Helpless

I feel so helpless, fellow sojourner… )’: Whenever I see so much injustice going on, I can’t help but feel so little and incapable. I feel weak because I couldn’t do anything strong enough to end such atrocities. It hurts me, really, to know that I can only do *this much* right now. It pains me to see hundreds of people die from greedy wars. But somehow… It pains me more that I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

If only I had more power–be this political, economic or social–I would go out and be dauntless in defending those who are severely persecuted. If only I were in a position of great influence, I would honorably maximize every connection possible so as to deliver a stronger blow against large forces that continue to abuse, harm and dehumanize people. I would not be afraid to speak up and go against the Goliaths of this generation. Let the David rise up against the oppressor.

Oh God… May you help me help other people better.

4:22 AM

So much has happened in the past few weeks, my fellow sojourner. I would love to blog about it but I’m currently too consumed with a pile of new tasks. Allow me to just log-in here and share this momentary feeling.

It’s 4:22 am, sojourner and I can hear the adhanThe adhan sounds beautiful, sojourner. I’m reminded of Ramadhan.

I haven’t slept yet, you know? I’ve been working until now. I’ll make this last post, after which I’ll pray. Then, I’ll go to bed. Perhaps, I’ll get the mat and pray in our terrace. What do you think? No one would see me anyway. It’s pitch-dark outside. Do you think I’d still see any stars? Maybe not.

I’ll just listen instead. Listen to the chirping birds (who are already awake at this time. Can you tell me why? They sound beautiful too, though). I’ll listen to the plane’s engine hovering over the morning sky. I’ll listen to the cars I hear driving a couple of meters away. I’ll lie down. Rest. Imagine. Reflect and pray.

Then, I’ll go to bed (that is, if I even still feel sleepy). 

-From the song “Try” (by Pink)

As they say, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” When we aspire for great things, we start expecting and hoping for certain outcomes. We work hard and dedicate so much just to achieve what our heart desires.

Then again, with many aspirations–especially the really big ones–the risk of falling is also too great. The more desire you have, the greater the flame you create. Successfully reaching your desire would raise you in a pedestal but failing to achieve it would burn you down.

Thus, in every great endeavor, remember to STAY strong. Do not let the fear of getting burned stop you from dreaming big. Work towards your life goal and do not back down. If you incur scars, then let those heal and serve as a reminder of the battles you’ve survived. Be proactive and keep moving forward!

For as you see, the greatest victories are EARNED by the strongest and most enduring ones.

So hold on, my fellow sojourner. Hold on.

Humility

In a society where even the most mundane things in life are shown and boasted, humility–as a virtue–becomes even more so elusive. Vanity, egoism and narcissism are heightened all the more by technology and the virtual world.

Indeed, to be humble–and to constantly strive for such virtue–takes so much discipline, courage and wisdom.

I hope it was easier to liberate ourselves from the inessential–to realize the things that really matter, and to be able to walk the fields of the earth in such humble and kind fashion.

Dream Unlocked

*** NOTE TO SELF:

Anything’s possible. Keep striving.
Serve and give back.
Leave the world a better place than when we entered it. ***

I’ve been busy the past few weeks and I just came back home. I flew to the other side of the world, after being given an opportunity to do so. I grabbed the chance and got more than what I expected. (Truly, Alhamdullilah!)

All I aspired for then was to seek funding and support for a socio-civic project that I had in mind. What I received though was far more than that. I had the chance to unlock one of my childhood dreams which is to visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York . I never thought that I would be able to do just that at this very moment–when I’m still fresh from college and as young as now. I NEVER THOUGHT that I’d be able to set foot in such a distinguished venue, and even be recognized–along with other young social entrepreneurs! I really never imagined that happening–not now, definitely not as early as now.

Yet, it did happen. It happened for real! :’) 

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

Of course, there are many other notable events that happened right after (such as being awarded by a New York State Senator–whoa!) but that–the visit to the U.N. and the Recognition Ceremony that happened–is perhaps the most vivid memory that I would keep dearly cherished in my heart. It would serve as constant reminder for me to consistently take on greater heights and conquer new obstacles in life–all in the style of honor and excellence.

As such, for all that has happened, my heart is now bursting with immense gratitude.

Gratitude

And

Desire

Desire to be better in life. To be stronger. To be more capable and qualified to both lead and serve.

I feel like I owe so much to God and the world that I have to work harder and more passionately in giving back hope, growth and opportunity to the people around me–especially those who are in need. A great leader is one who also paves the way for other people to achieve greatness themselves. As I once said, in a speech I gave out during the gala ceremony, “I am merely an INSTRUMENT of change.” I am an agent who ought to share, deliver and maximize all opportunities, as well as successes seized, for the betterment of others. 

This is just the start of many more things to come. From one dream to another, let us carry on!

Facebook Hiatus

A few hours ago, I went back and activated my main Facebook account. I looked at my timeline and saw that the last time anyone posted on my wall was in August 2013. Can you believe that? August of last year! I’ve been able to detach myself–for more than half year–from world’s most popular networking site.

In our generation, many would assume that deactivating one’s FB account is tantamount to “social suicide”. It’s crazy how our individual lives have been so wired into the online world–making it seem like Facebook (and other networking sites) should be a direct reflection of everything that’s going on our lives.

There are pros and cons to this, of course, but I won’t blog about that. Right now, I’m just writing in the hopes that this post could serve as a reminder for me. A reminder to balance my use of such networking site. So far, I’ve actually enjoyed the sense of privacy and simplicity my life had when I was “off” Facebook. Sure, I still had a “proxy” account running before (in place of my original account) but that account was mainly used for (1) work/studies-related duties, (2) receiving notifications from important pages, and (3) keeping in touch with some friends, especially those overseas. Other than that, I was able to really “detach” myself from the the chaos in Facebook and go back to the old days, when I was in better control of my time and when I heard important life stories directly from the people who mattered to me.

However, as much as I would’ve wanted to stay “off” Facebook and live a “simpler” life, I can’t take that option now. Again, because of work and socio-civic duties, I have to activate my main account once again so as to be able to add certain people (aka, my supervisors and ‘chiefs’) abroad. I can’t add them up using my “proxy” account because that account is blank and devoid of any information. They might think I’m a hoax, if I added them up with that account (lol).

So, what I have to do now is to keep the discipline I’ve had and be more conscious of the time I spend on the aforementioned site. For some reason, I find it more comforting to write  an anonymous blog here rather than spill so much effort on that site. I hope that in the coming months, I get to really maintain my “old” lifestyle–one which was simpler and, I believe, more humble and focused.

I must learn to lessen the inessential in life and instead, invest my time on activities and causes that truly matter. Facebook can both help me reach this end, as well as deviate me away from it.

Of course, I hope the latter doesn’t happen.

Giving God a Chance

I WONDER:

If a Benevolent and Merciful Being such as God exists, then, wouldn’t we, as humans, want to do everything possible in order to get to know Him and embrace Him? If this Being is real and this Being is the epitome of eternal love, justice, and mercy, wouldn’t we want to gravitate towards such Beauty, Richness, and Peace?

I WISH:

I hope that before people completely closed their hearts to God/the Supreme Being, they first gave themselves a real chance to study, contemplate, and seek God. If their first “spiritual” journey failed, then I hope that they would conduct another journey twice, thrice, or even more–until their hearts and minds reach a point of unshakeable conviction in a matter that is as serious as God. I believe that only until then–only after such deep contemplation and study (of not only a single faith or religion)–can one truly decide whether or not all faith in such a Being must be abandoned.

As you can see, last night, I had a deep conversation with one of my closest friends. I ended that talk by telling him this: “Give God a chance.” Don’t get me wrong here; I am not a deeply religious person nor am I anywhere close to being a missionary. When I told him that, I was actually asking him if he could give himself another chance of learning more about God. If his prior experience with his past religion was bitter and shallow, I hope that he still would find the energy and passion to keep his heart and mind open to THE ONE. It doesn’t mean that if his prior spiritual journey has failed, all consequent ones would also fail. It wouldn’t be fair to say that all faith in God is false and pointless if one has not even exhausted, genuinely and passionately, all possible means in order to discover The One.

Of course, studying every divinely-inspired faith/religion out there might be extremely tedious–even close to impossible. However, if a being such as God exists, and if God is indeed the perfection of all Love, Peace and Glory, then would we, as humans, let one, two or even three blunders stop us from discovering The One? Would we let one failed spiritual quest completely convince us that all faith in God must be abandoned? Shouldn’t we be generous enough in giving ourselves a real chance, in fact several chances, to finding this Being of True Love and Mercy?

I RESOLVE:

Surely, as a person of faith, I would say that any person who would genuinely and actively seek God will eventually find his/her way to Him. However, if it so happens that even after patiently and passionately doing countless quests in order to seek God, a person, at the last breath of his life, still convinces himself that all faith in God must be abandoned, then I would still admire that person for he displayed that genuine and active pursuit towards finding truth. Yes, we would both die believing in different things, but at least, both of us, as human beings, lived our lives in pursuit of truth and love.

If I may end with a quotation from Rumi:

“Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it.”

“Combat Baby”

How many friends do we make in this lifetime?

And, who among them stick through?

So far, in the two decades that I’ve spent living, I’ve wondered how essential it is for us to build human connections and commitments—in the form of friendships. Think about it. Can a person survive without having any real friend to hold unto? How important, really, is it to have a good friend?

When you’re stuck in a café, chatting with an old best friend from way back sixth grade, what is it that you two, or maybe even three, gain? Memories to look back to? Shared jolts of laughter? Pieces of advice—both astute and crazy—to consider? Do you gather to secretly whisper crisp ‘gossip’? Or maybe, do you crumple up in that café, simply to exchange updates about each other’s lives—from family, love, school, and career?

Tell me. Don’t you wonder? Why do you even have to update each other? What is this ‘necessity’ to confide—to share one’s life to another? Why do you feel like you have to call your friend, if something big comes up in your life? Why reach out for your best friend, when you’ve hit your all-time low? Why do we yearn for a confidante? What do we truly gain?

I suppose it’s that sense of acceptance. Of belonging, and of loving. Of being wanted, and of being needed. Of being part of someone else’s life. It’s this right, that we gain? That reassurance that we aren’t alone in this world, and that there are people—no matter how few they may be—who genuinely care for us, as we do for them. That, as we go by our daily errands and constantly plunge in a crowd of busy and unfamiliar faces, we know, that somewhere out there, there are faces we recognize, faces we yearn, and faces we trust—again, no matter how few they may be.

I’m not a person who typically uses the term “best friend” in order to address someone. However, I do have a number of very very close friends who would fit into that category. One of them (who has been more of like a sister, actually) once told me how difficult it is to find a “real” friend in this lifetime. She says that having a real friend is like owning a rare jewel. I agree with her, wholeheartedly.

As I continuously mature, and walk past through different circles, I’ve realized how lucky one can really be to have gained a solid confidante. It’s easy to get along with many people. It’s easy to have “many friends.” What’s hard though is to gain a couple of “real friends”, in this lifetime.

Of course, we may have different definitions and qualifications of what constitutes a “real friend.” As I’ve mentioned, I’m not the type of person who likes boxing people into specific terminologies. Nonetheless, I reckon though that generally, we at least share this consensus that a ‘real friend’ or a truly good confidante would be someone whom we would want to “cherish for a lifetime.” These are the people—no matter how few they may be—whom we pray that would stick through, even as we grow older. They are the ones who truly accept us for who we are, and support us to become better people. These are the ones whom we have chosen to share our lives with. People whom we shall cry for ones they are gone, and hopefully, those who would also shed tears for us too if ever we’re the first ones to leave.

See, yesterday, I had the chance to reconnect with some of my childhood friends. The three of us were classmates in sixth grade. We just had roughly a year to build that friendship. When one of them left and migrated abroad, the three of us rarely had the chance to talk. Ever since then, I only knew little of what happened to these friends of mine.

Yesterday, though, it all changed. SHE came back from abroad, and after around 8-9 years of not seeing one another, all three of us girls—now, grown-ups—cringed up in this cozy Milktea place, trying to catch up for all the lost years. We had lunch in a Japanese restaurant (because fondly, one of my friends still has kept her enthusiasm for Japanese culture). Then, we headed for this café in order to kill time. Unfortunately, since it was raining that afternoon, the road to this café we wanted to visit was submerged in water (sort of), and thus we ended up in a Milktea place, a few blocks ahead. We had shots of different milktea flavors, and laughed about almost anything (well, okay, maybe I was the only one who kept on laughing—from the car, all the way to the different stops we made, haha. What can I do? I was just really cheery that day! Haha) The topics we had were really varied. We even spent a comprehensive amount of time discussing politics, governance, and development—exchanging insights on topics from US politics, to the recently held elections, from the passage of the ‘marriage equality’ clause in Maryland to issues of government corruption, and such! (I know, so much for a first meeting, right? Haha)

After that, they’ve decided to go play Rockband 3. I stress on the word “they” because… Well… I’ve never played Rockband before. Never! Haha. Who would have guessed that after so many years, aside from meeting my friend again, I would be having my confirmation rites into Rockband? Lol.

As we entered the ‘Red Room’, the two of them started setting up the game. SHE went for the microphone, while the other went for the guitar. I, meanwhile, passed on the first round, so as to observe. It was a crazy experience. Crazy, but fun.

The music cued in. It was Combat Baby by Metric. I never heard of it, till yesterday. In that red room, I watched them just sing their hearts out. The music was entrancing, and the moment was uplifting.

They’re the reason why I’m writing down this entry. I wanted to cherish yesterday’s memory.

Because yesterday, for a brief moment, I did feel infinite.

Destinations Missed: India and South Africa

They say that once an opportunity passes by, we should “always” grab it. Not all opportunities come by so easily, and sometimes they only come once.

Months before today, I’ve actively worked for achieving two specific “opportunities.” MAY 2013 was supposed to be a month of immense discoveries for me.

One opportunity that was handed out to me was the chance to travel to India, on a sponsored trip by the Asian Development Bank. I could have been a social media correspondent, who actively engaged in the discussions and who learned from the different sessions being held. I could have met several inspiring individuals and groups, and gained many worthwhile memories along the way. I could have also explored India (with some college friend/s), and could have visited these places in person:

India’s Taj Mahal (Photograph by Apratim Saha)

Agra’s Red Fort Temple (Photography by Martin Bauer)

Henna Hands (Photograph by Petra Warner)

Random memory: When I was in Malaysia last year, I met a friend (she’s from Bangladesh) who made henna art on my hand. It was a simple design, but lovely nonetheless. When I headed for the airport that night and checked-in, one of the airport crew asked me whether I just got married! Haha. I guess, since he saw my henna, he might have thought that I attended a special wedding ceremony. (Marriage? Noooo! Too young for that! Haha.) That was my first and last time to have henna on my hand. I wonder though how it would be like, to have one done by a seasoned artist in India. 

Amber Palace and Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur (Photograph by Patitucci/Aurora Photos)

The other opportunity that was also due for this month was the chance to participate in a prestigious youth leadership event. Apparently, I was the only one selected from my country. Around 26 young leaders and change-makers, from around the world have been selected to participate in this event to be held in Durban, South Africa. When I found out that I got admitted, I was definitely excited. I imagined myself attending the trip in India first, and then flying over to South Africa a few days after. I just wondered how much I could learn from this event, especially in terms of developing the socio-civic idea that I had in mind. By being able to network with more people and organizations, I was optimistic that many people could help me fuel my idea. I was also very eager to join in and be part of a bigger network of youth, who were all actively engaging in various socio-civic and political endeavors. I believe that the passion that these young individuals brim is infectious.

Of course, the thought of landing in South Africa thrilled me too. Aside from Durban, there’s Cape Town and Johannesburg–some places that I would love to see, during this lifetime.

Durban’s North Beach (Photograph by Stuart Fox)

Cape Town: From an Aerial Tram (Photograph by Roger de la Harpe)

Cape of Good Hope: Touchdown (Photo from http://www.rgbstock.com)

Cape of Good Hope (Photograph by April Badilles)

Johannesburg’s Lion Park (Photo from TripAdvisor)

Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum (Photo from TripAvisor)

The photos look amazing, right? I bet being able to see such places in person would dazzle us all the more. Imagine living through these photographs by actually being there.

Unfortunately though, I’ve let these opportunities pass. I’ve missed them.  There are many factors that poured in, making me miss these opportunities. I guess, this is not the right time yet for me to avail of these opportunities. I don’t know if I would be able to come across such offers in the future, but I still remain hopeful. Part of me believes that this isn’t the only chance that I’ll come across.

I fervently believe that in the future, once all my priorities and resources are set out straight, then I could grab hold of similar opportunities. There are others to come, I believe.

All I’ve got to do now is make sure that I spend this month well enough. I must be productive and disciplined, knowing that I’ve given up such opportunities for an important commitment that I must focus on. The drive to fulfill this commitment must be consistent and strong. I cannot let petty distractions (no matter how appealing they may be) shatter my drive to focus and deliver.

I’ve let go of these opportunities, in exchange for a lone commitment that I believe, upon fulfillment, will open up more doors for me.