It’s been almost a solid 4 months since I last blogged. The last time I did this was at the start of my spring semester. Alhamdulillah, the spring semester is over as of last week and results are out.
I feel considerably more relaxed right now as opposed to the last few months. These few months, ‘deadlines’ were constantly at the back of my mind. Somehow after I’ve cleared one deadline, there was always some other deadline I’m worried about.
If I could summarize the spring semester in one phrase, it’d be “Finding direction“. I was constantly in search of a direction on what to research and write about the whole of the semester! I guess my mind wasn’t in the mood to blog in between constantly researching, brainstorming and then going back to the drawing board if I found the angle I want to research on to be inappropriate.
Currently, I’ve signed up and am doing a summer semester. It’s my first inter-semester session as I’ve always gone back to Singapore during the summer or winter break.
The campus seems quieter than usual. Less people, less noise. Even the whole vicinity of my apartment seems a whole lot more muted. So this is how inter-semester sessions are like.
The most important month of Ramadan has also come and passed. Alhamdulillah, I managed to experience 3 weeks of Ramadan in Seoul.
I’d thought that I’d be in Seoul the whole of Ramadan and also Eid. However with His generosity, I was given an opportunity to fly back home to experience the last week of Ramadan and the first two days of Eid. I am so, so, so grateful to Allah for allowing this to happen. The time with my family and friends whom I love so much was short but alhamdulillah, I feel full inside.
Nothing beats being around the people you love. As I reflect upon Allah’s blessings, I’m made to realize yet again how the people He has placed around us represents one of our biggest rezki in life.
Sometimes in praying and asking God to open and grant us rezki, we tend to define that word in terms of the financial aspects. However in doing so, we forget that Allah’s notion of rezki can be limitless. It’s not just an increase in your bank account as most people – myself included – tend to construe rezki to be. It comes in various forms and the people which He has surrounded yourself with who fills your heart which such contentment are one of them. Through them too, Allah grants you other forms of rezki.
Amazing isn’t it?
To my family and friends whom I love so much, I look forward to days when I will be able to be your side again. And I pray so much that Allah grants me the opportunity to do so, amin.
Finally blogging a very long overdue entry. I have been meaning to blog for a while now. Blog entries that I have been putting off includes my brunch at Noryangjin Fish Market, a 2 days 1 night trip to Sokcho, my feelings about being back in Singapore, as well as the things I have been up to since I’ve been back. However I have been procrastinating.
Presently, I’ve been back in Singapore for almost one month. I’ve slightly more than a month left before I fly back to Seoul to resume the next semester of my studies.
Things I’ve discovered since I’ve been back:
Body works better in cooler climate
For the first time ever, I found myself to be in a position where I had to acclimatize to the Singapore climate. I’m not sure whether it’s the air here or whether it is something else but as soon as I landed in Changi Airport, I found myself short of breath and reaching out for my inhaler. I’ve been using the inhaler more times in the past 3 weeks that I’ve been back in Singapore than the past 4 months in Seoul combined. I hardly used it there.
Not only that, I have been breaking out in hives EVERY SINGLE DAY! I did not have that back in Seoul. Currently, I have hives on my left legs, right shoulders, behind my ears and fingers as I’m blogging this.
Honestly, it’s getting pretty annoying to be scratching and reaching out for my inhaler almost everyday. I had forgotten how annoying it could be during those times I was away from Singapore. In Seoul, these symptoms somehow disappeared. I’m praying so much that my body gets used to the physical conditions here soon. I really, really, really dislike being in a position whereby the body doesn’t seem to be in a state of balance.
Physical activities significantly reduced in Singapore
Perhaps it’s due to the existence of a plethora of amenities as well as a family car but I found that the time I spent travelling by foot seemed to reduce vastly here. I could clock in between 7000 – 10000 steps on a typical day in Seoul but over here, I saw that it’s difficult to even reach 6000 steps even after a whole day of being out! What happened?
I seem to engage in lesser exercise or heart rate stimulating activities here too. I’m feeling pretty sluggish at the moment from the lack of physical activities.
Surviving on little
I’m currently neither receiving any salary nor have any savings to fall back on. However masyaAllah, I’m very surprised that I could still do quite a lot in order to lead a meaningful existence.
Previously, one of my past times would be to spend a lot on online shopping. It gave me a tremendous thrill to track my packages across the various courier services’ tracking sites and to eventually receive the items I had bought. I could even have online shopping packages arriving almost every day and the number of deliveries would typically accelerate the more work and deadlines I had.
My ultimate vices: clothes and books. My wardrobe and shelves would always be bursting with things and I remember having to frequently clear out my clothes and books by sending them for recycling so that I could make room for more online purchases.
Another past time would be to eat out after work and to travel. In the latter, weekend getaways as well as making extended and multiple trips during the holidays are common for me.
Oh not to mention, the multiple cab rides I tend to take on my way back from work. My justification for the cab rides was that the weather was simply too hot and I needed to get back home asap to escape the heat.
All these translate into high levels of expenditures.
However with the current financial situation, I’m learning to let go of a lot. Getting around strictly by buses/trains. Minimal eating out unless I’m truly hungry or craving for something. No outbound travel unless I have the funds. Strictly only window shopping and no frivolous purchases. It was difficult at first but after a year of being on unpaid leave, alhamdulillah it is getting easier for me.
I’d be lying if I were to say that I have no desire to shop, travel, take cabs, and eat out at the various cafes/restaurants in Singapore.
For instance when it comes to shopping… Oh, there are soooooo many clothes and scarves that have caught my eyes but I’ve been telling myself to stick to the current ones I have. Truthfully, I’m not used to wearing the same things so often since I frequently buy new clothes and scarves but yes, I found that things aren’t so bad.
At the end of the day, I realized that God is opening ample opportunities for me to engage in a practical application of one of the beliefs I’ve held for a long while: happiness and contentment doesn’t reside in the material.
It’s one thing to say those words when you have everything in life. That’s what I learned. All along, I have been saying those words but it was from a position of having them. It borders on being so hypocritical to be spouting those words when I owned so many things and always spending. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I’m made to realize what it truly means to seek happiness and contentment from the immaterial.
These days, my happiness and contentment are derived from simple things I never expected I’d glean such as:
- To be able to sleep and be safe from harm.
- To still have food to eat… Sometimes, too much food even though I lack the money to buy them. Yet masyaAllah and alhamdulillah, there is always something for me to eat everyday. This makes me realize that God feeds you. He really takes care of you.
- Being in the presence of, and communicating with people you love and care about
Allright, entry’s long enough as it is. Hoping I’ll blog more soon and that the next entry will be one filled with photos instead of just words!
Before I embark full steam ahead with the presentations, term papers and exams in the next two weeks, I figured it will be good to take some time to pen down moments when I felt His presence more than I usually do. These past few weeks, I felt His presence so strongly and I pray that this feeling continues.
For many months now, I knew that my money would not last till end-November. No matter how many times I re-calculated my budget, the numbers kept telling me that no matter how much I cut down on my expenses, I just would not have any money left to pay for the rent, food, transport, and any another expenses for December.
For a few weeks and as November finally rolled along, I found myself getting worried. I prayed so hard for God to give me some miracle, to help me in some way…. ANY way. There were many moments when I found myself reduced to tears for I felt helpless.
Yet, I kept telling myself over and over again not to give in, that Allah is all-merciful and things could change for the better. Concurrently, Surah Ar-Rahman and Al-A’la were the two chapters from the Quran that kept calling to me. They were my staple reads for the past few weeks for reading these two surahs gave me a sense of calmness inside and made me remember how Allah is the most Merciful, Generous, and Most-High. That with Him lies the start and end to all Creations. That He can create something from nothing. That all Miracle lies in His Hands. That no one lifts the heart better than He does and He lifts the heart of those who remembers Him.
It was during one such moment back in November when I felt Him create for me something from nowhere and lifted my heart tremendously in the process. On that Tuesday November morning, I accessed my school email only to be greeted with an email from the people at the dormitory that a vacancy for a double room. Apparently, the vacancy has opened up and I could move in during that week once I’ve settled the payment and health checks.
I kept re-reading the email thinking that I’d understood wrongly but nope, I didn’t! The email was indeed an announcement for a space at the dormitory! It’s a Godsent email: moving into the dormitory meant that the previous financial worries I had would be gone. I would now have the money to pay for the December expenses! Alhamdulillah!
Hence, I accepted it even though the concept of living with a roommate, having the toilet in a separate location from the shower room, and a shared kitchen with the whole level of students living in the dorm did not really appeal to me. I told myself that I do not have a choice if I still wanted a roof over my head during the cold December winter, that Allah must’ve given the room to me because He knew I could live in it.
Keeping a positive frame of mind helped tremendously and before I knew it, I had already done my first round of moving into the dorm. Since I could live in the apartment I’ve been living in for the past few months till 2 December, I do not intend to move into the dorm until my lease is over. Thus, I had merely been slowly moving my things to the dorm bit-my-bit.
However, no matter how much I tried to psyche myself up for dorm life, I am still uncomfortable with it. I still remembered vividly that Monday afternoon last week when I was texting my family telling them how unhappy I was with the shared living arrangements, how difficult it was to cook as it’s a non-halal kitchen, how I had to go outside to get my laundry done, how I’ll have to store away at the Dorm Office all my appliances like the rice cooker and heater, how small the space I had left for prayers was, and how I would not be able to recite the Quran for I would not want to disturb the roommate.
It was then that I experienced another miracle. Another email came in and this time from the people at the graduate student apartment telling me that they have a vacancy and I could move in from 2 December onwards.
MasyaAllah! This was the apartment that I had applied back in August 2015 before I even started school and have been on the waiting list forever. It has it’s own kitchen, toilet, washing machine, fridge, … everything I need to live comfortable. For a vacancy to open up now and for me to be able to move in only on 2 December which was when the lease to my previous apartment was up…. MasyaAllah. The timing.
I’m really blown away by His perfect timing.
Most of all, I’m made to realize yet again that He’s there. He’s always there listening, looking out for us and planning the best for us. It’s just that us, being the ungrateful slave that we are, tend to be heedless of Him.
This is a reminder for myself first that others: What would I do without Him?
I just completed a presentation this morning and I found myself giving a huge sigh of relief after that was done. As soon as I headed home, I did nothing but to literally just sleep.
It feels so good to be typing this with a clear and fresh mind. Those are something I have not felt in the past few days as I have been sleeping for about 2 hours nightly in my bid to clear some school-related stuff.
I was speaking to one of my classmates while walking home today who asked me what I intended to do now that my presentation was over. Her response to my answer when I told her that I wanted to catch up on sleep struck a chord in me. She said:
“Yes, you really need to catch up on sleep. Not good to be missing out on sleep you know. You will become very negative.”
To be specific, the last part of her response on how sleep deprivation can induce negative feelings and thoughts was the one that I could relate to very well.
Due to the lack of sleep in the past few days, it seemed like I’m living in an entirely different body. I am unsure of myself and my decisions in life. I see myself to be lacking in many aspects and am convinced that my presence does nothing to lift or be of benefit to the people in my life. I perceived things to be looking so bleak and have no chance of being completed or working out while at the same time, I had no desire to ensure things go right. I felt irritation or get unnecessarily worried over the slightest and minutest of things.
Suffice to say, never have I felt far removed from my normal self than I had been during the earlier part of the week and it’s all due to sleep. Of course it doesn’t help that not only was I sleep deprived but I was also having the time of the month in the past few days.
So, sleep deprived + monthly hormonal changes = magnified negativity
Honestly, it’s exhausting and saps a lot of your energy. It’s true when they say that negativity is connected to bad energy.
I’m comparing that with the present situation where I am feeling very well-rested and body’s back to the normal cycle. It’s a world of a difference. Being positive connects a person to good energy that enables them to embrace the world from a position of hope that things will be completed, it can work out, that you can do things and that your efforts to be a blessing to others will materialize into something.
If there is one thing that the conversation I had with the classmate as well as the experiences of the past few days had revealed to me, it’s that the state of being positive is one of the huge blessings in life that I tend to overlook.
See, we all pray for many things in life. Some of the things that we typically pray for is for God to grant us good health, to keep our loved ones safe, to be granted with infinite abundance in life and many more. But to ask God to grant us continued positivity in the way we embrace life? I had definitely overlooked that!
I end this entry with prayers that Allah grants goodness to me and my loved ones and that one of the goodness is the blessing of embracing life with a positive spirit. Amin.
“My Lord, have mercy on them as they brought me up when I was small.”
Al-Quran, Surah Al-Isra, 17:24
Two days ago, dad sent me a photo of him at the hospital. He was dressed in hospital garment and waiting for his turn to be examined. Upon having a closer look at the photo, a thought ran through my mind: Since when did dad start to get old?
In between the time when I was a little girl and saw my dad as a huge and strong figure until now, age seemed to have rapidly caught up with him. It’s not just dad which is showing the signs of aging but my mom as well.
My parents have always been filled with such vitality and energy towards Life so I have never seen them to be anything but young. However, there have been signs in the past few years that have hinted to me that my parents are not the young people I’ve always perceived them to be.
One of those signs was when my mom collapsed twice on separate occasions right before my eyes about two to three years back. Only God knows just how lost I felt when I saw her on the floor in front of me and I did not know how to call her back to consciousness. I am still traumatised by that experience and would instantly panic whenever I’m out with my mom and she suddenly stops in mid-path and yet it was that same encounter which gave me a big wake up call that my parents are not young anymore.
It was since then that I began to see my parents with new eyes. It’s in the way that they tire more easily than usual, in the existence of the little lines I observed etched on their faces, in the greying of their hair, how they sought our opinions in matters, in their talks and the plans they made for a time when they reached retirement age, in the way they talked about death and related it back to themselves whenever someone in their family or social circle passes on, and also in the way they expressed their hopes for all of us to find our respective life partners and for them to be part of the growing up years of their grandchildren before they are gone.
Time really isn’t on our side isn’t it?
It is this awareness that makes me realize the brevity of the human existence and to appreciate the little blessings that He has given us. Sometimes, we are always on the look out for things we consider to be ‘huge blessings’ like a job, a promotion, owning a big house, having a spouse, a child and many more. However I believe that God has filled every single day of our lives with blessings. It is just that most times, we are blind and unable to witness them.
For now, one of the blessings that I consider I have is that my parents are still around and that alhamdulillah, they are healthy and in a state of iman.
One day, there might be a time when I wake up to the realization that I would not be receiving texts or calls from them asking me how I am; or with the knowledge that by default, I will no longer have two people in this world who will be the most interested and concerned about me, love me unconditionally and have my back no matter what. Because there is that possibility, I pray so much right now that God will allow me to serve and love my parents the way He had decreed them to be during this little time we have left.
It’s my first ever birthday overseas.
During each of the previous birthdays before this, I’ve never been one who expects to celebrate it nor do I expect to receive gifts for it. To me, it is enough to have my family and close ones by my side. I believe that their presence in my life forms one of the biggest blessings I am ever granted and to know that they’re there with me is enough. That on its own is already a huge, huge, huge gift for me.
So to wake up for fajr to silence and no glimpse of the dad peeking his head into my room to wish me a happy birthday, or the mom singing me her rendition of the song in her off-key tone, or the brother going “Kak, it’s your birthday today?? I didn’t know sehhhhhh!“, or the two bffs attempting to pull off some birthday surprise to humorous results… Well I must say, all these have opened my eyes to how Allah has been so generous all these while in placing those people in my life.
That aside, those people never cease to make their presence known in my life.
In the past few hours, I’ve received birthday greetings from them through WhatsApp (seriously, the wonders of technology!).
I’ve also received a video which I could see required a lot of communication and logistical planning between the people involved. The video sparked off a variety of reaction within me: I was moved and appreciative of the effort that goes into it (they said it took two months to prepare! *salute the effort*); I was also tickled immensely by it and couldn’t help laughing out loud by myself as I watched it; it made me happy to see my friends coming together and enjoying themselves as they shot it; and I was just… grateful in general.
Lastly, I also received gifts from them! 🙂
You know how sometimes you just share things with your friends? You thought it was just one of those usual conversations you have with them. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package from Sut, Kin and Fad and found a Pandora box inside. See, I have been raving to them about the sudden inspiration I had to add a pendant charm to my Pandora bracelet and even spent time with Sut to look through its website at possible ones to get. To open the package and be greeted with that… Well, that made me go “Wow! But weren’t we just talking and raving about it together like we normally would when it comes to our other buys?“. I had initially planned to buy it for myself as a gift for completing the semester many months from now (insyaAllah) but now that I received one as a gift, that made it even more special. I’ll definitely be admiring this charm as it hangs from my wrist whenever I put on my Pandora bracelet.
And that basket of flowers over there? Never ever in a million years do I expect to receive it from this friend. So to open the door to my apartment and be presented with the delivery, then to read the card and found out who sent them, and thereafter noted that they contain pink roses and carnations… I couldn’t help think “But wasn’t I just texting random updates about what I saw during my first day of school when I was raving to him about pink roses and carnations? He’s sending me some??“. Yet, I love the flowers a lot and shall appreciate its beauty while it’s still alive.
Amazing how these people can be hundreds of miles away from me and yet I can feel their presence as strong as ever.
So, I’m an extra year older in my thirties (and ever closer to meeting the Lord). I pray that He continues keeping my heart turned to Him in faith and grants me an increase in it, that I am never heedless of His blessings, that I am in constant remembrance of Him, that I never neglect His rights upon me and that I always have the love of Him and the Prophet pbuh in my heart.
I pray too that He grants my family and the people close to me His constant love, care and protection always; and that He grants them all that is good in this life and the Hereafter.
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.
And so, I didn’t manage to keep up to the Ramadan resolution to blog about the reflections on certain verses from the Quran nor about sharing the verses that struck me. While indeed I have done some reflections and came across many verses that hit me right there in the heart, I found that I was more comfortable doing so at the confines of my prayer mat. That, and the fact that this past Ramadan was an extremely busy time for my family and I, it left little room in between to properly sit down and blog about it.
It’s now Syawal (in fact, Syawal is almost over as I’m writing this) however I felt that I needed to document this down somewhere. This Ramadan was a special one for me. It’s one where people who matters were with me in performing acts of worship and devotion to Him. Thereafter when it ended and on the 1st of Syawal, it culminated into one where every single member of my family went to the mosque together to perform our Eid prayers.
It’s like the Lord has especially created all these experiences so that I could keep it somewhere within myself to be accessed and savored during the times when I needed them in future. And for this, I feel such immense gratitude to the Lord for His uncountable mercies in surrounding me with people whom I truly care, love and cherish.
Just a few days ago I was talking to a colleague about how much I’ll miss her when I’m away next year. It surprised me to find that my voice got caught in my throat mid-sentence as I said that and I felt tears in my eyes. I had to quickly look away and not continue with the rest of the things I wanted to say because I knew if I were to go on, those tears will fall.
That incident showed me one thing: that when the time comes for me to fly off, I may potentially find myself leaving a massive, massive, massssssssive portion of my heart here in Singapore.
How do I face that situation when it happens?