Assalam alaykum lovelies!
I hope you are all feeling great today and on track to smashing the rest of your goals for this month. Can you believe there’s just a few more days to wrap up this year? A few more days before the lapse of a decade and the start of a new one?
I am immensely grateful to God for the infinite mercies and blessings He has bestowed me and my family. 2019 has so far been a magnificent year for me, and I have not a clue what God has planned for me for the remainder of this year or the next but I place my full trust in Him and His plans.
As a brief run through of the year, Allah who is the best of planners willed for me to travel to Medina and Makkah and to perform my very first ummra. He willed for me to be able to touch the Kaaba and to make dua and supplicate my needs in the holiest of lands. He willed for me to find the creativity and zeal to re-launch my blog and to continue writing again. He willed for me to move to a new city (one that I was quick to adapt and settle down peacefully with my new neighbours and colleagues). He willed for me to co-found a successful book-club and to connect and engage in some of the most fulfilling conversations I’ve ever had with amazing individuals. He willed for me to maintain and form stronger bonds with my family and friends and to unlock new friendships and opportunities. Above all, He willed for me strength and health after sickness and to mature and grow in crucial areas of my life and to achieve things I thought I couldn’t. Alhamdulilah. In all honestly the list of the things I’m grateful to God for this year is non-exhaustive.
In spite of the million great things I have been opportune to experience this year, God knows I have had my own difficult challenges. I’ve felt pain strong enough that it woke me up from slumber and drove me to the flat surface of my praying mat and in the comfort and presence of my Rabb. Regardless of everything that took place this year, the struggles and challenges are things I wouldn’t change for anything because I trust Allah and this specific journey He wants me to embark on and I know it’s the best journey Allah has designed for me.
I have rambled for quite a bit and haven’t gotten to the main gist of this post so I’ll digress no more and get straight into it.
As you can glimpse from the title of this post, I would like to share some of the deep lessons I’ve learnt this year as a young woman trying to navigate her way through adulthood and striving to become her best self and live her best life.
Three years ago I began a ritual whereby I pull out my journal for the year and re-read my journal entries and revisit my old thoughts and feelings and reflect on the major things that took place in the year. I make a list of the major mistakes I made, or things I could have done better and would set a new bar for myself or a limit of the number of times or hours I could do something. This is one of the major ways I get to measure my growth and monitor my habits. Just to be clear, I do this self reflective thing every single day before I got to bed but every year I make sure to undergo a grand self appraisal.
So without further delay, here are the top ten things I’ve learnt this year.
You Will Be Put Through The Same Lessons Over and Over Again Until You Learn What Needs To Be Learnt.
I have caught myself thinking and asking myself multiple times why certain things keep happening to me. The question I now ask myself is why do you keep letting the same thing happen to you? Is it something I can change? Often times they are things I can change. When this became clearer to me, I learned to become conscious of certain things; I learned to recognise patterns that I knew would lead me to the same unpleasant result. The truth is you won’t grow or things won’t change until you make the effort to do so. So for example if you find yourself jumping from one toxic relationship to another, you need to find the common factor between those relationships. Are you drawn to certain type of people and behaviour? Do you try to overlook red lights or mute your intuitions whenever it tries to warn you about something? Or are you someone that always misses fajr prayer? Why is this so? Do you go to sleep late at night? Do you always forget to charge your phone or set an alarm before going to bed? Do you go to sleep without the intention of wanting to wake up for fajr? Once you are able to figure out the root problem and are able to learn the things you need to learn, you will then be able to change the narrative of your story. If you do not, I’m afraid your condition will remain the same and you will keep repeating the same mistakes until you learn your lesson.
You Are Given Exactly What You Can Handle, Never More.
There were several moments in the past where I felt like I was being overwhelmed with work, personal issues, or felt like I wasn’t growing fast enough or achieving enough. It took a moment to understand that every level of stress/heat, disappointment or pain I experienced was exactly what I needed to experience. Anything more or less would have either been too much or not enough to get me to the point that I am today. This understanding really helped make my life a hundred times better. If I had to deal with a difficult colleague at work for example, instead of complaining, stressing and getting all worked up about it, I tell myself here’s a test of how tolerant you can be and how you can learn to manage and deal with difficult people in a professional environment. Whilst it would have been nice to not have to deal with such people in the first place, it is important to know that the absence of that experience, would result in me not learning how to deal with a difficult colleague, I wouldn’t be able to increase my tolerance level, I wouldn’t be able to learn to overlook certain behaviours. Similarly, if I were to fall sick I tell myself it’s needed. My body is either trying to show me the conditions that I don’t work best under, or the food that aren’t compatible with my body or simply that I have reached a physical limit and my body needs to recuperate. There is something to be learned in every situation; no matter how small. With regards to feelings of incompetency or not doing enough; the chances are my intuitions are right and its telling me Altine you really can do more…you really can achieve more so let’s try to do more. But instead of feeling miserable and hating myself for not being enough, I am learning to filter the negative emotions and to become my own biggest cheerleader or coach. Whatever challenge comes my way, I am very capable of dealing with it and it’s exactly what I need at that moment of my life.
Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed.
I must confess this was something that was very hard for me to learn. It took such a long time for me to learn this lesson and to remind myself of it, whenever I chose to go on one of my many unreasonable and independent assignments. Why was this a major lesson for me? For the most part of my life I’ve always been that child or person that liked to get things done by herself. If I want something I would always try to get it done myself before calling on someone else to help me. Let me paint a simple and real life scenario. I could be in the kitchen cooking with Yusuf and wanted to grab a wine glass from the top kitchen cabinet. The facts are I’m short and would not be able to reach the wine glass myself and I know that Yusuf is with me and can easily get the glass for me if I asked him. Now, the thing is my first thought won’t be to ask Yusuf to please help me get the glass. The first thing I am thinking is how can I get this glass by myself? After thinking of all the ways I could get it done, I would then try to do it myself. So I’ld first tip toe, did it work? No. I would then try to jump but it still doesn’t work. I would then search around for a stool, climb it and get the glass. There is nothing wrong in trying to get things done by yourself and being ‘independent’, but the question to ask is was that the smartest and wisest choice to make? At that very moment I wasted time, energy and risked getting injured when I could have easily asked for Yusuf’s help. I wish I can pinpoint the incident that took place in my childhood that scarred and convinced me to believe that asking for help is synonymous to being a burden. I hate and fear being a burden on someone…whether it’s a small or big burden. I know I have a supportive family and I am surrounded by people who love me and would do anything for me, but this was a big weakness of mine. I always tried to solo everything and this transformed into a harmful weakness because there were many times that I had no choice but to speak up and ask for help, but I would choose to kill myself by remaining quiet and not call out for help. It affected my mental health for years because I downplayed all my desperate needs at a heavy cost and in the name of not trying to be a burden or to worry or stress someone. Once again, it’s good to be independent in nature but you need to understand that no man is an island. You won’t always have all the answers. You won’t always have everything you need. So learn to speak up and ask for what you need when you need it. To give a few examples if you are in high school or in uni and don’t understand a certain topic, please choose to become a ‘burden’ and disturb that friend of yours who understands it, to please spend some time explaining the topic to you, rather than you spending hours trying to read and understand a chapter you are clearly struggling with. If you need a job and are applying to a company where you know x is working at, call x and see if there is anything he/she can do to help push your application forward. There’s no guarantee you’d get the job but at least leverage your resources and contacts…why do we network outside the office? Why do we exchange business cards with people? It’s certainly not to call them to have sleepovers at your place except that is what you are into, then by all means sleep away with your new sleeping buddy! I’ve learnt to speak up and to ask politely for whatever I want and the universe has been kind to me in return.
Your Husband Should Be Your Sugar Daddy.
This is similar to the point I mentioned above except instead of asking others for genuine help, you are asking for something that can be labelled material or something others may feel you should be buying yourself. Once again, it took me a while to distinguish the difference between asking a random person, family or friend for something and asking for the same thing from your spouse. Your spouse is on another level, an elite level if you’d like and whether they like it or not they will incure some financial burdens as a result of them being married to you i.e birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, random thoughtful gifts, graduation gift, push baby gift e.t.c If at all there is one human in the world that you can disturb or ask something from, I’ve learnt it should be your spouse. The phrase ‘your husband should be your sugar daddy’ is something a close friend/colleague of mine told me at work and it struck a strong cord in me. I can never forget those words. I get extremely shy asking people for things. It’s so bad that I recall whenever I had to ask my dad for something, I would literally have to first pray to God to make it easy for me to request the thing from him, recite Fatiha, say bismillah, take three deep breaths, before knocking on his room door or dialling his line. He doesn’t know this but that is how hard it was for me to ask him for things. He is my father, it shouldn’t be that hard but that was the case for me. Things like can you buy me lunch or bring back kilishi when you return from Abuja or wherever… nope, you will hardly or never hear it from me. I’ll confess I may have something to do with this extra difficulty of mine. From a young age my relationship with God was something I cherished more than anything that was dear to me. I had no close friends growing up. God was all I had. I told Him everything. I confessed everything and reported myself to Him. I would cry to him and ask him for everything I wanted. As I grew older and reflected deeper about my life, I realised that everything I ever asked God for, He came through for me and gave me a lot more than I asked. I depended on Allah with my heart, body and soul but what I loved the most was that whenever I opened up to God, or would raise my palms to beg Him for something, I never once felt like a burden to God. That was the sweetness for me. Every other person in my life was SO HARD. He was SO EASY. Allah mentioned in the Quran that He loves it when we ask Him for things and He wants us to ask Him for things. The Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) told us that Allah is shy to give us nothing whenever we raise our hands to ask him for things. How merciful and bountiful is our Rabb? So I never felt judged. I didn’t feel small to ask Him for my most trivial wants and needs. I mean I remember the years I used to pray for a good spouse, one of the things I made sure to add on the list of things I wanted was for Him to pair me up with a man that had a beard. Some of you may laugh at some of my petty request but that’s the thing, I never once felt like my wants and needs were less important to God even though I knew someone in some other part of the world is praying desperately to God to please help return their lost child or praying to be healed from cancer or dealing with some other serious issue. I can’t count the number of times I have chuckled whilst praying to God when I listen to some of the things I supplicate for. I’d ask for something and I’d be like Altine really? But then I’ll tell myself who else can I ask but God? Is there someone that is a better provider that He who is Ar Razzaq (The Provider)? Show me someone else that truly understands how I feel? Show me who has been there for me more than God. Show me who cares about me more than God who created me and gave me life and purpose. There is no such person. So as I grew older, I started praying to God to please never put me in a position where I would have to ask anybody for something. I only ever wanted to ask Him for things and to depend on Him and Alhamdulilah Allah answered my prayers. I’ll share something that happened very recently to give an example of how God answered my prayers. My laptop got spoilt last year and I was unable to get it fixed. The price of fixing the laptop was so high I figured it was better for me to just get a new one, but I couldn’t afford a new one. I started saving for it but then it occurred to me that all my savings this year would be gone if I bought the new laptop. I won’t have an extra dime in my bank account, so I became very disheartened because I really need this laptop to keep up with my blog and other personal stuff. I have been using my office laptop to post some of my personal writings on my blog and it didn’t feel right. I know I have family members that Allah has blessed financially, people I know have a soft spot for me and could easily replace my laptop if I asked them but I could never do that. Even if someone was kind enough to gift me the laptop I needed without having to ask, I would be very happy but I would always feel indebted to them and would feel reluctant to accept it. So, a few months ago my colleague and I were having a hearty conversation about financial constraints and I opened up to him about wanting a laptop and not being able to afford it and he asked if Yusuf knew about it. I told him no. I explained that I felt like Yusuf had already done so much for me and I didn’t want to become a burden on him or to be that kind of wife. He looked at me and was like ‘Hasiya he’s your husband. Your husband is supposed to be your sugar daddy. He loves you and would want to do anything to make you happy. Yes, he may or may not be able to afford it but at least tell him everything you want. Always, always tell him the things you want. Whatever he can buy, he’ll help you to get it and whatever he can’t afford, I’m sure he will work on getting it. His sugar daddy advice really shook me and I got gingered that night to tell Yusuf about all the things I wanted but then I became shy all over again. I ended up only gisting him about the sugar daddy statement and how much it resonated with me. When I told him his reply was ‘Altine are you really just knowing this?’ He laughed and a few seconds later HE then ASKED ME what I wanted. I couldn’t believe my ears and grew silent for a while. He asked a second time and then I told him the two things I knew I needed urgently; the laptop and something else. He asked which laptop, I told him, he said okay and that was the end of that conversation. To cut the story short he bought me the laptop I wanted for my anniversary gift. I was beyond happy because even after telling him what I wanted I made sure not to have any expectations. I was over the moon. I knew I couldn’t afford the laptop because in Jay Z’s wise words, if it’s something I can’t buy twice then I can’t afford it. Even though the laptop was a necessity of mine, I knew if I bought it, I would have no savings at all and that was what troubled me. In other words God is great, He listens to your prayers and your husband should be your sugar daddy. God positioned every husband to provide for their wife and it’s completely okay to ask him for what you want. I didn’t used to ‘disturb’ yusuf with requests but if I were to ever want or need something, it would no longer be a problem for me to ask him because he has already admitted he is my sugar daddy; meaning I will henceforth ask him for things without shame but he’s lucky he has a considerate wife and partner that isn’t demanding or feels entitled to things. I know deep down he would be happy to help me get whatever I want just as much as I would try to get him whatever he wants that I can afford.
Enjoy Your Struggles.
I came across a writing someday and the author mentioned that there are some joys in life that can only be felt due to hardship. This is one of the realest and hardest truths I’ve heard this year. A common example is steaming hot showers; it takes a cold day, or a sickness, for someone to experience the joy of a hot shower. Then there’s the joy of a fulfilling sleep, which is often achieved after having a tiring day. There’s also the joy of a reunion, which is achieved through separation and there are so many more examples. Sometimes, difficulty carries a special range of joys and that’s something to be thankful about. So I’ve learnt to enjoy my struggles because like God mentioned in the Quran with every hardship comes ease.
Never be Quick to Make Impulsive and Permanent Decisions.
Earlier in the year I posted a poll on my instagram page and asked people to help vote on whether I should get a nose piercing or to cut and dye my hair. At that moment I felt a powerful urge to get a new look. I grew bored of my look and felt like I needed a change…a little spicing up. Well, I’m grateful to God I did not act impulsively by going through any of the proposed changes because I lOVE my hair now and don’t want to cut it or dye it and I no longer desire having a nose piercing…I like the smooth surface of my pointy nose and I’ve never been one to like wearing earrings so what are the chances I would like wearing a nose ring? I have learnt that whenever I get the irrational urge to undergo some semi-permanent change…I should give myself time to see if the feeling would persist however strong the desire is because God knows some feelings can be very fleeting and some choices can be very permanent.
Don’t Accompany Challenges With Feelings of Regret or Self-Doubt
One thing I love about myself is that I love taking on new challenges. I find challenges exciting and see them as opportunities to test and push my current abilities. Although, I am quick to take on new challenges, I am just as quick to feel emotions of regret or self-doubt shortly after taking on the challenge. So to cite an example of something that happened recently, every lawyer at my workplace was tasked to write an article on a specific legal topic or issue of their own choosing, which is to be published on the firm’s website. Whatever topic you decide you want to write about, you must first obtain approval from your supervising partner. So I had three topics in mind that I could write about…two of them were ‘easy’ topics to write about because I had good knowledge of the law and the issues surrounding the topic but there was one last topic I considered writing about. However, I knew the topic would be very challenging to write about because it bordered on International & African trade law, cross border law and they were things I’ve never worked on before or studied about but I was still interested in it. If I choose the challenging topic I would have to spend a lot more time researching, and studying about it and there was also a 200 paged key agreement I had to review to fully understand what I wanted to write about. In other words I would be making my life a lot more harder but then a voice in my head was like you can do it! Let’s do it! Here is a chance for you to expand your knowledge. But another part of me was like Altine why are you making life harder for yourself? Just write about something you already know that wouldn’t give you sleepless nights. Can you guess which voice I listened to? Yup, the challenge was just too sweet and exciting to pass on. So I told my supervising partner what I wanted to write about and he approved the topic. Immediately he approved the topic I chose, I knew I couldn’t take it back. The fear and self doubt started creeping in. Altine you know nothing about this thing! This is unfamiliar territory. What if you write rubbish! There are people who specialise in this area of law at the firm so why didn’t you just let them do their thing and you write about what you know about? I had just a few days left to turn my article in. I ruined the learning process because I entertained too many of the negative thoughts and self doubt. But I got the job done in the end. I had to sacrifice hours of sleep and read so many material that my head started pulsing and my eyes started aching but in the end it was all worth it. The sweetness of getting the challenge done reminded me of why I loved taking on challenges in the first place. I was proud of myself. My supervising partner was proud of my work. It doesn’t end there. I shared my article on my Linkedln profile and it trended for a while in Africa AND two employers reached out to me on Linkedln that they would like to recruit me and this was all because of the challenge I decided to take up. Isn’t it amazing? What that experience fundamentally taught me was that whatever challenge I decide to take up in the future, I should try my best to enjoy it and not give in to any of my self doubt and negative thoughts. In She Allah, I will taste the sweetness of completing the challenge and may even get an extra reward for it! Allahu Alam!
Self Reflection Is a Good Thing But Too Much Self Analysis Is Exhausting.
This is another hard thing I had to learn. I spend most of my quiet time engaging in self-reflection. I over scrutinise everything; my thoughts, my intentions, my actions…it is draining as hell. Having to constantly question your own motives and how you’re being perceived and whether or not you’re being real and what’s authentic leads to such a convoluted mentality. If you question everything you’ll end up not even knowing who you are because you just end up being a case study and not a person. I had to learn to take a break from myself, to simply acknowledge certain things and not over scrutinise them.
You Could Miss Something But Not Want It Back.
For all my nostalgic readers, I believe this is pretty clear and requires no further explanation.
You don’t have to see the whole staircase just to take the first step.
That rounds up the ten main lessons I’ve learnt this year. What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt this year? Kindly drop a comment in the comment section below and I’d be happy to read them!
I pray you all have a rewarding and successful week ahead.
Until next time,
Ma Salam x