Letter to My Younger Self

A couple of years ago, a friend suggested that I write a letter to my younger self. It is a powerful exercise that I believe everyone should experience. So here I go.

1st December, 2016

Hello, Little One. It’s your older self, writing to you. Just so you know, you will create your own journey which makes you amazing.

There isn’t a fine line between making inadequate decisions and regretting them. Sure, you’ve made some inadequate decisions just to feel the thrill of being impish, but every decision you make gives you the opportunity to take credit for creating your own life. Also, by experiencing the disappointment that might come with a decision’s outcome, you can propel yourself to a new level of emotional evolution and master the art of self-forgiveness.

I recall that you were slightly insecure about petty concerns while growing up. Remember feeling insecure about yourself because your mom didn’t let you wear makeup to school whilst your “cool” schoolmates attended school with cake faces? Newsflash, honey. You were, you are, and you always will be cooler than them. Your outer appearance, as beautiful as it is, never actually defined who you are. The people you meet along the way falls in love with you because you are a lovable person by nature. Also, here’s a little secret. Later on in life, you will wear makeup. You will look in the mirror and see a cake face too, if you apply it poorly. But that’s okay, because there is a time and a place for everything.

On a totally unrelated note, Prince Harry is not single anymore. You have stepped up your celebrity crush game and you’re currently admiring the current Prime Minister of Canada.

Moving on…

You are chasing your dreams. Remember the profession you have set your heart on? You are on the verge of pursing it. There were minor interruptions along the way. Your brain cut to a different route but your heart brought you back on track. People say that giving into the musings of the brain is the smartest thing to do, but honestly, listening to your heart is leads to the best decisions made in life, and your brain will eventually give in.

Speaking of heart, love doesn’t come in the form of a relationship status on Facebook. It doesn’t bloom the moment you give him your e-mail address to chat-up and send nudges on MSN. Borrowing your mom’s phone to “play games” but texting your “crush” instead, followed by an inbox clean-up isn’t exactly a sacrifice. Later on in your life, you have met people whom you have genuinely loved and whom you will continue to love with all your heart. You have made smart choices, and I can safely say that these are the people who are worth sharing your life with.

But.

You have lost people along the way.  But you don’t let the injustices of the past occupy so much psychic space in your present. There is a Greater Power who will be the judge and you, darling, deserve peace in your heart. Your friends are wonderful people, and meeting them for a chit-chat is more fruitful than texting gobbledygook back and forth. You don’t have to be in constant contact with a person to prove your friendship to him or her. Being there for a person when he or she needs you is worthy.

Your wish for a brother continues to grow, yet you love your sisters unconditionally. You see, life doesn’t always go your way. You wanted to be a full-time babysitter for your sisters, but they have been living miles away from you. You do get to meet them occasionally, but you haven’t got the chance to unleash the big-sister vibe on them, YET. I have a feeling that they’re going to continue to travel throughout of the country and out of the country for a while, but all that matters are love and memories so make sure you give it and make sure you make them.

I have watched you evolve into a fiercely amazing woman. Today, you are one year older, so happy birthday. I am so proud of you. You are a hopeless romantic, but you’re not letting love distract you from conquering the world. You aim to thrive when it comes to your education, but you haven’t spent sleepless nights, buried in books. You are ambitious, but you have achieved the right balance between the significant aspects of your life. You love your family, but you do not tolerate having toxic family members around you just because they’re “family.” You are a self-proclaimed feminist, but you most certainly do not want death to all penises. You are considerate, but you don’t other people rent space in your head for free as that’s valuable real estate.

Darling, maturity is not measured by age. It is an attitude built by sensitivity, manners and how you react to situations. Don’t wait for the universe to bend in your favor. Go out there and slay, Queen! You are responsible for your own happiness. You are a warrior. Not a worrier.

I love you.

P.S You’re still a cry-baby.

The Battle of Mind

There are two kinds of people in this world. People who consider mental illness like the serious concern it is, and the people/a**holes who ridicule it and question the faith of the person suffering from it. Excuse the harshness, but with regard to the talk of mental illness recently, I can safely say that 65% of the opinions and comments are from the kind of people who fall under the latter of the two.

Mental illness is any disease or condition that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and relates to others and to his/her surroundings. Although the symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe and are different depending on the type of mental illness, a person with an untreated mental illness often is unable to cope with life’s daily routines and demands. Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors, NOT due to personal weakness, a character defect, lack of faith, or black-magic, and recovery from a mental illness is NOT simply a matter of will, self-discipline and a couple of prayers. I could keep on repeating this like a prayer, but will the critical Maldivians ever gain an understanding?

Recently a 15 year old girl has reportedly committed suicide by hanging herself from a fan. This awakened the “holier than thou” crowd in our society, and they associated this act of hers to her lack of faith. Yesterday a man has suffered serious injuries after jumping from a building in Male’ in an apparent suicide attempt whilst spectators were having a festive time enjoying the “show.” This is the state of our community today.

I am certain that I have a fair amount of faith, yet I, myself, suffered from mild depression twice. This resulted in mood-swings, changes in personality and social withdrawal. The first time I got out of it was with a lot of pleasantry and support from a bunch of friends. Even if I am not in constant contact with most of them now, with one missing and nowhere to be found yet, I would forever be grateful to them for providing me with the comfort I needed back then. The second time was a tad bit severe than the first, so I increased my level of faith a notch higher than it was before AND turned to my family and friends for support. I did ponder on seeking professional help but later on I did not get to it as my ill condition kept wearing off, which I believe was due to prayers and encouragement from fellow companions. But do you know what the real challenge was, during the two periods I put up with depression? Being told that it was due to my lack of faith, from one of the people closest to me. Being told that if I prayed a bit more, my mental illness would “magically” disappear. Being told to stop moping around and to cheer up, just like that. Explaining my mental condition to that person further added up to my stress and became another battle I had to overcome.

My point? Since mine wasn’t severe and my symptoms were well-controlled, by the mercy of God, I was able to overcome it by seeking solace from prayers and companions, both working hand in hand. Had I isolated myself and kept on praying 24/7, I would not have been able to overcome it. While prayer made me feel better spiritually, the consolation I got from friends and family made me feel better mentally.

So that’s how I coped and overcame. And that is how I will cope and overcome, if, God forbid, I face a similar situation again. My illness was MILD. But there are people out there, suffering and struggling to function in ordinary life due to severe mental disorders. Even if the signs and symptoms vary widely between specific disorders, they are all fighting the same battle and they all deserve treatment. Treatment means all the different ways in which someone with a mental illness can get help to minimise the effects of the illness and promote recovery. This includes psychological therapy, medications and community support programs. However, because there are many different factors contributing to the development of each illness, it can sometimes be difficult to predict how, when, or to what degree someone is going to get better. Just like common cold, flu and fever, mental illness needs to be treated accordingly. Chanting “panadol, panadol, panadol,” as a mantra whenever one gets a fever would not act as a cure. The same way, praying without acquiring proper medication would not help when it comes to mental illness. Hearing the haram-police question their faith and uttering hymns to dispel the assumed evil-spirits would be the last f****** thing they would want to hear.

Unfortunately in Maldives, we lack the ability to provide proper treatment, support systems and EMPATHY to our fellow fighters. Passing on judgement is what most of us do best. Just because one has never undergone a similar situation is no reason to assume that there aren’t people out there who are battling to become the people they once were, back in happier times they have once known.

I would defend anyone with a mental health illness, even if thousands taunt me. I will defend the girl who committed suicide. I will defend the man who attempted to commit suicide. And I will continue to defend all the fighters already fighting, and yet to come. Do you want allegations of suicide or suicide attempts to stop making headlines in this country? Start practicing empathy, or being more empathetic, for a change. One of the greatest ways to improve self-confidence when living with a chronic illness, or when living in a society where this is common, is with education. A person with a mental illness often carries an indelible mark of shame nonetheless and this needs to be changed by breaking the mental health stigma.

Well put, shut up and go educate yourselves.

“No!”

“No.” “Nope.” “Nah.” “Noon.”

See how simple it is to say one little word? Of course, there will be times when it’s not that easy if you’re used to saying yes all the time. As for women, it’s easier to feel obligated to say yes to things that we’d rather turn down so that we don’t come off as cold, rude, or insulting. Learning how to say “no” is a powerful skill and with practice, you may find it easier to master the gentle art of saying no.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to. Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills to master for both personal and professional growth. By setting boundaries, we find the freedom to behave in our best interest eliminating the distractions and to take a pass on tasks that don’t make the cut. When you say no to the things that don’t help you, you are, in fact, saying yes to the things that will. By saying no, you open up the space necessary for yes.

People will eventually respect you for disagreeing with them. Saying “no” is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger. It’s quite the opposite. When done well, saying no can be far from mean. There is a way to communicate a negative response in a way that leaves the other person feeling valued and heard. It shows that you prioritize self-care to decline unwanted intrusions. In turn, you stop feeling inclined to please people because you have defined a game-plan of your own.

It also makes you feel really good.

Here is a poem I came across on “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul” which inspired me to write this post. It’s Angela’s Word by Barbara K. Bassett.

When Angela was very young,
Age two or three or so,
Her mother and father
Taught her never to say NO.
They taught her that she must agree
With everything they said,
And if she didn’t, she was spanked
And sent upstairs to bed.

So Angela grew up to be
A most agreeable child;
She was never angry
And she was never wild;
She always shared, she always cared,
She never picked a fight,
And no matter what her parents said,
She thought that they were right.

Angela the Angel did very well in school
And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule;
Her teachers said she as so well-bred,
So quiet and so good,
But how Angela felt inside
They never understood.

Angela had lots of friends
Who liked her for her smile;
They knew she was teh kind of gal
Who’d go the extra mile;
And even when she had a cold
And really needed rest,
When someone asked her if she’d help
She always answered Yes.

When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife.
She had a home and family, and a nice suburban life.
She had a little girl of four
And a little boy of nine,
And if someone asked her how she felt
She always answered, “Fine.”

But one cold night near Christmastime
When her family was in bed,
She lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through her head;
She didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how,
But she wanted her life to end;
So she begged Whoever put her here
To take her back again.

And then she heard, from deep inside,
A voice that was soft and low;
It only said a single word
And the word it said was…NO.

From that moment on, Angela knew
Exactly what she had to do.
Her life depended on that word,
So this is what her loved ones heard:

NO, I just don’t want to;
NO, I don’t agree;
NO, that’s yours to handle;
NO, that’s wrong for me;
NO, I wanted something else;
NO, that hurt a lot!
NO, I’m tired, and NO, I’m busy,
And NO, I’d rather not!

Well, her family found it shocking,
Her friends reacted with surprise;
But Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes;
For they’ve held no meek submission
Since that night three years ago
When Angela the Angel
Got permission to say NO.

Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife.
She knows where she begins and ends,
She has a separate life.
She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and
An opinion at the polls.

And to her boy and girl she says,
“It’s nice when we agree;
But if you can’t say NO, you’ll never grow
To be all you’re meant to be.
Because I know I’m sometimes wrong
And because I love you so,
You’ll always be my angels
Even when you tell me NO.”

Women Empower One Another

Listen up, women.

Who among us hasn’t suffered the sting of a woman’s snarky comment, an ickiness of mean-girl shunning or lie-spreading?

Whilst we are working towards changing the thinking towards women in our society, it is saddening to see women trying to tear each other down instead of lifting each other up. Obviously, not all women are like this and there are plenty of men guilty of the same behavior, but why do some of us (ie; women) feel the need to bring each other down?

From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught to compete. I need to be prettier, taller, smarter, my hair needs to be straighter, curlier, whatever it is. I need to get the better looking guy. I need to always be better than because we’re taught to come from a place of lack as women. – Sophia Nelson

Girls pitting themselves against each other in an imaginary competition is internalized misogyny where girls are being sexist toward others of their own gender. We hear so often about the injustices that women face in the society as a result of gender inequality or the stereotyped, but what we do not hear enough about are the injustices we are met with that originate from the hands of other women. This fictional competition and bizarre belief also leads to bullying via social exclusion, malicious rumors and whatnot.
So instead of doing this, slowly ease yourself off of comparing yourself to other girls. Not only will you be doing her a favor, but you’ll be helping yourself as well.

I am sure that many of you have found yourself in a situation where a fellow woman has put you down, a rumor has been spread about you, or you’ve been challenged in an aggressive or threatening way. Or perhaps, in a moment of weakness, you yourself have acted as the aggressor.
Mostly in our society, I see teenage girls fighting over boys! Ranging from school-bullying to psychical fights, it is common to see a girl tearing apart the self-esteem and reputation of another just for the sake of scoring a boy. When I say psychical fights, I do mean hardcore blows and punches. There’s a secondary school in Male’ which is famous for this. I have never set my foot in that place, but it’s a well known fact that the ‘boy-drama’ disrupts the education and well-being of several girls which causes them to leave and pursue their education elsewhere. And as these girls grow older, they come up with more aggressive ways to disrupt relationships and by that time, the consequences would have multiplied too. It is not at all worth to put down a fellow girl just for the sake of the opposite gender who probably is a fuckboy.

Regardless of the situation, the sad reality is, a huge deficit exists in the number of women that make it their personal goal to elevate other women instead of tear them down.

Yet we cannot afford to fall back into destructive ways. Women cannot become a truly unstoppable force for good unless we shake off an old shadow that holds us back and that is how harsh we can be to one another. When we hold one woman back, we hold all women back. And when we empower and support each other, we all go big. The world is calling for us to go big!

15472_10154816585445284_1298851902217666745_n

There’s a Wonder Woman inside every one of us. Let’s unleash her this year to better support one another.

Come on, women! We deserve better than this. We are better than this.

Muslim Feminist

The most radical movement in recent times which is revolutionizing the whole social structure and changing the entire basis of human relationships is the Feminist Movement; the drive for Women’s Liberation.

I identify myself as feminist who proudly associates with the “f-word,” along with being a practicing Muslim. Is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? Well, of course. Islam and Feminism does not contradict in terms and can work hand-in-hand.

Most of the conflicts between Islam and modern women’s rights attributes to culture rather than the actual religion. Much of what is followed today is the interpretation of a group of scholars dating back hundreds of years, rather than the literal teachings of Allah. The Qur’an is a complex and dense book so that even the act of translation involves interpretation. Reinterpretation of the text is a controversial issue, but there are some interesting attempts by female scholars to challenge accepted wisdom not by deviating from the Qur’an, but by returning to it. This is a religion which unleashed tolerance and equality at a time where girls were being buried alive simply for their gender. A time when slavery was an accepted reality, Islam evoked the freeing of a slave among the best actions a human could take. So at a time when equal rights between tribes are/was unthinkable, let alone between men and women, the Qur’an would constantly reinforce this notion of equality.

Yet gender discrimination is one of the most ill-founded allegations used to discredit Islam. There are several popular myths which perpetuate this gross stereotype.

  • “Islam practices Female Genital Mutilation.”
    There is no evidence to corroborate this from within Islam.
    According to UNICEF, Ethiopia and Nigeria total 43.7 million out of 125 million FGM cases in the 29 countries studied. That is two of the oldest Christian states already counting for 35% of victims. FGM is evidently rooted in central African culture. It is a regional practice, not a religious one.
  • “Muslim women are not allowed to receive an education.”
    Islam encourages education and the pursuit of knowledge.
    “[20:114] And say: My Lord increase me in knowledge.”
    Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74: “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.”
    In fact, this notion of education is so strong in Islam that Muslims are required to question the Qur’an itself. “[38:29] … (They) may ponder over its Verses, and that those of understanding would be reminded.”
    It is desirable for women seek answers that honor their faith, gender and maintaining their dignity whilst excelling in helping society and those around them.
  • “A wife at home has no right to any property, financial security, or to work. if she asks for a divorce, she must return her dowry and has no rights.”
    Islam respects a woman’s right to financial security. 1,300 years ago, Islam clarified a woman’s right to own property, work, and further material entitlements for the sake of independence. Women are entitled to a limitless personal dowry upon marriage, irrevocable in divorce or disagreement. This is in contrast to many Asian cultures where men receive the dowry. A woman also has the right to keep her last name, property she owned prior to marriage, and any income earned during marriage. Her property is recognized as hers alone rather than for the household or for the man. The Prophet’s first wife and the first woman to accept Islam, Khadijah RA, was a businesswoman who was one of the wealthiest in Arabia. If a divorcee has children, she is entitled to child support. “[2:231] When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits)…”
  • “Women are overlooked. They have no say nor importance in Islam. If they dare to interject, they will be criminalized.”
    To disregard a woman in Islam is to disregard the consideration given to them through Islam. More than half of Islam comes from a woman. Aisha (RA) narrated over two thousand Hadith which consists the major source of guidance for Muslims and is noted for teaching eminent scholars. No other major religion ordains a female as an authority used to cite religious virtues. To say women should not “dare to interject”, when 1.5 billion Muslims across the world look to a woman’s work in guidance of their faith, is neither logical nor sane.
  • “Showing disrespect to a woman is fine as a man’s status is higher than her.”
    The Qur’an explicitly refutes this countless times.
    “[3:195] Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another.”
    “[4:124] As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice.”
    “[49:13] O’ People, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another.”

So by saying that “Islam and feminism cannot co-exist”, you are handing a victory to that conservative faction. People need to rethink this idea of Islamic Feminism as an oxymoron. It is only through establishing that identity and stability that self-respect can be achieved and a more healthy climate for both Muslim men and Muslim women will emerge.

While world religions squabbled over vilifying women for the “Original Sin,” Islam stepped in and said both man and woman were responsible, they were both forgiven, and they are both equal. Therefore, instead of a religion which oppresses women in material matters, Islam seeks to safeguard and empower them. This, in the end, is what Islamic Feminism is about.

Sensation Seeking

Why do humans always find pleasure in seeking the extreme in most aspects? Why can’t they be contented within the safe zone or living in balance? I too, am guilty of seeking the top notch thrill in some that I do. I suppose this turns back to dualism theory. Positive/negative, for/against, up/down, left/right, man/woman, win/loss and extending to humans brain/heart, intellect/mind. We always think in terms of 2 possible outcomes. Typically either our mind takes one position and brain says reverse. We decide in favor of one or the other, close the matter.

For instance, while eating. Most people often tend to go for the spiciest of all dishes and find pleasure in the pain of pungent spices.  As tempting as it may seem on the menu, it never disappoints us once it’s dissolved in our taste buds as well. Capsaicin, the chemical behind hotness, causes your brain to literally think your tongue is on fire. Despite the awful aftermath of spicy food, admit it, we do enjoy the mouth burning sensations of spicy food. It gives us monetary pleasure and excitement as we fight back the tears and urge to gobble down cubes of ice. Seize the moment, and indulge ourselves in the spicy self-torture for the quick thrill. Masochistic? Haha.

Next up, movies. The horror genre is the top most viewed sort of movies. What kind of a psychopath voluntarily submits him/herself to terror? It’s the aftermath of the movie which appeals us. This is called the excitation transfer process. When people watch frightening films, their heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases. After the film is over, this physiological arousal lingers. Any positive emotions you experience are intensified so instead of focusing on the fright you felt during the film, you recall having a great time and you’ll want to come back for more. Moreover, some people are simply wired to enjoy high levels of physiological arousal and adrenaline rush. Not surprisingly, these individuals also love roller coasters.

Then there’s cold temperatures on the list. How many times have you turned down the heat of your air conditioner especially at night and woke up with your teeth clattering, or in the worst case scenario, catch a fever next morning? I’m guilty. I sleep better when it is cold in the room and I am toasty warm under a thick blanket.
“The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.” –Moby Dick

There are several other sensations that the human body can read only as pure torment. Homo sapiens were the only group of early hominids to emigrate over the entire world, which entailed great risk, so I think humans as a species are characterized by novelty and intensity-seeking and this must have been an adaptive trait.

Simplicity

“Keep it simple,” is an often heard phrase in our daily lives. Seldom does one realize that this 6 lettered word contains a lot of weight. Simplicity may sound like a narrow standard, as simple as it may be to spell and pronounce, but opting the ‘simple method’ can hoard us from a lot of tricky situations. But as human beings, we just have this innate ability to ramp up everything to the next level. Previously, I’ve written an article regarding how we tend to complicate the simplest aspects; refer to it here

At the beginning of “Walden,” Henry David Thoreau makes a concise case against the complexity of modern life. “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” he writes. “Let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail….Simplify, simplify.

That was the 19th century, though, and we live in the 21st. In a typical day, we encounter numerous moments when we are delayed, frustrated or confused by complexity. For instance, it is innovation’s biggest paradox; we demand more and more from the stuff in our lives. More features, more function, more power and yet we also increasingly demand that it be easy to use. We live with this conundrum every day. Since a young age we’re taught to simplify algebraic equations, and in return, solving the whole calculation becomes less complicated. Make it a simple formula to your life by cutting out all the negative portions and complications. This would indeed make the life a garden of simplicity.

What’s the simple solution for the complications we face diurnally?

Keeping it simple doesn’t mean you’ll have zero clutter and zero complications. You’re a part of the world, not a secluded monk. You have possessions, electronics, distractions, and occasional hectics. But for the cynics who might say that in this modern world there’s no way of achieving simplicity, there are really only two steps to simplifying.

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.

It means getting rid of the clutter, and eliminating all but the essential, so you are left with only that which gives you value. So yeah, it’s as simple as that if you apply this concept to all areas of your life.