Motivation

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

It’s funny how fast time flies when you aren’t mindful of what’s going on around you. A couple weeks ago I was busy studying for exams and that week flew by. As expected I didn’t have time to reflect. But then last week I filed away all the books and chilled and that week flew by just as fast, leaving little reflection time. Now, I’m just trying to reachieve balance (one of the hardest and most important things in life… just ask Prince Zuko.) Anyway, I see now that 1. time management is still a tricky game and 2. it’s so important to take advantage of the time you do have – to seize the day! strike while the iron is hot! and other cliches leading into tonight’s reflection!

Flashback. In the summer when the Olympics were on, I was watching with a couple of friends and we started talking about how Olympians got to be where they are. We joked about how if we were at their level we would just use our talents to impress girls, but then I thought more about it. Let’s say that really was my motivation, the minute it came to fruition (i.e. girls were impressed) I wouldn’t have any more drive to go on. Naturally we decided we’d be pretty bad Olympians, but there had to be more to people like Usain Bolt here. I often find myself looking at the amazing things celebrities/public figures/athletes accomplish in their lives and I wonder what motivates them. Are they really different from normal people or are they just more driven? More importantly, does that mean that anyone who aspires for greatness can get there?

Around the time I was studying for exams, a friend shared this motivational video with me featuring someone we all know and love – the Governator! I was hooked right when he said, “best body builder of all times” within the first 7 seconds, but beyond just the hilarity of his accent, what he is saying is actually inspiring. Here’s a guy none of us would have ever heard of if he didn’t bust his butt every day, but now Schwarzenegger is a household name (it’s even accepted by spell-check.)

Side note: remember two posts ago when I talked about how disgusting fat looked in the body? Well seeing fat in a dissected cadaver was probably the most powerful motivation for me to actually start working out. I’ve never been able to consistently go to the gym because as long as I didn’t look fat then I was happy, but now I want as little to do with fat as possible. Here’s a toned down picture just so you guys know what I’m talking about (and now imagine sheets and sheets of that – it’s nasty…)

I remember watching Bolt break his own 100M record and then in the interview afterwards it was clear his motivation was to be heralded as the greatest of all time. I’m not saying we should all shoot to be Olympians or gigantic body-builders/governors, but what I admire most about these people is that they have such a strong sense of purpose. I once heard of a Time study cited by a speaker (starting around the 1:46:00 mark if you wanna check it out) that asked people to stop their jobs, social media, phone, etc. for 12 hours to just think about their sense or purpose. Of those people, 80% broke down. 80%!! Now I haven’t been able to find that study (through a half-hearted Google search,) but still the results are insane!

The point I’m trying to get at (without becoming too existential) is that somewhere down the line we all have to ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. Not just with the big stuff either, but the more we understand all the actions we undertake, the better. I’m extremely grateful (Alhamdulillah) that I’m coming to accept my religion and spirituality as my daily motivation. Obviously I’m biased in thinking that attaching your inspiration to The Eternal is the best way to go, but for different people there are different paths – all valid in their own right. The important thing, though, is that there is something there to serve as that motivation.

It truly pains me to see purposeless action (and even with my own developing sense of identity, I still struggle with it.) No other creation on Earth can even conceptualize purpose, so clearly we humans have that capacity for a reason. So please, the next time you decide to go to the gym, decide to run for president, or anything in between, take a second to think of why you’re doing it.

And finally, a last piece of personal advice – make sure that answer makes you happy.

Happy [motivational] Reflecting,

Naj

Examssss

Examssss

It’s that most dreadful time of the semester, midterm week 😦 As much as I wanted to get something out, my time management skills are not nearly good enough… I’ll be back [God willing] after the 24th, so see you all then!

Education is a Gem

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

After a long hiatus, I am finally able to sit down and write something. My reflections have been severely limited, partly because I’m rarely awake after 2 and mostly because of the behemoth that is the first year of med school. I remember during orientation when asked what my biggest fear for med school was, I said that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate what I was learning. Alhamdulillah (all thanks and praise are due to God) for the most part I’m enjoying what’s being taught, but it’s true I don’t have the luxury of reflecting on the amazing things I’ve learned. It’s more just like uttering a “that’s so cool” from time to time.

I now see that expecting to write 1 post a week was ambitious, so I may need to switch up my style into some sort of bulk reflecting where I write multiple posts at a time. I’d rather not do that, and maybe I can carve out some consistent 2 AM reflection time. I really am grateful at the encouragement and understanding of my constant readers during this lapse (you know who you are ;)), and I can’t tell you how much it sucked to see people were viewing the website when I had nothing new to offer. I’ve said that I’m doing this blog for my own benefit, but hey it’s nice to know people actually care.

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Enough mushy stuff, now on to the meat! Or in med school terms – enough adipose tissue, on to the muscle! (Speaking of adipose [fat] tissue – it’s the grossest thing ever, but more on that later…) I have been thinking lately of just how blessed I am to have received a good education (not just med school,) but even in a holistic sense. Since reading Malcolm X (definitely recommend this to everyone) I have begun to realize how liberating education can be. It is a true path to freedom – freedom of thought by understanding and freedom of action by purpose. Specifically I’ve just happened upon the power of reading, and I’m starting to see what Malcolm X meant when he said, “My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

You know, I always have loved the smell of Barnes and Noble. I see now that it must have been my inner self trying to tell me how much I would come to love books. Unfortunately I only really have time now to read during my office hours a.k.a. in the bathroom (I highly suggest getting a good book for the john.) I remember at the height of my ignorance – when I graduated from high school – I used to take pride in that I never spent time reading and educating myself. I suppose we are all somewhat like that during high school – we think we know all that there is to know, but after college we realize there’s too much to know and we know very little.

After finishing high school my family threw me a graduation party, which then seemed so trivial, but now I realize is an accomplishment. Near the end of the party when almost everyone had left, a friend of my father (who I rarely spoke to) came up to talk to me. I’ll never forget that moment when he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, education is a gem. When I had nothing but the clothes on my back, nobody could ever take it away from me.” When he came to America, he had nothing to his name save a PhD, but had since done well for himself. Back then, I was a little weirded out and kept thinking about why he went out of his way to tell me that. It isn’t until now that I’ve started to appreciate what he was trying to teach me. Education is a gem. No one can take it away from you. A few years later, he passed away (may God grant him the highest levels of paradise.) We never spoke of that exchange and I often wondered if he thought of that day like I did. I wish I could tell him that I’m finally starting to get it or what those words mean to me now. Instead, as a tribute to him I want to pay them forward to you. So take it from me, him, Malcolm X, and all the other truly successful people in this world and really try to internalize those 4 words… Education is a gem.

Happy [educated] Reflecting,

Naj

Mind Blown

Bismillah (in the name of Allah…)

I haven’t been too active recently with orientation for med school starting this week and with the end of Ramadan, but I thought I would try and put something to hold anyone over who is checking the blog for new updates (thank you for the support!) God-willing I want to get the next post out soon, but in the meantime, I’d like to share my all-time favorite Youtube video:

Click the pic, and if you have seen it before then watch it again! This video never gets old for me and SubhanAllah (Glory be to God) I can’t call it anything short of a masterpiece. Not just the quality and production of the movie, but the subject matter, the nature, is beyond words. If pictures say 1000 words, this video probably says close to a million, but that’s just scratching the surface.

And if that video isn’t enough, I found this one that is worth the watch as well (I know 5 min of Youtube seems like an eternity, but trust me.. Also me talking about it won’t make sense if you don’t watch!) The clips of the Northern Lights, and the lights around the world are astounding to me. (Fun fact – Najeff means light around the world, or at least I was told so…) I could write on this for days, but I’d rather you just stop and take a few minutes to just think. Of all those lights, we individually are but a fraction. Even in the apartment building I’m in right now, I am only a fraction of a percent of the total population. I don’t know about you, but that BLOWS my mind. You could spend your whole life travelling the world, and still not meet a percent of its population…

Many people and I’m sure many of you have been blown away by thinking about sheer volume like this, but what’s even more inspiring in my opinion is that we can all have purpose. Religiously (and this is something I hope to talk about soon God-willing when writing about Hajj) all people have access to a greater power at any time. Knowing that you can be one of millions, if not billions that establish that personal connection to something bigger than you and Eternal (As-Samad in Arabic) is awe-inspiring. I’d argue it’s one of our best abilities. Still, not all purpose has to be religious, though, and I’m a fan of anything that tries to make this world better, but no matter what the drive seeing something like these videos is truly humbling.

Happy [mind-blowing] Reflecting,

Naj

Never Alone

Bismillah (in the name of Allah…)

In the last post I said I’d fix up the post in which I struggled to be genuine, but my heart is still not in it so I’m going to keep it a draft until I am inspired to finish it. Instead, I will write about something which has kick-started my 2 AM train of thought:

Could it be? That’s right, folks, this yellow man has not yet gone down to the city of Atlantis and I’ve decided to honor his memory here. I expect many of you are reminiscing about the good ol’ days of AIM (some 5-10 years ago,) but I need you to snap out of it because I’m not here just to talk about AIM or G-chat, but rather what they stand for. Quick fun fact though – earlier this year AOL flirted with shutting AIM down, but instead decided on just firing some people.

Anyway, how did this come up? The other night I was alone at my apartment in DC, which is currently without internet and with very shoddy 4G coverage. I was wide awake, just hitting my 2 AM second wind when I started feeling like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone when he wakes up really sad the second day because his family still isn’t home. As I struggled to get my now 3G operating phone onto google talk to make sure other insomniacs were still stirring, I thought about how with the internet/a smartphone/Facebook updates, you’re never really alone.

Yeah, globalization is making everything and everyone more connected, but it isn’t until now that I’ve thought about how I unconsciously use social networking to stave off loneliness. Even if I’m not talking to anyone, just having the green symbol that lets me know other people are awake is comforting enough. I’ve never been on Facebook when no one else has been on (the fewest I’ve seen is maybe 4,) but I think being the only person online would be rock bottom. I guess Myspace users know what that’s like (zing!) It really makes me wonder what people used to do back in the old days. Alhamdulillah (all thanks and praise are due to God) I have always lived with people and I don’t know what it’s like solo for an extended period, but I imagine I’d be even more tightly glued to any form of social media.

Looking back now, I have always had some form of chat window that served as my connection to other sentient life still stirring after the sun went down. In middle/high school it was AIM (much like a first relationship – I learned the game from it and though I’ve moved on, it will still always have a special place in my heart) and before that I slept early and didn’t prefer digital conversations to hanging with my family. For the spiritual crowd, we can also say that we are never really alone as some of the names/attributes of God in Islam are: Al-Wasi’ (The Vast, Omnipresent,) As-Sami’ (The All-Hearing,) Al-Baseer (The All-Seeing,) you get the point… But even still, sometimes you need the human element and now I know that thanks to Al Gore (sike, there’s no way he “invented” the internet) a bunch of pixels and a keyboard suffices.

Happy [digital] Reflecting,

Naj

Being Genuine

Bismillah (in the name of Allah…)

I haven’t posted anything in a couple of days and seeing as my days aren’t that busy (my average summer wake-up time is like 1:30 PM, and that’s being generous) I feel as though there must be something else behind my lack of production. Truth be told, I have been trying to get something out, but after reading what I wrote, I absolutely hated it. I tried editing and re-editing, but there was a fundamental flaw. In English class I was taught to edit in the order of content, style, then grammar (because fixing grammar will never make up for sub-par content,) but trying to change the content and style didn’t help fix the post. So I sat and thought about why what I wrote sucked, and then I realized that though I was saying what I wanted in the way that I wanted (with reasonable grammar), I wasn’t doing so for the right reason. I had lost my sense of purpose, so in a way I had to edit my intention (Muslims you know you love that word.)

God-willing that post will come after this one when I’m satisfied with it, but I thought I’d share some insight on what writing that post made me think about (some crude form of self-metablogging.) Or for you pop-culture fans, a bit of blogception. In the about section (gotta love shameless promoting), I talk a bit about how writers have to have a feel of context, audience, and purpose, but only 3 blog posts in and I feel like I am failing on knowing my purpose. And I think that you, my dear readers, are the cause of my folly (just kidding, but no really though…bear with me here.)

After writing the first two posts, I got a lot of positive feedback Alhamdullilah (all thanks and praise be to God) and I was feeling really good about myself. I expected like 50 views max, but since wordpress.com (shameless promoting again, what up!) does a really good job of tracking views per day per country (it’s insane, I really do recommend wordpress,) I could see that within 1 day I had over 300 views! I was pumped until I realized that someone who clicked on the home page, then about, then home page counts as 3 views. Nonetheless, I still felt proud of myself and I got a little self-conscious, or really self-conscious about the blog.

So that brings us back to me hating my writing. With a little taste of solid readership (you lovely people) I was trying really hard to impress who I thought would be reading, instead of staying true to what I wanted to say. So that is why I am writing this post. As a reminder to you, Naj (that’s the endearing way I address myself in emails, but more on that later,) to be genuine. Especially because when you aren’t genuine, it really shows in your writing.

Happy [genuine] Reflecting,

Naj

Why the Nighttime?

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

How I Met your Mother fans might recall a season 1 episode in which Ted Mosby (the protagonist) tells his kids what his mom used to tell him, that “nothing good happens after 2 AM.” Though I’ve oft been compared to Ted by my college roommates (henceforth known by their proper name – the stupid trust) and I even played him in a UMD Pakistani Students Association video, I’m going to have to disagree with you Ted, ol’ boy. Sure people generally do stupider things late at night, but if my last 2 semesters of all-nighters have taught me anything – it’s that the nighttime is the right time.

There’s just something special about the very early morning. As my fellow procrastinators know, it’s capable of everything from the most dire sense of urgency to the highest clarity of thought, but there is also an unparalleled peace to post-2 AM. Maybe it’s knowing that everyone else is asleep, or maybe it’s something else… It is narrated in a hadith qudsi (sacred hadith – a narration of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] that is said to be the direct word of God):

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night to the earth’s sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: ‘Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him?'”

So late night can be the holiest of times as well, but that’s not all. There’s a famous saying – I live for the nights I can’t remember with the people I’ll never forget (I’m pretty sure Drake isn’t the original author.) I’m also fairly certain this has to do with being inebriated beyond consciousness, but I think I agree. Relax, people. I’m not promoting blacking yourself out, (side note – if any of you fellow non-drinkers wonder what being drunk is like – this study found that “24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%.”) but I still think there is something profound about that often-overused Facebook photo album title.

I’m sure we can all recall a time where we’ve had a very deep conversation after dark (take a second, think back to your moonlit walks, campfires, late night g-chats…) Those conversations aren’t possible in the day – everyone stops censoring themselves as much as the day wears on so the night becomes more real, more natural. In the end, we might not always remember what we said or what we did on those special nights (even if alcohol wasn’t a factor,) but the night allowed us to share those legen- wait for it- dary moments with the unforgettable people in our lives.

Happy [nighttime] Reflecting

Naj