Friday, September 16, 2016

Dear 26

Dear 26,

I haven't planned this letter. I'm sitting on my London bed, writing this as a distraction from continuously worried thoughts. I'm worried about you, how I'll be and how everything is going to be. But this is not a letter about my worries. It's about the habit of doubting myself and I know bad habits die hard. I'm 24 and still suck my thumb.

It's hard to get back to writing letters after stopping for 3 months. You lose that connection you once created with a future self. But after 2 years, I shouldn't really stop that established mean of communication with the future. You know for the sake of hope and strength and all that cheesy stuff.

If you're at a time that you're doubting your abilities, skills, anything for that matter, then I'm here to pick you up. I'm here to remind you why you're continuously wrong. And as I write this, I'm reminding my present self at the same time.

I can actually point out when self-doubt started. It was after that D I got in Math during 9th grade and the C in Physics. You'd think that initial self-doubt would've gone by the end of 10th grade when I got both those grades up to an A. And no matter how much I tried to convince myself I was back on track, my subconscious always won. And it continues to do so.

Despite the self doubt, let me remind you what has been achieved in the past 2 years. First and most importantly, getting comfortable with labs. I have hated them since I was 19 and never thought I'll ever enjoy them. 2016 marks the year I not only get comfortable with the ideas of labs but also actually enjoying them. And to go with that, a thesis I'm actually very proud of. And when I doubted last night that I'm not ready enough for that practice viva, I actually did really well. I have continuously proven to myself that I'm better than my doubts and it's time to think that way.

I'm hiding the true meaning of this letter behind education. You and I both know that this letter has nothing to do with education. I'm staying strong from this side with lots of hope and faith that Allah has written what's best, and that I'm sure (with no doubts) is true. I also have faith that this is the right thing and everything will work out accordingly.

With lots of hope and faith,

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Documenting My Life | August

August was an eventful month. A lot has been done and lots of memories created that will last a lifetime. I'm writing this from our train ride to Seville from Córdoba and it's probably why this post might not seem coherent.

I started with a sweet goodbye. My best friend left London but I managed to have a heartwarming dinner with her and her family before they left. It was a good way to end their stay in London and I'm looking forward to catching up with her when I'm back in Oman.
Part of August seems like a blur and I don't remember many of the details. I was stressed with trying to perfect my thesis. Stressing over every detail. Reading it a thousand and one times hoping to spot any mistakes to fix and add as many details as possible. As stressed as I was, I'm glad I spent a good amount of time editing it as now I'm sure at that given time, it's the best piece of work I could hand in.
Sometime in August a friend came to visit. Throughout her stay, I've admired her dedication towards achieving her goals and her confidence with her abilities along with the work she produces. We walked around Shoreditch discussing random topics while taking photos of the area. Her stay was very inspirational. Her stay made me realise the more you're confident with yourself the better work you could present.

Having friends over always distracts my forever worried brain. After she left, I started worrying about my future after submitting my thesis. Will things go according to my plans or should I just wait and see what life has for me with its endless surprises. I'm not a big fan of the unknown, it scares me more than anything right now. But I can't do anything about it and the stresses me out. Everything stresses me out.

If I could ask for any pet, I'd ask for a chimpanzee. I felt for the entirety of August it's all I've thought about. A cute huggable chimpanzee. One that's fully trained and just there to play around and enjoy life without any worries. I'm yet to find a zoo in the UK that would let me pet one for a day at least.

I love days when I find something I lost a while back. I love finding them when I need them the most. Sometime during the month I found some emergency cash I thought I lost a while back. I found them at a time when I was short on money and it felt like I found them at the right exact time. When I first lost them I thought I'll just stop looking because one day I'll pack the place up and I'll find them then. I still think I found them at exactly the right time. It felt really good.

People travel all the time. They share pictures and memories when you meet them. They talk about what they liked the most and what they hated. They talk about the weather and atmosphere. You don't usually expect them back baring gifts, but when they do it's a totally different feeling. One of my friends went to Greece for a holiday and came back with a bracelet from an island she visited and got me a pot of Greek coffee because she knows I love coffee. The thoughtful gift made me appreciate her even more. I love giving gifts and I don't usually expect ones in return.

On the 23rd, my sister arrived to London. We spent the day catching up on the happenings of the past 8 months that we didn't see each other. Met a few friends and went to sleep getting ready for the big day. We woke up on the 24th got ready and headed to Hammersmith to submit my MSc thesis. On our way we documented my submission journey every stop of the way. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulder and it was time to enjoy the freedom before stressing over my viva. We went for lunch with some of the MSc course mates, went to visit the Science museum and ended our night with watching the Aladdin musical.

August was also the month we visited Spain, visiting 6 cities in 7 days. I had high expectations for Spain and it didn't fail me. I enjoyed my travel with the sister a lot, she has always been the perfect travel partner as we have similar interest. We visited Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Granada, Sevilla and Cordoba. Each city had it's own unique thing about it but probably loved Sevilla the most. I'm not sure what exactly made me like it the most. It's probably the mix of history, quiet-ish atmosphere and the people. So much beautiful architecture was seen in this Spain trip, my camera couldn't capture beautifully what my eyes could see. 

I'm looking forward to September but I'm not sure how I really feel about it coming. I'm excited for visiting Lisbon but everything after the end of our trip just scares.

P.S: Serendipity is a beautiful word.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

My Best Friend & Her Brother

I’m sure we all have at least one person in our life with an unexplainable attachment to. We care for them, love them, sometimes even become overprotective about them. There is nothing weird about caring about a person to such an extent, it’s odd though when this person is not someone you meet on a daily basis. You might even talk to once every year or two. Yet that bond doesn’t change. Faisal, known as Anoosh to his family, is one of them.

Anoosh is my best friend’s youngest brother. I still remember the day after he was born. My best friend, Fatma (or Fatoom as we call her), came to school with a bag filled with Patchi chocolate individually wrapped in blue and silver. She walked around giving each student in the class a piece of chocolate with a genuine smile, reflecting the love she has to the newest member of her family. We were 11 at the time, and I grew up with Fatoom loving Anoosh more and more as time passes. Her love to him, her care and protection, how she always remembers him in the tiny details around us probably rubbed into me. Anoosh, 13 years old now, became a part of my life before he even realised who I was.

My earliest memory of him was during our school’s annual bazaar. He was probably 2 or 3 at the time. We took him to get his face painted as a Spider-man and Fatoom bought him a fish. Fatoom being the eldest sister is like a second mother to him. You could tell he loves her from the way he holds on to her, the way he hugs her and the way he speaks about her. Fast forward 11 years and it’s still the same. Last weekend Fatoom came to my place for a sleepover and I could tell how much he loves her when he asked me why I’m taking his sister away. She was to leave them for less than 12 hours as we had plans to meet them all the next day. Their relationship is special.

Anoosh calls me Super-Mario, he always called me that. He laughed about it the first time he did and since then he stuck with it. Ever since, Super-Mario has always reminded me of him. I remember once going to their house and he ran to his father telling him Super-Mario is here. As embarrassing as it felt when it happened, I found it adorable. It’s the little things he says and does that makes him even more special.

Last night I went out for dinner with Fatoom’s family. I joined them as they made fun of each other like any siblings will do, I laughed till tears ran down my face and joined them as we documented the day with photos. While last night will always have a place in my heart, it won’t be just because of that. I was happy when he walked into the restaurant and said he wanted to sit next to me, when he recommended a dish and agreed to share a piece of his lasagna. I smiled and my soul smiled when their mother told me how he mentions me a lot. I held back my tears with a smile when he said he has 5 sisters and he mentioned me as one of them. He has 2 biological sisters, the other 3 are his cousins and I. I felt the love when his mother told me how one day he’ll walk me down the aisle and his reply was that he’ll make sure he knows the guy well before that.

Fatoom, Anoosh and their family will always have a special place in my heart. I’m indebted to their Aunt who taught me how to read and write. I’m indebted to their mother that always treated me like a daughter and for bringing such a wonderful family to this life. I’m indebted to Fatoom, for all the memories we’ve had and memories we’ll create. And I’m indebted to Anoosh for always saying the right thing at the right time. May they all live a long, healthy and happy life. Because seriously, each and everyone of them deserves it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Documenting My Life | July

It feels like I was conscious of July only in London's underground. I was in the company of books, stuck in my deepest and shallowest thoughts. Other than underground, July has been a blur. Yet July moved in slow motion, unlike the quick trains that don't have to be stuck in London's traffic. It gave me time to think about very random things, over and over and over again, from different angles.

*At this point I go back to my journal to know what else I have been doing this month*

This has been the first Eid in a while for me to spend it away from my family. It felt weird yet I was mentally prepared for it. I took lots of chocolates with me to the lab. Had different people come up to me with Eid greetings. I also received a big Cadbury bar as a Eid gift. I'm surrounded by great people in the lab and I'm grateful for that.

I love it when I unintentionally discover cafes in a quiet corner of a busy street. Prestat had good coffee and probably the best carrot cake I have ever tried in my life. I spent my time there reading and writing and it actually felt good.

I decided to do something different and meet an online friend for Dutch pancakes and coffee. We got along well, laughed a lot and discussed very random topics that didn't link to each other. That's always a sign of good company.

I went to Cambridge twice this month and something sparked in my brain when I was there. I imagined a future I could associate myself with. Cambridge might be the place for decision making when times get tough. There is enough greenery to clear your mind. Enough history for inspiration. Enough space and air for clarity.

I've introduced myself to Virginia Woolf this month and I'm not sure where she has been so far. I read an essay she's written but it's definitely on my list to read more of her work. She made me think a lot about Women's contribution to fiction and I feel like I need to list down my favourite books one day and see how many of them are actually females.

This month I've appreciated the time I've spent alone more than ever before, always in the company of some kind of hot beverage (more often than not a cup or two of Americano) and a book. This month I've read:

  • Why I write by George Orwell
  • مهزلة العقل البشري لعلي الوردي
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Private Life of The Diary by Sally Bayley
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Marking the first month I don't pick up a fiction book to read. I actually don't mind it.

I'm grateful for the way July ended. Spending time with my best friend and reminiscing the 4 years we've spent in Leeds. We caught up with 7 months worth of gossip, news and updates. Today I've laughed till tears ran down my cheeks, had fun at Madam Tussauds and had the perfect dinner at Five Guys.

August is a month I've been looking forward to for a while now and it's finally here.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Maria in Wonderland

I used to be much more muchier, I was more confident in my skin. I was a character full of confidence, smart and successful in my studies, reaching every expectation I set for myself. My mind used to burst with colourful ideas just like my ever so colourful outfits. I was borderline clown, peacock, parrot. I was an eclectic mix of ideas and creative thoughts. I shined like the sequence in my top, reflecting positivity. I was a burst of glitter and confetti always surprising myself with what I could do an achieve. The idea of failing was never really a fear, I tried new things as random as high jump and when I realised I’m not good enough; laughed and tried something new. My attitude towards life was refreshing and learning from my past self is never a bad idea.

I partially lost my muchness when I got my first D after 9 years of being a straight A student, I did get up and get an A but it was the beginning of going down the rabbit hole. I’ve lost my muchness when I started doubting myself. I lost it when I didn’t score my expected 36 in IB. I lost my muchness when I didn’t fight to get up after failing to meet my expectations. I lost my muchness when I left my curiosity at the back of a dusty closet.

I’m now down the rabbit hole, I’m now in Wonderland. I somehow made it down (or up, whichever way you look at it) still sane but with lots of bruises. I’m still not sure how I made it but it seems that people are proud of where I am at this point in my life. I still haven’t opened my eyes wide enough to realise where I am. It is now my job to make the most out of it. To enjoy tea parties and fight the enemies. To regain my muchness that I’ve lost while I still have time.

It’s about time to be the flamingo that sets everything straight.
Hi Omaima!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

With love, the peaceful and caring one

Dear Homo sapiens,

That is Latin for “wise person”. We all fall in the trap of generalising and believing stereotypes, and it’s very important to realise what we’re stepping into. I’ve heard enough “Americans are ignorant”, “Muslim women are oppressed”, “Germans are rude” and the classic “Muslims are terrorists”. Whatever experience you’ve had, please don’t become another statistic.

We live in a time where, generally, Muslims are linked to ISIS when, in fact, the majority of Muslims are against what ISIS are doing. So it’s sad, hurtful and scary to know when an innocent Muslim Arab wearing his traditional attire got detained in Ohio because a hotel clerk suspected he has links to ISIS. I understand the need to keep people safe from terrorist attacks but it’s also not fair for Arabs to lose their identity in fear of being mistaken to be a terrorist. When Emirati officials encouraged Emiratis not to wear their traditional attire when abroad, it really bothered me and I’m sure many have thought the same way.

My parents are traditional Omanis. They are proud of their origin, nationality, culture and religion. My father is the most peaceful man I have ever met. He always dresses in his white Omani dishdasha and cream musar that matches his white beard and whiter heart. My dad is a walking symbol of peace and I would hate for him to be mistaken for a terrorist. My mother is the most caring woman I have ever met. My mother loves turquoise and purple, when she’s abroad she wears hijabs and jilbabs in these colours. I would hate for her to be mistaken for a terrorist. I’m Muslim and studying in London, while I dress like anyone on the streets of London, I have an extra piece of fabric that covers my hair. I’m peaceful and caring, you can say it’s genetic. I’d hate to be mistaken for a terrorist.

Hiding our identity as Muslim Arabs will not make the world a more peaceful place. Let’s sit and talk, my father’s white beard and white attire is not scary, my mom’s colourful conservative clothes are not scary, my hijab is not scary.

With love,
The peaceful and caring one.

P.S: I was inspired to write this letter because of Moosa Al Lawati’s blog post. You can find it here

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Documenting My Life | June

June felt like a day at the theme park, you're glad the day is over because you're tired but sad that all the fun is over. June was a crazy rollercoaster, one of those that leaves you sick by the end of it but full of adrenaline. The type that leaves you disoriented yet alert. With it done, you feel like you can ride any crazy rollercoaster out there.

On the 1st of June, I went with Mariam and her family to watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory musical one that I really wanted to watch for a long time now. I didn't like the songs and the acting much but the set was beautiful and as creative as Roald Dahl created it for us.

On the 4th I went to Manchester to attend the Coldplay concert, an experience I never had before. It was more than just listening to my favourite band singing live, it was the atmosphere, the people and the colours. And above all it was a test of courage to do things on my own, a reminder to experience things for the first time. I sang along to my favourite songs, watched as the people sang along and as Chris Martin appreciated the crowd. I stupidly threw away my ticket but I'd rather not remember that.

I presented my mid-project presentation on the 8th and I'm somehow satisfied with the way I presented but I thought I did better. I wouldn't have done as good without the help of the team, their support and giving me a chance to practice in front of them. They made sure I'm prepared well enough for it. I was confident enough to present without the aid of notes, with a good pace and without forgetting what to say. Now that it's out of the way, I find myself more relaxed and able to enjoy my time. I also finished my lab work and started working on my thesis, being able to fully focus on it a while before submission makes me less anxious.

I'm surrounded by great people and it makes me appreciate them even more. When days at the write up area seem longer than normal, they make it more bearable. Everyone is nice, making sure to ask how everyone is doing. Matt telling me about his hiking experience and Manisha asking how my fasting is going. Tina always making sure I'm well, Noeline leaving a piece of cake she baked for me to have after iftar and Silvia asking when I'm done with fasting so we can go back to having lunch together again. I'm surrounded by a lovely bunch.

I don't always get a chance to spend some quality time with my brothers and I really love when we randomly get the chance to sit together for a few hours discussing random topics. Mohammed came over for a weekend and we managed to talk about books and politics, family and studies. Messing around with snapchat filters and just enjoying our time. I really hope my siblings and I get the chance to travel all together this August.

Spending the weekend with a relative we once upon a time were really close with feels good. It feels weird at the same time that she has kids at the age when I was closest to them. We had iftar together, reminisced about the old days and spent time with the kids and the random things they come up with. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I would.

I got a thank you this month when I least expected it. It left a smile for a while and made me more aware to genuinely thank people when I get the chance to. Thank you!

June ended on a bad note and I'm still trying to recover from it. We rely on technology to preserve our memories forgetting that the only things that last are those that are physically existing. A few days ago, my memory failed me and I couldn't remember my phone's passcode. I ended up trying way too many times to the point where my phone got disabled. I had to restore my phone to factory settings and with it I lost letters I've written, memories I kept and pictures I thought I'll keep forever.

June is over now, it gave me memories and took some away but I still have time to make more memories. I still have time to better document my year in London and I think I have an idea.

July, bring it on.