Friday, March 10, 2017

What if...I already knew that life isn't going to be so kind to me?

Is it normal to feel tired of living at 23 years of age?

Is it fair that my whole life is dictated by that one wrong decision I was forced to make when I was not even ready to make it?

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Back to thinking about the future, applying for graduate school and scholarships, but now with Elon Musk by my side. Spectacular day, Alhamdulillah!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Life Lessons at 22

  1. Little moments of happiness are just as good as the big ones, so cherish them equally, and you'll lead a much more happy life 
  2. No one is watching what you're doing, because everyone's busy with his/her own life, so just chill & be you
  3. Every small step accounts toward success, there's no such thing as an overnight success, remember that every second leads to the next second, so work hard
  4. DO NOT compare yourself to others, and set your own pace and define your own meaning of success
  5. When someone disagrees with your idea, never take it personally, because you as a person is different from your thoughts & ideas, so don't be sad when facing a tough critic
  6. Education/awareness beats unconscious bias any day, and remember that unconscious bias is very real, so get educated on it and do something about it
  7. Actively seek advice & feedback, then DO NOT waste them, as this practice helps the effort to become a better person every day, just choose wisely which advice to take
  8. You can trust your intuition, as Gladwell says in "Blink," and you can train your intuition to be more accurate too
  9. There's every reason to only focus on the good of a person, and ignore the bad, and while you're at it, don't find fault in others
  10. When someone makes a mistake, it's mostly because they do not know they're making one, so always give others the benefit of the doubt, and let them know what they do wrong, kindly
  11. When you're you, you let others be them, because there's very limited opportunity in this world for people to be real, so just be genuine & let others be whoever they would like to be without judging them
  12. Recognize the fights which are not worth fighting for, and stay silent under criticism, as long as you yourself know what you have done to improve yourself
  13. Burning out is the worst enemy, so always find new, deeper meaning in everything you do
  14. Always take time to reflect and meditate, because God is always trying to tell us something, but we rarely listen
  15. Always pray for others, this keeps us grounded and reminds us of our social responsibilities
  16. Do not lie in any circumstances, especially to yourself, because lies told repeatedly could start sounding true
  17. Create opportunities, don't wait for one to roll your way, and believe in your own uniqueness
  18. FIND YOUR PASSION, then hold on to it, remember that everyone could recognize a work done out of passion and sincerity, and these works have a longer-lasting impact
  19. Everything is so fleeting today, but human connections are mostly not, so connect!
  20. Always carry a book wherever you go, and you wouldn't believe how much of a journey reading a book in public could take you
  21. Look up the skies as often as you can, and look at raindrops chasing each other on the window, smile at the waves of the ocean, and be reminded that we are a part of something larger
  22. Never seek for approvals or credits and ignore when people ask us to be our own toughest critic; we first need to be our own best cheerleader
  23. There is such a thing as being lucky - it's called "having privilege" and please recognize that many people do have it easier than others, so always extend a helping hand to everyone who needs it, and extend it without judgment
  24. Your parents and your family members love you, so be open to receive the love, and thank God for it 

Please remember that whatever expectations you have on others, it's only fair to allow others to have the same expectations on you

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In Chinatown

Let me share what I currently see and what I feel:

As I am completing my graduate school application, I occasionally turn to my right and the sight of the Sears Towers greets my eyes. I feel alive again. It is not the usual metropolitan skyline sight that you might imagined though; the Sears Towers are almost blocked by a shorter tower which is much closer to me. Although I cannot really see it, but I suspect the short tower springs up from the Chinatown Food Court building. Next to the building is a row of shops, where one says, "Yin Wall City Inc" and another says "Hong Kong Seafood City" among many others.

That is the sight that one would see when sitting in the Chicago Public Library Chinatown branch. The library is situated at the edge of the Chinatown square, right next to the Cermak-Chinatown stop of the CTA red line. For a small library, it is very cheerful and has ample seats for the visitors. And for the holidays, the library is bustling with people, mostly of Asian and African-American descendants of all ages.

I myself am not quite sure why I feel like writing about this place. Apart from its surprisingly pleasant interior design, I find this place quite ordinary. However, the sharp contrast between the modern-looking library and the antique ambiance of its surrounding area should not be taken for granted. I wonder if this was a deliberate effort by the city hall to provide a study space of a different flavor for the Chinatown community. If it is, that's pretty admirable.

It seems like a few incidents I observed today will stick in my memory: two little girls walked up to the librarian asking her to help print a paper that says "I Love You, Mom!," a boy with a sullen face asked to borrow a MacBook and two girls were asked to stop hogging the game center because they have been playing minecraft for almost 2 - 3 hours.

Besides the random incidents, it is always the case that every time I go to a library, I cannot help but to realize how every one enters the building with a different life story of their own and is inquiring about a new one from the books.

Hmm, this library seems like a decent place for one to revisit. I am glad I decided to not go to the downtown library. I bet that will be a little too metropolitan for me. Here, I get to see clearly the demographics of the Chinatown society, as smaller libraries always seem to have a richer character to them.

Perhaps, the most important part of this trip to the library is that, this may or may not be my last time in a US public library. I have been so blessed to be in this country, learned so much and grew up so much. I know I would have plenty of opportunities to come back here some time in the future. But for now, there's something bigger waiting for me in Malaysia, and I need to gear up for that. I need to leave this Chinatown.


Here's a 'graduation' picture I took with Christy! Yeay!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The only sure way to combat after-effects of terrorism...

…is to become a better person every day.

As Notre Dame students started to feel the heat of final exams approaching, the number of Facebook updates appearing on my FB feed begins to dwindle. What left are photos of thanksgiving dinner and the first snowfall of the year, which are still receiving comments from relatives who are lucky enough to not have to face finals. I have to admit that I was elated to find the pictures on my FB feed - the feed finally feels readable again. The past months since the Paris attack left it flooded with too much negativity and strong emotion that I could not process, making it very unbearable, at least for me.

Yes, I am one of those FB users who you see rarely posts anything. Every now and then, however, you'll get a notification that she or he likes one of your very own posts. Once in a blue moon, she or he would leave a fleeting comment. Well, this is true only if you're actually in their friends' list. Chances are, your friend request is still awaiting confirmation.

This is just one complex of mine that I could not explain. I suspect that this complex is also related to a few other things, like I can never tell whether someone's inviting me to his or her house merely out of politeness or because my presence would really be appreciated. And I had never managed to, for the life of me, keep in touch with my friends successfully. Thus I always appear, mostly to strangers, as a private person who intends to keep everything professional. I seem to refuse to connect with people on a personal level. But for some reason, for some reason, everything started to change recently, and I can feel it working inside me. And by recently, I meant since the Paris and Beirut attacks.

I started feeling the change when I passed by a Russian/Ukranian event on campus a few weeks ago. The poster says, "Do you like free food?" which was attractive enough to any Notre Dame students. I initially hesitated to join and forced my friend to check it out first for the both of us. Two minutes later, my friend and I were chatting with the event organizers like good friends over a dish called the pierogi. While folding the dough stuffed with mashed potatoes and sauteed onions, we conversed about school, Russia and even criticized each other's cooking skills. And four pieces of hand-made pierogi later, I walked out of the event feeling so light on the inside - as light as the taste of the pierogi I just had.

It was not until later that evening that I realized how satisfying it feels to connect with people with such genuineness. This is especially felt in these trying times when everyone from the West and the East seems so anxious to be around each other. What made the realization felt more like a revelation was when I looked back and understood how easy it was to create that connection; all I have to do is be me, be the human me with all my passions, the how ever much compassion I own in me, my sarcasm, and my bad sense of humor. Then, be ready to either receive nothing, everything, or anything in between from the person I interact with.

Here’s the trick: in order to be able to carry your ‘human being-ness’ with confidence in any social situation, you have to admit that you are a work-in-progress. Say you're struggling with a complex like mine, as long as you know you are working on it, I guarantee that you would not feel like you owe the world an explanation as to why you are who you are. And admitting that you are a work-in-progress equals consciously deciding to become a better person every day.

At this point, you may think that this is just a very convoluted way of thinking about something simple. Well, it is. But it works for me and I am hoping it might work for you. I have had this mentality since the day I walked into the Russian/Ukranian event, and it has made my life so much more at peace.

Not only that, now I look at others and begin to see that they probably also realized that they are a work-in-progress, and that puts them at peace too. It is as if every one of us is actually in our own peaceful bubble. And the way I see it, when one peaceful bubble interacts with another, they combine to become a bigger, more peaceful one. It is this image in my mind that convinces me that there is only one certain way to make the world better: create one humongous bubble that could accommodate as many of us as possible.

In order to do this, however, every one of us needs to agree to attend to our own peaceful bubble; We need to practice turning into ourselves and making peace with our own flaws and shortcomings - constantly reminding ourselves that we are a work-in-progress. Then top it off with expecting nothing from others. I guess this is what Rumi meant when he says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”


Tuesday, October 20, 2015


On October 18th 2015, God gave me the opportunity to celebrate my 22nd birthday in the company of friends whom I care very much, in the middle of a forest.

I haven’t put so much thought into turning 22, nor do I find it important to reflect on it so much. But the camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains where my friends surprised me with the birthday cake, made me realize that time is running out…fast. Very very very fast. And I cannot help but to think that my college experience has been…stellar. At this point, I do not see any reason to think so much about what the result of my college experience is going to be. All I want is to make use of every moment left, and make peace with every decision that I have made for the past 4.5 years.

This morning, when I reflected on how long I have been living on Earth, it makes me realize that I have so so so so much to thank and be grateful for. Regrets are not something I intend to carry with me once college ends. I only want to keep moving forward and contribute to the society in the best way that I perceive I can, inshaaAllah.