So long 2017…

The older you get time sees to be flying by – another year is coming to an end and a good time to reflect – what did 2017 bring me and what do I want from my 2018.

Life is what you make of it – cliché saying but it is true. We’re so busy in our day to day lives that we forget or don’t have time to just stop and think. Think about our blessings, our highlights, things that we are grateful for, things we want to achieve, things we want to do, things that will make us happier, things that will make you into an even better person than you already are. As we rush to welcome New Year’s Eve and party and start the new year fresh and full of excitement – after all, it’s like a clean slate. We think of things that we want to do but why wait till every Jan 1st to do it?

2017 has been a busy year for me – many highlights with some lows. I don’t like to ignore my lows because I’d like to think that they have taught me something about myself, something to make me stronger and know what mistakes to not make again.

Here are some of the things I’m taking away from this year:

1. Aim high – never think that you aren’t good enough for a certain job/career/lifestyle choice etc.

2. Easier said than done but if a person doesn’t bring you happiness and brings you down at any point, you have to let them go, whether it is a friend or a partner. Anyone who does not fully appreciate your worth or takes you for granted definitely does not deserve your time. You might miss them and wish they were around but the relief of not having to put up with their nonsense will be incredibly liberating.

3. Forgiveness – everyone makes mistakes and some people realise and others are too self involved to pay attention but don’t be the bad guy. Forgive them no matter what – if they realised they messed up, it’s a good way to make peace and if they haven’t, don’t lose your compassion because they clearly can’t function in human society properly.

4. Don’t forget yourself – look after yourself, take care of yourself, love yourself. If you don’t give 100% to yourself how can you help others or even how can you expect others to treat you better when they are receiving at best 50% of a person?

5. I’ve noticed a lot of people are afraid of what people say or think and still, during adulthood, follow that. Why? As far as I am concerned I will only worry about others if I have done something wrong and upset or hurt somebody. If I know I am right, why am I going to put things on hold for someone else and let them dictate my life? Yes I occasionally find some noses up in my business but I’m woman enough to ignore and it’s rather weirdly flattering – waste your time on my life when there is clearly nothing going on in yours.

I’m not planning on any new years’ resolutions for 2018 because I just want to continue doing things that benefit me and make me a better daughter, sister, friend, colleague and most importantly, an even better human being.

The gym may have to be a resolution but like…it just doesn’t bring me as much happiness as a chocolate cake would you know?

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Instascam?

A few of my readers have messaged me asking me to do a post on this and it is something that a lot of people have been talking about and it is the topic of how perfect the world looks on social media. People all around the world are using different social media outlets whether it is the classic Facebook or its newer rivals such as Instagram and Snapchat. Social media seems set to stay and if you are not on social media, you are considered a freak or some form of feral outlaw because the immediate thought is what could they be hiding that prevents them from being on social media.

I’m not here to judge or slag people for using them – I use all three very regularly. I see the pitfalls of social media but that is the price I am willing to pay to stay in touch with family and friends around the world and keeping them at my fingertips. I try and do regular culls to limit who is on my profile but if I am spying on your life then here, you can have a look at mine. I say spying but it isn’t really is it?  You have chosen to put something on the internet about yourself and were a lemon when checking your security settings. But that isn’t even the real issue anymore. The real issue is what people are posting and how people are posting it. Each engagement post seems to get mushier by the second – there is that photo collage of the couple, the ring, hands in the shape of a heart and a delightfully boring caption about how fantastic your life is and how in love you are and that your souls were always meant to be together and are made of the same thing etc. etc. Come back and tell me that in 50 years when you’re still together, I’ll have more time for it then. Bet I’m painting a super sexy picture of myself as a bitter cow with a crooked witch nose whilst my single ass strokes my cat poring over the internet, aren’t I? But you should be in love at the start of a marriage, why feel the need to prove it to everyone? Common sense would surely dictate if you didn’t feel that way about them, this marriage and wedding is a very expensive mistake.

It isn’t just engagements, it is people’s infuriating holiday pictures etc. See here’s the thing, I post pictures on social media too – Instagram in particular to show outings with friends and stuff I get up to and I like seeing people’s pictures of them doing normal friend things etc. What I don’t like seeing are the staged pictures. I already feel a bit of a complex that if people were to see me in real life, I look like me and not me with the Amaro Instagram filter on it that makes my face glow. But people are staging their pictures like everywhere they go is some sort of photoshoot. Gazing off into the distance, not looking at the camera like you are some kind of celebrity being papped. Just like celebs, these filtered pictures don’t reveal people’s day to day lives. Celebs live in a rich bubble where walking down the sandy beaches of Cabo may hint at other issues but at least the five star resort behind them shows their bank account is nice and healthy. You’re walking down the sandy beaches of Benidorm and acting like it’s Cabo.

There are plenty of people who have made a living off social media fame where their life has been their money maker or a passion of theirs like fashion or make up or politics or whatever. They post pictures of their family, husbands, boyfriends, kids etc. and their pictures look like something out of a fairy tale. Girls who blog about fashion have pictures of themselves walking down the street and the next shot is the same outfit but oh wait, look, there’s something on their shoe so they’re looking down. I never look at what these people are wearing because my first thought is “Who is the poor moron that is having to take these pictures of you?” How boring that you can’t make it down the street without stopping every 5 seconds for a picture and how long must it take to go anywhere wit you. The problem with these pictures is that very few of these bloggers keep it real. The picture of the couple hand in hand down the street doesn’t show that that couple may be having trouble conceiving which is why their fans feel the need to ask why they aren’t having kids yet because surely that is the only missing piece to their perfect life. The picture of the woman looking lovingly into her husband’s eyes as if the camera isn’t there, does that mean they never argue? We’re looking at things through rose-tinted glasses and it is nice to show lovely things but is it not going too far? People are feeling inadequate because they aren’t that perfect or beautiful or their kids aren’t as cherubic and their husband likes to kick back on the sofa after work and not follow them around the house with a camera and therefore they must not be as worthy. You rarely see people talk about the real issues in their lives because there is nothing sexy about that. Or in social media terms, there is literally nothing to like about it. People may claim that they know it doesn’t show reality and they’re not that stupid to think these people are actually perfect but we have gone from a culture where celebs were seen as people to envy to now envying people who are a lot closer to our level so really, our lives should be just as perfect. I can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy sometimes like damn, I’d love that to be my life and maybe in my head my life seems fairly normal but there may be someone who wishes they had something of mine and so on.

I have no plans to give up on social media and if you are one of those people who like to post staged pictures and what have you then you know what, go for it – you do you. Ultimately post what makes you happy but don’t wish your life was as rosy as someone else’s appears – you may not want to find out what happens when the filter comes off.

No, I’m not a doctor

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a student at University X”

“Oh, they have got an excellent medical school!”

“Yes, so I’ve heard”

“You’ve heard…? You mean, you don’t study medicine? What do you do instead, dentistry?”

“No…I’m part of the Arts faculty, I study languages”.

As quickly as this “uncle” at the wedding had approached me, he disappeared just as fast. That was a conversation I had 6 years ago and fast forward to my present and nothing has changed since. All of the other kids within my Asian circle all seemed to become doctors or lawyers or had followed any other vocational line of study. Not me though, I was a bit of an enigma. The kind of person that the “uncles” and “aunties” looked at funny or thought was a bit thick for not having done something like medicine but their kids thought was dead cool because I was quirky but then realised a conversation with me about a patient could only go so far.

Why are Asians so funny about their children studying something non-vocational? Something that they are actually passionate about? Or at least, why has this attitude not changed? If you’re not a pharmacist or a dentist or anything remotely like that, your career isn’t worth discussing and if you are being super kooky and wanting to study something like music or drama, get out of here.

I love the fact that I studied languages, I love the fact that it brought me so many opportunities like living abroad and I love that it has made me such an open minded person. I have met so many Asian kids who have said I want to be a doctor and I am always like cool, you must enjoy sciences and stuff, right? A large proportion have said no…it is so hard and I am struggling but my parents want me to be a doctor. I feel so bad because I was blessed with parents who said do what makes you happy and I am looking at these young people and thinking you are like fish expected to ride bicycles. It’s just not for you.

As Muslims, we need representation in all Islamically-permissable walks of life and we have so much talent within our communities that it is such a shame to box us into the same 5 job areas. Let’s find what our strengths are and not be afraid of pursuing them.

 

Party Pooper

“No boxed gifts”. That has to be one of my pet hates to any party invite. Yes, it is more convenient to walk away with a box of envelopes but nowadays, people find it easier to give cash anyway. I recently went to a party for a baby (aqeeqah – muslim equivalent of like a christening) which had cash only on the invite which I found out afterwards from my mum – had I known, I would have boycotted the event. It is bad enough but socially acceptable that people write it for their wedding as they start their lives out but for a party for a baby? That child needs nothing but love and countless blessings as they start out on the journey of life. The thing that gets me is that no one would dream of turning up to a party without a present but the idea that cash is the only acceptable gift is deplorable. It embarrasses those that may not be able to afford a lot and people feel the pressure to give a lot because in this materialistic world that we live in, £20 no longer seems good enough. Why don’t people just start selling tickets to their event instead? At least that way you’d know what they’d consider to be an acceptable amount.

I’m not saying sell tickets flippantly, I genuinely mean it. People have always tried to keep up with the Jones, I guess it is human nature to want to have what others have but we’ve entered into this new age when events are becoming akin to seeing a show. A summer wedding had a website printed on the card – what for? I decided to check it out and it was like a brochure for the wedding – what kind of things we were going to expect, what food there would be, what entertainment they would have. Why do I need enticing to your wedding? It is a wedding, people should be going to join the celebration of love and the union of two people because they care and are happy for them, not because there will be a monkey standing on its head handing out canapés. Or the flipside where people don’t want to go because there won’t be a monkey standing on its head handing out canapés. Btw, the website set themselves up for failure because I attended the wedding and was promised stroopwafels and I left very disappointed and irritated that I didn’t get them. Complete false advertising which I would have never known about had you NOT SET UP A WEBSITE! I was half expecting to then get a Tripadvisor-esque review link afterwards. You can guess what my review would have been.  2 stars and demands for them to fulfil stroopwafels promise.

What happened to people being interesting enough or couples being interesting enough to not feel the need to have ridiculous levels of entertainment at their wedding. Coming back to the baby party, halfway through the event, Grandma and friends decided they were desi Spice Girls with flowers in their hair and matching pink saris, started to “sing” old Bollywood classics. Why? It is a party for a baby, people want to sit and relax and play with the baby (hilarious – I saw the baby for 3 seconds whilst she slept and that is only because I made the father show me her face). There was a raffle midway – again, why? Was I at a PTA school fair? I hadn’t gone to win prizes or have my hearing violated.

Your wedding day is a special day, I get it (I’m not even going to talk about any other event because get a grip, that baby will have a first birthday and a wedding etc so her aqeeqah is not worth mentioning right now). You want nice things like photo booths which is cool for guests but what do you want them to leave with? The memory of a great night based on activities that had absolutely nothing to do with the couple they were meant to be celebrating? I went to a wedding this summer where the couple had a beautiful venue, a kids corner with snacks and activities to keep little ones busy and occupied which is fair enough and then the rest of the evening was great food, tasteful speeches and just great company. The groom didn’t have to fly in in a helicopter (yep, I’ve seen it) and it was just a lovely, fun evening.

This has been on my mind for a while now and the aqeeqah was the cherry on top hence my need for a rant. Maybe my family and I just need new friends. Or I turn into a hermit. Answers on a postcard please.

Boys will be boys and girls will be…?

“Yeah but he’s a boy”. Sound all too familiar? Sadly, this is a statement that I am hearing far too often and it has to stop. Before I continue, I’d just like to make a disclaimer that at no point during this article am I judging people’s lifestyles – I am more interested in looking at the double standards when it comes to free will and society’s perceptions of it.

In the Muslim community there is the general perception that girls are to be kept under wraps – they will go out and come home by a certain time with certain people and they should not be fraternising with the opposite sex. Ok, cool. But then what about our boys? Why is there not a general consensus that boys have to follow the same rules? Growing up in the UK, a lot of parents have said to me that their sons do their own thing – they go out and return whenever, do what they want, go out with a ton of girls but it’s cool whereas when it comes to their daughter, they immediately turn into the haram police.

Why does this double standard exist? Just because there’s less of a “risk” factor for boys doesn’t mean islamically this is correct, which tends to be the reasoning behind why the girls can’t do the same. Boys can’t fall pregnant, they are safer at night in terms of clubbing and drinking alcohol etc –  age old excuses. Sorry, but this type of logic does not work for me – this isn’t to say that I have a burning desire to go clubbing or sleep with boys, but whatever we are teaching our girls should also be taught to our boys and if our girls are doing the same as the boys then so be it, don’t treat them any worse or judge them.

Let me give you a case in point: I once spoke to a fellow brother who had a pretty large tally across his friendship group of the number of women that they had bedded and knowing the family he came from where his sisters had all been married very young to avoid extra marital relationships, I asked how would you feel if your niece, a teenager, was falling for guys like you and you found out she was sleeping around. His immediate response? “I’m a boy, I can get away with it”. Dude, take that nonsense with you and jog on, I haven’t got time for that. His parents turn a blind eye to his activities and he essentially has their blessing to do as he wills because he is a boy. Forgive me but based on the Islam I grew up with and am still learning about, I didn’t realise a penis came with these kind of extra privileges. The only thing that would have wound me up even more was if he then turned around and said when he gets married he would demand a virgin wife.

I have often discussed this topic with so many sisters who have vented their frustrations of boys being given free reign to do whatever they want whilst they have lived modest lives and they are now ready to settle down and don’t want somebody who has been the complete opposite to them and sadly, they are struggling. The worst is when I have had girls say “He’s had loads of relationships in the past” and I’ve said “Are you cool with that?” “I have to be…he’s a boy, it’s ok for him”. Is it? Since when?! Times like that I feel like I have really missed something. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all these boys are bad boys and you shouldn’t go for them at all, it’s just when thinking about the future, you need to check attitudes – are these guys going to continue this idea of boys will be boys but girls will be nice and subservient? This is not the message I want for my future kids. Many a theory has been discussed as to why these boys are the way they are – my favourite has to be taken from a dear friend: “These parents are too busy doing Tawaaf around these boys to notice or care”.

This isn’t a purely Muslim issue at all, I know, and double standards are still very much prevalent in all communities and we cannot be naïve about Muslim girls and boys drinking alcohol, having extra marital sex etc – these things are happening as young people find themselves and juggle their British identity with their Muslim one and be part of both worlds. All I’m saying is boys will be boys and girls want to be treated without the weight of extra judgement and this notion of some things being socially acceptable for one sex and not the other isn’t right or fair. We shouldn’t be judging others at all based on what they do – free will and all, let alone based on whether they are carriers of XX or XY chromosomes. Will our future daughters, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the line still face the same two faces of society?

Ladies first

Being independent isn’t always easy and being alone isn’t always easy but I’ve realised that I have two huge blessings in my life that keep me going: family and friends. Sounds fairly straight forward right? But I have realised that some people don’t have that going for them either because of family rows and distance between each other or their friendships lack depth. Gross generalisations I know but let me explain. Family is a huge part of most people’s lives and everyone thinks that they have great friends but I think sometimes when making friends you need to really look at how good that person is for you. Some people I know change friends on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis – why? Especially when you get to your twenties and get older, who even has the time? Others struggle to maintain friendships and find themselves alone so immediately latch on to the first person that shows them kindness which can end up with that person feeling suffocated and wanting out. Then there are those that find faults in everyone and the older they get and try and adult, they really are only out for themselves and not afraid to be cut throat about who stays in their lives and focus their energies on relationships etc and fixate on finding the one.

It is perfectly fine to want to find a partner and want a future with that person but I think for me, my friends are the greatest individuals I have ever met. They make my life so much easier and drama free (I don’t get people who love drama and gossip in their lives – I don’t need the extra wrinkles or grey hairs, cheers).

As a Muslim girl growing up in UK, my friends come from a whole range of backgrounds – religion, nationalities, cultures and I have learnt so much from them without changing who I am as a person and my identity and I am so grateful to them for being so understanding. I find it strange when I see people only befriend those from the same religion and background etc in a country like the UK – you’re missing out! People are people at the end of the day – look for your kindred spirits! Whilst living away from home for uni, I met a girl who I feel as if I have known her for a lifetime. Physically, total opposites but there is nothing I wouldn’t and couldn’t share with her. Coming from an Irish background, she immediately embraced me when we lived in halls and when we shared a flat and was more than accommodating of my “halal” lifestyle to the point where she’d even venture into the Bengali butchers to get halal meat for us to cook together. Sometimes you need to give people a bit more credit and you’ll find that people are a lot more open minded than you think. I know I can count on her for literally anything even though now we live miles apart and I knew when I met her that I had a friend for life – I won’t turn this into a super sappy post because I know we’ll both end up cringing but I know when she reads this, she’ll already know how much I value her being in my life. Her mum recently had a chat with her about her single status and we talked it over and realised something – there was no urgent need for a man in her life because she didn’t feel like she was incomplete without him. Reason why? The dependency a lot of people have on their other half was irrelevant to her life because she had family and friends to lean on instead and solid foundations with people she could count on. There was little extra a boy could bring to her life, especially based on the state of relationships and boys that have been encountered along the way – seriously not worth the grey hairs and we can cause the extra weight gain ourselves, because you know, food is bae.

My school friends, one of whom I have been friends with since we were 5, are still my close friends and now that we get older and live and lead super busy lives trying to stay afloat, seeing each other regularly isn’t always an option but when we do get together, it literally feels like nothing has changed and that is how friendship should be – you pick up from where you left off. You can’t expect people to be at your beck and call whenever you need them once you leave your teens but it shouldn’t mean you break ties because of it. These girls make me laugh till I cry and my friend that I have known for over 20 years now? We bicker and squabble just like sisters because we have literally grown up together. One thing is that we all have friends outside from our circle – it has added extra dimension to all of us so that we have managed to mature from those awkward school girls into the young women we are today with even more to bring to the table (in our case literally, we love going out to eat – noticed the pattern that my friends and I like eating?!).

Recently I suffered some heartbreak (I hate the use of that word because it sounds like he destroyed me but how could I be destroyed when we weren’t even together and my friends were my biggest strength to back my decision to walk away). My friends fiercely rallied around me after the way this boy treated me and genuinely, I don’t think I could have picked myself up quicker without them. I may write a post on what exactly happened, mostly as a warning for others not to fall for dweebs but we’ll see. My two best friends from uni and school had known about the whole rollercoaster of my friendship with this guy and at times, they might have seemed brutal in telling me this guy was not worth my time but you know what? That is precisely what I expect from friends – not to sugar coat for me or to let me keep making my mistake. They knew how hard I was having it to let go but they cared enough about me to be honest. My best friend from school who I know when reading this will literally implode if I get sappy about her did fret that she was being too harsh but it was necessary. Did it break up our friendship? Course not, I went to her house the night after I rid this guy from my life and she let me cry it out without the slightest hint of judgement or I told you so. As far as I am concerned these are my ride or dies and the ones I will focus on before I let another man into my life.

This post was inspired by the fact that I recently saw “Girls Trip”. Not exactly Oscar – winning material or something that should inspire me to be writing this post right? Yes it was indeed comical with all the elements of a mad chick flick but underneath it all, there was something to be taken away from it and I’m not talking about the excessive drinking and ways to lust after the opposite sex (that’s me putting it very delicately ha!). The film was based on 4 friends and celebration of their bond and sisterhood years after they first became friends – something that I feel a lot of girls seem to forget these days. It wasn’t purely about a man swooping in and making everything happily ever after. I look on social media and I see so many memes about how girls bitch about each other and look for ways to bring each other down, mostly and sadly due to relationships and boys and it genuinely makes me sad that yes, ok, it isn’t all to be taken seriously but there is an underlying truth somewhere where this has stemmed from.

My rules for friendship? Take it slowly and genuinely get to know each other so you know who you have things in common with. Friendships that seem to have started off with 1 common aspect and we have immediately become “close” tend to be the ones that drift away quicker because we then use time to realise that actually, take that factor away and there isn’t much else there. Nurture your friendships, make time for people – it takes two to tango and in this case, it takes two to keep that Whatsapp convo going. Don’t just be the quiet creep following their Facebook account, sprinkling likes here there and everywhere without actually taking the time to really find out what is going on under the filtered, hashtagged pictures and uploads.  Choose those who will support you morally, spiritually, emotionally. You can’t choose family but you sure as heck can choose your friends.

Bit of a sappy post but it had to be done!

Salaam/Peace and love x

Inner Peace

As a young adult finding her way through life, stress and anxiety seem to always be one step behind me. I’m a worrier, I always have been, as well as a thinker – sometimes an over-thinker. Apparently as a child I was always into worst case scenarios – what if the ceiling falls down? What if this doesn’t work? I remember being reassured by my family but also chided for being such a pessimist. In my twenties now, I appreciate my “pessimistic” side, mostly because I see it from a different perspective. I see it as being realistic – life has its ups and downs and I’d rather think of what the worst case scenario is and let life pleasantly surprise me or be totally prepared to ride that wave that I can see is heading towards me to knock me down.

I was thinking of this idea of inner peace recently, mostly fuelled by the ideas of Yasmin Mogahed – a very prominent female speaker in the Muslim world. She has the most soothing way of phrasing things and totally logical manner – I love her. It is human to stress and worry about things and to have that idea of “I’m not good enough” in whatever it is that you do. Mogahed’s words were laced with Islamic thinking and teaching but her ideas are relevant to those of other faiths and those of none. Coming back to my idea above  about me being a pessimist, thinking the worst will happen to me, putting myself down when maybe I should be more positive about myself, not sure where my life is heading or what is in store – you know, the usual. But using her example, think of this: if your mother came to give you a lift and you got in and she started driving but wouldn’t tell you where she was going, would you call the police on her? No. Why? You trust her, it’s your mother. In the same way for us as Muslims, Allah is our driver and we should trust in Him driving our life. For those that don’t believe in God etc, fate, destiny, whatever name you want to give it, that is your driver. Sometimes you need to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

“Past is a place of reference not a place of residence” – more wise words from Mogahed and so true. If there is something in your life that you aren’t proud of that you did before, use it to guide you, to learn from. It will help you grow. Even if it is a case of there isn’t anything you are ashamed of in your life, you might be doing the same mundane routine over and over. Use your present and your future to do new things, push yourself and be amazed at what you can do with yourself.

Why the motivational post? Because sometimes in life you need a pep talk and sometimes the best person or the only person to give yourself one is you. I know I definitely needed a bit of a boost – things get you down or confused and you feel like you are losing control but really, you are more than capable of keeping yourself going no matter what. Find your inner strength and love yourself.

I’ll try and keep the next post less “life coach” like…

Till next time,

Salaam/Peace and love xx