20 Things It Took Me 20 Years to Learn


I’m turning 20 on Wednesday, and oh my god that’s five days from now, isn’t it? Crossing over to a new set of numbers feels weird. I think turning 20 is a normal thing to feel weird about, based on the reactions I see from others who have crossed that threshold.
I’m trying to be somewhat philosophical about it or at least just feel like an adult and not a scared little kid in an adult’s body. Here are the important things I came up with.

1) Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t worth it. This is much easier said than done, but once you stop trying to appease people, you end up being a lot happier. Also, don’t change who you are to fit in. If you have to change, then the friendships you’re going to “gain” won’t be real.

2) Smile and mean it. I try to take the time to smile at everybody who makes eye contact with me. I look at it this way: say you’re just walking down the sidewalk and somebody smiles at you. It feels nice, doesn’t it? Making other people feel nice makes you feel nice.

3) Nothing is wrong with having different interests. Everyone likes something that’s a little “off” or isn’t mainstream or popular. There are communities of people who share your “weird” interest. Find one!

4) Know when to ask for help. I’m very stubborn. Perhaps its a Middle Eastern thing. Walking around a store and refusing to ask a sales attendant where something is one thing, but when I’m upset about something or confused, I need to remember that I’m not alone.

5) Eat and be merry. Two years ago, I cut my food supply drastically. I’m honestly not even sure why. I hated myself for doing it the whole time, and even though I gained the weight back, I still have a hard time forgiving myself. There is absolutely no point in depriving yourself. I’m not saying you should go eat a double cheeseburger every day (you’ll develop coronary disease or clog up your arteries, and you won’t appreciate how good double cheeseburgers are if you eat them every single day!), but please, don’t torture yourself. When you lose that weight, you only feel disgusted with yourself for the means you took to get there.

6) Don’t fear solitude. Years ago, I saw a girl about my age now sitting by herself in a restaurant. She ate Indian food by herself and read a book, and she oozed confidence. I’m trying to be this girl. Doing things by yourself is actually empowering because it teaches you not to wait around or depend on others.

7) What is painful is most difficult to write about. It’s also the best material. I’m talking about stuff that’s so painful it physically hurts your stomach to even think about writing them down. But try it. Nobody has to see what you’ve written, and you’re conquering negativity.

8) Manage your messes. I’m still at teenager at the moment, so I definitely have the potential to be messy, but I’ve noticed that I can’t think well when I’m around a mess. Just take a little time each day to straighten something up. It produces a good sense of balance.

9) Listen to your body. If you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open, you should probably go home. If you feel like shit, don’t go to class. You won’t be able to absorb anything anyway. Pay attention to the things that don’t feel right. I’ve felt overly weak or tired before, so I looked into it and started eating more protein and iron. It made a huge difference. The little things like that really make an improvement.

10) Don’t underestimate the power of small talk. I once asked a man if I could pet his dog and ended up with his business card. I asked my dad’s friend how his job was going and ended up getting a tour of Teen Vogue’s headquarters in New York. Just say something. You never know what you’ll get out of it.

11) Actively tackle whatever is bothering you. Complaining or feeling sorry for yourself won’t fix anything. Get to the root of your problem and try to solve it. Is the problem really big? Just pick a section of that root.

12) Challenge your fears. This is especially useful if your fear is intense. Sometimes I get in these moods where I’m afraid to go outside or speak to people, and I give in, but it ends up making me feel worse. A good step to getting over your fear is stepping up against it and proving it wrong.

13) Break habits. Having routines is comforting. It can also limit you. Try doing something else or in a different way occasionally, just for the hell of it.

14) Let serendipity take its course. I’ve noticed that a lot of people go out and search for something, particularly a romantic companion. Major magazines will tell you the best places to meet future boyfriends. It’s ridiculous. Just step back. Don’t try. Some of the best friendships and relationships you have just come out of nowhere.

15) Follow your passion. Don’t let what others think allow you to doubt yourself. This one can be a little difficult, especially if your family is against you. I know that my family accepts my wanting to be a writer, but I don’t know how seriously they actually take it. Getting caught up on what they think isn’t going to help me out any, though. I just want to do what I love.

16) If you work hard, don’t forget to play too. For the longest time, all I cared about was school. I still put school way up there, but I’m not as insane about it as I used to be. Wanting to do well is a good thing. Wanting to be so perfect that you’re depriving yourself of everything else is a bad thing.

17) Being there for somebody goes a long way. People you care about are going to encounter painful situations that you might have absolutely no experience with or wisdom about. It might be bankruptcy. It might be divorce. It might be suicide. You can still help even if you don’t know the right thing to say. Just be there and show that you care. That is one of the most important things you can do.

18) Just because something isn’t real doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful or terrifying. Anxiety is a bitch. Oh, it is a bitch. Any possibility that crosses your mind can become horrifically warped and leave you hiding in bed. I always feel stupid because I’ll get hung on up something that isn’t real. But in a way, it is real, because I’ve come to believe it so strongly.

19) Everybody has problems. Some people are just better at hiding them than others. I learned this one years ago but for some reason, I keep forgetting about it. Try to consider what others are going through too. And know you’re not alone.

20) Love who you are. I went through a stage where I did not want to see my reflection at all. Then I started doing this thing where I’d stand in front of a mirror before I took a shower and examine myself, thinking I could be happier if and only if some aspects of my body were different. What do I do now? I think something nice about myself every time I look in a mirror. I’m working on building some positive reinforcement, because the last thing I need to be hung up about it a reflection. It’s just light. 

Safari: Day 3


On the third day, the traveler Sarra witnessed a monkey giving another monkey a hand job and two male buffalo fighting over what must have been a classy lady. And then Sarra saw a pregnant zebra, and she found it amusing. And then Sarra drank coffee, and it was good.
And then Sarra was almost attacked by a monkey, and that was not good.

I hope my impression of the Book of Genesis is okay. I’m just trying to switch things up a little because I want to have a lot of fun writing this post. Writing is always fun, but uploading pictures on here is pretty tedious… There must be an easier way to do this. But it is very important to me that you find this post enjoyable because the third day was one of my favorite days on safari minus the part about a monkey threatening to jump on me. And I have a video of my reaction, so hopefully you can sympathize with my fear a little. I tend to have strange fears. I saw some very interesting things on the third day and we finished our big five sightings. (The big five are what the five most impressive animals to see on safari are referred to. The animals on the list are the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the buffalo, and the rhino. There’s also a little five and an ugly five, which really amuses me.)

We started off the day by spending another sunrise with lions.

Then the lions started lying around, so we drove off to look for other animals. Probably buffalo, honestly. On the way, we encountered one slutty monkey. Or at least the monkey was a good friend for grooming the other monkey’s junk. But yeah, it looked hilarious.
*Note: This was the last time I ever saw monkeys without cowering in fear*

Then we stopped by a watering hole and looked at hippos for a few minutes. And I actually got a picture of a warthog, which is kind of hard to do because they’re really shy and run away from everything.

Then we ran into a herd of buffalo and watched two male buffalo battle it out.

After that, we stopped for coffee. By the way, I never mentioned that the coffee I had while I stayed at Phinda was the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. Maybe it’s just because I’m in college so I’m mainly exposed to mediocre coffee, but I drank at least two cups every day, and I usually… never do that.

I look hot. 

Here is the pregnant zebra.

It was decided among the adults that we switch to a different area of the reservation. So we moved. And the change scared me, because it meant that we were surrounded by monkeys.

A while after I was scarred for life, we got in the Jeep again.

And we found an elephant.

Then we saw a leopard, but he was sleeping. We later found him eating a dead giraffe – he didn’t kill it; like I said yesterday, leopards will scavenge.

After that, we drove out into the darkness and looked at the stars. Being far away from a city and the light pollution that comes with it meant that I saw more stars than I have ever seen in my life during the nighttime game drives. I learned about some constellations that are only specific to the Southern Hemisphere, but that is for another post.
I really have to work on this blurb book for my dad and make actual progress before he comes home so he won’t be angry with me. I’ll be back tomorrow, but chances are I’ll actually be back later today because I hate the photo book software I’m using. I hope you liked day three as much as I did!

Apostrophe to Man


I have a question for all the men out there who believe acting like a complete scumbag will win the heart of a girl:
What is wrong with you?
Okay, maybe I should explain myself…

I went to a bar with a few of my friends last night. Never before have I felt threatened there – it’s a well-established bar in my hometown, my friends who live here frequent, and I even know people who work there. In all the times I’ve been there, nothing bad has ever happened. I’ve never seen anybody get into a fight. I’ve never seen anybody get kicked out. I’ve never been afraid of the place.
Well now I am, and it’s all because of one person. One man who refused to leave me alone even after I repeatedly told him I didn’t want to talk to him.
I don’t understand why men think behaving this way works. Maybe it’s because under enough pressure, somebody might crack and let this kind of guy get to her. I can understand that. I’m an easy target. I’m shy, I don’t talk much, and I’m insanely awkward. I’m not very strong or assertive, so I have a hard time defending myself in situations like these. I don’t know what would have happened had I been alone. I don’t think I’d ever go to a bar alone, though.
I was sitting there watching a few of my friends play darts when I somebody came up to me. I turned around, and he asked me something stupid and cheesy like, “so, which one of these guys surrounding you is your boyfriend?” I told him that none of them were, because I am a terrible liar. I also underestimated this guy. When he asked me why I didn’t have a boyfriend, I curtly told him I was seeing somebody. Then he said, “well I have a girlfriend, so that’s perfect.” Part of me thought he would turn around and walk away from my table. I was wrong.
I turned my head away from him, trying instead to focus on the game of darts. He asked me why I was too nervous to talk to him, and my friend Katie and I told him I didn’t want to talk to him.  He persisted, and then called Katie “motherly” for trying to protect me from him. He attempted small talk with us, and through this I learned that his name is Jeff and he’s studying psychology. He said he was trying to read us, that we were easy to read, something like that.  It wasn’t the most comforting comment. Then he told us we were mediocre, which must be how men get girls to desire them more. I am not very familiar with this technique. I wonder which fraternity Jeff is – or was, he seemed like he was in his later 20’s – in. Those boys must get all the ladies. I bet they’re date-rape experts. I wondered whether he had looked at my hands, which both sported X’s. Or maybe he didn’t care that I was only 19.
Then he guilt-tripped me into playing a game of darts with him. I decided that since Jeff was into psychology, I would show just how thrilled I was to meet him through my body language. I slumped my shoulders. I gave him no eye contact. I didn’t even try during the game of darts; I just threw the darts quickly and then trotted back behind the line to check my cell phone or whisper something in Katie’s ear.  I felt horrible the whole time. Why did Jeff think playing darts would loosen me up? Or was he just using the game as an excuse to look at me? Was he using the time to plan something? I mouthed “help me” to my guy friends who walked past us, but it didn’t work.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one giving Jeff a message.  Katie told Jeff off during one of my turns. I’m glad she did, because somebody really needed to. I was so excited after he won the game, because it meant I never had to talk to him again.
Oh wait, wrong again. Jeff did not relocate from our table, so we went to another area of the bar. Jeff’s presence made me feel disgusting, and I could feel an anxiety attack coming on. Within a minute, we decided that the only way to avoid Jeff for good would be to leave the bar. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved to leave a bar either.
I almost want to feel sorry for Jeff, but I can’t because he wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how many times he was asked.  I’m really happy nothing happened to me, but I wonder how many times Jeff has pulled this before and will harass girls in the future. I wonder how many times it’s worked. I wonder if his girlfriend knows how much of a scumbag he is, or if this girlfriend is even real. If she is, I hope she leaves him soon.
Jeff made me feel bad for wanting to go out with my friends. I’m honestly afraid to go back to that bar now, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if he’s there. If I run into him again, I want to be around someone who intimidates him.  Jeff made me feel like I did something wrong.He made me not want to go out with my friends. He made me never want to dress up or put makeup on again. It’s stupid, but I wonder if he would have approached me if I had been wearing something different. I almost feel like Jeff wanted to punish me for wanting to feel pretty. Is that stupid?
I  hope that Jeff reads this so he can feel as horrible as he made me feel.



I am a control freak. Every day is a battle between my dictatorial urge to exert complete control over every aspect of my life and my battered, overly stressed psyche. I moderate whatever I can: how much work I do in a certain day, what kinds of food I eat, the amount of food I end up eating, how much money I spend on food, how much time I spend in my room, and when I want to get things done. You should see my day planner – it may be adorable and uplifting on the outside and come with stickers (I know, it looks so harmless here), but on the inside, it’s a sentence for anxiety attacks. I’ve scribbled pages and pages of to-do lists that range from my academic tasks for the week to what I need to buy at the grocery store to certain ways I want to think. They’ve taken multiple forms, too – I’ll draw a calendar next to an obsessive bulleted list to remind myself that my tasks aren’t simply jarred strings of words, but real actions that are chained to deadlines and time. That’s right, I have multiple lists for the same thing. My attempt to become more organized and subsequently think more clearly has only thrown me into an even larger spiral of worrying. My motion to reduce my anxiety has not only backfired, it’s managed to stress me out even more.
Did I mention that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Yeah, that plays a huge part in this.
I’m a worrywart. You probably inferred that from the tone I used earlier in this post. I will worry about anything – I worry about everything, actually: grades, whether I’m marketing myself enough, what I eat, my cholesterol intake, time, my friends, my family, my weight, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, my performance, my car’s MPG, you name it. It can take me a matter of seconds to trap myself in a cycle of anxiety, and once I’m in there, it’s very hard to pull myself out. I have to take pills for it – pills that are supposed to mellow me out, which just make me tired all the time, and bipolar pills, because I can’t stabilize myself when I get anxious.
For some reason, I love worrying about things I have absolutely no control over. This category namely includes quarrels within my family (and since it’s divorced and partially Iranian, that happens very often), what other people think of me, and any negative situation my friends get into.
Of course, it’s only logical that I cope with situations I can’t control by taking it out on myself. Here’s where my nature as a control freak comes in. I tell myself that by achieving perfection, I can fix things that I honestly can’t do a thing about. I’ve tried to cope with my school-based stress and ignore the series of intense fights my dad and sister had a few years ago by cutting off a chunk of my food supply. That worked stupendously. Then I’ll bottle everything up and crack weeks or months later. That method helps me out too. Ignoring my anxiety or covering it up with a control-based issue is my go-to method is coping with a stressful or depressing situation.
The thing about my coping mechanisms is that they don’t work. They make things much worse, actually. There’s also the matter that they’re completely inappropriate methods of stress management. Since when has shutting myself away from the world and hiding in my bed helped me get over something? It hasn’t. It hasn’t helped me at all, but for some reason, I am set on doing it every time something troublesome comes my way.
I cannot do this anymore. I can’t! It’s driving me crazier. Even thinking about my anxiety is stressing me out. I have to change. And it’s not just so I can make it past May 7th in one piece – I don’t want this interfering with the rest of my life. I want to be a journalist. I want to travel and write and get paid for it somehow. How am I supposed to get my stories and interview people if I’m afraid of talking on the phone?  I’m afraid that if I can’t tame my anxiety, I’ll be living with my parents or something and not be able to work efficiently. That isn’t exactly my dream.
I have to tackle this on a short-term scale right now because my finals are creeping up on me and I’ve got two projects due within the next week. They’re both for my journalism classes, so that means I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t know and sit at a computer for a long time. I can’t have any distractions, especially not anxiety.
I’ve started by eliminating my sources of stress. It’s proven to be pretty easy so far. With school, it’s getting things out of the way and setting up meetings and interviews for my projects. I don’t have to worry about my Paradise Lost test anymore, so that relieves me a lot, especially because I think I did really well on it. So that’s one issue out of the way. I’ve got some leeway on my projects, and I’m in the process of finalizing setting all my interviews and appointments up. I’ve got one tomorrow, one on Friday… I have to set my other two interviews up, but that shouldn’t be a huge deal, especially because I figured out how to record phone conversations (that one was a bit of a lifesaver.)
Then there’s studying for finals, which I’m actually not too concerned about. But I’ve got all my notes typed up, so I don’t even have to let any senses of impending doom concerning not having studied for my news writing final at all bother me. That’s good.
I’ll get my projects done. I’m typing that again to encourage myself. It’s working, just so you know.
I have to say that the easiest adjustment I’ve made was shutting off all my worries about food. I mean, yeah, food is important. But for these next few weeks, I’m going to try not to worry about what I eat as much. I mean, I’m not scarfing cheeseburgers down for every single meal. And at this point, I really believe that a slice of bacon is healthier than all the stress I’ve endured over the years from fixating on food so much. So for now, all worries concerning food will be shut off, and I’ve made a good start. I drank one of the best iced lattes I’ve ever had today, and I spontaneously took 15 minutes aside yesterday to sit down and have a few scoops of blood orange gelato.
It was definitely worth it.