time moves slowly and then it doesn’t

In a few short months, I will end my studies at the University of North Texas and graduate with a degree that has a really long name.

I feel excited and nervous and terrified all at once. Somedays I am woefully nostalgic and other days I am a bundle of excited nerves.

I am not sure what I will do after I graduate, but I do know it will not be in Denton, Texas. I am forever grateful for college and this sleepy town. I experienced so many things that I never thought I would, I met so many people and had my heart filled and then promptly broken. My last year here was not good but I was able to fix that and will leave Denton with hopefully a good taste in my mouth and nothing but warm feelings.

Growing up I was a nervous sheltered child and at the core of my being that is still who I am. In college, I learned to be more, say more, and do more. I gained and I lost, and that is life.

Deep down I am still that eighteen year old girl in her childhood bedroom listening to Al Green and packing my books away. I am still that nineteen year old who thought she could never love again. I am still that twenty year old who fought long battles and came out with a few scars and a couple of good stories. I am that twenty one year old, laughing and loving everyone and discovering her love of whiskey.

And now I am that twenty two year old with no idea what her future looks like but has come to terms with that.

I cannot say that college was the best years of my life because I hope to God that I live a good enough life to where I don’t say shit like that or constantly try to relieve my glory years.

These years were glorious but I hope the years that follow it are even better, especially with all that I have learned and will continue to learn.

My advice for incoming college students?

  • Boys (or girls) are fun but don’t let them ruin your college experience. I’ve seen this happen to too many people and almost let it happen to me.
  • For the love of God, do not stress that final so hard that you resort to taking adderall and other nonsense like that.
  • Call home.
  • Drink water before you go out and after a long night out. (This saved my life a few times.)
  • Hang out with people that don’t mind taking care of you if you drink too much.
  • Don’t ever go to a party alone.
  • Small loads of laundry throughout the week.
  • Don’t be the reason the dining hall starts closing early. (That’s a story for another day.)
  • Annnnd, take lots of pictures of yourself and your friends. You’re going to love looking back at them one day.
  • Time moves slowly and then all at once. (I’ll let you figure out the meaning of this one.)

 

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the unbearable lightness of moving

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There is a beauty in moving, an unbelievable freedom in packing away your things and seeing an empty space before you. If you’re like me, you downsize and throw away things that have no use or need anymore. I inherited this from my mother, we moved so much that as a kid that I never was able to make one place home, so we minimized and downsized wherever we went.

I moved to Denton when I was eighteen, and it was such a thrilling feeling! I was on my own and I learned how to help myself and do things completely alone. Things were good and I made friends and had amazing experiences until life happened. And then I wanted to leave but due to circumstances out of my control, I have to stay here until the end of the year. I cannot tell you how much that pains me.

When I was eighteen I promised myself never to stay in a place that made me unhappy, not again, no more towns where it feels like the walls are closing in and I cannot escape.

Unfortunately, it happened, and I began living in a beautiful home with people I did not want to be around and in a town I despised. But I’m still here, for another month and then off to something temporary and then to the world.

I’m trying to remind myself that it will be okay. And as I began packing my things away this week I felt some of that pain ease up.

Everything in this life is painfully temporary, the ground you step on will never be the same again, the memories you desperately cling to will fade away.

The pain in my chest began easing up, as I cleared off my bookshelf I remembered how much fun I had putting it up with Andrew. I found more of Hannah’s old sweaters I realized they were unwashed and still smelled like her. I remembered sitting out on the porch listening to Johnny Cash and drinking PBR. It was okay, it was okay, it was okay.

I remembered the excitement and joy I had once felt and I reveled in that. In the world of Rubab, sometimes it feels hard to remember those feelings or even feel like they exist.

As I put things away I smiled at this room, how lovely it was, how one-day nostalgia will tell me how wonderful this house was and how one day I’ll drive through Denton and miss these moments, even the painful ones.

The little house on Alice St will always hold a place in my heart, after all, it was the first house I ever lived in.

And I looked at the boxes and how they formed a neat little pile in the corner of my room. How they held my DVDs, my books, my old Moleskines, and how easily all of these things could be lost and I would still be okay.

I was eighteen again, ready to move, ready for change, ready for whatever life was going to throw my way.

And then, I was eight again, clutching a worn out stuffed animal and setting him in a spot that will be perfect for him. I was ready for my mom to bring in my books so I could make this tiny bedroom home.

And suddenly, the lightness came back and I felt like I could breathe again.

I am still searching for a home, still searching for a place to rest my bones at night and the journey has only begun.

I may end up living off the coast of Ireland or a small apartment in North Dallas. But I will never break that promise, I will not let myself stagnate in a town that has nothing left to offer me.

If I have to move away and throw away some things, so be it.

on guardians of the galaxy vol. 2 (a movie review of sorts)

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, director James Gunn (2017)

When the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out, I did not know much about it. I walked into the theater only knowing a little bit about a few of the characters.

When I left the theater, I was in love.

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In the age of Avengers, Batman, and Superman fatigue, this movie was a sight for sore and bored eyes.

I loved the music, the humor, the new characters, and I loved the deep love that Starlord had for his mother. This movie felt like something from my dreams.

Volume 2, had that same magic and then some.

For as long as I can remember, I never like something unless it has a tinge of sadness to it. In my experience, the most authentic things, no matter how outlandish or amazing they might be, must have a little bit of sadness to them.

Why? 

The best things in life always have a tinge of sadness, because life is difficult and the moments in which we find joy, we find sadness because those moments are often rare. (I know, what a groundbreaking statement and a run-on!)

In Vol. 2, we felt that universal feeling, that feeling we often ignore because of how unending and overwhelming it is.

This movie embraced the sadness and the pain. It did something that the other Marvel movies tried to do and failed to deliver.

Loss, will always be a part of our lives. When we are born we are meant to decay, whether it be slowly or all at once, time spares no one.

Often times it is easy to overlook decay because it is such a common occurrence for us. And every day in the world at large we see that decay and become immune to it.

In Vol. 2, that decay is not something to just move the plot forward. It is an harsh loss that never truly left our hero. And in this movie, Quill’s wounds are opened again.

And for the sake of not spoiling anything, some other wounds are reopened as well. 

Mind you, the sadness is not the only thing I loved about the movie. I’m not a masochist, I promise. 

It was an interesting component that was utilized in such a beautiful and profound way that it left me floored (and crying for the last thirty minutes of the movie).

All in all, go watch the movie!

It’s a movie that combines so many gorgeous elements and even offers a sense of realism, in a movie about a talking raccoon.

If you love beautiful cinematography, music from the 80s, and insanely funny (but not cheesy) dialogue, you won’t be disappointed.

If you don’t love those things, that’s okay. Let me try to convince you with one last thing…

BABY GROOT!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Teaser James Gunn (screen grab) CR: Marvel

the freshman thirty & me

Do you guys want to know something fun about me? No? Well I’ll tell you anyway in the spirit of unbridled self disclosure!

I use to be skinny! Like, super duper skinny. I was so small people, that people use to ask me if I had an eating disorder, which, I sort of did but I digress. I had issues with food growing up, I ate when I had to but I didn’t crave interesting food experiences. Of course, I grew up eating a very diverse diet thanks to my amazing Pakistani mother who could cook the most amazing three course meal in an hour. I ate rice and lentils and curries and naan and lots of Pakistani cuisine. I rarely ate out when I was a kid because my mom HATED American food. She thought it was under seasoned (true) and overcooked (also true). So despite being from a household where I grew up with amazing food presented to me every day I stuck to the basics, my parents chalked it up to me being a picky eater and that was not an incorrect assumption. I didn’t love food or have the healthiest relationship, I just ate when I had to and that was that.

I am going somewhere with this, I promise. 

It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered food and how much I loved it! I discovered Columbian food, Mexican food, Lebanese food and fell in love with the nuanced flavors and spices foreign to my unexperienced tongue. And I ate, and I ate so much and I gained weight. I was not active in college like I was when I was younger, and my metabolism also had slowed down considerably due to alcohol and age and some other factors I’m not at liberty to discuss.

And thus we reach my current conundrum.

I did not gain the freshman fifteen, I gained the freshman thirty.

I loved being considered the skinny, light skin girl because I come from a culture where being those two things is considered highly desirable. You were beautiful, even if you had a scrunched up face and beady eyes, as long as the skin that face was on was light and skinny you were in the clear. It has taken years for me to untangle myself from that mode of thinking and it still isn’t gone. I sometimes have a crisis whenever my skin begins to tan in the summer.

The colorism in Pakistani culture is a long post for another day. So I’ll digress.

I am the biggest I have ever been in my whole life and sometimes I cry because of it. I follow along with the body positive movement, I look at the beautiful women and men who have embraced their forms and for a moment forget my woes and then I go to get dressed for school or work and remember that half of my closet doesn’t fit me anymore because I have gained so much weight.

How do you find positivity in that? 

Every time I go out with my friends I am reminded of how large my form is, I stand at a solid 5’8 and most of my friends stand at 5’4 or below. I have never been graceful in my movement, I have always been clumsy but now those feelings of ungracefulness are heightened, I feel like a large oaf clambering through small spaces, every movement a thud and echo. I duck out of photos, I decline invitations to go out as to avoid the closet debacle.

None of this sounds healthy, because it isn’t.

I went out with my friends last Thursday and was reminded of this feeling. Isn’t it awful how we determine how attractive we are in comparison to how the others around us look?

I live in a college town forty minutes north of Dallas. College, where they tell you everything afterwards is downhill from there. And in the moment I felt that, I had reached my apex (in terms of attractiveness) my sophomore year of college and everything was downhill from there. I was a senior with a large thighs, a double chin and oversized breasts.

In that moment I felt that. I felt unattractive and invisible. I felt like my face was cased in muck and my fat brown skin was leaking over my jeans and to the space beside it.

I stared at my drink more often than not and thought about my days where I had a pixie cut and was as light as a feather. I imagined being that girl again, being skinny and being the envy of those around me.

I vocalized my pain to my friends on the car ride home and the reassured me that my body type was what was considered beautiful for the longest time.

Of course that sparked anger in me. I felt talked down to, I felt like I was being told to shut up, by beautiful thin women and in a way I was. Was that their fault? No, not at all. They were trying to comfort me. It was my fault and the culture I grew up in.

I know right, what a revolutionary I am! Blaming society for my issues with self image and weight. Where is my fucking Nobel Peace Prize?

None of my conclusions are new and nothing I tell you here will bring you any comfort. Unless it does which makes me feel a lot better about pouring out my feelings.

Do you want to know something else about me? This journey, trying to lose weight will not make me feel better about myself at the end of the day. Deep down I know that. It will help a little but this anxiety and anguish about the way I look will not leave, no that is another battle entirely.

I hope to win this battle one day, or at least sign a cease-fire.

affinity

 

My sweet girl Hannah passed away Monday morning. Hannah was my girl, she was sweet, insanely smart and sassy. She would pretend she didn’t hear you when she didn’t want to walk over to you. She made you work for her love and didn’t let just anyone pet her. She protected me and I protected her, we were a little family where it was just us against the world. I knew that no matter what happened that I could always come home to her.

It’s been hard not hearing her tap around the house all day. Or her laying by my feet while I do homework. I am adjusting but losing your best friend is so hard.

In honor of my sweet girl, my first dog, and my best friend I am posting an essay I wrote about her a few years ago. This essay is old and the writing isn’t the best but it describes a little bit of her warm personality.

I love you Hannah Bee, my rainbow, my love, I can’t wait to see you again one day.

AFFINITY

My favorite articles to read at night were often tidbits of history. At parties or other social gatherings I often would brandish these facts, as if I was a terribly cultured young woman and would often receive comments on my wide breadth of knowledge, when in fact it was just a consequence of me not going to sleep at a proper time.

I tapped away at my Macbook inside my apartment, each keystroke, a loud echo reverberating through the empty room. I was trying to write something funny as colleagues and friends alike decided that I was better at comedy, not my keen observations on the world at large.

My ancient Yorkie looked curiously at me as I sat at the dinner table with a cup of tea resting beside me. Her brown fur stuck at strange angles over her furry little body; she was the epitome of lovely and awkward. Her owner who did not have the time to take care of her anymore had given Hannah away. When I first met her she was frail but unfailingly kind. I tried not to think of the time I did not spend with her as time lost, but thought of it as her having fun adventures till she found me.

At night I would stay up alone, reading articles on my computer or whatever thing I could find to keep my unkempt mind busy. My mind gathering all the data it could hold and neatly filing it away to call forward at a better time. I would tell myself that reading more and more things would make me a better writer in the long run but in all honesty I’d take sleep over artistic ability any day.

Hannah didn’t quite know how to sit on anyone’s laps and settled for resting her face right next to your knees. I felt an affinity with this strange old dog, who did not mind melting into the couch with you nor did she mind the nights where your body was so heavy with liquor all you could do was collapse on the floor into giggles.

Hannah, despite being exuberantly kind had days when grief racked her small little body. She would limber around the apartment, dragging her tiny body around as if it was made of stone. I wondered if it was because she was old or because she felt a constant anxiety that would not ease up.

On days like that I would wrap myself up and walk down to the park down the street. Hannah trotting alongside me until she grew tired and I had to carry her the rest of the way. The park itself wholly unremarkable aside from the water tower that sat at its center and the giant hill it was firmly planted on. The park also allowed a lovely view of I-35 and you could see the most beautiful sunsets from the top.

Hannah and I sat there, her face resting on her paws and occasionally glancing up at mine. I patted her small head and we both watched the cars moving left and right then completely out of view.

My thoughts centered on finding something meanwhile to write about, her thoughts, probably something about food.

peace treaties & glass bones

 

I suppose it has been a while since I vented my anxiety. The thing that never leaves, the thing that I began perceiving before I could even put a name on it.

Life has been better lately, and for me that is an achievement worthy of recognition. For many years life has felt like an uphill battle that I’ve always been losing. I left every birthday, every New Year’s Eve feeling a deep seated sadness that I survived for another year and begged the Universe to give me an answer as to why.

More on that another day.

In short:

I quit my job and found a better one.

I am ONE semester away from graduating with a degree that has a really long name.

I still have not found the career that I can stick to for the rest of my life, that’s okay.

I am in a loving relationship.

I have a car and a dog and air in my lungs.

I ALMOST have enough money for my dream camera.

My aunt once told me, “if the good times don’t last, neither do the bad ones.”

I am telling myself that but also trying to tell myself to enjoy the moment I am in, to stop daydreaming in class and focus on the lecture about peace negotiation or the lecture about gender roles, to expand myself wholly. (Write more you maniac! Go on more walks! Hug your old dog!)

It is a challenge, to be out of this eternal war that rages within me, for a temporary peace treaty to be brokered.

I promise you that I will try to enjoy this feeling that I am happier than I am writing myself to be. I am feeling something akin to being content and I am smiling and laughing but I am also terrified of feeling that pain again.

I will leave you with another quote from Amelie, one that I keep repeating to myself.

“So, little Amelie (Rubab), your bones aren’t made of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance go by, eventually your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton.”

on daydreams (a movie review of sorts)

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La La Land, director Damien Chazelle (2016)

I watched La La Land a few weeks ago and again last Saturday and I have not been able to get it out of my head.

The gorgeous music, Emma Stone’s to die for wardrobe and the recklessness involved with falling for a moody musician.

Although the story has been told before, in many different ways that is not what drew me to this film.

As a kid, I worshiped the movies of Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and have harbored a lifelong crush on Gregory Peck which has yet to die out.

I loved the one liners, the leading men with their husky voices and attitude and the plots that only someone who spent all the day dreaming about would come up with.

Of course, real life is more complicated and not as simple as that, thank God.

But, I am not here to talk about my love for old movies, I am here to talk about day dreaming and why La La Land is a movie for daydreamers.

As a certified neurotic all I do is daydream and fantasize.

Some of my choice favorites and recurring ones being: the perfectly executed one liners, the dance sequences and the music playing as I walk, choreographed dance numbers and interviews with Oprah, the floating in a cloud, the waltzing through the stars and going to the opera.

I dream and dream and dream.

This isn’t to say that I have had a rough life, it is to say that I have always had an overactive imagination.

It was beautiful to see this story told so wonderfully, and an important part of this movie that I loved so much was the ending. The heart wrenching ending where the beautiful girl does not get the beautiful boy and they both move on with their lives.

And I loved to see the whole fantasy of wondering what could have been! A life in Paris, a child, a night out away from said child.

In the end, there is not a story book reconciliation, and the heroine does not drive off in a Vespa with the boy of her dreams.

As I often say to myself, life is not Amélie, Rubab. Or my favorite line from the movie which I often repeat to myself as well, “It’s called a reality check. The last thing Amélie (or Rubab) wants.”

But in this movie, there was none of that but still a happy ending for the daydreamers.

In short, I cried an embarrassing amount and I implore you to look past the conversation around this movie and simply enjoy it for what it is, an escapist movie with good music and gorgeous cinematography.

“I need to write. It keeps me focused for long enough to complete thoughts. To let each train of thought run to its conclusion and let a new one begin. It keeps me thinking. I’m afraid that if I stop writing I’ll stop thinking and start feeling.”

Carrie Fisher, The Princess Diarist

on exploring home

I am currently nestled away  in a beautiful coffee shop on Routh St. It is 40 degrees out and I am dressed for the occasion. (Crooked Tree Coffeehouse, for those who are wondering.)

Granted, I do look a little out of place, as I am the only person in this coffee shop not decked out in TCU or SMU gear.

Aside from that, it is a beautiful morning. The sun is extra bright and the air bites at my nose and cheeks but I don’t mind.

It is one of those early Saturday morning which chills your bones and makes you happy to be alive.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I am a city girl. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, I love the unique faces and the spontaneity that comes with city life. Of course, I do love the warm country air but nothing puts a spring in my step like exploring a big city whether it be Dallas or Houston. (Although I’m not a big fan of the latter.)

I love Dallas, I’ve lived here since I was four years old. I first lived near Preston St and then moved to sleepy Irving (ten minutes north of Dallas, depending on what roads you take). Another thing about me is I am a devoted North Texan, the thought of living anywhere other than North Texas gives me anxiety, but alas we have to leave our comfort zones eventually, right?

So today, I will be exploring my city and taking all the pictures I can, before I have to head back to quiet little Denton.

I’ve attached some of the pictures I took after a long morning of exploring, these photos were just taken on my little ol’ iPhone 6s, so they’re not the nicest but this situation will soon be remedied.

Enjoy!

 

on uncertainty

It’s a cool morning in my sleepy college town. The wind is gentle and the air smells sweet. Down the street, a symphony of five chihuahuas barking at every car that drives by is reaching its crescendo, as the owner has finally come home from morning errands.

It’s those crucial days before the cold air really sets in where the weather is warm in the afternoon and freezing in the morning. I like to think of this as fall, but in we only have two seasons in Texas, summer and summer lite.

In a little over a year I am going to graduate college, the arduous task finally over. And I will join the league of educated 20 somethings who have no idea what the next step is.

Of course, me, Rubab Raza, anxiety personified is worried about this step.

And so I ponder, what is next?

God I wish I could tell you.

I am reminded of the passage from Sylvia Plath’s book “The Bell Jar.” In the passage the author discusses the choices she wants to make and how unbelievably hard it is to just chose one.

Below is an excerpt of my favorite quote from the book. (I recommend clicking the link and reading the beautifully illustrated comic.) 

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Illustration by Zen Pencils

Lately, it’s been hard to decide which way I should be going, what steps I need to be taking.

Do I want to stay in my beloved Dallas or should I move to a different state, or another country?

There’s so many figs on the tree, and I cannot chose for fear of missing out on something else. It is maddening.

I am certainly blessed to live a life where I get these choices, where I can pick whatever path I want to go down and am not limited to stereotypical choices.

I have options, and with those options comes uncertainty.