Rays of Splendour

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Absence and appreciation

This week saw me flying to Seoul for two purposes:

  1. To settle accommodation matters
  2. To test grounds in living alone

I managed to settle the accommodation matters pretty fast which was suprising. I had planned to wrap things up by Saturday but alhamdulillah, I was able to do it sooner than that.

However the second purpose remains ongoing until I am back home in Singapore. These past three days have left me much room for thought and to a certain extent, it gave me some affirmations.

One of those things I realized which I haven’t outgrown even till now is how much I dislike coming back to an empty home. That silence that greets me back after I have said my “Assalamulaikum” or “Assalamualaina” is still something that I have never accustomed myself to. For as long as I can remember, I have always came home to someone. When I was a child right up to my teens, that someone was my grandmother. I guess that could be one of the reasons why it is so difficult for me to get used to coming back to an empty home.

Next I realized that besides work, my family and the time I spend on the prayer mat and the Quran occupies a large proportion of how I spend my time. During this trip, I had none of the three with me. Work is obviously out of the picture and that is fine. The important things are that my family isn’t here and for these few days, I’m unable to pray nor read the Quran. Admittedly, I felt quite lost. It’s like those aspects that I live for during this short time I have in this world are missing.

Sometimes, it takes being apart from something or someone to make you realize how important that aspect is in your life, or just how deeply you love it. It’s like through its absence, Allah is making us appreciate every single blessings that He has given us. And through that, you draw yourself even closer to Him and ask Him to preserve the relationship and blessings He has given you in this world till Jannah.

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Doing it for mom

Our moms are one of the greatest blessings in life that God has granted us. They’re the first person who loves us even before we are born and once we are in this world, they are the first one to love us unconditionally. You might have done things to disappoint or anger her along the way, or even not spend enough time with her but that motherly love still remains steadfast in her heart.

Truly, out of all the experiences of love we can ever encounter during our lifespan, the love from our moms forms one of the most sincerest of them all.

And today, that same love moved me greatly.

My heart can’t help but go all soft inside as I recalled how she went about trying to help me settle some administrative matters related to my studies just now. Despite being all exhausted from the lack of sleep after getting back late from our weekend getaway and then having had a busy morning, she still found it in her to go the extra mile to help me. Then later in the night when I came to look for her to get her opinion on a good seat to choose for an upcoming flight, she got up from the place she was initially lying down and gave me her 100%.

She always, always, always gives my siblings and I her full undivided attention no matter her physical or emotional state.

Regardless of how strange or crazy our pursuits may be, she would also be there to give her full support to our endeavors if she is convinced that it will bring goodness for us. Then if our intended pursuits seem otherwise, she works hard to talk it out with us and get us to consider alternative options. Yet if we are still adamant to go ahead with our choices, she would still be there to give her blessings.

Importantly, she never, never, never fails to keep us in her prayers and praying for the best for all of us.

As I reflected on all these, I realized that I’ve also reached that point whereby I’m embarking on my studies for her. After all that she has done, I’ve come to a stage where I pray that Allah allows me to complete this whole two years for my mom, she continues to be there to witness it all, and may this pursuit be a conduit for me to achieve His pleasure, insyaAllah.

I’ve always believed that everything we have in our life is not ours. That job you have. The salary you are earning from it. The promotion or position you attained in your job. That educational qualification you own.  Your property. Your wealth. Your family. Your children. Your beauty. Your talent and skills. Your health and even time. Everything is His and the only reason why that particular blessing is in our life at that exact moment is because He is giving us an opportunity to use it in His path.

And from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely pray that I always remember never to take for granted any blessings that He has given me and to always use it for goodness and a means to serve Him, insyaAllah. They’re never mine. They’re His.

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What makes you, You?

I’ve always believed that our jobs shouldn’t define us. That is, if someone were to ask me to introduce myself, then the following sentence “I’m an educator” shouldn’t form the first and main part of my introduction. While our jobs take up a huge part of our daily existence and we sometimes spend more time with our colleagues and jobs than the people who truly matter, I still firmly believe that it should not entirely define us. Our jobs are what we are at that point in time but take away that role from ourselves, then these questions remain: Who are you? What makes you, You?

Those were the questions that I found myself grappling with during these first three of January. Frankly, I didn’t expect this aspect to feature itself in this transitional phase I’m experiencing. However as I stripped away the labels of an educator and a working professional – identities that had assumed a huge part of myself during the past few years – I found other parts of myself making itself more prominent than ever.

If I’m not defined by my job, then what are the aspects that makes me, Me, no matter what stage in life I am in? Some of the things I’ve ascertained so far:

My role as a Muslim, a daughter and a sister forms 100% of my identity. These identities and its accompanying responsibilities occupy all of my daily existence. This a huge reminder for me regarding the priorities in life and which aspects to never compromise no matter how preoccupied I can get with work, school or other matters.

The Quran is a book I need to connect with everyday. With God’s grace, I was re-introduced to this Book back in my teens, fell in love with it and since then, it has been a book I read on a daily basis. During those days when I’m unable to read or touch it, I feel as though something isn’t right and that a huge part of me is missing. The Quran forms a huge part of who I am and I pray that He continues blessing me with a love and opportunities to connect with it always.

Striving to achieve a better version of myself forms a huge part of my life purpose. The motivation to continuously seek to be a better version of myself stems from the belief that as a Muslim, one should seek to be progressive and to excel in whatever we do. Those are the traits that this faith inculcates through its teachings and core tenets. At the end of the day, this aspect of myself plays a huge influence on the choices I make in life as well as how I interact with the people around me.

Three things for now but that took me three weeks to truly uncover. Nevertheless, it’s been a pretty exciting three weeks of getting to know myself better and it seems like the next two years are set to raise the bar even higher.

So, what else makes me, Me?

And, what makes you, You?

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Different stages in life

“Wherever you are, be all there.”
Jim Elliot

It was Wednesday morning, 8.20a.m. The morning radio was playing in the background, filling the eating outlet with strains of uplifting music. My breakfast was on the table in front of me. I spent the time looking at the people around me as I consumed my breakfast. Most of them were having their breakfast alone too. I spotted two groups of people – a mother and her daughter, and a couple – seated on my left and right respectively but they were the only people who came for breakfast with someone.

Questions flashed through my mind as I took in my surroundings. Are these people, like me, not working as well? Why are they having their breakfast alone too? What are their plans for the rest of the day?

That last question made me see, not for the first time in the past few days, that I’m currently on a different path in life as compared to people I’m close to. Everyone I know is working – my parents, my brothers, my best friends – or at least involved in pursuits that make them useful to God and society.

And if the flow of conversations between us in the past few days are anything to go by, I feel pretty small to be sharing with them the simple things I spend my days on as compared to them. My activities are just so irrelevant and unimportant that these days, I find myself taking a step back and instead of sharing things about myself, I’ll just listen to them share their days, and partake in their highs and lows. Frankly, listening to them is much more interesting than sharing with them what I do, feel, and think about these days.

While I recognize that not everyone will be on the same stage or path in life as me, that still didn’t keep off the loneliness I am feeling as I stood on this particular path.

Looking at it positively, I’ve come to the following conclusions after much thought:

  • Allah swt has entrusted me with all these time for a reason(s) which I’m beginning to slowly see as the days unfold. In the past few days, I saw that one of these reasons would be to provide some support for my family as they go about their daily responsibilities. Alhamdulillah, that has brought me much joy and something I look forward to daily.
  • By keeping me alone (yes, I literally have no one with me from morning when the family leaves for work until they are back from it at night) most hours of the day, Allah swt is giving me opportunities to draw myself closer to Him. Alhamdulillah!
  • Time is so fluid for now that I have absolute freedom as to how I choose to spend it which is something I can never do once I’m tied down to work, studies or any other responsibilities that life offers.

Sounds pretty exciting once I write all that out.

So wherever I am in life that He has led and is leading me to, I pray that I’m present in the moment, fully embrace it and that it is one that is pleasing to Him.

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Visa application woes: Applying for the D-2 Korean Visa

I’ve finally summoned up the mental readiness to go through the whole process of applying for a D-2 student visa.  The mental readiness is needed only because 1) Administrative processes can be painful and 2) I’ll be passport-less for a while.

As of yesterday, I’ve made a total of two trips to the South Korean embassy in Newton. Both times, I have been unsuccessful in submitting an application for a student visa.

The first time my attempt for a visa application got rejected was entirely due to my negligence. I had failed to note that the embassy conducts visa application requests only from 9.00 – 11.30 a.m. I came at 2 p.m and was obviously turned away. The second time I was turned away was due to insufficient documentation. Apparently, one needs all these document for a D-2 student visa application:

  1. Original passport
  2. A copy of a passport-sized photograph
  3. Acceptance letter/Offer letter/Certificate of admission from the educational institution in Korea
  4. A copy of a bank statement indicating one’s account balance for the past three months
  5. In the event that you have a sponsor for (4), then you would need to produce your sponsor’s bank statement
  6. A copy of the educational transcripts or certificates at your last educational institution
  7. For the employed: A letter from your employer indicating that you are under their employment

During the second visit there, I had failed to produce number 7. Never did I anticipate that I had to produce that when applying for a student visa!

The copy of my sponsor’s bank statement was also rejected as her name was not clearly printed on her bank statement.

So I’m telling myself that the third time I make my way to the embassy, I truly need my visa application to be accepted. The need for the visa aside, I actually find it pretty restrictive that the passport is going to be withheld for a period of time which means that I won’t be able to journey out of Singapore on a whim. That is such a tragic thought!