Family Gender & Identity Life

The expectations of modern society are burdensome for many women

Ever feel like a lot of phone conversations between women recently hinge on who is busier? The incessant playdates, the overwhelming workload that seems to have doubled during quarantine, and the various social commitments. So, one person talks about how they haven’t slept properly in months and the other counters by telling us how she’s managing 4 projects. This continues until you hang up. I call this the struggles of modern women. The ridiculous expectations to always excel.

When I was younger, I remember teatime afternoons sitting outside chatting to my family. Teatime was sacred and could sometimes last hours. Now I barely see my kids for more than a few hours and in between those I’m still either working, disciplining them or trying to squeeze in some educational lessons to share with them. We’re never just relaxing.

So what changed? I think there are a few factors that contributed to this.

Social media

Modern technology can be a bit of a curse. Suddenly we’re privy to what everyone is up to, any time of the day. You see the superwomen managing their multiple roles with so much ease. You see the career women thriving in their respective jobs. The crafters knitting blankets for their kids. The home bakers making batch after batch of broccoli muffins that I can’t even follow the recipe of. Everyone is excelling, whereas I feel like I’m drowning half the time. When did perfection become such a prerequisite?

The fight for emancipation

I, like many women today, am done with notions of subjugation. I know that I wasn’t raised to be dependent on a man and I have actively tried to be an equal partner. However, the responsibilities of women haven’t changed. We’re still, for the most part, the primary caretakers, just because men are still earning more. Schools still reach out to moms first and kids turn to us for their needs. So, in essence, even though our roles have expanded, the other responsibilities haven’t eased up.

There are certainly more opportunities for us now than there were for my mother or grandmother. I now know that I can be a multi-faceted individual. However, in this struggle to be better, and explore more, I’m now a headless chicken. I want to be fitter because it signifies discipline. I want to read more because it allows me to have a different worldview. I want to work harder so I can grow in my career, and so on. As we grow, the expectations from modern women increase as well. But when does it stop? When do we realize that we’ve reached the end of our tether and some expectations are just not realistic?

We’re still struggling to get the recognition we deserve  

I think the success of women is celebrated a lot more now than before. However, we still need to talk louder, work harder and longer, to get the same level of acknowledgment. I know that if I ever let something slip, people will blame me for playing the “woman card.” However, if a man slips up, he’s just having a bad day. We continuously need to hold ourselves together, never let the mask slip and keep going because letting one juggling ball drop means it all falls apart. After all, a modern woman needs to have it together right?

I’m happy at the pace women are moving. I love seeing my peers succeed, excel, reach high-level posts. But I also see expectations from us rise and the roles multiply, as we struggle to keep up. We’re expected to be role models for our kids, always-indulgent partners, level-headed workaholics, passionate hobbyists and above all excellent multitaskers. But is this realistic? Will modern women ever be allowed the same level of leniency that men are? I hope so, because somedays I’m barely holding my head above the water, but I’m smiling because no one likes a whiner.

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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.

Gender & Identity Humor Life

20 awkward situations only English speakers living in Desi countries can relate to

Believe it or not, there are plenty of people in Southeast Asia that grow up speaking English. It might seem weird to people, knowing that we were born in our own country and live with people that barely speak English.

But some parents think that it’s important to get their children used to speaking in English since it might be useful in the future – most of us think it will be our ticket for a lot of employment opportunities. It’s also considered as a language of survival especially when traveling abroad.

Others choose to learn the language because they simply like it – I’m one of them.

As an English speaker in Southeast Asia, I can say that my life is quite eventful with struggles and awkward situations.Here are some things that I’ve experienced, and if you’re anything like me you probably have, too:

1.  Trouble in understanding some words in my mother tongue


You have a pretty limited knowledge of your mother tongue since it’s not a language you speak every day. All you can do during family gatherings is wave, nod, and smile.

2. People bitch about you…


Not just behind your back, but right in your face. It’s sad that since you can barely understand anything, they can talk about you, anytime and anywhere they want.

3. … but in the end, you finally understand but pretend you have no idea


Yes, I’m learning. And I know what you’re talking about, bitches.

4. You’re having a hard time getting along with relatives


With the language barrier, most of them wouldn’t want to spend their time with you since it’s too hard for them to communicate.

Sad, but true.

5. Being asked the same questions over and over again


“Why can’t you speak your own language?”

“Can you speak other languages too?

“Are you mixed?”

“Were you raised in UK/America?”

Urgh… here we go again. *roll eyes*

6. “You should be proud of your own heritage!”


“Are you too proud to speak your own mother tongue? Stop showing off!”

Excuse me?

7. Your accent is different and… unique


Because you always sound like a foreigner trying to speak your ethnic language. It’s awkward when everyone turned to you before you speak, just to focus on your accent…

“Awww… she’s trying to speak our language, it’s so cute!” *shyly smiles*

8. They try to imitate the way you speak, sometimes with a mocking expression

It doesn’t matter to them if you’re offended, they find it funny.

9. Still, you have the respect of the younger family members


“Oh, my God! Can you teach me how to speak Eng-ge-rish?”

Sure kiddo!

10. It’s always hard to find friends at first in school


It’s the same struggle as getting along with relatives. Not everyone understands and is comfortable being with someone who speaks a different language.

11. You’re “too Westernized” to be with them


“I’m too what?!”

And I’ve never even been to Western countries… smh

12. You’re shamed for speaking English all the time and verbally bullied


Because apparently, we’ve betrayed our motherland.

13. When your teacher asks you to read in your language and everyone started to laugh


That’s the most dreadful moment in the class because you might pronounce words incorrectly.

14. You have no problem mastering any subject in English


Oh, yeah… this is a piece of cake!

15. Some people are amazed when you start to speak English without any problems

Confidence level = limit exceeded.

16. But when it comes to presentations, everyone immediately points at you

“Oh, come on! Again? Why me, why?” and that’s when you wish you could turn invisible.

17. When it’s time for karaoke and everyone chose local songs


There’s always be one popular song that everyone knows and the only thing you could do is just “Ohh…yeah yeah…” or you’re probably the wet blanket at this, just be there and sit quietly. Of course, your friends would understand and let you choose any song you can sing.

That’s… if there are any English songs at all.

18. You keep getting weird questions from strangers when they hear you talk


“Were you adopted by white parents?”

19. It’s a HUGE relief to see English subtitles on local soap operas

It means EVERYTHING to you! Imagine when there are no subtitles and you have to pester anyone next to you, just to know what the bloody hell all these people talking about.

Unfortunately, most shows don’t have subtitles.

20. Being asked to deal with foreigners


“No problem. Just leave it to me.”

Love Wellness

I couldn’t take a moment to stop working – until something terrible happened to my best friend

“And I’m here to tell you today, if you’re going to be successful you gotta be willing to give up sleep. You gotta be willing to work with 3 hours of sleep, 2 hours of sleep. If you really wanna be successful, someday you’re gonna have to stay up 3 days in a row. Because if you go to sleep you might miss the opportunity to be successful.” – Eric Thomas

My whole life has revolved around one thing – success. My only goal in life was to be successful and I’d do anything to achieve it, no matter what cost. Time, money, sleep, and people I loved too – I’d sacrifice anything at all costs. For success, I’d be willing to lose it. If I slept too much, I’d miss the opportunity to be successful. I only had one life, and there’d be no do-overs if I missed anything. I thought there was no time to waste in life.

Opportunities come only once, so I had to grab them when I got the chance, no matter what I had to sacrifice.

I was a highly-motivated woman.

Hard work always pays off. That was my life motto and I’d hold to it for as long as I lived.

So, I worked really hard to achieve my goals. To be honest, I was a total workaholic.

I woke up at 4 am to start my day.

My morning started with a long list of things to be achieved for one day. The moment I opened my eyes every morning, my mind already reminded me of the visions I had about my future. It made my motivation hit to the extreme level and nothing could stop me from working hard to accomplish all my dreams.

There was no specific time for bed, just when my work for the day was done.

24 hours in one day was too limited for me, so I hustled all the time to make sure everything got done. If there was even one minute of free time, I’d use it for work.

That was how I used my time wisely.

I was listening to Eric Thomas, one of my favorite motivational speakers, when I got a text from my best friend asking me to visit her. It was rather peculiar, but there was no reason to decline. After all, she was my closest friend and we shared the same level of enthusiasm when it came to success.

She was a workaholic just like me.

Spending an hour or two with her couldn’t hurt. So I grudgingly set aside the day’s work and went to visit her on that very day.

When I reached her house, I was expecting to find her buried in paperwork and books…

… but instead, I found her in bed.

Her face was as white as a sheet.  She was way skinnier than the last time I’d seen her. No cheekbones should be sticking out as far as hers were. It looked as if there was no life in her, except that she was still breathing.

I was even more shocked when she smiled and started to talk.

Half of her face was paralyzed. The right side of her lips didn’t lift upward when she smiled and her eye didn’t blink. She could barely utter one word. Nothing was functioning on her right side of her face.

It looked as if it was disfigured.

I was utterly shocked.

She told me that stress brought her to this state. She’d been going days without sleeping, just for the sake of achieving her life goals. She’d been working so much that her health deteriorated.

She was a workaholic like me, but the pressure had gotten to her. According to the doctor, it weakened her nervous system so badly that it couldn’t function properly.

Thankfully, it wasn’t permanent and would go away within weeks.

I couldn’t be more grateful hearing that.

From her bed, she begged me to stop overworking.

She had been doing it for months, and now she was paying the price for neglecting her health. That’s why she’d asked me to visit; she wanted me to stop before I faced the same consequences.

Having dreams and goals in life is never wrong. Everyone has a purpose, and achieving goals is the way to fulfilling that purpose. But my best friend’s illness taught me that achieving my goals should never come at the cost of my physical and mental health.

If I was sacrificing my physical and mental health for my success, then it was time to take a step back. It became clear to me that there was no point in neglecting my well-being and happiness by being a workaholic, especially since happiness was actually the main purpose of my life goals.

I’m so grateful I was able to really hear her advice that day.

Today, I know that my health is far more important than my success.

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Love Life Stories

Learning to love my name took me years

The confusion was almost formulaic.  First, the brow would furrow. Then the lips would purse. An eyebrow would raise, their head would dip slightly, and then:

“Let’s see here… asth…ma? Asthma?”

My face burned. “It’s…Asma” I replied. 

“Oh okay. Auz-ma.” Check. 

A male classmate came up to me afterwards. “Ha-ha, Auzma! That’s sounds like ‘osmosis’!” I laughed embarrassedly, and walked away with my face burning. 

[bctt tweet=”And I would just think to myself, what are you doing? That’s not your name, dude.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I once told my parents that I wished they had named me something else. If only they called me something that could be easily “Americanized.” Why didn’t they think to spare me the pain?

I spent my 5th and 6th grade years responding to the name “ossma” (pronounced aw-sma) because I was too ashamed and embarrassed to correct everyone around me. I was at a public school and I was the only person who spoke Arabic.

My name sounded so ugly in their mouths.

[bctt tweet=”My name sounded so ugly in their mouths.”]

I’ve been called Assma, Asthma, Eyzma, Ozma, Asmama, Osama, Uzma, and Esme. Seriously. I have a running list of all the variations people have come up with over the years. I find it hilarious now and I take it with a grain of salt. But there was a point in time when I was ashamed.

I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only one who’s felt this way. I began to notice that other Arabs went by shortened, “American” names. Mohammed became Moe. Samiah became Sam. Abdullah became Abe.

And I would just think to myself, what are you doing? That’s not your name, dude.

It wasn’t just the Arabs, though. My Asian and Indian peers did it too. They picked names that had nothing to do with who they were, in a language that wasn’t theirs.

[bctt tweet=”I understand the temptation to give the barista a different name. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

At first, I wished I could do the same. But my name couldn’t be shortened, and I couldn’t come up with a suitable, American nickname. I couldn’t go by ‘As.’ That would be stupid and counterintuitive to my plight. “Sam” was a real stretch. Perhaps I could have gone by something completely random, like “sunny.” Honestly though, the thought made me grimace. That wasn’t who I was, that wasn’t who I was named. No matter how badly I wanted to change my name, I simply couldn’t.

Now though, I see just how wrong it is to alter your name.

Your name is who you are. It is the primary, most basic part of your identity. By changing your name, you are presenting the world with a different “you.” You make the statement to the world that you’re rejecting who you are. And when you give in to societal pressures, and change your name for the sake of making others’ lives easier, you voluntarily become a victim of whitewashing.

Sometimes, I tell the barista to write a name like “Sarah” on my cup. But it feels like treason.

I understand the temptation to give the barista a different name. Believe me, I do. I know that it could save you the extra, awkward minute in line. But you know what, if not you, then who? Who else will stand up for your name?

Stand up for your name.

Love Life Stories

ASK SAMAA: How do I learn to love myself?

Hi Samaa,

I need your advice. I have slowly started to appreciate myself in terms of who I am, my looks, faith, abilities, opportunities, family and friends. However, there are those days when  I criticize myself so harshly that I notice. What can I do to act and be more positive? Thank you!



Dear Daisy,

Thank you so much for this question!

I am so glad to hear that you have made strides in your confidence! That is an incredibly powerful step in nurturing your wellbeing, and I hope you keep working at it and building on it.

At the same time, we all have days when we feel we are not at our best. It’s easy to fall back into negative patterns, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot work your way out of a slump.

I hope the following five suggestions can help you feel more positive:

1) Treat yourself as you would treat a friend.

Would you ever say the hurtful things that you say to yourself to a friend? Most likely not. Be your own best friend. Be the kind and supportive friend you need. Make sure that all of the things you say to yourself are filled with compassion and understanding. Be patient with yourself.

One of my favorite poems by nayyirah waheed is

“i love myself.’








2) Repeat a mantra or an affirmation.

Check out this great deck of Daily Affirmations from Planned Parenthood. You can download the cards here.

My favorites are:

“You are an expert on yourself. No one knows better than you who you are or what you need,” “Sometimes bravery is ‘I will try again tomorrow,'””When I show myself compassion, I resist all the ways in which I have been taught to judge and police myself,” “You are not ‘too much’ – you are exactly enough,” “Feelings are information – my body or my heart is telling me something – and I get to decide how to use that information,” and “I can be proud of my healing process even if it starts and stops.”

3) Don’t internalize your negative thoughts to traits about yourself.

Try not to critique your personal attributes, characteristics, or features. 

Instead, make a list of things that are bothering you. For example, are you feeling stressed about an assignment/work, family, or friends? Identify the causes/sources of your frustration, and work through how you can solve those individual issues. That is much more productive than putting yourself down and hurting your self esteem in the process.

4) Make a list of three positive things that have happened to you, or that you have achieved, today.

It may seem small, but listing down all the good things that are happening in your life can make you appreciate yourself and your environment more. Is three easy enough to do? How about listing five, or ten positive things? 

I like using Coach.Me to track my daily tasks, and it also gives me reminders to complete my tasks, including Writing Three Positive Things About Today.

[bctt tweet=”What are three positive things you did today?”]

5) Fake it till you make it!

Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling can elevate your mood. Check out this excellent Ted talk on the hidden power of smiling. 

Good luck! Remember, it’s okay to have a bad day, and it’s okay to feel down, but don’t internalize those feelings towards yourself. You are perfect as you are, and exactly who you are supposed to be.

Take care of yourself.

Lots of love and empathy,