Musings: List the ways that you think someone you love would describe you

Wow, this is such a sweet prompt. I think they would describe as a hustler because I am relentless in pursuit of my dreams. I want to be a jack-of-all trades when it comes to UX design, storytelling, advising, and higher education, and I want it all to be set to really good music, preferably Drake circa 2009 and maybe even some Fall Out Boy if I’m willing to acknowledge my emo side. I think I would be described as someone who comes of as tough even though I’m really a softie who wants to spend the rest of my life building others up through affirming words (and sometimes articles). I love to share and talk and ask questions, but only because I believe in giving a little piece of myself to every person I meet. I like to share stories of my past, but mostly to create connections or get other people to laugh – and if someone ever calls me funny, I’ll grin from ear to ear because nothing means more. The right people will say that I’m honest and authentic and demand respect from people in my life because it’s my promise to everyone else. So, here’s to recognizing my own worth and surround myself with people who care about me and my time.

I can be selfish too – sometimes, I put my schoolwork or jobs above everyone else, but if you ever call me in need of a pep talk. Sometimes, I forget to go easy on myself because I feel like I need to hustle harder every single day just to be seen. But still, I will be drop everything in a heartbeat when someone I love needs me. I hope the people I love would say I would have a kind heart and a good head above my shoulders, and I make their lives a little bit happier, sweeter, or more positive.

I love this question – it’s a reminder that I am valuable to my friends and people I interact with – it’s really important to engage in a little bit of self-love, I think, so cheers to that. We’re wrapping up week 2 of this academic quarter (if we’re using zero-based indexing – can you tell that I’m taking a coding class?) and I feel fine. I’m lucky to be creating community through my major and spending 14 hours a week reading people’s essays and helping them tell their story a little bit more vividly.

Reminders of the week: Love doesn’t stop or leave when people leave us, and that’s the beauty of it all. This is a reminder to me that waiting doesn’t have to be sad or lonely – we’re all waiting for the right moment and series of opportunities and people, and all of these things occur in due time and at times that make sense. It’s amazing and wonderful and awesome to be surrounded by people who tell me this. It’s good to know that I really am doing my best – taking 19 credits, diving into research, working 3 jobs, jumping into UCD and group projects and 1:1s with people in tech because I want to make the most of my career and life. One day, I’ll find a life partner who’s willing to go through it all with me – but for now, I’m thankful for love that occurs in every other form: my friends, tutees, group members, and co-workers. As long as we’re doing our best, what else could we ask of ourselves?

There’s so much love to talk about, and I get to have it all with green tea and soft blankets and oversized turtlenecks.

Song of the moment: Therapy by Khalid (always good) and goosebumps by Travis Scott

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a love letter that I’ll never send

It’s 2:03 a.m. in Chicago and I’m still thinking of you. I wonder if you’d want to know that I still think of you – is it easier to just move on completely?

I want to tell you how much I love you. You have taught me so much – that I am worthy of love,  the right people will rise to high standards, and I should have patience with myself. I kept waiting for you to leave when things get hard, but you never did. You never let my self-sabotage and struggle with maintaining significant relationships stop you – not sure how you manage to do that, but it’s one of my favorite things about you: you have so much forgiveness for people who are doing their best.

You have taught me how to love deeply, value my story, and talk about what matters most. Doing nothing and everything with you has created some of the fondest memories of this whole year, and sometimes I find an old picture and am transported back to the euphoria of our relationship. how did do that, make me feel like I mattered so much the way that no one else ever did. You are truly beautiful in ways that I have already told you, and ways you don’t even know.

I don’t know what to do now because no love ever feels as good as yours – I’m not sure if anything ever will. I wonder if you know that I will compare every relationship in the future to ours because what we had was so strong and empowering and wonderful. Now, I expect that kind of love for others, and I never did before.

I was telling my friend about how easy it was for you to leave me behind, and she said, “maybe you’re assuming that it wasn’t hard for her.” But it was so hard, why did you leave anyway? Did you not know how much you mattered to me? Did I not spend enough time telling you because I swear to God, I will tell you every day for the rest of my life if it means that we get to try again. I’m afraid that love will never be the same because it’s never as good as yours.

Regardless of what happens, I want to say thank you. You’d be happy to hear that I really am trying to love myself better. I’m trying to own my identity as a writer and celebrate my accomplishments with others. I’m trying to take more risks and let people know that they matter. I wish I could do that with you. I wish I could spend the rest of my life cherishing you & loving you the way that you loved me. I have a feeling that’s not a choice I get to make.

Once, you told me that I am so easy to love – but don’t forget that the same goes for you – I hope you remember that you are worthy of the love you give to others.

Love always,

Aleenah

Musings: How do you move on?

Take a deep breath and survey your surroundings – you’re going to lose a few things in the process, and that’s OK. You have to trust the process, and yourself, and this one

Ready? you ask yourself silently. Nod and proceed.

Start by scrubbing them from every corner of your life. Lift up the tablecloths, grab the dustpan (maybe even the Swiffer), and remove the traces of whatever isn’t yours anymore. Ask a friend to come (they’ll be good for the company) and tell authentic stories of trial and tribulations. Put on some music, preferably something that feels like home. Sing along softly and try not to think too far back- don’t fall into moments that aren’t real anymore. Don’t glorify or magnify people and make them into something they’re not. If the hurt comes, pause and acknowledge it. Be grateful for what was yours, and with the next breath, let it go. Cry if you need to, delete the photos that don’t add to your life, and leave your place to go somewhere new, something free of memories except the ones you’ll make today.

Now, keep moving. Strike up conversation, write in a new journal, and practice the art of smiling until it feels real again. Go to that coffee shop you’ve been dying to try. Get a double scoop of Molly Moon’s ice cream with the chocolate shell sauce you love, even though it’s a dollar extra. Step cautiously back into old places and remember you can reclaim them as yours.  Love deeply and be thankful for whoever stays because those are the people who matter most.

This is how I feel today. I find myself staring at the window and turning the phrase “I love you” to past tense and wondering why the universe ever let me lose something so precious. I think about the combination of moments that led to our downfall and try to put them back together in a way where you stick around.

But that’s not my reality. Still, what was I supposed to do? I had to be honest when it all fell apart – what else could I ask of myself? Today is tough, but I am tougher. I am grateful and resilient and heartbroken all at once, but I know that this is a part of the process.

One day, this hurt will be a thing of the past. Even as I say that, I wonder if this is a cycle: I fear that I will keep losing people who matter, keep fucking it up, keep forgetting to tell people how much they mean to me because I don’t want to be wrong about us. But some things are a risk worth taking, and I can’t get mad at myself for feeling this so deeply. It’s the truth, after all, and I am nothing if not honest with myself

Today, I’m hurting (does this sound familiar?). I’m resisting the urge to power up my old phone and resurface all the photos and texts that I had scrubbed from every inch of my life. I’m trying not to close my eyes in the hopes that I can make it all feel real, even if it’s for a moment.

but I know that’s not healthy or fair to me. I need to take care of myself and recognize that this is a thing of the past, but I don’t have to forget what you taught me:

Love feels beautiful and unconditional, but not as beautiful as you in the flesh and blood, the one who’s showing me how powerful it can be. Love feels like companionship that makes me feel safe and secure, whether I’m running down the steps to a new place with you or precariously perching on murals that block a construction site. Love feels like the kind of fire that keeps you warm and cozy all day, something that I want around forever.

But love doesn’t leave so easily or too early because it doesn’t want to – love wants to stay with me because that alone is enough. Love feels like vulnerability that stays the night and drips into the next morning because there’s no better way to be woken up than by you.

You will always feel like love to me.

But luckily,

Love didn’t stop with you:

Love is in everyone around me, the ones who stuck around when it hard and when I needed their kind words and shoulders and homes because it was all too much for me.

Real love,

the kind of love I need,

persists.

Today hurts, but I won’t forget that times when you and others loved me oh so well. I hope I can do the same for others – maybe I’ll make you proud in the process ❤

Musings: Back to school / Things I want to get rid of

9/26/17: I’m back at that daily reflection grind, and I’m hoping to keep it that way! This morning, I met with a content strategist at Facebook and talked to her about the value of working at a socially minded company that cares about the mental health of its employees and users. I sometimes wonder if I took this aspect of Microsoft for granted, but hopefully that’s not the case! I want to work at a place that’s high-impact and values people as people – after all, I’m in Human Centered Design and Engineering so it’s basically in our job description

I told her about how I wrote articles about being a person of color at Microsoft and all of the stories leading to my internship offer – the impostor syndrome, switch from major to major, and moments when I wondered if my identity alone was enough to take me out of the race. She opened up to me about her desire to write about her friend who was murdered by their partner – heavy, right? I focused on responding with empathy and validating her resilience in telling stories that aren’t shared in the workplace, let alone tech companies. I hope that I will get to work there or an analogous company that values my work – and even if a recruiter isn’t looking for me, I’ll make myself known.

(a few hours later)

today feels a little bit hard and maybe even a tad frustrating, but I don’t want a little bump to cause a slump in my attitude. Tomorrow is the first full day that I’ll spend in my major, Human Centered Design and Engineering. I’ll meet new peers and work with people on their papers and wonder how I’ll get everything done, somehow, someway. I was made to be something / make things do things / be proud of myself.

List 49: What are the things you want to get rid of?

I want to get rid of clothes that I don’t wear, self-deprecating thoughts, people who don’t value me, self-doubt about my abilities, classes that are more stressful than they are fun, songs that don’t make me want to dance, drinks that aren’t delicious, pens that aren’t in fun colors, people who don’t see my worth, sweaters that aren’t soft, places that don’t feel like home, people who don’t want to see my grow, coffee that’s not strong, candy that’s not sweet, planners that aren’t full of things that make me smile, companies that don’t see my worth, etc.

List 51: List the ways that you’ve invested in your happiness this year

  • Took the chance and applied to my dream major, Human Centered Design and Engineering
  • Applied for jobs that aligned with my interests in higher education & desire to learn more about design
  • Lived with people who actually care about me and my mental health
  • Stopped caring so much about what other people thought about me
  • Booked a trip to see my favorite person in Chicago
  • Embraced my identity as a writer
  • Said yes more than I said no
  • Let myself feel deep and profound love, even if it’s not manifesting in the same way anymore
  • Met with people who inspired me, and convinced them to believe in me
  • Bought cute things like a hello lovely pillow and cute polaroid prints and a mellow wine blush that makes me feel more confident than ever
  • Wrote in a journal all the time and shared those thoughts with people who mattered a lot.
  • Bought cute jean jackets and tops that give me some cleavage and chokers that bring the attention up my face i.e. right where it belongs
  • Told my friends that I loved them and dedicated time to seeing them
  • Made running part of my everyday practice of self-care
  • Made Spotify playlists that accurately reflected how I felt about the day

List the ways that you feel lucky:

I feel lucky that I get to look at namebrand companies and see myself working there. I am lucky that my identity as a person of color has made me more reflective and aware and grateful for the mentors who care for me as a person. I’m lucky that some people really care, really ask, really want to know what’s up with me. I’m lucky that I get to be in college studying what I really love, and that my jobs are underpinned by the premise of helping people tell their story. I’m lucky to have so many pictures but even more moments when I was really happy and proud and empowered and loved, and I hope that never changes.

9/27/17 – It’s the first day of school and I am more exhausted than anything, but I’m here and I will be a college graduate and it’s gonna be OK. I’m glad that my co-workers are vulnerable, give me pizza, tell me about culture in their home countries, and tell me that my social media is fun and positive

9/28/17: This is a little bit of post-reflection reflection, but it’s the first Friday of the quarter and it seems appropriate. The other day, a new tutor at Ode shadowed me and said that I was their tutoring goals, which made me feel warm and fuzzy because I’m en route to becoming everything I want to be, and I think it’s working. My HCDE classes definitely had me extremely intimidated about the future, but we will make it happen.

Also, I met with an old friend and we talked very maturely about how 1) people are really important in the workplace, 2) you need to engage in positive self-talk, and 3) relationships that weigh you down aren’t worth pursuing. It’s nice to know that I can be real with some people when it comes to love and loss and success and industry goals. And then I ended the day at home with mac and cheese, oranges, and chocolate chip & pumpkin spice cookies with my cute roommates. How nice! I’m very full and I have a Starbucks tumbler of water as I listen to Often by the Weeknd (is it freshman year?!) and I’m a little bit confused by love but it’s all gonna be okay. I’m here to make beautiful things and have hope and see a future where I’m truly happy ❤

(First week of school) Musings: Finding home, computer science, and a sunshine-y senior year

Let me paint you a little picture of the current moment: I’m sitting on the 5th floor of the CSE building on some ripped leather couches that’s facing a whiteboard with a problem about stacks and arrays (also a penguin clown), my hair reminds me of unicorn, I’m using Mindy’s Kaling’s book as a paperweight to smooth out my CLUE tutor form, and I’m wondering who I’m supposed to be and what to do about all of this. I just spoke with a professor in the iSchool who’s really passionate about computing and higher education, and I’m trying to turn this conversation into something productive.

The stakes are high, you know? There are little brown and black and every other color kiddos who are taking CSE and want to feel supported, and I just want to help with the process. God dang, I just want people to feel loved and supported in every way possible because what else is there to live for. I almost got knocked out of this game – i.e. pursuing what I really loved, which is writing/UX design/work in higher education and health care –but my grades in the introductory computer science courses nearly took me out of the race. And now that I’m on the other side with admission to my dream major and a Microsoft internship under my belt, I’m so glad that all of those moments of doubt didn’t stop me. I am here because of the amazing support from my friends, the ones who actually taught me computer science in a way that was supportive and not patronizing,

I don’t want to get disillusioned and frustrated because I have the rest of my life to figure out how to fight this battle and change the culture around computer science related disciplines. I don’t want to be complacent, but fighting all the time is equally tiring. But I just need something to work, some kind of conversation I can start where people feel like they can support me. I need something that will this department turn around and listen to me.

9/23/17 – Hello, I’m really exhausted but I had my CLUE Writing Center training where I saw a lot of my old friends and made some new ones, compiled bullet points for our mission statement, and ate a lot of pizza before jetting off to Century Link Field to see Coldplay with 60,000 other Seattle-ites. It was absolutely spectacular and easily the best concert I’ve ever been to. I had no idea that this band had rolled out so many hits, but this was confirmed when I was dancing and bopping with a brightly colored wristband and a few Seattle buildings in the back – and my parents were dancing too. Nice, this is a beautiful and precious life.

9/24/17: What’s an object that represents part of your identity?

It feels dangerous to immortalize moments of love and light from temporary situations, but sometimes the things that give us joy must leave – and we must let them.

9/25/17 – I guess school is back in full fling (and it was Fall Fling aye) – I saw a lot of my favorite people and we walked across campus and discussed past loves and savored every moment of it. I love that all my workplaces & coworkers validate my work, and that people at potential future employers like Amazon see my potential. This became evident when I woke up with a referral to the UX Design Intern program – hey, I just might end up at one of the world’s most innovative companies and damn I hope that’s the case. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, I’m slated to meet with a Facebooker at 9 a.m. so I intend to make some strong connections and end up somewhere that recognizes my value as a journalist and educator turned designer and UX writer.

I also met with my friend and we unpacked the loss of the summer – during the conversation, she listened to the entire story on a day-by-day play by play, and we troubleshooted everything that happened. She emphasized that some people weren’t ready for the love I had for them, and there’s nothing I can do about it (not in a sad way, but in an honest way). Moreover, she emphasized that she was here to support me in whatever way I needed, which made me feel warm and fuzzy and happy. We also talked about her trip to Peru and what it means to bear the burden of being a person of color while confronting white privilege.  I was greeted by even more love and support when I messaged Julia about getting a referral and she said, “I’m glad we’re roommates this year so I can see up front all the cool stuff you’re doing and support you” – how sweet! I think this living situation is one that could feel like home.

Wow, how lucky am I to have love and support from all sides – it’s exactly what I need at the beginning of this bright and sunshine-y senior year (kinda) ahead, and I might just be ready for it all. I wish I had something more profound to say, but today was one defined by moments: swaying to Noname during Fall Fling, eating fries and ice cream, walking across campus telling outlandish but authentic tales, and running into my freshman year bio group on the way to Chipotle, thus completing our fab four of freshman year and the Bio series (we definitely scared a girl in the process). I love that all of these things come together in a really perfect and authentic way, and I get to celebrate these relationships by coming home to our little box, the one where I can sit at the dining room table with my HCDE bottle beside me because it feels like home.

Seattle & Bellingham | Migas, design, and taking off our masks

9/14/17 to 9/17/17 – Today, I made my way downtown (thanks to the 70 for being very accessible and arriving on time) with my Microsoft backpack and lanyard on, and I’m pretty sure that my purple hair and lacy black dress and brown skin only begins to scratch the surface about why I stood out in tech la la land. I ate migas for breakfast at Portage Bay Café (which is always delicious and hopefully nutritious!) and learned from a really dope UX designer who is insanely curious and holds himself to really high standards all the time, and his background in industrial engineering informs his understanding of how physical objects feel and work – pretty cool, right? He is interested in creating human experiences and streamlining the process for customers, which is in line with my goals in Human Centered Design & Engineering. Moreover, he’s always trying to learn more about the field and will read books and articles and everything in between about information architecture and interaction design, a sign that he is deeply engaged with his field.

We also talked about what it means to be a person of color at a company that doesn’t have a lot of representation in leadership. I asked him about what motivates him to keep going, especially because he is the first of his cousins to get a Master’s degree and his dad doesn’t really understand what he does. He told me that our conversation was the deepest one that he had ever had on the campus thus far – and it wasn’t even with someone who worked there. Our conversation reminded me that sharing stories is an important part of creating a community. I hope that he recognizes the power of his strength and resilience, and that people want to hear his story. After all, stories are some of the most authentic things we can offer to others, and someone who is as thoughtful and curious and resilient as him is the kind of leader I want.

 

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rainbows & reflections

I also stopped by a furniture store downtown that was very bougie and almost made me wish that I was pursuing a career that would help me afford a place like that – it was 3 levels of pure luxury, complete with wall-to-wall mirrors that only made things appear more regal. We went through every single room and imagined the guests who would use each part of the house, but we also reserved a few rooms for reading and special guests like Bruno Mars and J. Lo. We also tried out a delicious Vietnamese grill called Sizzle & Crunch that’s only give minutes from where I live, and it was amazing! I highly recommend splurging on your bowl or salad to get the fried egg – it makes everything a little bit more flavorful.

 

Also, a deep dive with my friend reminded me that being vulnerable isn’t easy for everyone, and, sometimes, people are still learning to take off their masks and be authentic every day. I don’t really struggle with this anymore – I know exactly who I am and what matters most to me, but it’s come through a lot of thoughtful reflection. I finally understand that I’m a resilient storyteller, educator, and writer who is learning how to break into UX design but is incredibly drawn to higher education and journalism – I just don’t know if I’ll let myself choose these disciplines.I also realized that I really need people who can support me emotionally, and who don’t make me wonder if they’ll stick around.

I need actions that speak louder than words, love that is unconditional, and people who elevate me to engage more deeply in my field and remember that everything is an opportunity for growth. But I also need people who like to have fun that’s set to good music and includes a lot of pictures because that’s also an equally important part of making a life that I love.

 

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Maybe all of the Chemistry and Biology was worth it because it brought us together!

This weekend, I got to hang out with one of my oldest college friends in Bellingham, and it was absolutely lovely! In between Spotify playlists and long drives, I found that I really, really missed just laughing and joking with my old friends, and I’m glad we got to do that before school starts. It’s cool that my friends can support me in the really tough things and conversations about how to find and maintain a meaningful relationship (and know it’s the right person), but can also tag along for quesadilla runs, even if we lose a few people along the way. We also had a really delicious breakfast of poached eggs, toast, and potatoes at Mount Bakery Cafe (and we definitely needed the bottomless drip coffee), so I highly recommend it!

 

My best friend talked about how much I love Washington and how I’ve stayed here for the last 20 years because everything I needed has been along the I-5, but it’s equally important to go to new places and try new things. I’m wondering that this means to me – should I stay in Washington because the tech industry is booming and I won’t ever have to begin again? Or should I leave because the very act of starting over will teach me more about myself and what I really value? I do believe in my ability to make the most of a fresh start, and maybe a break from the rain would be good for me.

I’m not sure what life looks like without Mount Rainier in view, but maybe an internship or something will give me a chance to find out.

I feel like I should have more to say, but I’ve read a lot of UX design-related articles on Medium and my brain is a little bit fried. Also, I’m currently working on 30-day design challenge on my portfolio, so keep checking back as I make progress! I’ve realized that you only learn design by doing design, and I’m trying to be better about this – more doing, less talking.

Songs of the moment: “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato

Recent musings: Tell a story about yourself that draws people in; the decisions we make give us power; don’t be afraid to see somewhere new; and grow deep and tall and wide and beautiful in your favorite place.

Thought question: How do you know someone is worth waiting for? & You were made for _____.

Musings: How do you write about yourself?

How do you write about yourself?

I’ve been getting this question a lot ever since I decided to write about my experience as a Microsoft intern via LinkedIn and Medium. Because I’ve written a lot of news articles for The Daily of the University of Washington, my school newspaper, and The Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, I’m used to celebrating other people’s work and highlighting communities who are typically overlooked. That’s why I wrote an article about the STARS program, a program for incredibly bright pre-engineering students who come from economically disadvantaged and educationally underserved communities. When interviewing students or advisers for this story, it became clear that so many people were motivated to make a better life for their families and communities, and engineering was a way for them to do it. I always knew that everyone deserved to have access to a high quality education, but we need programs like STARS to make this possible for everyone. Up until that article, their story hadn’t featured in The Daily, so I was proud to write a story that celebrated this program and everything that its students achieve.

Contrastingly, reflective writing is an exercise in turning the camera to focus on me and how I’m growing because of the stories that people tell me. That’s what I did in my Medium articles “Working at a tech company as a person of color” and “Creating and fostering a supportive workplace culture,” among others.

I’ve found that reflective writing is a way for me to put my voice back into my work and be really honest. We often tell stories about who we should be or aspire to become, but when I write, I capture the present. My writing is pretty vulnerable because I talk about how my experienced is informed by my identity as a Pakistani Muslim woman, and I’m not afraid to highlight moments of self-doubt or impostor syndrome that occurred along the way. I’m so glad that I choose to share my perspective because I’ve received nothing but love and support from my community, but I know it can be hard to talk about yourself in such a public and personal way.

I have a few Word documents on my computer that are 138 pages (and counting) full of daily reflections, moments of gratitude, and stories that I’m trying to tell better. I usually write about things that I want to capture in vivid detail and remember 10 or 20 years from now, but it’s also a way for me to capture the things I’m learning– for example, looking back at my writing reminds me that I’ve learned to value people in my life more deeply, and that I can’t be the only thing standing in my own way. In other words, to convince others that I deserve to be a Microsoft intern, Human Centered Design and Engineering student, and future UX designer, I have to believe in myself.

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Through this writing, I’ve discovered that I’m a resilient educator and storyteller who is always pulling from my identity as a Pakistani Muslim woman. Knowing this has helped me tell my own story better. I’ve realized that I lead with resilience and I’m not afraid to share little pieces of myself in everyday conversations. So, when students come into the Writing Center and work on their personal statement, I assure them that I understand the stress of the application process and promise that I’ll impart whatever wisdom I have about that program or major – and I think people are more receptive to my help because of it.

I encourage you to share your truth, whatever it is, because people want to hear it – and with self-publishing outlets like Medium, you don’t have to wait for a publisher to pick up your story! It’s a way to re-introduce your voice into your work, and I am a firm believer that you can learn from anyone you meet – but we have to put ourselves out there to make it happen/

So, what story about yourself can inspire others, and how can you share it? I look forward to seeing your stories manifested in whatever way feels the most genuine.

Musings: Move-out, communication, and post-summer goals

IMG_20039/10/17 – Well, looks like I’m finally moved into my new place for senior year, and making this happen has me breathing a huge sigh of relief – no but really, I’ve been dreading this move for the last 11.5 months. Thanks to my wonderful dad, we made the drive up from Federal Way with coffee in hand (I’m all about ½ hazelnut, ½ vanilla lattes with non-fat milk if you were wondering), avoided the I-5 traffic by detouring on the 599, and managed to move everything from my storage unit into my new little Seattle place in a few hours – achievement unlocked! I’m so lucky that my brother and father were so willing to help because it made the process significantly less stressful! My dad managed to keep me calm even when I thought I had reserved the U-Haul for the wrong day and couldn’t fit the bed and dresser in my room at the same time (I may or may not be living in a closet for the rest of my senior year –never sign a lease without touring the place!).

I asked my dad how he managed to maintain such a positive attitude, and he told me that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff because it’s not a helpful use of his energy – instead he tries to take everything one day at a time and maintain a calm demeanor for the sake of others, which was really refreshing! As someone who gets anxious somewhat frequently (it’s been my “a-word” since third grade, no joke), I’m still learning how to set aside unproductive anxiety and just focus on the things that can’t control. For this reason, my brother always has to remind me to have a little fun, and my mentor at Microsoft kept telling me that it’s important to hang out with friends and not stress about work. Still, my dad pointed out that some anxiety can be good because it’s what drives me to set high goals, submit tons of job and intern applications so I’ll have options in a few months, and hold myself to really high standards, but it can be pretty heavy sometimes. Like all things, I’m learning to find balance in my work and life, but seeing him embody kindness and patience was a moment that I’ll remember.

Reminder to future me: Breathe! Things will be alright – and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end. There’s a lot to be excited for with senior year (kinda) just around the corner. I’m excited to revamp my resume (hey, iterating never stops!), take some dope Human Centered Design & Engineering courses with my cohort, and continue to refine my story as an interdisciplinary storyteller with a passion for social impact.

In an effort to stay accountable for my long term goals, here are some things that I want to try to do every day of the month (I listened to a podcast about the value of codifying my goals and trying to check them off every day, so it’s worth a try!)

So without further ado, here are some goals that I want to start working on as summer winds down and fall 2017 peeps its cute lil’ head around the corner. I believe in setting priorities and believing in them, so here’s my effort to do that:

  1. Write every single day whether it’s a sentence of gratitude, blog post, or LinkedIn article. I want to write about things that seem new or confusing or compelling or anything in between – this is the only way to make this my craft, and I know that I always have something to learn
    1. Alternatively, I need to get better at proofreading. Those dang little typos are my vice, and I want to pay more attention to the details of my writing
    2. One LinkedIn article a month seems like a reasonable goal, so let’s plan for that!
  2. Learn more about UX design and engage with the industry. This can start with something as simple as reading one Medium article a day from UX designers or tech employees, but I know that you only learn design by doing design. I hope to add a mini-design project to my portfolio – potential projects include redesigning parts of the Spotify app and revamping the process for matching mentors and mentees at XX+UX – or completing a 30 day design challenge.
    1. Also, I really believe in identifying role models in your field, so quick shout-out to Yuki –  one of my classmates in Human Centered Design & Engineering –  for writing this amazing article about being a Product Design intern at Spotify! His portfolio is stellar and aesthetically pleasing, and I’m definitely taking some of his tips to heart as I apply for UX design/research/content strategy internships this year!
  3. Communicate my needs to other people – this has always been pretty hard lean toward complacency if I can appease others, but I want to be more honest and open about 1) the limits of my time and energy, 2) my expectations of others, and 3) moments when I need to scale back. And hey, the right people will rise to meet these standards.
  4. Seek and maintain meaningful relationships in my life. This will be the last year in Seattle for some of my friends, at least for a while. I want to make time to see them and genuinely ask about their day and life and everything in between. Also, everyone needs a bubble tea break, so there’s a happy medium for all of this.
    1. Side note – I’ve been a little jaded about romantic (a peek into that here), but I’m trying to remember that I need to give my future self my best chance. I’ll try to focus more on seeking meaningful companionship, and I’m hoping that my tutoring job and major cohort and maybe even some open mic nights will give me what I need.
    2. Another one courtesy of Bachelor in Paradise! – Don’t spend time thinking about people who aren’t fighting for you.
  5. Read more – this will probably be hard because I prefer to listen to music all the time (God bless Spotify Premium and friends with good music taste), but I pulled out my old library card (number) and tended Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), which is now my designated bus time reading. I also impulsively bought Lilly Singh’s book, How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life on Amazon because I believe in her message of spreading positivity and hustling harder, but moreso because I love powerful South Asian women who embody everything I want to be J Moreover, my girl Rupi Kaur’s book the sun and her flowers is coming on Oct. 3 and I’m can sense some tattoo ideas around the corner, so I’m guessing this goal will be easy to keep up with (side note, if you’re a true friend, you have to text me on Oct. 4 and ask me how I like her book so far, just saying)!
  6. Spend less time on social media – Instagram and Snapchat are my biggest culprits. I took the first step by deleting Instagram from my phone (you should still follow me though – it’s aleenahansari). Still, Instagram and Snap do offer really fulfilling communities because I can update old friends about my life and share some of my favorite places & spaces, and I don’t want that to go away completely. Still, I’m going to make more of an effort to put down social media when I’m actually spending time with my friends in an effort to be more present. Wish me luck!
  7. Take better care of my things – it’s no exaggeration that I lose my jacket every single academic year, and I’m running out of money and patience to keep funding this escapade. Even more, I want to be better about valuing what I own – this is also influenced by the fact that I have a 7 x 7 bedroom that can’t fit anything extraneous, but it’s also a good reminder to be thankful for what I already have.

Well, that’s all I have for now (and I’m going to proofread this before my list). As for all of you, I hope that love and peace and everything in between will find us well.

A snapshot of this moment:

Songs stuck in my head:Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato (what a queen) & “Pretty Girl Rock” by Keri Hilson

Most delicious thing I ate today: I stole a chunk of Tiramisu cake from the fridge, and it was absolutely worth it.

New/fun things in my life: Jeanine Amopola is the cutest little YouTuber! I’ve been watching a lot of her fashion hauls as well as really old iiSuperwomanii videos – my favorite ones are, “The Rules of Racism (ft. Ryan Higa),” which came out right after I graduated high school, and “If My Family Was @One Direction

Other tidbits/reminder: Learn to differentiate cost from value; when things go wrong, summon the best of yourself; document the moments when you feel most in love with your life

Musings: Love is stronger than

Road trips and hikes and long walks and lots of downtime on the other side of my Microsoft internship, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of “Dear Sugars”, which has a podcast logo of two Band-Aids affixed together in a heart. This is appropriate because the show features two authors responding to listeners’ dilemmas on topics related to love and relationships. I love the hosts’ perspective as writers because they frequently turn to experts and literature for advice or outside perspectives. Moreover, I have 0 experience with serious relationships, so I get to learn from people’s mistakes and stories and keep these things in mind as I forge ahead.

Love and relationships are interesting topics of conversation for me – I love a lot of my friends very deeply, but when you add the “romantic” adjective to the picture, things become complicated quickly. Sometimes, it leaves me jaded about if I’ll ever find people who will stick around – but I need to do my future self a favor and be hopeful for all the people I’ve met to meet. I’m sure that a lot of good things will be around the corner as I settle into my new major and keep hustling for internships at amazing tech companies.

It’s been a year of high turnover with friends and people, but I’ve learned a couple of things through it all:

  • It’s OK to hold people who matter to high standards – the ones who matter will rise to meet them.
  • The best people will not leave so easily (this is hard one).
  • Everything comes in cycles, and I will be renewed again.
  • If you’re not inspired by the people around you, change it up.

So, I’m listening to an episode right now called “The Allure of the Forbidden Crush,” that centers around two letter writers struggling with illicit love interests. The line that stood out to me was when the host starts by outlining a few old crushes that never worked out. He notes, “I didn’t have a crush on them – I had a crush on what I needed.”

Way to hit the nail on the head, right? Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out why my relationship relationships haven’t worked out until this point. I don’t want to do this in a regressive way, but in an effort to understand myself and how I could better support people in my lives. This sentiment really struck me because I think I’ve used crushes as my “fill” because I haven’t always love myself. My past relationship taught me this –the break-up left me shattered and broken because it confirmed the narrative I had been telling myself: I’m not worthy of a supportive relationship.

Luckily, hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve learned how to be better about valuing myself and the fact that I’m worthy of relationships where people care for me deeply. I hope everyone finds a love like this. And, as Dear Sugars reminds me, we don’t forget the lessons we learned the hard way. All I can is try to care for the people around me while recognizing that I have to care for myself too. And even more, someone else’s inability to love me isn’t a reflection of my worth.

I don’t have to beg anyone to like me because I like me – or at least I’m trying to.

Wow, that was a lot of heavy statements in one paragraph, but these are the things swirling through my mind right now. If you’ve made it this far, I just want to thank you for taking the time to read this – knowing that someone out there might be resonating with any part of this warms my heart ❤

Also, I wrote a lil’ poem – and I’m not really a poet nor am I confident in this particular writing muscle, but I thought I’d share it – it’s inspired by a Dear Sugars episode called “When Bad Things Happen” and the terrain of the Canadian Rockies outside my window – 3, 2, 1 here we go:

This is a test

I scale the rocky terrain, sizing up the misfortunes ahead and behind

My path stretches behind, the wrong turns that led to the right people

Or was it the other way around

I feel in my pocket for comfort and control but find neither

Tears well up in the corner

of my eyes, but I look down sharply

squeeze my eyes tightly

this is a test,

a trial

not a life without hope

feeling everything so deeply

is part of being human

and I am nothing if not human

I am also strong resilient and worth believing in

This is how I move forward

Lifting my skin to the skies

I move not with great speed but with will and force

Loss will never be the thing that defines me

It will be love and light

And in the darkest moments,

I must keep this in mind

Musings: Becoming my own biggest cheerleader

8/29/17 – these days, I keep finding myself walking down darkened streets as I listen to podcasts, wondering what do next. Living alone is great if I’m returning from a really full day of love and light because I can reflect quietly and sigh happily in a space that’s just mine (not to mention that I can play “I’m the One” over a loud speaker without worrying about anyone’s music or volume preferences).. But these days can be harder when I’m struggling to figure out what it means to have a fulfilling career and life, and I don’t have anyone to come home to that I can process with – luckily, I’ll be living with roommates again very soon, so that’s nice!

I have 3 days of Microsoft left with a return offer on the table, but I’m leaning toward no. I’m pretty adamant that coming back and doing the exact same thing would be a mistake because I might develop any new skills in the same role, and I want to make sure that I’m committed to continuous same growth. If I have the opportunity to test-drive a career for 12 weeks, I might as well try on a new role like UX design, program management, or content strategy for size because I have another 1.5 years of school, so I’m allowed to be a lifelong learner for now! Still, I hope I don’t forget that I’m not **just** a writer – I am a writer who can write stories that transport people to new places with vividness and vulnerability – and that’s no small thing.

It’s crazy that I’m getting the best gig possible by being a writer at Microsoft, but I know that I want to take on a role that’s more creative – for example, my friend is designing the vision for Grace Hopper – that’s the shit I want to work on, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get this opportunity. At this point, I’m the only thing standing in my own way. I’m still learning to self-identify as creative and be a maker, especially because I’ve been a consumer for so long.

What if this is a fluke and one-off and I can’t replicate this – what if I don’t really have a choice in my future career, and what I really want to do is unattainable? This question has plagued me for a really long time, even as I’ve learned to be more confident in my skill set as a writer, tutor, and future engineer. I don’t know what it will take for me to completely overcome my impostor syndrome, and it might be something that I face for the rest of my life.

I wish I had a certain someone to get me through this (brb still processing the fact that I lost the one person I used to process all of this with). If she was here, she’d want me to be empowered and remember everything I accomplished up until this point.

She would tell me the following, I think:

First of all, you are so capable. Do not forget that you are at Microsoft for a reason. You did this – Microsoft on your resume will get you the interview in the future, but you’ll get the job. Do what I know you’re capable of because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

I’ve seen how much you’ve grown. You went from being someone who didn’t think that they could succeed at Microsoft to thriving there for 12 weeks – are these emails that celebrate your articles/deliverables, gifts like a Microsoft speaker and mini journal and Chainsmokers videos, and return offer not enough proof of your worth and abilities? You impressed your coworkers and created things that matter – one of them even said that your article opened their eyes to the challenges faced by people of color.

You fricking matter, so show those companies and everyone else that you deserve to be here. Satya created an inclusive workplace so you could thrive, so go and do what you’re capable of. This is not beyond you – it’s exactly what you were made to do.

Maybe the cool thing about all of this is that I’m learning to be my own cheerleader. My friend taught me that, but she’s not the only one who reminds me of this. I know in my heart of hearts that I really am capable, but I need to find ways to remind myself. And when I forget, I need to remember all the people in my life who want to support me.

I have to prove to this world that I can do it. Believe in your ability to create and dream (it’s cliché I know) – people are rooting for you, but you have to do it too.