I have a thing I do, especially at the most inconvenient of times… I overthink everything. Most people might do this when they’re stressed, worrying about something, or just bored and have nothing better to do. Me? I overthink during every single moment, 60/24/7/4/12/365 (<- did you get that?).

Nothing worse than when I overthink at the most inconvenient times. When I don’t have a pen and journal near or can’t stop to get access to them. It’s always during those moments when I just want to relax, away from the stress and chaos that has infiltrated my life, that I begin to excessively overthink. I know that this is always heightened when I’m working on a writing deadline- which has been the constant story of my life lately. (I have a large deadline this Saturday and here I am, writing a new post.) I’m always writing and this always brings up crazy scenarios and old memories from my past.
The good overthinking, dealing with my stories and writing, always come to me when I’m driving long hours or showering. Of course there’s also the overthinking I’m attacked with as I’m struggling to fall asleep at night, knowing very well that I have to be up early the next day either to study or go to work. Sometimes, I’m up being bombarded by thoughts until right before fajr. That’s usually when I decide to just get up and try to write them down instead of risking falling asleep and not being able to wake for fajr.
Take this blog, for example. I have been getting ideas for a new post every day for the last month. Yet, I haven’t managed to jump on until today, knowing very well that a deadline looms closely ahead.
With a view like this, I might as well relax a bit…
It’s been a while since I have posted. I assume I will not again for a while. Brace yourself for a long post about EVERYTHING… once again.
In honor of overthinking and random thoughts, here are a few plethora since the last time I posted:
I can reactivate my Facebook in 8 days. To be completely honest, I would not have remembered that reactivation was soon if the person I had begun the challenge with had not texted me two days ago telling me that he returned to Facebook due to something he’s working on and feels “ultra bad about it”. I had to look up when my 90 days mark ends. May 1st at midnight (so I should be back on the 2ndinshaAllah.
While I’ve been away, I’ll occasionally be given an update of the world on Facebook by a friend. I never ask for them. They just happen. I realize this is because the new generations are easily addicted to these forms of social spheres- needing to share their lives and stay up to date on others while never actually staying in contact with these “friends”.
Why? Why does the entire world need to know from where I posted my status or where I am at all times? We complain that the government has the ability to follow our every move. They don’t need anything expensive or fancy to do so, Facebook suffices. Sharing something nice every once in a while is cool, but I don’t need to use it like a journal. That’s what Twitter is for. (I still do not understand the function of Twitter, unless it’s to distribute news quickly.) I can understand if every single “friend” on Facebook was someone that we actually consider as a close friend. The reality is that the majority are acquaintances or connections due to school, work, organizational work, and of course extended family that we rarely speak to.
So, usually the updates I get begin in the form of a question from a friend, like this:
(Real conversations. Names removed.)
Brunei Friend:: “Hey, did you see that new meme [so and so] put up?”
Shirhatti Me: “What’s a meme? And haha, no, I’m not on Facebook.”
Providence Friend: “Oh yea. Ok, well I’ll explain it to you!”
Friend: “Hey, did you hear that [so and so] is engaged??”
Me: “MashaAllah! That’s awesome I’ll call or text her.”
Friend: “It was on Facebook.”
Me: “Haha, I’m not on facebook.”
Friend: “Oh, that’s right. Well, there’s also a few others… It’s all over Facebook.”
Friend: “We missed you at the event last week. I wish you could have made it.”
Me: “Aww, me too wallah. How was it? InshaAllah everything went well.”
Friend: “It was amazing! Check out the pictures.”
Me: “How?”
Friend: “Facebook. They’re all on there.”
Me: “Haha, of course they are.”
Friend: “Oh! I forgot. Ok, I’ll see if I can mail some or something.”
Me: “Sounds good, I would love to see how great it turned out.”
Friend: “You really need to get back on Facebook.”
Me: “Salaam, quick question.”
Friend“Are you here for the event (at the masjid)? It’s in the MPR.”
Me: “Uh, no. I just need the keys to the library. What event?”
Friend: “Here.” She hands me a description. “It’s all over Facebook.” She remarks, as if I have obviously seen it.
Me: “Oh, I haven’t heard about it. I don’t have Facebook.”
Friend: “Right.” She raises her eyebrows. “Sure.”
Last, but not least, I conversation I just had over chat:
Friend: did you hear [so and so] had a baby girl =)
me: Whaaat?? No! I haven’t!
Friend : i KNOW
me: When did she have her?
Friend : [So and so] posted a pic on facebook
me: Aww!
Friend : yesterday i think
her name is [absolutely beautiful!]
me: mA!!!
Yea, my fb comes back in 9 days iA…
Friend : i’ll send you the pic
me: please! You’re awesome!
Friend : =)
[more wonderful news about another friend]
me: Really? I haven’t heard of/from her in the longest time.
Sad how we have all lost touch
Friend : lol its facebook
i would never know otherwise
me: it’s sad that i’ve lost touch, with or without fb
Friend : you know [the good news about so and so] right?
me: Nope lol
Friend : lol
yeah facebook
me: Oh Facebook
Friend : indeed
it aint official till its on there
me: You know, I was telling two friends that I actually don’t want to go back on fb
I’ll be going back to a clean slate. I literally deleted everything but my friends… i actually even cleaned that out too
Friend : lol
i see your point
me: I think it’s sad that our generation stays in touch through fb or doesn’t at all
I won’t be using it the same way. I know that I can control myself to not be on unless I’m posting writing, blog, or something
 Friend : are you going to rejuvenate the art of letter writing
and message in a bottle?
oh the owl in harry potter
me: Haha, last month I sent out actual letters!
Friend : wow
me: To three different people.
Friend : hand written?
me: Yea, hand written
Friend : thats so jane austen
me: I asked my parents if they stamps and they gave me this confused look, “Why are you writing letters?”
“I just felt like it. This way, I know the recipients have to read them. And will.”
Friend : =)
I know that by May 2nd I will have reactivated my Facebook. I didn’t see a reason for it until I began building a friendship with the amazing people I met through my graduate school program. It’ll also be an incentive to write more and share… might as well practice for my future, inshaAllah! As for sharing anything worthwhile in my life, I believe that my friends deserve to find out if not in person, then through a phone call, email, Skype, or even chat. Something live. I’ll also be sending handwritten letters a lot more too… I enjoy it!
This is constantly on my mind. It is especially present every time a deadline for school nears. Sometimes I know exactly what I want. Most of the time, I worry about whether my degrees will be strong enough to actually allow me to reach my goals.
Now that my friends know what I’m working on, every time we speak they ask how my writing is going. Specifically the main novel I’m working on. When I truly think about it, I worry that I write just to meet deadlines and not for my story or love of writing. I keep telling myself I’ll put more focus during my breaks, but I don’t truly get any breaks. Between the project period and residency, I’m busy preparing myself for the next residency and workshops. I try to catch up on family stuff and reconnecting with friends, but I don’t get far. The moment the residency ends, we jump right back into another project period. If I’m not at work or adhering to a family responsibility, I’m writing or reading for school.
As much and as hard as I try, I no longer read books for my love of reading. The moment I pick up a book, I begin analyzing beginning with the first sentence, even the first word. I try turning that part in my brain off but I can’t help myself. It’s a function I can no longer control. I’m afraid to pick up a book I loved or my favorite book that I have read over twenty times for fear that I will no longer see it the same way.
During our project period, aside from our required list of books we decide on as a group and have literary discussions on, we have a personal list too. We choose as many and any books we want as long as we run them by our mentor and they are approved. The books we choose are meant to be ones that we can gain something from. We are required to write annotated bibliographies on each one. Knowing this makes it a little more difficult choosing. I focus on Young Adult (YA) novels that may relate to my story in style or utilization of certain elements of storytelling. I also choose a book or two that have become popular worldwide. I’m interested to see what makes the story work and why it has become loved by many.
I added The Hunger Games to this project period’s list. I got through all three books in the trilogy in two nights… with a considerable amount of scrutiny. I honestly did not realize how large the fan base had become until the movie came closer to coming out. It’s makes me a bit sad that books are not regarded as important as they were in the past. Instead of allowing the love for a story or novel to grow and be read by many, books these days are quickly turned into movies, even before the ending is revealed in the case of series. At least Harry Potter got a little head start but eventually I have spoken to more and more people who do not bother with the books and just go straight to the movies even when the books had plenty of time to be read. The Hunger Games came out early enough to be experienced and enjoyed before the scenes they turned into a love story movie. One excuse: The movie is never as good as the book, so why bother with the book. Worst excuse ever.
Moving back to my future. I read this article yesterday titled “1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed”http://finance.yahoo.com/news/1-2-graduates-jobless-underemployed-140300522.html
These two paragraphs really caught my attention.
“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.
Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.”
It got me thinking. I also graduated in 2010. Due to my change of plans for my future, I knew that I needed to keep going with school. There’s really no other choice for me. I’m still young and single, so why not continue with my education and get the most out of it while I can. My fear still stands. When I graduate with this MFA, how far will it really take me?
The article ended with this last sentence:
“Everyone is always telling you, ‘Go to college,'” Edwards said. “But when you graduate, it’s kind of an empty cliff.”
It’s crazy how much more difficult it has become to go to college and get work with a good degree. I feel like we’re going back in history like fashion trends. Students walk away with insane loans and minimal, if any, experience in their field. They apply for entrance level jobs only to be turned away because they have little or no experience. Of course their experience is minimal. I can’t speak for other schools, but a student at UCSD (based on knowledge of myself and my friends) literally lives in the library studying their sanity away for a decent grade so that they can graduate, get into a good graduate school, and make something out of their lives. It really comes down to good grades or proper experience. Social life? Mine was the MSA and SJP. Nothing more. Our economy and political heads continue to push the incoming generations farther and farther away from knowledge. We wonder why wars are increasing, ignorance is striving, and racism is still intact…
It was narrated that Omar Bin Alkhataab (may Allsh swt be please with him) said, “Teach your children archery, swimming, and horseback riding.”
I absolutely looove swimming. My mom loves swimming, so she made sure that her children learned. At the age of three, my mom’s oldest brother flat out picked me up and threw me into the pool. I survived. It’s not as horrifying as it sounds. I was prepared for it. I remember how sad I was as a young child when I realized that I couldn’t join the swim team, for obvious reasons. When I chose to wear hijab, the first struggle I considered was how it would become a lot more difficult for me to swim. I still do swim, but not as often. The last time I swam was fully clothed in the ocean.
I have been on a camel and consider that to be a little more difficult than riding a horse. Horses are much lower to the ground and there is a lot less fear of falling off because they don’t need to stand right after you get on. Have you seen a camel stand??? SubhanAllah! Riding is one thing. I was twelve years old last time I rode on a camel. The process of them standing was terrifying. Anyway, I do really want to go horseback riding. There are many areas to do so next to my house. I just have to figure out when my friends and I can spare to have a social life so that we can try it.
I reeeaaally want to try archery. UCSD has classes and its own range. A friend of mine tried it for a project in our photography class back in 2007 and I have been telling myself since then I will eventually get around to signing up. I recently told another friend of mine that we should go soon. Yesterday, I spotted this article: http://news.yahoo.com/hunger-games-fever-makes-archery-cool-kids-144733731.html
I think it’s awesome that kids are trying out new, healthy activities like archery, but why does it always have to be because there’s a new (for the lack of a better word) trend in town? This leads me to my next point.
I’m not surprised to read about archery getting popular after The Hunger Games. Earlier this month there was a similar article but on braids instead. I have been sporting braids since I was a toddler. As a kid, I loved braids because they were a simple hairstyle for a tomboy, quick to put together, and could be made nicely for elegant events. As a hijabi, braids are easy to hide under a scarf. For as long as I can remember, family and friends have begged me to do something else with my hair aside from braids. Recently, I have noticed girls everywhere sporting them only to realize that it’s the same type of braid for all of them. It didn’t click too easily but I came to learn that it’s the Katniss braid, based off the main female character from The Hunger Games. I can’t lie, I like this new influx of braids. It adds an elegance to hairstyles. It’s much more appealing than the front poof that girls wore in high school. Or the blonde, spiked tips that guys had when I was in middle school. Boy bands were a hit and everyone started washing their hair in guck gel and bleach. Ugh. Braids are a positive.
Wearing glasses, however large they are on your face like SpongeBob, does not make you a nerd. I should know. I’m a nerd and I wear glasses. When I started wearing glasses, colored contact lenses were becoming popular. I had a friend who had lenses that made her look like she had blue stars in her eyes. I couldn’t imagine sticking anything in my eyes. Spring quarter of my junior year of high school my mom made me get contacts. It was a bit of a battle before I caved. I actually didn’t mind the names I got for wearing glasses. I still don’t mind when I’m called a nerd. I worked hard for that title! =]  What I did mind was when I would get annoyed by my contacts and wore glasses for a day and heard, “You wear glasses? You look so much smarter with them on!” These were comments made in very serious tones. Along comes Justin Timberlake and his so called “Nerd” glasses. I think they still look better on SpongeBob. I’ll stick to the ones that make people believe that I’m a writer.
There are pros and cons to this. Every time a “new” style comes out, I make dua’ that there’s some part of it that will be modest, Islam or hijab worthy. (In reality, all styles are slowly being recycled from past time periods.) When short bottom styles came out, long sleeves and long shirts came out. When super short, belly button baring shirts came to style, long skirts made their way to popularity too along with flowing dresses. Basically, styles for females are always changing but at least you can count on something being fit to wear. I just hate when new styles originate from celebrities. Leggings or even worse, sheer pantyhose and leggings, as formal wear instead of any type of bottom really need to go. As for guys, I want to meet that one person who thought, “Now that we have stuffed females into super tight pants, lets find some men who are willing to do the same!” There are A LOT of styles I can not stand on females. They all revolve around modesty for me. As for guys, what compels you to stuff yourself into skinny jeans? Girls live off of pain. We’re just crazy like that. Anyone who simply owns a pair of heels knows this. Skinny jeans should just not exist for men.
       Funky Hijab styles
When I began wearing the hijab, I matched my hijab to what I was wearing for the day. I stayed away from white hijabs. During my senior year of high school, my mother introduced me to a white scarf she told me to wear with a black and white dress. I realized how easy it was to pair a white hijab with anything. I accumulated enough white hijabs that it became the only color I wore during my sophomore and junior years of college. I snapped out of it during the last finals week of junior year. I haven’t touched a white hijab since then. Now that I have gone back to all these vibrant colors, I am realizing all the crazy styles that are out there. Hijabs twisted into flowers and hijabs being wrapped in all kinds of ways. It’s probably my OCD kicking in, but I can’t get myself to change styles. Boring and simple for all events and situations. That’s the way I like my hijab.
Really, I’m just not fashionable. I make sure everything matches and looks modest, but beyond this, I could care less. I buy my clothing based on three things: modesty, comfort, and price. It does get tough being surrounded with friends who are fashionistas and my mom and two younger sisters who are very fashionable. While they are always up to the latest style, I just make sure that I’m wearing my favorite watch, necklace, and rings before I leave the house. Each item I wear is significant because of the people they came from. The closest I get to trying with my clothing is on Eid.
       Taking Pictures
Notice I wrote “taking pictures” and not photography. I love photography and began a photography minor in college until I had to drop it to finish my writing minor. It was a tough decision, but I was really disappointed when funds were taken away from the arts and everything went digital. Dark rooms were closed off and Photoshop took over. Working with dark rooms and materials we needed to use was expensive but I could spend hours, all night, pouring over photographs.
I find it sad that people think that anyone can pick up a DSLR camera and call what comes out art. Taking pictures of pretty things or altering them with Photoshop is not art. Photography is handling a camera properly and understanding its inner functions. How many of you who own DSLRs and digital cameras can honestly look at all those buttons and know what they do? Some of them are not actually necessary for every day use, but there are functions that can significantly change the experience of taking pictures and the images that come out. If I gave you a film camera instead of digital, would it still be as fun? I have gone through many cameras and film is still my favorite to work with. The skill that creates that single picture, that’s real art.
This is why Tumbler based on tons of pretty pictures drives me insane.
For those of you who know me, you know how much I hate discussing marriage. It is not a subject I like to have discussions and debates over. I reserve this for my closest of friends (literally three people). For me, personally, I think the only people who should approach me with heavy discussion on this subject are my parents or possibly the sheik.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-marriage. In fact, in Islam, marriage is considered to be half our deen, or faith. The process of marriage should be easy and yet people make it difficult- with their picky expectations of a spouse, cultural traditions, and need to throw the largest wedding among their friends so they can come out looking superior. What turns me away from speaking about marriage is all these little ridiculous details. I don’t think they have a place in the process or in Islam. Islam simplifies the process of marriage. We make it difficult.
There are all these debates on marrying someone for their money, looks, and most recently someone of another culture or background. In Islam, the answers to all these debates can be found in the Quran and Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
One more person who asks me my age and gives me that disapproving look because I’m still single will get a piece of my mind. I really don’t need to know that YOU think I’m getting too old or that my MFA is the reason I’m still single. I absolutely love hearing that someone has found the special someone, is getting engaged or married, and settling into the next chapter of their lives. For the time being, I’m happy, AlhamduliAllah. Allah swt has a plan for everyone and everything. When that time comes, I’ll make it one of my priorities. For now, next time you see me, please don’t ask me if I’m engaged yet. I promise I will tell you in person and not through Facebook. =]
I have slowly stopped going to Cosmos to write and study. After annoying my dad endlessly about wanting some way to stay home and study in a comfy sphere but not in my room, my parents finally surprised me with nice outdoor seating on our balcony. I love it! The picture in the beginning is the view I get to gaze at while studying. It’s beautiful, quiet, and calm out there. A plus is that I get to be in comfy clothing and can make healthy snacks without paying for gas and parking. Best of all, I don’t need to struggle to find a place to pray…
When I first learned how to pray as a kid, my dad had this system where when it was time to pray he would call out each of our names and ask, “Do you have wudu? We’re praying in 10 minutes.” It didn’t matter what we were doing, my mom, siblings, and I would put everything down, try to be the first one in the bathroom so that we could perform ablution and be the first one in the living room. While my brother would make sure his shorts were long enough to cover his knees and his shirt didn’t ride up to show off his back when he prostrated, the girls and I would take down our prayer rugs and long prayer clothing that we would slip over anything we were wearing. We didn’t argue about going to pray or ask for more time. This wasn’t because we were afraid of my dad. No, we just knew that it was better to pray as a group instead of alone. As kids, we didn’t understand the blessings given to us when we prayed jama’ah, or in a group. We just prayed as a family.
I always considered it as my break. My dad prays calmly and this meant that I knew I focused better when I prayed with him. When I finished, I figured since I was already taking a break and everyone was there too, might as well make dua’, supplication and pray sunnah, voluntary prayers, too. I never worried about missing prayer or needing to squeeze them into my schedule. In reality, my schedule should be squeezed in between my prayers. There are only five in a day. It is more than possible to catch every prayer.
Salaat is mandatory for Muslims. Finding time and a place to pray should never be an issue. We live in a diverse society that understands differences. Lately, I have found myself forcing myself to stop what I’m doing for prayer when I’m out or studying. Looking back, whenever I came to cutting it close to missing a prayer, all my excuses were pretty pathetic. I have no problem at work. My supervisor and co-workers understand when I get up and let them know I’m stepping out to pray or when I decide to just pray in the office. I know at first it was a challenge when they realized I couldn’t reply to them while in prayer and that each one is different depending on the amount of sunnah I decide to pray after. Tolerance is beautiful and can be achieved.
Finding a place to pray outside can be challenging but is not impossible, no matter who you are out with- Muslim or non-Muslim. One of the beautiful elements about prayer is that just like dua’ it can be done anywhere as long as it’s clean and obviously in a permissible area. I have prayed on the beach, in parking lots, in alleys, basically almost any open space. Yes, I agree it’s easier when you’re doing it with someone else, but you gotta do what you gotta do to not miss that prayer. Trust me, if you truly come to understand the importance of praying and completing it on time, the least of your worries will be if anyone is watching or judging you.
I was out with a friend from high school a month or two ago. (Keep in mind that I was the only Muslim at my high school until my senior year when my brother entered. I usually always had something to do after school for ASB or drama. When I needed to pray, I would search for a completely secluded classroom or corner. I made sure no one ever spotted me.) We were spending the day in Hillcrest. It’s a well known place in San Diego near downtown that is always packed with people! Very diverse area. During lunch I told her that I would need to find a place to pray. She said no problem. After lunch, we were walking around and she reminded me that we should find a place before we went to study. The only time I had prayed in Hillcrest was with a Muslim friend and we had found a hidden spot behind a pillar. This time, I realized I would have to choose an open space. I found a less heavily crowded area near a wall and dropped my bag in front of me. I was lucky that the kibla, direction of prayer, allowed my back to face the wall while I prayed.
“Alright, so I’m just going to pray right here in the open. I’ll place my bag in front of me. Is this okay?” She chuckled and shook her head at me.
“Haneen, I have never been embarrassed of you or anything. This is your prayer. You need to do what you have to do. Take your time. I’ll just stand to the side and wait.”
I didn’t expect a different response. I just realized how merciful Allah swt is. When you’re doing something for His sake, he will make the road easy for you and surround you with good people. Don’t neglect your Islamic responsibilities because of some lame excuse. Prayer is the only Pillar of Islam asked of us to complete daily. To be honest, it’s not a difficult pillar to complete.
Have you actually gotten this far? Major props! I love you!
I disappear for almost three months and then BAM I throw a novel at you that should really be a short post. I considered cutting this up into several posts but it’s now or never. With my project period ending slowly, you probably wont read anything from me until June.
For all you overthinkers out there like me, force yourself into something relaxing. Give your brain some sort of break. Do something you love or want to try! I went kayaking with a friend last weekend and, aside from bruises I walked away with, it was quite awesome. I’m not suggesting you go cliff diving into the ocean (which I want to try) or skydiving (which my little brother has done and is trying to coax me into trying soon). Read a book, exercise, eat something new, start a new trend, write, paint, go ahead and take pretty pictures, whatever. Just stop thinking so much and make the most out of life… and for the love of God, get off the computer!