The Thin Line We’re Trying to Find (and Cross)

Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that this post is about most Egyptian parents, not all of them, and not parents all around the world, Egyptian parents. However, it doesn’t mean that some of the examples don’t work for other parents. Also, no offence is intended by this post to any parents. We understand you love us, but we’ll never learn if you don’t let us.

At twenty-something, when you’re still living with your parents and younger siblings, it gets you to question the independence you so desperately crave. You start wondering about the lots of different scenarios you could have been in if you and your parents were different, or had a more open/limited mindset.

I’m a 24 year old who still lives with her mom and 2 brothers, I love them to death, and I appreciate everything they do for me, as well as being a part of this family, but a lot of the time I just want to escape. And no, not escape in the sense of lock myself in my room and let no one in. But escape in the sense of being in total control of what I’m doing, coming home whenever I please, without having a curfew, and deciding to travel with whoever I want out of the blue. Escape mentally and emotionally, and not worry about what they want or don’t want for me. I’m not even that extreme.

I’ve been raised to be independent. Isn’t that how most people are raised when their parents aren’t super protective? I mean, I remember my first day at a new school when I was only 5, and I remember crying when my mom dropped me off. She didn’t want me to cry, it was about time I become unattached to her at my new school. Little did I know I would then love my school and impatiently wait for classes where we practiced our hand-writing, not only recess. This went on with everything in my life. Our parents teach us to eat alone, ride the bus alone, eventually do our homework alone, so on and so forth until we’re happy enough about this freedom.

But then we grow up, and start really thinking for ourselves. We question the values we’ve been raised with, and even though there’s always this phase of fear of letting go and admitting to ourselves that we sometimes disagree because “our parents are always right,” we then realize we’re old enough to make this our life. I think this story’s pretty much relatable. Some people reach that point before others, some people’s parents are a lot more loose, and others are a lot more protective.

Teenagers abroad are usually let go after they start college. A lot of them travel to other cities or countries for college anyway, and their parents knew that all along, so they’ve gotten themselves ready for it a long time ago. So here’s our challenge, when do we get that? Where is the thin line that we all so miserably want to find and cross, or better yet, destroy?

Before you think I’m ungrateful, I am aware of the perks of not being let go. We don’t have to pay rent, we usually go home to a clean and tidy house, and we find homemade meals ready to be eaten. We still do some chores, but they’re nothing compared to living with messy room mates (if we don’t like that) or having the responsibility of a house other than our studies and being out almost everyday because we have the energy for that. But isn’t there more to life than this stuff? I think I’d rather be fully independent and teach myself to be mature enough to take care of the mundane tasks instead of completely overlooking them and just seeing living with my parents a good “deal”.

Getting back on point, the thin line that I still haven’t found. Is it an age thing? If it is, my argument is, I’m 24, I’ve finished university (and I’m thankful you’ve paid for it, but I’m sure you’re not trying to emotionally blackmail me into paying you back). I’ve been working for over 2 years, and I’m willing to still make stupid mistakes and learn from them, or live differently than you did. Every time I try to draw the line, they react as if I’m a child, even though they were married before 24, and they had me soon after. That’s too damn early!

Okay, let’s say it’s not an age thing. Is it a marriage thing? Really? You’re only going to let me move out when I’m married? What if I’m not married until 35? Would I still have to live here and abide by the 11 pm curfew? Or will it be extended? This whole thing confuses me!

Moving out is out of the question, unless you’re moving out to another city or country, and they’d only let you because they don’t want to kill your career, but even for some people it’s not a choice. I would also say it’s easier for men than it is for women, because men are the ones who traditionally bring in the money. And it’s more important for a woman to find a good husband than to find a fulfilling career.

I was raised to respect my parents, and I do. I just sometimes feel like I want to live my life the way I imagine it. I want my values to be mine, not because that’s how I was raised, but because those are the values I’ve chosen to stick to, and I’m completely convinced. What’s the difference between 24, 25, and 30? Even 40? Yes, you have more experience at 40, but that’s mainly because you were let go, and the sooner that happens, the faster you’ll learn, because you’re not learning to please anyone, you’re learning because you’ve been through the heart-ache, pain, confusion or pride that comes with all of it.

I love my parents, I would never like to disappoint them, but we all do sooner or later, unintentionally. I still haven’t found the line, but I’m starting to believe it’s only an illusion.

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How I Made 2013 My Best Year Yet (And How I’m going to Make 2014 Even Better)

I’ve started 2013 spending the night on top of a mountain, after a tedious hike I wasn’t prepared for neither mentally or physically. I was suffering from the cold, and I was dreading the fact that in a few hours, I’m going to wake up and hike all the way down that same mountain. I had no choice, there was no easy way out. In the morning, after getting some rest, waking up and experiencing the scene in full sunlight, I remembered that I’ll be done shortly, and that I should work on keeping a positive mindset. Back then, I didn’t know I was going to learn great lessons from this challenge, but after numerous reflections throughout 2013, I’ve realized that this trip really did inspire me even more than I thought.

2013 began on a positive note. I arrived home on the 1st of January tired as hell, however, never in my life have I felt this victorious. Not only did I hike up the highest peak in Egypt, but I also learned about how much our perspective on things can make an experience good or bad. Also, that every physical challenge is based on a mental or emotional test.

I didn’t have a specific new year’s resolution, but I was so fuelled up, that I decided that I will always keep challenging myself, and never again take the easy way out. To be honest, I still haven’t mastered that, but I have made a lot of progress. Learning about the benefits of challenging myself created an abundance of other lessons in only 1 year, and that’s a pretty short time for transformation!

Here are some of the things I learned, and how I plan to beat the awesomeness of 2013 (with all it’s ups and downs) in 2014:

1. Taking Risks:

I’ve taken so many career related risks this year, even though I strongly fear the lack of financial security. I’ve quit 2 jobs, without having an exact plan, but if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to independently work harder and gain extensive freelance experience in a very short time. Take a risk, quit your boring job if it isn’t what you’re passion about, and pursue what you actually love! Even if you end up broke for a couple of months, you will definitely be happier without money and in the comfort of your own home (or maybe a friend’s) than at a depressing office stuck behind a screen, realizing you’ve been sitting for too long.

2. Perspective is Everything:

Yes, it really is. We all have good and bad days, but I guarantee that the bad days aren’t necessarily negatively eventful. We all sometimes forget to focus on what we have rather than what we lack, and we give in to our negative emotions. I am not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge our problems, I’m just saying it would turn our results into more positive ones if we call those problems challenges instead.

3. I Am in Control of My Actions and Reactions:

This is very related to the previous point. I’ve been going through road rage a lot since I started driving 3 years ago, and it’s never a good thing because it only affects me. I have never been a person with a short temper, but it was becoming so bad that my friends were starting to refer to me as a driving monster, they said I transformed as soon as I got in my car, and I honestly don’t blame them. This has been causing me a lot of unnecessary stress over the past year, but I’ve decided that enough is enough. I am in control of my own actions, as well as my reactions. I’m going to remember that anger only negatively impacts me, and it would rarely change the behaviour of anyone around me. It’s ever more likely that they’d become more stubborn if they see it.

4. The More You Know, the More You Know You DON’T Know

I’ve been reading a lot this past year. I’ve bought several books, and I signed up for an Audible membership of 2 books a month. It quickly turned into an obsession, a thirst for knowledge, which taught me that there’s so much in this world we know nothing about. It really is true, just when we start thinking that we know everything, we notice that what we know is really as much as a drop of water in an ocean. Remember to enjoy it, even though it’s probably always going to offer with abundance. Read, travel and thrive!

5. Happiness is a Choice

For me, happiness is one of my top values in life, and it’s definitely a journey. This was surely an interesting find to me (check out http://www.happify.com). It is scientifically proven that when you maintain those 5 things in your life, you become happier. So remember to:

  • Savor: To savor is to truly live the moment and enjoy it! Savoring can turn even the most mundane tasks into enjoyable ones. Instead of dreading that long walk from your house to the metro station or the closest road you can get a cab, walk slowly and look around you. Look in places you’ve never looked. Savor the nature, or the lack of it, bring out ideas, or simply just appreciate an old building, it could really make your day.
  • Thank: Did you remind yourself to be grateful today? If you haven’t, remember that you have a roof over your head and a place to stay warm on this cold night. We take the things we have for granted, and we completely forget about the others around the world who still don’t have the basic human needs like food, clean fresh water, and a place to live. I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty, because I’d be in that line as well, but I’m just reminding you that gratitude is better than complaining.
  • Aspire: We humans are greedy, we always want more. I don’t see this as a bad thing, as long as we want more of something meaningful. Aspiring reminds us that there’s more to our precious life than what we’re doing right now, which we will eventually grow out of, so make your dreams big, because one day you’ll find yourself close to accomplishing them, and you will!
  • Give: Giving is like listening, which is something I am planning to do more often this year. It makes us feel a lot better, and it flows right back inside of us and increases every time we share. Remember to give more, and you will definitely feel that you need less.
  • Empathize: It keeps us sane and reminds us that where we are right now might not be that bad after all. Also, that by being in a better situation, we can find more ways to give and help others, and no matter what their reaction is, it’s theirs, not ours.

6. It’s Okay to Be Alone

For some reason, a lot of us are raised to believe that being more talkative, social and outgoing is always better. I have to admit, that’s what I used to think. I never understood introverts, I always used to place them into the “shy” category. But this year I’ve gotten to know a very special introvert, and he’s taught me about how being alone and being totally okay with it makes a huge difference with my peace of mind. I’ve decided to feel confident about being alone, because it doesn’t mean that I’m lonely. It’s great to be around people, but it’s also great to sit and meditate, think, write, reflect, or simply be.

7. Don’t Dwell, Move On and Try a Different Method

We all get stuck at some point, or a few, but that’s totally okay, as long as it doesn’t turn into a waste of time with nothing out of it at the end, not even a lesson. When you’re feeling lost, give yourself permission to feel that way for a certain period of time, and then decide to snap out of it. You don’t have to lie to yourself and tell yourself you’re happy if you’re not, even though that’s sometimes a way out. However, you can try different things that you think could bear positive results, breaking you out of your misery. Don’t just sit there and cry, watch a funny sitcom or hang out with a friend who can make you feel better. I’m sure you know that this is just a metaphor, but it really is all about doing again and again until you reach the point of realizing what was missing all along.

8. Believing in Yourself Goes a Long Way

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never get anything accomplished. In this scenario though, it’s totally okay to lie to yourself, or fake it till you make it. Are you overweight and trying to become fit? All you need to do is believe that you actually can, not that you’ll “fail like all the other times” you’ve tried. That would just lead you to the same exact things that didn’t work for you. Instead, focus on your ability, and you’ll find yourself trying until something works.

9. Old Habits Die Hard, but New Habits Can Replace Them

Habits actually never die, they are always there, but you can create new habits to take their place if they’re negative ones. Habits stick for 3 reasons, 1. A cue (But I always order unhealthy takeout at work!) 2. A reward (Oh yes, I feel so fulfilled right now.) 3. A craving (I can’t get over how crispy and salty those fries were, shut up and take my money!) That’s a bad habit though! And you probably want to quit it. Well, you can! All you need to do is think of alternative rewards and cravings for the same cues. Instead of ordering takeout, bring a homemade salad, and get creative with it, use dressing that adds flavor! Even if it’s a bit fatty, it’ll never be as bad as takeout, and if it’s good, you will crave it once your habit is consistent. (Check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

10. Rules are for the Times You’re Demotivated

This is derived from the previous point as well. Everyone sets rules for other people, but we don’t always set rules for ourselves, and even when we do, we give excuses. Rules are not meant to be broken, they’re actually for the times you’re demotivated. If you’re integrating a new habit in your life, it probably needs dedication and consistency. If you have been failing with it previously, it’s probably because you haven’t been consistent, and that’s the role of the rule. Respecting yourself and your own rule will help you stick with your new habits and feel good about yourself instead of the consequences of feeling crappy, and that’ll be your reward!

11. Change is the Only Constant

As cliche as that sounds, change really is the only constant, nothing else is. Your life won’t be constant, and you probably don’t want it to be. We’re not designed to love boredom, we’re designed to get rid of it as soon as we can. This could be done by being open to change and going with the flow, or by working on developing and improving ourselves to add more and more meaning to our life. Instead of resisting it, embrace change!

12. Documentation Pays Off Infinitely

Finally, I wish I had more specific and vivid examples for some of the previous points, but unfortunately I don’t because I haven’t been documenting enough. The best part about documentation is looking back at it and seeing how much progress you’ve made. We usually document things like our outings or our weight, but we should think about this deeper and document things like the books we’ve read, the most influential people we were fortunate enough to meet, and/or the new realizations and discoveries that changed our thinking and our attitudes. Imagine looking back on December 31st, 2014, wouldn’t you like to see how clueless you were on the same day last year and be proud of how much you’ve progressed.

How will you make your year awesome?

Where I Think Courage Comes From

I recently started training with the amazing CaiRollers, we’re the very first roller derby team in Egypt. Before I started training, I literally knew very little about derby, I still don’t know the rules of the game very well, and I only attended my 2nd practice today, and I also had no idea that the moves so effortlessly performed by the more advanced girls are so difficult!

During the first practice, I literally fell as soon as I put on my skates. I hadn’t skated in years (at least 10, if not more) and I remembered this to be easier, a lot easier! I was happy with my first fall because it was quick and not painful at all. Eight falls later, I was laughing it off, wondering about how many bruises I’ll have on my butt and thighs when I get home. Even though I got the hang of skating quickly again, I realized that my perspective on this whole thing is what helped me do that, not the fact that I used to skate when I was younger. I didn’t have the memory of bad or serious falls before the first practice.

Derby needs courage in the beginning, and that applies to everything else in life. But the beginning doesn’t only mean that the first time’s the hardest, because on your second time, memories of the first time could either make it easier or harder.

I got to my second practice today, and as soon as I put my skates on, I didn’t want to get off the bench because I was too scared that I was going to fall. I looked at the gravel underneath my feet, and I was certain, that I was going to fall as soon as I got up. I felt uncomfortable and out of control. I eventually talked myself into it, got up, and actually didn’t fall. The thought of falling was still on my mind though. All I could think of were the 9 times I tripped last time, turning my own spinal cord into an accordion, the sounds of cracking bones replacing real music. I dwelled and lingered. I skated, almost freely, but then again, I dwelled and lingered on the thoughts of falling. Until I thought to myself, “Don’t think, don’t try, just do.”

I’ve heard this saying a few years ago, and I don’t specifically remember where I heard it, but I recall it was something related to the law of attraction. Now when I look it up, I can only remotely relate it to Horace (Roman poet). Before you start wondering, don’t worry, I won’t be telling you more about Horace in this post.

When I first heard the saying, I didn’t really feel like I grasped it. I was automatically skeptical about the not thinking and not trying parts. Why can I not think? Actually how can I not think? And isn’t everything really about trying? And trying again if you fail? Well yes, but not quite.

Now I know this is paradoxal, how can I agree and disagree at the same time? This honestly confuses me probably as much as it’s confusing you right now, but hear me out.

We’re raised up to always think about things before we do them, decisions before we take them, people before we become friends with them, and practically everything else in our lives. We’re warned about taking hasty decisions, and we’re labeled as “too emotional” when we base decisions on our feelings or intuitions. We must always think logically about things. All of that sounds safe, just safe.

Also, when we’re attempting things for the first time, this is just what it is, an attempt. We try and we fail, and then we try again and maybe even fail again. And this is exactly the problem. We expect failure. Isn’t that negative?

If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been really repetitive in the paragraph where I was telling you about the story of my second derby practice. I’ve done this on purpose, because this is exactly how we think when we’re thinking about things we shouldn’t think about.

Thinking makes us miss out on the good stuff. It’s good to be prepared, but it isn’t good to obsessively check whether you are or not. I was prepared today at practice, I had all my protection gear on, and it was very unlikely that I would get injured when I’m covered from head to toe. My thoughts about falling held me back. I wasted some of my own time, and I reached my goals in a longer time than I should have. Maybe it doesn’t matter that much when it comes to playing derby, but it matters a lot more when it comes to other things in life that need courage. Derby’s just a small example.

Trying makes us focus on failure. We focus on failure more than we focus on success. Trying gives us the option to fail, not taking into account the fact that if we don’t even have that option, and if we gather up courage, we’re actually more likely to succeed.

By the middle of today’s practice, I repeated this in my head, again and again, “Don’t think, don’t try, just do.” I skated freely, I attempted a correct way of falling, I fell, not perfectly, but I stopped myself from thinking and just took a leap of faith. I should do this again next time (and more often in my life.)

This is where courage comes from.

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The Imposed Dilemma of Growing Up

There comes a point in everyone’s life when he/she wants to be a better person. Wanting to be that better person doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad person now, but you know that the world’s got a lot more to offer, and once you know that, you can’t un-know it. You go into those different phases of doing different things, doing the things you’ve been afraid to do for a while like quitting your dead-end job or finally deciding to move on from that one person who’s been taking up all your head space. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not necessarily unhappy in that dead-end job, and you’re probably very good friends with that person, so you convince yourself that, “at least I have a job,” or, “at least we’re friends.” Then you start realizing, a little bit everyday, that this indeed is a dead-end job that won’t take you anywhere you want to go. You also become brutally honest with yourself, finally letting your thoughts wander, until deep down, you’re truly convinced that this person isn’t even close to what you want, at all, and that you were just infatuated with a projection you’ve built about him/her.

A bit over a year ago, this is exactly where I was. I had an amazing job. The environment was awesome, my bosses were the coolest, I was given opportunities to actually practice things that were completely out of my field, and I’ve always appreciated that. I was happy to be working with such amazing people who not only made a hilarious, one of a kind team, but were also close friends, friends that will always be friends. I was on and off about a guy who was head over heels about another girl, and I wasn’t even in control of the on/off button, it was always his choice to give me some extra attention. I was trying to distract myself with shallow, empty crushes of people I barely even knew. However, the realization started happening, and it was mind-blowing. I have a great job that started out as a great opportunity, but it wasn’t even close to what I wanted. And just like all human beings, I wanted more!

I’ve never been the type to settle, not for a job, not for a guy, not for satisfactory aspects in my life. I’ve always been a dreamer, for as long as I can remember. I wanted the big, important career. I wanted the guy who’s as crazy as I am with my optimistic vision for life, and I wanted happiness, true happiness. I also wanted the balance that’s hard to come with all of it. Obviously, I didn’t have any of that. Again, I wasn’t unhappy, but I’m greedy, and I wanted to come closer to perfection. I also believe that happiness is something you make, it’s a mindset and an attitude, it’s a journey, it’s a realization, and you always want more of it.

So, I decided to start with transforming my life, one more of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but never actually took action with. Then I remembered that I’ve always wanted to travel and explore the world, and I started looking for opportunities abroad. Soon enough, I was matched to go for a 3 months internship in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I gave my one month notice (actually in my case it was 2.) It was scary and exciting. The type of thing you can’t believe is real and finally happening. It would be my first time to ever travel completely alone, as well as live alone, since I live with my parents like most other 23 year old Egyptian girls. I also completely let go of that person I was constantly thinking about, as I believed that when I start doing the things I loved, I will attract the right person. So I’ve decided to not search or even think about it, and just observe as things happen.

My bosses were flipping out back then, since it was an important time for the company, and I was one of the very first people to work there. It was a startup, and I was the very first designer. I, however, reminded myself that I’m not the only designer on this Earth, and that I know for a fact that it will work out for them. I talked to them about my dreams to travel, to work in something different, to get more involved in other projects as well as completely start my own, and that was my plan! Everything was falling into place.

My plans for Russia became more real. I also started working on my fitness, since I knew that when I go there, it will be a lot easier to integrate new healthy habits. Life was looking good, I was more terrified than I ever was before because I felt like what I was doing was risky, who quits a full-time job for a 3 months internship? But again, I challenged it, and I remembered that nothing will ever change if I don’t take initiative in changing it. And to prove my previous point, I, very randomly, came across a guy that seemed right as soon as I had started focusing on me. We were talking day and night, him supporting my transformation, regardless of the fact that he neither knows old or new me, and I, becoming more and more inspired by him everyday because of his own transformation, and how life had the same meaning to us.

About 10 days before I was supposed to finally travel, after I had booked my tickets and confirmed all plans, I got news that the internship had to be cancelled due to problems with my planned internship and unavailability of other relevant opportunities. I was instantly crushed for a couple of minutes. I was at work, trying to enjoy my last few days with the team I knew I’d miss so much, and I started thinking about what I’m going to be doing now, since I’m working the last few days of my job, and then I’ll literally have nothing to do. My more optimistic self kicked in, and reminded me that everything happens for a reason, something I have always believed in solidly (and still do) . It’s just a challenge, I need a break from work anyway, besides, I could just freelance. That was during October, 2012.

Today, on the 9th of November, 2013, I regret nothing. In fact, I’m happy exactly where I am, even though it’s not where I imagined to be. I wouldn’t have said this yesterday, and no, I haven’t transformed over-night, I just shifted my thinking to a more positive mindset. I’ve been dwelling on everything that’s lacking in my life. I’ve been living in fear of failure. I have so many great ideas, but I’m so afraid of criticism or trial and error. I have the same guy I mentioned earlier (who’d proven to be truly remarkable), and I’ve also been so scared of him seeing me fail, that I had sometimes stopped trying. I’ve been so afraid of getting another full-time job, that I’ve managed to completely persuade myself that I will/can never be a 9 to 5 type of person, and that freelancing is my best scenario. I’ve worked at other new places, but I never ever gave myself the chance to actually fall in love with the places, or the people, rejecting anything that I don’t see as right from the very start. I’ve been meeting amazing people, but I’ve also been telling myself that I have enough friends, and that being distant is better. I’ve been aloof. Finally, I’ve only been writing meaningless things in my diary, not realizing that this has been a challenge worth writing about in my blog. I’ve been living in fear, but I’ve been mostly afraid of myself.

Last year at this time, I was confused. I was dreaming big, typical me, and I wanted to accomplish huge things. Have I accomplished what I had vaguely planned? Nop. I haven’t traveled the world, I haven’t started huge projects that I’m totally proud of, I haven’t yet reached my fitness goals, but I have done so much more. Today, I realized that I’ve been beating myself up over not accomplishing things that I still want in my life, but that it’s only been a year of my life. A year might be a long time, a long time to be dwelling on wanting things, and not actually doing them, but it’s still only a year. The amount of things I’ve learned today due to this year is astounding. Just the fact that I now know all of this changes everything.

We all live in this imposed dilemma of growing up. We keep wanting more, forgetting that the more you have on your plate, the harder it is to manage. We have such high expectations, and we forget that we can’t do everything at once. Yes, growing up is imposed, it happens sooner or later, even if we don’t want it, because we want the good parts of it, but not the bad parts. But growing up doesn’t have to be all that bad, remember that it’s called growing up, not growing old. It’s what we do that keeps us young. I had lost a part of me this past year, and even though I can’t quite define what it is, I’ve managed to bring it back and feel it now. I now remember that the past is always behind me, and that when I choose to see it that way, my present is always worth it. I don’t make perfect plans, and even when I do, I don’t always follow them, but I always end up exactly where I should be.

I believe that I, and everyone else who’s going through something similar, should let go of their past, remember to focus on the positive and on what’s there, and be grateful. The past can make us miss out on so many things we have right now, and so many magical things to look forward to in our futures.

Ps: I am currently starting a new full-time job after a year or juggling freelance projects and part time jobs. I have never felt more ready to commit and challenge myself. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I reckon I’m going to learn a lot from this.

 

 

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Happy New Year: The 12/13 St. Catherine Hike

“You’re going to suffer,” my brother said. “I’ve climbed Mt. Moussa and I was tired, St. Catherine is a lot harder.”

“I know! But I’m totally doing this, so what? I’ve been running lately, and I’m working on my fitness, I’m better than I used to be, I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m totally doing it.” That’s what I said when I was mocked by my brother when I told him I’m going on a trip to hike up Mt. Saint Catherine, the highest peak in Egypt. At that moment, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, not the slightest idea!

I didn’t know what was coming!

Days later, on the 31st of December, 2012, I was hiking up the mountain, and I wasn’t just tired, I was exhausted. It was cold, dark, and challenging. The group I started with was way ahead, I couldn’t see them anymore. I wasn’t alone though, my best friend Sarah (who’s fitness is way better than mine) didn’t leave me behind, even though she could have been ahead with the rest of them including her little sister. And Hussein, a very supportive, 47 year old Bedouin guide originally from St. Catherine, was taking care of us and leading the way. All I could think about was, “Why did I get myself into this? Why am I doing this to myself?”

A few hours before, I was given two choices. 1. After an hour and a half of brisk walking in the valley before reaching the mountain, I could go back to the camp and give up, since I was already aching, or 2. After that same tiring hour, I could tell myself it’s only been an hour, I’m sure I’ve done more physical effort than that before, and start the actual hike. The group was supportive, yet understanding. One friend said, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Obviously I looked very tired already and they were all worried I might get stuck on the way up, and not make it to the end, or be able to go down again. I didn’t want to hold anyone back, yet I knew my pace was a lot slower than everyone else’s. But I sucked it up and stayed positive, which was a value I always practice, and it was being tested, quite severely.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

“I didn’t come all the way here to give up now! This is what the trip’s about, it’s about the challenge, and I’m going to do it!” Again, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

A very helpful new friend offered to take my backpack, which was initially light, but got heavier on the way, and my shoulders and back were already starting to get sore. We kept on going, I was still with the group, but I was the last one, which sort of brought me down, but I reminded myself that I have to keep on going, and resist resting as often as I felt the urge to. It worked for a while, and my breathing was definitely getting better, but I was losing energy and getting more tired. I’d forgotten that my only energy source, a chocolate bar, was in my backpack, which was now far away in front of me, too far to reach.

Thoughts of giving up now rushed to my head, what was coming next was still a lot more than what I had already achieved, and going down is definitely easier than going up, but no, I didn’t give up. I started resting more, and Hussein and Sarah were now the only ones with me, everyone else was a lot higher than we were. I frequently looked at the other mountain peaks around, and saw how every time I looked, the sun shining on the peaks decreased. I couldn’t define what was kicking in my head, but it wasn’t fear. Or at least not fear of the obvious things like darkness. I wasn’t alone, I saw no scary animals anywhere, I knew I could still keep going. Now I realize it was fear of failure. I was worried about not making it to the summit, even though I had already taken the decision that I’m going up there, no matter what.

My mind was starting to play tricks on me, telling me I’m a loser, everyone’s faster, and I’m holding 2 other people back with me. My heart rate was getting faster, and my legs were hurting, but it wasn’t that bad, I’ve been through all of that before. It was all in my head, and I hated my head at that moment, because it was pulling me back. What’s wrong with me? I’m always in control, I’m always optimistic, I always win if I want to, why am I losing now?

Sarah was trying to help, but my head blocked her out. She tried everything. She tried being strict and she tried being supportive. She suggested that I listen to her iPod, offered me biscuits, and gave me endless hugs, but my head still blocked her out. I now despised my head. I could hear everything she was saying, I wanted to befriend Hussein like she was, I wanted to join in the interesting conversations they were having, but my head didn’t let me.

We were spending some time in the city before the hike.

We were spending some time in the city before the hike.

I wanted to join in the interesting conversations they were having, but my head didn’t let me.

Hussein was also trying to help, he was being strict at first, but then realized that I was really trying my hardest, and he offered that I hold on to him while we climbed, and so I did. The speed I was going at on my own was too slow, but when I held on to his arm, I was forced to go faster. I was still stopping them too often though. Sarah and Hussein kept motivating me, telling me we’re almost there, only 2 more hours to go, and that I’ve already done a lot more than that. I panicked, and I started demanding that I see the peak we’re heading to, because I could now see neither the beginning or the end.

By then, my mind had complete control over me, everything I’ve been preaching about for the past years about persistence, optimism and positivity was being shattered. My feelings were starting to surface. I broke down, and I started crying. I had so many mixed feelings of weakness, apologies, and depletion. Anything my mind was blabbering to me, I was saying out loud. I found myself saying things like, “I’ve gone insane, why am I doing this? Why am I crying? I don’t want to cry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

“No! Don’t cry, don’t cry! You’re strong, you’re doing this!” Sarah started telling me. “Cheer up, we’re not moving from this spot until you’re smiling.”

Again, I refused to smile, I hated myself because of how I was reacting, and how I wasn’t succeeding in keeping the negative thoughts out. Panic was taking over me again and again. We kept on going, hiking up, until I was totally out of energy. This time it wasn’t my mind, it was physical. I had the will, because we could now see the peak, but my body couldn’t handle anymore. I was now very cold, to the point of shivering, so Hussein started a fire and I sat next to it.

To our luck, and surprisingly, there was signal on Hussein’s phone, even though we were too far up. And with even more luck, his other Bedouin friend at the top of the mountain had signal too. Hussein asked him to send a camel so I could ride it up. We had one more hour to go, but at my pace it would have been two. We climbed and climbed, until we finally met with the two boys walking down the mountain with the camel. I was saved!

Thirty more minutes and I’ll be up there! There will be a fire, I’ll have my backpack and put more clothes on, and I’ll get to sleep. The last of my insane emotions were finally leaving my mind. I talked to the camel, I thanked the camel, and by that I mean I was really talking to the camel out loud. I can’t remember a moment in my life when I felt more grateful. It’s over, or at least I thought so.

I reached the summit on the back of the camel. I was relieved, but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy because a part of me still felt like I gave up, and I let the circumstances overwhelm me. I let my mind control me instead of me controlling it. Aren’t the tough times the real tests of our values? But then the other hikers saw me, and they made me see everything differently. Everyone was being so supportive, asking me how I feel, telling me I did it, I succeeded.

When cold penetrates through 3 blankets, a sleeping bag, and 9 layers of clothes, you know something’s wrong!

After a long freezing night spent at the peak, the sun was finally shining again, warming us up slowly. At 8 am, everyone was helpful, offering each other food and tea. We started walking down the mountain. “This should be easier,” I thought. I can do this, it’s going to be different. This was easier! And definitely more enjoyable. I was still the last one, and everyone was still ahead, but pride was keeping me going. I stopped at the spot where the camel picked me up the previous night, and I looked up, realizing it was difficult.

4 hours of walking and more interesting conversations with Hussein, we were done. We were at sea level now. All we need is a car to drive us back to the camp, and 10 mins later, we were there.

This was the most physically and mentally challenging activity I’ve done in my whole life. The process wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be, and I wasn’t as mentally successful as I always thought I was, but this definitely taught me a lot.

I learned that when you’re genuine, everyone appreciates it and supports you instead of bringing you down. I learned that when you think you’re going to push a certain limit, you need to push a lot more than you think, and probably push to even more limits. Also, that I need to practice what I preach more often, and always challenge myself to develop. I’ve learned that pain leaves you eventually, and that when you’ve done something and succeeded, you’d want to do it again, no matter how hard it was. When my body was aching, I kept reminding myself that I should never do this again. Now, I’m definitely doing this again.

Dead tired, sleepy, but look at how much I hiked yesterday!

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White Egg Yolks: To Eat or Not to Eat?

Today, I had just started to prepare 2 eggs to eat. I cracked the first egg in a bowl, but as soon as I did, I noticed that the egg yolks were white, with only a slight hue of yellow. My first thoughts were, “this is strange, I don’t even know if it’s safe.” I thought I’d crack the other egg as well, but I made sure to crack it separately. Also white, I found that very strange. (The photos below make it look more yellow than it was, but you should still see that the contrast between the whites and the yolk is of transparency rather than color.)

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I then had two choices, I could either scramble and eat them, not caring about how they looked, since they smelled normal, not spoiled or anything, or I could research to check that it’s safe at least, regardless of if they would taste bad. I did scramble one of them though.

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I went with the second choice and I Google’d it. This is the first result I found. What the latest update said was: “The general consensus is that white egg yolks are perfectly safe to eat and the reason they’re white is a lack of pigment. Count yourself lucky if you ever find one – they’re pretty rare! Lots more information in the comments below.” So I thought I’d just take photos and show them to other friends online, and see if anyone had come across it. Most of them said they never had, and then one of them pointed me out to the fact that China makes fake eggs (Yes, even eggs!) 

Again with the choices, the first blogpost I found said that it’s rare, and that it’s just a lack of pigment, also that it’s safe to eat an egg laid by an “albino” chicken. I was just afraid about eating something completely unnatural, and when I looked into the matter, I found out that fake Chinese eggs are identified by a slightly shinier shell, they’re more rough, they would sound louder if you shake them, they don’t have the natural “rawness” smell in them, and finally that the egg whites and yolks melt together fast, without needing to be whisked. Here’s an article.

I checked all of them above, and concluded that they’re probably NOT fake Chinese eggs, just eggs of an albino chicken. I might be wrong, but if the info above is correct, then they were definitely natural and just rare.

The odd thing is, when I went away after I whisked one of the eggs, I returned to find it has turned into a bizarre, dark, yellow color with a hint of red in it. I didn’t cook that one.

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I cooked the others, and they didn’t taste bad. They had less flavor, but they weren’t rotten or smelly. The omelette turned out to be a bit more white than regular omelettes, but the difference wasn’t that huge. 

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So is it strange? Or have a lot of other people come across it?

If you’re wondering whether you should eat them or not, I ate mine, and I’m alive and well, so go for it. The reason I didn’t throw them away is because 4 eggs out of the same carton turned out with white yolks, so I expected the rest to be white as well, and I didn’t want to waste anymore.

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Overflowing Happiness

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling aloof, I like to look within. One way of doing that is by bringing out my box of tarot cards and having a reading or a few. Before your mind goes far, you have to understand the purpose behind them. Tarot cards give you insight, they don’t tell you what to do. It’s like, showing you different options, so your brain starts working and you start encountering different emotions. It’s all based on energy (which I strongly believe in) and what you decide to do is decided by you and only you, according to your intuition, not necessarily how the card is explained. Cards that say suppression, schizophrenia, or letting go aren’t necessarily negative, it’s all about your perception and the situation. Just like positive cards might not be exactly what you want, but they give you insight.

One of my very favorite cards is the Queen of Fire “Sharing.” In order to understand the beauty of its meaning, read the commentary below:

“The Queen of Fire is so rich, so much a queen, that she can afford to give. It doesn’t even occur to her to take inventories or to put something aside for later. She dispenses her treasures without limits, welcoming all and sundry to partake of the abundance, fertility and light that surrounds her. When you draw this card, it suggests that you too are in a situation where you have an opportunity to share your love, your joy and your laughter. And in sharing, you find that you feel even more full. There is no need to go anywhere or to make any special effort. You find that you can enjoy sensuality without possessiveness or attachment, can give birth to a child or to a new project with an equal sense of creativity fulfilled. Everything around you seems to be “coming together” now. Enjoy it, ground yourself in it, and let the abundance in you and around you overflow.”

The first time I chose this card, I was over-whelmed. It’s powerful and meaningful, it’s all about you and others, it’s all about optimism. And every now and then, when selected, I remember the joy of that first time. I keep wondering though, what is it that helps us reach this state? Happiness doesn’t happen for a reason, that’s what I believe. Happiness happens through acknowledging that you need to be grateful, acceptance, and the decision or realizing that. I admit it’s not always easy. I still haven’t reached the wisdom of acknowledging the fact that I’m sometimes ungrateful, rebellious, and stubborn. But I think that one of the main reasons we become happy is when we’re surrounded by happy people.

Energy makes us, and we let it, we let it in, we push it out, and we must know that. All I want to say is, decide to be happy and remember overflowing happiness. Overflowing happiness does exist, it’s happiness that’s so happy, it’s indescribable. It’s happiness that makes you jump around. It’s happiness that makes your mouth and jaws hurt because of how much you’re smiling. It’s happiness that overflows, and no matter how much it overflows, and you share it with others, it increases. It only stops when you stop it, and stop sharing and acknowledging it. It’s happiness that everyone has gone through at a time in their life, for no valid reason. So next time you’re happy, hold on to it, stay happy, hug people, share it, cherish it, make it last and make the most out of it. Always remember that happiness is a decision, and when you forget that, remind yourself. We take this beautiful world for granted, because we’re happy only when we learn that we’re supposed to be happy for a reason, we forget that we don’t. Wake up and be happy, belong with a family and be happy, see the same people everyday and be happy, do everything you want to do, just be happy. It’s not about comparing yourself with others and seeing if you pass the world standards for happiness, it’s about you wanting to be happy and doing something about it.

I might not be so important to you, but I’m happy.

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Crappy Photos of an Exciting Moment!

Due to my long term passion for Graphic Design, I’ve been a huge fan of Novum ever since I found out about it a few years ago. I used to see it on my favorite’s professor’s desk during college days and think, “I wish I worked there.” Time flew by and the 5 years of college were over. Today, almost exactly a year later, I don’t think the same. I don’t want to work in Novum, because over the years I discovered that I dislike practicing editorial design, I’d rather have more freedom. I still love Novum though, it always features great content, it’s bilingual, and it’s internationally available, not to mention the very unique and well done covers.

Today wasn’t the best day of my life, it was fine, but I wouldn’t call it a good day. I got home after a long day at work full of back and forth phone calls with an important client, and let’s just say, it wasn’t going so well. As soon as I got home, I was relieved.

“Finally,” I thought. “I’ll call this a day.” As soon as I look at my bed, I find a package, I’d describe it as a beautiful package because it’s the second package I’ve received in my whole life, and other packages I’ve seen here in Egypt aren’t very beautiful. The writing on the outside was in German. The package had big black typography on a red sticker, and it said, “LIEFERSCHEIN – RECHNUNG, PACKING LIST – INVOICE.”

I had just phoned a friend right before I glimpsed the package and it only took me a few minutes of friendly chatting until I realized that it’s here, it’s finally here!

A few months ago, one of my favorite professors from college, as well as my mentor when it comes to my typographic ambitions, sent me an email telling me he’s writing an article in Novum. The exciting news was, he was co-supervising a project done by a couple of friends and I, and he thought it was creative enough to be included as student work. I was ecstatic of course! I thought, “Novum! My project in Novum! OUR project in Novum!” I quickly checked with my team mates about their approval, and they un-hesitantly said yes. Back then, my professor said it’s still going to be sent to Novum for approval, and that he’s not sure whether it will be selected or not.

A few weeks later, it was confirmed, we were in, and we were sending our correct information for perfect results of the feature. It was probably one of my most exciting achievements! Today was the day, the package finally arrived, after weeks and weeks of anticipation, and then more weeks of forgetfulness.

Today, I had a tangible achievement in my hands, it might seem small to more experienced designers, but it’s pretty big to me, and I’m proud of it, that’s why I couldn’t wait to share it. And since I love sharing the good times, here are some -very crappy- photos of the moment. I recently lost my digital camera so I had to use my phone’s.

I’m also adding some more pictures of the whole project. The designs are done by Laila Hassaballa (me), Nada El Sayed, and Aya Omar Genedy. Any feedback about the blog post or the project would be highly appreciated.

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Everything vs. Nothing

Starting off, welcome to my blog. I consider my blog to be my very own private yet public space. The name Everything vs. Nothing could mean a lot of things, but I chose it specifically to convey this meaning: I’m into so many things, and I’m always open to exploring more likes and dislikes, my blog isn’t only about one thing, it’s about everything and so it’s about nothing, nothing specific at least.

This is not my first blog, but it will be the first blog I take seriously. I haven’t taken the previous one seriously because I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts, and I wasn’t confident enough to make them public. I’ve decided to get out of my comfort zone though, and just go for it.

I believe in living life to the fullest, positivity, and persistence. I believe in changing and developing, but I also believe in acceptance. I change my mind and my opinions quite often, but that’s only because I experience “the other side” and so I tend to stop myself from judging too fast, or at least not judging something negatively before I understand it.

So since I believe in making the most out of life, this is where I’ll express that life. Life is all about experience, and as cliche as that sounds, you’ll never know how something feels unless you actually go through it yourself. Be patient, expect the best, and don’t judge too fast.

Here goes experience, reflection, and a lot of writing!

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