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 – greatist.com

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? 

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This is how I finally found my purpose in life

24. It is the age where you are independently capable enough to purchase things on your own as compared to when you were 16 – when waiting for your birthday every year seems like a 10 year wait for your parents or loved ones to fulfil your never ending wish list. Now that I’m 24, I realised that I had everything that I have ever wanted and most importantly, I knew I had everything that I was suppose to have.

But there is no deny that at this time and age, we have also evolved into creatures of habit. We stocked up on things that we don’t really need. We buy another pair of shoes just because the other pair that we owned no longer seems fashionable or fit the current look that we’re going for. Overtime, we tend to buy things for the sake of buying – it becomes a habit that no longer creates a value to an individual.

I’ve always been the kind of girl that isn’t materialistic enough to appreciate an expensive handbag or needed the most expensive items from the product range. I am relatively simple in that materialistic sense. It was went my best friend shared with me a quote from Yasmin Mogahed’s book, Reclaim Your Heart that made me think twice about my materialistic position in life.

“I thought I’m never the materialistic person, because I’m never into branded bags, high salaries, expensive items. but I realised materialistic is not just about things…its about emotions, people…anything related to Dunia. And it was then I realised that I AM materialistic, I was too attached to people.”

This quote made me realise that the word materialistic meant more than what I thought it was. And that my friends, was the catalyst that made me embark on this journey of self-transformation particularly with regards to any forms of tangible and emotional attachment towards worldly affairs. For a start, my journey began with me deleting my 4 year old Instagram account (a huge emotional attachment for me) which you can read more about here.

From there, I moved on to address the most obvious tangible attachment in life – cleaning out my room of items and clothing that I barely used. For a start, I googled and began to get more interested about the whole ideology of being a minimalist. My search engine often includes phrases such as “How Do I be a Minimalist? Ways to declutter your room? What is minimalistic?”

I asked myself the following questions every time I hold an item in my hands while I was clearing out my room.

  1. Does it spark joy to me now?
  2. How long has this been in my wardrobe/cupboard?
  3. Do I even know when was the last time I wore this or use the item?

If the answer to any of the questions above are either a no or don’t know, it either goes into the donation box or into the recycling/throw away box. And with that, I managed to clean out my room within 2 days – talking about efficiency guys!

For a while, I’ve always thought that being a minimalist means owning lesser stuffs and in some sense, being a decluttering expert even when you have other professions in life. If I were to summarize it, it was all about stuffs – dealing more with the tangible objects in our life. But that was just the beginning.

Over the next few days after cleaning out my room, I became more conscious that being a minimalist is more than just decluttering what’s on your counter top. I realised as a Muslim and in the spiritual context, being a minimalist is also about purifying your heart into reconnecting back to the reasons you are living in this time and your purpose in life.

I soon began to search for new spiritual knowledge and who would have thought that even if I’m still now at the beginning stages of this continuous learning process, God has shown me the path that has led me in ultimately finding my purpose in life. And there it is. My Gap Year has just gotten more interesting because now with this new found purpose of life (which I’ve yet to share), I am setting out on a new venture to make a change in the community which I’ll probably get around to share over the next few posts.

Here’s a quote from a recent documentary that I’ve watched about minimalism (Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things) to summarize how I feel about being a minimalist.

 “The people you bring into your life – we should always be hanging out with people who have the same values and that is what really being a minimalist is all about. It’s about living deliberately. So every choice that I made, every relationship, every item, every dollar that I spent – I’m not perfect obviously – but I do constantly ask the question, “Is this adding value? Am I being deliberate with this decision?” – Josh

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Mount Bromo, Indonesia

31st January – 3rd February 

My friends and I have been talking about this trip for ages and when we finally made our first mountain climbing trip as a group happened, I was pretty impressed with ourselves for sticking through the decision. But for many reasons, Mount Bromo wasn’t what we expected.

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We first arrived in Surabaya city in the afternoon and because of our adventurous travel spirit, we decided to head down to the mountainous area through a slightly longer route – via a 3hr train ride to Probolinggo followed by another 2hr car ride to Cemoro Lawang, the base of Mount Bromo. After almost 5 hours of being cramped up on the local train and a bumpy car ride, we finally arrived at the mountain base in the evening.

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And here came the first thrilling part of the trip that we didn’t come prepared for. We totally did not anticipate the weather change that will vary from being in the city (Surabaya) to the mountainous area. We experienced the sunny Asian humid weather that we were used to, to freezing 2 degree cold wind weather at the mountainous area. The windbreakers/jackets that we had in our backpacks were not enough to protect the fatty layers of our bodies!

We knew it was going to be cold, but we didn’t know that we were actually embarking on an adventure in one of their ‘bad weather’ season. But like how tourist places are, the locals are always there to save the day. We had no choice but to rent out thick jackets and bought gloves/scarfs and beanies to protect ourselves throughout our stay in the mountainous area.

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Knowing that we wanted to hike up the crater of Mount Bromo with our legs, with no tour guide and jeep to transport us up, we decided to stay at the closest guest house (Cemara Indah) that has an easy access to the start of the mountain base hiking trail for our early morning start at 3:00AM in the morning.

And here came the next thrilling part of our trip. Imagine this – it was totally pitch dark and the only lights we had were the one shining from our average joe torchlights and the light shining from the ‘thousands of jeeps’ that drove past us. I could certainly bet that the drivers were wondering anxiously if these 5 little kids knew where they were heading to. Well they guessed it right, we didn’t know where we were heading to. We thought we will be on the right track if we followed the direction of the jeeps but we thought wrong. The jeeps were basically heading towards the mountain opposite Mount Bromo called Mount Penanjakan where people usually sit at the summit to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo.

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By then we were already walking on flat asphalt land, but of course due to the darkness around us we could still not see where we were. And by the Grace of God, we were saved by a local on a motorcycle whom out of nowhere appeared beside us. He assured us that for a small fee, he will guide us to the base of the Mount Bromo crater. The five of us gathered in a circle, had our shortest and most productive discussion ever, and agreed to trust the local to lead the way. Till today I truly believed the local was God sent at the time when we really needed Him the most.

Due to the bad weather, we were practically the only ones on the crater of Mount Bromo together with another hiker, waiting patiently and optimistically for the sunrise that never arrive. The sandstorm was pretty bad and till this day, I still didn’t know why we were holding on to that optimism over our safety.

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Here we are waiting patiently for the sunrise that never arrive

But despite the cold, dusty lungs from the sandstorm and freezing sleepless nights back at the guesthouse, we made it work around our optimism and laughter. Here is something that I truly believe in – it is not where you are but who you are with that really matters. Till the next crazy adventure guys!

P.S Check out more photos from the trip here.

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For a start..

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This is it – I finally did it. 

The past few weeks have been filled with graceful conversations and learning lessons with people that truly matters to me. As we progress into becoming the better version of ourselves, we became more conscious and realise that living as a human in this time is in fact the most challenging tribulation of our time.

We are surrounded by many distractions that concluded its path in leading us astray from our true purpose of living – which is to serve God and prepare for the Hereafter.

Making sins (especially unintentional sins) are more prevalent and easier in this time. A time where social media may lead you to be more subconsciously arrogant in portraying about your life to others. A time where our niat (intentions) in doing certain things is no longer sincere and is no longer because of God but is to please others. A time where you no longer realise that fighting the Dajjal within us is more difficult than waiting for the physical Dajjal to arrive – a sign of the End of Time.

Lately, I’ve had numerous discussions with a group of friends about truly being more present within ourselves and in the eyes of God, and here’s something that lingers to me for a long while. My best friend shared this excerpt that she read from Yasmin Mogahed’s book, Reclaim your heart.

“I thought I’m never the materialistic person, because I’m never into branded bags, high salaries, expensive items. but I realised materialistic is not just about things…its about emotions, people…anything related to Dunia. And it was then I realised that I AM materialistic, I was too attached to people.”

For that very reason, I felt a deep sense of urgency and importance to identify the materialistic attachment I had towards certain emotions and addictions, and to eliminate them from my life right now. And the first culprit on my list was my Instagram account.

Instagram is no doubt a great tool to be connected, get inspired and reach out to a wide range of audience. And as a visual person, Instagram was a sentimental medium for me to share my love of capturing moments through photographs and at the same time get inspired artistically in that area.

But Instagram was also the reason  I can find myself either consciously or subconsciously comparing my life to others, spending undocumented time scrolling through the feed, sharing things for other unintentional reasons and not for the sake of God, and also the reason where my niat is constantly tested whenever a new post is up.

And lately, I felt that our society and even myself at times have lost touch in connecting sincerely as a human. We are losing the element of being involved in each other’s life that we fabricate it with mediums like Instagram to portray the spirit of human connection but in reality, it doesn’t work.

To be honest, it was tough for me to delete my Instagram account as it was a medium that I actively documented my memorable life moments. But you know what, after scrolling through my Instagram feed of 4 years and making peace with the fact that I’m doing it for myself and for the sake of God, it wasn’t a tough decision after all.

This is all for a better and clutter free life, and until I find the real purpose and niat to create an account again, I will not have an Instagram account as of now.

Here is my journey to a minimalistic life. InshaAllah.

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Why you are chosen to live in this time?

Have you ever thought of why you are chosen to live in this time? A time where mass destruction is at its peak, a time where the rich becomes richer and the poor become poorer, and a time where not even the brightest light could light up the darkest of room and hearts.

Tonight, my question was answered.

It is when things are at their worst that God will raise the best generation. God thinks you – yes you – were born for this time. The transitions of time and change didn’t happened just for the sake of time. The understanding of the changes and transitions of time seeks deeper knowledge about the signs and manifestations of the end of time.

When we become more aware of the signs of the end of time, we have to not get overwhelmed with the manifestations of the worldly news around us. In fact, this awareness brings about higher level of purpose within us to find solutions to be the change we want to see.

If we cannot change it with our hands, change it with our tongue, if not with our heart.

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I’m guilty

I’m guilty.

Guilty of being the creatures of habit we’ve become.

We shamble across oceans of worldly pleasures, when the ship sails down to the Hereafter.

We take out life’s greatest quotes to make us feel wiser, when in us there’s a disease of making everything seems easier.

We gravitate towards instant gratification, when patience in itself become a world of tension.

So where do we go from here? Where do we go when the heart is filled with oceans of worldly pleasure?

We dived further into these oceans, hoping someday the heart will bring us out.

But it never did. Because the heart knew where it belongs – not in the ocean of worldly pleasures but in the ocean of constant remembrance of the One.

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So what went down in February?

First and foremost, can we talk about how fast time has past and without realising its already the month of March? And not to the mention the fact that its been almost 3 months since I left my job. Phew, I’m just grateful that I’m still alive. I thought I should share a quick update on what I’ve been up to lately to keep the writing and blog alive.

So what went down for me in February? I had the best traveling month by far. I was spending most of my February on the airplane, cruising on the train and sleeping in bus rides that brought me to a different time zone.

In early February, I finally stepped foot at Mount Bromo, Indonesia after having talked about it for ages with a group of friends.

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And a few days later, I was jetting off with my bestfriend backpacking around Europe for 2 weeks – pretty much an impromptu trip that we both couldn’t believe we actually went for it.

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Came back home end of February feeling jet lagged and not surprisingly, finally feeling the tiredness from all the back to back travels since my gap year began in December. So here I am, taking a conscious decision to take a break from traveling for the month of March to focus on a project that I’m currently working on and to learn new knowledge as much as I possibly can. I’m calling the month of March “March More to Learn”

I’ll get around to writing more about my experience from the two trips in the next few weeks. Keep a look out if you are interested to read them. 

Have a good March ahead and don’t forget there’s so march more to learn.

P.S Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide is amazing – best start to the month of March. Check it out if you haven’t!

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