The Marshmallow Test

Dear Mimi,

Let’s just get this out of the way. 2016 sucked. Sure there were a few good things scattered here or there, but the majority of it was just crappy.

But life isn’t all good things. There are ups and downs, good and bad. Some years were better than others, and unfortunately, 2016 wasn’t one of them.

Personally, 2016 was rough. There were some very depressing family issues I had to deal with, and some members I didn’t get to see at all. It’s astonishing to think that sometimes these issues were there all along, but the innocence and liveliness of childhood does such a dang good job of masking them. Seeing all of these things in a new light made me wish I wasn’t getting older. It wasn’t that things didn’t work themselves out, they did, but I didn’t get to be a part of it like I had hoped for so long.

Then, my career plans came to a standby. Again, it was a test of patience. I got into medical school, but not the one I wanted. I had to question and re-question whether it was something I really wanted to do. I had to take another year off and apply again since the school offered me a spot for Fall 2017. Some people rejected me for choosing to follow my dreams. It was so bizarre for me. Everything I had planned out so perfectly the year before was thrown back at me in my face and fell at my feet. As a Type-A personality, this was the hardest thing for me to swallow.

After that, I had to face realities with places close to my heart, countries I thought would always welcome me with open arms. This year I learned that majority of the world chooses to hate instead of love, chooses to separate instead of combine, chooses to destroy instead of build up. Whether I went back to my parents’ home country, or stayed in mine, I felt isolated and on edge, that someone might say something, that something might happen. Neither place felt like home anymore and neither place completed me, when once upon a time, both did.

And finally, for the first time in my life, I had my heart cracked, if not broken. I gave someone my heart who did not want it, and sometimes, if I’m being honest, I still think about what life would be like if he had just given me a chance. But more than that, even the rishta process was exhausting. In the past 12 months, I’ve had 18 rishtas. It’s not fun, it never was. I hate going through these profiles, one after the other, like I’m buying a house or a new car. At this point, my heart not only has walls around it, but an army guarding its safety. I just wish someone would be brave, strong, smart, and kind enough to break through everything and take care of it forever.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford, conducted an experiment, which has been repeated many times over. The premise is very simple. You give a child a marshmallow and give them 2 options: 1) they could eat it now, or 2) if they waited until you came back, they would get another marshmallow provided they hadn’t eaten the first one already. One treat now, or two treats later. Keep in mind that these children don’t know how long it will be til the adult comes back. It seems like a very easy test, but the results were astounding. After continuing to do long term follow ups and analysis, Mischel found that children who waited for the second marshmallow proved to be more intelligent and successful in life. They had higher test scores, lower obesity rates, better social skills, and higher paying jobs.

Similarly, our whole lives are a series of marshmallow tests. God is always testing us and life is full of curveballs. But, if we are patient, things will get better. Yet, patience is not just about waiting. It’s about trusting in God’s plan and having a positive attitude while waiting. A lot of the kids who waited trusted the researcher that better things were coming and found ways to keep themselves occupied whilst waiting. We have to keep going, actively trying to better ourselves and have faith that good things are coming. Without hope, we have no purpose, nothing to look forward to. It’s said time and time again, however cliché it may sound: good things come to those who wait.

Overall, 2016 was filled with many sleepless nights and even more tears. I worried I would fall back into depression, and sometimes, I got really close. But this year also strengthened my relationship with God. For the first time in a while, I had to trust Him with every ounce of my being and rely on Him completely, which I’m trying my level best to do. And who can be any better to trust than the One who knows what’s coming? He’s the One that has a plan, the One that makes no mistakes, and the One that knows the reason for everything.

Keep on trekking Mimi. I have faith 2017 will bring 2 marshmallows.

Love,

Didi

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4AM Friends

Dear Mimi,

Awhile ago, I met this guy who was absolutely incredible. Smart, tall, funny, handsome, and more, he was everything I had ever wanted. Naturally, what is the first thing I did after I met said guy? I’m a girl, so obviously I’m gonna tell my best friends.

Now, here’s the thing about our friendship. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we hang out for hours and talk about everything. It’s like there was never a break in between. Sure, sometimes we text each other, and talk on the phone, but nothing beats in-person conversation.

So one night, after getting frappés from McDonald’s, we sat in her car in my driveway, as I told her all about him. I vented to her about my insecurities, how I was excited, yet terrified, eager, yet cautious. After listening to me get giddy over some dude I had only met a few times, she asked me a question, “How much do you think it’ll wreck you if it doesn’t work out?”

At the time, it was a slap in the face. I paused out of shock and she repeated herself. I answered honestly, but I was baffled. Why would she ask me something like that? Shouldn’t she be excited for me? I know she wasn’t jealous since she was already engaged, and I was so confused. Why would she think about that? Even I hadn’t thought about that. And why would she choose that as the first question to ask? What kind of person does that?

Well Mimi, a true friend does that.

You see, she was asking me the questions I was too afraid to ask myself. She was protecting me from getting hurt or getting too entangled by making me consider a possibility I didn’t want to. She, in her own subtle way, was reminding me to ground myself. If she had told me straight up, perhaps I wouldn’t have listened so attentively.

These are the friends we need Mimi. Friends who see things that we don’t; friends that understand us, sometimes, better than we understand ourselves. Friends who will always want the best for you and will do whatever it takes to make sure you get it, even if they know the truth will hurt you.

Find these friends, and hold on to them. Those who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Those who will support you even if they don’t agree with you. Those who make you think about what you really want. Those who push you to your limits and encourage your dreams. Those who make you think about all the possibilities. Those who will lift you up when it seems everyone else is pushing you down. Those who see the light in you when you’re convinced that it’s gone. Those who include you in their futures. Those who you can spend hours laughing with. Those who are your soulmates before any guy ever was. Those who feel lucky to have a friend like you. Those who already know your deepest and darkest fears. Those who you can spend forever with and still not run out of things to discuss. Those who make you feel like together, you can rule the world. Those who you trust. Those who you can call at 4AM.

One of my favorite sayings (hadiths) of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says that “souls that recognize each another unite in harmony, and those that do not are at odds”. This means that we knew our friends in heaven, and God has blessed us with meeting them again on the Earth. May He grant us all friends that we will reunite with again in Heaven, and until then, make the journey on Earth a little more enjoyable.

Love,

Didi

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. ~Euripides

True friends say good things behind your back, and bad things to your face.

 

Why Do People Leave Each Other?

Dear Mimi,

In this part of the book, Sr. Yasmin mentions how attachment was her biggest weakness. And honestly, it is mine too. It’s really hard growing up away from all of your grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, especially when everyone around you seemed to have all of theirs close by. Eids were lonely, Thanksgivings were hard, and it was difficult to not be able to enjoy your friends and family in the same place. It always felt like I had to choose: either go to India for 3 months and forget about spending summer with my friends, or stay here with my friends and miss out on family. It could never be combined.

The times I did have with my family though, were better than and closer to my heart than any of the times spent with my friends. Yes, alhumdulillah, my friends were great, but at the end of the day, I had to go home and they had to go home. With family though, they were your home. You never had to leave. They were a part of you, and you, a part of them. And of course, because I never saw them as often as I would’ve liked, they became my attachment. They became my test of patience in this dunya. Continue reading

Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed

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Dear Mimi,

Recently, I heard about a book called “Reclaim Your Heart” by Yasmin Mogahed. I knew people who have read it, including some of my friends, and claimed that it had changed their lives. Ever since I turned 20, and started the third, and probably most important, decade of my life (OMG I’m SO OLD!), I have been looking to change myself and start anew. They say that a person changes every ten years, and it seemed that my timeline was exactly on point.

So, in the spirit of 2015, new changes, and a better life, I bought the book. Everyone who has read this book has told me to think and reflect after each chapter. So, I will do that here, with you, so I can ventilate my thoughts, and you can learn from my experiences of this crazy thing called life. Of course, you can borrow the book anytime you want. But in the meantime (or if you’re too lazy to read it all haha, I meant the book, not the blog 😉 ), here goes.

Bismillah.

Love, Didi

Your heart knows things your mind can’t explain.