It’s that time again, when I sit here contemplating things that have happened this past year, things that could happen this coming year, and things I’d like to happen.
I don’t even know where or how to start. So much has happened since my 24th birthday. So much has changed. But here’s what has stayed constant:
- The massive flow of Facebook birthday messages.
- The amazing friendships that I’ve sustained.
- The amount of love, comfort and support I received from friends.
- And of course, the efforts by my family to make this day as special as possible for me.
I turned 25 yesterday. I don’t feel any differently than I did two days ago. I’ve come to realise that birthdays aren’t an occasion meant to make you feel older – you’re the only one who can make yourself feel that – rather, they are an excuse to celebrate, and a reminder to you of the special people in your life. They also give you a valid reason to feel special and be the centre of attention for at least one day of the year. Here’s how my day was spent in a nutshell, and some of the things that made me smile:
- I was invited out for a fun girl’s coffee date at Emirates Palace (you haven’t had coffee until you’ve had it with gold sprinkles). Thank you Karolina, Nada and Melissa!
- I came home to a sweet balloon and birthday display at my bedroom door.
- I received a package from friends that included a wonderful bouquet of red and yellow roses, a divine chocolate cake from Coco’s and more balloons.
- An hour later, I received another package from friends. This one much bigger and filled with gifts and goodies.
- Ending the day with a special family celebration, the night finally came to a close with cake, food, tea, and lots of presents.
So, in honour of my 25th birthday, I’m going to give you 25 things I’ve learned in my time on this planet, in no particular order:
1. Deep Breaths.
Don’t stress. Breathe it all out. Learn to breathe, to take it easy. Breathing is the key to staying calm, and balancing your internal system. You cannot be more in tune with your existence and yourself than with breathing. You are in the here and now only when you breathe. Focusing on your breathing does not allow you to think ahead, to skip steps. It forces you to think of the present, to focus on the now. “Deep breaths are the only form of living in the present that I can truly understand.”
2. Be Healthy.
Nothing in this world matters more than your health. Being healthy does not only mean taking vitamins or drinking enough water or being ripped or having a bikini body. It’s about lifestyle choices, eating smart, becoming more active in your daily life, getting enough sleep, getting rid of any negativity in your life, learning to be at peace with yourself. So, eat well, stay fit, exercise, sleep early, don’t smoke, drink less and clear your head.
3. Don’t let life get the best of you.
Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes, you will find you’ve hit rock bottom, you will feel helpless, and powerless, and absolutely paralyzed. It can make you feel like there’s noway out. But there’s always a way out. There’s always something you can do to change it, someone you can go to that can help. Look for that light at the end of the tunnel, I guarantee you, there’s always one.
4. Keep busy.
There’s nothing worse than feeling useless. Always find something to keep you occupied. Read, shop, travel, write, work out, join a book club, take dance classes, learn a new skill, anything. Keeping busy helps give you a sense of purpose and drive. Days pass so much faster when you are busy.
5. Always prioritize.
I’ve learnt this the hard way. What is important to you, is not necessarily important to others. Consider your priorities. Marriage. College. Family. Friends. Work – and not in that particular order either. You don’t have to marry and have children straight out of college just because that’s what your parents did, maybe your priorities are different. Maybe you want to work first, or travel the world. Maybe you’d rather be a stay at home mom, even though you have a legitimate university degree that you worked hard to attain. No one can make those decisions for you. So think about it.
6. Nurture your spirituality.
If you believe, if you have faith, then you need to practice it. Think of faith as a muscle, the more you use the muscle and work it out, the stronger it gets. The more you let it go and neglect it, the weaker it gets. Pray more, put aside more time to remember your faith (whatever it is), to ask God for forgiveness, or to give Him thanks, or to ask him for or tell him anything, to recite prayers, to meditate and so on and so forth. The stronger that muscle gets, the more at peace you will be.
All you are ultimately asked and expected to do is to love and respect them. No matter their flaws or shortcomings. It’s the least you can do. Love your family, you only have one.
8. Rekindle friendships.
Stop putting things off. Start planning and going through with your plans. Your rain-check balance is way overdue. Facebook doesn’t count. Whatsapp is not enough. Get out, see your friends, sit with them, rehash old memories, and make news ones.
9. Get out of the house.
One of the unhealthiest things you could do is stay at home for long periods of time. No matter how down or lazy you’re feeling. Get off your ass and take a walk to the nearest supermarket, even that 5 minute walk can be rejuvenating to the self.
10. Pamper yourself.
Get your nails done, get a massage, dress nicely, get a facial, keep your skin moisturized, get your hair done. It’ll take years off you. Do it now, make it a habit. You’ll regret it later.
11. Be grateful.
It’s hard to be thankful sometimes when things aren’t going your way, but don’t ever let it stop you from taking a moment to say thank you anyway. There’s always a lesson to be taken. A moral to be made. So remember to say الحمدلله.
12. Be surprised.
How difficult it has become to look around us in wonder. Nothing surprises us anymore. We have become desensitized to the world around us. Don’t lose your sense of wonder. The world is such a beautiful place. Let it take your breath away, let it amaze you. Be surprised.
13. Parents can be wrong.
That’s the hard truth. We grow up our whole lives thinking they could do no wrong, that they are perfect. The truth of the matter is, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Our parents, God bless them, do the best they could under the circumstances they are in. They raise us to the best of their abilities and try to instill in us all the values and beliefs that they would like to see in their children. At a certain point in life though, we need to be able to stand up on our own feet and make our own decisions, whilst they need to let us do that and trust they did a good job. When all is said and done, we are the product of a life’s worth of hard work and they have done everything they could. One of my favourite lines by Ali bin Abi Taleb (599-661 A.D.) is: “Do not raise your children the way parents raised you; they were born for a different time.”
14. Smile. Laugh.
How beautiful is it when you hear the sound of laughter? When you walk past someone and they smile at you? At your lowest point, if you force yourself to smile or laugh at something, you will feel the teeniest, tiniest, bit better. Trust me. I watch children, and their fascinating switch from heartbreaking sobs over a lost toy or a fall, to spectacular, genuine laughter over the silliest face you make at them. Take a leaf out of their books, and use it in your daily life. Nothing is worth your grim, ugly faces. So smile and laugh! The Simpsons is a good place to start.
15. Find your inner child.
No matter how old you get, always stay in touch with your inner child.
16. Don’t get attached to things.
You will lose your phone. One corrupt file will destroy your life’s savings on your hard drive. You will spill soup or coffee onto your computer. You will crash your car. You will get robbed. You will forget your favorite book or toy or scarf or bracelet or watch somewhere at some point. You will lose your ring down a sink drain. All these things could and might and will happen. Don’t. Get. Attached. It is not the end of the world.
17. You always have options.
No one can put you in a corner. There’s always another option. Always.
18. Stop saying “no”.
Think before you use that word so carelessly. No is such an unhealthy habit. It is not only self-destructive, but it can destroy others as well.
19. Stand for what you believe in.
Not everyone will agree with you. There will be so much push back, but don’t be discouraged. If you don’t stand for what you believe in, who will?
20. Don’t worry about offending people.
Opinionated people tend to be seen as such. Unintentionally, I assure you. Not everyone is capable of handling strong viewpoints. They look at you and think you’re only trying to stir up trouble. Don’t be bothered with such people, they are looking to get offended in order to play the victim. Be strong. Those who revel in and savor your strong perspective are the ones worth your time.
21. Meet new people.
The more people you meet, the more interesting you become. Put yourself out there, socialize, open yourself up to meeting new people.
22. Nothing wrong with being a couch potato (or a bed potato in my case).
A lazy day, once in a while, is totally acceptable. Put aside one day where you can just relax and spend all day and night on your couch (or in bed) catching up on your series, movies and anything else while munching on food. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy, whatever it is that you enjoy watching…watch it, guilt-free.
23. Alleviate the drama in your life.
Don’t argue for the sake of arguing. Don’t complain for the sake of complaining. Don’t go pushing people’s buttons or looking for things to pick on. Choose your battles wisely, if you have to. Drama belongs in one place, and one place only: television.
24. Be respectful.
To yourself and those around you.
25. Talk less. Listen more.
The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) once said: “The majority of a person’s sins emanate from his tongue.” If you have nothing good or worthy of saying, do not say anything at all. If you can add nothing to a conversation, then there is nothing wrong with just sitting there and listening. Lend an ear when people need to talk. Don’t judge. Don’t interrupt. Sometimes all they want is for someone to hear them out.
That’s it! My 25th birthday is over, but not without a little reflection, and a whole lot of lessons. Take what you will from it, or take nothing at all.