“Ready or Not”

Last week, I put out my very first attempt at “narrative audio journalism” (if you can call it that) called “Ready or Not”. If you missed it in last week’s post, you can still listen to it on Soundcloud! Actually, please do, because it’s so close to 100 plays!! Haha.

To be very frank, I wasn’t too happy with how it turned out. It was only after publishing it that I realized I had accidentally cut out a part of Hanna’s interview. The music probably wasn’t at the right volume and honestly, I don’t think it even appeared at appropriate times. I don’t even think each audio clip was at the same volume. I was recording my narrations at 1 a.m.—because I didn’t have a studio, I needed to wait for the traffic outside to slow down before I could record. This meant having to use my croaky voice. I felt like I didn’t give it all the attention it deserved. I started working on this in early February but kind of stalled working on it during the school year because I was busy and then later rushed it after commencement because I didn’t want to “miss the moment” or whatever and I’m kind of annoyed at myself for that.

Still, I was so encouraged by and thankful for the support from everyone who listened. I recall that I have mentioned this project on here a couple of times and said I would explain more when I have the time, so I’m going to take you through what I did and why I decided to even do this in the first place. Fair warning, this a pretty lengthy one.

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Some of you might know that most of my junior and senior years in college have been fraught with the search for a job. I did the whole consulting thing for a while and that… didn’t turn out so well. I failed to get a consulting internship the summer after junior year and failed again to get a full time job in my senior year. I really wanted it and for a while, I really thought that was the track I was going to take. Both times, I came so close and I didn’t get it. It sucked. But I got over it. Still, that meant I had to find something to do.

If you remember, last summer I would mention quite often in my posts that I had discovered this and that podcast (my two first favs were Millennial and Start Up!!) and I would rave about it endlessly both in my posts and to my friends. I was so enamoured by the medium and it was one of those things that was like… “this is amazing and I actually think I could do this.” But I never thought of myself as brave, risk-taking or creative so the idea of going out and running my own podcast was just an interesting thought to be kept for future reference… for when I somehow become gutsier and smarter (and have saved more money from working very hard at some other cutthroat job first).

But when the consulting job route didn’t pan out, there was nothing else I wanted to or thought I could do. Nothing. Everything I considered would’ve been a job just for the sake of having a job and that made me so repulsed? depressed? I don’t know. I remember talking to my parents once and they were like, “just search for jobs in whatever, like HR or sales or something” and in my mind, I was like “SALES???????” It’s not like anything was wrong with a job in sales per se, I think it just made me feel like college and my years of prep didn’t matter. Because I spent four hard years getting a liberal arts education, and the idea that really stuck with me in my time here is that we should work with a firm purpose, do something that means something and be of service to society (and no, the irony was not lost on me that I wanted a consulting job, but to be fair, that was to “gain skills” and “save money” so that I could do what I really wanted—such a typical Penn student trope!). But the picture I had of a sales job (admittedly a misguided one) was someone standing in a mall handing out flyers and you might see why I didn’t want that.

Yeah, it is a very millennial story line. I knew objectively that many people don’t start out at the best job they can get, but instead, patiently and diligently work their way through. Regardless, I fell prey to the “I worked so hard for… this?” line of thought. At this point I think I had already decided I would apply for internships in the radio and podcasting industry. I didn’t think I would get anything though, given my utter lack of experience. In other words, that was more of a “I will give it my best shot and put this first but think about other things also” plan. Still, eager to get my hands dirty and to overcome the inertia of inexperience, I decided I had to make something.

At this point, I was sad and anxious and maybe even a little angry. I had these burning questions: What was it all even for? And what do I do now that it’s almost over? I knew my friends and I had been having a lot of conversations about these things. In particular, I remember Shahirah and I talking in her room one night and she told me that even though she already had a job from the outset because of her scholarship situation, didn’t have to pick a major and didn’t feel pressured to get good internships over the summer—things that often made me feel anxious—she still felt lost because college is such a good time to figure out what you love doing and when she’s done serving her bond to her employer, she won’t have that same college environment to help her figure out what she wants to do. Around the same time, I spoke to Professor Pollack (while sipping a chai latte in futile efforts to stop myself from tearing up) about not knowing what to do next and feeling like all my hard work was pointless because I felt like I wouldn’t ever do anything meaningful with my life. Then, we talked about how you never know where one thing is going to lead you, how there is often only one spot at the top job but that doesn’t mean everyone else is doomed and there is always something to be learned wherever you end up.

I loved having conversations like these and on those days I remember wishing I could write about them on my blog or share them with more people or just mobilize them in some way. So, that got me thinking about talking to other people and recording it into a podcast type thing. For a long time, I told people that it would be about “graduation anxieties” and how we navigate them.

I had a strong gut feeling that it was a good idea but I had no clue what I was doing. Last summer, I spent some nights taking an online class on using audio for storytelling by Alex Blumberg (the founder of the podcast production company Gimlet Media and former host of Start Up and Planet Money—who, you might recall, I was ecstatic to meet last January!!!!). I watched YouTube videos and read lots of articles on Transom about equipment and writing an outline and doing interviews but you know, reading about how to drive isn’t going to help you actually learn to drive, right? So then I kind of took the plunge, I guess.

First, deciding who to interview was partly easy because I knew I wanted Shahirah and Ken, two of my really good friends who had these different life trajectories. I knew I wanted a couple of people who didn’t know what they were doing yet and luckily Clare and Rashad were both willing to be my subjects. I knew I wanted someone who had been through it all, and that was my friend Hanna. I had known that I would interview Professor Pollack since that day in his office, but I needed something more. It didn’t feel complete. This was like mid-late February. Around that time, Penn Perspectives (a lecture series for seniors that I was participating in) invited the University Chaplain, Chaz Howard to come speak to us.

At that lecture, Chaz talked about how it’s funny how when you’re in college you have all these titles like President of this and that organisation and you have all these underclassmen who know your name and you wear your club sweatshirt or varsity jacket and it means something on this campus. But if you come back to Penn after you graduate, you know almost no one, and all those titles you used to have now mean nothing, and then who are you? Who are you, stripped from your job and your identity as a student? He also talked about finding comfort in mystery, trusting the “interruptions” in our lives that are divine interventions leading us to where we really need to go, and how the fruits of our success should help other things grow. By the end of it, so many of us in the crowd were bawling. We were so moved. The next morning, I emailed him asking if I could interview him and it was such a great decision. I think he really added a lot of heart to the story.

I absolutely loved interviewing Chaz because on top of being wise, he is such a natural at speaking in front of a mic! I loved our entire conversation, which made picking sound bites from his interview so difficult. I didn’t end up including this but in that interview, we also discussed the parallels between moving from high school to college and moving from college to work. In both cases, you make new friends and readjust to new environments. You tweak/rebuild your identity. He had this great metaphor about seeing college freshmen slowly stop wearing their high school athlete clothes and how we will learn to do that again when we go into the workplace. It made me realise that even though I dreaded the anxiety of leaving college, I’ve kind of… done it before. We all have. I couldn’t fit that part into the piece but it’s one of my favourite bits of tape I ended up excluding.

[Slight digression: after I interviewed Chaz, he told his friend Jennifer Lynn, a radio host on Philadelphia’s local radio station, about me. She later gave me a phone call and offered me advice on making audio pieces. We later sat down together, Jennifer, Chaz and me, and chatted about my project. I completely forgot about this, but that conversation was recorded and was featured on WHYY a few weeks ago along with a blog post featuring an excerpt from my interview with Chaz. It was pretty cool. Listen to it here!]

Anyway, the problem with using what Chaz and Professor Pollack said as an ending though, was that it was very… “I was confused but then I learned this cliche thing and everything became ok” and that just didn’t sit well with me. It begged the question: so why do we do this? Why do we feel this way? The week after Chaz spoke at Penn Perspectives, we had a lecture by Adam Grant. It was early March. He mentioned how he anticipates that by September, like most Septembers, his inbox will get filled with emails from fresh grads in Finance careers asking if he thinks it’s reasonable for them to hang on in these jobs until January just so they can say 2017-2018 on their resumes. He talked about how even though we know what will and won’t make us happy or fulfilled, we tend to ignore what we know and do something else. I thought it fit perfectly into the tentative narrative I had cooking in the back of my mind.

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Adam Grant giving his lecture

That same night, he also gave us some advice about making the most out of the last few months in college. He said to email the professors you want to connect with and to do it before you graduate because professors feel more obliged to help a current student and that privilege quickly wanes once you graduate. So I emailed him. I told him I liked his talk and I wanted to include what he said in my project and he replied asking me to schedule a time for a phone call! Adam Grant is one of my favourite authors, so that moment was probably one of the highlights of my senior year. Of course, because he was busy, that conversation couldn’t happen until 3 weeks later. When we spoke, he asked me for my notes from the talk, he told me my project sounds great, that I shouldn’t worry about misquoting him and he even offered to help me make connections with people in radio. Yeah, it was definitely one of the highlights of my senior year.

Anyway, back to interviews. Scheduling was difficult but I managed to get seven interviews done within a couple of weeks. I think interviewing people was kind of easy because I knew the people I had selected were naturally introspective and I knew what perspective they would add to the story. It was just a matter of asking them in the right way for the conversation to sound organic and not rigid. I was kinda worried about interviewing people and then realising I couldn’t use something because I didn’t ask the right follow up question or whatever but honestly, I had so much tape that whenever something absolutely didn’t work, I just tossed it. In the end, the hardest part about interviewing people was to not interject them when they speak and chime in with an “I know, right!” or something like that, haha.

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Kim’s creepshot of me from outside the studio

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Interviewing Clare!!

As for equipment, I knew the Penn library had these simple audio recorders I could borrow for 3 days at a time and I knew that the Kelly Writers House had a recording studio I could book to use for interviews. I ended up using a mix of both just because scheduling was tricky. The thing about the recorders from the library was that they come in these bright bulky yellow boxes and I’d sometimes take two out just in case I couldn’t figure out how to use one of the two and I would carry them around with me through campus. Sometimes I’d also be lugging a tripod and ugh, my shoulders were not happy with me all of those days. Even so, the project made me really grateful to be at a place like Penn where resources were never a problem.

The next step was to transcribe my interviews. I knew that was the “industry standard” or whatever and I also felt it was the most intuitive thing to do because then I could treat writing the outline and my eventual narration as writing a paper and treat the transcriptions as “sources”. Transcribing took so long though. I had about 200 minutes of recordings. Two hundred! And if you’ve ever tried typing out something word for word as you listened, you’ll know it’s not that easy. Every minute of audio ended up taking like 5-7 minutes to transcribe so you know, do the math. Plus, this was during the school year! I finished getting all my interviews early March and ended up only finishing transcriptions in early April. It amounted to about 23,000 words!

At this point, I told several people whose insight and/or writing I trusted about what I was working on. One of those people was my friend Kimberly Siew. Kim and I took a Creative Writing class together last Fall and became fast friends—our classmates found it difficult to believe that we didn’t know each other before that class. She’s an excellent writer and better yet, she’s great at workshopping pieces and giving feedback. So one night, after I baked some (delicious) pecan cupcakes, we sat on my couch and I kind of bounced ideas off of her. I never really understood that phrase, too bounce ideas off of? What does that even mean? But this felt truly collaborative. I would tell her my issues with the tape that I had and how I wasn’t sure how to fill the gaps, we’d throw out some options and exchange comments and I really think our conversation that night became the backbone of the existing structure of my piece.

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From that night in my apartment

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Just for the record, these were the aforementioned cupcakes.

Another person I spoke to was Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who actually taught the class Kim and I took together. She helped me think about how to go about deciding what to include and omit so as to hone in on what I want to get across. Basically, I needed to trust my instincts and be very aware of when I get bored listening. I also spoke to Caroline Connolly, whose Intro to Psychology class I TA-ed for this past year. I brought it up before class once because I had also taken a Developmental Psychology seminar with her called Modern Young Adulthood, which was all about the psychological processes related to the transition into adulthood so I felt it was relevant. We ended up getting coffee after her lecture one of the days and just spent like 3 hours talking.

It was in that conversation with Connolly that she mentioned the cliff metaphor which you hear in the piece: a lot of people treat graduation like it’s final, like you’re jumping off a cliff. I told her that day that I know it’s silly and that even though I feel that way too, I know I shouldn’t. But she told me that it’s normal because in a way it is final for so many of us. It’s the last time of our lives we’ll dedicate solely to pursuing knowledge formally. What that subtly implies is that we should be prepared because we’re “done learning”. Obviously that’s not exactly true, but it helped me see why we are so prone to thinking that way. A lot of my conversations with both Jamie-Lee and Professor Connolly did end up informing the way I thought about writing my outlines.

Even with all that inspiration, it took some time to write my outline. I didn’t know what the overarching narrative would be. Kim and I had kind of come up with several takeaways for the ending, and I already knew what the starting point was (me crying like a dramatic millennial about how nothing matters lol) but I had no idea how to use the hours of recordings I had gathered to get from point A to point B. I was very intimidated by the amount tape I had (200 minutes!!! 23,000 words!!!). I felt like so much of it was insightful and I wasn’t sure how to get it down to 40 minutes. And not just any 40 minutes but an impactful and coherent 40 minutes.

I sat down with printed versions of the transcripts, highlighted my favourite parts and labelled them to find common threads. The problem was, it was very difficult to write for audio and I found that I couldn’t quite treat it the same way I approached writing papers for classes because with a written thing you could more easily just pluck out short quotes and use these bracket things […] lol. Plus, for classes, the topic is usually more critical and well-defined (at least, in my experience) so arguments tend to be more logical. This was kind of an audio diary. I felt like it could more easily fall down the slippery slope of being rambly and whiny or overly emotional. So, I “zoomed out” and really looked at things at the base level to try to focus on the most barebone outline.

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Then I wrote it. I think by mid-April, I had a rough draft. I sat down with my friend Clare first to discuss the outline because she’s a great writer and spent 3 years at Penn as a writing tutor and because I had been talking to her about it all semester. I knew she understood the core idea of it. We made some adjustments and I spent another couple of days tweaking it. Then, I gave it to Shahirah, Ken and Hui Jie for comments. It was helpful for me that they pointed out where I wasn’t clear enough and things like that.

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The first time anyone read my draft. I was SO nervous.

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Ken and his notes on my draft!!!! Ahhhh I already miss these post-Astronomy lunches with him and Hui Jie.

At this point, Hui Jie mentioned something that I had already kind of been thinking about but tried to ignore… and it was that I introduced one person and then the next and then the next whereas a lot of podcasts splice the interviews to clump the issues together. She pointed out that it made the piece seem a little repetitive because of there are kind of repeated problem-resolution sequences instead of a more concerted structure: all the different problems lumped in the beginning and then an overarching resolution in the end. I agreed with her and wanted to take some more time to think about it but I never ended up making the time because by that point we were getting close to finals and the typical end of semester/year craze.

So yeah, then it kind of got pushed to the side until all the cacophony of commencement died down. By then, I decided I just needed to do it. So, I literally dragged a chair into my closet, hung my bathrobe behind me and placed my phone amongst my clothes to minimise echo as much as possible. (Side note: this is a Ted Talk about audio storytelling that features journalists recording in all sorts of funny arrangements) Safe to say, I was sweating by the end of it. Then, I spent the next day or so editing it on Hindenburg, which I chose to use solely because during World Radio Day last February, this $95 software was on sale for $1.90!

After editing it, I gave it a listen and I just knew it still needed a touch of music. Just a little bit, nothing too dramatic. I tried tinkering with GarageBand but for the life of me, I just could not figure it out. Luckily, over a year ago when I hung out with my friend Osama, we got to talking about his experience making music with GarageBand and Logic Pro. So I just sent him a text asking for help and thank god he was still on campus. He was so kind to let me (poorly) hum to him what I wanted and he improvised and made it a lot cooler. Honestly, it amazes me what my friends can do. We ended up spending a couple of hours catching up too, which was really nice. I was seriously so glad he was around to help me with that final touch.

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Osama helping me with music!

And after layering the music tracks over the audio, I finally put it out there! My project! I was carrying it with me for months. I remember transcribing while eating sweet potato fries at Hip City Veg, while waiting for my flight at LAX and at my table at night after I finished my homework. I remember sheepishly asking my friends if I could interview them and carrying all that equipment around. I know I said I wasn’t absolutely happy with the end result but I’m glad I did it because it felt like a culmination of my Penn career; something to show for that I actually made. Something I hope to continue to do for a long time.

So I guess now’s probably the best time to say what I’ve been actively withholding from saying on here for months. That is, I’m going to be interning at NPR in Washington, DC this coming Fall inshaAllah. After so long, it felt like everything made sense and I’m so, so, so grateful because it feels like a dream. It might not have been the path I initially thought of taking but I feel really good about it.

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Submitting my NPR apps at LAX at the start of spring break.

Anyway. This has been my longest post ever (I really didn’t think I’d write such a long one so soon after the commencement one!) and I’m sorry if I went into greater detail than anyone needed or wanted haha but thanks for reading anyway and if you listened to my audio piece, thank you so much!!!

Lastly, I wrote this because I know someday I’m going to forget all the hard work it took me to learn even the most basic things even though they had once seemed like insurmountable challenges. This will remind future me that if you take it step by step, you’ll find a way. And if you’re reading this and there’s something you’ve always wanted to work on but don’t know how, I hope this shows you that sometimes people don’t start out with all the talent. Sometimes people succeed at doing the things they initially didn’t know how to. You persist by taking things one step at a time and slowly, things start to come together. And even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, the feeling of proving your own self wrong and reaching beyond what you thought was your limit is so, so sweet.

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New Milestones

First of all, I want to say thank you so much for all the love I got after last week’s post. Thank you in particular for those of you who have encouraged me to keep writing, whether by explicitly telling me to, by reprimanding me when a post is late (hi Hui Jie) or by just letting me know that you never miss a post. I have been tempted to “give up” several times because quite often, it feels like my writing is so frivolous, but you’ve all reminded me how our writing has created a community I am really grateful for. When I told my friend Hui Jie that I might not write after graduation because I don’t think my life will be as interesting after Penn, she was quick to refute that claim; there will be your first job, moving cities, moving out, first house, settling down, and so many more, she reminded me. It’s good to remember that life is dynamic—there will always be new things to discover and always new things to write about. With that, I’m going to take this little opportunity to say that to all of you who’ve said to me “I wish I could write like you”: you absolutely can.

Anyway, like Hui Jie said, there will always be new things in my life to write about. So here’s a little bit about my first week as a ~college graduate~ (oh my god, it still has not sunk in).

1. Shahirah moved out of our apartment

My roommate of 3 years moved out of our apartment on Wednesday. Shahirah and I are opposites. She’s so phlegmatic and just so chill, which means she rarely ever wants to decide where we go to eat or what movie to watch or if there should be a system in the kitchen or bathroom whatever, you know? On the other hand, I… have a lot of opinions about these things. Toothpaste droppings shouldn’t be left in the sink, don’t boil more water than you need, the stove should be wiped down after cooking anything messy, blablabla. So really, although she is one of my absolute best friends, us living together was not always the easiest thing for the both of us.

Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Of course, that’s easy for me to say now in hindsight, right? There definitely have been times over the 3 years where I was like… “ok, maybe this wasn’t the best idea” but I maintain that it was good for me because I learned what it was like to live with someone who grew up with a different lifestyle than I did. I think I have grown a lot from that experience. In fact, in some ways it reminds me of the ways my parents have learned to tolerate their differences. I never told her this (though she’ll probably read it now…) but even though some days we just kind of stay out of each other’s spaces and not talk, when she’s not here, I kind of miss her. It’s always weird when she goes out of town and I know I won’t hear the creak of the doors when she comes in late at night. Even though it wakes me up, I am always touched because I know she’s trying to be as quiet as possible for me, and looking back I think some small quiet part of me was comforted to know that she was home.

On Tuesday afternoon, Shahirah and I had lunch with my sister, Majid, and his brother Mansoor. After lunch, she had some errands to run and I just trailed along all day because I was very emotional and clingy. We went to SPARC and PWC and even took my very first picture at the Love Statue together. Later that evening, as Shahirah packed up the last things in her room, Hanna, Fahmida and I hung out on her bed just talking and that was really one of those moments I could feel my heart clinging on to. I’m always humbled by the idea of memory: we rarely ever decide which memories eventually fade into the distance and which ones get to be returned to for years and years on. But days like that, I hope I get to keep forever.

I know I won’t remember what we talked about and stuff but I want to remember how I felt. It reminds me of that oft-repeated Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Saying goodbye to Steve at SPARC.

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Chilling on Shahirah’s bed (excuse how sloppy I look, Sha just quickly told us to cover our heads and we grabbed whatever was nearest, lol)

The next morning, as she was preparing to roll her bags out of the door, I was impressed (but not surprised) by her nonchalance. On top of being more neurotic than she is, I am also a lot more emotional. So, I said something along the lines of: “wow I can’t believe you’ll never ever walk through these doors ever again” or something like that. And she said “wow great, thanks Dayana, for making me feel sad about leaving” (oops). So she went back in and took one last look. We took some selfies and I called her an Uber and off she was.

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Sha taking one last lap around the apartment as I documented everything. Classic.

She left me with a cute card, her umbrella for me to use and (unintentionally,) some leftover Chipotle. Always taking care of me, even after she’s left the country. I don’t know that I’ll ever have another experience living with someone like that again, but I’m glad we did it together because she’s honestly like a sister to me and I personally think my relationship with her—though not always the most outwardly peachy one—is so unique and special and I will always be thankful for it.

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Eating Sha’s last Chipotle. She hardly ate ANY of it!!!!!

 

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On my bus ride home the next day, I passed by Trader Joes on a rainy evening and I remembered the time Sha and I got trapped there in the rain and I had to download the Lyft app so that we could get a ride back.

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I pointed out to her that this picture has our door number inverted and she said she didn’t even realize!! How classic. And we’re matching in this like good old times. Also classic.

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Bye 😦 see you in Malaysia!!!!

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And guess what?! Now she’s home hanging out with MY PARENTS!!! ❤

Sha, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll miss hearing me laugh or belt out Disney tunes over the thin walls!!! Now when I sing I’m like “oh, phew, I’m not disturbing her” but then I’m also like “she left” 😦

2. Sleepover with Saffa

Saffa came over on Thursday for a couple of nights and stayed with me, which was so much fun. She was a senior when I was a freshman. I remember meeting her at the very first MSA GBM and after, she showed me and Shahirah the RAC (does that even stand for anything? I don’t even know anymore. Oh my god, it’s happening, I’m forgetting!!!) where we used to go to pray and we walked down Locust together. We probably only really bonded later over our similar tastes and the fact that we share the same birthday. And this past weekend, I learned she’s also a left hander like me.

Anyway, Saffa lives in Chicago but came down to DC to be with her sister who’s about to give birth. She took a couple of days to see me, Hanna and Fahmida in Philly since she’s on the east coast. On Thursday night, we stayed up and had strawberry tea and talked about college and work and moving on and it was probably the first time in a long time I felt like I had one of those high-school-ish sleepovers.

Friday was also so much fun. We were up pretty early and got breakfast with Hanna at Metropolitan (I had my fav pesto grilled cheese with portobello and an iced chai for last breakfast before Ramadhan) then we went to hang out at the med school, which is absolutely beautiful. In the afternoon, we took a walk to Penn Park, lounged in the sun for a bit and then went back to my apartment where Saffa and I watched The People vs. OJ Simpson (which is absolutely amazing!!!) and Hanna studied.

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I love these two so much.

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Then later, we went out to dinner with Fahmida. We ate at Sate Kampar, which serves the best Malaysian food I’ve ever had in the states. Fun-ish fact: we realised that all 4 of us represented a different graduating class (2014-2017) and ethnicity (Malaysian, Bengali, Egyptian, Pakistani because I know my dad will ask when he reads this). How cute is that?!

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When we went back, Saffa and I talked some more, baked some cookies while my sister and I cooked what we were going to have for sahur the next morning. It was a really nice and cosy night, and I’m really glad I got to spend so much time with her over those two days.

3. Does a Craigslist sale make me an adult?

Because it kinda feels like it. I’m moving out of this apartment next month (inshaAllah!!!) so that means I need to give myself time to get rid of all the furniture we’ve accumulated over the years. Realising this, I went on a Craigslist selling spree. It’s actually not as easy as I thought because people will say they want it and then take forever to reply and then back out. Luckily, after just attempting one sale, I got a lot better at it and I learned to be more firm. I knew to say things like I’ll hold it for you for x hours and then it goes to the next person without feeling bad because I feel like it’s only fair to everyone involved to know what to expect.

My favourite part of this whole process is probably feeling a little “busy”. In trying to keep up with all my sales, I found that I finally had a reason to make a spreadsheet again and to my own surprise, I was so happy about it. I think my mind just really likes being exercised and stretched more than I realised, haha.

I sold my Ikea KALLAX shelf this morning, and that was the first of my big items to go. I remember going to Ikea on my own that Spring day in 2015. I felt particularly accomplished (exhibit A) because getting there wasn’t so straightforward but I did it. I remember Keyan asking me if I needed him to pick me up but I was ok. I picked everything I needed by myself and I coordinated the delivery on my own and then I also assembled all of those things myself. I remember it being one of the first times I felt truly self-sufficient (save for the fact that the money I used to pay for my Ikea trip came from a certain Bank of Dad, heh). I just couldn’t help remembering that as I disassembled it today in preparation for it to be picked up by its new owners. Side note, I was happy to find out that the buyers were a couple who had just bought their first house in Philly. Here’s to growing up and new beginnings for all of us.

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4. First Ramadan away from home!

I’ve never spent bulan puasa (tr: fasting month) away from home! I never went to boarding school like my sister and I was lucky enough that puasa always coincided with summer breaks while I was at Penn so I could always spend it at home. But I guess sometimes things happen and even though you think you’ll never spend Ramadan abroad, on your last year of college, you end up doing just that.

I was quite nervous about the extra long hours (ok, it’s just like 2 extra hours but still) and the summer (turns out it’s still cooler than Malaysia) but alhamdulillah it’s really not bad at all. I usually have a terrible headache the first day but I’ve done two days now without any complaints. Sure, I feel a little lethargic but I was perfectly capable of working with all that furniture today and I actually think I’ll be able to go for a jog tomorrow if it doesn’t rain in the evening.

Yeah, I might be missing out on the family gatherings and buka puasa food, but I’m excited to be working on some service projects here and I’ve set certain goals for myself in terms of a reading list, lectures & etc. so I think it’ll still be a very good month for me and I’m so thankful that I seem to be handling it all really well.

It helps that my sister Julia is with me. She and I cooked sweet and sour fish yesterday and stir fried egg noodles today, both of which were actually delicious. We also had knafeh for dessert yesterday (in lieu of roti john and tepung pelita, my Malaysian favs) and if you know me, you’ll know how much I love knafeh. Now my sister Julia can’t stop talking about it too. I’m always glad to introduce people to cheese-related food.

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So I guess that’s about it for this week. I actually have so much more I want to write about. I want to tell you all about how I worked on that radio project, my most recent trip to New York, about commencement day itself (if it isn’t too late) but I think this will be all for now. To all my Muslim friends, I hope your Ramadan is off to a wonderful start and to everyone else I hope you’ve had a wonderful week, whatever you’re doing.

Until next time! ❤


P.S. for nothing more than your pure amusement, here are some of the times Sha and I have matched clothes. None of these were intentional, I promise.

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Hurrah, Hurrah

(Fair warning: this is a long one)

I pray I never forget that all of this was once a distant dream.

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I don’t want to go too far back with this post, but I’ll start by saying I remember snippets of 2013. Photos of Stanford were my wallpapers and cover photos, and I spent every single day toiling over application essays. I remember the day all the decisions came in, and I was in Malaysia so it was in the middle of the night and I woke up just to check my emails and the Penn decision was the last one I opened after a stream of rejections and a song came on but it still hadn’t occurred to me what that meant because I was still scanning for a “sorry” or an “unfortunately” as I successfully found in the previous letters. Oddly enough, I don’t remember what happened next or who I told first or what we did to celebrate. But I remember feeling apprehensive. I remember tearing up at the mere thought of leaving the country, leaving the people and places I knew, the people and places that made me, me.

And before I knew it, I was thrown into the Penn current. One of my clearest, probably most defining moments at Penn was early in the Fall semester of my Freshman year when Shahirah and I walked out of Huntsman after Malaysians@Penn Elections. The upperclassmen were talking about their other time commitments this semester and it was the first time I saw that students here were really involved, and involved in so many different cool things I could never imagine myself doing. Shahirah and I left the elections and I panicked. I felt like I was absolutely in over my head at this school. I saw so vividly the gap between where I was and where I was expected to be and it scared me. We sat down on a random bench on Locust, just past the Tampons (to non-Penn readers: it’s a structure on campus and Tampons is just the shorthand, though idk what it’s really called) and she and I just talked it out.

A friend once told me, you never want to be the smartest person in the room. Well, that was never a problem here because I think the freshman year panic attack was the beginning of four years of being on the bottom ranks of every single room I was in. It was a huge, long, drawn out lesson in humility. Repeatedly, I was tested with the temptation of comparison. Everyone else seemed to be doing so much more, so much better. I learned to tell myself to keep my head down and all my time here has been a piecemeal process towards internalising the belief that my trajectory cannot be compared with anyone else’s because we didn’t all come from the same place—and that doesn’t mean victimising myself or whatever, just… acknowledging the fact that we’ve had vastly different experiences, and any comparison is meaningless. I don’t think I’ve completely bought this idea yet, but I am a lot better at it now than I used to be.

Besides that, I think graduating college is difficult because I don’t know for sure how else I am different than I used to be. Not being able to answer that question, I’ve once said before, is like leaving the petrol station after filling up your tank without a gas indicator; you don’t know whether you’ve really gotten enough out of it. I think I find it difficult to list the ways in which I’ve grown. It’s not really reflected in my grades. I didn’t learn Excel like I thought I would. I still read primary documents very slowly. I still write with a lot of planner’s paralysis. So even though I’ve had a tumultuous love-hate relationship with Penn, I feel like I leave with a heavy heart, like I fell short, like I wasted my time.

And it’s not just the unpreparedness that weighs on me, it’s also that my grief really blindsided me. I struggled to make a home out of this place (case in point) and I revolted at the notorious work hard play hard never ever stop pre-professional pretend-everything-is-ok-even-when-its-not culture of the campus. I didn’t like it. I’ve attended college application workshops in Malaysia unofficially representing Penn and applicants would come up to me with wide-eye wonder and I’d be expected to talk up my school and I wouldn’t know what to say because I didn’t like it. I cried my eyes out like something was being yanked from inside me every time I had to leave KL because I didn’t like it. I left right after every final and arrived right before every semester’s first class because I didn’t like it (exhibit A, exhibit B). I told people I wouldn’t miss it because I didn’t like it. You get the picture! So, part of me is so upset that I didn’t see this coming. I knew I would miss my friends and learning, but I didn’t expect to feel so sad to say goodbye to all the things I feel like I didn’t enjoy. People tell me that I’m very self-aware and introspective, and even earlier in this essay, I said that I think I’ve grown most in self-discernment. So the fact that all of this caught me off guard has been really disconcerting. Do I actually so severely lack astuteness? Was I just too stubborn?

A few days after commencement, I texted my friend Hanna like “is this what labour feels like? It’s the most painful thing ever and then you give birth and see your baby and you’re like I LOVE THIS and you just do it again and again” because maybe that’s what this was. Maybe I could have never seen it coming, and maybe I should be less hard on myself (another lesson I grappled with throughout my time at Penn, and one that I think will continue for years). But I leave curious when this shift happened. When did I start to love this place? When did it start to feel like home? (side note: it made me think of that song in Beauty and the Beast where they’re having a snowball fight and they sing “there may be something there that wasn’t there before” because that’s when they noticed they were falling in love and I wish in life things could be as clear as they are in Disney films)

I wrote about this in January, but maybe I just underestimated the extent to which my feelings towards this place were changing:

But I like Philly a bit more now. I like that I’ve had the same apartment for over two years now. I like the way I can tell it has been snowing by the way the tiles in my apartment lobby look. I like how I know whether or not I’ll make the traffic light before I actually get there. I can walk to Van Pelt on autopilot and instinctively know to avoid the steamy pot hole on the way there. The way walking past Starbucks on 39th gives me deep chills because it reminds me of pre-sunrise coffee runs. This didn’t just happen. I earned this. We earn the places we call home.

Anyway. I guess I still have a long way to go with regards to getting better at reflecting, etc. Funnily enough, I recall several remarks being made at commencement this year about how knowing yourself is important. Jennifer Egan, the College of Arts and Science commencement speaker spoke about how writing helped “organise her reality” and urged us to “look inward” and “spend time with ourselves”. I believe in these things to be true in my life as well, but have yet to learn why that’s so because I think in all my time at Penn, I’ve felt that these were not things that were valued as much—they don’t clearly lead to bottom line results. So, I suppose I’m a) grateful that the things I valued in my journey through Penn were validated in these speeches and b) looking forward to seeing how/when it will be important.

On the note of looking ahead, I’ve mentioned before that I am worried about losing my work ethic, no longer being able to read broadly across so many different fields, failing to think critically without the push of a classroom environment. I don’t know where life will take me. It’s so unnerving to lose the reliable structure of neatly compartmentalised time blocks: 4 months in the spring semester, 4 months at home for summer and 4 months in the fall for 4 years, only to walk into a mush of time and uncertainty where I have a lot more free reign over how long I spend where. I worry that without this structure I’ve grown with, I will flail around more than I’d like.

I know I’m making this all seem so terribly depressing, but I think I just have a good memory for a lot of these things so I tend to wallow in all of it and you know, it’s both a blessing and a curse to remember so much. At the end of every semester, people are always quick to quip that time just flies, and I never really relate to that. Shahirah thinks it’s because I retain so much memory that my perception of time is a little different. And as everyone makes those same remarks again at graduation, I genuinely empathise but stop short of saying it felt like it was all just yesterday. I empathise because I realise now I will miss it, and it feels like it might have passed quickly because part of me wants it back. But I refuse to say it was just yesterday because although I cannot name the ways in which I have grown, I also don’t feel like the person I was in 2013. Is that paradoxical? She just seems so distant from who I am today. I don’t dress like that, or listen to the same music anymore. I stop short of saying it feels like just yesterday because it reduces the amount of time and energy that I clearly remember it taking to get here.

I predict that I will look back at this campus like it’s a childhood playground where I had once ran, fell and scraped my knees over and over again; a place both risky and safe all at once. I hope I never forget the late nights spent agonising over one more page of the textbook, the times I sat outside the exam hall trying to flip through my study guides just once more as quickly as possible, the stress of running from meeting to meeting feeling like there is never any time in between for anything else, tripping over the manhole on the way to class, crying on Locust over my first C. I want to remember. I want to remember everything. I want to remember where we kept all the pots and pans and glassware in our apartment, I want to remember the view from my bedroom and lab, I want to remember where the nearest bathroom is from my favourite place in Van Pelt, where the onions are at FroGro, where all my friends used to live (shout out to 4002 Ludlow I love you guys so much), which department belonged in which building, who taught me what and when, what my go-to order is at Sweetgreen I JUST WANT TO REMEMBER IT ALL. Because it was difficult to make a home out of this place and all these little things is what made it happen and I feel like if I forget, it will make everything less real.

It was real. It was real when Ken, Hui Jie and I took a spontaneous trip to Chinatown for bubble tea, when May May spent the afternoon assembling furniture with me and Shahirah, when Sha and I seemed to dress the exact same way for a whole year, when Jamie used to come down to my room just to taste some of my food, when Busra let me use her single room in Rodin as refuge because I needed a place to be alone, when Sofia drew cartoons of dogs on the blackboard when we were supposed to be solving math equations, when Cristina helped me move out of the Quad, when Rashad saw me crying on Walnut that one crappy day and walked me home, when Hanna made me pesto sandwiches, when Peter first told me the story of how he used to work at Pandora, when Clare and I watched documentaries on Bill Cunningham and Banksy like the nerds we are, when Julia and I dressed to the nines to go to Trader Joe’s during fling, when Selina got really tipsy and started walking down Locust with locked knees, when Claire and I pulled an all nighter to the soundtrack of Frozen, when Zohair, Keyan and I sang Taylor Swift tunes at the corner of the street while waiting for Penn Ride to pick us up for ice skating, when Adel finished that crossword puzzle with me, when I walked out of Rodin at 7 am to go home to sleep and Irtiqa was walking in to Rodin to go home to sleep and we laughed about it together, when Iman called the dentist demanding on my behalf that I get some pain killers after my tooth surgery, when Adam gave me crap for not following him back on Instagram, when Fayaaz took me to South Street for the first time,  when Habeeb, Doc, Yusra and I were on MSA Social Committee together, when Ahsen presented me with a tiara for my birthday, when Ahmed and I Uber-ed back from our night class at the museum, when Petra took me out to lunch as a lost little freshman, when my freshman year RA Cat gave me advice about making friends. It was all real. And I want to remember it all.

Really, it has been my friends. My friends were the ones who made this all bearable, who made this all worth it. I was talking to Professor Pollack last week, who told me about how he felt that he “had found his people” when he went to Harvard for grad school. Though I did not love the school per se, I had that same sneaking suspicion about my new friends when I came to Penn. In October, Shahirah, May May and I had a spontaneous sleepover and in the morning, decided to go to King of Prussia to shop. On the bus to the mall, I was stuck with the My Little Pony song, Friendship Is Magic and they were probably like what is wrong with this girl, but I don’t think I told them that the reason I even thought of that song in the first place was the line “I used to wonder what friendship would be, until you all shared its magic with me.” To all my friends at Penn (and I’m sorry if I didn’t mention your name here, it was inevitable that I’d miss someone), I knew when I met each one of you that I had been waiting my whole life to meet you. I think that’s the kind of feeling people describe when they talk about meeting their soulmates, so how lucky was I to have felt that with so many of you? I respect you all so much, and I will look up to you for the rest of my life. I am grateful to have met you and I will miss you all. I am 100% the type of person who gets random flashbacks of memories all the time and usually when I do, I make a mental note to mention it the next time I see that person but because I don’t know when I will see most of you next, be totally prepared for me to text you all random “omg do you remember that time when…” texts, just because that’s the kind of thing I do. And I hope to see you again soon.

So I guess, this is it. It’s over. I don’t really know what else to say, I didn’t have a nice sweet ending planned with a bow on top or whatever. But thank you, I guess. I think I will spend years of my life belatedly uncovering the gems Penn has given me that I currently don’t yet see. But for now, I will try to let it sink in that this was all once a dream, and despite everything I’ve gone through here, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else. Penn and everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting here, you are now the people and place that makes me, me.


P.S. For the few months leading up to graduation, I interviewed some of my friends about our plans or lack thereof and recorded all of those conversations. I then transcribed them and edited them into a little audio thing, and if you’re curious, have 40 minutes to spare or would just like to hear my rambly voice, you can listen to it here.

CHICAGO, IL.

I get why they call it the Windy City now. I’ve said on multiple occasions now that I’m quite proud of myself for being so much better at braving the cold, since I’ve spent 4 winters in Philadelphia. Yet, the cold of Chicago was different because of the wind. Even though it was about 10-13 degrees C most of the time (that’s 50-55 degrees F, to my American friends—I googled that for you), my fingers were freezing and I kinda wished I wore gloves. Regardless, I had so much fun with Hui Jie in that beautiful city.

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We flew out of Trenton Mercer on Saturday. I think it was the smallest most desolate airport I have ever been to—smaller than even the Bandung Airport, which, if I recall correctly, closed for the day after we flew back to KL. Anyway, I realise that just means I’ve been really spoilt/lucky. But I digress. So yeah, we flew Frontier to O’Hare and when we landed, Hui Jie turned to me and said “I want McDonald’s.” So that’s what we did; the McDonald’s was literally just one gate away from the gate we arrived at, haha.

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But here’s where my favourite thing that day happened: we saw a pony. At the airport. This woman and her pony walked past us and I was like, “is that a—?” and before I could finish my sentence, this other woman in front of me turned around and said “YEP!” and her daughter turned around and told me “we just took a picture with it!” For the rest of the day, I could not stop thinking about how amazing it was that I saw a pony at the airport.

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Awful picture quality but I was too excited to think about the picture.

After we got to the Airbnb, we quite quickly headed back out for the rest of the evening. We spent most of the evening at the Navy Pier, which was really cold but very pretty. We got a nice view of the skyline, and the atmosphere was really nice because it was like a funfair type thing except there was probably like a huge prom going on because there were so many people in dresses (who all, by the way, I feel like look older and way more sophisticated than me). It was a very chill day, we just went to dinner and then a speakeasy in town later that night. I mostly just loved the vibe of the city. Hui Jie said it felt like a cleaner New York.

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These shrimp tacos and that parmesan pepper calamari were amazinggg.

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The Rock n Roll McDonalds next to Hard Rock

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Us at the Speakeasy

The next day we walked along the river and then down Magnificent Mile, which is like their shopping area thing. It was absolutely beautiful, and I think there must’ve been a french bulldog show or something going on because we saw so many of them along our river walk.

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For lunch, we had this amazing cod sandwich, which is probably like the best fish sandwich I have ever had—it was so perfectly battered, oh my god. And because our next planned thing was not until much later in the evening, we spent a lot of the afternoon at Uniqlo. Specifically, the Starbucks at Uniqlo LOL. We got frappuccinos (which I usually never order) because they were half off for happy hour, so it was only like $2 and I couldn’t resist a good deal, hahaha.

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Then, we went to Second City to watch a comedy show called the Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno. A lot of it was about American culture/politics. It was so funny and entertaining. It really reminded me of why comedy is considered a very effective tool for storytelling and commentary. I also really loved the cast, they were so talented and I genuinely hope for amazing things for them in the future. My favourite part of the night was probably their improv section where they ask the crowd for suggestions for words and start acting out a scene based on that word. I highly recommend going for one of their shows if you’re in Chicago! Hui Jie and I had so many good laughs that night.

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The next day (sorry, I just keep saying next day and the next day because I really have lost track of the days but I’m now talking about Monday, I think) was our most touristy day. We spent the whole morning at the Chicago Art Institute. It was one of the most beautiful art museums I’ve ever been to, though it did not beat Louisiana in Copenhagen. The modern art section was my favourite, but I also really liked seeing the Asian and Islamic art sections. Looking at batik designs and artefacts with Islamic motifs made me feel just a teeny bit closer to home.

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For lunch, we went to the Revival Food Hall which is essentially a food court, but it was an amazing food court. I got an amazing egg sandwich and fries. Then Hui Jie got coffee and for the second day in a row, we just sat there chilling with our coffees for a long time before getting back out. I even got to charge my phone back up to 100% at that coffee place.

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Eventually, we did get back up and we headed to see some shops before heading to Millennium Park, which was the one thing I knew Chicago had before ever going there. I must say, it was cool to see the bean/Cloud Gate in real life because I mean, obviously it’s like a very famous landmark… but it was also kinda dirty and underwhelming, hahaha. Still, we got plenty of good pictures and I think the park itself was a really nice one—probably one I’d like to go to if I lived there.

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After Cloud Gate, we went back to Revival for dinner (!!!) because we thought it’d be too late to eat dinner after going to Willis Tower. Plus, we had initially wanted to get poke bowls from there for lunch but they were out of salmon so we got something else and came back for dinner. It was totally worth waiting for, by the way. So good.

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Then, on a full tummy, we went to Willis Tower, which is where everyone goes to see the view of Chicago and take a picture on that glass floor thing. I am not the best with heights so I was pretty nervous about going on that ledge thing but I managed to do it by not looking down at all. Plus, there was a long line of people waiting to take pictures so there was really no time to look at the view.

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On our last day, we spent the morning near Wicker Park. We got coffee at Intelligentsia, and took a lot of pictures, haha. Then we walked around and looked at the shops around there, which was a really nice area. My favourite shop was this one called Secret Agent Supply Co. They sell a lot of books that are compilations of writings by public school students in this creative writing program called 826 operating in cities all over, like Seattle, LA, New York, Chicago, Detroit and DC. All the proceeds go back to supporting these programs, so I bought this one book consisting of cute and moving letters written by kids addressed to Michelle Obama.

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We also got some really good takeout from En Hakkore in that area so that we’d have something to eat on the flight. It was so good and it’s another thing I also highly recommend if you are in Chicago. The sushi burrito thing was honestly amazing. But then it was time to head back to Philly and we took the train to the airport. Only after I got on the platform did I feel like I needed a bathroom and I swear, it was the longest 45 minutes of my life. When the train announcer person thing said “we are experiencing delays” I really had to remind myself that the pants I was wearing were new in order to help me through. But we got to O’Hare with my pants dry and clean and I have never felt so happy to see a stinky airport bathroom ever before.

I’ve been back in Philly for 2 days now, and it’s been nice to just hang out with my friends without anything really weighing on me other than the fact that there’s this huge goodbye looming over us. But I guess that’s also why I’m glad I got to take this trip with Hui Jie before we go our “separate ways”. She’s been one of the most important people in my life these past few years and I’m glad we got to close out college with this Chicago trip.

Just Like That

I always knew it would happen, but having it all actually happen felt both very emotional and anti-climactic at the same time. Two Mondays ago (because I owe you a blog post from that week) I went for my last Barre class at Pottruck (our gym) with the instructor, Diane. As we were about to leave, I said my goodbyes and almost teared up and lost my words but thankfully for the power of social norms/conventions, I didn’t. I did my usual thing where I asked for a picture and she obliged and just like that, I don’t know when I’ll ever see her again.

The entire week was full of lasts. I had my last class on Tuesday, it was Astronomy. Look, I know I’ve not had the best relationship with this class—in fact, when he posted a poll about how we felt about the class, this is how I answered.

I kinda wanted to answer the first option but the poll wasn’t anonymous, hahaha. So anyway, yeah, I didn’t love it but it was good for me. I learned so much. The seasons are not caused by varying distances from the sun. Spacetime was not a thing invented by Hollywood. We only ever see one side of the moon. I walked out of DRL that day and was like, wow I’m done. But at the same time… I didn’t quite have the time to feel that way because immediately, I was thrown into finals season. So honestly, it did not feel like anything major. It was more like… just another semester.

The thing that made me most feel sad was having my last post-Astronomy lunch with Ken and Hui Jie. I made us play some Sporcle geography quizzes at lunch just to make it extra special too, hehe. But the rest of the week was just back to work. I had a poster presentation thing with the Psychology department where you have to present what you’ve been doing research on, and all the faculty will come talk to you and ask you questions. I have to admit, my poster printing was a pretty last minute situation… so much so that I was kinda working on it at other events and stuff right up to the very minute I had to print it. But it all turned out okay. I stood in front of my poster for 2 hours. Ken and Hui Jie turned up to support me!

Thinking back now, that day was so annoyingly hectic. I had to meet my research advisor to just go over what to put on my poster again, but I could only stay 20 mins because I had to go to Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg’s Authors@Wharton event, which I ended up being a little late to and having to leave early because I wanted to attend the Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH) end of year celebration… which I also had to leave early because it would’ve ended at 8-ish and I had to book my poster printing appointment with the printer at 7. It really annoys me whenever I know I’m not really being present at any one place, and that’s one thing I’m glad to move on from right now.

Besides the rushing around though, it was a good day. Sheryl Sandberg’s talk thing was so good. Seriously. I cried almost throughout the entire thing. She was talking about her new book with Wharton professor Adam Grant, which is all about grief and how we deal with it. She lost her husband two years ago and this book was born out of that experience.

Sandberg talked about how we tend to not ask how people are doing anymore if it’s not the first time we’ve seen them since a traumatic/heartbreaking incident happened because we are afraid we will “remind them” of it. She made a very good point, which is that we can’t remind anyone they lost their husband. They already know that, and are probably thinking about it constantly. She also talked about how it’s more useful for us to say “there’s this thing I can do to help you” when we’re trying to support someone as opposed to “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” because the latter puts the onus on the person who is hurting to figure things out. I thought that was really powerful.

She also pointed out links between grief and confidence: when she got back to work after losing her husband, she felt like she was not at her best at all. And it made her feel like “great, I lost my husband now I’m going to lose my job too”. According to her, what helps during this time is pointing out little things that the person who’s hurting usually doesn’t need complimenting on in order to build back their confidence. I just really related to all of that so much and I think it was all such useful advice. I’m very excited to read Option B this summer.

Then, Thursday and Friday (and the rest of the weekend) were reading days, which are essentially days off for you to study before finals but people end up using them to have farewell events etc. I had two that weekend, one with Malaysians at Penn and the other with the Muslim Students Association.

The MAP senior sendoff was fun because it was really yummy Malaysian food at this place called Sate Kampar in South Philly. The MSA one was also really fun because we were such a huge group and it was nice to see all the MSA seniors together. They gave us superlatives (I got “most likely to go viral” LOL) and sweet little cards at the end of the night and I was so moved. Honestly, these two communities have been a huge part of making me feel at home at Penn and I’m sad to “leave” it but I know they were always part of the process of supporting us as we go on to bigger and better things.

Fun fact: MSA senior send off was initially supposed to be at this Indian restaurant called Sitar which made me so excited because at the time I found out, I had been craving it for ages. I think I was almost going to go to Sitar on the day they told me about the dinner but when they said it would be held there I decided to wait. PLOT TWIST. The afternoon before the event, they changed the location to Manakeesh. I went to Sitar for lunch immediately.

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to poring over the Astronomy textbook. I hadn’t been doing a good job of keeping up with the material so it really was like binge-watching a tv show except, it was binge-reading a textbook. I was actually quite nervous about how much I didn’t know so those few days were intense. I did little else other than eat sleep and read that textbook. The exam on Tuesday actually turned out pretty well considering how (not) prepared I was! I was very happy with how I did and was glad to be done with the class. So there. This blog can say goodbye to me complaining about that class now.

I spent the rest of the evening after the exam hardcore chilling. Professor Connolly took all her TAs out to thank us for the semester so that was fun—I have loved getting to know her over the past year more as a person, beyond the classroom. Then Cristina came over to my place and we made broccoli and cheddar soup for dinner. I have to say, it was pretty good. I spent the rest of the night catching up on the past season of The Big Bang Theory (oops, guess I wasn’t really done with Astronomy then).

The rest of my finals were relatively chill. I had to write a paper about my research (which I had already written half of) and take an exam for my Psychology class (which was based on only the last few weeks of material and was open book). I took my Psychology final on Thursday evening (though I ended up forgetting the book!) then came back to write the rest of that research paper thing.

The next morning—let me warn you, this story is about to take a turn but I promise I’ll bring it back—I woke up, watched a YouTube video about how to make the best grilled cheese sandwich and got out of bed to go make it. I switched the light on and I saw something spread out on the kitchen counter. I wondered, “huh, what did I spill?!” before I realised, to my utter heartbreak and terror, that my bread had been chewed through from the side, through the plastic by a RAT!!!!!!!!!!! I mean I didn’t actually see it but what else could it be?!

I was so scared I couldn’t go back in there. I told Shahirah about it then texted my family about the scene I had just witnessed. My sister laughed about the fact that I called it a “scene” so in order to justify my word choice, I marched back into the kitchen to take a picture. AND I SAW IT, GUYS!!! I SAW THE LITTLE CREATURE. I screamed sooooooo louddddd and just start shaking and burst into spontaenous tears.

Naturally, I just packed up my stuff and left to go to Starbucks. Hey, don’t judge. I had a paper to write still (told you I’d bring it back to the paper). So yeah, I spent the rest of my morning terrified but powering through, proof reading my paper and editing last bits. It was due at 5. By about 2, I was really done and was just staring at it. That was it. It was over. I still had to print it out and submit it to the department but… I was done. I’m now a “graduate”, even though I feel no different at all.

After putting it off enough, I went to print and submit it. Then I just sat in the lobby of the psychology building for a bit…. feeling… I really don’t know what I was feeling. It felt like I was suspended in air. Floating. Cut loose from gravity or whatever. It was just me in a chair, awkwardly looking around. No confetti, no smarter than I was the day before. It was strange.

Because I didn’t want to linger and that feeling of weirdness, I got bubble tea and went to Ken and Hui Jie’s to hang out. We spent hours…. I can’t even remember what we were doing but I know it ended with us playing Sporcle for a few hours. I love those two, and I love Sporcle. So. Much. In that moment, I really just wanted to pause time and soak up the feeling. It’ll never really be like that again, just spontaneously hanging out at someone’s place for 7 hours, ending up playing geography quizzes. I loved it. But then that ended too, because we were all heading out on little holidays in the morning but as of midnight that night, had not even started packing.

Hui Jie and I are in Chicago right now (she’s asleep next to me as I type this all out on my phone because I didn’t want to bring my laptop). Ken, May May, Peter and Selina are in Tennessee. Shahirah is with Fahmida in Seattle. We’ll all be back for commencement ceremonies and all of that soon but, just like that, ~college~ is over.

PLACEHOLDER POST

HI!

I didn’t post last week and I’m so sorry but my mind is too scattered this week to be sitting down to write. Between farewell dinners and studying for finals (I’m almost done with Astronomy, you guys!) I have just… I mean, I have time, I just feel like my emotional resources are somewhat depleted.

But I’ll make up for it later this week once I’m done with my final finals. As I’m sure you know, exciting things are coming.

Photo on 28-04-2017 at 11.37.jpg

Signing off from Hubbub, drinking copious amounts of coffee to stay alive.