Errr, yeah. I just used a hashtag in my title. I have always made a conscious decision not to do that up to this point, but let me explain. My friend Jamie wrote earlier this year on Facebook that she is committing to “using gratitude as her internal compass” and I just absolutely loved that. Ever since then, we’ve been referring to our duo was Team Gratitude, often using it in hashtags like #teamgratitudegoesbaking for that one time we made lemon sugar cookies.

Anyway. What I really wanted to write about is how much I appreciate my friends, Jamie being one of them. Let me first start by saying that if you don’t follow Jamie on Instagram, I think you should. Her pictures are always pretty but it’s the captions that really get me. She posts pictures of walks to classes, trips to New York, restaurant visits… but laced in all of those pictures is always a narrative of discovery, reflection and gratitude. For example, she wrote the following caption here:

“in the moments of stillness and solitude today—including on my walk home on locust—I thought about the deep level of gratitude I have for the people I am fortunate to surround myself with: the ones who are effusive with their appreciation and approval, generous with their time and company, and magnanimous in their acceptance of my shortcomings and flaws.”

I’ve also been lucky enough to be the subject of her posts a couple of times and I guess what I want to say here is that I feel so grateful to have a friend who so freely expresses her gratitude and appreciation of the effort I put into our relationship. It’s something I realised doesn’t come as a given at all, something I absolutely cannot take for granted.

Jamie and I were hanging out in my room last night after she so nicely agreed to come over and help me eat some of my tiny potato gratins. She loved it so much she literally took a picture of it and wanted to post it on Instagram. A little later, I posted something on Facebook and I see that she gets notifications for whenever I publish something. I don’t even know how to fully express how taken aback I was?? I mean, Jamie’s great—she always listens to me without judgement and I think we’re so similar in a lot of ways so I like how easy it is for us to relate to each other but beyond that… I never really pay much thought to being appreciated by anyone (unless it gets to the point where I feel so unappreciated) so seeing her being that interested in me and what I do/say felt really nice. I’ve been seeing her every day for the past few days and honestly, it just makes me so happy every single time.

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Another person I really want to give a huge shoutout to is Clare, who stands as one of the first friends I made at Penn because we were freshman year hallmates. That in and of itself is already a huge thing for me to be grateful for because there’s nothing more comforting to a lost and lonely freshman on a Friday night than another lost and lonely freshman to commiserate with. Apart from that, I would’ve never had the guts to take the creative writing class I took last semester (which ended up being one my favourite experiences/classes at Penn) and never would have heard about the Penn Perspectives lecture series if it wasn’t for her. So there’s also that!

But Clare and I had brunch yesterday morning at South Street and I just, oh my god, it just made me so much more grateful that we were put on the same hall in the Quad over 3 years ago. Clare is an English major and she’s writing her thesis on aspiring journalists who grew up watching Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, which is really cool to hear about. Also, she’s into screenwriting and wants to go into film as a career and I just get really excited every time she talks about what she’s working on and what she wants to do, just like she gets excited listening to me talk about my projects and ideas. She was talking to me yesterday about how she’s trying to internalise the idea that we need to give ourselves more permission instead of barriers to make the things we want to make. I know she said that with the full knowledge that I, like her, often sell myself short. It’s just so invigorating to have a friend who’s ambitious and always growing but who is, at the same time, tugging me along.

Oh, it also is worth noting that I’m deeply thankful for Clare who shares both my sadness over Vine closing down and my enthusiasm for highly-relatable Tumblr quotes.

Clare, at brunch yesterday looking as cute as ever.

This week gave me a lot to be grateful for, truthfully. I’ve been thinking about how it’s not just my friends at Penn who’ve shaped my experiences—I am genuinely grateful to every person who has, even in the littlest ways. Like, on Thursday, after a long 3-hour class, my friends and I took a Lyft over to Center City to go see the Mask and Wig spring show. They’re a musical comedy troupe and their shows are so good. This is the third time I’ve seen one of their shows and it just never disappoints. The script was hilarious, the songs were catchy and the story was heart warming and riveting. The whole time I was watching, I couldn’t help thinking about how these guys are also taking a full course load, looking for jobs and managing all the other extracurriculars they have. I’ve said this before but the amount of talent I’ve seen at Penn will just never fail to blow me away. Sometimes you (or, at least, I) forget what a vibrant campus you’re a part of because you’re so buried in your own workload. Ken, Hui Jie, May May and I had a lot of fun at the show that night and we’re thankful for these experiences.

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This isn’t to say that only my Penn friends deserve praise. I spent a good amount of time on Friday night talking to my friend Nadia on WhatsApp. I’ve been so curious about her job at Nelissa Hilman and I totally respect her decision to not go down the more typical corporate life route despite studying business and being pressured to by her parents. It was so cool to hear her talk about her experience working there and her dreams for the future. I think this is true for most people, but I find it very difficult to not be interested and excited listening to someone who is excited about something they really care about. She was also super supportive of me and my current state of exploration job-wise and it was so heart-warming to see her be so excited to listen to my plans/hopes for my future. It’s just one of those moments when you’re like, this is what we need more of!!! Girls supporting girls and their dreams!!! I. am. all. for. it.

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Ok just look at what a wholesome conversation snippet this is (lol)

Nadia and I have only met like a handful of times really (twice, I think?)—we know each other primarily through Twitter and Instagram over the years I guess, so I have to say, I really appreciate how a virtual relationship can sometimes carry over into a real life one and all the effort it takes from both people for that to happen. Also, Nadia, if you’re reading this, (and I know you are, because you are just the most supportive and just best freakin’ blog reader anyone could ever have in their life lol) I promise I didn’t just write this because you wrote a similar thing on your blog!!! Hahaha. I saw what you wrote and I was like “oh well, guess she beat me to it”.

The last time I met Nadia in London, over A YEAR ago.

Ok anyway. This is now at least 20 minutes late because it’s already Monday of the next week so I’m sorry and I’ll cut short my sappiness. I know it’s cheesy as hell and probably not that interesting for you to read if you weren’t mentioned here, haha, but over the years I’ve come to realise that some of the things I value highly in relationships don’t always come easy with every person I meet and when I see them in the friendships I do have, I just revel in it.

A string of good days

I’ve had a good, pretty fun first week back. First of all, my classes seem pretty chill this semester compared to what I had last semester. Or at least, they seem that way for now. I have my Psychology Independent Research, which is a continuation of last semester’s work at a psycholinguistics research lab. I also have a Judgement and Decisions lecture; I was adamant about not taking another psychology seminar this semester. For anyone who isn’t familiar: lectures are huge classes and you don’t participate very much, but seminars tend to be about 10-15 people and the whole thing is discussion based. Seminars last semester were just too much work—like 100 pages of readings per class per week—and I never had time to do anything else if I wanted to get those done and get them done well. Apparently the professor for the lecture I’m in now is super chill; he lets us take open book exams and I’m all for a relaxed final semester academically so YES.

I also have to spend 3 hours a week in an intro Psychology lecture because I’m TA-ing for the class. It’s now my third semester sitting in PSYC 001 lectures! It’s particularly interesting this semester though, because this Spring, it’s being taught by Professor Connolly, who I took intro with in my first semester at Penn so there’s a nice little “comes full circle” thing going on.

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Apart from Psychology courses, I’m also taking an intro Astronomy class which is like…. fine, whatever, I just need to take one science class to graduate so I’ll do it. I also have a creative writing class that I’m taking for fun that didn’t seem particularly fun last week so I might not stick with it but that’s yet to be determined. Hmm. I do want to practice my writing, but how much of that has to be done in a class setting? Especially if the class kind of… annoys me.

I am particularly excited about Penn Perspectives, though. It’s a lecture series for seniors, and in our applications, we stated who our favourite professors were (mine was Professor Pollack, obviously) and which professors we’ve always wanted to take classes with but never got to. Based on that, they invited a different professor to give us a lecture each week—no homework or anything, just attending lectures for the sake of learning. Our first lecture was by an accomplished psych professor, Paul Rozin. Interestingly, I’ve had one lecture by him each year at Penn haha.

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First lecture with Dr Rozin feat. guy blocking my view.

But anyway, this week was so nice for, *deep breaths* so. many. reasons. Primarily, my beloved Hui Jie is back from Copenhagen!!! She doesn’t live across the hall from me anymore but better two blocks over than across the freakin’ Atlantic. We had our favourite takeout together on Wednesday night, class + lunch together on Thursday and she came over today to hang out with me. I got to give her the birthday present I got for her in London and we shared pictures from our trips while we sat on my living room couch and it was just really nice to see her again. The last time I saw her was in July when I visited her in Singapore, which was just too long ago.

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HJ and me with our matching gummy smiles, striped shirts and fried rice ❤
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She’s back to sleeping on me.
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Unwrapping her present 😀

In general, I just really liked seeing all my friends again this week. May May and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s together and caught up on our winter breaks. I cooked dinner for Kim on Monday. Jamie and I had ice cream together late night on her bedroom floor. Shi Yi gave me amazing hot chocolate and hung out at my place playing Rubik’s cubes with me and Shahirah. Oliver got me biscottis from Flour Bakery in Boston on his birthday. Excuse me for being cheesy, but I will never take for granted the love I feel just having these people around me.

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I made sweet sour fish and stir fried vegetables for dinner, which Kim and Jamie loved (or at least, said they loved lol)—it made me so happy.
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Continuing with my kale chips obsession. I’ve gotten Jamie and Kim onto this kale chips bandwagon with me. Kim got me my GTL from Starbucks!
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Kim, Shiyi and Jamie ❤

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It’s also a really exciting time at the cinemas right now, isn’t it?! In the past week, I watched La La Land with Shahirah and Hidden Figures with Ken and Selina. I loved them both so much for very different reasons.

La La Land was beautiful. I was so taken by the cinematography and the creative uses of sound, if that makes sense? The composition of each shot, the colours, the outfits… Every single scene was truly a sight to behold. I also just love a good I-want-to-follow-my-dreams story, so when you toss in the fact that it’s a musical with large dance numbers and a somewhat complex love story, it’s basically a formula for Dayana’s Perfect Movie. It just lifts your spirits. My sister Julia and I have pretty much been hooked on the soundtrack for days. I think the main reason I loved it though, was… hm, how do I say this without spoiling the movie? I think it represents the way my memory works, and the way I think about things in my own past. Yeah. That’s it.

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La La Land was only showing at Ritz East and a trip to Old City is not complete without a quick stop at Franklin Fountain. This parmesan ice cream was amazing.

Hidden Figures was also fantastic, I highly recommend it. I think Hidden Figures is probably more appealing to a wider audience than La La Land was because I can imagine how some people would watch the latter and just be like “that’s it?” but the former is more exciting plot wise. It’s definitely my favourite ~space movie~ (let’s not talk about Interstellar, gah, I hate that one). I mean, it obviously wasn’t just about space. It deals with the deep intersections of race, class and gender in the workplace, within our families and in our greater societies. The events of the film take place during the segregation and I remember thinking, I thought I knew how segregation was bad but every time you see it being played out you gain a deeper appreciation for how atrocious it really was and for me, it affirmed my faith in art as a means for building empathy while also entertaining. Even though Hidden Figures revolved around a huge things like space mission and racism, it still manages this lightheartedness because it makes you laugh and I greatly appreciated the balance of seriousness/lightness.

I’ve also been doing a lot of cooking experimentations which is really fun! I always enjoy cooking because I feel like it’s a creative, healthy way to practice taking care of yourself. This past week, I’ve mostly experimented with breakfast foods. I just am such a huge fan of brunch that I always find myself tempted to make those kinds of foods. I cut open a ripe avocado for the first time this past week and I’ve been enjoying having avocado with my eggs for breakfast. I also made smoothies and rosti which were so good. I’ll probably detail all of that in a separate post because this is already getting pretty lengthy, haha.

Until then, thanks for reading 🙂

Post-Election Post

Hi, everyone.

So, some things have changed since the last time we spoke. But I just wanted to say that I’m okay. I’ve felt better of course, but I’m okay. I woke up on Wednesday morning a little unsure of what to expect, but I received an outpour of support from my friends, Muslims and non-Muslims. My peers, professors and university staff have been so great at making sure everyone gets any support they need. We all wish we didn’t feel like we needed so much support, but God, I wish you could see, hear, feel the sense of community I saw, heard and felt on Wednesday. I suppose I regret the circumstances, but I have never felt any less alone or any more inspired. And, wow, on days I don’t feel like getting out of bed, these communities always give me reason.

It was surely not an easy task to grapple with the results of the US Elections on Tuesday, but first of all, I trust in God’s plans and secondly, I believe in continuing to do good work, and I believe in the people around me who believe the same. I have never known what the future holds. I have been afraid before and I am sure I will be afraid again; that much has always been certain. But someone reminded me that often we don’t see the effects of our hard work and it’s tempting to say that nothing we do counts, that our voices just don’t matter. However, we also don’t know what things would be like if we don’t continue to put our good energy out there. So with a greater resolve, I will continue to do good work in different shapes and forms, to fight for what I believe in, have conversations, read, tell stories and listen, one day at a time.

With that said, I know some people walk around with very real worries and I don’t wish to minimise any of that. Obviously, I have my share of concerns and I don’t mean to always paint an overly rosy picture of my life but I am choosing to keep the faith and keep going. I just want everyone to know they’re not alone. I am determined to remain proud to be a young muslim asian woman and I remain committed to kindness and equality for all.

Love always,