So the move to Twin Cities (Minnesota) is officially official. For the past year we’ve been going back and forth from NY to Minnesota to NY to Pakistan to Minnesota, and it was taking its toll. Living out of suitcases, constant packing and unpacking, working remotely on a 15 inch laptop, not having access to my car, not having access to my mixer… well it was just as stressful as it sounds. But alh things have finally (sort of) settled down. I’m still unpacking, but at least I’m in a space that’s MY home.
People keep asking me how I could move from a place like NY to something so small time like Minneapolis / St Paul, and I don’t quite know how to respond. I’m actually really liking it here. There are a ton of coffee shops, great food spaces, a pretty cool art scene, and everything is manageable. I can drive just about everywhere, nearly every spot is kid friendly (I’m talking baby changing stations in the bathroom, high chairs, crayons readily available for kids), and it’s not overwhelming. I’m pretty excited to start really exploring spaces and sharing them with you all. The only thing that gets me down is how hard it is meeting new people. We have a few friends that we’ve made and I’m actually going to brunch with a great group of women tomorrow so let’s see how that goes. Feeling grateful for the few random interactions I’ve had that have panned out so well.
Six months huh? Hah, I feel like there are times where I take the “part-time” part of this blog a little too seriously. But between a big move from NYC to the Twin Cities in Minnesota (with a toddler), to switching my job situation, to finalizing our daughter’s adoptions, to other family stuff… I just couldn’t seem to find the time. Or rather, the energy.
This is the first time in our little girl’s life where we haven’t had a family support system to fall back on. We were lucky enough to be less than 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents, which meant plenty of weekend mornings where I could just sleep in. If you’ve met my kid, you’ll know she’s feisty and a handful. She’s always been surrounded by adults, and so she now thinks she’s 25. There was always someone ready to hang out with her, play with her, keep her entertained. Now she only has us. Add trying to potty train her, a bought of pneumonia, and her first ear infection to the list and well, I’m surprised I’m not rocking back and forth in a closet somewhere.
Growing up I was taught I could be anything I wanted to be – an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor, an artist, and even President. School, especially elementary school, was about hope and encouragement. Dream big! Believe! Spread your wings and FLY! Hah at home, the message was a bit different. You are smart and can be anything you want to be, so long as it’s a responsible and financially sound path. No surprise my parents wanted me to be a doctor, or something ‘safe’ within the medical field. As I grew older, and my dad realized I was a girl, he switched his mind to just something short and safe within the medical field because I was supposed to have kids and a demanding career shouldn’t take away from a home life. Oh hello patriarchy!
The idea of becoming a photographer or a journalist or an author was a pipe dream and something only ‘heroines in novels did’ according to my Mom Never mind that I was never found without a camera in my hand since the age of 8 when I got my first one, it was something that just wasn’t done. Years rolled on, I discovered I loved Math and decided to move forward as a Computer Science and Math major. The idea of becoming a photographer became a nice alternative life career I dreamed of when I got bored at work or frustrated.
Here’s the funny thing about this generation though, the one that follows mine; they are crazy. They have jobs like mine – fiscally responsible, stable jobs – and they just quit. Quit! Or get laid off if we are going back to 2008 – 2010. Then they become playwrights. Um. What? I can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know if it’s ballsy or if it’s ridiculous. Or in some cases (Cat cafes, Poodle hotels, very specific robot projects) a little bit of both. It reminds me of the time when I came very close to quitting my own job and joining a Photography internship. But the whole child-of-immigrant-parents-who-have-struggled-their-whole-life-to-provide-you-a-secure-future side of my brain kicked in. I’ll quit just as soon as I have the right amount of savings. Let me just get this one project under belt so I have a safe resume. And as soon as that kicked in, my doubts took center stage. Do I even have what it takes? Imagine the grueling hours and the minimal pay. Are you crazy? Just because you have this job doesn’t mean you can’t follow those dreams on the side. Be an adult Aaisha! So that’s what I did.
Does anyone else feel that they have multiple personalities that are nearly always fighting inside their heads? No? Just me? Hm. Oh no I see a hand up near the back of the room. Hi there. You too huh? How damn annoying is that?
Part of me is a strong, intelligent feminist sort of woman. Jokes about sexism or patriarchy or privilege send me off the deep end in an instant. My family knows this. My friends know this. Hell even coworkers and acquaintances know this. Without a doubt I will always react, and it’s something they count on for entertainment. The word “princess” is never used in our house because of all the baggage and societal obligations it carries, and I don’t want my daughter carrying the burden of that word. My parents think I’m crazy and over reacting, but I know these are the sort of things I have to stay vigilant about. That and introducing the joy of reading and STEM subjects to her before the world tries to stamp out her intelligence in favor of selfies. Thank God my husband agrees.
But. I really like Mariah Carey. She’s my go to karaoke-slash-blasting-it-in-the-car-and-screaming-my-heart-out singer. And Taylor Swift. God. What is wrong with me? Yes Taylor Swift. As in I own every one of her albums. At least I can blame Mariah Carey on the fact that I have an emotional connection from my early teenage years, but Taylor Swift? I’m 33 for goodness sakes. The sparkle teenage me (as I refer to her) lifts her chin defiantly when I argue with her, and just stares me down. “So? The music is FUN! Don’t think about it too much! You’re allowed to just. Have. FUN. You’re a teenager!” (I’m really not I try to explain to her. That’s part of the problem.)
Every day, I wake up and think, “Here we go. Another day. Another day of yelling and fighting with people who are idiots, of bending every which way to finish my tasks on time. Another day of dealing with a commute that takes exceptionally longer than necessary because of train traffic, or signal problems, or taking the long way around so I’m not stuck in a stairwell that smells like fresh pee. Another day of working nonstop then coming home to a daughter who needs me, but I somehow just don’t have the energy to fully be present. Of looking at her with slightly vacant eyes while she demands I help her build yet another tower with her stack of blocks. Another day of just being exhausted, falling into bed around 11:30pm and passing out into a dreamless sleep until the next morning.” I close my eyes again for a few minutes just trying to breathe, then force myself out of bed to deal with all the drama that is bound to unfold.
The day goes exactly as I expected, sometimes worse and sometimes not as horrible as the day before. I used to take small breaks between all the headaches by browsing Instagram, reading a book on my commute (when I manage to wrangle a seat), crying through the latest NY Times Modern Love article, or scrolling through Facebook. But now, even that doesn’t cut it. My personal feed is filled with the Hell on Earth that the people of Gaza are living through, my email is forever reminding me about all the people in NY who are without food* and shelter, and I can’t even get into the elevator at work without the little elevator TV reminding me of everything else that is wrong in the world. Try as I might to escape, I just can’t.
Some days, the panic sets in. My soft heart and my imagination take hold of an image, a blurb, and run with it. How are they surviving? What series of events led them to where they are? God… how easily can me and my family fall into that same situation? To get injured and not be able to work, to watch out savings vanish in a matter of months trying to keep up, to fall to the fringe of society in what will probably feel like an instant. What can I do to keep my baby safe? My parents safe? My family intact? God… why is life so difficult?
Eid Mubarak loves! It was a crazy month of fasting, and now it’s time to celebrate! As you may or may not know, Muslims all around the world spent the last 30ish days fasting from sunrise to sunset. Here in the US that’s more than 15 hours of fasting, in the middle of Summer. I had been dreading it honestly. Crazy NYC summers, feeling stifled by the humidity and the heat that seems to ooze through the very concrete of this damn city. Not being able come out from the under the weight of it all with a freezing cold glass of iced coffee or chocolate milk. Dread. But it wasn’t too bad! The weather has been mild to say the least, and I feel truly blessed. I know this season could have been so much worse, but through the mercy of Mother Nature / God, I made it through and I feel invigorated. I was taking time to reflect, taking time to prepare food at home, and spending more time with family again. Not just, “Hey did you do the dishes? Is time to feed Razia? Ugh, more bills??” But real time with real conversations. I was spending my lunch breaks thinking about the blog and where I want it to go, or taking walks and exploring the neighborhood. There were more connections with friends, and visiting people within the community. All in all I was taking time to just make things better. I was exhausted by the end of the night, but my head felt clearer. Hah, maybe it was just the lack of caffeine
As kids, I’m sure all of us felt we were invincible. Jumping off flights of stairs, whizzing down hills at manic speeds on our bikes, or launching ourselves into the sky while swinging at the playground, daring gravity to pull us back down to earth. Scrapes, gashes, and blood were all part of life. We’d simply dust off the dirt caked onto our grazed knees and elbows, and hurdle right back into whatever destructive activity we were caught up in.
Even when we caught those epic colds, the ones where we couldn’t breathe because we were so stuffed up, and our fever had us sweating bullets through the sheets, we rode it out. We cried, whined and complained, but we usually (hopefully) had someone there to make and feed us soup or daal khichri (a mix of rice and lentils cooked to a soft mush that was easy to eat and packed with healthy goodness), to rub Vix on our chests, and to change our sheets regularly. The sickness always passed, and out we were again, rushing into life with everything we had.
We were not thinking about vitamins, or healthy living, or how drinking the right amount of milk would benefit us thirty years down the line. It never occurred to us that pizza for every single meal for an entire month doesn’t make sense. We were kids, and had our whole life ahead of us. We were superheros and gods.
I miss my friends. All the ones that have had to move away, and all the ones that are still around but either I’m too busy to see them or (more often) they are too busy to see me. I miss not having responsibilities and just hanging out. I miss feeling like I belong. I hate that Facebook makes me feel like I’m always on the fringe; sitting on the outside looking in with glimpses of other people’s lives and all the fun they are having. I hate having the nagging feeling in my heart that people only call me when it’s convenient and they have no one else to hang out with, but won’t invite me to the regular parties. I just miss my friends.
I know I’m an adult and these feelings are very high school. I know I’m independent and live in one of the most amazing cities in the world. A city that has a million and one things to do if I just made the effort to do them – great film houses, theaters, dance shows, culinary spaces, classes from pottery to photography to painting. And yet I feel awkward doing these things on my own. Well everything except films that is. When the theater darkens and the screen flickers to life, I am perfectly content in losing myself in the story playing on the screen. But when the lights come back on, I want to be able to discuss what I just saw with someone. To duck into a café for a quick dinner or coffee and go over everything we had just experienced.
Years ago, hah back when I didn’t really have close friends, going to films and shows and the museum were fantastic ways to spend an afternoon or evening. I’d wander in, take my time, and just soak it all up. I’d stare and reflect, take it all in, and let it wash over me. I’m not sure what happened in the past 10 years, but what used to be my solitary mode of escape somehow started to make me feel more alone. I still enjoy the actual process, but now I crave doing it with someone else and being able to talk about it. I miss the discussions.
Wow 2014 is really flying by! Can you believe half of January is already over? I originally sat down to write this post on New Year’s Day and next thing I know, it’s the 14th. It’s been a whirlwind of work, finishing up tasks that have been sitting around forever, and getting my to do lists in order. But mostly work hah. Year end at a finance firm is not a fun time. Now why can’t I get a job where I can just relax, and they still pay me? The dream right?
So back to lists. If you know me, you know I love lists. I blame the math side of my brain. Even if I don’t finish every task (which, honestly, who ever does?) it still helps to have things organized and noted down. It also makes things feel so much more manageable, don’t you think? There, on this sheet of paper, are all the tasks I have to finish. And as I finish each one, I giddily draw a nice thick line through each item. So. Satisfying.
My love of lists goes into over drive when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. I know I know… I barely keep up with my resolutions and abandon a huge majority of them before Summer even hits, but it’s still fun for me. It’s also such a great way to reflect. What was important to me last year? Is it still important? How have things changed? What do I want to accomplish this year?
Earlier this month, my husband and I got to take our first real trip alone together since we were placed with our daughter. We are usually go-out-and-see-things-rent-cars-to-take-random-roadtrips-hop-on-buses-to-go-exploring sort of people, but this time we decided to take a different approach. I’ve been incredibly stressed at work, and my husband is working through (what feels like) miles upon miles of paperwork for job applications. We didn’t think we’d have the energy to do our normal exploring thing. So we decided on Mexico. Water its own special shades of blue and soft sand, we got a room with a view you couldn’t look away from. I bought a pile of books to catch up vacation reading, downloaded a bunch of movies / shows, and we were ready to go.
We were bored in less than a day, and missed our munchkin even before then. It’s strange how things change when you become a parent. I never thought I’d be the mom type, and even made my husband swear that we would do just a couple vacation once a year to get away from the little rugrat. Never did I think I’d be calling and skyping with her daily, or thinking about her at every turn. “Oh look at that kiddie pool.. Razia would have loved that! Aw look at that sweet little dress… should we buy one for Razia? Can you imagine if Razia was here?” Daily. Hourly. Strange. The whole trip made us reflect on family, and how lucky we were that we even had the option of taking this trip without her.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes. For example, when I first met my mom in law, she was just my friend’s mom (or, more accurately, the mom of the guy I had a crush on hah). Then my husband and I got serious, got engaged, and finally got married. This woman who I thought was pretty cool, who would always bust my husband’s chops, and who was such an awesomely strong woman, became my mom in law. But it’s more than that; she’s also become my rock for so many things, including helping us raise our daughter; she’s someone I can’t imagine my life without. I’m sort of an oddity in my own family. I’m too loud, too head strong, too obnoxious, and too demanding in comparison to my mom and my sisters. I’m also not as well kept as they are, and wasn’t as social as they were growing up. All these things that caused me to be the odd one out, are actually things that my mom in law loves about me. Strange.