On Circles…

Nothing in life terrifies me as much as circles. It’s a privileged thing to say, given that much of the world lives in close-range danger. It’s funny, too, given that I am the product of two genocides… one would think that a circle is the safest place to be for someone like me.

Throughout my childhood, every year carried the possibility of absolute change. We could pack up our bags and go at any moment. Amidst this lack of stability and consistency, I would look at my friends and wish for the opportunity to find a circle: somewhere that I would belong, where I could trust that things won’t change so fast.

When I was on my own as a young adult, I started establishing traditions in the effort to make this happen. I was one of few friends who were at university without family nearby (the closest were a 13 hour flight away), and I made my home the gathering space for everyone. Year after year, we built a Thanksgiving tradition together. Soon, we were going for our annual apple picking trips and visiting the Sugar Shack in the winter (if you don’t know what a Sugar Shack is… it’s time to visit Canada). I started attending annual fundraisers and community events. I picked up foreign traditions, like St. Patrick’s day and Halloween, and made the trek out to the capital for Genocide Memorial marches.

Circles within circles.

Then, something shifted. I started saying things like “it’s nice to know what’s happening next, but I’m a little bored.” Uh oh. “I thought it would be nice to be friends with people from my mother culture, but I’m a Third Culture Kid, and they don’t get me.” Uh oh. “It’s nice to spend time with his family, but I don’t think this is working… but… what about all the traditions?” Uh… Run girl, RUN!

I ran straight into an impromptu Master’s program.

You can take the girl out of the adventure, but it seems you can’t take the adventure out of the girl.

Confronted with this realization, I had to decide what was more valuable to me. To stay, or to go? At the time, I had no good reason to stay, but God works in mysterious ways. As I was planning to finish school and leave, I found one. And nothing frustrates him as much as… circles 😏. Life is funny that way.

It’s definitely a luxury to be able to say that stability and consistency are boring. Routine is, after all, the foundation of modern society. Very little of our world would exist if it weren’t for millions of us running through routine days. But what does this mean to us on an individual level?

In my family, we deal with this by taking on new challenges. We don’t often choose the easy way because, if we do, the routine will suck the soul out of us. My husband and I like living a little more on the edge, taking on big projects and some risks in the hopes of advancing in life without losing the entertainment. We haven’t thrown ourselves into the wild yet, but it’s bound to happen sooner than later. We also try to maintain a balance between cherishing our circles, and persistently imposing change on each cycle.

We are still learning how to do this. It’s easy for years to blend into each other if we don’t make the effort to attribute a new character to each one. We are also a lot more picky about which circles we allow to persist… life is too short to waste on meaningless routine.

What about you? Do you prefer stability or fluidity in your life? What do you do to keep changing and growing?

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Boundaries…

In my family, when we were kids, we were taught to respect everyone’s personal space. This meant keeping a fair distance unless invited closer, not asking extremely personal questions, and keeping our noses out of other people’s business. Moreover, under no circumstances were we to ever ask anyone for money, or about money.

Then, we grew up, and found people invading our personal spaces, asking us to divulge private information about ourselves and our families (both original and new), and running live commentary on everything we do with our education, careers, mortgages, family decisions, etc.

I am therefore a firm believer in boundaries, while maintaining community. 

I often work with young adults who are trying to choose an academic path. They ask me what they should do. They ask their parents what they should do. They ask teachers and friends what they should do. Sometimes, they resort to online discussion forums and ask strangers what they should do.

My advice always is: take your parents’, teachers’, and counsellor’s advice into account, ignore everyone else, and then make the decision that you feel right about.

This becomes more and more crucial over time. Not all advice is good advice. A select few people should be your guides; choose them wisely, and be sure that they are advising you towards your personal truth. A good coach helps you succeed by capitalizing on your strengths and ambitions. Choose the mentor wisely, then pick and choose the advice that aligns with your personal values, and finally do what you feel right about.

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On Intention…

In some Arabic cultures, when someone gets something they have been hoping for, people say: “her intention was pure!” or “he must have pure will!” This signals to a deeply held cultural belief that the pure of heart will always be cared for by God. They do not receive miracles or luck by accident, but rather, due to their own goodness.

Intention isn’t everything… but it certainly plays a big role in shaping the lives we build for ourselves, as it feeds our actions. In pursuit of good friends and fun company, one will find himself out of luck if he himself is neither friendly nor fun. In pursuit of wealth, one will find herself penniless when she exercises greed towards others. In pursuit of love, one stands alone and disheartened if his primary intention is to take from love, and not give back to it.

If we are aware of our negative intentions and recognize the consequences, we can put them in check and gradually practice intentions that are better aligned with the path of happiness. But, if we decide to excuse our negative intentions, we cannot hope that nobody will notice, because they will. We cannot escape our intentions; we might as well plaster neon signs on our foreheads that tell it like it is.

There will always be people out there who are better off, and worse off, than you are. Be genuinely happy for their successes. Be genuinely sad for their pain. Be genuinely afraid for them when they get sick. Be genuinely excited for them when they get that promotion. If you are not genuine, they will be able to tell, and you will have missed the point of this life entirely.

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On Anger…

The great Buddha said: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Anger deteriorates the self and destroys the soul. It may happen gradually, over the course of a lifetime, but the effects are permanent and damaging as ever.

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On Cooking What We Eat…

When I think about the good moments I spent with my grandmothers and mom, there is always a string of memories attached to the meals we shared. It’s interesting how common it is for people to associate very good traditional food with their grandmothers and mothers. Everyone seems to be especially nostalgic nowadays, in the prime of fast food and quick bites. Even the healthiest among us are often reaching for a low fat, low carb, high protein packaged donut… that expires in 2025. For lack of a better word… yuck.

The food we eat today endures some major struggles. The meat does not go from the farmer’s hand to the butcher’s to our kitchens anymore. By the time something reaches your dinner table, hundreds of people and machines have touched it, and it has probably travelled a long distance. For the conscientious individuals who care about what they put in their mouths, the last step of the process, cooking, is the first place to start regaining control.

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On Intergenerational Blame…

“Kids today are spoiled by participation trophies!”

“Oh! Old people! They can never think outside the box!”

“Millennials and their avocado toast! Of course they can’t afford housing!”

“The Baby Boomers ruined the earth and the economy for us!”

STOP. Wait a minute. Fill your cup, put some liquor in it.

It is so easy to blame, but the root of blame is ignorance.

The only pathway to true understanding is conversation, research, and asking all the right questions. Blaming a group of people for something you don’t like only hinders the process of understanding what really caused the problem. Then, good luck solving it!

Newsflash: a generation consists of A LOT of people. Think about yourself for a moment. Which generation were you born into? How many of the stereotyped characteristics of that generation actually apply to you? Are you another highly predictable number?

Don’t tell me, let me guess… you’re different!

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On Laughter (out of place)…

Why do we laugh?

Because it’s funny… because we’re happy… because we are entertained… we laugh for all these great reasons.

We laugh when we are uncomfortable, hurt, confused, and angry too. We laugh when we don’t know what else to do.

I remember often laughing too hard and my mother reminding me that “smart girls don’t laugh for no reason.” Our cultural etiquette reserves laughter for the hysterically funny or hysterically unsettling experiences. It was not uncommon to hear someone tell a morbid joke and be greeted with fits of laughter: “Oh! How unfortunate to die in a car accident in this country. There are so many more creative ways to go about it!” Ha. Ha. Huh?

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