Lessons from Twenty-Fifteen

Hello everyone!

I haven’t written in this blog for over a year! So, so, so much has changed. First of all, I am no longer nineteen, I have hit the big 2-1. I’m also not in my second year of University anymore, I am in my fourth year of Uni and last year of law school. And of course, during this period I sort of disappeared, so many events have occurred in my life, part of me has grown and become so much wiser, and part of me has remained my same old, flawed self.

However, the coming post is to update you on the adventure I had the privilege of going through this past summer. But before I go into that, I’d like to give a brief account of what the haps of 2015 were. The adventure will be in the next post (or post above).

Well, I’m going to be extremely honest and candid here and not sugarcoat anything- and if this offends you well there’s not much I can do. This post is mainly to motivate and inspire and let people see the silver lining in every dark situation and  to keep pushing through.

So to begin with, I came back home in 2015 after my summer break not in the best mindset, I had some difficulties with some people at University and I just wanted a fresh start but living in a city so small, I knew it wasn’t going to be possible. However, to keep it short, I ended up coming back, got involved with a few initiatives and groups, cut out a bunch of not-so-good people from my life and stepped down as president from the group I created in my first year because studies and workload was overwhelming and I had to take care of myself for a bit.

During this time, someone I had cut out of my life reached out to me expressing how horrible she felt about not having a relationship with me anymore and me being the empathetic person I am, immediately believed her and we met up and spoke. This same person took over my old group and I was still very supportive and offered my advice and assistance whenever I could. We became friends again and everything seemed fine, but unfortunately, I was put in the same circle I had made sure to leave before my summer break. To move this on a bit, it didn’t take much time before this same person kicked me out of that group I created (even kicked me out of the social media page I set up with original content, and sent some pretty mean texts). Another person in that circle gave me the cold shoulder relating to another matter and refused to speak to me (included a bunch of other things that I really don’t want to get into) and I eventually decided to end communication completely with her (funny enough, she continued trying to get in contact with me after I ceased contact and moved on with my life, but the damage was already done). And of course the odd childish, immature texts/ giving me the evils/ calling me weird and ‘too sensitive’ (as if that’s such an insult)  went on from the rest of the members of that toxic circle.

At this point, I was over the bullying and waste of space and time from these individuals and cut out every, single person. After all, we weren’t kids anymore (at least I wasn’t) and it was time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself and move on.

I mean, maybe if you read the above you’d be like “come on, that doesn’t sound too bad.” But honestly, I just cannot be bothered writing everything related to the issue because I’m pretty over it and all of them and refuse to play the silly games they play. But it was pretty bad and damaging to the point where I almost didn’t sit a practical assessment I had (which would result in an immediate failure of the paper). But luckily, with the support of my older sister and knowing that my partner in the assessment relied on me and I didn’t want to let her down, and my lecturers words of wisdom to me, made me push through and I ended up actually getting a decent grade on that assessment.

So Lesson #1: Don’t ever, ever, ever let anyone stop you from your education and the things you are passionate about.

And Lesson #2: If you  are passionate about something, and someone screws you over, don’t you ever, ever give up! You go out there and do what you were born to do a hundred times better and stronger!

It was such a struggle seeing those people the first few months after all those incidents happened, and every time someone would ask me about the group related to the issue, I would bite my tongue and refused to stoop down to their level by badmouthing them. (Of course, now I’m more outspoken about the issue because I realize you can be truthful and honest without being rude and mean).

After all this, I ended up spending a lot more time alone and just focusing on doing things that made me more productive. It really made me see how much you can succeed on your own and accomplish things when you don’t have people blocking you.

So I stumbled upon an advertisement of a competition organized by the ICRC and NZ Red Cross on Missing persons in armed conflicts using International Humanitarian Law(IHL). Now I knew from the very beginning that Human Rights Law and International Law were my areas of interest but stumbling on IHL was such a wake-up call and the area that I fell in love with at first sight.  So I began writing, and I wrote about Syria and Palestine, and after I submitted it, I didn’t dwell on it. In fact, I immediately assumed when I received an email back that I didn’t win the competition but by the Grace of God, turns out I had won first place and scored myself to an International Law conference in Wellington with flights and accommodation included. So I after a bit of a rocky start trying to convince my parents to go, I eventually packed my bags and flew solo to Wellington for the first time ever.

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Wellington was a city I fell in love with the moment I looked out of the window and saw the landscape mid-air. I was fasting at the time as it was Ramadan but I honestly couldn’t care less! This city was magic. From the artwork in the street, to the beautiful victorian buildings (at one point there was a Burger King in a very fancy old building and I found it extremely amusing), to meeting the new Syrians at the Kebab Shop, the buskers, the late night cafes, and exploring the city solo and with a friend. I would finish the conference and immediately run outside between breaks (when people were having lunch) and go to the Beehive and Parliament buildings and just enjoy every moment of it. I even go to visit the Red Cross Offices and received amazing material and resources from them.

And the owner of the house I was staying at was the nicest and kindest woman ever, truly a gem ! I just loved Wellywood, the wind would occasionally make my Hijab fly in my face but ultimately it was wonderful!

First time riding a train, ahhhh!

First time riding a train, ahhhh!

My university was extremely supportive of my achievement and I truly felt like slowly my pieces and life was molding itself back into the normalcy it once was.

(See here for article written by my law faculty). 

So Lesson #3: Don’t be in a circle just for the sake of having one. A circle can either be your circle of failure or circle of success. And trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in the first one. There is no shame in being alone. Quality over quantity any day.

I ended up after this enrolling in a Law paper on the Law of Armed Conflict at our university with my best friend and mentor and it was a delicious paper (yes, I just called the paper delicious because the information and knowledge we gained from it was superb).

I was also selected as one of 30 youth in New Zealand to attend a BootCamp for Campaigners and was partially sponsored by Oxfam NZ.

Although I haven’t spoken to many of the participants since then, I still keep updated with their lives and my God they are such amazing, inspiring influencers. They don’t know how much they influence me even though we don’t talk much anymore. I was pretty down after a spending a week with those change-makers but the camp refreshed me and made me so very motivated to tackle the issues I am passionate about.

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Lesson #4: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals! Go out there and find opportunities to be in the presence of people who empower you and help increase your knowledge on important issues in our society.

 

I then also was nominated by my sister for the Westpac Women of Influence Awards 2015 and was selected as a finalist in the Young Leaders Category. It was truly such a humbling and magnificent honor! I was nominated alongside amazing women that included Parris Goebel (you may know her as the choreographer of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ Music Video).

Sorry it's not great quality, can't find the original one. But this is my sisters and I at Skycity on the big day.

Sorry it’s not great quality, can’t find the original one. But this is my sisters and I at Skycity on the big day.

 

Lesson #5: Cherish the good moments. As simple as it sounds. Remember them, and use those memories to keep you persevering in the challenges you might face later.

There are so many other things that took place in 2015 (LIKE A LOT) but the last one I’ll mention is my experience to join my first Mooting Competition. It was on International Humanitarian Law and was organized by the ICRC and NZ Red Cross.

So I put my name down, got paired up with another Law student and we had to audition (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) twice in two days in front of law lecturers and professionals. I ended up making it through to represent my law faculty alongside with three other students (as counsel, research clerk, and coach, respectively).

Well, I’m not gonna lie, the process of the preliminary rounds were extremely stressful for me and I cried a lot which brings me to,

Lesson #6:  Try to keep your complaints to a minimum, and if you do have to complain, make sure it’s to someone who will never use it against you. It can seriously backfire.

But anyway, we ended up flying together to Wellington as a team and it was one of my favorite experiences. My team was amazing and supportive and I wish I would have made more of the opportunity.

So you may have already guessed it but Lesson #7:  Make the most of every opportunity. Don’t let fear slow you down and ruin your moment. After I finished the competition, I realized just how fun it was and there was no reason to be so anxious.

A big shout out and thanks to our Coach who was the most patient and encouraging guy ever. I mean, I literally sat in front of my computer late at night sobbing my eyes out like a maniac while he patiently tried to calm me and pep talk me. Not gonna lie, I kind of feel embarrassed, but he’s so cool that he would never use it against me.

Teams from Waikato, Auckland Uni, AUT, Otago, and Victoria at the Old High Court in Wellington.

Teams from Waikato, Auckland Uni, AUT, Otago, and Victoria at the Old High Court in Wellington.

I’m getting kinda drowsy writing this, and I do have a really big day tomorrow, so I’m gonna end it here. I hope you enjoyed reading this and thank you so much if you read the whole thing!

Life can be a bit of  a downer at times, but please know that you are able to change the course of your future and if you are adiment, no one can stand in your way.

The next post will contain the amazing journey of getting chosen to be one out of 11 Kiwi Youth to join the Ship for World Youth program. Now thats a post that encompasses so much positivity and love and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.

 

Aroha and Salam,

Shay.

And Ramadan Mubarak!

And Ramadan Mubarak!

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Dear Friend

(First and foremost this post isn’t about one person specifically, its very general.)

They ask me why I wanted so badly to leave. Why I wanted to go back home and find my identity. Why I couldn’t stand being there a second longer. Why I couldn’t take being with them for further than that.

Because when we cry at night, we cry for very different reasons.
You’re crying about a lovers quarrel and puppy love or how your favorite fictional character from a t.v. show has just died.
I shed tears for all the cruel bloodshed that’s happening in many places around the world.
I cry because I am scared…I am terrified that I will never be good enough. That I will never be strong enough to make any sort of change or impact in this merciless world.

While you strut around taking photographs of a coffee at Starbuks, or a happy meal at McDonalds, my mind is too busy racing trying to plan a demonstration against these places and thinking of ways to convince people to stop spending even a penny towards weapons used against unarmed and innocent civilians in Palestine.

And though you have an Arabic background, you so proudly claim, “America is my home!” How? How can you admit to that when they are the reason that your ancestors have been robbed off of their true home?
And although I have never been to any one of the countries I am originally from, I will still proudly claim any day where I am from!

We speak so much about doing things and speaking out. And yet…when we are put in the situation and that position you left me and walked away choosing silence over virtue and basic morals.

Yes… I am sensitive and shed tears quite a lot but I will always have a sort of fierceness and pride that fuels my strength to continue doing whatever it is I can do.
But in my heart I have a sadness, that kind when you feel like something is squeezing your heart and you can’t seem to get rid of it. Because I know in the heart of my heart, that you could be wonderful and have a massive effect if you finally let yourself speak.

For too long….for too long I have been saying and using the excuse…. ‘But I’m only 15.’ ‘But I’m only 16’ ‘But I’m only 17.’ That’s not what the typical 11 year old of Syria nowadays and Gaza said when his parents were murdered and has to take upon raising his sibling alone.
When we were 12 we were too busy running around and having fun, creating good memories with our families completely oblivious to the fact that there is someone our age trying to run a family.

The thing is, I love you my friend, I really do. But I’m struggling to keep up on who is dating who and boybands and materialistic things. I’m struggling with finding more reasons to try and respect you when you won’t even spare a minute to look up a video on what is happening to your people rather than the latest mainstream song.

My friend, I am not trying to scold you, I am just trying to finally let yourself open your eyes.
That we’re as young right now in this moment as we will ever be. And our actions right now are what’s important. You underestimate how much effect you can cause if you take the initiative and first step towards helping those who need us.

It won’t always be easy. At even younger than I am now, I have been looked down upon from my own friends whenever I spoke of what is happening around the world and how we need to step up and raise our voices. I have been ridiculed and scoffed at when I spoke of revolutions.
I have made my opinions heard on any online site I could because it was the closest thing to taking action I could do from where I lived. And I have been humiliated publicly. I have been called the worst of names. But do you think that has stopped me?
Do you think that made me disappear and resort into becoming a ‘typical and ordinary teenager’?
I’m still here. I’m still writing. And I will continue on speaking my mind out and writing.

I have as far as I can remember loved speaking and saying the truth but I by no means am saying that I was always this way in specific. Growing up, I’ve had my share of rebel youth stages. It’s understandable.
And some might argue that even now, I have a sense of immaturity in me. But so what?
You can still hold on to both sides of your world.
You will still make jokes, and listen to music and watch the latest episode, but at least now you are also making a change.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sa) said:

“He who removes from a believer one of his difficulties of this world, Allah will remove one of his troubles on the Day of Resurrection; and he who finds relief for a hard-pressed person, Allah will make things easy for him on the Day of Resurrection; he who covers up (the faults and sins) of a Muslim, Allah will cover up (his faults and sins) in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah supports His slave as long as the slave is supportive of his brother…” [Muslim]

Change. Speak up. Do something….I dare you.

Achievements

Do you ever feel like you havent really done much in life?
No matter how young or old you may be, sometimes we get that feeling that, ‘Hey, all these years just flew by, and what have i really done that worth being proud of?’

For some, getting good grades in school or Uni isnt enough. Finally finding a job isnt as satisfying as they thought it would be.And we all need that push, that motivation to keep us going. So that, yeah, i may not be in the perfect school, i may not have the best friends, i may have a sucky job at the moment, but at least i know that for now…i have something i can be proud of.

Everybody needs that. Whether your 13, 18, 26, 85 (Well if you’re healthy enough but you’ve probably had something to be proud of anyways) .
What i’m talking about here is pretty simple things.

For instance, a ten year olds achievement could be to win the international spelling bee contest. And i’ll say this from now, it may seem small, but in the long run its these small things that could very well be our driving force.

A 13 year old might win the local skateboarding competition.

Now keep in mind, it doesnt always have to be about winning.
For example, the Muslims sacred book (The Holy Quran). For one to memorise the Quran or memorize just a few ‘Surahs’ is an achievement itself.

To write a book, maybe it wont get published, but who really cares, as long as youre satisfied with what you’ve written and even if its only read by your family and friends in the meantime, that itself is an achievement. Because lets face it, people can barely stick to a blog let alone finish writing a whole book.

My point is, I’ve realised this lately. That you really do need to start something worth doing in your life right now.
Its these stories that you’ll be telling your nephews/nieces/grandkids one day.
And its the stories you’ll look back on when your old and weak and still smile, because you’ve done something brilliant once upon a time.

Another thing is also, what these goals or achievements can do to you. The affect they can have on you.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Henry David Thoreau

Think about how this specific thing will impact your life and make you a better person. Focus on those positive things you can do in life.
Watch that movie ‘Pay it Forward‘. May it could inspire you, because maybe your achievement could be helping someone or many people.

And if you already have a goal, but are going through a rough patch, then heres a quote from the brilliant Chuck Norris.
“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish. “

So be patient, be strong and it’ll be worth it.
Sometimes getting in touch with your religious side and gaining that extra faith is something to be extremely proud of.

So heres a hi-5 and badge for all of you out there who are achieving, have achieved or are thinking of achieving a goal in your life.

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Again, wishing you a brilliant day ahead of you :]

Missions and Matters

Have you ever had one of these phases in life where you have a mission?

Maybe its a mission to help someone for a period of time with something.
Maybe its a mission to  higher your grades.
Maybe its a mission to change.
Maybe its a mission to maintain a friendship.

The list goes on and on and on and on.
And in these moments, most of us find ourselves completely and utterly lost.
Lost in so many ways. Things arent going the way you expected, disrespect from colleagues/ friends/ family, too much pressure, and your mind cant thing clearly and you dont know how to react.

Again and again i’ll say this, no matter what age you are, we all deal with the same feelings, different situations- yes, but otherwise, our feelings are all there.
A 45 year old may look at a 35 year old and say, ‘thats the golden age, when everythings sorted, they have no idea what a problem really is.’ And a 35 year old may look at a 23 year old and think the same. And the same with a 17 year old to a 12 year old.

So yes, some problems may be more difficult than others, but we all have the same emotions to deal with.

Anyways, my point here is that, there will always be that person who builts a brick in front of you. And each day a brick is put, the higher the wall becomes. Im here to tell you, dont let it come to that, dont let that wall get too high that your standing there with no weapons in your hands, and no one to help you break that wall down.
What you need to do is shut everyone else out and focus on your goal, on your mission. Whether its short term or long term.

Many may think this is all so very corny, but this is the truth. I bet you every 10 seconds someone is frustrated and wanting to give up on whatever it is theyre going through or doing.

“It’s not the cards you’re dealt it’s how you play the game” via Chris Pardo

So that quote explains alot actually, who cares if there is something or someone in your life thats making everything a little harder for you, its up to you to decide what to prioritize.
Sort of like that very popular phrase, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” But instead of that, you can add your on twist. How bout making a Lemon Cheesecake?
Or maybe smear it all of your hair for a change! Make your very own lemon tea.

My point is, be creative! Think of ways to deal with the situation instead of giving up, because really, if we do think negatively, we’re really only hurting ourselves in the end.
Its our future, our choices, so lets choose them wisely.

And to end this, heres a little poem i came across recently, and i hope it will make you smile and inspire you a little bit more:

Just One
Unknown

One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal

One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey.
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what’s true,

One life can make a difference,
You see, it’s up to you!

Wishing you the best in life,

Another Teenager