Reflection

May Musings - 24

Today marks the first day of the last ten days of Ramadan. Bit of a mouthful that, but the last ten days of Ramadan are the holiest, and always seem to rush by faster than any other ten day period in the year. 

Tranquility - a moment from my recent trip to Dubai 

Tranquility - a moment from my recent trip to Dubai 

How has my Ramadan been? I’m not going to lie; it’s been a tough one. I’ve found the constant travel has made it difficult to have the regular Ramadan routines I took for granted growing up. I also seemed to have struggled quite a bit with caffeine withdrawal, and the long London days take their toll. All that said, Alhamdulilah, I’ve been able to push through and channel that mental discipline Ramadan requires. It’s funny, even as I write this I’m reflecting on the fact that many of my recent Ramadan months have been tough - I’ve been on tour, working on rigs, away from home... it hasn’t been the idyllic childhood scenario for a few years now. What has been wonderful about my time here in London though has been finding a new community to share the month with - some Muslim and some not, some living at home and some on their own; all of us on a journey with our faith but with a commitment to the practice, the tradition, each other.  We’re creating our own communities now - as our parents did so for their generation, so must we for ours. 

How has your Ramadan been? What’s your relationship with the month?  

May Musings - 16

On growing up, authority and permission.

How I feel about being an adult.

How I feel about being an adult.

How does one decide what is ‘good’, or right? Are they even the same thing all the time? When we’re kids, often it’s simple: what are parents tell us, what our teachers tell us, what those in positions of authority around us decide. Who is in positions of authority? Often, when we’re young, that’s also simple too: those who are older than us. Ah, for the simplicity of childhood…

I think the moment I realised I was growing up was the moment I realised I may be different to my parents in some ways. Not from a knee-jerk teenage perspective either, but from a ‘I think we have different viewpoints, habits or lifestyle, and I don’t think I’m changing significantly any time soon’. I don’t think I can recall for certain when that moment was, but I remember it being a slight shock. The idea that my life might look different to the life of my parents, and that maybe it was okay for that to happen, felt downright scandalous, and in some ways a betrayal. I’m almost certain that they wouldn’t say it was anything of the sort, but the idea that my life looks very different to that of my folks has sometime felt morally reprehensible, despite it simply being different. Why does it feel so uncomfortable?

I think it all fits into this idea of trying to do what is ‘good’ and ‘right’, and that direction and permission often coming from my folks, and the community they symbolised for me. I’ve been a kid who often tried to do what I was supposed to (and often failed, lol). But striving to be like my parents, and what my parents approved of, felt like the ideal to strive for. It felt almost like a religious obligation! However now, with a life that looks and feels so different to theirs in many ways (where I live, what I eat, the places I go…), who becomes the weathervane? Who is the authority? Who gives permission?

Scary to think it’s perhaps, just me. And of course, my faith, so Allah - and of course, the people who I love and are around me… but ultimately, growing up is about deciding what is right for yourself. And then having the moral conviction to stick by it. That’s a lot of responsibility, if you ask me. Yet, here we are…

How do you feel? Is this something you have found yourself grappling with, or has growing up been all gravy?

May Musings - 03

Oh, I really am just scraping in writing this at 10.45pm. Gotta stick to that daily commitment though!

***

Big day of themes today, folks. Binged watched Top Boy on my trip back from Malaysia to London, then ended up at a protest in the British Museum against stolen artifacts (I found my brethren, folks who love those anti-colonial jokes!) and wrapped it all up with a #SudanUprising solidarity fundraising event at Rumi’s Cave…

A lot to think about and process. Forgive me, as my thoughts are still scattered around the city…

***

A day like today makes me appreciate the diversity that London has to offer, and recognise the privilege I have to walk between various worlds within the city. Top Boy, a show I highly recommend, reminded me that privilege of identity fluidity - born of my parents’ choices and Allah’s blessings - was something not easily accessible by all. My brief and sardonic reunion with the British Museum reminded me of the institutional injustices that continue to rage around us, seemingly impenetrable to intervention by mere mortals. But the Sudanese event at the end of the day was a reminder that all institutions are fallible, and almost all empires fall. It also reminded me, as events like these so often do, that we are never as alone as we think we are. Whether that be one’s confusion as a member of the diaspora, struggling to chant in your mother tongue, whether it’s the isolation of depression and the battle in your own head or whether it is simply wondering what space you’re allowed to take up in a room or city… giving voice to that confusion and isolation has an almost chemically transformative effect. Suddenly, it’s not your burden alone. It is never your burden alone.

It is never your burden alone.

The End of the Road: Leaving Youth Without Borders.

…the end came without fanfare.

Today, the 31st of October 2016, I chaired my final Board meeting at the helm of the organisation I founded in 2007, Youth Without Borders.

I was 16. 16! It was a time of dial up internet, Nokia 3210s, and my traditional hijabi look. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what journey I had just begun. I also had no idea why people thought it was such a big deal, starting something at 16. I just had a lot of energy and wanted to change the world! My parents wouldn’t let me do drugs, so I started an organisation instead. Seemed like a fun thing to do. Why not, right?

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

This end has arrived without fanfare. It has crept up on me, not unexpectedly, but with a finality that leaves me unmoored, bobbing in the current of an uncharted future. I’m left with sense that one should be celebrating, but I mostly just want a long afternoon lying on the grass, starting at the sun, reminiscing at times that will never be experienced in the same way again.

‘My baby’ is all grown up. It walks and talks, it lives and breaths. It is different to what I wanted it to be, what I hoped for it when it was born, but then — aren’t all children like that? Like I assume it is with kids, I did my best to provide a solid set of morals and values that will guide it through the world, and the rest, well. It’s not my choice anymore, really. Isn’t that scarily beautiful?

Honestly, one of the main reasons why we still exist almost a decade later, as one of the oldest true youth-led organisations in the country, is the fact that we stuck with it. Boring, right? We just didn’t quit. We almost did, many a time… but importantly, we didn’t.

‘We’ was quite often myself and a few of the engineering boys I corralled into doing a fundraising BBQ. ‘We’ was whoever I could convince to stick with it for a little while. ‘We’, was sometimes just me.… but ‘we’ made it. Teenagers and young people wanting to change things, before being a ‘youth-led organisation’ was part of a government’s plan to reinvigorate the economy. Subhanallah.

First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

There are many stories to share. For now, I just take this moment to acknowledge and thank every single one of the people who were a part of the Youth Without Borders journey. Without you, we would have never existed. Really, YOU are what makes this organisation great. Lucy, Anthony — the OG’s — thank you for believing in me at the very beginning. I may have inadvertently made your life difficult at times, and for that, I apologise. To all who may have had a less than optimal experience: for what it is worth, we always tried to do our work in good faith. I hope you will forgive me having to learn critical lessons at your expense.

I am who I am because of Youth Without Borders. But Youth Without Borders is not what it is because of me. It is thanks to the collective sweat equity of hundreds of young people who gave the organisation life, and in doing so believed in their capacity to make a positive impact on the world around them.

In a time when things seem to be falling apart, it’s nice to remember that all over the world, there are young people determined not to let that happen. Have faith in that. Have faith in the fact that the good stuff doesn’t make it in the news, but the good is happening all around you, all the time.

But it does its work and leaves. Its touch is light, imperceptible. Good happens without fanfare.

Fanfare.

Fanfare.

Alhamdulilah for the strength to lead, for the capacity to be heard, for the fortitude to forge on. Alhamdulilah, always.

This was originally posted on Medium.

On Sabrina & Blasts from the Past

When I was 13, I read a book that changed my life (so dramatic!)

"It was a book about Sabrina the Teenage Witch..." the tale always begins.  

Sabrina, in her infinite wisdom, had erased herself from existence, but could see what life was like without her. Her aunts didn't talk to each other because she wasn't there to broker peace, her boyfriend was in jail because he had gone off the tracks without her guidance and her best friend was dating an abusive guy because Sabrina wasn't around to help show her she was worth more.

In short, Sabrina understood that even though she might recognise the impact she had on the people around her, every interaction she had - her very existence - changed the world around her, for the better.  

I decided, at 13, to make that my mantra. Life was to become about making every interaction one that would have a positive impact on the world around me.

Easier said than done, of course.

Sure, it is the ideal framework to have in mind, but it can often fall to the wayside while going through #life, or simply struggling through life's challenges.  When things are busy or challenging, it become much more difficult to consciously be thinking about the impact we are having on those around us.  Instead, we are focused on how to take the next step, how to get through every moment.


After graduating from University, I spent near-half a year with my family in Sudan, attending the International University of Africa to learn formal Arabic.  It was a crazy experience and was actually the inspiration to start this blog - many of my early blog pieces were about trying to understand what was going on around me.  

The classes I attended were made up of young women from various parts of Africa, often mothers who brought their kids to class and who lived incredibly different lives to mine. It was eye opening, enriching, enlightening - but also, incredibly tough. I tried to be myself in a world that had a very strong view on what I 'should be' - and I wasn't playing by the rules.  I had to learn how to navigate a new system I didn't quite fit in, and so often disconnected.

I made friends, some of whom I still occasionally talk to today, but unfortunately, I lost contact with most of my new friends and colleagues. That is why a recent email in my inbox caused me an unreasonable amount of joy:

Salam alaikum dear Yassmin...welll I really don’t know where to start from coz I’m excited. I thought I should share my excitement with you coz you are someone I have always been convinced is of great intellect and life touching potentials, even though I only met you for a short time and we got to talk a few times.

Oh! Interesting, I thought. My curiosity was piqued. 

Yes! we’ve met before and that’s the more reason why I’m excited...sometimes in early to mid 2012 we were at the same institute of Arabic language (ma’ad lugha al arabiyyah) at International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan.

We weren’t actually classmates but we’ve had the opportunity to study together at one of those instances where the teachers have to merge students together for some classes. It was on one of those occasions we met and we talked not so extensively, but heartily. You might not remember who I am, but I do vividly remember you, such that when I randomly watched your TED talk on YouTube while just surfing the internet, I knew it was you even without remembering your name, I just knew it was you...that’s how people with infectious personality, high intellect and extremely inspiring leave me feeling even if we’ve only known each other for a few seconds.

You might be wondering why I’m excited. I’m excited because since I stopped seeing you around at ma’ad lugha, it would cross my mind once in a while what you are up to where ever you are. Seeing you on TED and reading a few other things about you, and realizing that you’re doing great for yourself, and not just that, you’re also inspiring others to bring out the best in themselves is just amazing.

I’m really proud and greatly inspired by you. Keep up the good work and Allah is your strength.

We might not have so many things in common, but like you said in one of your talks, “you want to do so many things, that at the end of the day, you just want to be useful”.

I think we share that in common, and you are one of my inspirations to work even better at achieving that goal. I also have a few things going on in my life, if you do not mind, I could share them with you.

Take care.

That is what makes it all worth it. 

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the spice of life. To know that our actions are having an impact on others in ways we cannot even imagine, is incredibly humbling. To know that a conversation that you have - a single conversation - can be remembered, is powerful, because it reminds us of the potential of every.single.interaction.

We must never forget that.

I recently met a guy who left his high paying job as a lawyer to start his dream company. When I asked him why he studied law, his response was further proof of the impact of small moments.

Well, at my speech night someone - an important someone - asked me what I was planning to do with my life. I told him, and he said “No son, you’re going to study law and commerce and do this, this and this...” and that’s what I did!

Now that 'important guy' may not even remember the conversation he had with a young graduating student, but his comments shaped this man's life.  


What keeps me going? Knowing that any of the conversations I have, the smiles I share and the paths I cross has the potential to be life changing - for me, or for those around me.  

The same applies to you! Without realising it, you could be giving confidence to the next Mohammed Ali, helping out the next Malala or giving the nudge needed for the next Elon Musk.

How exciting is that?!

Cowboys, Kentucky and Keeping the Feels Alive

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There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a television series.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably one of my guilty pleasures, one that I no doubt share with many of my fellow gen-y folk.  Watching episode on episode of a show, not noticing the hours fly by, absorbed in the story lines of fictional characters, caring more about their fate than sometimes the fates and futures of those around us.

It is how I would give my brain a rest between exams, and in some ways unfortunately, has replaced a love of fiction books.  Why, I’m not sure: the transition has been slow and insidious, until I only recently realised I had spent the same number of hours watching TV as I would previously have spent hungrily consuming the worlds of Tamora Pierce, Joe Abercrombie and Duncan Lay.

That being said, my writing this reflection was prompted by the emotional and yet fitting season finale of a favourite series of mine, Justified.

It isn’t quite a mainstream classic like Game of Thrones, which I refuse to watch on principle (the abundance of nudity and gratuitous violence grates on my soul).  Justified was introduced to me by a geologist on a rig in Western Queensland on an unsuspecting day-shift.

“It’s pretty good. It’s addictive…"

I was sceptical, but it didn’t take long. It took one episode in fact, and I was hooked.

Justified is the story of a cowboy lawman, Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens and his long time battle with outlaw Boyd Crowder.

The world of Eastern Kentucky is foreign to me, but Justified brought it alive. Perhaps the representation of Harlan County is as accurate as The Wire’s of Baltimore, but the characters were just as complex, real and courageously human.  Boyd was a outlaw in every sense of the word yet somehow, we were given glimpses into his humanity, as much as we despised it. Raylan was a lawman who was perhaps the mirror image of Boyd, but on the right side of the tracks and we saw him grapple with his instinct, and what was ‘right'.  The various other Marshals, the villains, the well meaning town folk and of course the steel of Ava Crowder, Rayland’s original lover and Boyd’s finance - and shooter - weaved a tapestry that made us feel like a thread in the story; made us feel like we could belong.

The amazing thing about TV is that right now, moments after shedding a single tear at the season (and series) finale, my emotions are wrought and raw.  Yet, I will look back on this in days, weeks, months and think gosh! How invested was I! How was it that I spent so much time watching this when I could have been doing something productive? Why did I care so much about a world which does not even exist?

I guess that’s not the point. The beauty in well made pop culture, well made film and ultimately, well made art is that it gives us the space to feel. We are given permission to see and experience what we don’t yet have the language for through the world of someone else. It can hold up a mirror to who we are as a society, give us the opportunity to dissect human interaction, figure out who is still holding the reigns of societal power. It can be used to shape minds and expectations, introduce ideas and challenge them, entertain, embolden, embattle, envelope. It can be anything we want it to be I guess...

What I took away from Justified is this: for some, human life is cheap.

Some people are lucky, some make it through.

Others, most others, don’t fare so well, and past success is never quite a guarantee of the same in the future.

Some folk are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some are victim of the lottery of birth.

Others make the circumstances of their birth moot through their choices, but that is a courage not many are even shown how to muster.

Trust is a beautiful, rare and incredibly fragile thing: if it were tangible it would be the film that makes up a butterfly’s wings. Pierce it and the film curls all the way back. Each piece requires painstaking, careful unfurling to even begin to resemble its original form and even then...

Ultimately, even nemesis share a common humanity.  For Boyd and Raylan, it was digging coal when they were pups. Here in the real world, it is up to us to find that binding force between each other.  For if we don’t, there is no way out.

In the deep, dark hills of Eastern Kentucky, 

That’s the place where I trace my bloodline,

And it’s there I read on hillside gravestone.

You’ll never leave Harlan alive...

Nepal - Donate through ChildFund

I have no words.  All I can say is that an organisation that I am closely affiliated with (as I serve on the Board of ChildFund Australia) is doing some fantastic work in the region and could use any support you want to give to the children in Nepal. What happened?

In a nutshell, this is the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years (the last major earthquake was in 1934).

  • More than 3,200 people have been killed and over 6,500 injured, with the numbers continuing to climb
  • According to UNICEF, almost a million children have been severely affected
  • ChildFund has been working in Nepal for 20 years (through our sister organisation ChildFund Japan)
  • Our emergency response is focused on Sindhupalchok district, one of the worst-affected areas
  • Initial reports from our partner staff estimate 80 per cent of mud houses in the communities where we work have been destroyed – children and families are now staying outdoors in freezing temperatures and need immediate assistance
  • Our primary concern is for the care and protection of children affected by this terrible disaster
  • Our team on the ground is conducting a rapid assessment so that our response can get underway

ChildFund are continuing to post updates on social media and would appreciate you sharing the appeal link with your networks.  Otherwise, there are a list of reputable places to send your $$ here.

There are an overwhelming number of disasters that are fighting for our attention in the news at the moment.

This is simply one...

Either way, don't let the tide of distress paralyse you from being able to interact with and support any of the movements or responses.  Make sure you play your part - however small - in making this world a little safer, in whatever way you know how.

 

The F1 Come Down

The starting lap  

It is that feeling you get when something so amazing happens that you can't believe it ever happened at all.

The weekend of the Malaysia Grand Prix was my first foray into the world of Formula One journalism. Writing for Richard's F1, I spent four days in the media centre, walking the paddock, scratching out articles, attending press conferences, laughing (loudly and often) and generally being in awe: in awe of the calibre and influence of the journalists in the room, in awe of the experience, in awe of the history.

Honestly, being able to speak to and joke with people whose work I have read and respected for a long time was surreal; being able to discuss the very issues that were pertinent to the sport in real time was ridiculous!  How I have been so fortunate (Alhamdulilah) to stumble into this world, I can only wonder.  Alhamdulilah, and a big shout out to Richard Bailey whose has been a staunch supporter, mentor and sponsor in this space.

It's the small things that create the strongest memories really.

The reporters from all around the world, writing and talking in different languages;

The nicknames given to the different drivers by the journos;

Learning about the various cliques - who hangs out with who, who do you ask for this, where to go for that;

Richard and I walking up and down the paddock with the aim of meeting people and scoring interviews (Richard loving the drivers and my interests lying with learning more from the technical directors, engineers and principals).  Walking up and down the paddock sounds fine, until you experience Malaysia stifling 90+ % humidity and mid-30 temperatures...

Sharing in the junk food (sugar always seems to help the writing process, no matter how seasoned a professional);

The rush after an announcement to figure out what this means and write it up;

The build of up excitement at the start of the race: I must say, probably the best group of people to watch and F1 race with because literally, everyone is glued to the screen and taking notes.  Once the race started and the *gasps* and murmurs died down (the starts are always great to watch), the room was as serious as it had ever been all week. Of course, this is the business end of the weekend. This is what we are all here for...

Terrible, terrible jokes;

Being the new kid on the block.  Everything is fun and exciting and there are hundreds of new people to meet! Making new friends :)

Learning amazing history about the sport from people that were actually there;

Making Niki Lauda smile (yay!);

Technical conversations with guys who actually write the regulation and design(ed) the cars;

Realising that these are the people who tell the world about Formula One, and they are just as cool and interesting as their writing is.

I still can't believe it (have I said that before yet?).  What surprised me was that although it is a place where you have to earn your stripes like any other, by and large people were quite friendly.  If you showed your keen interest, people were willing to help.  I guess that's like anywhere really: you only really get out as much as you put in.

It is a bit of a drug though; I am not sure how I would fare attending an F1 in the near future and sitting in the grandstands.

IMAG1512_1

I'd want to know what the stewards are saying, what the word on the street is regarding the latest controversial topic, what new distraction Bernie has concocted, what new challenges the engineers are facing.  So who knows.

I'm but no means formally qualified, but if there is one thing I like doing, it is asking questions.  It would seem that some of the best people at this job are the ones who know the right question to ask...

(Oh, and being an engineer doesn't go down too badly either. It's an engineer's playground!)

Hopefully, inshallah, I will get the opportunity to do this again in the future.

In the meantime, memories will have to do...

#Sepang #MalaysianGP2014

#MH370

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SBS Comment: I'm an undercover hijabi too?

Check out this piece I wrote for SBS Online!

When I'm at work on the rigs, it turns out I'm an undercover hijabi.

The experience I have reflects what blogger Leena talks about in her piece 'I took my hijab off for a day'. She describes a complete shift in the way she was perceived by society after she accidentally covered her hijab up with a knit hat and scarf.

The style of hijab I usually wear is flowy, full of tassels and in some ways an occupational health and safety hazard around heavy machinery. While on site I wear a head covering that has been described by coworkers as a 'tea cosy'; a beanie and bandana combination similar to a style favoured by Egyptian ladies. I wore it for a while without realising my coworkers didn't see it as a religious head covering.

I was loving the fact that I wasn't experiencing the racisim in country Australia that I had expected. This fantasy was ubruptly burst when a colleague asked if I ever took the tea cosy off.

'Nah,' I replied easily. 'I'm a Muslim woman, this is what I wear as a hijab on the rig.'

A look of confusion crossed his face and the topic was dropped. It didn't take me too long after that to join the dots.

'Hey, you know I'm Muslim, right?' I asked another fellow that I'd become friends with.

'What? Really? Nah I didn't know...'

'Oh, well why do you think I wear this?' I asked, pointing at my head.

'Oh, I thought it was a fashion thing, or maybe for safety ...'

Like Leena in her piece, this left me feeling confused. The next day, I wore a full hijab (the traditionally wrapped kind) to the crib room for breakfast. You could have been forgiven for thinking people thought I was a completely different person.

It wasn't until I began interacting like the loud, feisty person I always am that people warmed to my presence. The experiments was repeated at a bigger mining style camp and again, the difference in attitudes was startling.

With a beanie, you are just a chick who is cold. With a headscarf, you are the new local tourist attraction and smiles are returned only occasionally and almost fearfully. Suddenly, you're are a foreigner in your own home.

Being a hijabi in the West has its challenges. You're extremely visible as a representative of the religion and people on all sides of the fence see it as their role to police, have an opinion, and a right to comment on your choice. You are constantly asked to justify the actions and mistakes of every extremist that chooses to do something crazy and inhumane in the name of your religion. These are roles that we hijabis have simply become accustomed to filling, part of the deal in a way.

To get a 'get out of jail free card' by wearing something not recognisable gives me mixed feelings. Occasionally, it feels like cheating to be wearing something that people don't associate with Islam for practical reasons while also working to fulfil the conditions of my belief. At the same time, religion and politics are two topics that are avoided like the plague in any blue collar crib room, and so keeping it as personal as possible is a natural default in this environment.

It would be fair to argue everyone should be accepting regardless of what kind of head covering is worn, be it a beanie, a hijab or a ninja-style niqab. Realistically, many are just not ready yet for such changes in their environment and find hijab - for better or for worse - confronting. An effective response is akin to tailoring a message for different audiences: if a group is not at all primed, they'll close their minds off completely to confrontational messaging. The hope is that perhaps as my colleagues now see me as a person first, the common ground found will help reduce ignorance and forge understanding.

When I'm not on the rig, I go back to wearing my classic brightly coloured flowing pieces. They feel like 'me', a part of my identity, something I do for God and an external representation of my faith. It is interesting to consider how many interactions have been missed because people have already made their decision on what I represent based on the type of wrapping I have used on my head.

My way around it at the moment? Grabbing every opportunity to chat to those people, and the more traditionally dressed I am, the better. A slightly inappropriate joke, or a comment about my love of motorsport and knowledge of engines usually shocks them enough for them to forget what I look like for a moment and be drawn into a chat. Then, everyone wants to know what the bikie and the hijabi are laughing uproariously about. Nothing breaks down barriers in Australia like a well timed self deprecating joke.

It may not be perfect, but until all facets of our society become comfortable with seeing displays of faith like the hijab and what they represent, we may have to be more creative about our engagement and representation. After all, to be seen as a foreigner in the only country we know as home is a lonely place indeed. It is a two way street though, and ultimately, it is all about finding the place where we belong in the patchwork fabric of Australia's identity while holding (and displaying) the true values of Islam and faith dear.

 

Life isn't all about men.

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"Oh, I much prefer hanging with guys. They're just so much simpler and there is isn't as much drama"

"Yeh, most of my friends are guys. I prefer it that way. Chicks are just so harsh to each other"

...and so on, and so forth.

Women hating on other women is an interesting phenomena, and more common than one would think.

In all honesty, I shared these very same sentiments for a long time.  My actions reflected it: I did mechanical engineering and ended up in the oil and gas field, areas where women cannot be said to be the majority.  The decisions were not made consciously because I knew there would be less women, but I dare say it somehow tapped my subconscious.

However, as I have become more interested in the concepts of (formal?) feminism, equity of opportunity and diversity (particularly in the workplace) I found that this attitude was something that I consciously had to stop.  It was destructive, petty and I couldn't figure out why I was doing it!

On reflection, it may have something to do with the relationship between women and the male gaze.  

This occurred to me early on in my oil and gas stint when I heard about a new lady joining the crew, doubling the female population.  My instantaneous mental reaction was 'Oh, I wonder what she looks like / what the guys will think of her'.

Then... I mentally frowned (which is like a normal frown but no one knows you are doing it).

Why on earth did I care what she looked like or what the guys thought of that? Why was I making it some sort of competition? 

It occurred to me that some of my thinking had become about (embarrassingly) competing for male attention.  For someone who prides themselves on being an 'independent women' a la Bey, Queen Latifa, Aiysha (RA) and the like, it was a little bit of a shock.  

In some ways, the hijab helps remove the dependence on the male gaze. In some ways it says (and this is something I have appreciated as I have aged), "well I don't want to be subject to your gaze, and I am not going to let you have the power to make a judgement on my worthiness.  I am removing what you find desirable from your view.'  But what I have been learning is that a simple veil and code of dress wasn't enough, it is also about changing the mindset.

Male friends have been confused at this choice:

"But why would you want to hide your beauty if you have it? Why wouldn't you want to share it with the world?"

Perhaps because it isn't all about you?

***

I am now working at a location where there is a large camp and plenty of female staff.  It's awesome to have other women around, even if they are mostly in the admin and catering roles.  I made a couple of acquaintances yesterday, who inquired about my role and expressed their delight when I shared that I was working on the rigs in a technical job.

"You go girl! Show them how it's done!"

"Oooooo!" the Philippino lady in the kitchen also remarked. "So good to see girls get out there!"

That's the sisterhood that I'm talking about.

Perhaps 'sisterhood' is too nerdy a term, or one that has negative connotations around, but we should be in a place where we back each other up rather than compete for some level of acknowledgement from the men around us.  Unfortunately it isn't so easy, or at least it is easier said than done. In a world still mostly run by men (sorry Beyonce), acknowledgement and preference by the patriarchy adds an awful lot of social capital to one's account, and usually opens up more doors to achieving.  Females who do in some way tap into that without compromising their integrity (perhaps by being a woman in a male dominated field...).  Still working on ways around that one...

Whatever it may be, at the end of the day we should consciously choose to shift our attitudes in each and every interaction. Let's support each other and not pretend life is a zero sum game where only one woman may win.

Let's create our own worth and be proud in that.

The Wisdom of the Dalai Lama in Person.

 

The Young Minds Conference being held at Sydney Town Hall had a lucky guest for the opening session on the 17th of June - His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

I was fortunate to be a part of the fantastic panel that flanked the Dalai Lama, including the moderator Simon Longstaff, and Professors Deborah Harcourt and Carla Rinaldi.

Check out the official conference's blog here...

What a session! The topic was huge, "How to grow a good person".

What a topic indeed...

***

Justice cannot be done to the morning by recounting a few simple words, but I will do my best!

An unexpected surprise was the Dalai Lama's candour and sense of humour (especially at his own expense - it's awesome to know I'm not the only one who laughs at my own jokes!). It is easy to forget in those simple moments that he is Nobel Laureate and the religious leader of his people.

What did he say?

He talked about the importance of family and the kindness of his mother, who 'never showed an angry face'.

He laughed about life as a young student who was only interested in playing, as all kids are.

He ruminated on the secular nature of ethics and morals...

He took us on a journey of a spiritual man who sees goodness as not being the sole property of those with religion, but of humanity.

This, he stressed.

'We should teach morals and ethics as a curriculum subject!'

His emphasis was profound.

To him, the values of love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, respect and the like are not values that we should, as religious folk, be protective of but should share, as they are humanity's values.

Instead, they are secular morals that are based on biological factors that are about keeping humanity going. It was an interesting argument, and one that gives much food for thought.

***

A profound experience. I've had the blessing of speaking with His Holiness before, however this experience was a little different. Perhaps because I saw his obvious love for children; for their predilection to play, enjoy and be affectionate. We had a number of young people join us on the stage to ask questions; he would hold their hands, laugh with them, get them to sit on his lap...much like any elder gentlemen would treat his own grandchildren perhaps?

Let children be children, let them play and let them love, was his message.

However, don't let us forget that we can learn from children, from their abandonment, for their honest curiosity and humanity. Let us learn from them. Let us focus on secular morals and value them more in society.

 

Some among us have a wealth of wisdom to share.

The Dalai Lama is one of these men.

Regardless of differences in belief, it is important to reflect on the wisdom shared, relate it back to one's own beliefs and understand the univeral importance of humanity.

There is beauty - flawed and imperfect - but beauty nonetheless, in our collective humanity. For that reminder, I am grateful Alhamdulilah!

1 Year Anniversary! Top 10 posts of last 12 months

Can you believe it has been an entire 12 months since this blog began?

It has been an exciting year of growth and development so thank you all for sharing that journey.

There have been over 4100 unique visitors over the past year, with over 12,000 page views. Thank you for taking the time to engage! That is pretty awesome! :)

Also, thank you all for reading and being part of this community! I hope that we can continue to grow together, debate and discuss, reflect and learn from one another.

To celebrate, here is a little walk down memory lane: the top 10 posts of the last 12 months! Enjoy!!

 

1. Women in the East, Women in the West - Finding the Middle Ground

This was written after returning from four months in Sudan, visiting family, studying formal Arabic at university and going through a very profound reflective period. Profound mostly because it opened up perspectives that I hadn't truly considered or interrogated before and provided much food for thought. That experience will continue to inform the way I understand society and place equal value in both Eastern and Western experiences.

 

2. Please explain why my clothing choice matters to you?

Another reflection from the East/West point of intersection, written after a strangely affecting incident at the Brisbane Airport. It was really an inconsequential incident in its own right, but brought up many questions afterward as to the symbolism of dress and the lack of nuanced understanding that sometimes rears its head in our society.

 

3. Shoot the Messenger

Essentially a review on an interesting film about war photographers. Asking the question - should the photographer or journalist simply put aside their moral obligation as humans to report?

 

4. Sudan Revolts

The page that talks the Sudanese Revolts of 2012. Reflections, thoughts, links, advice... unfortunately the attempted coup was decisively shut down but it was interestined to see the other part of the battle nonetheless.

 

5. Cultural Sh-Sh-Shock: Part 2

Yet another post about the cultural differences I observed on my trip to Sudan and noting a few of the aspects of cultural shock that I encountered, particularly the difference between expectations for men and women.

 

 

6. Study Secrets to Ace Your Exams (Part 1)

These are honestly the tips and tricks that got me through University and allowed me to (Alhamdulilah/thank God!) graduate with first class honours while doing all - or many - of the other things that were important, including Youth Without Borders, the UQ Racing team and much more. Part two is still on its way.

 

7. Book Review: Adam Parr's "The Art of War"

A review about a well presented book written during a very interesting time in Formula 1 politics and management. Well worth reading.

 

8. 10 Useful Brain Sharpening Websites for 2013

The title says it all. A toolbox full of links that will help you keep your brain KEEEEEN!

 

9. Drilling Diaries

Less and post and more a category, this ranked in 9th and is essentially links to all the crazy stories and conversations that I have while working out in the oil and gas rigs in Australia.

 

10. The Innocence of Who?

A post written in the aftermath of 'The Innocence of Muslims' video. A brief look at why this sort of reaction is common and perhaps what we as a society can do to change it.

 

I honestly really look forward to the next 12 months with you all, and can't wait!