Thursday, December 29, 2016

twentySixteen: reeCap

I think we can all collectively agree that this has been a very hard year. I can only speak for myself of course without having to force you to agree with me but with world events that I cannot list here because well, not the purpose of this, I think it is safe to assume a lot of us have had it exceptionally hard. Amidst all of the chaos that enveloped us (me) this year, I have come to understand myself more. I realized that I underestimate my strength and resilience. More than anything, I learned that I am a survivor and even if I am dropped in the middle of the jungle alone and afraid, I would survive if I choose to.

I found myself in situations I never imagined I would ever find myself in and get this…I did not die. This year only went further to reinforce my belief in the non-permanence of our situations. “This will pass” became my daily mantra. I had constant bursts of light within me. I would wake up one morning and nothing would go right the whole day but then I would go to bed at night thinking “Well look at that. The day has ended and I am still here.” Few weeks before moving back to Nigeria, I met with one of my dear friends and while discussing my move, I explained to him how terrified I was about moving back, how I worked hard to become this person that I am proud of and how I did not want to change. That was when he said to me “Only dead men don’t change, Asma” at that moment, I stopped fighting this battle to hold on to who I was. I became open to change and learning and boy did I learn.

2016 has redefined the word “deliberate” for me. I created a system of control for myself called “Deliberate reaction”. This means that I get to decide how I react to every single occurrence in my life. I taught myself how to utilize my circumstance to enhance my reaction and it has been nothing but light in my life. Situations where I would naturally get angry, I deliberately choose forgiveness. I know what you are thinking, that I am naïve and what if I get trudged on by not reacting, well, so be it. In the case of that happening, I would deliberately choose how I react to said situation. No one is born with hatred, anger and all negative emotions. I found out that my system kept my spirit elevated and I did not carry toxic energy with me through my day hence, enhancing my interactions with people.

One other important philosophy that I have coined for myself using an existing word is to assert my truth without fear of judgment or persecution and I refer to it as “Assertion”. I know who I am, I know my values and beliefs and wherever I go, whomever I stand before, I can confidently and proudly assert my beliefs. Life is a series of reactions fueled by actions. If my actions are guided by my beliefs, which are backed by my spirituality, then the series of events in my life would be for me positively. I am not afraid to be kind and soft. Someone told me that I am too sentimental and you know what, I am very sentimental, unapologetically in fact, if that is a flaw then so be it.
I cannot begin to list here how 2016 has influenced my life, I cannot begin to list the experiences and interactions that will inevitably shape the course of my future but all I can say is “We will be fine”.

If there is anything we know to be truth in this life, it is that This too shall pass.


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A List Of Great Books I Have Read: 2016

Here we are again. As I did last year, this year too I am listing a number of books that have kept me company while on a new journey. Unfortunately, I did not get to read (or write as you can see from my sporadic posts here) as much as I did last year but I did come across a number of wonderful books that kept me sane and enlightened. If you can find the time (since I cannot seem to get to find a healthy balance between my work, personal life and laziness), I would urge you to find and read some of these books. I am sure there are some of you that will go, yeah I read that and you know what…send me a message, lets talk. It is almost impossible for me lately to find people who are interested in the same books and music as me.
As usual, the list would comprise of Philosophy, Poetry, Fiction, Science, History, Fantasy etc.

1. The Audacity Of Hope- Barack Obama
2. The Museum Of Innocence- Orhan Pamuk
3. Islam And Democracy: Fear Of A Modern World- Fatima Mernissi
4. The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women’s Rights In Islam- Fatima Mernissi
5. City Of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and The Search For Truth In Tehran- Ramita Navai
6. The Madman: His Parables and Poems- Khalil Gibran
7. Headscarves And Hymens: Why The Middle east Needs A Sexual Revolution- Mona Eltahawy
8. The Song Of Ice And Fire: A Game Of Thrones- George RR Martin
9. The Song Of Ice And Fire: A Clash Of Kings- George RR Martin
10. A Brief History Of Time- Stephen Hawking
11. Memoires Of A Porcupine- Alain Mabanckou
12. Precious: A Memoir- Precious Williams
13. Afghanistan: Where God Only Comes To Weep- Siba Shakib
14. Hear The Wind Sing- Haruki Murakami
15. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them- JK Rowling
16. Quidditch Through The Ages- JK Rowling
17. Tales Of Beetle The Bard- JK Rowling
18. Burned Alive- Souad
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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Boobs And Brains

This is one article that has been on my mind since the beginning of this year and I am glad it took this long to write. I will explain.
I have always been conflicted when it came to how I presented myself to the world. I always believed and still do that what I put on my body says a lot about how I feel about myself. I cannot wear a hijab because I do not feel like a hijab wearing girl in my heart and I cannot walk around in a bikini because I do not feel like a walking-around-in-bikini girl.
So as a female entering into an almost exclusively male dominated world of technology (I am a software developer for those that don’t know), I was conflicted when it came down to how I presented myself to the world.

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“Not too much lipstick, I do not want them to think I am shallow”, “No heels, so I do not look like all I know how to do is dress up”. I found myself equating how I looked with my intelligence. I wanted to be taken seriously as the only female engineer at my office. I pride myself on my ability to evolve and unlearn the misogynistic ideologies that I have been indoctrinated in. It took me a whole year to pause and realize that I did not have to choose between looking/feeling beautiful for myself and being intelligent/good at my job. With or without my attire, I am beautiful and intelligent and that should be enough. I remember Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk where she talked about how she was conflicted about her attire on her first day teaching. I have watched this particular TED talk at least 10 times and it never occurred to me that I too was doing exactly what Adichie did on her first day lecturing.

It is naturally assumed that beautiful women are not intelligent. Women in the modelling industry are assumed to be shallow and dumb, which often times reminds me of Tyra Banks and her show America's Next Top Model and whey she had a college edition. It was to break this stereotype that beautiful women are not intelligent women. 

This year, America almost had it’s first female president and amidst all of that debacle, I was noticing how Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe was carefully chosen. Her team always chose attires that people would consider “serious” and there was not much in the way of accessorizing. Do you see the pedestal they put women up on? I bet none of the other male candidates had to worry about how they looked, heck, Trump did not even have to sensor what he said but alas, the people chose. It took me until the end of the year to understand that I still had more unlearning to do.

Growing up, I remember I myself, looking at other women who loved to dress up as inferior to me intellectually. Most of the time, they were not. I was conditioned to think that due to the way society judged women. Today I have little sisters who are growing up to be very confident, smart and daring women. One of them told me how she would be a kick-ass humanitarian lawyer and look “as bom as Amal Clooney” while doing it and you know what, that is just fantastic. Smart and stylish women run the company I work at, I am learning that intelligence quotient and beauty/style are not mutually exclusive. Women do not have to choose between looking good/feeling confident (I believe these go hand in hand) and having a high intelligence quotient. I know very beautiful women who deliberately dumb themselves down so as to seem more appealing to men. 
We must begin to unlearn this the moment we awaken to the realization that we are living by misogynistic ideals. 
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