rewarding on so many levels. The act of giving is an act of kindness!

8- Forgive and let go whenever you can so that God would forgive you in the hereafter. Do it for you, not for the person you are forgiving. Don’t you deserve the peace of mind? Of course you do! Don’t forget though, remember the lesson you learned, never forget that.

9- It’s OK to show people the way out of your life, or even let them find it on their own. Poisonous, hateful, arrogant, egotistical, closed-minded, cold, unsympathetic, back-biting, lying, conniving and ill-wishing people have no place in my life anymore and shouldn’t have a place in yours. It took me 28 years to convince myself that it’s OK to let certain people go, and boy does it feel great! If they take away from you, if they don’t appreciate your presence in their life, if they try to break you then why have them in your life? Leave them on good terms though, or at least try, that way there will be no bitterness associated with the relationship that was.

10- Make “me” time. Having me time is important for your overall well-being. You need to slow down, forget about your responsibilities and worries and focus on recharging yourself. You need to nurture yourself and reward it from time to time. I always put others and their needs first but I, only recently, came to understand that if I don’t take care of myself properly there is no way I’ll be able to take care of those who need me and love me (thank you Charlotte W., Dina S. and Yasmina H. for that lesson). Having even a few minutes to yourself every day is essential and you’ll feel and see the results reflected immediately on yourself and those around you.

11- It’s OK to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you failed. It doesn’t mean you are weak either. It means you are human! Asking for help is normal, what’s abnormal is doing everything on your own. You’ll be surprised to see how much those around you actually want to help you, only you weren’t letting them! Delegating will alleviate some stress off of you, which will in turn allow you to do more. It will also make others feel useful and needed, and who doesn’t want to feel that way?

12- When it comes to your faith and your principles, don’t compromise. Being sworn at, having made fun of, being stared at, having a can of soda thrown at and being treated with disrespect and outright aggression didn’t make me reconsider my faith or my choice of Hijab … not even for a split second! If anything, it made me proud of who I am and of being a Muslim because it showed me how beautiful my religion is. We are instructed by God and our prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) not to hurt others, speak good or remain silent, help others, never judge, live peacefully amongst others and practice tolerance. I am better than those who choose to treat me the way they do, so why back down? And when it comes to my principles, they are the foundation of my personality, character and manners … if I compromise them I, essentially, cease to exist!

13- Work hard, really hard, even if no one is watching. In my religion, work is worship. Do you want to worship God half-heartedly? Of course not. Do you want to take the money you are paid knowing that you earned every penny or do you just want fast cash? Do you want the money you earn to be blessed or do you want to spend it on something like illness or other bad circumstances? Do you want to be proud of yourself and your achievements or do you not care?

14- Don’t do or say anything in secret that you would not do or say in public. That includes not talking about anyone in a way that you wouldn’t right to their face. Don’t be a fraud, even if no one else knows it, you will!

15- Practice empathy and compassion, every single day. We all have our struggles, we are all fighting our own battles. No one in this world is passing through life as if it were a breeze, so keep that in mind when someone wrongs you or lets you down … you never know what’s going on in their lives.

16- Don’t envy anyone and don’t be jealous. Jealousy is like a flesh eating bacteria! It will literally poison you, body and mind. Those you envy may very well be envying you back for something that is completely skipping your mind. No one has it all, if someone has something be 100% sure that there is something else that they are lacking. As Islam says, we all have 100% because God is fair but how those 100% are distributed in our lives are not exactly the same for each and every one of us. Your neighbor has that humungous bank account? You’ve got the laughter of your children filling your house and they don’t! Your sister has a ton of friends? You’ve got a few but they are loyal to you. Your colleague got promoted? You have better health than he does. Rest assured that somewhere out there someone else is thinking that you have it all too, so don’t envy anyone.

17- Choose your battles wisely and fight them till the end. If it’s something substantial, something that needs a stand then go for it. If it’s something that can be resolved otherwise or even completely let go of, don’t bother. Never let anyone else fight your battles for you, they won’t be able to do the job like you would.

18- Don’t be in someone’s life if they don’t have a place for you. How many people are or were in relationships where they had to, literally, fight for their spot? I’m not talking about romantic relationships only, no, friendships, kinship, partnerships, whatever sort of “-ship”. If someone doesn’t have a place for you in their life then they don’t deserve you. It doesn’t matter if they are the air you breathe, you deserve better.

19- Don’t kill children’s innocence. Way too often do I see parents screwing up their own children thinking that they are helping them be cool or classy! Remember that children were born innocent for a reason, sooner or later they will grow up and be as wise (or even wiser) than you. Don’t rush children into an early adulthood, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. Cherish their innocent moments, get down on your hands and knees and be silly with them. Hear their problems and take them seriously but never burden them with yours. Let them choose their outfits but be their protector and make sure they are age-appropriate. Have faith in them and teach them to be independent but keep your protective eye on them.

20- Friends come and go, except for the real ones. I have friends who I haven’t seen in 15 years. We actually fell out of touch when we turned 14 and each of us left to a different country and got reunited when we turned 29 (thank you Facebook)! We love each other so much to the extent that we feel like those 15 years were 15 hours, absolutely nothing changed with regards to our friendship and feelings towards one another. I also have friends who I met 4 years ago and love them just as much and trust them just as much! It has nothing to do with the number of friends or how long you’ve known them … it has everything to do with their quality. I’d rather have a single friend who I share mutual honesty, trust, love, care and kindness with than a hundred that I don’t!

21- Family is everything. Even if your family members don’t feel the same way sometimes, deep down inside they know it too. Yes, your friends are important and so are your career, money, leisurely activities and another thousand things. But who will be there for you during hard times? Who will be there for you no matter what? Who will be there for you when you are 70, with a bad back and no teeth? Family, especially your immediate family, is everything so make them a priority in your life.

22- Respect, respect, respect. ALWAYS treat people with respect. Don’t love her anymore? Tell her. Don’t like his outfit? Tell him. You talked about them behind their backs? Apologize. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, treat others with respect and they’ll appreciate it, eventually 😉 I’d rather hear truth that hurts than be lied to. I’d rather lose someone I love then have them in my life but feel nothing. I’d rather someone not agree with me and respect me than agree with me and laugh about me behind my back. It’s simple, respecting others means you respect yourself.

23- Take the high road. Never stoop down to the level of others if their level is beneath you, you are better than that!

24- Take charge of your life. Never ever let anyone tell you what to do or how to live your life. Take advice, yes, absolutely … be manipulated, no, never. If anyone starts bossing you around or harassing you into doing, saying or changing anything that you do not agree with, turn around and walk away. Don’t lose yourself and your identity in order to please anyone, no one is worth it and those who are would never allow themselves to do that to you.

25- Treat your elders the way they deserve to be treated. Your forgetful mother isn’t dumb. Your technologically-challenged father isn’t ignorant. That lady at the nursing home who keeps reiterating the same stories over and over isn’t boring. That old man who keeps asking you for the same thing over and over again isn’t annoying. They are old, they’ve aged but they are the same people that raised you, the same people who tried to create a better world for our generation, the same people who if you listen to attentively could help you become a better person. They are living their last days, and maybe so are you, so cut them some slack … you never know when you’ll need people to cut you some slack.

26- Smile, laugh, have fun and fall in love. But not at anyone else’s expense. Smiling alleviates physical and emotional pain and is plain beautiful! Laugh because you can and because you have so many blessings that, if you really sit down and count, will make you realize how lucky you are. Have fun because taking life way too seriously benefited no one. And fall in love because it is the most serene and rewarding feeling you will ever have. It would be perfect if the other person loves you back, loves you as much, but life isn’t perfect. Loving someone in itself brings on immense pleasure and will overcome you with warmth. The saying, “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is absolutely true.

27- Follow your passions. Not many of us are lucky enough to discover where their true passions lie. If you are one of the lucky few, nourish them, let them grow and in turn they will nourish you back. My passions are writing, sketching, spending time in and admiring nature and spending time with my lovely children … not once have I done any of those things and not felt fantastic afterwards.

28- Travel, if you can. Even if it’s to the next town. You will learn so much from others and you will see how alike we all really are. You will learn so much about yourself and the world as well.

29- Take risks. Well, not the life-threatening kind but rather, the hit-or-miss kind. Some of the best moments of my life resulted from taking risks and taking that leap of faith.

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

Courtesy: Rawforbeauty

30- Be thankful, always. Every minute of every day. Whether it be to God or others. And the more you express your gratitude the better, not just for the recipient but yourself as well. Me thanking others for their kindness towards me, no matter how small their act was, feels so rewarding because I know that I am making them feel appreciated and loved.

There are tons of other life lessons that I learned, but they can all be summed up under those 30 points, one way or another. What are the life lessons you learned so far? Which ones are you hoping to expand on? Are there any that you pass on to your loved ones? Think about it, contemplate your life so far, and I guarantee you that you will realize that you have grown so much within a short period of time.

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