Yesterday was the first day of my final semester in college.
During winter break, I avoided thinking about school. I knew I had a big load ahead of me this semester and I refused to let that distract me from my break. A few days before school started, I decided to gather my things and prepare for my classes. I purchased notebooks, made sure I had the right textbooks, bought a fresh new sketchbook for my studio course, and cleansed my mind of any negative thoughts about school, work, everything.
Don't get me wrong. I actually love going to school. I've loved it ever since I started attending school, but every now and then (just as any normal person), I get stressed out. Toward the middle of the semester, studio gets a bit more stressful, the exams start pouring in, the assignments keep coming, and I just want everything to go smoothly. I always tried to be the best at everything. For the first half of college, I told myself that stressing out was completely fine. Actually, I thought it was necessary to stress out in order to finish my work properly. It was unhealthy and unproductive, even though I told myself that it was a part of life and I just had to get used to it.
Eventually, I realized that freaking out was not the answer to getting things done. I realized that I wasn't getting the most of my education with all the sleepless nights, unhealthy eating habits, and being worried all the time. I decided to force myself to relax, to make more time to do what I love at school and also outside of school. I missed reading for fun. I missed writing for enjoyment. I missed having a balance. I used to be one of those architecture students who had the mentality that studio was my life. School was my life and everything else was secondary until I was done with school. Now, as I begin my last semester of college, I can tell you that I'm so, very happy I stopped thinking that way.
Recently, a couple of my friends told me that ever since I got married, I had changed. I thought I was about to get the typical you're-such-a-married-person, you-never-have-time-for-us talk, but instead they said I was more relaxed. I seemed happier. I smiled more. I joked around more. I seemed to just feel lighter and calmer. They said they loved it and were happy they finally got the chance to meet the real me. It sounds mushy, but I seriously loved hearing that. It was true. I felt wonderful Alhamdulilah. This isn't to say that marriage is the reason I'm happy and that the only way to feel happy is to go get hitched. It's vital to feel happy on your own, not depending on others as a source of happiness. But Afroz did help me realize that I had to make time for myself, that I had to take care of myself, and be content with my lifestyle. He's good at pushing me to go to the gym when I'm tired and getting me to watch a movie when he can see I'm close to stressing out.
This blog that you're reading now was the start of my new calm-the-heck-down-Fariha lifestyle. Reading new books was also part of the new journey. I started reading a book called
The Happiness Project
by Gretchen Rubin. I was in Target one day in the books section and to be honest, the cover just looked cute to me, so I picked it up. The summary on the back sounded like I would benefit from the book, so I said why not?
Now, I freaking love this book and think everyone should read it, both young and old, men and women, whoever you are, go read it. The book has information in it that at first you think you know. Actually, we all already know the information in this book, but Rubin explains how she thoughtfully applied the things we already know in her own lifestyle. She would make time for happiness, which is something most of say we don't have much of. She made everyday things part of her "Happiness Project," so that her life would be a little less dull and more exciting. When I say everyday things, I mean everyday things like cleaning, reading, talking to people nicely, managing your money, etc.
Each month, she focused on a different part of her life to focus on. She would ask herself how she could improve that specific part of her life. She explains what her successes were and what her failures were. She's super transparent, which makes the book more relatable. I never thought I would read such a book at this age. To be honest, I had the perception that self-help books were for people who were engulfed in many problems and were very unhappy. I was so wrong. This book isn't the kind that makes you feel like you have so many problems and the author has the answer to them all. She just shares her two-cents and made me realize that I can totally be happier if I just try to be happy.
Being happier means being kinder.
When I see what's going on all over the world, I feel depressed at first, which obviously goes against my goal to be happier. I realized that I can continue to have sympathy for the unfortunate events that take place. I can pray for peace and happiness for everyone in the world--but I cannot let anyone or anything predetermine who I am as an individual. In The Happiness Project, Rubin mentions that she always looks for opportunities to make new friends and, in general, be nicer to others. She mentions how she started to avoid gossiping and saying negative things about people, events, etc. She also made a checklist for first new encounters:
- Smile more frequently.
- Actively invite others to join a conversation.
- Create a positive mood.
- Open a conversation.
- Try to look accessible and warm.
- Show a vulnerable side and laugh at yourself.
- Show a readiness to be pleased.
- Follow others' conversational leads.
- Ask questions.
You're probably wondering, where am I going with all of this?
I dislike it when people assume something about me, because of what's on my head or what I'm wearing or because of my faith or culture. Predetermining how someone is as a person without getting to know them is just going to keep people from being kind to each other. Some might say, that the solution to all the unfortunate events that take place everyday in our world is by creating a hashtag or putting up a Facebook status. Some might say protest. Some might say don't get involved. It's quite fascinating how every person has their own way of dealing with these situations. Everyone has a reason for what they do, usually with positive and respectful intentions.
My little goal in life, starting now, is to be happier, which includes being kinder. This involves holding the door open for my apartment neighbors in the lobby, saying hello to the person standing next to me as we wait for the bus, not talking negatively about a professor just because I'm stressed about his/her class, being a better listener to my friends, and being positive overall...to every single person I encounter, regardless of faith, race, whatever. As easy as this sounds, we are all guilty of doing the exact opposite of this every now and then, but this post serves as a reminder to myself before anyone else.
Part of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) include being happy and being kind to family, friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. The Prophet (pbuh) was human. He would worry and stress, he would laugh and joke around, but he was always kind to others. I pray that Allah (swt) helps me follow my two goals of being happier and being kinder to all. And that everyone attains happiness and shares kindness with others as well.
"Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day speak good, or keep silent; and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbor; and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest."
"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself."
- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)