As I looked out into the sea of light blue graduation cap and gowns, a sense of dread overcame me. I was surrounded by a few of the greatest friends I had my most memorable moments with during my four years in the little town on top of the Hill and thought to myself, “What if this is it?” As I took a long look at some of the people who passed by, I saw flashbacks of the moments we shared whether it was watching a Bollywood film, going to a student organization meeting, or simply grabbing Cookout after a night out, and realized I will never see some of those people again. In that moment, I was a ball of the emotions I spent my entire senior year avoiding. This was it.
- Sometimes second chances are worth it. But third, fourth, and fifth? Never. Obviously this is a lesson I am constantly learning because I am a forgiving person when it comes to the people I love. I will choose to give people the benefit of the doubt because once I decide that I am done, I cut people off 100 percent. It is a lot easier for me to constantly give chances because I want to believe in potential. However, people do take advantage of this and therefore, only second chances are reasonable. When people show you their true colors, believe them.
- For some people, your empathy is a weapon of convenience to use against you – do not allow yourself to be manipulated. Earlier this year, I had someone come to me with all this bad news in their life and time revealed that they were likely using me. Or coming to me to fill some kind of void. I cannot stand to see people in pain but I also cannot respect someone who only comes around out of convenience. Friendships like that are not real and not worth the effort. It is true that people who only use you will only come to you when it benefits them. They will make you listen to their sorrows without asking, even once, how you are feeling. They will tell you all about their day without asking about yours. We have to learn to cut people like that out of our lives for they are parasites who will use up all of your energy without even offering so much as a decent friendship..or respect.
- Love is a choice, not a feeling. After seeing so many broken relationships this year, I know for sure that when I fall in love, it won’t be blindly in the sense that I will never put myself in a position to be hurt constantly by someone who supposedly loves me. Nor will I hurt someone I say I love. Love is not butterflies you feel. It is a choice to love someone despite their flaws and the test of time.
- The most important thing in every relationship is respect. A lot of the people I know are in relationships that lack respect. They will cheat or lie to one another. Or they will have no trust for each other. There are people who will allow themselves to be controlled by their partners. If my parents have taught me one thing in their 21 years of marriage is that love cannot exist without respect. A partner is another human being with individual rights and they are not an object. People have flaws. When we choose to love someone, we choose to not only accept them as they are but to love them even more because of that. This extends to friendships too. If you cannot be your authentic self to your friends, they are not your friends.
- You have to surround yourself with people who want the same things as you do even if it means distancing yourself from your best friend. My best friend and I are growing apart because we want different things. For me, I prefer to stay in and she prefers to go out and socialize, party, dance. etc. There is no right or wrong way to live but it is okay to want different things. I used to freak out and compensate by going out with her. However, that’s not who I am and I am not comfortable placing myself in situations I don’t like. It’s okay to be different and you can either grow stronger as best friends or not. I think having different hobbies helps people grow as individuals.
- Loving yourself is a journey, not a destination. I used to think confidence is just there – you either feel good about yourself or you don’t. But there are days where I feel drop dead gorgeous and then there are days I avoid looking in the mirror. That’s okay! Being confident in your own skin while you are still learning and growing into the person you will become is a fluctuating thing. It is better to be flexible than stuck in one place because that leaves room for growth and improvements.
- Be willing to make time for people or eventually they will leave. I think the most important lesson I had to learn this year was to make time for the people who matter family and friends – because when you fail to invest in those relationships, people will stop coming to you. I am finally in a good place with my family again and it is an amazing feeling. My family is my rock and it makes me beyond happy to see that they are happy just to see me. Putting in effort is hard work but it is worth it. Your family is your biggest support system.
- You cannot erase the past but you can work on becoming a better version of yourself. I’ve always been the type of person to dwell on past mistakes but this year, I realized I cannot keep doing that to myself. Am I proud of everything I’ve done? No. But it is in my control to become a better person. Every day I can do something to make someone smile, make someone else’s life easier, to earn good deeds instead of bad. Every day is chance to become a better version of myself. I can use my past to grow as a person.
- When looking for a partner, you must become the woman who is deserving of him. I think at this age it is easy to wonder what kind of man will I end up marrying. Instead of having all of these expectations of what the guy should be, I realized that I need to be the kind of woman who deserves the kind of man I want. I want a good, decent Muslim man who cares about his family and religion. Often times people make the mistake of asking for something without doing anything in return. Allah swt expects us to put in effort – you can’t ask for something amazing without earning it. This means I need to improve in my deen so I can find someone who shares that belief.
- Learn to listen to people for the sake of listening, not for the sake of arguing. I am a confrontational person. Criticism is not always easy for me to take. I learned that in order to truly understand people, we must listen to understand where they are coming from, not to argue everything that comes out of their mouths. It is okay to disagree as long as you understand the other side.
A bit late in the game as I did not have wifi earlier but here’s what the past year taught me, mostly. With every year, there’s new chances for growth. I cannot wait to see what 2016 will teach me.
Lesson One: Love Yourself
I think the most important lesson I learned this year was to put myself above everything and everyone. It does not make me selfish. It makes me a strong person to recognize my needs and not feel ashamed of being who I am. I think I always let my love for others surpass my love for myself. When it comes to people, I give, give, and GIVE – without thinking for a moment whether I am getting anything in return. This year, I became depressed. I questioned my worth as a person because to me it seemed like everything I did just did not seem to be enough. But the truth is we have to go on our own journey in our own time. The only person you have, all the time, is yourself.
Lesson Two: Relationships
This may sound very pessimistic but I wholeheartedly believe there is no such thing as the one. There is no magical person who will solve every problem you have ever come across because the only person who can do that for you, is you. The reason I do not think there is one person out of a billion people made just for me is that there are toIf we only get ONE chance to get things right, life would be miserable. I think relationships are about the right time and right person. Those two hardly come together but once you find the right person at the right time, you call that a relationship.
Lesson Three: Do Not Dismiss People’s Individual Experiences
I think a lot of us make the mistake of comparing our lives to those of others and that’s where we become depressed when we notice something missing in our own lives. Truth is, everyone has their own individual journey. If we all lived the same lives, would life really be deemed worth living? It’d be predictable and predictability leads to lack of purpose, and so on…Therefore, just because someone’s experience seemed better than yours, or someone’s problems seem smaller than yours does not mean that their life is any easier. Everyone has their own set of obstacles to overcome. Life is all about challenges that never seem to end because once they do, we stop living. I’d like to thank my cousin for explaining the importance of living a life of purpose for this one.
Lesson Four: Patience
I get irritated with people easily because my mind has already decided an outcome or response, and I set high expectations only to learn that who I am is not the same person someone else is. And therefore, my expectations do not apply. I cannot expect people to be anything but themselves. That does not mean I should accept bullshit from people, but I should also not be so highly dependent on them either.
Lesson Five: Your Parents Are Everything
As I am growing up, I am realizing that my parents are growing older and in many ways, weaker. My dad’s balding…my mom is becoming more forgetful. My mom had an accident earlier last year where she could have actually lost her life. My dad – despite how strong and happily he presents himself, spends long hours of the day just standing around and working while I get to relax on a nice bed. Everything our parents do is for us. Everything. And though their lessons are hard, and their teachings can be outdated – their intentions are coming from a good place in their heart. They want the best for us. They do not want us to live the hard lives they have had to – they want us to go to school, get degrees, and have a nice family only because they want us to live happy lives. Is that so bad? I think not. Every lecture my mom has ever given me has been for a reason. These lessons that I am learning on my own now are ones my mom already taught me but I was too ignorant to listen to. To think – us American-born Desi kids try to come up with every reason to defy our parents but the reality is: they’re right about everything. At least mine were. Thank you mom and dad. I WILL succeed and work hard ALL for you!