How can baking a brownie inspire you to write – especially in a rainy weather

The scent of brownies baking in the oven starts to linger in the house. My current thoughts – hoping that my popcorn brownies in the oven turns out good. 

It is the perfect kind of weather to laze around at home in my PJs – snuggling up with a good book, baked brownies and milk for teatime, and of course, a sideline of random thoughts lingering in my brain.

People often asked me, “What exactly do you on most days?” I can’t deny it, but that was the kind of question I will ask when someone told me they are on their Gap Year. Before I dived into my own Gap Year, I had a pretty bias overview that a typical Gap Year usually consists of 80% traveling and the other 20% lazying in bed.

But of course, that wasn’t the case.

Now that I’m almost 9 months into my Gap Year, my first rule of advice for those who are thinking of taking one is to set out and understand your purpose and intention(s) of taking a Gap Year. What makes one’s Gap Year different than the others is our intention(s). If your intention is to travel the world, then of course 80-90% of your time will be spent on traveling.

My Gap Year intention is pretty straightforward – it is all about self-care. Therefore pretty much everything that I do during my Gap Year is towards a greater intention of caring for myself (in other words, anything that will make me feel happy, rejuvenated and at peace).

For a while, I’ve always wondered why I do what I do, or why I love engaging in certain activities. Two weeks ago before my trip to Japan, I had a mini intervention for myself. It was after the intervention that I became more enlightened about my life. For a start, I became more assured that Allah put me on this Earth to serve humanity through my strength in influencing others to be a better version of themselves.

And I realised that in order to fulfil this life calling, there are a few factors that drive me or in other words, I need these things in order to be able to serve people in my best self.

1. A healthy mindset – that’s why it makes so much sense that I love the outdoors, traveling and nature. My interests in cycling, trekking and a sense of adventure are the medium for me to create a healthy mindset.

2. Constantly seeking knowledge – that’s why I’m always curious about life and the drive to learn new things is always there to keep my mind active with new knowledge and wisdom.

3. Getting inspired – that’s why I love to constantly surround myself with positive people and be in an environment that will never fail to inspire. This is where I actually thrived – especially when I meet new people and get inspired from hearing their life stories. At the end of the day, life is a series of stories we tell. 

4. Reflections – that’s why I love having deep thought provoking conversations with people around me. And it never fails to amaze me how sometimes you can get that connection with people whom you just met.

5. Love – that’s why family, friends and the religion are important to me to always keep me grounded and be grateful with everything that I have in life.

Even though it seems like a luxury to be able to take a year off, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. There are many times that I questioned myself, have doubts about where I am in life right now and how do I go about my life after this year.

Nevertheless, this reflection post was a great reminder to myself as to why I needed this Gap Year for myself. It is not about how much time you’ve spent that matters but it is how those time spent makes you feel that matters.

My brownies turned out great – slight regret in mixing the stale popcorn in the brownies though.

I became an Uber driver for 3 weeks, and here’s what I learnt

The title itself is self explanatory and how it got to the point of me being a driver is a different story on its own. No one really saw it coming except for my closest friends and family. It was a win-win situation – the family got to use the car for a month but in return I had to be an Uber driver to cover the cost of the car. It’s my Gap Year after all and what’s a Gap Year without trying new things out of your comfort zone.

It was no doubt an enlightening experience and here are my takeaways from this experience.

  1. Every job has its own challenges
    It doesn’t matter if you are a taxi driver, a cleaner, a manager in a financial firm, a lifeguard or a postman, every job has its own set of challenges. Sometimes we take for granted the jobs that seems ‘small’ in our society. It’s important not to disregard the challenges that the people around us might be sharing about their job. In fact, you may never know if you could actually learn valuable lessons from those ‘work rants’ that could be valuable not only for your job but your life too.

    Being an Uber driver for 3 weeks made me appreciate individuals who are driving as their full-time jobs – be it taxi drivers or bus drivers. It is a huge responsibility to be carrying passengers and making sure that we reach our destination safely. It might seem trivial to us, but while I was driving passengers around, consciously I became more aware of how important it is to drive safely – not only for your life, but for others too.

  2. Time is valuable
    Let’s be honest here, I didn’t like being an Uber driver. It’s nothing to do with the drive itself, its more of a personal preference because of the sedentary nature of prolong driving. It came to a point when I was driving, all I could think of was the opportunity cost (time) that I could be spending doing something useful or even if its not useful, something that I really like to do. I rather hike for 4 hours, than driving a car for 4 hours for ‘work.’

    But I learnt more about myself through this experience. It assures me of the kind of lifestyle that I love and how important it is to integrate that lifestyle in all aspects of my life including the next job/career path that I’m taking after this Gap Year. I realised it definitely bothers me when I couldn’t move around or have my mind challenged in a job. And it is of more important now for me to do the things that I really want to do that makes me happy because time is valuable.

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  3. Mind over matter
    Even though I didn’t like being an Uber driver, it was truly mind over matter. I knew I had to cover the cost of the car (well, it was until my brother came in on board to help cover the cost, that I was relieved from driving), I had pretty much no choice but to stick through it because I made that decision to try out to be a driver.

    And this applies to every aspect of our lives. The mind is a powerful place to create positive thoughts and energy to get through the challenges in life –  especially in situations where you just can’t wait to get out of. What works for me in getting through challenging situations in life is to look through the ridiculous bad parts and seek for the ridiculously funny and amazing parts about it. You’ll be amazed at how it will make you feel so much better. In this case, it was the conversations that I had with some of the passengers. And it helps to be surrounded by people who could appreciate that ridiculously funny and amazing parts about life.

  4. Incentives means nothing if you have no passion for what you are doing
    Uber had many incentives for its drivers – those that requires you to drive a certain number of trips and you get extra cash out of it. Even though it was a relatively ‘easy task,’ it wasn’t enough to motivate me to drive that number of trips simply because I had no interest in the drive itself.

    It brings me to the point that if we have no passion or interest in the job that we are doing, the incentives of the job will not seem valuable to you even though its worth a lot to the eyes of others. And that my friends, reassured me to follow my heart and to work for something that is aligned with my goals and passion in life.

    Signing out from being an Uber driver.


The kind of love you create

Tonight my heart is bestowed with feelings that bow down to the greatness of God and the everlasting love and gratefulness one could ever feel.

Have you ever wondered the kind of love that you create among the closest friends that you’ve ever had? You know how they say, “If a friendship lasts longer than 7 years, it will last a lifetime.”  But can anyone ever define the kind of love you gave and have for the people around you? What makes you love a person?

Hidden depression – it is hard to identify through oneself but somehow easy to recognise by the closest people around you. Lately, I’ve had a couple of my closest friends who are silently undergoing through this stage in their life and at times,  being a friend, it is hard for me to reach out to them – for the denial stage for some of them, prolongs till only time will tell.

And some things can’t be forced. Moving pass the stage of denial to the acceptance stage is a long process that differs through individuals. It takes time, prayers and patience for them to be enlightened and one thing is for sure, we can never help a person if they are not ready to help themselves first.

But it is hard. It is hard for me as a friend to see someone who is close to me going through this stage in their life. Sometimes, I feel helpless and then I wonder to myself, “Is this how it feels like to love someone you really care? To feel their pain and to get them out of that pain? Is this the highest form of love we can ever have for someone?”

Tonight, a dear friend of mine opened up about her struggles. I’ve always felt it coming but it was never the right time or situation to talk about it. But tonight, my question about the kind of love you have towards a friend was answered.

It’s the kind of love that you feel warmth when you see her cry. It denotes the trust and realization that this intimate moment is one that you both will remember till end of time.

It’s the kind of love where you knew her tears were tears of fears and trust. And I was there to witness her cries.

It’s the kind of love that all you ever wanted is to see her shine through this phase in life and bring back that sunshine in her life – no matter how hard it’s gonna take.

It’s the kind of love that creates a constant remembrance of God’s greatness and blessings in our life. How love is nothing without God’s love and how she’s not here in my life without God’s will.

At the end of the day, it’s not hard to make a difference in people’s life. It’s a matter of being present and having a sincere heart.

What if I was a tree? 
I would be the tree that shelter the vulnerable
The tree that feel the fears and see the tears 
The tree who knows the truth about them
To be the constant that they need


On Becoming Twenty Five

I turned 25 a week ago. And funnily enough that was also the time I realised that I haven’t been updating this space for almost a month now since my last post on May 30th.

Life has caught on. I’m finally 25.

It has been a blessed month while I was away from this space. It was Ramadhan (fasting month in the Islamic calendar) and a lot of my time was spent with my family and being fully present in performing my ibadah during the Ramadhan period. And no doubt, this year’s Ramadhan felt different – different from the past few years when fasting month always falls during the peak periods of either working or schooling life. I will come around to write more about my gap year Ramadhan’s experiences. You might asked,  “How different could it be”?

But today, I thought I revived back this space by sharing some thoughts and mindful realisations that I had after turning the golden age of 25.

  1. I felt no difference in turning 25
    You know how they say, “Age is just a number.” Well, it is true. Every birthday year since I turned 20 has always felt the same. Of course, there are days where I will hyperventilate when I lie down in bed and realised that I’m a legit full grown adult (who doesn’t?!). But there are also days where I feel blessed to still be receiving comments from strangers who always thought that I’m 18 (and the youngest number I’ve ever received is 16 years old).

    The secret ingredient in looking and feeling young – surround yourself with positive energy. 

    At the end of the day, we don’t  need assurance from others to make us feel good about ourself. I’ve been blessed with amazing family and friends who emits positive outlook and energy in life. And I believed that is the true reason why I’m always feeling young and positive at heart. Like what they say “Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Energies are contagious.”

  2. Time is never enough and becomes more valuable
    I don’t know about everyone else, even though some of my older friends keep assuring me that “You’re only 25! Relax a little,” I feel that time is never enough and I’m not working hard enough for my Hereafter at this prime age. This feeling of time is never enough came about after I attended a religious talk a few months back and the Sheikh mentioned,

    “In the Hereafter, Allah will not only ask you about what you did with your time on Earth, but he will specifically ask you, what you did in your Youth.” 

    That statement has been ingrained in me ever since and it is a definitely a challenge to be able to manage our time well and spent it towards a true purpose. Its a paradox cycle where you feel like you are spending your time productively but that productive time is spend to fulfil your Nafs (نَفْس) – self, psyche ego or soul. And for that, I’m always guilty.

  3. Death becomes a conscious thought
    I think about Death all the time. I think about the times when Allah saved me from deadly situations that could end up in Death. I think about the hikmah behind all those saved situations. And I think about the deeds that I’ve done and have not done. Is it enough to save me in the Hereafter? Probably not.

    The Death thoughts are not just about me. But I thought of the day when death will happen to my parents, brother, close family, relatives and friends. How will I react to that day? But I believed talking and reflecting about Death is necessary. It reminded me that this world is temporary and to not get occupied with world affairs. Talking about Death should motivate you to work towards your Hereafter and not scares you.

  4. Experience over material wealth
    No doubt. This realisation holds true ever since I turned 20. Materials gave us temporary happiness but experiences gave us a lifetime box full of memories. And for me traveling has been my favourite gateway in gaining new perspectives and to be in awe with Allah’s creations.

    Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.

  5. When will I ever get married?
    This realisation is hilarious but it hit me when I turned 25 last week. When I was 16, I used to say that people who are 25 and not married yet are crazy – 25 should be the perfect age to get married, have kids by 27 and live happily ever after.Well look at me now.

    I’m 25 and barely near that marriage timeline yet. I know its getting real when people starts praying for me to meet my jodoh (soulmate) real soon and when my parents start asking me the golden question “When are you getting married.” I barely have any love interest right now and the only thought currently occupying my head is “Where is the next destination I’m traveling to?”

    But I believed Allah knows what’s best for me and the right person will come when we are both ready for marriage. At this point of time in my life, I’m always seeking for new experiences, adventures and for what is worth, my other half needs to be comfortable with that or rocking the same boat. My only prayers as of now is to have my parents witness me getting married while they are still strong. InshaAllah.



We have an irrational fear of nothing

It’s not easy seeing your loved ones slowly caving in into their useless self. It’s not easy to hear words that ends up with death and no way out.

Head in the clouds

We live in the age and time where we are expected to suddenly grow up and know things. Not only in terms of building a career but also in living life as an adult. However, for some individuals it may seem easy to open up about all these fears of living a life but for some, it has never been easy to express these melancholy thoughts. In fact, most of us are not even aware of the existent of these thoughts because we tend to not want to deal with it. Or we don’t feel like we have the right support system to share these thoughts with. We don’t spend time with our thoughts.

We have an irrational fear of nothing.

Our thoughts affects our hearts. Negative thoughts crumble our hearts into the hopeless version of ourselves. Positive thoughts exposed our hearts to hopes and bigger things in life. These thoughts which affects our hearts eventually affect how we feel and the actions we take – just like how we will react to life events or the support systems we created for ourselves. And all these things help shape our mental health.

Doesn’t it now make more sense that understanding mental health becomes more important for an individual and the community that we are living in? Seeking knowledge and understanding mental health breaks the barrier within an individual and the others around them.

Spend more time with our thoughts and the thoughts of others so that we can start creating a support system of positive relationships that will eventually be an important contributing factor in building a positive community and resilient individuals.


What if I was a tree?

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What if I was a tree? 
I would hold on strong to my roots
The warmth it radiates to my every branches and leaves
The anchor beneath the weight of the Earth
To ground me

What if I was a tree?
I would be the tree that shelter the vulnerable
The tree that feel the fears and see the tears 
The tree who knows the truth about them
To be the constant that they need

What if I was a tree?
I would fall in love with the leaf litter 
Even when I am stretched way up high
It replenishes my soul (soil) and foster interesting form of life
To build the forest we can eventually call home

The forest is more than just a bunch of trees
Each individual tree is unique to its own strength
Just like how humans are, living in this Earth 
Be the strength that you can be
Be the tree that you need to be

What happens when you make yourself vulnerable

Our generation is expected to grow up and know these things but in reality the first few years of our career is either a make it or break it time period for most of us. How do we face up to the demands of working and living yet still remain faithful to our religion? I’ve learnt this through my own experience of hustling for the last 2 years in my first job out of graduation.

How it began

For the longest time, I was afraid of being vulnerable. Growing up and ever since I could remember, I’m always known for being the strong and optimistic girl that could easily make the room comfortable and alive. And because of that, unconsciously I grew up having a mindset that I’ve always had to be strong and optimistic no matter what life challenges befall upon me – even though if it meant holding back my tears when I knew about the passing of my best friend’s Dad to be strong for her.

But as I was hustling for my career for the last 2 years, things began to get overwhelming at work. But of course, I was pretty strong and optimistic that I regard the feeling of overwhelming as something temporary and I should just throw it all at the back of my head and not talk about it. Well, it didn’t work out.

Apparently feelings started to build up inside of me, till one day I broke down when my colleagues started to push my button. And it all began with a simple question, “Za, are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?” And for a while because I was afraid to be vulnerable, I didn’t know how to start the conversation and what more to share about the emotions that I was not even aware of in the first place. I mean think about it, you are technically risking putting your heart on the line to expose who you are and all you are to somebody and you have to face the risk of being ‘judged’ for the rest of your life. So why should I share?

What happened when I started being more vulnerable

But my colleagues kept pushing through and eventually I became more aware about my vulnerability and was open enough to share the deepest thoughts and emotions that I’ve cleverly hid bit by bit. And that was where I realised the irony of being vulnerable. Vulnerability involves me opening up my heart and thoughts to take the stronger position. The more I share and make peace with the feelings I’ve had by understanding why I felt that way and how it can help me grow as a better person, the more I became stronger and less fearful about openness.

Connection beyond the conversation 

With vulnerability, I had a deeper connection with the people around me and naturally I’m surrounded by people who are attracted and inspired by the value of my openness. And it’s amazing how certain things that I shared are often relatable to the people whom I shared them to – naturally resulting in a more trusting connection between myself and other individuals. I also began to be more conscious of the relations of these feelings and thoughts in a more spiritual context – understanding deeper about the wisdom (hikmah) behind it. In a way, being vulnerable makes you reflect more about the level of connection and relationship that you have with your individual self and God. You began to rely more on God to help you through the various challenges in life.

It was also through this vulnerability that I began to question myself if I was hustling for the right purpose in life and what do I really want for myself? For a moment, I was secretly hustling to meet people’s and society expectations of what success is especially being brought up in a traditional society that has somewhat predefined to us what success is like. Unconsciously, I was struggling between juggling the demands of my career and the Hereafter. And that was where I knew that I needed to take a break from everything, to refocus back on what’s important and what do I really want for myself – that’s how my Gap year came along.

Importance of a great support system

However, I was lucky enough to have a great support system at work where my colleagues were mentoring me along the way in developing not only my skills professionally but also more towards developing my emotional agility in going through life challenges. And that was where, my friends and I realised that not many of us in our own Malay/Muslim community have the opportunity to be surrounded by a trusting support system that could guide us through juggling the demands between our career and the Hereafter, while being vulnerable to the people around us. Why is that so?

Do we then conform or challenge the status quo?

It could be that we don’t really talk about these challenges as a young Muslim living in a contemporary world among our friends/family as it might come of as a sensitive issue and we should just stick to the status quo. And specifically, could it be that we shy away from wanting to share new knowledge or ask more about the religion among our friends/family because it doesn’t seem ‘cool’ to talk about it during a casual lepak session? Are we afraid to show our vulnerability among our friends and family?

But as I’ve shared earlier, it could be because we are afraid to be vulnerable like how I used to be because along the way we grew up being shaped by the relationships or the society we grew up with to not showcase that vulnerability and challenge ourselves to define our own definition of success. It could also be that we are not aware of the benefits of opening up or at the very basic level, we just don’t know how to start being vulnerable among our trusted circle of friends to provide us the support that we need to be a better Muslim and person in general.

Taking the first step

For a fact, being vulnerable is the first step towards self transformation and I feel that our Malay/Muslim community needs to feel empowered and start seeing the benefits of it.

We’re not saying that letting people in—especially when you’re not used to doing so—is an easy process. But with a little bit of self-awareness and a few communication skills under your belt, you may just be able to lock down that loving, authentic, and mutually supportive relationship you’re afraid to admit that you yearn for. While this is sometimes scary, it is precisely what enables us to enrich our lives and grow –

Think about it, when was the last time or have you ever become vulnerable among your friends or family in sharing the challenges or feelings that are affecting you emotionally or mentally? If yes, how does that makes you feel? If no, what was stopping you to have that conversation? 

Or have you ever ‘shut down’ or ‘criticise’ friends who are vulnerable and are open about their feelings as a weakling or being too emotional? What about for some of us who are aware of the benefits of being in touch and open with your feelings – did we share the awareness among our family or friends and specifically, how do we react to someone else’s vulnerability? 

And remember, like how it happened to me, it merely start with an intentional question that could trigger an individual to be more aware about his vulnerability, embrace that vulnerability and take actions to be a stronger and better person than he once was.

So what’s next?

For the last few weeks, this reflection kept me up all night to figure out a way where we can get more people to feel inspired, reflect and start a conversation within their social circle about what it means to be a young Muslim in this contemporary world we are living now and to live for a higher purpose.

Alhamdulillah, Allah opened up a pathway for me and made me realised that my life calling is to inspire and empower individuals through the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in my life. I didn’t realise that it was naturally ingrained in me that I have that power to consciously or unconsciously influence the people around me until people started sharing with me how at some point, I’ve inspired them in their life. MashaAllah, that is a pretty big responsibility to hold in some sense.

But I believe that Allah didn’t somehow made me went through that vulnerability stage while I was working and made me went through a Gap Year now for no reason. InshaAllah, what I’m working towards now for the community will be beneficial for all of us and may Allah bless all of us with the strength to continue to strive to be a better Muslim for His sake.

Here are a few reflection questions to myself and also to all my Muslim brothers and sisters out there.

What does it mean to be vulnerable as a Muslim living in this contemporary world?

How do you define vulnerability? What does it mean to you? 

What do you think is the most important factor in building that safe environment for us to be vulnerable with the people around us?