Weekend Reflection – Self Improvement

I’m on a serious mission. A lot of people wouldn’t guess that I’m really insecure because of how I interact with others and carry myself, but it’s true. My mission is this: to break free of my insecurities. It has proven to be quite challenging, but I’m going to push myself to avoid negative thoughts. While speaking to a friend, Rahmah Popal, at Jummah this past week, I was reminded that everyone faces these challenges, but it’s those who rid themselves of major insecurities who are really able to be free. The last time I had a deep conversation with her was almost exactly a year ago, and while she was convinced she had a greater purpose in this life, but had no clue which direction she was headed. Now she seems to have it all figured out (Mashallah!), and she really did inspire me to just keep looking forward and hold my head up high.

I’m a roller coaster when it comes to self-image; one day I’ll be completely happy and proud of myself, other days I magnify every flaw of mine and it really brings me down. Over the last couple of years I’ve become less social and I value privacy and exclusion more, which directly relates to how I see myself. And it sucks because I’ve actually felt myself changing year by year… There are reasons for the huge shift in my thoughts and behaviors; it’s because I lost trust in people who let me down and I fell into a state of what some of my close friends diagnose as depression. I’m not really sure if I’ve been depressed, but honestly the way I feel sometimes points directly to the illness. When I put my heart into making things work with others, I expect the same in return and I’m always disappointed… it fuels my lows. I spent every ounce of my love on another person and at this point, I’m all spent out. I’m tired of feeling worthless. I need to aim higher for me. I need to direct all my love inwards, towards my family, and most importantly towards God. Instead of my focal point being someone I love romantically, I’m working on developing a new center: my relationship with God. I’m not really sure how I’m going to do this, it’s much easier said than done. I will, though.

Here’s to aiming higher – because we all deserve a little lot of self-love. Join me in battling insecurities.

Opportunities

For years I admired the beautiful building at the White House from the outside. This year I’ve gotten the chance to visit the Eisenhower Building twice – the first to meet Muslim women leaders from all over the country and participate in a workshop about film and media, and the second as a staff member at Islamic Relief USA, to photograph a meeting with government officials to discuss collaboration between nonprofits and governmental programs/resources to aid those in need. I admire those who dedicate every day towards humanitarian work. I’m so proud to be a part of such an amazing nonprofit. After graduating from VCU (the one true love of my life), I struggled, as many young graduates do, to find a job that I loved. Almost a year after graduating I got hired and I couldn’t be happier. So far I’ve been to Arkansas to photo-document our organization’s response to the tragic tornado that hit, I’ve been to many governmental buildings, I’ve met celebrities and humanitarian heroes, and I’ve even presented in front of an audience of over 700 people! Get involved and make a difference in whatever way you can! It’s such a rewarding feeling and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll develop skills and be granted opportunities because of your skillset. I’m so thankful, alhumdulillah every day.

the Eisenhower Building at the White House
this is fun, but nobody’s life is perfect. i mean, look at my untucked shirt!

Insight from a Friend

If you put all of your heart and soul into a relationship and that relationship ends, don’t feel like you’ve wasted time or energy. You showed someone love because that’s who you are. You’re someone who wants to make your loved ones happy, and that reveals beauty within you. Regardless of the reasons for the distance between you and a loved one, you should feel good about what you offered and shared with another human being. 

There are people who can’t express love, and then there’s you.

Mohamed Shaaban

On Friday, November 22nd 2013, a close friend of mine passed away. It wasn’t that he was my best friend, or that we even talked all that much, but when we did it was like we had never missed a day. I considered him to be someone I could always count on to help me, make me laugh, be completely ridiculous with me, support me, and make me feel worthy. What more could you ask for in a friend? We were very similar, both free-spirited and young-hearted but ready to get to business when we had to. He was the kind of guy that NO ONE had anything bad to say about, and he had an enormous impact on so many peoples’ lives, both directly and indirectly. He started two charity organization chapters at our university and has led a team in sending millions of dollars worth of medical supplies to countries in need. He was a very devout Muslim, and always had a beautiful story to accompany any tough situation we were dealing with. He was the kind of friend you wanted to keep around because he inspired you to do good and to be good.

I remember meeting him in 2009, our first semester in college, and we clicked immediately. Over the four years following, we would celebrate birthdays, days off, Ramadan iftars, donut cravings, and finally, graduation; a party complete with a very long Just Dance session, during which we all went completely nuts. He was my forever friend, and that’s the last thing I told him a few months before I he passed away. I went to his funeral, and it was the first time I had to deal with a friend and loved one’s death. When I think about things from an Islamic perspective, I realize that it’s not so bad. He lived 21 years of serving God and others. He was a selfless person, and I’m certain he has a place in Heaven inshaAllah (God willing). I tried the whole day to smile over all of the great things he had done in his life. Nate reminded me that he’s done more in his 21-year life than most people have done in their long years of living, which is absolutely true. He was a son, brother, uncle, student, teacher, and companion. He was Mohamed Shaaban.

my 21st birthday with Shaaban (far right)

A few days after the funeral, I finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and I came across something beautiful that reminded me of my forever friend, told to the main character (Guy) by a new friend (Granger):

“When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the back yard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think, what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” (3.361)

and later by Granger again…

“Grandfather’s been dead for all these years, but if you lifted my skull, by God, in the convolutions of my brain you’d find the big ridges of his thumbprint. He touched me. As I said earlier, he was a sculptor.”

His grandfather had told him to “Stuff your eyes with wonder” and “Life as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.”

And reading this part came at exactly the right time. When you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, it’s hard not to be selfish. We’re always missing the times we spent with those who have passed, and that’s OK. I think about Shaaban every day. I’ll continue to reflect on my friendship with him and in doing that, I’ll continue to better myself as a person because that’s what he did every single day.

Rest in Peace, Forever Friend!

Imbalance

How would you deal with knowing that no matter how much of your heart you’re willing to give to another person, you’ll never get the same amount of love from them in return?

What if they’ve chosen you to be their other half, but that amount of love is just impossible for them to share, with you or with anyone else?

Self-Checkout

Today felt a little weird.
I went to the grocery store and got in line at self-checkout of course, because I’m the fastest self-checkout girl in the world. But I can’t help but notice that all the people who need to check out get into longer lines instead of lining up behind me. And this happens OFTEN. I try to start off speedy so that people will see that I’m not some foreigner girl that doesn’t know how to use the machine… but even a person that’s new to the states would PROBABLY be able to handle it. But I can’t even be that speedy because if I mess up something, the inconspicuous lane number will start flashing uncontrollably and summon the employees for help, and then I’d be living up to this stereotype that I don’t know anything because I wear a scarf and probably don’t speak English. So I have to be super efficient and get all my items swiped and into my reusable bags (nobody notices I’m SAVING THE PLANET), all while trying to balance the weight correctly so that it doesn’t stop me and prompt me to “remove an item from the bagging area” because the weights aren’t matching up. Smart aleck machines. It’s a tough sport, this self-checkout. The feeling afterwards is perfect. Because I’m always speedy, the people who avoid getting behind me end up WAY behind because I’m the fastest self-checkout girl in the world.

Or, they could just be lining up in the next line because that line offers Coke as an alternative to Pepsi. Who knows?