Where Do I Go Now?

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The past three years has been the best years of my life. I finally found something I’m good at, and alhamdulillah, earning a living from it. I keep setting the bar up high for myself, and as much as I’m at a position way above than I first started, I often feel like I’m further away from where I want to be.

On my own, I feel at ease. I feel happy. I feel contented and grateful. But when I’m with my peers, I start questioning myself. I start doubting myself. I start wanting to give up. It’s as though I’ve been living in a bubble, oblivious to the outside world. Truth is, I’m just tired being my own cheerleader.

Where do we go now?

Being the Shams

The past three months has been nothing but exciting and adventurous. I ended 2013 with a crazy trip to Europe and the possibility of a new start in life – a new job, a new love and a new Shams.

But 2014 began and it was just a new Shams.

I ditched the idea of getting full-time employment and got ditched by the almost new love. But there I was, standing alone as the new Shams. A Shams who embraces change and the fluidity of life. A Shams who understands whatever she plans is only subject to the plans of her Creator. A Shams who has only faith and faith alone to live her life. A Shams who is patient when she is being tested. And a Shams who tries her best to see the good in people – even those who had hurt her.

And everyday, I am learning more about this new Shams inside of me.

In life, you are either Rumi waiting for Shams to make an appearance in your life, or you are the Shams to someone else’s life.

That was what I learnt during the book club reading of Forty Rules of Love. I guess it’s just timely that I embody the true meaning of my name – Sun in the House. I’ll be the sun to someone else’s life even though at times I really wish I could seek shelter for myself.

Part 1: Morocco in Summary

The past one week has been incredibly slow, exciting and beautiful. I never realised Morocco was such a gem. Jannah has been a wonderful travel partner, and Aida’s hospitality is beyond my gratitude.

I haven’t had much time alone but I did manage to squeeze in some thinking time. Truly, Allah has his reasons for everything. I never understood why we had to face difficulty – why couldn’t we just all be given an easy life?

Verily with difficulty comes ease. 94:6

Sometimes I do wish I had it easy. I do wish I was born on a silver platter. I do wish I didn’t have extra pounds to shed. I do wish I was smarter. But I would have been a very different person if I had my wishes come true. I’m learning more about myself everyday on this trip. I’m very thankful I made the decision to embark on this trip.

Please be patient with my posts, I’ll write a proper series when I return home. In the mean time, here are some photos from Casablanca.

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A fruit cart seller in one of the souqs in Casablanca

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The view along Ain Diab beach as we walking towards Hassan II Mosque

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Hassan II Mosque

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The imam, I assume

Color Run, Planning for Europe and Life

It’s been an emotional Syawal for me last week, but then again, since when hasn’t it been emotional, right? Now that I started a semi full-time job and earning my own income, family and friends, as usual, as me what’s next.

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We both have an obsession for unicorns.

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Supposed What-Are-You-Looking-At look

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At the start line

I never had a proper answer for them. My answer depends on who is asking the question, or whoever is interested to listen. It gets awkward when relatives who are of the same age as I am tell me they are engaged, or planning their wedding when here I am running marathons, running around like a maniac and making travel plans alone.

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I can never take a proper photo.

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Artifact #1: Crazy tudong girl attempts to dance through the powders (my point exactly about my priorities in life)


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Lalalala

As I enter my mid-twenties (oh gosh how weird does that sound!!), I can’t help but reflect on what’s in store for me in the future. I’ve been reading many articles online about how people in their twenties aren’t exactly sure of what they’d like to do for a living and other quarter-life crisis articles. I’m not even 24 but I feel so much pressure to do well in whatever I do!

 

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And the aftermath

Truth is, I don’t even feel pressurized by my family. Be it my extended family or my siblings, we each know we have to create our own paths to success. However, the fact that I did study in a local tertiary institution and having many friends graduating with better results has made me so hard on myself. I set high expectations so that I won’t ever be called mediocre. And this flaw of mine has bitten myself in the butt more often than not.

My plans for a delayed solo graduation trip is set in stone. Tickets bought. No turning back. I need to get my s*** together.

Blessed

It’s halfway through Ramadhan and I haven’t had a chance to write anything here. I’ve been rather busy with work, managing the house and other external commitments. It’s my first Ramadhan as a working adult, but I’m thankful for everything that has been bestowed upon me.

Ramadhan started with me finding out a friend of mine began fasting. And I think our friendship is slowly turning into a beautiful relationship. I’m pretty thankful for that.

My travel plans for December is almost concrete. I just need to wait for a few more kaching to be in before I purchase my flight out. I’m rather nervous because I will be traveling alone for pretty much three quarters of my journey. I need my travel game face on when I’m out there alone and make new friends easily. Hopefully, since I’ll be traveling for about 23 days this time round, I’ll make an extra effort to blog and upload photos on the go. My heart aches every time I have to go through the photos after I’ve completed my trip.

Till then, Ramadhan Kareem!

Say “I’m Fine, Alhamdulillah.”

I’ve recently signed up for classes titled ‘Lessons from the Big Screen’ with Safinah Institute with Ustaz Mizi Wahid. We’ve had 4 sessions now, although I’ve only attended two because of work commitments. Anyhows, at the end of each lesson, he assigns us some questions to ponder over the next week before we meet again. Last Friday’s session was a bit painful, so I decided I should write my thoughts out. After all, writing will always be my first love.

The class structure is such that we watch a movie that relates to the particular topic Ustaz has chosen, then we have a short discussion about it. Not really to critique the movie but more to absorb what we have learnt from it. So last week, we were watching Everybody’s Fine, featuring Robert De Niro. I knew I fell in love with the film at first scene. You know how artsy-fartsy I can get with my shots and all, and the film was shot exactly the way I would do it. Sigh. I really need to starting writing and making films again… but that shall be for another post.

Basically the story evolves around Frank (Robert De Niro) who is a recently widowed man having lost his wife a few months back just after Christmas. One day, after all his four kids cancelled on him for dinner, he decides to pay them a visit instead of waiting for them to come over to his place. The synopsis from iMDB is as follows:

A widower who realized his only connection to his family was through his wife sets off on an impromptu road trip to reunite with each of his grown children.

Pretty much a shorter version of what I wrote. Damn. I won’t spoil the story for you but I would suggest you watch the film yourselves. It’s emotional, touching and so real. I was crying even we were discussing the film (yeah right Sham you cry during every movie you watch *rolls eyes*).

Ustaz asked us if we are ever really ‘fine’. Challenges and problems will always be a part of being a true believer. We can never run away from problems. In fact, being tested is all part of being Muslim.

“Do the people think that they will be left to say ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried?”

[29:2]

We often hide our problems, some of us using that as an escape. Don’t think about the problem, and it won’t be there. But what is ironic is that we usually hide them from those who are closest to us. We fear for unnecessary concerns or worry from those closest to us. It is necessary, though, to have a confidante, someone to hear you out.

The thing is, our problems and challenges are a sign of love from God. He wants us to remain in faith even through the most turbulent times. In facing and handling the challenge, we earn God’s pleasure (mardhatillah) which is the key to Jannah.

“The greatest reward comes from the greatest trial. When Allah loves a people, He tests them, and whoever accept it gains the pleasure of Allah and whoever complains earns His wrath.”

– Narrated by Tirmizi and Ibnu Majah

We don’t realise it but God gives you the current problem to remove you from eternal sorrow. You know how fitspo blogs say ‘pain in temporary’ when they motivate you to exercise? It’s pretty much the same thing!

“When Allah wills good for His slave, He hastens his punishment in this world, and when He wills bad for His slave, He withholds his sins until he comes with them on the Day of Resurrection.”

– Narrated by Tirmizi and Albanee

How we deal with our problems will reveal our true character, and indeed, God only wants the best for us. The more pressure and problems He puts us through, the better we become. Rihanna sang Bright Like a Diamond, right? So should we! True loss happens when a man faces a trial and he turns away from God.

“Whoever Allah wants good for him, He puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad from it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties.”

– Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim

So there you have it, some of the takeaways from last week’s lesson. I hope I am disciplined enough to make this a weekly entry so everyone can benefit.

InshaAllah Kheir 🙂

Of Planning for the Future

It just dawned to me that’ll be turning 23 in about 2 months’ time. I’m not in denial, or afraid, rather I’m just surprised at how fast time flew by. I felt my life stopped at 16, because memories of high school seems so fresh in my mind. I guess it’s true when they say college is when time decides to fast forward itself.

I’ve been on full time work since August, and I must say I like the reaps of what I sow. Now that I’m working full time, I think I should make it a point to fulfill the list of things I want to do before 30. Well, I still have seven years in my hands but I can’t be too sure about having time. Work along with my freelance photography job makes “me time” very precious.

In 2010, I made a list of what I want to accomplish by 30. I have to admit, I haven’t done anything except make one out of the five films I’m supposed to make. As such, I’m shooting sort of a short film when I head to Hong Kong next week. If all goes as planned, it’ll be released in February, inshaAllah. I really want to make this film because I need to let go of things I’ve yet to let go of. I sound pathetic, but Adele is my biggest inspiration when my relationship failed. At the end of the day, as much as I am deeply saddened by what happened, I want to move on without any weight on my shoulders and put the past behind me.

As for now, I need to sort out my life and plan how I’m supposed to get into NYU Film school before 30.

A Man of Politics

It’s too early in the morning for a blog update, but I figured I needed to let my frustration out.

When my relationship ended, there were so many questions in my head – mainly why did it have to end. Then I realized it wasn’t him or me that ended it. It was the will of God that saved me from a possibly disastrous relationship. Sure, tears kept rolling down my cheeks and for weeks I kept to myself, holding up strong only when I went out with my friends. Now, my conscious has showed me why it couldn’t work.

We were just too different on so many pages. One of those pages is politics. I’m a student of politics. He shies away from ever talking about politics. Whenever I let out my opinions on Obama, or the local government not doing anything about foreign talent/labour, he would simply curtly smile and nod his head. I could never get an opinion out of him without erupting into a heated argument.

Last night, I watched the US presidential debate between Obama and Romney. I wanted to discuss it so badly with someone, only to resort to twitter and my colleagues for some opinions. The sudden need for an intellectual debate or conversation brought me to realize that I need a man who could tell me what he thinks of a given issue. I cannot be with an Always Yes Man. I need a man who would fight for a cause.

Inasmuch as a man who is pious is luring, I cannot demand a spouse like that when I myself am struggling with my faith. I understand that God has willed for me a man who is compatible and completes me, both emotionally and in my faith. For now, I would be contented with someone who thinks like me, someone who is always a page ahead of me and helping me to catch up.

I won’t go looking for him, but I know he’s out there waiting for the right time to approach me. I need to have patience, and keep myself occupied mentally and physically. I can always rely on Him to keep myself in check emotionally.

My Letter to God

Dear God,

First and foremost, thank you for blessing me with a life so full and enriching with experiences I would never trade for. Wonderful family (though we are kinda apart right now), a terrific group of friends consisting of girlfriends who will always back me up and at the same time kill me, and of course, a lovely boyfriend who keeps my Facebook password so I will not degenerate into a social media psycho.

Secondly, thank you for all that you have given me – the brains, looks (I’m being thankful for my normal looks, not praising myself ah), and a tongue which, alhamdulillah, I have managed to keep in control since being twenty. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the talents I’ve acquired over the years – verily they belong to You and I am merely your vicegerent in this life on earth. My stories, my speeches, my scripts, my film, my writings – they are all Yours.

Gandhi believed in passive non-violence protests, and so did Martin Luther King. I’m pretty sure You know that Gandhi got that from Your Beloved Messenger, Muhammad saw. So I shall follow them as well. The Prophet was once reported saying, “Do not speak unless you can improve the situation.” I spoke earlier before I wrote this. I spoke a few minutes, hours, days, months and years before this. And yes, I know that not all that come from my mouth are good. But the good comes from You, and the bad comes from myself and the Syaitan whom you condemn.

Ya Rabb, one of the person whom I admire most is Yasmin Ahmad. You taking her away may seem unfortunate, but I think it is a blessing. I can only imagine the pain she went through when people who hated her films said very mean things about them. One of the things she taught me while she was still alive was to never go to bed angry. She wrote on her blog that it’s important we forgive every single person who’ve hurt us. There’s no use holding on to grudges.

So God, I want to forgive anyone who has hurt me in the past day or week or month or years. And I would like to apologize if I have hurt anyone in the past day or week or month or years. And yes, this includes my father. You said justice and ‘adl are central to being a Muslim, so I shall leave it to You for justice to be served in an ‘adl manner.

I hope this letter gets through the other letters. I would have sent a registered mail to you by doing a night solat, but I’m kinda having the time of the month. So digital mail is the fastest, I hope.

Till the next letter, give me the strength and the courage so I can go through life without any more hiccups.

Lots of Love,

Shams

The Dilemma of the Dreamer

Without even realising, October has come and passed, leaving us to rejoice in the last two months of the year. 2010 has been too fast for my liking. I guess it’s true when people tell me that once you enter uni life, the clock ticks like there’s no tomorrow.

This semester has been exciting for me. My three-day week on campus has allowed me to spend my time doing things I would rather do other than studying – because seriously, I think I’m starting to get allergic to examinations – but of course, it leaves me guilty of not trying to pull up my grades, though I know I should really be doing that. Nevertheless, modules this semester were interesting, still is I think, and lecturers could not have been more helpful. Sharmee’s Best Lecturer Award of 2010 goes to Prof Edna Lim who heads TS2238/SSA2218: Singapore Film – Performance of Identity. Awesome module, great group mates and the most exciting assignment ever – making our own short film – what more could I ask for?

Apart from school, I’ve been involved in a few productions that I wish I had put more effort in. Limited resources, so I can’t really blame myself, can I? I’m not trained in writing, filmmaking, or even a qualified production assistant, but I’m a keen learner. I have a dream, and inshallah, if all goes well, I’ll be studying to be a filmmaker.

Speaking of dreams, having written a few scripts this year and seeing them in the making, I realised the difficulty in accepting reality when you have a choice of creating the imagined. When we dream or idealise of another world, we tend to want them to come true. But seeing a dream come true through a medium that is artificial, that’s not ideal. As a writer, I’m torn between writing the truth and the constructed imagined. When I write the truth, it would force me to write only based on what I have experience. When I write the imagined, however, I would want to experience it despite knowing that it would never come true.

This is what I call, The Dilemma of the Dreamer.

There is perhaps no solution for this dilemma, but there is a prevention. I faced the dilemma once, so I stopped having high hopes on the people around me so that I know what I imagine will remain an imagination. Or rather, an illusion. I can’t pretend I have a perfect family when I know I don’t; I can’t pretend I’m the most sought-after girl when I know I’m not and I can’t pretend I’m a success when I don’t even know what success means.

For now, I’ll go back to loving myself so I’ll be happy. This one’s for you, RP. Happy Fifth Month together.