- Thasneem from ELEVEN
Stop Chasing, Start Living
The world never stopped moving, never stopped amending itself; you blink and the world has renewed itself. With every look, the world changes into a different place; people are no longer the same, concrete replaces nature and slow becomes fast. Particularly with technology, communication is now seamless and productivity has multiplied, such that devoting all our focus to a single task seems inefficient. Gone are the simpler times when cassettes or CDs were bought to actually watch a movie or listen to music, instead of merely letting it be a background activity for when we work. Gratification has become foreign to us in this contemporary world. People around you may seem to be moving fast, trying to match up to the speed the world is at, but you, my friend, I am here to remind you that you need to slow down and be mindful, and I’ll tell you why.
In this period of uncertainty, most of us probably feel that life has been rather unexciting due to the restrictions that limit our experiences. But if I may squeeze in my COVID reflection at this point, I was transitioning into being a young adult accountable for the important decisions I made in life, particularly my choice of degree, and with it came a wave of rejections, uncertainties, and fear of the future. And of course, we would all relate to things not going our way, having to fight silent battles while wiping away our own tears and finding our strength. It's okay to take things at your own pace. It’s okay to take the longer route, it's okay to be slow, and it’s okay not to be okay. I hope people stop stigmatizing the word “slow”, glancing upon it like a derogatory or pitiful term, when it certainly isn’t. COVID presented opportunities for introspection and let me share with you lessons I took away.
COVID was when many were struggling with their mental health for a myriad of reasons- experiencing retrenchment, having to stay at home, taking classes over Zoom, contracting the virus, having to compromise on celebrating milestones in their lives, and more. I learnt to feel my emotions deeply and not suppress them, because we have a right to our emotions and we should let them flow as and when they come, because they don’t lie. I hope you know you matter first and that you set boundaries so that you reserve care, energy, love, and empathy for yourself. Particularly to the men reading this, I hope you don’t let absurd toxic masculinity get to you and that you free your heart when it cries, for that is true strength.
I learnt to seek the positive in every lesson, in every good and bad. When we are rejected—when and not if—because we all face rejections and that's only human. It's not always about us, it's not about us not being enough; we are enough, we’ll always be because all that we do is not solely based on our capabilities, because we sure are limited, it is what He does through us. Remind yourself that a better opportunity is coming your way. Not everything that may seem like an opportunity is meant to be in our lives, Allah SWT has planned our lessons such that they enrich us, for He sure has written the best for us (The Qur’an, 8:30). With that, I learnt to not be distressed over what the future may be or what I could have done better to mend my present.
It is easy to get caught up in reflecting over the past or living for the future, missing out on our present. Through this, we subconsciously raise the expectations of success and feed ourselves the thought of life never being good enough, and that we would never be enough. Anticipating what is to come would only erase your present identity and the joys of today.
We all have an ideal version of ourselves we are working towards, but I hope you don’t neglect your present self and growth in that strive. The present you is perhaps the person your past self wanted to be, and with that, if you don’t live in the moment, you are missing every celebration of yourself being on the constant chase for a better self. Sometimes we need to stop and take a step back, to be mindful of our growth, to appreciate ourselves for stretching our limits. Allah SWT praises our struggle and conviction while growing through what we go through more than what we grow to be. And I hope you keep this in mind as you strive.
COVID, being a student with a part-time job and a busy schedule, has also taught me to redefine my happiness and seek it in all the little things life offers, just like simpler times. I am rediscovering the girl who rejoiced over the slightest joys the world gave her and was so immersed in living her present. She probably did emerge at times, but the weight of tomorrow’s worries perhaps pushed her away, deep within as I grew older. Today’s world pushes us to be someone we are not, but we tend to inculcate what others do as a means for survival in our lives. As adults, we have responsibilities and commitments that detract us from enjoying the present like we used to as kids, but relax, let loose, and be who you are. You and I need to let the kid in us carry us through our lives at times, so that we may be present-focused and actually stop to ponder upon His wonders, His Love, and Mercy that He reminds us of everyday. The sunsets we miss, blossoming flowers that we speed-walk back home past, or chirps of nature that we shut down to because we are too concerned with hustling for our future.
As Asians, we are under the constant pressure to strive for excellence and it has been ingrained within us to hold materialistic goals, which isn’t wrong, but having mere materialistic goals and working towards them changes how we spend our days. We would probably be one of those chasers after an American Dream. Constantly working for a better tomorrow at the cost of what your rooh, your soul, needs. The health of your rooh is determined by how spiritually healthy you are. It's important to be mindful of Shaytaan who may psych us into thinking that life in dunya is infinite, tricking us to chase the tomorrows of this world. It isn’t wrong to look forward to a better future but I just hope that in that endeavour, you don’t miss out on your present. I hope you don’t treat your present like a transitory phase, spending your years in university waiting to graduate or wasting your single years waiting for a soulmate. My forward is my present, to seize the moment and ponder upon His Might and Love.
Shukr, gratitude for one’s blessings in all circumstances, cultivates mindfulness of the present. Gratitude isn’t an emotion, it's a state of mind and spirit. Allah SWT promises us that when we are grateful, He will increase us in bounty (The Qur’an, 14:7). Our gratitude isn’t going to make Allah SWT more generous or loving, but it makes us more receptive to the infinite blessings He continues to bestow upon us. And perhaps that would release us from the delusion that we have to wait till tomorrow for joy to come upon us.
Be here when you need to be here, and you can be there later. Practice mindfulness such that you may reclaim your identity, peace, relaxation, and joy, and feel less guilty about missing. Trust me, you may reclaim simpler times if you shift around your perspectives a little bit. Feed your rooh within and focus on your breath. I hope you find the adventure you leave for tomorrow in your present. I hope you quit telling yourself that there would come a time when you can let loose and enjoy yourself, and I hope you redefine success to be one that fills your soul rather than merely just your pockets. I hope you appreciate and enjoy the growth, rather than being too focused on the outcome. May He guide us to strike a balance between building a future and being content with our present. Ameen.