Money Now + Beyond

Here are some things I didn’t spend money on because of the pandemic

It’s been over a year of living in a pandemic, and it’s just starting to get back to normal. But in the past year, a huge number of us put our lives on hold. Money has become the great humbler this year for millennials and Gen Y individuals who were preparing to move onto life’s next chapter. Furlough and unemployment have a tendency to do that. So while we’re all taking these last few weeks to celebrate and introspect, let’s talk about things we couldn’t accomplish because everything’s just too expensive.

Living in a capitalist society is hard work. It’s even harder work when your bank balance does match the imaginary vision board dwelling in your head. This year has forced me to make tough decisions and I’ve had to make a lot of personal sacrifices to make peace with where I am currently. That being said, it’s very important to note that all these decisions were made after carefully weighing each element and its corresponding effect on my life. It was, truth be told, hard work to learn the basics of financial literacy. But today, I want to talk about the six things I ended up putting aside and why they would have been the case of bad timing if I ended up doing them.

1. Moving out

A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying 'I'm moving out of the loft' via Giphy
A GIF of Zooey Deschanel as Jess from New Girl saying ‘I’m moving out of the loft’ via Giphy.

Now that I’m grown up enough to do pretty much anything and everything, this has been on my list since university. But I’ve had to put a hold on my one-bedroom apartment with cute balcony furniture dreams because I spent most of this year on furlough. While many cities have reported cheaper rent markets, I would suggest anyone planning on moving out to wait till they’ve got enough for a rainy day. You’ll thank me for that money tip.

2. Beginning the immigration process

A GIF of Hamilton with the saying,
A GIF of Hamilton with the saying, “Immigrants we get the job done.” via Giphy

Immigration can be quite an expensive process, depending on where you’re immigrating to and from. For myself, I had to put it on pause once I realized that it’s the safest nor wisest choice to migrate to places that could easily turn into a danger zone of outbreaks during the pandemic. It was more important to prepare and make sure I was safe and financially stable.

3.  Traveling

A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy
A GIF of a pug puppy looking at a world globe via Giphy

I personally cannot believe that as an adult you’re only entitled to a certain number of leave days (depending on which country you’re from). I was planning a holiday to one of my most favorite places in the world. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Till next time then.

4.  Sign up for a gym membership

A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy
A GIF of a man and a woman cycling in a gym via Giphy

I know we can pretty much do anything thanks to Ms. Chloe Ting and her workouts but I really wanted to focus on getting fit this year. Getting a gym membership during a pandemic would be a mistake. So many gyms were forced to close due to the virus, and it would have been a money drain to be stuck with membership for a place I can’t even go to. I’m very glad that this thought didn’t stick. My bank balance would have yeeted me into the sun.

5. A short-term, in-person degree

A GIF of two news reporters saying 'Expand Your Mind' via Giphy
A GIF of two news reporters saying ‘Expand Your Mind’ via Giphy

I’ve always valued learning and, while there are loads of courses that are free online, I desperately wanted to level up my skills at work by signing up for a course that required human interaction, discussion, and the classroom ambiance. It’s a good thing I missed signing up for that type of course before the pandemic. Little did I know at the time that most of my family would be using YouTube for everything in a few year’s time. For many of us, learning online ended up being an inevitability.

6. Seeing my favorite singer in concert

A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy
A GIF of BTS performing live in socially-distanced settings via Giphy

I had made plans to see my favorite band in concert, however, due to the pandemic; their tour has been canceled and we’ve all moved online performances. Here’s to hoping that I finally, finally see BTS in concert in 2021 and my bank balance agrees with it!

As businesses and work begin to open up again in various parts of the world, it’s still going to take some time before things become completely normal. It’s easy to feel disappointed and down about missing out on major life experiences this past year, but I’m hoping to get to these six things eventually.

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Family Life Stories Life

Leaving home was the smartest decision I made

Like any teenager on the cusp of adulthood, I could not wait to leave home, spread my wings, and soar. The world was my oyster. Despite being restricted in college choices, I knew I couldn’t stay at home any longer. My dad told me I had to either study in Dubai, or in India. I knew I had to leave, so I chose to study in India. I was finally ready for the adventure, for a new life.

What I was not ready for, however, was the food poisoning. Or the homesickness, the constant stress, the constant cleaning, or even the laundry. I spent about a quarter of my time just cleaning up. Honestly? I loved cleaning up because it was my space, it was my home. I also quickly realized why my mom was such a stickler for a clean house.

Preparing meals and maintaining a home can be exhausting, and it became easier to follow a routine. I learned that it’s easier to maintain a clean home than let it build and spend hours cleaning up. Having a routine made it easier to get things done, and helped me structure my day.

Living alone does have its benefits; you realize a lot about life and about yourself. It was surprising to see how much I learned about other people. I learned about trust, about opening up to others, and relying on people that weren’t my family. Living in a hostel meant depending on people I had just met, and I got an incredible chance to build a family of my own, a home away from home.

Getting an apartment made me realize how much work goes into caring for a house. I learned more about my parents when I was away from them, more than I ever did back home. I spoke to people who’s parents went to the same college my mom went to; it was a fun glimpse into my mother’s past. I learned that my parents cared for me but weren’t helicopters – they didn’t monitor my every move abroad. They called me often enough to check up on me, but also left me to handle things on my own. It was freeing, and comforting to know they were there if I needed them. 

Being away helped me become more tolerant and more accepting.

I learned to live with other people and their quirks; I also learned how to share spaces, and be more accommodating. It was interesting sharing a room with another girl; I learned about other family structures – I grew up in a nuclear family, so those with joint or extended families was fascinating to me. I had to make decisions that impacted my life without a safety net. Being alone taught me about responsibility and consequence. I was in charge of my own meals, cleaning my apartment, and catching up with college work.

My biggest lesson was budgeting; learning to pay bills, rent, groceries, and have some money left over for other expenses, like dinners and movies. I also learned about people; those who mattered and those who didn’t. It’s interesting to see who sticks by you when you’re at your lowest. I had plenty of fair-weather friends, but a handful that I could see myself growing old with. 

Living at home because of the pandemic has been difficult. I’m suddenly stuck with a curfew again. Though my parents treat me like an adult in some ways, I’m still treated like a child in others. I suddenly have to watch how I dress and when I can leave. However, I am allowed to do what I want at home. I don’t have to explain all my actions, but I do have to reveal my whereabouts.

It’s been confusing, but I’ve learned to live with it.

It means that I can’t fully express myself, which is difficult.  I know my parents are just looking out for me. What used to be annoying is now seen as concerning. I know they want me to stay safe, even though that means giving up certain freedoms. I can respect that mindset. It can get frustrating, but I remind myself to try and see it from their perspective, too.  

When people wonder whether they should go to college abroad, or move houses, or even take an extended vacation elsewhere, I always encourage it. Traveling is the best form of education. Seeing new cultures can teach you so much, including your own. I never knew much about India because I grew up in Dubai. I never realized its diversity. Living there for four years made me appreciate the country I come from. It also made me want to explore more of it.

Coming home is always a mixed bag. Living away from home also made me realize just how comfortable home is. I miss the freedom of college, and I miss living alone. At the same time, I’m so grateful I have a home to come back to, especially during this time. I’m grateful that my parents are willing to take me in as an adult, but I do miss the responsibility. I’m glad I got to get out there and enjoy the world and I can’t wait to do that again. 

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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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 Life Stories

Studying abroad taught me to survive adulting

I hate flying.

I don’t remember when I first developed this fear because many childhood memories include me on a plane en route to visit family in Jamaica. I spent those early trips unbothered, but then it was like I woke up one day and suddenly just the thought of an airplane sent me into a panic.

In 2011, I got news from my study abroad department that my application was accepted and I would be doing my entire junior year abroad in London. I was thrilled. Even as a high school student, I have always known that the single most important college experience for me would be studying abroad. 

The only thing standing between me and my dream of a lifetime was a 7 hour plane ride.

As soon as I purchased my tickets, I marked it down on a calendar and spent most of that summer tightly wound. I divided my time between researching plane crashes and turbulence (so I could be prepared for anything) and discovering homeopathic anxiety remedies (so I could stay calm during a worst case scenario).

By the time my departure date finally arrived, I was a coiled ball of nerves and excitement. As I said goodbye to my family at JFK and made the journey past security to my gate, I was sure I’d pass out from sheer emotion all before boarding.

I barely remember the plane ride itself. It could have been the three glasses of red wine I guzzled in an attempt to self-soothe. Or it could have been the fact that it was a red-eye flight so, my body rebelled and kept me in a groggy haze. Whatever the reason, before I knew it, the pilot came on the loudspeaker and announced our descent into Heathrow. My first solo plane ride was complete.

My time in London continued in that same fashion: as a series of firsts. My first solo plane ride. Opening my first bank account. Navigating unfamiliar streets of a new city all alone.

When I started my freshman year of college in a tiny hippie town in upstate New York, I thought I had known what change meant. But I also knew that home was only a two hour bus trip away. Any independence I had felt was lessened by the reality that I could visit home anytime I wanted. London was not like that. For the first time in my life, I was truly on my own.

Initially, it was scary.

I struggle anxiety so at times even the most mundane tasks are a challenge for me. During my first trip to the main shopping center, I felt totally out of my element. I needed bed sheets, cutlery, and plates. These were all things I’d never had to purchase before. The thought of having buy them all at once made me jittery and nervous. 

Having to do my shopping completely alone was also a new experience. 

I had to get used to the fact that there were no familiar faces in the halls of my university. For the first time in years, I’d have no one to call for a last-minute lunch between classes or a study session in the library. 

It was a huge adjustment. 

I was so used to having my on-campus friends break up the monotony of the academic day. I grew jealous of the friend groups I saw around me but remained too shy to approach any of them.

I didn’t want to spend my entire time abroad as a shut-in, so I had to do the scariest thing for a person with anxiety: I had to confront these fears head-on.

If I wanted to eat I had to embark on a solo-grocery shopping trip. And if I wanted friends, I had to leap out of my comfort zone and meet new people.

Once I realized that I could control and shape my experiences in London, I felt more secure and less anxious. I was able to find a balance between cultivating a social life, keeping up with academia, and creating safe home away from home in my flat.

From the moment I boarded that plane to England, I started on an unknown journey. It would have been so easy for me to decide against my trip and to instead spend all four years on my US campus. I’m glad I chose not to. 

I like to jokingly say that London was the city that “birthed” me and in many ways it truly did. 

I arrived an unsure, high strung girl, and left an independent, self-possessed woman.