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Editor's Picks History Forgotten History Lost in History

The world’s first author was a cool priestess with an even cooler backstory

Imagine a world where the pronoun ‘I’ isn’t used in writing.

The entire genre of narrative writing probably wouldn’t exist. Op-eds, personal essays, even music and poetry. Most of these writing styles are a product of our inner feelings and personal reflection, and are usually the styles of writing that we emotionally connect with the most.

It seems natural for this form of writing to always have existed, being so related to human opinion, but like almost everything else, it was invented by an author.

4300 years ago, in the Ancient Sumerian civilization, lived the princess of Ancient Sumr, Enheduanna.

She is history’s first known author, and she is the reason we use ‘I’ when we write.

Enheduanna was a triple threat of her time.

Her father, the king of Sumr, ruled when the old Sumerian culture and the new Akadian culture opposed each other and would often rebel against him.

Enheduanna was a triple threat of her time.

He appointed Enheduanna as high priestess, in an effort to bridge the cultural divide and bring peace to the nation.



Becoming high priestess meant that Enheduanna was able to receive an education in which she learned to read and write the languages of both opposing cultures, as well as learn how to make mathematics calculations.

[Image description: A relief of Inanna (also known as Ishtar)]
[Image description: A relief of Inanna (also known as Ishtar)]

It was with her acquired education that Enheduanna was able to unite both rebelling cultures via the 42 religious hymns she wrote, combining the mythologies of both cultures.

In those times, the form of writing used was cuneiform.

Its main purpose was for merchants and traders to communicate about their businesses over long distances – writing did not have a personal purpose, let alone a sentimental one.

So, when she began to write religious hymns and poetry, Enheduanna took the deities her hymns were dedicated to and humanized them.

In doing so she made the gods who once seemed so intangible feel emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, betrayal, love.

Her writing made the hymns emotionally relatable to read and connect with.

By playing on their emotions, she was able to appease the people of both Sumerian and Akkadian cultures, honoring their deities, bringing them together as one.

It was when she wrote her three hymns, Inninsagurra, Ninmesarra, and Inninmehusa, dedicated to deity Inanna, goddess of war and desire, that Enheduanna established a style of writing that was personal and attributable to the writer.

Thousands of years later, it’s impossible for us to imagine a world without saying ‘I’.

Inanna was known to be a powerful deity, so mighty that she transcended gender boundaries and was considered to be the very force who animated the universe.

In these poems, Enheduanna placed Inanna on a pedestal, marking her as the most important deity.

Her odes to Inanna marked the first time an author used the pronoun ‘I’ in a written text, and the first time an author describes their personal, private emotions in writing. It was the beginning of how narrative writing led to self-reflection and emotions could be recorded.

This is said to be her greatest contribution to literature.

An excerpt from one of Enheduanna's hymns to Inanna. It reads: Queen of all the ME, Radiant Light, Life-giving Woman, beloved of An (and) Urash, Hierodule of An, much bejeweled, Who loves the life-giving tiara, fit for High Priestesshood, Who grasps in (her) hand, the seven ME, My Queen, you who are the Guardian of All the Great ME, You have lifted the ME, have tied the ME to Your hands, Have gathered the ME, pressed the ME to Your breast. You have filled the land with venom, like a dragon. Vegetation ceases, when You thunder like Ishkur, You who bring down the Flood from the mountain, Supreme One, who are the Inanna of Heaven (and) Earth, Who rain flaming fire over the land, Who have been given the me by An, Queen Who Rides the Beasts, Who at the holy command of An, utters the (divine) words, Who can fathom Your great rites!
[Image description: An excerpt from one of Enheduanna’s hymns to Inanna.] Via Classical Art History

Above is an excerpt of one of Enheduanna’s dedicated hymns to Inanna. The full poem can be found here.

After the death of her father, Enheduanna was exiled in a coup, and it was when her nephew reclaimed the throne that she was reinstated as high priestess. She served as high priestess for 40 years, and after her death she was honored as a minor deity, with her poetry written, performed, and copied for over 500 years.

What Enheduanna succeeded in doing was taking the essence of emotions and translating them in a way that was able to unify two conflicting people.

She used emotion and ethos, and manipulated them in a way that began a form of writing that could connect with people’s emotions, rather than practical needs.

Know it was this Sumerian high priestess who invented it.

The creation of the written pronoun ‘I’ was the beginning of multiple perspectives being recorded.

It was the beginning of written storytelling.

So the next time you write in your private journal or read diary entries, the next time you study a soliloquy in Macbeth or read the emotional personal essays of critically acclaimed authors where the first person style is prominent, know it was this Sumerian high priestess who invented it.

Enheduanna changed history and humanity. Thousands of years later, it’s impossible for us to imagine a world without saying ‘I’.

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Categories
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.

Categories
Love Life Stories Advice

If you have feelings for me, TELL ME

My story started in August when I first met Hamza*. I didn’t realize I had a crush until after it happened. By then, I understood it was more than just a crush. He was cute, funny, nice, and cared about me – what else could I have really needed? Since we met, nothing stopped us from being friends, even if his damn ambiguity got in the way. I had a feeling he might’ve liked me back. Unfortunately, I think I was wrong about it.

And yet, I’m still not sure. 

Let me start from the beginning:

Hamza and I both work for the same media organization, this was how we got to know each other.

One day, I got really tired of one of my classes and asked my friend to pull me out to go to the media room. When I walked into the room, something felt off.

My friend had already told me that some people were discussing me with Hamza. It was an unsettling feeling, but I brushed it off. Whispers settled around me as I took a seat next to my friend. He had already turned away.

Out of the blue, someone asked, “Do you have a crush on him?”

My heartbeat increased almost immediately as this awkward and uncomfortable question slipped out of her mouth.

Who knew a question like that could make my palms sweaty and my breath shallow and my heart nearly stop? I did have a crush on him, undeniably. But, I would never admit it to them. Hamza was right there– watching and listening.

How did those girls think I would ever tell them the answer to that question in front of him?

After that question, things were temporarily awkward. But soon enough, our friendship settled. I would roast him again; he would tell me my roasts were bad; and so on it went. 

I had missed a key point while all of this was happening. Yes, my friend did say they were talking about me, but she didn’t clarify exactly what they were saying. I learned later that they had asked him how the same question as well, but about another girl, and he had refused profusely. And that’s where I came into the conversation.

After that, they proceeded to ask him about his feelings for me, whether he had any. And this time, he didn’t have an answer.

In typical fashion, rumors were flying within our organization that we were ‘a thing’.

You could say I was hopeful. But I only held onto that hope for so long.

Whenever I did ask him anything remotely similar to whether or not he liked me or wanted a relationship, he would always ignore it. He avoided it as if if he did answer it, the whole world would blow up. But I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why he couldn’t just say “no”. It’s a two-fricking-letter word. Ambiguity has no place in love for me. If you like me, then you like me. If you don’t, then you don’t; and that’s that. There’s no way to ignore your feelings or pretend like you don’t have them. Having a crush is not the end of the world.

I keep thinking maybe it was my fault. Maybe I’m overthinking all of this, and maybe he wasn’t ready for a relationship. Maybe he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Or, maybe he felt embarrassed by me. Maybe it was because I’m not friends with his friends. Maybe he just didn’t like me and wanted to stay friends, but couldn’t find a way to tell me.

However, all of these reasons weren’t validations to not tell someone if you like them or not.

If he wasn’t ready for a relationship, he should’ve said so. If he didn’t want my feelings to get hurt, that’s life; I’m going to get hurt at some point. If he felt embarrassed by me, then that’s his loss. And, if it was because I’m not friends with his friends, what does that have to do with our relationship? If he didn’t like me and wants to stay friends, then why did he tell me that his mother refused instead of him?

There is no foolproof test to tell whether or not someone likes you back, and that’s all the more reason to come right out and tell them. Stop hiding behind a “maybe,” and just choose. No matter how many times you google “signs that a guy likes you,” You know you won’t find your answer unless it comes from them.

But now, I don’t give a damn if he says he doesn’t like me; I just want to know. I’m absolutely sick of it.

So stop pissing me off, and please, just TELL me if you like me or not.

Just tell me. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Categories
Mind Love Life Stories

You say I’m emotional, I say I’m powerful

Growing up, I have always been known for being hyper-empathetic and sensitive. As a woman, this has been a bit of a mixed blessing due to the stereotype that women are “too emotional” or even “hysterical” to begin with. As a result, at times I have been made fun of for my sensitivity.

Earlier in my life, I saw my empathy as a detriment and something to hide. However, over time, I have come to view my empathetic and open nature as a real strength in terms of forming connections with people. 

I am the type of friend that will cry during any movie, regardless of its genre or content. Just to give you an idea of the severity of the situation, I cried at Dawn of The Planet of the Apes.

On the other hand, I am also the type of friend that will share in my friend’s sorrows, sit up at night to give them advice, and really feel their pain when they are going through difficult situations. Personally, I think the advantages outweigh the detriments.

In a world where so many people push down their feelings and put logic over emotions, I feel grateful that I am unafraid to be sensitive and express myself openly.

I will never apologize for feeling deeply because it is what makes me who I am. I wouldn’t undo it if I could.

Crying is viewed by many people in contemporary society as a sign of weakness. People associate crying with feelings of shame. For men in particular, crying holds negative connotations. Many boys as socialized to believe that men don’t cry and that they have to shove down their emotions in order to be respected. This type of indoctrination can have damaging life-long effects.

The truth is people shouldn’t view crying as an admission of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions deeply and deal with them in a healthy way signifies emotional maturity.

Crying is also a great form of catharsis and release. Sometimes, when there is no solution to a problem I am having and it’s getting to me, I have a good cry and everything seems just a little bit better. Sure, the circumstances of the situation haven’t changed, but I have given myself a moment to validate my emotions.

Bottling frustration and sadness tends to only make these feelings intensify and bubble up. By crying, you are allowing yourself a healthy outlet. It definitely beats the alternative of accidentally lashing out at others due to your own inner frustrations.

I understand that not everyone is comfortable crying. There are endless reasons why this could be the case, socialization being a big one. I respect however people choose to deal with their own emotions.

I am not recommending that everyone should cry all the time. Rather, I am suggesting that people be gentle with themselves and allow themselves to express their feelings in whatever healthy way they choose.

If you’re not an emotional person by nature, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, nothing is wrong with me either for being sensitive. Being empathetic is something so central to my personality.

I won’t apologize for it anymore.

Categories
Mind Love

Why the best crushes are the ones that can’t be anything more

The three stages of a standard crush are as follows: attraction, awareness, and decision to pursue. Attraction is self-explanatory – you see something you like in someone and it makes you pay a little more attention to them. Awareness requires you to be slightly more invested – noticing which one of your celebrity impressions makes them laugh the most, making sure they always see you from your good side, wondering what their favorite salad dressing is (balsamic vinaigrette implies understated sophistication, anything involving mayonnaise is a red flag).

The decision to pursue is where things tend to get a bit more complicated. You have decided you’re compatible with this person and are taking active steps to begin a relationship with them. Your thoughts become consumed by whether or not they reciprocate, and to what degree they return your interest. Every gesture, every word of theirs is a clue. Every gesture, every word of yours is an attempt to extract some more of these clues. In short, it’s agony – agony that may pay off, but agony nonetheless.

And that is precisely why the greatest crushes are the ones that cannot become anything more: your best friend’s brother, your happily married 19th-century poetry professor, cashier number eight at the grocery store on Tuesday evenings. The crushes that, due to some obstacle, impracticality or inconvenience, you can never, ever act on. You can observe, you can fantasize, and you can make sure your hair is always freshly washed and smelling of tropical fruit on a Tuesday, but that’s it.

The crush remains private and passive until you lose interest, lose touch, or both.

This is just as, if not more, agonizing, you say? Isn’t wanting something you can’t have worse than pursuing something you can? Allow me to plead my case. You say or do something crushingly embarrassing in front of your Nowhere Crush (henceforth used to refer to a crush that can’t go anywhere beyond distant attraction)? Who cares! Your crush has a peanut allergy but you can never give up peanut butter? Not an issue! Their singular (but inexcusable) flaw is that they clap when the plane lands? Doesn’t matter, you’re not going anywhere with them!

The pressure to pursue is killing our ability to crush for the joy of crushing. We are in such fear of missing fateful connections and overlooking big opportunities that we are blind to the quiet, consistent connections and opportunities we encounter every day. Not every feeling, every instance of subtle magnetism, requires us to do something about it. Some things can be enjoyed passively and carelessly, with no thought of consequences or commitment.

It is in the process of trying to do something about everything that we forget to take pleasure in all the best parts of having a crush. Eye contact that feels electric, careless banter, a single butterfly in your stomach. Crushes make us feel young and excited and alive; they remind us that we are always on the lookout for connection and feeling, no matter how small or inconsequential. Crush often, and crush without care.

Categories
Humor Life

10 feelings we all experience as graduation approaches

Graduation is one of those events that bring a world wind of emotions. You’ve spent hours scrounging over textbooks and rapidly typing papers, you’ve gone to games or avoided them like the plague, and you’ve hopefully made some lifelong friends who helped ease your misery and sleepless nights. Near the end, everything seems to go so fast and it’s hard to process your thoughts and emotions before it’s all over. Here are a few emotions you might experience and relate to during this trying time.

1. Over it

tired mondays GIF
[Image Description: A little girl lays face down on the floor in exhaustion clutching to a merry go round that drags her in a circle.] Via Giphy
All of a sudden every final, project and paper are all due on the same day.  The anxiety of tackling the finals mountain alone is enough to make you want to give up and lay in bed. You start testing how low of a grade you can get on the last assignment and maintain your grade. C’s get degrees, right?

2. Wait…am I going to pass?

scared on fire GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
[Image Description: SpongeBob frantically blows on surrounding fire.] Via Giphy
You haven’t slept in a week and can’t remember what the taste of real food is because you’ve been surviving off of library fumes and vending machine chips. Your coffee stopped tasting good 5 hours ago, but you’re still sipping in hopes of an ounce of caffeine to fuel your veins. This is all a result of your procrastination and now you’re not sure if you want to take that C after all.

3. Leaving it up to God

happy end rant GIF
[Image Description: A man turns towards the camera with a smile and wipes his hands.] Via Giphy
You’ve officially finished everything and can finally hit submit. You know your work could have been better and maybe you should’ve proofread your paper one more time or at least used Grammarly but it’s all out of your hands now. Sleep is on the horizon.

4. I passed!!!!!

oh my god wow GIF
[Image Description: A man stares in open-mouthed surprise.] Via Giphy
When you get your finals grade back and you somehow managed to finesse the system. You’re not even sure why you ever doubted yourself because you are genius and pure perfection.

5. It’s happening!!

Ilana Glazer Subway GIF by Broad City
[Image Description: A woman starts a tap routine on the subway wearing a coconut bra and rainbow pants.] Via Giphy
You wake up on graduation day and everything feels surreal. You don your cap and gown and even though the cap is ruining your hair and your family is already driving you crazy, you are beyond excited for the show.

6. Please don’t fall

wobble GIF
[Image Description: A woman trips down a runway in very high heels.] Via Giphy
Whether you’re wearing heels or not, the walk across the stage is just as stressful as your entire school experience. This is your moment and you’re just praying not to fall especially with the added pressure that everyone in the crowd has their phones posed to make you the next meme of the month.

7. I’m going to miss this hell hole

the office crying GIF
[Image Description: A man is crying and saying “Thank you.”] Via Giphy
You are making it across safely, you hear the cheers of your family and friends and as you shake your dean’s hand you find that you’re getting choked up. This experience has been anything but perfect but you’ve learned so much. Thank you to all the people who’ve stood by you and supported you through the rough times and the glorious ones.

8. 1…2…3…*pose*

red carpet netflix GIF by The Paley Center for Media
[Image Description: A woman turns and poses for the cameras on the red carpet.] Via Giphy
Celebrate good time come on! It’s time to take a million pictures with your family, friends, and classmates! You know your Instagram feed is going to be flooded tonight, and since you’ll probably only wear this outfit once, you can’t let it go to waste!

9. So what are your plans after graduation?

confused girl GIF
[Image Description: A little girl stares in disgust.] Via Giphy
Almost immediately after you walk the stage someone is bound to ruin your good mood with the infamous “what are your plans after graduation?” question. You know they mean well but it’s annoying and pressuring. I’m working on it auntie, please let’s eat!

10. SHEER PANIC

typing montage GIF
[Image Description: A series of cats frantically banging on computers.] via Giphy
Sadly, your aunties questions will haunt you into the night. You’ve already applied to six thousand things but what’s a thousand more if it’ll secure your future? Adulthood continues to loom over you like a dark monster in the night and you must defeat it.

After all your hard work just know that success will come, whether, in the form of more school, a job, or an internship, you got this. Don’t stress too much and be proud of all you’ve accomplished! It can be hard but try your best to take a moment and soak it all in, you did it! Happy graduation! I am immensely proud of you.

Categories
Food & Drinks Life

My Jewish family doesn’t talk about our feelings, but we do talk about our recipes

I have strong feelings about food. I can talk extensively about how white chocolate is a lie and blueberry bagels are an abomination. I am not shy about my strong opinions on desserts. And yet, when it comes to anything social, I’m the least assertive person you’ll ever meet.

I once had a 45-minute text conversation with a guy I was casually seeing about why blueberry bagels are the most goyish baked good. I also had to explain to him what the word “goyish” means (it’s a playfully, somewhat derogatory way of saying something isn’t Jewish). He and I never had a real conversation about our relationship, but I did tell him how I felt about bagels.

I get this behavior from my family. We don’t talk about our feelings. Sometimes we scream them, but only after we’ve bottled up the real issues.

Instead, we talk about food. My aunts discuss which recipes they’ve been making lately before they update each other on what they’re children have been up to. My mom updates me on her tomato plants when I’m thousands of miles away. It’s not fair, I tell her, because I can’t see the tomatoes.

Would I prefer that my family communication style had prepared me to initiate real conversations? Maybe. Yes. But expressing my opinions on food is a form of intimacy that I’m more comfortable with.

If you didn’t already gather from my earlier use of the word “goyish,” I’m Jewish. At least culturally. My parents never made me go to Hebrew school or have a Bat Mitzvah, but I did grow up eating lox and bagels at my aunts’ houses every Sunday.

For every holiday when we were kids, my mom and aunts would bake an enormous loaf of challah, but save a small chunk of dough so that my cousins and I could braid our own miniature loaves.

These days, my mom rarely eats sweets, but she still makes them for me when I come visit. If I come home for the first time in months and she doesn’t have time to make a cake, she apologizes profusely. “I didn’t have time to make you a cake,” she says. She’s pouting, as if the way she expresses love through food is a maternal obligation.

Cooking is an act of intimacy, but it’s not an act of intimacy that’s based on being vulnerable. My family wouldn’t dare talk about anxiety or depression at the dinner table, but when we talk about the food we aren’t just sharing nourishment. We’re expressing love.

That said, I often wish we would talk about our mental ailments at the dinner table. I sometimes wonder if my lack of assertiveness in my social life comes from the fact that my family doesn’t communicate about ourselves. We communicate about the things we like — not just food, but also our opinions on books and movies and art — but aren’t vulnerable to our own emotions.

Maybe one day I’ll learn to initiate conversations about my emotions. Maybe the next time I start casually seeing someone, I can be direct about needs. Until then, just know that when I tell you how strongly I feel that everything needs to be dark chocolate, I’m sharing part of myself in the only way I know how.

Categories
Love Life Stories

I always thought I was strong enough to survive on my own, but I was completely wrong

All this time, I believed I was a strong woman. Strong enough to survive on my own.

I’ve learned that life isn’t always a bowl of fresh cherries, sometimes we find rotten and moldy ones. Life is full of happiness, along with pain, heartbreak, and failures. And I managed to recover from all those moments of difficulties. It was tough, but I bounced back like a superball once I overcame them all. I even called myself a ‘comeback queen’, believing that I could handle anything that was coming.

A major source of strength came from the inspirational, motivational and self-help books I’ve been reading since I was 13. My encouragement came from the positive quotes I put on my vision board. I thought I knew how to handle anything, and even if I didn’t, I always pretended I did.

I started my first year of college with eagerness and determination. I made many new friends and people came to know me as a positive and wise woman. A lot of them asked for advice from me and I was more than happy to help them. It gave me great satisfaction to see them gain their strength back after listening to my counsel and guidance.

I had some life crises too, but I never told anyone about how I felt. I had friends, but I never went to them to pour my heart out or when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I never told anyone what was really inside my head. I believed I was strong enough and I could handle everything on my own.

Some people knew about difficulties I faced, but I refused their help and always told them, “I’m fine.” I pushed them all away because I help people, not the other way around.

That was how I wanted it to be.

I thought this showed how strong I was.

But soon I was proven wrong.

He was one of my friends in college. Of all my friends, there was someone different about him. He was the person I was most comfortable with. I had a lot of friends, but they weren’t close friends. Even in high school, people were friendly with me, but there were no real friendships.

Our friendship was different, and little did I know, he was better at helping people than me. He could always sense if I had a problem or something was troubling me. Unlike others, he didn’t offer to help right away.

He let me try to figure everything out by myself.

One day, he asked me to sit with him where there was no one around, and he told me he’d figured me out.

He told me he could see that I was unhappy the whole time. He could see that I kept all my emotions bottled up inside me, all the pain, misery and disappointment. He could see that I faked it all the time. My happiness, my smile, and my laughs, were all a facade.

When he was done talking, I couldn’t help but cry.

It was the first time in years that I’d cried in front of someone. I just sat there, sobbing for God knows how long. He didn’t say anything. He just kept quiet, waiting for me until I was done.

I told him everything after I stopped crying. Everything that happened to me, all the issues I’d faced in the past few years. It took hours for me to finish telling him the story of my life and he just patiently listened. It felt good to have someone to listen. My shoulders felt lighter as if the weight of the world has been lifted off from them. All this time, I’d been carrying a burden and I didn’t realize it.

This time, I didn’t refuse his help.

We’ve been best friends ever since. I’ve realized that I never really a best friend. I never opened up to people, instead, I shoved them away so they couldn’t see my vulnerability, so no one could get close to me.

I’ve missed out on real friendship. But not anymore.

I started opening up more, not just with him but will all my friends. Putting my trust in them made me feel more connected. It was time to take off my armor and start embracing everything that I feared in my life. Fear was what motivated me, not strength.

I also realized that strength isn’t always about fighting – sometimes it’s about letting go. That’s why sharing what’s inside our heart and mind is helpful. A problem shared is a problem halved.

I understand now that seeking help is not the sign of weakness, in fact, it’s the opposite.

Categories
Tech Now + Beyond

Here’s the REAL reason why I love your attention-seeking Facebook posts

I like girls who overshare on the internet.

I like girls who vague-book about their feelings, reach out for support, and tell stories of trauma. I like it when people crowdsource for advice on their mental health issues. I like it when my Facebook friends talk openly about their process of recovery from depression or eating disorders. 

You know that person on your timeline who posts a novel every day about their feelings? I live for that person.

I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. I’m supposed to think these people are “attention seeking” or “dramatic.” I’m supposed to think, “doesn’t she have any real friends she could talk to?”

Here’s the thing: vulnerability is a quality that I value in real life. Why wouldn’t I value it on social media? Whether I like it or not, I spend a good portion of my time on the internet. It’s very possible that Facebook is collecting all my personal details to sell to a Chinese company who sells puppy organs to white supremacists through child labor, but I still depend on social media for professional reasons.

One of the main criticisms I hear from people who opt to delete their social media accounts is that it’s “fake” (I’m picturing a Holden Caulfield-loving disenfranchised white dude using the word “phony.”) 

At the same time, these people are demonizing women and queer folks for being emotionally honest online.

We’re supposed to eschew social media in favor of more “genuine” interactions while disregarding the number of folks from marginalized groups who are already being their authentic, sad, weird selves on the internet every day. 

(Sidenote: my assumption that it’s mostly queer folks and women who share their feelings on Facebook come from mostly anecdotal evidence. If you know any straight cis dudes who post public about their body insecurity and anxiety, maybe give me their numbers?)

Before social media became so ubiquitous that your Grandma now understands Snapchat filters, people were using the internet as a way to make genuine connections with strangers. Does anyone remember the glory days of Livejournal?

When I was in middle and high school, my friends and I used Livejournal (and the occasionally Myspace bulletin) as an outlet for our teen angst. We didn’t necessarily have the understanding yet that disillusionment and depression were normal emotions that everyone felt, but we still needed a way of expressing ourselves. We’d write public journal entries about crushes, friend drama, boredom in our hometowns, and anything else we needed to talk about.

Now that the internet isn’t just for nerds or teenaged girls, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good space for honest displays of struggle and capital-F Feelings. Just because more people have joined doesn’t mean we should stop making it a place where we can be vulnerable with each other.

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You might be thinking, “but shouldn’t we strive for better real-life relationships instead of just using the internet for shallow interaction?”

Yes and no.

Sharing your vulnerability and on the internet and sharing it in person are not mutually exclusive activities. Having an internet presence doesn’t mean you don’t also have friends in real life. In fact, it can mean you’re being more honest in the way you present yourself both in real life and online.

Social media gives everyone the chance to construct themselves however they choose. We can curate our interests, our shared opinions, our performative allyship. We can choose how people see us with the photos we display. It’s not “attention-seeking” or “dramatic” to curate your internet presence in a way that is honest to how you are actually feeling on a day to day basis.

In a world where women are routinely harassed just for existing on the internet, oversharing is an act of courage.

Categories
Gender & Identity Life

10 things I wish I could tell my younger self

We all have things we wish we knew when we were younger, right?

It may sound a bit weird, but I enjoy writing letters to myself, whether it’s for the past, present, or future. It’s therapeutic and allows me to recharge my personal battery to continue pursuing my goals.

Because let’s be honest, life can get a bit robotic and mundane at times. Pausing to reflect on my past definitely brings me more hope, optimism, and joy.

Isn’t it amazing how, although we all have our own upbringings, and personalities, that somehow there are common themes we can all relate to? My hope is that my list will inspire you to create your own as well. Try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose!

So here’s what I would want my younger self to know:

1. There will be people you come across in life who you become close to, but who manipulate or hurt you. No matter what, keep your heart open. Learn from these people, but never generalize a few rotten tomatoes for the whole crate.

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I know you love Spongebob, but for the love of God, please don’t follow Squidward’s philosophy.

2. You will never be able to make all of your family and friends happy. Once you accept this difficult reality, you will feel much more empowered.

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It will probably take you a long, long, long time to learn this, but that’s okay.

3. Your parents will get on your nerves. But remember that they are not perfect humans and they’re trying their best.

Be as kind as possible to them because you wouldn’t be where you are without their unconditional love and support.

4. Spend your time wisely. Even if those around you are wasting it away, realize that you will never be able to get it back.

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Oprah is a wise woman who will help you in life – listen to her!

5. There may be people who try to project their insecurities onto you. Do not take it personally. Although it may not feel like it, what they say has nothing to do with you.

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I couldn’t have said it better myself.

6. Please don’t rush yourself into knowing what you can only learn with time and experience. Take a deep breath and relax.

No matter what happens just keep swimming.

7. You will definitely get lost at times and feel like you’re completely on your own. But you’re not. 

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However, on many days, it will all seem to make sense and you’ll be able to connect the dots.

8. Some guys may only like you for your physical beauty–politely distance yourself from them. Don’t fall into the trap of only focusing on how you look. You are so much more than that.

Once again, don’t just generalize those dumbos to all men.

9. Sometimes you will say and do hurtful things to those you are closest to. Never let more than a day or two pass before you find the courage to let your ego down and apologize.

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I know it’s not easy sometimes, but life is short. PS: If you’re too scared just send an email or text.

10. No matter how many times you mess up, you will always be loved.

No matter what you are a person deserving of love.

None of us will make it through life without having some sort of realizations we wish we had known sooner. That’s part of the fun (and pain) of growing and evolving. I need to remind myself of these messages on a daily basis.

The difference between my attitude now and around a decade ago is this: I refuse to beat myself up over not being perfect. I embrace my strengths and my areas of improvement because those are the qualities that make me who I am. These are lessons I will have to learn over and over again, but I accept that I will fall down many times. However, I will also rise back up. And so will you.

Categories
Love Life Stories

I used to think something was wrong with me for feeling this way – until the day everything changed

A couple of months ago, I was going through a phase of pretty gloomy and down emotions. I just couldn’t put my finger on what was the cause.

So one day, as I was sitting outside the library, I had an urge to go walk over to a bookstore and start reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson. I had heard great things about this book so I decided to trust my intuition and go check it out. I was already feeling like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, so thought I might as well give it a chance.

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As soon as I began reading, I felt this huge sense of relief. I started having little epiphanies. The first wake up call I received was this:

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Woah.

This was the reason I was having so much anxiety and discontentment! Because I was anxious about being anxious which made me even more anxious. I had unknowingly been trying so hard to be happy that I ended up making myself miserable in the process.

As I continued reading, it hit me that the majority of my negative feelings were completely valid.

I was about to start a new chapter in my life (grad school), so any person in my situation would be at least a little bit nervous. I had also just gotten back from Pakistan, where I was constantly surrounded by family, so being back in America made me feel very lonely.

I realized that most of the time when I feel nervous, sad, or afraid, it’s not because there’s something wrong with me; I have legitimate reasons for those feelings. It’s easy to forget though, as society tells you to slap a smile on your face no matter what you’re going through. But that just causes more issues than actually acknowledging where you’re at, to begin with.

Another realization I had was how much time I used to wallow in self-pity. Boo hoo, poor me has to deal with all this stuff, nobody understands what I feel etc.

For instance, last December, my whole family reunited in Pakistan last year, and I was the only one missing. I didn’t go because I wanted to work on my grad school applications and personal statements.

I felt extreme FOMO. I would see Snapchat stories of people having a blast while I was struggling to work on my work. However, now I am so glad that I prioritized my future goals over short term pleasure.

Mark reminded me that there is really no need to feel sorry for myself.

Who decided to go to grad school? Me. Who wants to become a super skillful counselor and help students? Me. Who decided to apply for this Editorial Fellowship and write five articles a week? That’s right—Me! So there’s really no need to complain and be so whiny. There’s a difference between acknowledging your stress and simply wallowing in it.

Here’s the truth: Nobody forced me to make any of my decisions.

So now, whenever I find myself in victim mode in the story I’ve made up in my head, I remind myself that I am the boss of me. I can quit anytime I want to. But I won’t because I want to live according to my values.

No matter what I do, the ball is always in my court.

It’s empowering when you remember that you’re in charge of your life. There comes a point when you just have to quit blaming your circumstances for your unhappiness.

It’s time to take ownership of the only thing I do have control over in life: myself.

Categories
Love Life Stories

When I finally decided to show the world my real self, I was terrified nobody would like me

I’ve always been a pretty bubbly, positive, happy-go-lucky sort of gal – to the outside world. However, up until around a year ago, I felt like I was living in conflict with myself. I would be smiling and joking around with friends and family, but when I was alone with myself, I would become my own worst enemy.

It pretty much started when I graduated from college and moved back home. The transition was difficult for me. I missed my roommates and didn’t realize how much my happiness had depended on being surrounded by friends.

Around that time I developed this fear that if I showed my authentic self to others, I would not be accepted or loved.

I thought that if I showed my “negative” emotions, people would want to stay away from me. I created a double standard for myself; if someone opened up to me I thought they were brave, and yet if I opened up to someone else it was an act of weakness.

These irrational beliefs felt like the truth to me. I realize now that it’s actually the opposite; showing vulnerabilities is what brings me closer to my loved ones.

I began to have such high expectations of myself. In order to be the best daughter, cousin, niece, friend, employee, etc. I had to hide my true self. While my intentions were good, they were causing a lot of damage in the self-esteem department. In order to avoid displeasing the people in my life, I ended up disliking who I was.

I had some trustworthy loved ones who I felt like I could be a hot mess in front of, but at the end of the day, the person I was stuck with 24/7 was myself.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but a point came when I finally decided I would break this cycle of self-loathing- even if it meant facing the darkest and scariest emotions. I realized that you could be surrounded by all the loving family and friends in the world, but if you don’t love yourself, then nothing will feel good enough.

I began going to therapy. I reconnected with my faith and begged God to help me learn how to help myself. I journaled about my feelings and began to look at them with compassion rather than criticism.

I created a box of letters, notes, and anything positive that loved ones had given me over the years. Whenever I felt low, I would turn to the box and go through it, reminding myself that I made a difference in these people’s lives.

I went on retreats. I got involved in my community. I basically forced myself to do the things that I knew would make me feel fulfilled.

And that’s when little miracles began to take place in my life. I was nominated by a lovely author, Tami Shaikh, to be a part of a South Asian Women Leadership Retreat, where I met incredibly successful women who got deep and personal. Through this, I was able to break free from the illusion that I was alone. I also began to find life-changing books, YouTube videos, quotes, and mentors who believed in me.

It’s not considered cool to talk about your self-doubts and insecurities, but I believe that when we avoid these types of conversations, we miss out on valuable opportunities to truly connect with others.

One powerful exercise for me was something my therapist, Linda taught me. “Find a few photographs of yourself when you were a little girl,” she said.  “Then put them in some nice frames around your living space along with the wallpaper of your phone. When you’re being hard on yourself, just look at the photos and see if you still feel the same way.”

I was amazed at how this one small act led me to actually start liking myself. Every time I saw the photos, I couldn’t help but feel love and compassion towards myself, because deep down in my 24-year-old body, was an innocent little girl who simply needed to feel safe and protected.

One of the photos I used for the experiment

Now, whenever I mess up, I think of the photo of the sweet, little girl and ask myself how I would speak to her if she made the same mistake. It would be cruel to yell at a child for not being perfect, so why is it okay to beat myself up just because I’m a so-called adult? As my therapist taught me, adults are just children in grown up bodies.

Through this bump in the road, I learned that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

Disliking yourself is natural at times, as long as you aren’t stuck in that rut. And self love is not just some cheesy phrase, it’s a key ingredient for contentment and inner peace. Now, I am more than happy to show up and be seen for who I am, and I hope that nobody has to feel like their true self is not worthy enough to be seen.

By choosing authenticity, we begin to attract the right people and situations into our lives.

It may not happen overnight, but it’s definitely worth the struggle.