28: A Most Meaningful Birthday

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Birthday girl.

“Richness is not in having many possessions. Rather, true richness is the richness of the soul.” - Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

I turned 28 on the 8th of September (الحَمْد لله). I had a very meaningful birthday because I celebrated differently this year. Let me explain. One of the perks of being a last-born is that your family often spoils you with a lot of love and attention. As a child, getting what you want all the time, especially on your birthday, feels good but as an adult, it doesn't satisfy or pacify the soul as much.

It doesn't help that there is an unnecessary amount of pressure for people to feel happy on their birthday. However, I did think about what would make me genuinely happy on my birthday. Apart from having dinner with my closest friends in Wellington, the answer that came to mind was: seeing the people I love and care about being happy. I think we need to stop teaching ourselves to be so darn narcissistic on our birthday. There's a fine line between being happy and grateful for your existence and trying to convince yourself that you're happy and grateful for your existence. Know what I'm sayin'? Yeah, you know what I'm sayin'.

So I came up with a plan.

1 Day to 28: Moment of Honesty

Monday, September 07, 2015

They ask me, "Are you looking for love?",
                        I tell them, "I am love." 
And that is the story of how I found everything I ever needed,
           Within myself. 
                                                         - shaelaiza

This blog post series was inspired by Mark Gonzales (@ideasbygonzales) of wagebeauty.com who started his 40th birthday countdown by sharing a photo blog of reflections on his Instagram account last week. I view Gonzales as a kindred spirit and my brother in faith whose work not only compels me to be myself but to be the best version of myself.

2 Days to 28: The Good in Goodbye

Sunday, September 06, 2015

I was told my late father was a temperamental man in his younger days. But this all changed when I was born. He became very subdued and patient. So much so, in my 19 years of living with him I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him being very angry. I guess it's true, love conquers all. Thanks for teaching me that, Abah

They say it's important to look for the silver lining when a tragedy happens. Losing my Dad to a sudden death was probably the second best thing that happened to me. (The first being given the most loving and protective parents any child could ask for, of course.)

How could losing one of two most important people in my life be a good thing? 

5 Days to 28: My Happy Place

Friday, September 04, 2015

"Some cities you go to because you want to; some cities you go to because they want you to." - Elif Shafak

I got the idea for this post from the lovely Sarina. If you ask me where 'home' is I couldn't really tell you. Unless I'm up for a huge debate about the definition of 'home' and 'identity' I would usually say Malaysia. However, the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of my 'happy place' is Turkey. And then, the beach :) Honestly, just thinking about Turkey is my 'happy place' in my mind.

There is something about Istanbul and Cappadocia that really speaks to my heart and soul. It's the perfect blend of tradition and modernity, Asia and Europe, and tranquility and brokenness. I had never experienced love at first sight until I stepped foot in these cities last year. I said to myself, "This is it. There are no words just 'feels'. I'm done. My heart feels at home." It's not because I have a romanticised idea of Turkey. Not at all. I just love it despite its downfalls (every country has its ups and downs). And Turkish food, oh my. No offence to any Arabs but it's ten times better than Arabic food which is one of my favourite types of cuisines.

A year later and I still feel the same way about Turkey. Just thinking about it and looking at the photos from our trip puts the biggest smile on my face. It's funny how we were actually meant to go to Spain but due to a last minute change of plans we ended up in Turkey. This experience taught me that His plans are always better than ours. I had no idea I would be this smitten. What can I say? It was simply meant to be and I couldn't be more grateful (الحَمْد لله). 

"Spiritual experiences are almost always surprises so that the slaves do not lay claim to them due to their own preparations." - Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari (r.a.)

Check out my Turkish holiday blog series to understand why I'm completely enamoured:
Unforgettable Turkey: Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Unforgettable Turkey: Dolmabahçe Palace and Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul
Unforgettable Turkey: Of Cave Hotels and Cave Churches, Cappadocia
Unforgettable Turkey: Dancing Dervishes and Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia

This blog post series was inspired by Mark Gonzales (@ideasbygonzales) of wagebeauty.com who started his 40th birthday countdown by sharing a photo blog of reflections on his Instagram account last week. I view Gonzales as a kindred spirit and my brother in faith whose work not only compels me to be myself but to be the best version of myself.

6 Days to 28: Please Don't Call Me Beautiful

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The truth is, I don't have anything against being called beautiful because I know there is a difference between being perceived as beautiful and actually being beautiful. But what I do hope for myself, my friends and loved ones, and for my daughter too should I ever have one, is for people to learn to humanise young girls and women. There's no denying it - there is a certain shallowness and double-standard in our society when it comes to women, beauty and the process of growing older. I'm not one to shame women for wanting to look good and presentable because I'm into fashion and beauty trends myself but I know there is far too much focus on how women look, or rather how women should look.

7 Days to 28: Roots

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Every time I look at this picture of my parents my heart expands because this was the beginning of their journey as a married couple. Being a third-culture kid I have questioned my sense of identity many times but when I think of my parents I realise what truly matters at the end of the day are the virtues and values they have passed down to my siblings and I.

Culture can be a beautiful thing but it's always evolving and moving in current with societal trends. That's why we need to be vigilant by adopting the good and leaving the bad aspects of culture. When I was in Malaysia I found it very hard to understand the behaviour of some Malaysians and Malays. I struggled a lot with people of bad adab (etiquette) and poor akhlaq (character) in Malaysia. So much so, almost in desperation I asked a religious scholar, "I really want to learn [how to have] good akhlaq because I don't think I will learn it here and I don't want to become like the people here. Should I go to Tarim?". I suggested Tarim because that's where my paternal ancestors are from. I was taken aback by his response: "There are good and bad people everywhere. Go to Tarim for ziyarah (a visit out of veneration) and to give sadaqah (charity) because the people there are very poor. But to learn good akhlaq, stay at home. Learn from home."

8 Days to 28: Chasing Life

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

8 days until I celebrate the 28th anniversary of the day I was born. I feel good about 28. I feel I'm becoming more humane, responsible and conscientious. In ways unlike before, I'm ready to love and commit to myself, to love Him and to love others. So here goes 8 days of sharing lessons learned, anecdotes never revealed before (not in this space, at least) and artefacts or pieces that have inspired and uplifted me recently and/or over the years.