Turning 22: What I Imagined My Life Would Be vs What It Actually Is

In a week I’ll be 22, which feels significant somehow. Back in highschool, I thought my life would have made a complete 180 by now. I thought that was what I wanted — and needed. Fantasizing about the future was what kept me going, that happy dream of someday being able to construct the perfect life. However, how I thought my life would be at 22 and how it actually is now are two very different things. Let’s compare, shall we?

How I thought it would be:

I would have been in England right now — London, actually. I’d have had this little studio flat in the city, somewhere that still felt like London but was quiet enough that I could focus on my writing in peace. I would have probably made my family a little upset with the decision to live abroad, but it was a sacrifice I was fairly certain I was willing to make.  I’d skype my father everyday and my  mother every night. As for friends, I would have had a very tight-knit group. We’d come from all different walks of life, but would have most likely met through university. I’d have this husband, British but Muslim, brown-haired, kind, and funny. I’d be almost through with university at this point, and also preparing to publish my first novel (I would have already had an agent and everything). Writing and university would have taken up most of my time, but on the weekends I’d go to the theater, markets, and sometimes take long drives up north to idyllic British villages and fill up on scenery. Before long, I’d start saying things like ‘queue’ and ‘y’alright?’. I’d do most of my dreaming on the tube, staring out the window. 

How it actually is:

I live in Amman, Jordan. I have my own room, which is still part of the family house but is quiet enough that I can focus on my writing in peace. I’m unmarried but I do have a group of tight-knit friends. Although we’re all Arabs, we come from fairly different walks of life. Naturally, we met through university. As for writing, I’ve put my novel aside to be able to focus on my graduation project, a work of fiction that is very personal and close to me. I don’t have an agent, but I do have a very supportive professor. She’s lovely. Meanwhile, I’ve improved in Arabic, and can even carry out full conversations with hardly any difficulty. Bus rides to uni are where I do most of my dreaming, staring out the window at idyllic, Madaba farmland, filling up on scenery. I signed up for my last semester the other day. My father told me how proud he was of me. He said my achievements are like his own. I’m glad I was able to get to this point without upsetting him, or my mother.

So, no, it’s not completely off from my original fantasy — it’s just wearing different clothes, I guess. I think what these years have taught me most is that it’s important to have goals, but that it’s also okay to reach them in ways that you may not have expected. So, now I try to trust the uncertainty and keep faith that God and hard work will get me to where I want to be. Or even better, to where I need to be.

See you soon.

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Tell Me the Good Stuff First

I read something the other day that said “people who mock positivity don’t realize how hard it is”. I really felt that, because I know first-hand how impossible it can feel to try and rewire your brain. Negative thinking is a spiral. I’ve been there. I’ve reached rock bottom plenty of times, and the trudge back up always begins with the realization that my thinking patterns are largely to blame.

It’s not always our fault. Sometimes things really do suck. I don’t like having an anxiety disorder. I don’t like having piles of work to do for uni. I don’t like that there’s a war happening across the sea from where I live. I don’t like any of that. But I have to live with it. I have to cope. And I do that – or try to do that – by changing what’s within my reach, staring with my thoughts.

My little brother is prone to negative thinking, too. He comes home from school most days dragging his backpack behind him. Everyday is a bad day. The kids in his class are loud. They throw pencils. They’re aggressive. I feel with him. Kids can be awful, and I would never want my brother to bottle things up and not tell me if he was truly going through something. But the other day I decided to try something new.  When he came home from school, I asked him, “How was your day? Tell me the good stuff first.” He struggled a bit, but in the end he did actually manage to come up with something. It’s not much, but one good moment is better than no good moment (and sometimes one moment is really all you get). Anyways, the point of me asking him the question the way that I did, was to try and get him to acknowledge that good moments do actually happen sometimes – which is a start, if anything.

I’ll admit, though, I’m lazy with it. That was the first and last time I ever asked him to “tell me the good stuff first”, and that’s because positivty is hard. For me to even ask him something like that, I myself need to be in a positive state of mind. But I want to try harder. And I think you should, too. Honestly, I think we’ll all be better off that way.

So, here’s a good moment that happened today: my sister and I sat in the kitchen eating really sweet cereal and laughing at Buzzfeed Unsolved.

There. Your turn.

 

Angel-light

I watch the blood swirl between my legs
it wasn’t my time, he did it to me
her gaze tugs at my sleeve
please, officer, don’t leave
it wasn’t her time, he tried to do it to her
I cuff him, he’s half-dead
he thought he could smuggle her into hell with him
he thought the red bouncer wouldn’t see
her angel-light burning through his overcoat
they sent her back up to me
I held her hand and took her home
“come, love, wash your face”
three full pumps of soap —
she washed her eyes first.