Category Archives: Growing Up

“2012 Taught Me…” – A Lessons Learned Survival Guide for 2013

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s true what they say, “The days are long but the years are short.” In a blink of an eye, another year has passed and here we are at the dawn of 2013, with the promises of new beginnings, the fresh desire to keep resolutions, and a hope for a year filled with better long days than the last. But it’s no secret that before we stood at this very point, the past few weeks may have been filled with moments of reflection on 2012.

Let’s face facts … every year is more or less the same. We come across drastic ups and downs. We test ourselves and our capabilities to their very limits. We fail and we fall down only to stand back up again and achieve. We make plans for days that eventually don’t allow us to follow through with those plans. But most importantly, we learn and learn and learn and learn constantly, with each passing day, lessons we knew we’d one day grasp only by first hand experience.

While thinking about lessons learned in the last days of 2012, I remembered an experiment I did once on Karma a while back, which actually turned out to be incredibly stimulating. With that said, I decided that it was time for another experiment, and what better way to start 2013 than with a bit of collective inspiration? Thus it began … I sent out a message asking people, from close friends to strangers, to complete the following sentence:

2012 taught me…

New year 2013

The response was incredible! Whereas I initially expected I might receive one-word answers, I quickly realized that my respondents were more than willing to provide detailed stories of their deepest challenges or greatest successes. Inspiring stories filled my inbox one after the other after the other. Because of that, I apologize from now for not being able to do those stories justice at all in this one measly post. But it also made me realize what a brilliant idea it is to share lessons learned from 2012 with all who are willing to listen.

From reading the responses, I was able to break them all into five clear categories … five categories I believe we are all constantly shaping and learning from as the years go by.  Listen closely, dear readers, these lessons are gold.

For the lessons we learn on the self, 2012 taught me…

To believe in myself and never doubt myself or what I’m capable of.

How to see myself from the outside, to know my flaws, and to sincerely apologize when I have hurt someone.

That I’m stronger than I thought I was.

To put myself first and realize that it’s ok.

To stop holding myself back from the me I never get to express.

To create space for myself to grow into the real and true “me.”

That it’s ok to be confident enough to believe in yourself.

To manage my adulthood responsibilities without losing my ability to be a child at heart.

That we are defined by how we speak about ourselves not by what others think of us.

That real success only comes when you know YOU can excel. It comes when you realize that you CAN outshine everyone else.

For the lessons we learn on the people around us, 2012 taught me…

No people are closer to you than your own blood; never forsake them for they will never let you down.

To never let anyone decide for you what you’ll do with your life, although they may suffocate you with advice, it’s you who gets to live with the consequences.

That I can love someone else more than I love myself.

How to be strong for my family, especially for my mom.

That there are people out there with similar situations as mine and that I’m not alone in this world

To appreciate and cherish those who are close to me

The true value of having a family. They’re standing by me as I follow my dreams, as I absorb new experiences, and as I become someone they know they’ll have to rediscover.

That I am allowed to pick and choose who is worth my time and who isn’t.

To call my parents more often even though they never ask for it.

Surround yourself with those who share your goals, motivate you to reach them, and support you throughout.

That you can’t change people; you either have to accept them as they are or don’t

That some of the people we meet only exists to make us stronger and teach us lessons and make us believe that we always deserve a better life with better people

That you can’t force someone to show you respect, but you can refuse to be disrespected.

For the lessons we learn on time and making plans, 2012 taught me…

Life’s too short to be angry all the time.

That no matter how hard I try to plan out my life, God already has a plan for me. Plans don’t always work out and that’s okay.

That time is fleeting. Similarly to the metaphor of holding water in the palms of your hands, no matter how tightly you try to hold on, it slips away from you.

That life is just too short to waste on worry and regret. It showed me that we must keep moving forward.

That a new beginning is still ahead of me.

To live now and now.

To live everyday like it’s your last. Life is too precious and short to take any moment for granted.

The past is already where it belongs … in the past.

All could be lost, but it usually means that God is making way for new things in your life.

For the lessons we learn on overcoming the storm, 2012 taught me…

To have no expectations at all.

That nothing will break me anymore and I’ll always be strong enough to beat all those who try.

Not to give up no matter what, for the best is yet to come.

That although there are many things in this world that bring us down, we must pick ourselves back up and move on in order to succeed in life.

Life goes on.

That when the storm is over, the sun rises.

That with a little patience and persistence, you will rise above it all.

That no matter how bad things may seem at one point or another, it isn’t the end of the world. It always gets better, we always adapt, figure it out, or get over it.

Endurance. Life will constantly throw things at you from every angle. It’s up to you to find the strength to keep moving past it all.

Never wait for appreciation first hand. Rest assured the reward will eventually come.

For the lessons we learn on shaping our mentalities, 2012 taught me…

Never give up my dignity for anything or anyone.

How to love the simplicity of pure joy.

We have the capability to make a difference in the world we live in.

To let loose with silly dances like Gangnam style!

Its not about getting what you want, its about knowing how to keep what you’ve always wanted once you get it.

To pour my whole heart into all that I do and hope for the best.

To be thankful for all that I have and in turn, be the best I can be towards all those around me.

That second chances are possible.

To give more, love more, be as kind as my mom has shown me.

To appreciate learning something new everyday.

That each year is simply a number. If you haven’t achieved a least one significant thing in it then it will be a year forgotten, held against you.

To never lose hope because anything is possible when you try and thing positively.

Do what your heart yearns to do, be who you would like, love who you choose and thank God every second for what He has given you.

To have strength, perseverance and to always be humble.

With so many lessons brought about by the last year, I am happy to report that the majority of my respondents were ready, despite the lurking hardships and potential surprises, to face 2013 and all it had in store for them. So be ready my loves, 2013 is here, with a lesson embedded in each passing day. But if 2012 has taught us anything, it’s that we have survived so much thus far…plus a Mayan Apocalypse! Nothing can stop us from keep on keeping on now.

Happy New Year!

: : : Yes I was burned but I called it a lesson learned. Mistake overturned, so I call it a lesson learned. My soul has returned to I call it a lesson learned. Another lesson learned : : :

— Lesson Learned, Alicia Keys ft. John Mayer —

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To Drink or Not to Drink from the Fountain of Youth?

In an attempt to try and maintain some consistency with my writing, I subscribed to the Daily Post earlier this year. But despite their daily prompts and weekly writing challenges sent right to my email, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t exactly participated in this perfect channel of inspiration as much as I would have liked.

With that said, this post is a little late in the Daily Post game. A few days ago, I received a prompt asking:

If there were a real fountain of youth, would you drink the water?

After reading it, pondering my answer for a second, I clicked out of the email and  didn’t even give it another thought. That is until I was on the bus heading home the next day. A little old lady who I’ve seen before, got on the bus at her usual stop. She was always at the little seaside village near our neighborhood, shopping at the posh boutiques, reading on the benches by the beach, or having brunch at one of the classy restaurants I’ve been meaning to try out.

On the bus, she bumped into a friend and they launched into conversation on all of the wonderful things they had done that weekend. Of her elaborate plans, she mentioned that that weekend it was her birthday and she had turned 99 years old. Good thing they were sitting behind me because I couldn’t contain how baffled I was. My jaw dropped! Ninety-nine years old and the lady had a fuller weekend than I did! Just thinking about the kind of life she led from the little bits and pieces I got to see every once in a while brought me right back to the prompt. This lady didn’t seem to need a fountain of youth at all to live her life to the fullest.

Would I want to be young forever?

As a 20-something, I feel like we’re launched into a phase in our lives where we walk a fine line between young and carefree, grown up and responsible. It’s no wonder we hurdle ourselves into quarter life crises. The struggle through it all makes us think of the “good old days.” But I don’t think a fountain of youth could ever be the antidote.

Running into this lady reminded me that as much as I loved high school and the days that truly tested and shaped my personality; as much as I’m proud of all of my achievements during university; and as much as I often day dream about my engagement period and the build up to the wedding; there is still so much I want to experience, despite the struggles I might face along the way.

I want to see the day I finally make my parents grand parents. I want to feel what it means to be a mother. I want to watch my kids grow and experience the heartache that comes once they let go of your hand to run into kindergarten; and the frustration that comes with re-learning their science material just to help them with homework; and the pride that comes with watching them graduate.

I want to see the day my brother’s childrens’ books make him the next Dr. Seuss. I want to be the one to zip up my little sister’s dress on her wedding day. I even want to grow old and wrinkly with my husband knowing that 20 years from now, he’ll still be the most handsome man in my world.

As much as we may think that there is only so much we can do before we get older, there is  also so much we can’t experience if we stayed young forever. As for the struggles along the way, I think at some point, when we finally cross over to being adults not just by name but by action, we’ll be able to find that balance between being both carefree AND responsible. Maybe then we’ll be able to truly see the beauty of our lives, young or old, like my dear 99 year old friend.

So to drink from a fountain of youth? No thanks, it’s not for me. I intend to take each day as it comes … one day at a time.

: : : Now I’m just chasing time with a thousand dreams I’m holding heavy … Don’t tell me our youth is running out. We’ve only just begun : : :

— Youth, Foxes —

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Things My Mother Says: Love Yourself

If there’s anything I love most about my mother, it’s that she’s a giver. With her ability to so seamlessly give her love and kindness without ever wanting anything back makes her a true gift to the world around her. I grew up watching her do it … give pieces of her heart out over and over again, believing that with each little piece, she could make a difference in all who’s lives she touched. So it comes as no surprise to me when I see how much she is loved and respected in return.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be JUST like that. And now, more than ever, as a married woman with my life literally in my own hands to mold as I pleased, I wanted to shape it as a life of giving … just as she had.

Growing up, she had told me that I really was a giver; and I felt proud that I was finally following in her footsteps. It became my own personal mantra to believe that everyone deserved a bit of affection and kindness, and I wanted to be the one to grant it to them. But any giver would know as well as I do, how quickly the selfless joy of giving, once exhausted, becomes a fight to protect what little you have left.

The problem isn’t about appreciation or wanting anything in return. The problem is that suddenly you’re expected to give all the time. And expectations leave you feeling like you are constantly falling short … constantly disappointing.

So amidst my struggle to keep up with expectations, I ran to my mother—which, even when you’re married you never grow out of—for some kind of guidance. She had been doing it all of these years after all.

She said,

If you really want to be a giver, you must first give to yourself. You must first love yourself. When you love yourself, you strive for success and happiness in all that you do. But that doesn’t only include you. It includes the success and happiness in your every relationship, in your every behavior with others, and in your every course of life. You love yourself first so that you have the ability to love others too.
Love Yourself

Via The Ballerina Project

I always thought that “love yourself” was just another way to say that it was ok be selfish. But when my mother pointed out that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t only affect me, it all began to make better sense.

The only person I was falling short with was myself. I was so concerned in giving others what I felt they needed that I forgot about me. I put aside what I wanted; I constantly questioned if I was doing enough; and worst of all, I allowed the growing expectations to take priority over what was really important to me. Where did that get me? Bitterly hiding behind a defensive wall of “leave me alone.”

My dear givers, listen closely. I realized that not everybody gives the way we may give. So I began to give back to myself. I began to love myself. And in return, I finally filled the empty hole I dug from giving too much. Now, I’m slowly going back to being Karma’s good elf again, happily spreading the bit of love and kindness I still believe everyone deserves. But first and foremost, I’m giving that bit of love and kindness to me, and turns out, that’s what I’ve need all along.

: : : Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world : : :

— Eleanor Roosevelt —

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The Searching Place: A Twist on Dr. Seuss’ “Waiting Place”

Via Flickr: just.K

I have always been an avid lover of Dr. Seuss and his way with words and rhymes. Then again, who isn’t a fond follower of his work these days? Although it may be cliché, there’s no doubt that one of my favorite books of all time (no, not just as a child, but even until today) is his very own “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” The way he was able to capture some of life’s biggest lessons and embed them into relatable rhymes and well-needed advice gets me every time. If anything, I truly believe that that particular book hits the spot for us, as adults, more than it might for children. The way he allows us to reflect on our journeys through thick and thin, failures and successes, and insists that we can still make it through at the end of the day is probably the reminder we all need to hear to keep going.

There is one particular part in the book that I found myself constantly relating to: “The Waiting Place,” that scary, useless place made for people just waiting for something…ANYTHING to happen. In grown up talk, we might as well call it the dreaded “stand still.” It’s that horrible part of our lives where we have absolutely no idea where to go from there; the part where one phase ends and another has yet to begin, and we find ourselves stuck in the middle; it’s the part where we’re hoping and praying and painfully yearning for that damn opportunity to knock on the door already. Yes, we definitely have all been there.

But, since I moved across the world to New Zealand, amidst building a new life for myself, I realized that there was no part in my beloved “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” that defined this part of my life. This part was all about searching for my next step; searching for what to do next; searching for a way to build my routine; searching for answers; searching for new friends; constantly, constantly searching. It seems that beyond “The Waiting Place,” there comes a time where you just refuse to wait anymore and you have to take matters into your own hands. Thus begins the searching quest.

I realized that, in Dr. Seuss terms, we find ourselves in a whole different place, the Searching Place. At that point, it only seemed right that to truly introduce this phase of our lives, I would have to attempt to recreate and twist his Waiting Place into this place of searching, maintaining a similar rhyme and rhythm that could fit into my favorite story, like a missing puzzle piece.

With that said, I introduce to you my very own attempt at some Dr. Seuss magic:

The Searching Place,
…for people just searching.

Searching for a job to do
Or the words to write
Or a path that leads to a greater height
Or a friend you felt like you always knew
Or a dream you once lost but can now pursue
Or searching for a journey to delve into
Or searching for a way to bid adieu.
Everyone is just searching.

Searching for a frog to kiss
Or searching for a home filled with bliss
Or searching to fulfill your bucket list.

Or searching perhaps for a shooting star
Or a miracle, or the keys to your car
Or some faith, trust, or pixie dust
Or the yellow brick road, or a chance to adjust.
Everyone is just searching.

At first, I thought it would be more difficult to come up with rhymes to put my point across. I know myself as a writer. I’m wordy and blunt and talk in clichés, and I haven’t written a poem since learning about Haikus in the fourth grade. But here I was counting syllables and scraping my mind for words that rhyme with “do,” and eventually, somehow it all fell into place! Perhaps it was my love for Dr. Seuss and slight envy for his ability to string words together in such harmonious flow; or maybe that deep-set desire to find the missing link I felt suddenly lacked from that wonderful book; but most of all, I just wanted to paint an image, like he has done for us so many times, that would simply define this phase of our lives that we all pass through…our very own Searching Place.

Relate to it, I hope you do, for this quest of searching is almost through. And we’ll find our ways to move mountains too. Persist and I promise these words to be true.

: : : I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me! : : :

— I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, Dr. Seuss —

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What Comes After “Happily Ever After”

There are so many moments in our lives where we find ourselves standing at the edge of a cliff, a leap of faith calling out to us, and the lingering question of whether or not to take it agonizingly tossing and turning in our minds until we finally make our decisions. For anyone who knows me, or anyone who reads this blog, I don’t need to remind you of my stance on the topic. But just in case … I am and have always been a true advocate for leaps of faith and following in your dreams.

My advice has always been to take it. Calculate all you want, assess the pros and cons even, but for the love of God just jump. I guess it’s because I’ve always believed that there must be a reason as to why we found ourselves standing at that cliff in the first place. Really, the outcome can only go two ways: we either make it, which in that case would be a risk worth taking, or we don’t, which would be a potentially hurtful yet forcefully strengthening lesson learned.  But at that point, it all comes down to the question of what do we have to lose? Or better yet, what do we have to gain?

Via Flickr: Compact.Girl

For as far back as stories on leaps of faith go, we’ve all heard as well as told the tales of the struggles we’ve faced when our hopes to reach a greener side fell a little short. But what about those of us who actually made it? What happens next?  Even a Disney lover like myself knows there is far more to a story than “happily ever after.”

So three months ago, I took my leap of faith, got married, moved half way across the world, and found my happily ever after (which actually does kind of resemble the ending of a Romantic Comedy that leaves you with that warm, fuzzy feeling inside). And that warm, fuzzy feeling of “I did it, I actually made it, I’m finally where I want to be,” is one you’ll absolutely love dwelling in for as long as you can.

But that’s just it. When you’re standing up there on that cliff, in the moment you imagine the glorious place you want to be, do you actually know what that place even is? Whether it is getting married to the man of your dreams, landing your perfect job after college, finally moving to the city you wanted to moved to when you finished one phase of your life or other, it’s easy—and actually encouraged—to paint an ideal mental image, set a goal and work toward it with all we have in us. But aside from a set of ideals, do any of us really know what it looks like on the other side of a leap of faith?

When the “I did it” cloud eventually clears, you will suddenly find yourself staring right into a new beginning. You will realize that a leap of faith is not only a happily ever after, but a whole new story, and that can be just as scary as the decision to jump in the first place.

So when I first arrived in my new life, I expected to know exactly what to do and when to do it. I thought that after this success, I would once again ease into a rampage of achieving all of my goals and magically reaching all of my dreams, as I had been doing before I leapt. But it’s not that easy. It’s not supposed to be that easy.

In all of my honesty in revealing the other side of Happily Ever After, I’m afraid I may be scaring off those of you who are standing at the cliff as you read this. But, by all means, don’t stop! Jumping into the arms of a dream you’ve always hoped to follow is the most wonderful experience you may ever come across in your life. And when you finally feel the overwhelming bliss of accomplishment, the struggle of every step along the way becomes so worth it.

Don’t stop, not for a second. But once you land, remember …

Remember who you are despite the unfamiliar norms and expectations that will hover around you.

Remember that it’s ok to stop for a minute, take a step back, and let your new surrounding sink in before you hit the ground running.

Remember to take the time to learn. And in a foreign atmosphere where you’re beginning all over again, you are bound to learn something new everyday.

Remember that despite your potential craving for a bit of empathy, no one will understand the transformations you are undergoing better than yourself, nor should you expect them to.

Remember that just because you left behind the people, places or things that made up your comfort zone, you are not alone. You are never alone.

Remember to enjoy it – every minute, every new encounter, every one of your “firsts” in this new experience. It keeps the warm, fuzzy feeling always lingering in the air.

Most of all, remember that you cannot expect yourself to begin where you left off before taking a leap of faith, because that strong, passionate, brave decision to jump in the first place only proves your ability to bring yourself up again and again and again.  And what better time to bring yourself up than right now … as a beginning to your Happily Ever After.

: : : You can take everything I have. You can break everything I am like I’m made of glass; like I’m made of paper. Go on and try to tear my down. I will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper : : :

— Skyscraper, Demi Lovato —

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Our Greatest Fear and the Quarter Life Crisis

A little over a year ago, I graduated from university in a major I loved and a hunger to find my place in the real world. I felt like all the clichés of graduation symbolizing new beginnings were true and a door of endless possibilities was finally opened in front of me. But despite this romanticized view of such a pinnacle in my life, I ended up moving back home after eight years of living alone.

I will admit openly that my greatest fear—after checking off every goal on my mental university bucket list—was that I’d end up back home. Here, I was convinced my passions would be forcefully stalled until I was able to find a way out. And because of that fear, I felt like my life was at a standstill.

Throughout this time, the person I probably complained to most was my little sister. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. One day, as we were lying on the bottom bunk of our childhood bunk beds, she said:

“I just had an epiphany! Think of it this way…before, you were a caterpillar and now you’re in a cocoon and soon you’ll be a beautiful butterfly!”

Before I go any further, please don’t mistaken this for any REAL wisdom my 17-year-old sister would give—she actually is quite wise! (We actually laughed at this ridiculous idea for ages, and saved it in a note on my phone titled “Funny conversations with Noor”). So, no, I never took the silly cocoon idea seriously.

With time, I picked up a great training opportunity with a Fortune 500 company, fell into a comfortable routine, and I’ve always loved living with my family. So home wasn’t so bad after all. But was I making dreams come true? Moving mountains? Awakening the greatness within? Not really.

But then, a year of living at home had passed and only a few months were left before I’d leave again. I started to question what if Noor was right? What if, since I’ve been home I entered into a cocoon that kept me sheltered and gave me an excuse to hide away from the world? What if my passions were meant to stay pending for what seemed to be the right time? What if, after I finally found comfort, love and support here, I wasn’t ready to leave?

In the midst of my inability to answer my own questions, I realized something very important: I was definitely in a quarter life crisis.

Search this term online and you’ll find hundreds of articles trying to explain this psychological trap us 20-somethings fall in. They try to give reasons as to why we become aimless graduates. They criticize us for our inability to choose or follow a path when we reach a fork in the road. In fact, we apparently are so knee-deep in this sudden panic of trying to figure out what comes next that we aren’t even sure if we want to choose from the options in front of us. And the sad part is that the majority of us reach a point where we truly do fall under one category or other that defines the symptoms of a quarter life crisis.

But despite all the research and the strangely accurate explanations that make you feel like a walking cliché, I came to the realization that it’s not just about the fear of what comes next. It’s about the fear of living up to expectations. And possibly the hardest expectations to overcome are your own.

Who doesn’t have ambitions, aspirations, passions, or a flat out bucket list they hope to fulfill? We all do. We all know exactly what we want…or at least have a pretty good idea of it. But the problem is that we have a tendency to shy away from really pursuing it when the moment finally presents itself. We don’t fear what comes next. We don’t fear falling into society’s norms. We fear chasing our dreams and failing to achieve them. We fear listing the things we truly want in case we fall short of acquiring them. We fear disappointing ourselves.

And so the excuses begin. Life is unfair. We don’t know what we want. We can’t do it. And no, we’re just never ready.

Looking back at my year at home, I now realize how psychotic it was to try and convince myself that I was in a cocoon that sheltered me from exposing my passions. I feared I wasn’t ready to move on after finding my place back home. I feared being able to make it like I once did before. But if I were to stick to that ridiculous metaphor, then a cocoon’s real purpose is to allow transformation to grow within it; to foster strength, beauty and prepare the being within for something much bigger.

My time here has been anything but a standstill. It has been a tornado of lessons learned, some of which I’m still learning; and a storm of tests, some of which I’ve failed. And my greatest privilege is to have experienced every step of it with my family, who not only supported me, but also taught me and tested me. In all my eight years of living alone, I did not experience struggle, then smooth sailing; discouragement, then encouragement; ultimate lows, then ultimate highs like I did in one year living at home.

The quarter life crisis warns that us 20-somethings have a tendency to stumble into a race we may not want to be part of just to escape ending up in our old childhood bedrooms. But home gave me a moment to slow down, remember my dreams, and look for the path that would allow me to follow them. Home stopped me from rashly falling into just any race and reminded me to run my own.

I believe that we create our own expectations because we are the only ones who are completely aware of our capabilities. We are the only ones who are completely aware of the extent of our reach. And I wish I could promise you that nothing will stand in your way but something will. Life always will. All I know is that in a little over a month, life is going to break me out of that cocoon whether I’m ready or not. I can choose either to fly, or fear. And I’m done with fear for now.

: : : Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us : : :

– – A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson – –

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Quote of the Moment

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

-John Lennon

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