Health Care Health Wellness

If you’re still having quarandreams, you’re not alone

Even when the world is not dealing with a pandemic, sleep can be a hard thing to come. As the world figures out its next steps, it’s easy for stress to take hold, and that stress can be stopping us from getting a good night’s rest.

Going to bed stressed can, unfortunately, become a cycle. When you lay your head down at night and can’t stop overthinking or feel as though your heart is hammering outside of your chest, your body can’t get into a relaxed state. Instead, as you continue to not sleep, enough your body boosts stress hormones.

According to, the brain chemicals connected to deep sleep are also the ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. The boost of stress hormones that comes with not sleeping only leads to you becoming more stressed, creating a cycle that makes it continually difficult to sleep.

The stress you feel in your day-to-day life can also manifest itself in dreams. During the pandemic, it has become common to hear how people’s dreams are becoming more vivid and strange. They have even been officially dubbed “quarandreams.” This is due to the fact that we’re all stuck at home. Instead of your brain pulling from the things you did and saw that day, it is acclimating to being in the same environment day in and day out. Quarantine is forcing our subconscious to dig into past experiences and other things we might be looking at while home to stitch together a dream with little inspiration.

Additionally, not getting enough sleep due to stress can cause bad moods and a lack of focus. Since most people are currently working from home or attempting to be productive during this time, not being able to focus is less than ideal. How can one effectively participate in conference calls and meetings when their energy is low, and all they want to do is get back into their beds? While at the same time knowing that sleep is elusive. Stress and sleep can create a catch-22.

So here is what can be done to get better sleep:


Aromatherapy picture
[Image Description: A small bottle of essential oils next lavender.] Via Pexels
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been lulled to sleep by the whirring of a humidifier and the soft sounds of a diffuser. Each night I put essential oils into the diffuser so that the smell of lemon or frank and sense fills my room. These smells help make things more peaceful. This is because aromatherapy is all about allowing scents to affect our brain activity. If you’re someone struggling to fall asleep, consider making a small but helpful change by putting a diffuser into your room.


A Black woman with braids wearing an orange top and black yoga pants while mediating outside.
[Image Description: A Black woman with braids wearing an orange top and black yoga pants while meditating outside.] Via Pexels
Luckily sleep troubles are not uncommon, and there are natural remedies out there to help. One of them being meditation. Before it became commonplace for people to meditate, it seemed as though it was a practice restricted to yogis and monks. Those preconceived notions have been proven false as numerous people meditate to quell anxieties and gain moments of peace. It turns out that mindful meditation is especially helpful to those having trouble sleeping. Clearing 20 minutes out of your day to find a quiet spot and meditate can aid in causing your body to be more relaxed and can also help squash racing thoughts.


A woman sitting in the grass holding a notebook and pen.
[Image Description: A woman sitting in the grass holding a notebook and pen.] Via Pexels
Another natural remedy that can help you work through your stress is journaling. You can take time throughout your day to sit and write down how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking about. Putting down thoughts on paper can lessen the racing thoughts you may deal with at night. It’s always better to sort out exactly what’s causing you stress in order to deal with it. I started journaling during the school year and have found it helpful to work through things I may not be comfortable telling other people.

Living through a pandemic is no easy task. There isn’t a book that can walk all of us through how we “should” be feeling. One thing that we do know is that sleep is a vital part of our daily routines, and we should treat it as such. 

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History It Happened Once

I Googled the Salem Witch Trials so you don’t have to – and they are hella confusing

As a part of our Halloween series this year, since we’ll be mentioning witches a lot, let’s talk about the Salem Witch Trials and how the events that took place do not make any sense.

Honestly, after reading a bunch about the “trials,” I still do not really understand what happened or why it happened. Suggestions about fungus causing illnesses and other analyses on political issues within Salem at the time are speculations that are often used to try to explain the trials. But, you have to admit that there are a bunch of missing pieces in the story. The whole thing sounds like complete chaos to me!

I have so many questions. Like, why did they randomly believe the claims of young girls without any true evidence? Who really thought that allowing spectral evidence was a good idea? How were the accused supposed to prove to a court that they were not actually witches? And lastly, what were the true reasons and motivations behind this tragedy?

So let me explain what all went down in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.  It all began when the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village, began having violent fits, intense contortions, and uncontrollable outbursts such as screaming. After a local doctor in Salem could not find anything physically wrong with 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris an 11-year-old Abigail Williams, he diagnosed them and other young girls within the community that showed similar behaviors and symptoms with bewitchment. This first diagnosis of witchcraft led to the imprisonment of over 200 people and 20 hangings throughout Massachusetts.

Puritan pioneers first settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. During this time, the Puritan communities established their own theocratic government systems. Theocracy is a form of government largely led and structured by those who believed to be divinely guided. The government and legal system are structured based on religious law.

You still with me?

The Puritans believed that the Devil could give individuals on Earth powers in return for their loyalty. (and that isn’t even the most ridiculous claim) Those who received powers from the Devil were called witches. The principle of witchcraft became prevalent in 14th century Europe, where between the 1300s and 1600s, thousands of people, the majority being women, were executed for accusations of witchcraft. Under the legal structure in Salem, an individual who consorted with the Devil was considered a criminal. The punishment for committing such a crime was hanging, yikes!

During the time of the Salem Witch Trials, the community was stressed and struggling. The King William’s War put a strain on the community’s resources. Additionally, there was a rivalry between wealthy families and the working class that depended on forms of agriculture. There was also an on-going smallpox epidemic and fear of attack from neighboring Native Americans. The stressful and anxiety-fueled climate of the community led to ongoing tensions and suspicions among the Puritan villagers.

After the diagnosis of bewitchment, a few of the “bewitched” young girls blamed three women for bewitching them. The first is Tituba, an enslaved woman from the Caribbean bought by the Reverend Parris. The second woman was Sarah Good, a homeless beggar.  And lastly, an impoverished elderly woman named Sarah Osborne. Of course, all three of the accused women were considered “outsiders” based on race and/or class. (Is anyone shocked?)

It remains unclear if the girls were persuaded or forced to accuse these three women. However, I think that the social statuses and positions of the women in society should be considered when trying to interpret the potential reasons that these three women in particular were actually accused of the crime of witchcraft.

This is where the whole thing launched full speed into a downward spiral to me. The imprisonment of the three women led to further paranoia in a society that already suffered from numerous stresses. Good and Osborne claimed that they were not guilty; while Tituba confessed and named other witches who were working along with her against the Puritans to receive repentance. In response to Tituba claiming other individuals were also practicing witchcraft, the governor of Massachusetts ordered the establishment of the Court of Oyer and Terminer to pass judgment on witchcraft cases.

The accusations of witchcraft continued to spread across the Massachusetts colonies against mostly women and a few men (which I did not know). Similarly to Tituba, those accused confessed and named others who practiced witchcraft. The court allowed testimony based on spectral evidence. This refers to evidence that is based on visions, dreams, and a person’s spirit. The testimony was based on witnesses claiming that they interacted with or saw a person’s spirit, in place of basing testimony on a person’s physical actions. The trails lacked focus on truth and investigation. Under religious practices, the courts preferred that the accused confessed, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to not engage with the Devil again.

After years and the (unlawful) deaths and imprisonment of so many people, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was finally replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, the testimony of spectral evidence was no longer allowed, and the trials were deemed unlawful. In 1697, the General Court ordered a day of fasting and soul-searching due to the events that had occurred during the trials. Additionally, in 1711, the families affected received reinstitution and the restoration of the names. However, it was not until the 1950s that Massachusetts formally apologized for the event.

The whole story is definitely a lot to digest, but it did give me a lot to think about.

While many aspects of the Salem Witch Trails are perplexing, within this tragedy remains lessons that should be reflected on and questioned today. It remains crucial to have objectivity, to think about the consequences of unjustly punishing individuals, to be cautious of the use of fear within the justice system, and to foresee the damages of groupthink going unquestioned.

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Science Now + Beyond

This is the number one question about dreams that scientists have been unable to answer

A third of our lives is spent sleeping.

This is a seemingly simple fact but one that always shocks me when I have a night of insomnia and I painfully wish for the sun to come out quicker. Almost everyone dreams for at least two of those hours spent sleeping, whether they can remember it or not.

During that time, the average person has between three and six different dreams per night, which are thought to last between five and 20 minutes. Most dreams, particularly the more vivid ones occur during the REM phase of sleep. However, around 90% of these dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed.

Nonetheless, while scientists have studied and determined the many benefits of sleep for our health (regulates our metabolism, brain function, blood pressure, etc.), there is still no one answer to the question – why do we dream?

In the early civilizations, it was believed that dreams were a way of contacting with the divine world. Roman and Greek civilizations used to emphasize the prophetic powers of dreams. However, the most well-known theory of dreams of the Western World is the Freudian one. In An Interpretation of Dreams, Freud argues that dreams are the mechanisms by which the self can express its suppressed desires.

Nowadays, the Freudian ideas have been discarded, although there are scientists that still believe that there is a close connection between memory, emotions, the processing of information, and the purpose of dreaming.

At the end of the day, most people dream of things that they can recognize.

The memory consolidation theory is one that defends the connection between dreams and memory. It states that it is in the night when the brain processes everything that has happened during the day.

Cristina Marzano and her colleagues from the University of Rome’s Department of Psychology have proven in a scientific study that the neurophysiological mechanisms that we employ while dreaming, and recalling dreams, are the same as when we construct and retrieve memories while we are awake. This would explain why most of the things that we dream of are based on people and events of our lives.

This is related to the mood regulatory function theory which states that dreams serve to problem-solve emotional issues. Neuroscientist Rosalind Cartwright, also known as The Queen of Dreams, has stated that dreams are the mechanisms used by the brain to incorporate memories, solve problems, and deal with emotions. Therefore, dreams are essential for our emotional health.

Of course, there is also a scientific current of thought that argues that dreams have no function at all. This is called the activation-synthesis hypothesis and it argues that dreams are caused by the firing of electrical impulses of the brain during the REM phase of sleep. However, the fact that animals, particularly mammals, also dream, points out to the idea that they must have some evolutionary or survival purpose.

A study from the University of Turku argues that dreams are a way for us to prepare ourselves for possible future threats. This is the threat simulation theory. This study focused on children that had suffered trauma and looked at how their dreams recreated that trauma to prepare them for something similar occurring in the future. Dreams are, therefore, an evolutionary ability, according to this study, aimed at ensuring survival.

One aspect that all of these theories have in common is that we dream more or remember them much more vividly during times of stress and anxiety. Therefore, dreams might be a sort of coping mechanism to help us process information and emotions.

We know that we dream every night. We know where they come from. We know that there must be a reason for them, yet we still haven’t been able to prove any one reason. For all we know, there might not be one reason, it might, in fact, differ from person to person. Until then, let’s keep dreaming.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.


Why do Desi parents crush their daughters’ overseas career dreams?

Girls’ education in Pakistan continues to face roadblocks and questions beyond gaining literacy. This is not a generalizing statement for a country that is home to Malala Yousafzai, who was nearly killed for simply going to school and being an education activist. While her case describes the ideas around girls’ education in places like Swat valley, even within urban centers like Lahore, girls choosing to take offbeat college destinations abroad are met with eyebrows, resistance and often rejection from within families.  

I have always believed that acquiring an education should know no bounds, and last year, began investing my time and efforts into applying for international colleges for my bachelor’s degree in Economics and Environmental Sciences. The first college that I heard from rejected me and I felt miserable for days. However, a few days later, I was offered a place at my preferred college. I read the email over and over again, not being able to believe that I had actually secured admission in a college that I dreamed of going to. 

That joy was shortlived, however, as I broke this news to my parents. When I told them that I was considering accepting an offer from a college in the US, my parents looked tense. My mother’s eyes grew wide with apprehension while my father took a while to give a reaction. Later he asked me questions like:

“Where will you live?”

“How will you live alone?”

“Your brother doesn’t live in America anymore. There’s no use of going there.”

I tried to make sense out of my parents’ unexplained anxieties but to no avail. I told them that foreign education meant a future full of opportunities, learning, and promising career prospects. But they didn’t acknowledge that I could live on my own and make decisions for myself. I persisted, laying my right to as many opportunities as possible, but nothing that I said made any difference to my parents. We never got on the same wavelength. Despite persistence, they did not relent, and I had to decline the admission offer. 

I know for certain that I am not the only girl from Pakistan who had to confront such circumstances. There are many other girls like me who had to give up on their dreams just because their parents think it is too dangerous to let their daughters live on their own. They are too scared to send their daughters away from them.

A friend once mentioned that when she brought up the subject of studying abroad with her father,  he said that she should instead find a stay-at-home job because the world is too dangerous. Another friend’s father told her that she couldn’t travel alone because she was a girl, let alone get an education living away from her family.

This belief that a girl’s role in life is to obey her parents, the men in her life, has broken more hearts and shattered more dreams than perhaps can be counted. Though some of us find ways to break the shackles of culture, tradition, and oppression, others are still trapped within the walls made out of deep-seated cultural fears.

It is only by exposing these inherent biases and repeatedly talking about them, can we begin to change the course for the women who will go through the same phases in the future.

At the same time, women who do break such barriers should support the rest of the girls and build a community of trust, mentorship, and guidance, so families and parents stop pulling their daughters down. 

Work Career Advice Now + Beyond

According to Auntie-ji, having big dreams makes me a capitalist pig

Dear Auntie-ji,

I’ve wanted to write to you for some time, in hopes that explaining myself will bring us closer together again. We are not so different, you and I.

I know that you have struggled with finding the balance between work and life and that you had to make some difficult decisions. Our gender always seems to get the short end of the stick, doesn’t it? Like many women, I cast my lot with entrepreneurship as a solution. It seems, on the surface, like the ideal opportunity to prove ourselves, take leadership roles, and actively build our skillsets, while having the flexibility to give attention to other goals as well. But misconceptions and challenges abound.

Am I money hungry? HA! I had to invest my savings into this business and work for a long time without a salary before I started to see any return. I gave up a high paying job to take this risk. If I was in it just for the money, I would have quit a long time ago. There are easier paths towards wealth, like accepting a rishta from a rich family.

Don’t I care about my family? Yes, and that’s half of my motivation for doing this. It lets me aspire towards the highest sense of leadership in my field while giving me the flexibility to take care of a family’s needs. I might fail, but the potential reward of being able to provide for my family in a way that also provides for my own happiness and well-being is worth it.

How will I survive if I fail? I’ve thought a lot about this. Failure never seems far enough away. All the revenues I earn have associated costs as well. I miss getting a clean check every couple of weeks. Having my business taxes audited by the IRS wasn’t fun either. But here’s the thing, why make problems today in fear of problems tomorrow? Plus this business builds my resume, so that mitigates the risk.

Shouldn’t I be doing more appropriate and proper things with my time? I mean, I got a master’s. I got married. I did a lot of the “right stuff.” I no longer feel like there are right and wrong answers. It’s not like I’m gambling away all of my savings in a casino, or shooting up heroin. I’m just not doing something with a straightforward path. It’s scary, so it makes sense if it scares the ones who love us the most, too. Let’s talk about the reality, and maybe it won’t seem so scary anymore.

If I’m not going to make a consistent salary, shouldn’t I at least keep my home clean? This is the hardest part of being a woman entrepreneur for me. When men start businesses, they would also not bring home a consistent salary, but no one would ask them why they don’t manage to make fresh parathas (fried bread) at night for their families. I’m helping my family achieve their goals, but I need my family to support me, too. We all need a dream to survive.

Who am I to think that I’m so special? I don’t think I’m so special. I just do what I do anyway. Sometimes it may seem intimidating that I’m pursuing seemingly lofty goals, but I think it just irritates you because, in your heart, you know that you could be doing this too. And Auntie-ji? It’s 100% true.

Join me.

I need you along with me on this journey.

In order to make our paths viable, we need the buy-in of our support system. Entrepreneurship is contagious, and one of my cousins has already started her own immigration law firm, and another her own PR firm. If you want to join us, I believe that your success will eclipse ours. Even if you do not choose entrepreneurship as your path, let us support you in the path that you do choose, as you support your daughters and me in our paths.

Let our love for each other be a driving force for a circle of shared success.

Always yours,


Love + Sex Love Advice

When the honeymoon phase ended, reality hit my marriage hard

The significance of the wedding nuptials or the sheer grandeur of the functions is enough to distract a young couple from wondering about what life will be like once the honeymoon phase ends and all the guests have gone home. Once all the hoo-haa dies down, the young couple is left with each other and reality.

Reality hides in the shadows when we fall in love, it remains hidden when we begin planning and executing our dream wedding. It only rears its ugly head into the doorway a day or two or maybe even a week after we return from the honeymoon. Once the guests have left and the couple can truly start becoming themselves, reality sinks in into our lives to wreak havoc.

I have been married to a wonderful guy coming from an equally wonderful family for over three years.

I got a fairytale wedding and none of the typical predicaments of a desi girl’s married life were present. My in-laws turned out to be exemplary people, just as they were before the wedding. My husband didn’t leave me to rot in Pakistan but he whisked me away to my honeymoon and then to England as promised.

And I was not expected to single-handedly manage the concerns of a bustling house, nor was I to be a maid to the whims and demands of the family.

But after my perfect honeymoon with the perfect man, I came to terms with my not-so-perfect reality: I was utterly incapable of living by myself. You see, all my life I had done just one thing: study for and train to be an accountant. And honestly, that’s all I knew how to do.

I incessantly ignored my mother’s insistence on learning how to be a functional adult. I was very well-looked-after and never needed to iron my own clothes, cook my own food or even make myself a cup of coffee.

And so began the arguments. Doors may or may not have been slammed, dinners may or may not have been left uneaten and many nights have or may not have been sleepless.

Every couple fights, every couple has disagreements, but every couple needs to find a way around it. A marriage is not something you throw away because ‘it isn’t working out’. If it isn’t working out, you make it work out.

That was the mantra our parents had raised us with and accordingly, we set out to fix our ‘flawed reality’.

We had to identify the root cause of the problem, and in our case, it was me. You can rest assured I did not give in to agreeing that I was the problem without a fight. The problem was always my husband’s high expectations and the patriarchy. Most definitely the patriarchy. Of course! What else could be the problem other than a man deciding how a woman should behave and respond to life?

How unreasonable was it of my husband to expect me to carry my own weight. How could he expect me to help out with life and all its miseries?

But when the penny dropped it dawned on me that my husband was not being so unreasonable after all. I (very begrudgingly, might I add) came to terms with my own incapability. It was not pretty, as such realizations often are. But this painful comprehension had to penetrate my impervious mind.

Now came the real challenge. It wasn’t easy and I am nowhere near attaining the targets I have set for myself. My husband, to his credit, gave me ample time to catch up and adult. I (to my credit) began doing what most do when they turn 20: I started learning to be self-sufficient.

The issues we faced might not be the exact issues all newlyweds face.

Nonetheless, everyone has a reality to deal with once the honeymoon phase is over and the marriage begins. My advice to newlywed couples is to compromise. Talk to your spouse as opposed to at them and when it’s your turn, listen to what they are saying; don’t just hear the words. Marriage is hard work, but no one is going to do that work for you.

I am glad the honeymoon phase of my marriage ended when it did. The ensuing phase showed me my own strength and my husband’s compassion. I wear these as my battle armor when I face the world and its adversity. You can’t forever live on an all-paid-for hotel on a remote Maldivian island.

It’s nice, but after a while it gets boring.

Gender & Identity Love + Sex Love Life Stories Weddings

I’m Arab, and I’ll never put my dreams on hold just to “please” a potential husband

No, I’ll never sacrifice my real self to be your perfect Arab wife

In 2012, activist and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED Talk titled “We should all be feminists.” During her speech, Adichie said, ‘When women say, ‘I did it for peace in my marriage,’ it is usually because they have given up a job, a career goal, a dream.’ Her words resonated with me as I thought about how many women are told from early on in their lives that it is in their “nature” to sacrifice their wants and needs to please their husband and family.

Attributing certain characters to a ‘woman’s nature’ reduces them to a specific category. Any woman who doesn’t fit into that category (which so many of us don’t since we’re so different), is characterized as an “other.” As a result, many women are forced to uphold certain behaviors that people believe are innate when really they’re just cultural values we’ve been taught. Assigning women certain traits gives a reason for people to believe that women are only supposed to be one way or another. 

I’ve heard of so many women who gave up their jobs, their friends, and some even their clothing style because their husband objected. To be a good wife and mother, women are told that they must constantly put their dreams on hold to do what their husbands ask of them. That is, after all, what being a “good woman” is all about.

But why are women expected to comprise time and time again, but men are encouraged to do as they please?

Amna Al Haddad, a journalist for The National in the United Arab Emirates, asked a group of Arab men whether they would marry a woman who studied abroad, and many of them said they would not. They felt that a woman who had lived away from her family would end up being undignified and less likely to uphold the traditional values of their society. They feel that she would be ‘more open-minded’ and that her family has no concern for her safety. This stance from men has led a lot of women to question whether they should put their dreams aside out of fear that it will affect their marriageability.

I once heard someone say that if a woman was to be educated abroad or work in a country alone, the prospects of her finding a husband would be slim. According to her, a woman should do everything she possibly can to end up with a ring on her finger, even if that means sacrificing her dreams. Women who are too ambitious or powerful might scare off supposedly suitable men.

But why would I ever want to be with a man whose ego is so fragile the idea of me being too independent scares him away?

Not only is that notion ridiculous, but it is also a straight-up lie. A woman who has studied abroad or lived alone has acquired all the skills necessary to lead a successful and fruitful life; an adult life. My cousin, for example, is a badass, independent woman who studied abroad. After majoring in graphic design, she went on to work in an amazing company in Dubai. And, to some people’s surprise, her fierceness and determination have never once made her any less attractive or unsuitable for marriage. Several men have asked if she’d be interested in marrying them.

Instead of encouraging women to pursue their careers and become the best possible version of themselves, we force women into a box and call it “nature.”

When I do voice my disagreement to those who think this way, I’m told that my expectations are too high. “This is just the way Arab men are,” they say. But I don’t think we should believe that every single Arab man thinks this way. Not only would we be doing ourselves an injustice by believing it, but we would be negating the men who don’t think this way at all!

So, I refuse to settle for the belief that men need me to give up who I am to be with him. I refuse to settle for less than what I am worthy of, the same way so many women before me have been forced to do.

I long for a future where women are not pressured into giving up their dreams and are forced to settle into unfulfilling lives because society tells them that’s what they need to do. I truly believe everyone is capable of great things, and by forcing women into unhappy relationships they will never be able to live out their potential.

Love Life Stories

I had to fight my parents to choose my future – it cost me almost everything

Ever wonder what it’s like to live with a constantly negative family?


Living with their doubts, hesitation, and worry was a constant drain.

That’s how my parents were raised. And they were raising us, their children, the same way. But unlike all my siblings, I resisted.

Since I was a kid, I had a desire to achieve a lot of things. The determination in me was already strong although I hadn’t found any particular passion yet. One day, my parents brought home a beautiful oil painting, and suddenly something sparked in me. I knew I’d finally found my passion – the arts.

I told my parents about my dreams of becoming a successful artist. But their answer was disappointing.

“Honey, drawing isn’t a good job. You cannot be successful by drawing.”

Those were my mother’s exact words. Being a little, naive girl, I believed her. My parents suggested more promising careers such as a doctor, businesswoman or lawyer. Even though none of these were appealing to me, I still tried to give up that dream of being an artist.

But the passion in me was difficult to resist.

As I grew up, I started to wonder if it was possible for me to make a career out of art. But being raised by parents who never believed in unlimited possibilities had planted uncertainties in my mind. My urge to follow my heart was strong, but my hesitation was just as powerful as my desire. There was a constant battle between passion and doubts in my head.

When I was 13, I won first prize in an art competition. I felt my talent had proved to be outstanding, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. Ecstatic with my achievement, I shared it with my family. The least I expected was for them to say “good job.”

Apparently, I was expecting too much.

They said nothing. My sister said it was only art, which was nothing to be proud of. Unless I proved my intellect by debates or science competitions they wouldn’t be pleased.

That’s when I realized that my family was so negative that they failed to see the good in anything. They loved to talk about how bad things were, but when something positive happened, they’d either put a negative spin on it or say nothing. Nothing good ever came from them.

My relationship with my family turned cold. They couldn’t agree with me about anything. Whenever I saw possibilities, all they could see were problems.

As the end of high school grew closer, I wanted to decide my future, but my parents wanted to do it for me. To them, an art major was a good-for-nothing. They wanted me to follow my sister’s steps by choosing ‘promising’ major in college.

They were pressuring me to the point where I couldn’t deal with them anymore.

I’d made my final decision even though I knew they wouldn’t like it.

I chose arts and decided to pick a university far away from home. As expected, none of them liked my decision but I couldn’t let their negativity dictate my life anymore.

We are different in almost every way but in the end, they are still my family. I can’t cut them off my life no matter how negative they are. I can’t change them and their negativity, but I can choose to live my life in a completely different way.

And maybe one day, my positivity and determination will show them that not everything is as bleak as they think.

Love + Sex Love

I believed I was the reason my relationships failed – until this happened

I can’t remember how many breakups I’ve been through. I’ve lost count. Sometimes I wondered if they just weren’t the one for me, but most times I believed I was in the wrong in the relationship.

Years ago, my first boyfriend broke up with me because I was too busy for him.

He wanted to be my first priority, above everything and everyone else. I did try for him. It was my first relationship and I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I abandoned my family time, barely spent time with my friends and even neglected my studies, all for him, but apparently, it wasn’t enough.

And I believed, our breakup was my fault. I should’ve spent more time with him.

After a while being single, I had a new boyfriend. But it didn’t take long for him to break up with me too.

His reason? I was too fat for him. When we were first dating, I was a little bit skinnier, but few months after that I gained weight. Although it wasn’t much and I was only a size 3, it didn’t please him. He preferred the way I looked before I became ‘fat’.

I tried to diet so I could lose weight for him. Now I know it was pretty impossible, for me to lose that weight, but I was desperate for the appearance I had before. So, I worked out for hours a day and starved myself. Sometimes I fell sick because of it. And it was pointless because he still dumped me anyway.

Again, I believed it was my fault.

That wasn’t even the worst breakup excuse I’ve heard.

There was one time when I’d lost touch with my goals, passions, and dreams. This time, I was in a relationship with a guy with a ‘traditional’ mindset.

I told him about my big dreams, but all I got was his disapproval. He wanted someone who could fulfill her responsibilities as ‘his wife’ – or in other words, full-time housewife. For him, a woman should be committed to domestic responsibilities and house duties. We were in a serious relationship and already had marriage on our minds. I was madly, foolishly in love with him, so I changed my mind and sacrificed my own interests just for him.

Still, it didn’t work out. I still couldn’t fit his ‘perfect’ wife requirements.

I had more relationships after that, but they all failed. Some ended for ridiculous reasons. Sometimes I dressed up too much to their liking, and the other times it was my habit of hiding my ‘natural look’ behind my makeup too much. The weirdest reason of all? I talked just like his MOM.

I thought there was something wrong with me, which ruined every relationship I was in. I always changed so much about myself to try and make the relationships work. I put my boyfriends as my top priority and forgot to look after myself.

Finally, I decided that maybe relationships in general just weren’t for me.

I stopped dating for years. I rejected a lot of men that wanted to date me.

But there were times when I’ve plenty of happy couples and wondered what made their relationship work. Slowly, I started to realize one thing.

The men respected their partners. They let their girlfriend be the person they wanted to be.

This whole time, I lost myself just for the sake of a man.

I was never the problem, they all were.

I compromised my needs and interests so I could be ‘worthy’ of them. I completely lost my self-worth as well as my identity for the sake of a relationship. For those undeserving men, I distanced myself from my family and friends.

I realized it was time for me to find myself again after losing myself to all these unhealthy relationships. I had a lot of passions and hobbies before, but they were all forgotten and I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy them as much as I used to.

Compromises and sacrifices are important in a relationship, but not to the point where I had to forsake my self-value just to make a man happy.

Tech Now + Beyond

Growing up means giving up part of who I am, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that

I can’t remember the last time I had a carefree day.

In high school, I was swamped with days like that. I could come home from school, throw my bags down and chill on the couch for hours, with nothing but a slab of chocolate and my PlayStation controller; that was until my mom would come home and yell at me, for not doing anything productive with my life. I can promise you, the time before that felt like complete and utter serenity.

Nowadays things are very, very different. I wake up in the morning, have a mini panic attack about everything I couldn’t complete the day before, then begin the whirlwind of emails, drafts, submissions, errands and coffee that culminates in me passing out on the couch at 2 a.m. I generally have no time for myself other than when I sit down to write poetry which ends up becoming work-oriented anyway.

More than that I have no time for gaming.

And if you’ve read any of my work, you’ll know that video gaming is my life. I can easily clock nine hours of game time without getting bored.

Now that I’m #adulting, you know, hustling for that feeling of meaning and belonging, I don’t really have time to sit down and just enjoy some game time. At most I’ll get in about 30 minutes before the deadlines get the best of me.

Honestly, it feels like I’m wasting valuable time.

Not to mention the cost of gaming has become too much for my very empty pockets. With games like Overwatch sitting at around R1,000 (roughly $76) on the PlayStation Store, it’s not very frugal to invest in multiple AAA titles.

More than being able to sit back and play games, I also feel completely disconnected from the gaming community as a whole. Before I would spend time looking at forums, watching gaming videos and even staying up to go through E3 trailers frame-by-frame. I would participate in online discussions about new releases and even started my own little website with some friends in high school.

It was meant to be my start in gaming journalism.

Even though the community can be pretty exclusionary for a bisexual Indian girl like me, it can also be liberating when you find your people within it. It took time, but eventually, I found multiple sites dedicated to people of color within the gaming community.

But by the time I got around to that, I was already in my second year of university. Things were starting to heat up: I had to start applying for fellowships and internships, apply for meaningful jobs and start carving a little space into this world just for myself.

I was discovering myself at the same time that I was losing the very thing that made me into who I am.

It sounds dramatic, but gaming played a formative role in the kind of person I am today. Without it, would not be as confident and assertive with my thoughts and what I want to do in this world.

I would also not know how to survive the impending zombie apocalypse.

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All jokes aside, growing up is not easy.

I wish I could say that no one ever prepares you for it, but I guess that’s not exactly true. I remember numerous occasions where people told me that eventually I’d have to give up a lot in order to succeed in life, and I even remember people telling me that my love for gaming would eventually fade away.

It hasn’t though, and that’s the hard part. I spend so many hours of my day just waiting for the slightest opportunity to jump in front of the TV and play, even for a few minutes at a time. But us gamers know that 30 minutes of game time in real life can only really equate to five minutes in the game’s world.

It’s barely enough time to finish a single main quest in Skyrim.

Everyday is an opportunity. I try my best to get my poetry, fiction and articles published, I work hard at my fellowship with The Tempest, I’m doing multiple intellectual projects on the side, and I try to find time to fit in family, my health and everything else I have to do to live a balanced life.

I know that what I’m doing right now can’t ever compare to how busy I’m going to be in the future, so should gaming even factor into my life anymore?

The answer is yes. It brings me ineffable joy. And if that means slacking on a little bit of my work for a few hours of gaming?

Life can wait.

Love Life Stories

My Desi parents might have tried to crush my dreams, but I refused to let them win

Let me tell you something about myself: I am the youngest of three children.

It’s important you know this because if you’re the youngest child like me, you’ll know exactly just how overprotective parents can be. So overprotective that sometimes it really does put a damper on things, and even causes standoffs between you and your parents.

I’m someone who is very opinionated, but unfortunately, being the youngest in the family means that my family doesn’t always see my perspective or my point of view without a confrontation or an argument about it.

[bctt tweet=”I always knew what I wanted to do; I dreamed about being a writer.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It will come as no surprise, then, that when the time came for me to pick a university, my parents, especially my father, were extremely cautious. I was only 18 (oh to be young again!), and fresh out of high school. I’d never lived anywhere but home since I was born. It is safe to say that at that point in time, I was just a kid who hadn’t ever experienced life outside of the safe little bubble that was home and family.

I always knew what I wanted to do; I dreamed about being a writer. So, when I looked up universities, I kept this simple fact in mind. This is where the trouble first started. All my closest friends were studying in Dubai, so I automatically assumed that I would also go to Dubai for university. You know how they say you should never assume things? Yeah, they’re right. I was looking up universities that offered journalism in Dubai, and ecstatically, I made a list of all the institutions that offered it.

[bctt tweet=”It was also difficult for my family, who constantly worried about me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Never did I stop to think, even for a second, that maybe, my parents were not quite ready to let me fly far away. 

I didn’t think that they might still see me as the youngest child, nor did I stop to think that they still worry about me like a baby. At that time, in my head, I was all grown up and mature, and I thought I could take care of myself (spoiler alert: I couldn’t). To me, finishing high school meant that I was automatically smart and oh so grown up, regardless of the fact that I had zero experience of anything.

When I very happily presented my parents with the list of universities, in true teenaged ignorant fashion, I was not prepared for what ensued. In my perfect little world, they were going to agree with whatever I said, help me decide on a university, and off I would go to pursue my life-long dream. We all know that things are never that simple, and more often than not, things don’t always turn out according to our plan.

My parents sat me down, a right Desi intervention.

I should’ve known then that this wasn’t going to go well. I sat down quite happily, and as my father began to speak, I started to get more and more upset. I couldn’t believe what he was saying, and I couldn’t believe they would crush my dreams like that. I know better now, and I know they only wanted to protect me; but at that time, I refused to even try to make sense of their decision, I was that angry.

I felt crushed.

[bctt tweet=”It taught me to never give up, to always keep pushing forward.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I cried for days, refusing to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to get what I want. They told me they couldn’t let me go that far away from them by myself, and that I must search if Bahrain, the country that borders with Saudi Arabia, had any Journalism programs. If not, my father suggested I try Interior Design; he gave me the freedom to pick the university, which I eventually did.

When I officially started university, enrolled for B.A. in Interior Design, I was cautious but excited, and I looked forward to it. Fast forward two years in, I was terribly miserable; I hated it with every inch of my being, yet I refused to give up. I refused to ever give up because I felt too strong of a sense of responsibility towards my parents, especially my father.

He was spending so much on my education, and the values instilled in me wouldn’t allow me to give up and give in. It was difficult for me, yes, but it was also difficult for my entire family, who constantly worried about me and my health. As I grew up and matured, I understood my family’s worrying and their need to protect me; I understood their perspective, as they grew to understand mine.

A few months before graduation, I applied for The Tempest. When I was accepted, I sat my parents down and told them. I saw the pride in their eyes, and felt proud of myself; I followed my dream, and for the first time, they were right there beside me to support me.

The whole experience taught me to never give up, to always keep pushing forward, and that eventually, the naysayers will see your hard work and say yes.