Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No, I don't want to be Super-woman

“"Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.” 

When you read something that's a refreshing glass of icy lemonade on a hot and humid day.

I came across the above quote while reading David Nicholls's One Day, and what I really wished for, in that instant, was the chance to enlarge each of the words and inscribe them across the sky for our entire world to read: the world that is incredibly obsessed with the idea of changing itself. 

I am so tired of being told to "go out there" and "do something great." I understand you guys in charge are anxious about passing on the reins and inspiration to the next generation, but could you cut us youth some slack? 

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Meanwhile, I think I regret signing up for NaNoWriMo. A day away from November and I don't have an inkling's idea what my novel will be about. I usually don't plan any of my blog-posts, relying instead on an inexplicable force that directs the movement of my fingers across the key-board, but is this unknown power going to help me write a whole 50,000 word? I think not.

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That, my dear readers, is the typical response I get when somebody learns what I'm majoring in.

I was reading up for my exam next week, on the necessity of auditing and accountability, and the thousands of policies and standards in place that cover every aspect you can think of. All of this done to make sure that the information people are getting is fair and accurate and true. There's no other word for it. Beautiful. 


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Of writing, distinct apples, and other things

To you, who will probably never read this: I'm sorry for not being a good listener that day an epoch ago. I thrust at you a self-esteem assessment I needed you to fill for a favour, and jabbed at your self-esteem in the process. You asked me a question in the middle and I shushed you before the sentence had ended, because I was busy talking to somebody else, and you went back to filling the form in silence. Later that day, I sat down biting my lip reading your answers and thought of the best way to punish myself.

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I used to consider myself a Japanese-culture-obsessed but I don't think I qualify anymore. I hereby renounce this title. Suddenly, I am surrounded by a multitude of true Japanese appreciators- they know their temakis from their uramakis, can recite the story-line of any anime episode picked at random, and have even taken the trouble to familiarise themselves with the language. And I'm sitting here, a-lower-than amateur in disguise.

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Some people are born writers. Not me. Here are examples of my first forms of writings:

My first attempt at fiction.

My first attempt at inspirational writing.

My first attempt at poetry.

My first attempt at fantasy.
I hope I've come some way from that. I know that if somebody had shown these to, say, Charles Dickens, and told him these are the works of a future aspiring writer, he would have coughed on his cup of sherry, and perhaps flashed a smirk at the messenger of these words once he'd recovered. But I don't think you have to be a born writer to become one. What is it that determines a real writer from everybody else? Who decides that sort of stuff anyway? I've joined NaNoWriMo- a stepping stone to a beginning or an impractical commitment that will end in failure- I am yet to discover. But it's a push- one that I'd never get any real writing done without.

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That traffic that we have all succumbed to. At the heart of it, I watch with tired eyes as the car in front of me signals a merge to the right, while the car on the right is a)  in its blind spot and b) looking at the other lane that it wants to merge to. Then there's this moment of danger followed by anger and lots of horns and beeps and fist-shakes. And I really want to wind down the window and yell, 'It's okay! It's just a misunderstanding!'

So many are convinced our world is an evil one infested with liars and back-stabbers, but I think there's just a lot of misunderstanding, that's all.

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Cutting an apple and orange at eight in the evening- a ritual. Neatly dividing the apple into slices, I notice how its seeds are stuck in a totally random position. Aren't they meant to be at the core? Right in the middle? Like all the other apples?

'What is it that determines how all apples are "meant" to look like? Who decides that sort of stuff anyway?' , it squeaks at me, in a voice not unlike Youtube's famous Annoying Orange. Call me crazy all you want, but that apple spoke right to me. And I pick it up giggling, yet with acceptance, and I'm sure the apple doesn't mind being eaten anymore.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blind is the eye that doesn't see You

Don't tell me nature isn't a miracle. Don't tell me the world isn't a fairy tale. Anyone who hasn't realised that, may never understand until the fairy tale is just about to end. Then there is one final chance to tear off the blinkers, a last chance to rub your eyes in amazement, a final opportunity to abandon yourself to the wonder you are bidding farewell to and leaving. 

The Orange Girl

Reading another Jostein Gaarder is like a chocolate bar after a year-long diet. I breezed through this in a day and it ended too quickly, leaving me with a strange tangy-sweet-bitter-melancholic-nostalgic taste. I think I have been gripped with Habitophobia again. The world has grown on me, and I needed this nudge to get fascinated again.

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Georg is reading the letter his dead father wrote him before he died that was only just discovered. His dad is telling him a story- of when he is three and in his arms, out in the backyard. They're looking up at a star-filled sky.

The last time I saw a sky like that was in Baghdad, eleven years ago. A vivid memory. I can see us four cousins on the rooftop of our home, feeling adventurous. We crouch low, peer outside, at a dark street lined with neat rectangular homes and incredibly tall palm trees, silent except for the occasional cricket chirp. From here we can see the front garden of our neighbours on the left, their big brown guard dog standing attentive. One of us throws a pebble, and the dog stands higher, his ears straight. Another pebble and he is barking now- loud barks that pierce the still air. We stuff our hands in our mouths, trying to stifle the giggles. And then the sound of a front door unlocking and the neighbour is out, and we are clambouring over each other to crouch down, unseen. It is then that I lay my back against the wall and look up. Innumerable stars shine back at me. I have never seen anything like this before. It's like somebody painted the entire sky pitch-black and glued tiny diamond bits all over.

Don't tell me the starry sky isn't a miracle.

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I'm making Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce for lunch. Cutting the onions half an hour earlier because I know what it does to me. I chew gum and try not to smell but none of that works. The knife slices through and I am weeping insanely, temporarily blinded. I take a breath, wipe the tears away and resume the cutting, trying to see through my stingy eyes. It's amazing what a little vegetable can do to you.

Don't tell me that's not a miracle.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

You and Your Beautiful Mind

Do you know how it feels like to love somebody more than yourself and the world with all its contents?

How it feels like to be in constant worry for them? A 24/7 lingering worry. One that not even sleep or intensive tasks can force in a corner, let alone drive away.

Do you know that you are permanently alive on my mind? That I'm thinking about you when I'm reading or daydreaming or listening to other people. That I'm worrying about you when I'm at school, on the road or in the next room.

Remember the year we had a very boring Eid? I took you for a walk while everyone was napping, and we ended up at the deserted beach. We just stood there, staring at the water. Then through some un-spoken agreement started collecting sea-shells. It felt so serene. You asked me questions about God and angels. Remember when I asked you to pose for a picture before we headed back home? You stood back to the water, eyes closed and arms held out wide. I could tell you felt free and happy to be, and it was the best moment of my life.

I wish I could make a deal with the One in charge. A deal that all life's ugly side bounces off you. Even if I'd have to take it. I would gather all the situations and life events and people and words and looks that make you unhappy. Stay watch dog over them and make sure they never dare cross your path.

Do you know that you are the opening sentence to my every prayer? That I don't care what's in store for me as long as you get to feel safe and loved for eternity.

Remember the day you told the big family gathering that you have a beautiful mind? I couldn't stop playing back those words in my head. They were the most true words ever said by the purest person to have ever existed.

And I can never be thankful enough for how lucky I am to have you and your beautiful mind in my life.




Sunday, October 7, 2012

Life tips from a lady pilot

Have you ever been to a TED talk? They're events where you listen to passionate speech after passionate speech for eight hours, and by the time it's over you are so soaked in drive and ambition and positivism to the point that it's surprising when you must carry on mundane activities such as actually having to use your two feet and walk instead of being able to fly through sheer will.

Captain Aysha 
A week ago I attended one of those intense TED events and the opening inspirer for the day was Aysha al Hamli, an Emirati pilot. A woman pilot. The first from her country. She stood there in her traditional abaya and sheila and told us her story. How she decided to be a pilot when she was a kid, and how she simply pushed aside all the 'but's and 'if's and the 'what will be the people say?''s when the time came to realise her dream.

Then she shared lessons learned from her world of flying:
That you don't just hop on a plane and expect to get anywhere: you've got to plan ahead.
That you always need to know in which direction you're headed.
To know better than to expect appreciation from the safely-seated passengers at the back for going through turbulent times alone in the cockpit
To recognize that a journey never goes back to Point Zero
And to always remember to make a Plan B, but not be disappointed when God puts a Plan Z in your way- it may be your best plan yet. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Post-its were born by mistake

It was 1968, and Dr Spencer Silver was seated at his laboratory, trying to create a super-strong adhesive. One like no other. Instead, he came up with the complete opposite: an adhesive so weak it could easily be removed and reused. Dr Silver had failed.

What would I have done in this situation?
A. Embarrassingly cover-up my failure and continue my search for the great adhesive
B. Laugh about my failure: maybe write another 'Why oh Why?' blog-post
C. Try to stop my bawling for enough time to send a resignation e-mail to my boss

Dr Silver didn't, however, choose to deal with this using any of the three approaches. For the next five years, he promoted his little non-sticky secret, until the great day for all of us came when a colleague decided to use them in the form of Post-its.

The next time you don't get the result you want, think about Post-its. You might well have invented a phenomena by mistake.

What would we have done without these?
Image from Post-it®

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