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20. I gave 45 “casual” interviews and 9 “formal” ones. — I learned that my experiences reveal a lot more about who I am and what skills I have than I had ever been aware of.

19. I was called selfish. — I learned that my culture’s definition of a great woman, partner, family member, friend is “self-less”, and that is something I don’t want to be: without self. Without myself. So I made a choice: to be “with myself”, and build from the strength and compassion that brings to then be “with others”.

18. I wore a mask with a hijab on. — I learned how important inclusive product design is. For a hijabi, having to loop a mask around your ears under your hijab, then move your hijab to remove it can prove at the best inconvenient, and at the worst, end with you needing to re-wrap & re-pin the whole thing. Do that even twice a day, and it starts to add up. …

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Photo: mentatdgt

Dear Mentor,

I should start first with the words ‘thank you’. There’s nothing else that quite sums up what I’d like to say. Some of you I found through a designated program, and some of you, it seems like, stepped up and volunteered to help me navigate my life and career.

When I think of what I am thankful for, the first thing that comes to mind is your kindness — let me explain. When I came to you worried I had taken a mis-step, when life threw me another curveball, when I had yet another question — as I presented this new information to you in as professional and articulate a manner I could manage, a little part of me also held my breath, waiting to see how you’d respond, bracing myself for disappointment. And yet, you were smiling, your voice was even, balanced, your message positive, constructive.

In January, I flew 4,473 miles to spend 24 hours with you. You flew 3,986, and bought me dinner.

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Source: Thuyen Vu

Also in January, you made me pull on a third sweater, because you “had to keep your Pakistani warm.” You taught me the word for the dumplings I loved: pelmene.

In February, we cuddled by the heater, eating leftover carrot cake you’d baked the day before. We talked about how fast our lives were spinning, about how old our parents are getting, about what we’d wear to our weddings.

In March, we sat across a coffee table which doubled as battlefield for our egos, and you apologized with tears in your eyes for the fell-swoop which had both destroyed my trust and broken our hearts. …

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Source: New Girl Season 1 Episode 13: “Valentine’s Day”
  1. Say ‘thank you’ always, and quickly when you mean it most.
  2. Perhaps a little girl could benefit more from hearing “You’re so creative!” Or, “Wow, you seem so joyful!” than “You look so pretty in that dress!”
  3. Print out simple things like where the laundry basket is, and the Wi-Fi password, and put them on display in the guest bathroom. It makes everything easier.
  4. When someone tries to pay you back for a kindness, ask them to pay it forward into the world.
  5. Make sure the people you love know this. Make sure they know it always, repeatedly, without doubt. …

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Source: Pixabay

Today marks the start of that last grand stand. The sun shines in its annual radiant defiance, throwing up its brightest rays to blind you — a challenge before the inevitable sweep of autumn steals our hearts away. It’s true, you know, that autumn is so much easier to love, with its gentle wind and wet leaves. You’ll feel it whisper against your brow, and you’ll sigh into its comfort.

You’ll hear the crisp of rained-on leaves underfoot, and just like that, you’ll forget how August burned for you, how it scorched love and challenge and strength in deep gashes across your heart, how you never felt more of your body and more of your spirit than when you were gasping for air through a mid-August heat wave. …

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Image via Reddit

Sometimes, just sometimes — maybe someone has just asked me to describe myself in an interview, maybe I’m introducing myself at a coffee date, maybe I’m just scrolling through my Instagram feed of inspiring, assured, badass women — I am so excited about the woman I am becoming, and the woman I am.

In those moments, I feel my chest swell with pride as I think of the milestones I’ve crested, and my cheeks redden with memories of every time I’ve felt beautiful, every time I’ve caught myself in the mirror and smiled in surprise — Wow, I’m radiant, every time a man has looked at me with sincerity in his eyes — the kind of sincerity that is equal parts stolen and given, because his mouth is too afraid to say the words. In those moments, I can see myself surrounded by a diverse gaggle of beautiful, successful, confident women, clinking glasses to our success. In those moments, I can see myself surrounded by the trappings of “Baby girl, you made it!” …

Five years from today.

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Source: Breakingpic

I don’t quite know what you look like. Sometimes, when I let myself dream, I see you laughing in the soft city lights, on a cold terrace, with a cup of tea in your hands and friends all around you. I notice the laugh lines around your mouth, and crow’s feet crinkled at the edges of your eyes. I see the best version of what I hope to be: poised and yet unabashed, with friendships you wear like an old sweater, and in a great pair of shoes. This version of you I meet at night, when the house is quiet and I’m under the covers. …

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Dear reader,

I grew up knowing “if it didn’t kill you, it only made you stronger”. I grew up knowing that women cried — superfluously, often, at the drop of a hat. I grew up knowing it was so inconvenient when this happened, because it put the other, non-crying person in such a tough spot. I also grew up knowing boys who didn’t want to cry, who tried to never admit that they had, who wrapped their confessions in disclaimers of strength.

But in 2018, I let myself cry.

“Uh, I never know what to do when someone’s crying.”

1. In a 737 and a 777 plane — to Karachi, Dubai, and Istanbul, while staring out of the window and carefully avoiding eye contact with the alarmed passenger next to me. …

A short story

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Photo via Harvard Health Publishing

You’re not fat
You’re not fat…
You’re not fat…

I look down at myself with twelve year old eyes, wet with tears. The jeans won’t fit. The flimsy waistband stares up at me, open zipper like a right angle, it’s stretched so far apart. Like a mouth that can’t be closed. My cold, bloodless thighs clog its throat and my fingertips are sore from straining against the inflexible denim — the half-moons at my back will not fit, and I fall to the floor exhausted, six inches of denim trailing past my ankles.

…just chubby.

I look down at myself with sixteen year old eyes, outlined in sparkly kohl. I slip my thumbs between the pillowy skin and its restrainer, exposing the harsh red marks underneath. My middle bit’s been smushed into this artificial waistline for over 3 hours now, and it’s not happy. I’ve only got a minute before I have to go back into the party, so I just breathe a little and let my skin relax. My fingers itch, wanting to undo the button, but I mustn’t dare — once it’s open I’ll never get it closed again. …

Four days before the ball dropped in December last year, I decided I would finally stop apologizing. I had somehow fallen into the habit of apologizing for everyone else’s feelings, my preferences, and a lot in between. The toll it took on my self-perception & relationships was something I realized I wasn’t interesting in paying.

So instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” I’d say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”

and instead of saying, “I’m sorry I can’t do that,” I’d say, “Thank you for considering me, but…”. It took a few weeks of consciously catching myself, and backtracking in conversations (my friends will vouch for how many Whatsapp messages I sent, then deleted, then rephrased, and re-sent — LOL) but what it ultimately meant, was that over the course of this year, I held in a lot of “sorries”. …


Zainab Zaheer

I like things & I write feelings. @zmeetsworld on all socials.

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