We need to reevaluate the terms in which we consider success

I have two degrees in English and Journalism that I, and a lot of society, unfortunately, have speculated are useless. People don’t consider humanities majors to get jobs in medicine, law, business, engineering, programming, or any immediately lucrative field. So the assumption is non-STEM majors or careers have little to no societal value. While I have only ever wanted to write, much of my work history consists of low-wage jobs in retail, factories, and warehouses. These jobs are not in my chosen field, but they have a lower barrier of entry than the occupations I would prefer, and they allow me to pay bills. Not only is the worth of my education frequently in question, by myself at the very least, but my work history provides me little to show for my degrees. Therefore, I feel as though I am not considered successful by capitalism’s terms.

Viewing myself in low regard because of my occupations has led to me shying away from relations with people in higher job positions than myself. I have been conditioned to believe that since I am not successful, I am beneath notice. I have rarely ever worked jobs that “real” adults have, meaning well-paying professions which require degrees and years of experience to land. Despite having a decade of work experience, two degrees, living alone, paying taxes, and voting I’ve never felt like I would be one of those people considered to be a real adult. Consequently, capitalism has led me to tie my personal value to my job status and wage, which are things I connect to my level of success.

This has also led me to have difficulty with handling rejection and criticism when it comes to my writing. Writing is my passion; it is the one thing I have consistently dedicated myself to. If I’m not as good at it as I think or want to be, then what good am I? I haven’t bothered to evaluate the skills I have acquired through my years of work experience as being useful, because they are not connected to lucrative, “respectable” jobs. And if I don’t have a useful skill set, I feel as though I am useless.

This frame of thinking has also led me to question whether pursuing a life in writing, something I love, is even worth my consideration.  I had also come to look down on others not working towards a career in a “respectable” field, those who settled for a job that only paid their bills because they cared more about their personal lives. But such judgment has only ever led to the dismissal of those less privileged as well as my own self-loathing because I was not where society deemed I should be for me to “count.”

Buying into this narrative has caused me to not only dismiss my own value, but also the value of others. I have been guilty of using society’s arbitrary standards of success to determine the worth of others, regarding whether or not I’ll entertain platonic and romantic relationships with other people. This perspective is both shallow and harmful because of how it degrades our own self-esteem and how it devalues those who have not had the same opportunities to pursue conventionally successful jobs. Or whose cultures or upbringings have not placed the same undue importance on professions our colonialist, capitalist society values. And when we devalue others, we inevitably dehumanize them.

We continue placing this importance on empty status markers like wealth and power, even when those considered to be successful have insisted they don’t matter. Maya Angelou, a poet laureate who was considered successful in a field I care about, defined success as “liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” As a writer, liking what I do is of utmost importance. If I work on writing only with the goal of achieving success as society understands it, then this voids my creativity of its true value.

Writing or creating any art with the idea it needs to be marketable renders it inauthentic. It adds pressure for the work to be consumable and risks stripping the work of the elements that hold any personal meaning. When we create anything with the exclusive intention of appealing to a demographic, or a publisher, or a market, we are denying ourselves personal expression. But what exactly is the point of art, of creativity, if we can’t use it to express ourselves or our circumstances?

I want to be able to make a living doing what I love. However, I do not want to be beholden to the idea that the value of my work is based on how much money, views, or likes it earns. I do not want to measure my own worth based on my success in achieving these status markers. I am not any less of a writer because I have only ever published short stories and articles. I am not any less of an adult, or a person, because I don’t have my ladder against the wall like capitalism says I should. I don’t know if I consider myself successful at this point in time. But I am continuously learning that ultimately, capitalism’s definition of success doesn’t matter. Success as we understand it does not ever determine our value.

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All I wanted was to be busy, but now I miss being lazy

I’ve never considered myself to be an ambitious person. I was always more than happy just kind of sitting about and chilling. I wanted things, but never with a fervor. Yet even for me, the months after graduation that I spent looking for a job were hard. I felt useless. I looked for jobs in multiple countries and faced countless rejections. It was hard not to tie up my whole self-worth into my job search. I felt like I could only deserve my spot on this planet if I got a job and kept busy. My main goal was to have each hour of my day accounted for, so I felt like I wasn’t wasting my time.

Here’s the thing – I’ve always thought of myself as a lazy person. It was the one part about me that I disliked the most, but I never did much to change it either. I thought I was irresponsible and didn’t seek out hard work. I only did the homework I absolutely had to and often studied for exams just two days before. I didn’t take on any extra projects in college and just kind of did the bare minimum. I felt like I could have done much more as a kid, joined classes, practiced playing an instrument and dancing, maybe tried to become good at a sport? But I didn’t. It was the worst kind of self-awareness. I knew what was wrong, but didn’t have the knowledge or motivation to fix it. Or at least, that’s what I thought.

Then I got a full-time job and several projects to do that I was very excited about. At first, I loved this arrangement. I finally got what I had wanted for years. My schedule was completely packed and it felt fulfilling. But as the weeks went on I realized something was wrong. I honestly thought that achieving the dream of a packed schedule was an end goal – that it would be enough. But I started getting into a phase where I thought about work all the time. Even when I was hanging out with my family or talking to my friends in my free time, I felt guilty about not working. It was frustrating, to say the least. Why wasn’t this working – why wasn’t this packed schedule of hard work making me feel happy? I finally changed the part of me that bothered me the most, it should have left me satisfied with myself.

I was talking to a friend about this and after she listened to my outburst, she had something wise to say. “But you know that even people who are not lazy aren’t productive every minute of every day, right? And why do you even want to be satisfied?” I thought a lot about that. What did I really want? What would make me happy?

I realized my goal wasn’t a sustainable one. It isn’t practical to expect to feel happy when you are constantly under pressure. The satisfaction that comes with applied effort needs to go hand-in-hand with the peace and joy that comes from leisure. I also think I was too hard on myself as a kid. Maybe I didn’t work as hard as some other people, but that was because of a lack of motivation. I’m learning that I’m capable of applying myself to projects that I’m passionate about. So what I was was not lazy, but chill. I miss that now.

There is something to be said for a changing definition of success, even if it does feel frustrating. We are taught that the ultimate goal is to get a job, to move ahead in our careers. We are never told that achieving goals isn’t everything. When I really think about it, I come to the conclusion that it makes no sense to build a system of work and education around the idea that there is only one way to live. We are told that our time must translate into a perceived value, be that money or productivity – something tangible to point to and say “Here is where my time went.” However, the definitions of value and productivity themselves are not objective. There is more to life than being a constant productive machine.

I now know that packing my schedule isn’t the end goal. It doesn’t make me feel great about myself, instead, it allows more things to fall through the gaps. I’ve read it so many times before but it is just now starting to make sense to me – life is all about balance. We need to remember that there is value in taking a break, relaxing, and doing things just for fun. There is value in a lazy day.

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Standoms Music Pop Culture

It’s been a full decade and One Direction still gives me butterflies in my stomach

Somehow, someway, One Direction turned ten this week.

Yes, ten. And, at 21 years old myself, I’m not quite sure when time managed to escape mebecause in my head I am still 13 writing fanfiction in my room, hanging up posters from Rolling Stone of the band on a beach, and having my heart literally melt because of the way that Harry Styles shakes his hair out of his eyesbut it is right now, in this moment, that I feel as if I’ve crashed headfirst into unwarranted adulthood. As if the rug has been pulled out from underneath me. Damn.

Ten years is a very, very long time. A lot can happen within a single decadein fact, a lot did happen. We’ll get to more on that later, but it is important to say first that I am starkly nostalgic of those times, which now seem to be reminiscent of the most incredible joy and comfort. It seemed as if the mind, body, and spirit of every single Directioner somehow operated on the same wavelength—and heartbeat. I always loved the idea that we all, as a collective, validated one another’s thoughts or commentary and found community in adoration. Looking back, being part of a fandom like this one was surely a bit of necessary respite in a time of awkwardness, petty teenage relationships, and deceit. 

Of course, there are other things too. For starters, it is common practice to associate things like personal style, music, cinema, and clothing to be both obvious and meaningful stakeholders of culture—which certainly helps in the case of any band or musician. Think of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk or Elton John’s sunglasses. Those are things you will never forget, or that you will even cherish. The kind of things that you can point out from a mile away. The kind of things that seem to transcend time and place—that sort through all of the randomness and bring you back to that one perfect moment or feeling. For One Direction, at least to me, it’s their silhouettes and boyish laughs. But also, it’s their evolution from shaggy hair, varsity jackets, khaki pants, suspenders, and striped T-shirts to slick black suits, skinny jeans, assortments of tattoos, and wide brim fedoras all the while maintaining a charming sense of self. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking—she’s obsessed! And, while that is a true statement, I am not just saying these things as a fangirl. Trust me, I’ve fallen in ‘love’ with my fair share of boy bands (insert the Jonas Brothers, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Big Time Rush here) but nobody, and I mean nobody, compares to One Direction. So, although this might seem like a stretch for most people, One Direction defined a generation. And, they defined it in a way that moved way beyond the capabilities and limitations of music.

There is no denying the enormity of the impact and that One Direction had, whether you are a fan or not. It is clear as day. 

However, it is quite important to note that their career as a band was not always a linear feat. As most people know, they weren’t always a band. Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson each started off as solo artists, all under 25 years old, on the X-Factor UK. On July 23, 2010 Simon Cowell, the notorious judge of the talent competition, pulled the 5 boys together and gave them the chance of a lifetime. By the time they rounded out the competition, One Direction wound up in third place and backed by Cowell’s record label, Syco. Right off the bat their first singles as a band toppled charts across every single continent. Quite literally, their Na na na‘s could be heard world-wide, which is nothing short of a testament to the stardom that they soon would face. Not to mention the frenzy of fans, media, and paparazzi that quickly surrounded the boys which in hindsight seems like an all-encompassing storm. It was a non-stop cycle of album making, global touring, countless 24-hour long live-streams and video diaries commemorating their relationship with fans, along with goofy realness that made them immensely crush-worthy. 

Fast-forwarding a bit, One Direction managed to accomplish a ton while in the limelight. In 2011, the band’s debut album Up All Night shot to #1 overnight and stayed there, making them the first UK group to peak at #1 in the US with a debut album. In addition, they were the first group to debut at #1 with their first four albums in the US: Up all Night, Take Me Home, Midnight Memories, and Four. In 2012, the band performed at the Olympics closing ceremony in London. By 2013, the group produced and released two concert documentaries titled One Direction: This Is Us and One Direction: Where We Are. In 2014, Billboard announced One Direction Artist of the Year. Altogether, the band has sold more than 70 million records worldwide. In addition, they’ve taken home 16 MTV awards, 154 awards in other isolated categories, and have been nominated for 317 awards in total. Plus, they have sold over 8,287,195 tickets on their tours.

On March 25, 2015 Zayn Malik, 22 years old at the time, left the band during the One The Road Again tour citing a need for normalcy and some time out of the spotlight. Speculations have risen since then about the real reason behind his leaving the band, including episodes of discrimination based on his religion and music style. The other boys continued on and produced the Made in the A.M. album that same year. The band never toured with this album and announced that they too would be going on a hiatus in January of 2016. All 5 members have gone on to maintain remarkable solo careers while holding on tight to their roots in One Direction. The most successful being Harry Styles, an undeniable international heartthrob and sensation.

So far, there has been no serious mention of a reunion in the near future, but hey, miracles do happen! Based on their social media presence on the day of their 10 year anniversary, the boys seem as amicable, genuine, and grateful as they were a decade ago.

Within their record-breaking career before entering a hiatus, the quintet managed to reaffirm what a boy band means all the while establishing their unique and notable brand. These are heavy, even monumental, footsteps to fill.

So, no, One Direction is not just a measly boy band. At incredibly young ages, they were thrust into a world of not so subtle adoration and managed to produce worthwhile music for a loyal, dedicated, fanbase. They changed my life in the best way. Let’s give credit where credit is due and grant them the celebration that they so desperately deserve.

Happy 10 Years of One Direction! 


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Fashion Lookbook

MyScene taught me about style, empowerment, and compassion

Here’s a visual: It’s 2005. You’re sitting in front of the desktop computer in your house, which seems to have a box attached to the back of it, and you’re on hour 3 of playing MyScene. That’s right, MyScene. The online gaming site that let you transform into an interior designer, makeup artist, hair stylist, nail technician, spa business owner, and go on seemingly endless glamorous shopping sprees. The MyScene franchise consisted not only of computer games, but also of dolls and movies — Jammin’ In Jamaica is my personal favorite if you want to experience 44 minutes of pure nostalgia.

At the time, there was absolutely no denying that I wanted to be them. I mean, who wouldn’t? They’re all icons with flawless fashion. Each character Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee had their own individual brand of sass, flare, and style. Plus, as we watched their characters come to life onscreen, we learned that these ladies were also empowered, intelligent, and compassionate. Barbie was interested in technology and business, Madison was a songwriter and band manager, Chelsea loved fashion design and sold items that she customized at the market, and Nolee was the sporty one of the group with an inclination to mathematics. 

To say the least, the MyScene girls introduced me to a world of girl power and badassery, and I cannot thank them enough for that. I grew up alongside four older brothers, so when I wasn’t trying to keep up with them, I was vigorously trying to find feminine outlets. And this was that for a while. I could be as unapologetically sensitive, bold, and imperfect as I wanted to be, and it was amazing. I felt like I was right there alongside them, navigating the plights of womanhood as a young girl trying to break through the mold. 

I used to spend hours on the computer too; hours that I now look upon fondly. I think that this is where I found my fashion roots, to be honest. For one, there was nowhere else that I could be a true fashionista and transform almost immediately into anything and anyone. My closet wouldn’t suffice for the kinds of possibilities and outfits that I was looking for, and neither were the handful of dolls clothes that I had. But here the options were boundless. I could be a superstar or a diva if I wanted to. And trust me… I was!

With sites like MyScene, we were able to quite literally express ourselves anyway we chose time and time again. I quickly learned to appreciate my creativity and let it run free as I surfed through different styles or aesthetics and matched them with different activities or careers. It was expansive, fresh, and valuable. I grew to adore this part of myself. 

I found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and — while it may seem like a stretch — I even learned about budgeting (using coins inherited through the game of course), patience, precision, and discipline. I mean, the product that I came up with just had to be perfect if it was going to be successful, which is an ideology that has lasted with me into adulthood. 

I cherish those days spent with MyScene, sifting through skirts, headbands, and purses, because they morphed me into the woman that I am today and will be tomorrow. She is curious, warm, loud, and would much rather wear a dress than a pair of jeans. She has incredible drive, values empathy over anything else, and is willing to go the extra mile to take something from good to great. Oh, and she also still cries every time she watches a romcom.

What’s even better is that those early 2000’s MyScene styles that we all adored as kids have finally returned to mainstream fashion. We get to put all those years of gaming and idolizing to the test as we put on the outfits and the attitudes to match, to decorate our own lives like we did with Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee so many years ago. 

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Sometimes, divorce is actually better than marriage

People get married for many different reasons.

It could be two people in love and choosing to commit to one another, it could be an arranged marriage, to gain citizenship, religious reasons, because everyone is doing it, or because society tells us we should. But no matter the reason, we praise and give so much attention to these beginnings or these reset buttons you could say. More often than not, when divorce comes into play, it is seen as a grave dark tragedy.

When in reality, people get divorced for numerous reasons as well. Maybe they fell out of love, they changed and so did their marriage, someone cheated, and trust couldn’t be regained. Maybe they were in an abusive marriage and finally got out, or their sexual needs were very different. Maybe therapy still wasn’t working after three years, or they found out they had very different parenting values.

Maybe they were never in love, to begin with.

I recently read an Instagram post that sparked my own personal dialogue around this weight and power we allow divorce to hold. Ericka Hart is a sex educator, speaker, writer, breast cancer survivor and model. 

In this post, Ericka talks about the day she got married then later touches on the aftermath of it, the divorce. She highlights this concept of honoring the endings of our relationships. Even with all the pain and hardship, we can still show up and honor those memories.

Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way focused on delegitimizing the struggle or hardship people have gone through or are going through right now with their divorce, everyone’s pain is valid.

I merely want to challenge how we define a successful and failed marriage. What would it look like if we decided to honor our endings the same way we do with our beginnings?

For the most part, I was fortunate with how both my parents dealt with their separation. I know I was the child in this situation, so I saw a different side of things.

But I did see that they were civil with each other. They communicated well with one another and didn’t have problems sharing time with my sister and me. Through high school I always leaned towards the anti-marriage side of things, questioning the point of it. I would dwell over the idea that marriage is only important and valuable if it lasts.

When I started experiencing my relationships, I noticed how this view was steering me away from commitment.

I had this all or nothing mindset. But as I grew older and more observant, I started looking at the efforts to define success. I learned how my parents worked hard on their relationship. They also worked hard to make a joint decision to part ways, and they worked hard to continue raising their two daughters. This was when I started realizing that my parents’ marriage was actually a successful one, even though it had come to an end.

Our culture doesn’t often go past the event of divorce, we see divorce, and we automatically see failure. But why is it considered a failure?

Instead, why isn’t it something you tried really hard at, put in the most you could have at the time and decided to let go when it wasn’t working anymore? If we measured the success of a marriage based on how we go about the entire process and how we move forward, then maybe we would create more space to honor it later on.

These days, I go into my relationships differently. I know that I’m going to work hard and do my best with the expectation of getting that same effort in return. I go into relationships knowing that love is strong, but it may not always be enough. I believe that if my best effort does not make it last, then I still have the power to honor and celebrate it for what it was.

Ericka Hart posed the question at the end of her post: “What memory do you want to honor?”

My answer is simple: I want to honor them all.

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

If you’re ambitious in your personal and professional life this novel is for you

I came across a book recently that I would not have picked up myself. Rasia: The Dance of Desire by Koral Dasgupta is a novel that seemingly depicts a love triangle between a man and two women. It may sound like a book on fidelity but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Set within the backdrop of Bharatanatyam, Rasia: The Dance of Desire is about a man whose ambitions overrule his life and all relationships. Raj Shekhar Subramanian is ruthless and calculating. Nothing is to come between him and success in his chosen field. He isn’t a bad person who uses people. This just means that everything Shekhar does is about Bharatanatyam, his dance academy, and ultimately his goals.

He has a wife whom he loves, but the author makes it very clear from the onset that Shekhar married Manasi only for her dancing abilities. He is quoted saying that: “She was first my student, then a partner in my vision, a pleasant habit soon after; a lover only lately.”

A little background on Manasi: she is the daughter of a well-respected Pandit. Shekhar saw her perform the danuchi dance of Durga Pooja and knew that she was the woman he wanted to marry.

So now that we know where the second player of the game stands, let’s introduce the third: Vatsala Pandit. A trained ballet dancer, this girl is obsessed with Shekhar. So much so that she moves mountains just to have him perform and ultimately open a dance studio in New York.

If you want my honest opinion, I enjoyed reading the Rasia: The Dance of Desire. The first quarter of the novel was interesting, albeit slightly confusing, as there are two more characters who help tell the story: Brian Herrett, a journalist keen on becoming Shekhar’s biographer, and ‘The Voice’ aka Manasi’s deceased father who Shekhar occasionally talks to in his quiet moments. But once you get the hang of the ever-changing narrator and the occasional jumping of timelines, it becomes a fun read as you begin sketching the character in your head.

The next portion of the book, I must admit, was a bit of a struggle to get through. This is mostly because of Manasi and her never ending train of thought. That and the work she had undertaken. What I do admire about this part is how the author managed to weave the intricacies of Indian Mythology and Bharatanatyam with the lives of our protagonists. While I am interested in Indian Mythology, I am not an enthusiast. But you don’t need to be a fan to appreciate the wisdom and strength the literature foretells. This part also helps us get to know more about our players, especially the dark sides of their personalities.

The book gains momentum as we get to spend more time with Vatsala Pandit. She is a breath of fresh air after coming to terms with Manasi’s submissiveness and Shekhar’s inability to loosen the reigns.

Vatsala Pandit is obsessive, dedicated and hard working. She gets what she wants, and she wants Raj Shekhar Subramanian. Vatsala knows he is married but she is determined to break down his walls and become his dance partner. She wants to not share just share his life but also become indispensable in fulfilling his dreams.

This book is less about a love triangle and more about finding one’s true self. All three protagonists encounter realizations of their own incapability, shortcomings and ultimately, their strengths.

The most interesting character development in the story is that of Manasi’s. We begin by being introduced to a woman who seems to be a complete push over. Her entire existence is devoted to Shekhar with no wants or ambitions of her own. In other words, a complete door mat – for lack of better word. It is only when you progress through the story line that you start to gain respect for Manasi and come to know the real strength of her character. She knows what Vatsala is up to and she is not one to back down from a fight. But, at the same time, she would willingly concede than tarnish her dignity.

But finally, what impressed me most about this book was different layers of each protagonist. Author Koral Dasgupta has done a brilliant job of stripping the characters until we (and they themselves) come face to face with their true selves. Linked with her superb knowledge of Indian Mythology, comes out a great piece of work. The book can be interpreted from various point of views. Which, I believe, portrays the true skill of the writer.

A book has two bare bone functions; to educate or to entertain. A great book does booth. In my meagre opinion, Rasia: The Dance of Desire does both.

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Health Care Health News The Internet Gender The World Wellness Inequality

Anam Tanoli’s suicide reveals the ugly truths of mental health in Pakistan

Trigger Warning: mentions of suicide, depression and cyber harassment

A lot of you may be wondering about the large gap between my last article and this one, right? The reason has been a rollercoaster of mental health struggles that had severely affected my routine and motivation to work.

The reason for penning an article on this particular topic as my “comeback” is also mental health. Nearly a week ago, I woke up with anxiety for the second time in a row; I couldn’t breathe normally, and it felt like an out-of-body experience (a common symptom known as detachment or depersonalisation) with my mind turning into a broken record once again while telling me how I will never achieve my goals, I will never succeed in life, and how I will never be good enough.

Two hours later, while still recovering from the ‘aftershocks’ of this attack, I randomly remembered seeing some tributes being paid on certain instagram stories for a Pakistani-Italian model named Anam Tanoli passing away the night before. I didn’t know her too well, only seeing her pictures on certain brand posts around Instagram and Facebook, and I assumed the worst to be a car accident. Until curiosity got the best of me and I decided to google it.

As it turned out, Anam Tanoli had committed suicide by hanging herself. She had been battling severe depression (she had booked an appointment with a therapist the next day), and had recently become the prime target for online hate and cyber harassment. She was only 26 years old.

So here I am, typing out a piece on a model I did not know about, but whose death has brought me to try and remind the readers of certain thing we tend to keep forgetting.

A friend of mine, in all good intent, mentioned how she didn’t think Anam would be suffering this way because she was so pretty and successful. Oftentimes we equate worldly wealth and good fortune to emotional and spiritual well-being; they’ve got it good, why should they be sad?

Why would successful people like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Kate Spade and Kim Jonghyun be suffering so badly they would take their own lives?

That’s the brutal reality behind mental health issues: money, fame, and looks may show a certain degree of power in the physical world, but not necessarily for the one in your mind. Particularly, for the demons living there.

Which brings me to the next thing: Over 300,000 people are at risk of taking their own lives in Pakistan. The country ranks 22nd among 25 countries in which a survey was conducted on rates of cyber bullying, and that rate is known to be increasing as of late. 

Our words can either be used as weapons or a food banquet for those aforementioned demons. The fact that some people choose to sit behind a screen and type out cruel words for others with no regard of the consequences is baffling; what kind of sick joy do these people get from trying to tear others down?

And whatever a woman does seems to be an open invitation for just that. The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in Pakistan stated last year, that out of 535 calls made to them during their first four months of being operative, 62% of those calls were made by women.

Mental health awareness may be increasing in countries like Pakistan, but unlike that of negativity such as cyberbullying, it’s pace is drastically slow. A lot of people have no material or mental means to seek the help they need; money, qualified professionals, stigma and stereotyping have all become hinderances to what is just as important as a physical check up.

After Anam’s death, I saw depression and mental health being discussed as a serious concern among us all and not as a taboo or lack of religious faith. Many celebrities have shared their own struggles with mental health voiced concerns over jokes being made on the  victims. Pakistan’s recently elected president Dr. Arif Alvi took to twitter three days ago, proposing mental health helplines to be readily available 24/7.

Anam Tanoli’s death may have created a wave for mental health awareness in Pakistan, but it was a death she didn’t deserve. We, at The Tempest, send our deepest condolences to her family. We would also like to encourage our readers to not be afraid to seek the help they need, or to reach out to those who do. Spread love and kindness to others and save some for yourself, because you are just as deserving of it as anyone else.

For Pakistanis: two counselling and suicide prevention helplines that I am aware of that you can use and refer are the Aman Foundation’s Telehealth helpline (+92 (21) 111-11-9123) and Rozan’s Counselling Services Helpline (0800-22444, 051-2890505-6).


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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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

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[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!!!!!

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[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

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[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

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[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?

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[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!


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[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.

Gender & Identity Life

When I stopped using thirty as a deadline for my life goals, everything changed

I had grand plans to celebrate turning thirty in style, doing the thing I loved most since my early twenties: travel. At the time, I also thought I had the big break in my career with an opportunity abroad. I prematurely idealized all of the great things to come after struggling from a lay-off and bouts of demoralizing job hunts.

 Until life slapped me in the face just a few weeks before turning thirty.

I had to move back home with my parents in Dallas when I found out that my dad was very sick. It was strangely perfect timing because I also resigned from that so-called big break right around then. Clearly, things did not work out, and I invested too much of my personal happiness in it. Within less than a month of being back home, I woke up on a Saturday morning to find my dad not able to move. We thought everything would be fine within two days as we rushed dad to the hospital. Those two days became a month.

[bctt tweet=”Until life slapped me in the face just a few weeks before turning thirty.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Eventually, dad’s kidney was leaning towards complete failure, and permanent dialysis was necessary. Within two hours of drawing the line into his veins for dialysis, he bled, profusely. It was from another unrelated area of his body — nothing to do with his original illness. After the nurse called us over, the alarm lights for the ICU began to flash. It was too quick to even process.

As the situation slightly stabilized, I looked through the window of my dad’s ICU room. I saw him open his eyes gently, raise his hand and wave at me to come inside.  After telling him where he was and what had happened, he began to cry.  As I wiped his tears away and told him he would be okay, I held my own back. I then read the news to him as I had been doing during his stay at the hospital every day that month.  I laughed with him as we realized that the news was even more depressing with Trump having just been elected. We watched cat videos instead.

That was the last time I saw any bit of energy left in him, and the last time I looked into his departing eyes. After about a day, the situation had escalated too much, and we decided to let him pass away in dignity.

A few months later, I finally had the chance to see everything in my own life that preceded my father’s death. I realized that I was unnecessarily upset throughout my twenties, despite what my social media profiles displayed: masters degrees, life in different cities, travel to many new places, and a promising career. This display was an attempt to appear “not behind” everyone else, but deep down I felt like I was.

[bctt tweet=”I realized that I was unnecessarily upset throughout my 20s, despite what my social media profiles displayed.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I wanted everything so quickly because I thought everyone else in my age group was succeeding so quickly. In that obsession, I refused to listen to my heart and body. I needed to slow the heck down. I was refusing to re-evaluate the career and personal-life path I was taking at that time because I did not want to look like I was giving up.

About a month before dad even knew that he was potentially staring death in the face, he said this to me: “Whatever has gone wrong — just pretend it never happened and move on. It is that bad paragraph you delete from your page. You rewrite it. These things are better when a partner stands beside you. It makes the blow less intense.”

My dad was the only one person who looked deeply into my soul and understood my inner struggles without me needing to utter a word. He did not place deadlines on me the way society and even some other people in my South Asian family tried to. He knew that everything happened when it needed to, which is why he never made me worry about what I did and did not accomplish by thirty.

For the record, I did find my life partner right around that time. Not because he or anyone pushed, but because he sent me nothing but positive vibes and believed it would happen. This happened after years of listening to family members tell me that I was getting too old. Years of constant nosiness into my personal life. Concern with why I was not married rather than how or what I was doing.

While losing my dad hurt profusely, I gave myself permission to reset my life as a way to move forward. With this reset, I realized what mattered to me. The changes in my life since I turned thirty have been surreal.

[bctt tweet=”Whatever has gone wrong — just pretend it never happened and move on. It is that bad paragraph you delete from your page. You rewrite it.” username=”wearethetempest”]

While society can make your thirties seem like the decade of everything going downhill, I have news:  it has not been either uphill or downhill because it was never linear in the first place. I do not see my life as “not having my sh**” together anymore.  It is a natural continuum with highs and lows that make life worth living. The  expectations we have of ourselves before thirty contribute to the pervasive ageism that gradually creeps into magazine covers, the dating world, workplaces – and, most importantly, us.  

Career Advice Now + Beyond

4 things successful people do after getting rejected

Rejection sucks. No matter how humble we are, it still hurts to be told we’re not right in some way. It can be saying goodbye to someone you love, not getting the dream job, or being told your fabulous idea won’t work; it doesn’t matter, rejection sucks.

But, if you never get rejected you’re probably leaving something on the table – if you’ve never been knocked back, it probably means you haven’t been trying as hard as you can, reaching as far as feels comfortable and then breathing in and going a bit further (like a yoga class!).

In my experience as a coach, I usually work with people who are ambitious. By definition, they will sometimes suffer rejection. They often need help to deal and over time I’ve noticed that the most successful people go through 4 phases.

Phase 1: They mourn it.

[Image description: It shows animated character, Spongebob Squarepants sitting with his hands folded on a table with a steaming hot beverage on it] Via Giphy
They acknowledge it hurts and they take some time to feel bad about it.

They don’t immediately try to “move on” or to kid themselves and others that they “didn’t care anyway”.

Instead, they acknowledge the emotion and name it. The more specific, the better. By doing this, the research suggests they get some control over it.*

Phase 2: They accept it.

[Image description: It shows actor Al Pacino sitting on a chair with his hand on the right side of his face. He looks like he is contemplating something.] Via Giphy
This might take an hour, or it might take a year- that will depend on the enormity of the rejection and your ability to roll with the punches. “Your Mileage May Vary.”

And it may vary over time.

For example, I’ve had times when I’ve been resilient enough to deal with things that others couldn’t, and other periods where I’ve wanted burst into tears when I thought someone had given me a “funny look.”

Phase 3: They learn from it.

[Image description: Songstress Beyonce with her hair flowing can be seen smiling proudly.] Via Giphy
As they say “you’ve paid the price, so you might as well get the benefit.”

There’s always something to learn from rejection. At the very least you’ve learned more about how another person perceives you. That might be right or wrong, and you might care more or less, but you’ve definitely learned something.

Phase 4: They get back into it.

[Image description: Actress Eva Longoria can be seen walking in a green dress with her hair flowing.] Via Giphy
Just because you’ve been rejected once doesn’t mean it’ll happen again.

Don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results though. Something needs to change if you’re going to get acceptance rather than rejection.

The real work (and the pay off) comes from working out what that is and then deciding to make a change. It is work though so, as always, you have to acknowledge the first Rule of Adulting i.e. “You can do anything you like. You just have to live with the consequences”.

*The research I’m referring to is when people in a fMRI machine were shown photos of faces expressing strong emotions. In this situation, our amygdala lights up. This is the part of the brain involved in generating emotions so that makes sense. But it’s also the part of the brain that is what I call the “monkey brain”.

It’s not where we calmly look at the evidence and react appropriately. It’s where we cry/scream/shout/gossip and do other things in the moment that might not, on reflection, help us to achieve our goals. We don’t want to stay there too long. Instead, we want to engage the “executive brain”.  One way to help do this is to name the emotion you’re feeling and this is advice we give when training on HardTalk or difficult conversations too.  When the people in the machine were asked to name the emotion they were seeing the activity in their amygdala dropped and scientists saw more activity in a region of the right frontal lobe known as the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rvlPFC) which is a region involved in vigilance and discrimination.

It seems that assessing and naming an emotion seems to transform the emotion into an object of scrutiny, thereby disrupting its raw intensity: “affect labeling”  as it’s described in the research (or as we like to call it “naming your emotions”) gives us some control back. And this isn’t even new news.

As long ago as the seventeenth-century, philosopher Benedict de Spinoza observed that “an emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof. [The emotion] becomes more under our control, and the mind is less passive in respect to it.”

Gender & Identity Life Weddings

I have bigger dreams than getting married, but why is that so wrong as an Arab woman?

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have yet to accomplish. My dreams of becoming a journalist and living in a cozy little apartment with my friends in Dubai seem like a lifetime away. My bucket list is ever-growing, and my goals are always changing.

I’m the seventh of eight daughters, all of whom can be described as strong, independent women. My parents raised us to strive for success and work hard to achieve our dreams, whether that was to be a writer or a doctor. But people still ask when we’re going to get married.

Unless you end up with a ring on your finger (before your 25th birthday), nothing you accomplish will be good enough. One of my sisters is a savvy businesswoman who works harder than anyone I know, but she is continuously told, ‘You need to get married soon.’ Although the extended relatives who sometimes say those things do have our best interest at heart, they do not realize the implications of their words.

I can’t help but feel disheartened whenever I hear people say things like that. I don’t ever want myself or my sisters to be seen as incomplete because we’ve chosen to put off getting married for a while. I hate seeing so many women being put down because they chose to put themselves first.

The truth is that we teach women that the most important thing they should strive for is a husband. It’s the 21st century and women’s potential has been made so clear. I am surrounded by so many successful women whose dreams go way beyond finding someone to settle down with. One of my best friends at university interned at an almost-all female-run law firm and is planning to earn her law degree straight after graduation. Another close friend of mine aspires to travel the world and make documentaries on the lives of minorities and those affected by war and poverty.

No matter how ambitious and accomplished women are, we still have had to prove ourselves time and time again. When we continuously pry women with questions about their marriage plans we inevitably make them feel like no matter what they accomplish in life, nothing they ever do will be as significant as getting married.

I’ll be the first one to admit, marriage is definitely on my bucket list, but it is not the first. Five years down the line, I want to be able to look back at what I have done and take pride in the person I have become.

We need to teach girls that they cannot love someone else until they love themselves. If that means putting off marriage for a few years to pursue their dreams until they feel like they’re ready to settle down, then so be it. We need to teach girls that they can aspire to so much more than ending up with a ring on their finger.

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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