Twenty Four

Wow. I’m on my 7th version of this now. I do this every year, one month before I turn another year older, where I look back on what I did for the last twelve months and see how’s my life going so far.

When I wrote my entry last year, I was in a place that I didn’t like. This isn’t to say my 23rd year was the absolute worst. It’s just that I felt stuck half of the time. But that’s all in the past. They really don’t matter as much. Because right now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop, in one of the most magical places on earth for me.

My birthday usually falls on the end of the summer. Which means it’s annoyingly hot outside right now, and surely for the rest of May. The sky is clear today. It looks like the kind of blue that I love. And the trees in front of me are motionless. Why is it important for me to say this here, you ask? It’s because I want to remember where exactly I am as I draft this. It’s a yearly tradition.

My 23rd year started in my room. As usual, I waited for the clock to turn 12. The moment my calendar changed to May 26, I closed my eyes and prayed. I thought it was the best way to start the year. And I still do.

After I said everything that I hoped for, I consumed my favorite drink and snack and chocolate. Again, it’s a tradition. I am weird like that. After I went over through my rituals, I filmed myself for the sake of having something to remember one day. Up until this very second, I don’t know what’s my point for doing such things. I guess I’m just really crazy about turning a year older and I want it to be extra. So whatever.

My family and I woke up at around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. because we were celebrating my birthday at the beach. I was excited but obviously tired since I only had 3 hours of sleep. I saw the first sunrise of my 23rd year came up behind mountains. My uncle was driving the car and my sister and my cousin were beside me. It was a satisfying way to start the day — or the year. I was sleepless but smiling.

We had breakfast at a fast food chain. Drove for couple of hours before we made it to the beach town. It was raining quite hard at that time and we were all down because we knew we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beach. The resort and the view in front of it were both mind-blowing. Saying the place was Instagram worthy was an understatement. But it was raining so it was still a bummer.

An hour passed and — finally! — the clouds cleared and we started enjoying the day. God is good like that, you know. I had my yearly photoshoot. My sister and cousin — actually all of us — joined the bandwagon of taking selfies and groupshots. It was fun. It was great. I loved it.

We dipped into the pools like we owned them. There were no people around because it was a secluded resort so it felt like the entire place was ours. There were two hills in the middle of the ocean in front of us. I felt calm every time I stared at them while I rested my elbow on the edge of the pool. In that moment, I felt like my life was in a movie again — something that rarely happened.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when we spent our remaining resort credits on foods. We had so much of them that we ended up ordering different foods that could feed twenty people. My cousin and sister and I were laughing so hard just realizing how insane the situation was. As soon as we had enough of everything, we packed up and went home.

I guess I was dead tired from the running and swimming and eating and sleeplessness that I passed out on the car. Our car came to a halt and I jolted awake. I looked on my right and we were on a beach mall. Time for dinner.

We ate at this pizza store beside the mall and I thought it was a cool way to end the day. It was completely dark when we came out and the breeze of summer air was the only thing that I could smell. Spending time with my family on the most special day of my life was one of the best things that I did.

If I’m going to paint the picture of what my 23rd year looked like, it’d be like this: quite boring, but extremely successful. I didn’t travel much for the last twelve months. Actually, I didn’t travel at all. And I know you’re wondering what the heck was I thinking or was I doing in life. But here me out, okay?

I learned so much in the previous years of my life. I felt so behind because my resume was so weak and so shallow that I told myself, “Fuck it. I’mma drop my cravings and desire for travel and focus on being the best shit in my generation.” I was sick of being thought as the kid who is great but inexperienced. So I flipped the table and gambled my time. And it worked. It damn worked. Still working.

I continued to work as an accountant in the morning and built myself to be a better writer at night and weekend. I worked 7 days a week — I shit you not. But I don’t recommend this to anyone. Because just recently, I have realized that it’s mandatory that you give yourself one whole day to not do anything.

I worked really hard and aggressive and strategic. At 23, I had a book published by an inpendent publishing house in New York. It was a dream come true. I still couldn’t fully believe I did it. It was insane. I mean, at 23? That was huge. It was a hard process to go through and I spent a lot of time building my portfolio for me to get a book deal, but I freaking did it. I hustled and bled and succeeded.

Since I didn’t like the city that I was living and I felt like the company that I was working with was dead end, I revamped my resume and jumped ship. I bumped at this fast-growing company that has over a thousand of employees and so far I’m liking it. So far I’m loving the small and laid back city that I’m in. I’ve been sort of wanting to be here before. So I guess everything is kind of okay.

Before my 23rd year wrapped up, I made it to the featured writers page of Thought Catalog. This was another big deal. This was another dream come true. I feel like if I look at my life on an outer persepctive, I would say I have my life running fine right now.

I mean, I have my own apartment. Something I never had since I moved out of home 7 years ago. My day job is okay. I have a book that is being sold worldwide. And a lot of people know I’m a writer and that I write for an international digital magazine. Life at 23 was a great life on paper. I didn’t step to new places and felt magic, but I put myself in a good spot in life. I didn’t have it all, but I had some things good.

I sacrificed my time. I saved some of my money. I disciplined myself. All in the name of building my resume. And I am proud of myself for doing so.

As I enter my 24th year, I can’t give myself a guarantee that I would have worldly adventures. I’m still being careful with my actions after everything that I learned when I was 21. It’s important to me that I save money instead of impulsively spending them on travel. People don’t realize the power of money and where it can bring them, but I do.

No matter what happens to me, if I have savings, I can be anywhere else I want to be. I can start a new life somewhere. I have a safety net to fall back on. And I can afford to have an independent life.

I think the thing that I want people to learn too is the benefit of not comparing ourselves to other. It’s easy to be like, “Fuck he’s been to a dozen of places and I’m here living an uninteresting life.” But what we forget to ask ourselves is, “Do I really fucking want to have his life?” Because I can guarantee you, 98% of the time, you won’t. I think it’s important to really concentrate on our own paths and stick to our goals. We all want to achieve something. And sometimes we slow down because we allow other people to drag us with them.

I have woken up and learned how vital my 20s is when it comes to establishing myself. I know I can be something more and someone bigger. I want to stay grounded and keep following everything that I’ve learned from successful people.

In my 24th year, I want to just remain where I exactly am physically and become stronger. I might want to go back to school and pursue a masteral degree so I can add more bullets in my gun. Of course there are infinite things in this world that I have no control of. But what I’m ultimately trying to say is I won’t stop doing the right thing for me.

Yes I’ve done enough at 23, but I do recognize that I’m still young. I have an amazing and beautiful future ahead of me. With God, I know He’s guiding me to make it into the promised land. Right now, He’s giving me everything that I need. And I know that from here, I can only take one baby step at a time to get to where I am going next.


On Not Having Anything To Regret

The plan that I have right now is pretty simple: Keep working hard on building my career and chasing dreams. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s so easy to just focus on my goals and not care about anything or anyone. My personal brand is to become this career-obsessed, cold-hearted, talented, ambitious millennial. And everything will work out just fine.

Finding love isn’t really part of the game. I shouldn’t really be caring about having a romantic partner. Or the lack thereof. Because it doesn’t really make sense to have one to begin with. This is the perfect time for me improve and get better and show the world how great I am – and will be.

But jokes on me because I stupidly, immaturely had a major crush on someone. Admitting this alone makes me want to punch myself in the throat. And I’m beginning to hate myself just remembering it.

The story is… I have known this guy on the internet before. In fact, we used to be Facebook friends at one point. But I deleted some people in the past and apparently, I must have included him. The funny thing is, sometimes, it’s true that the world is such a small place after all. Because who would have thought that we would work in the same company one day? Learning this is the biggest lol of my 2017.

I tried to avoid him at first. And it was relatively easy, because, you know, I’m so good at building walls and icing people out. In fact, I’m one of the best when it comes to not caring.

It would be no sweat to ignore him, but the problem was that, most of the time that he would walk in front of me, he would peek in my direction. Naturally, I would give meaning to this. Like, omg, maybe he likes me. Maybe he remembers me. Maybe he thinks I’m really attractive in person. I tried to console myself that maybe this is how a normal human brain works. (But if it’s not, then by all means I’ll give you the opportunity to roast me.)

I’m going to admit that my heart makes me exponentially dumb sometimes.  I could have been logical and sided with my brain more. I could have told myself that just because someone stared at my direction didn’t mean that I was the one they were looking at. And even if I was the subject of their eyeballs, it still didn’t mean anything – romantically speaking.

But I shit you not, I spent an entire week falling in love with the fantasy that, what the fuck, he’s totally into me.

My assumptions backfired and my expectations let me down, particularly on the night of November 15th.  I promised I would have fun and enjoy the evening but it didn’t happen the way I planned, because the heart knows what it wants? Fuck feelings, really.

I went home feeling like a garbage. Memories of my previous mistakes in the past flashed back in my mind, reminding me that I never learned my lessons. That maybe I’m still the kind of person who falls in love with someone who isn’t going to love me back. That I still get hurt by someone who hasn’t even uttered a single word to me.

I hate that, after so many years of practicing the art of not giving a fuck about men, I still become a victim of unrequited love. And I know I’m better than this. I know I’m too old for this bullshit.

On Friday afternoon though, right after lunch, I thought I would grab the bull by the horn and settle down the issue once and for all, because it’s already stressing me out. Remember how I always write about not being afraid to say what you want? About life being too short and you will never know the answer until you do something to obtain it?

Well, I preach what I write. I sent him a polite message, telling him that I think I’ve met him at Tumblr before. I wasn’t really sure if I met him at Tumblr because all I remember was that we were friends at Facebook, but Tumblr was a better excuse.

Spoiler alert: he didn’t reply.

Was I heartbroken? My answer is, I was tired at that point. But I did a series of chuckle for the rest of the afternoon so I guess that’s a good thing?

But here’s what I’ve learned: I did the right thing. I had no intention of living the next few days, or weeks, or months wondering if there could be something for us. In a lot of ways, I got my answer through radio-silence, and my bullshit-o-meter was smart enough to pick that up. And now, I have nothing to regret.

I am still kind of disappointed. But I’m trying not to be crippled by this incident by allowing myself to feel whatever the fuck it is entitled to feel, then make a research about this scenario, and understand my emotions. I like to do things systematically lately and it’s a tiny proof that I’m slowly becoming a boring adult.

I would like to think that maybe I am not designed to have an amazing love story to share to the world – and I wouldn’t want to, anyway. Maybe I’m really meant to be the one who makes a great career because it aligns more with my personality. Maybe being successful in everything that I do is how my story was created in the first place. Maybe I was born to leave a great, big impact to the world – nothing more, nothing else.

And maybe I should embrace my purpose more, one day at a time. And stop letting myself be sidetracked by anyone.

I’m Late At The Party (And I Am The One To Blame) 

I’m probably — maybe — going to grow old alone. I know I’m being such a downer, and this is, without a doubt, a sad way to open a paragraph — but I truly have a good feeling I’ll never get to experience true love. 
I also know that this might come off as a shocker to a lot of people. And I understand why. I mean, I write about love and relationship a lot. Shouldn’t I be, among all of us, the best when it comes to dating? Shouldn’t I, at this point, have a wonderful partner that I can brag to anyone? Theoretically yes. 

I have a good amount of knowledge about what love is, about what we deserve, about the kind of person we should all end up with. I know the ins and outs. I am super familiar with relationship red-flags, with fuckboys, with temporary relationships. I promise you I can talk all day about love and relationship and I will never run out of something to say. 

But the irony — or shall we say the biggest joke — is that I am sitting here, wholeheartedly accepting that I am destined to keep loving myself until I draw my final breathe. I am sitting here, remembering how everyone that I deem to like is unavailable — legally, physically, emotionally. It seems as if someone screams, “The boat is sinking!” and people just grab whoever that is near them. And I am too slow to ever catch one. 

Every time I look all around me, I see couples. And it made me think how there’s a party somewhere that we all need to go and we’re required to go in pair. Everyone has found the right person for them. Everyone has settled down. Everyone is ready to head to the party. And, as obvious as it is, I am late and I am coming alone and I don’t even care. 

I am going to the party on my own and I am the one to blame. I have been picky. I write about not settling for less, for what I don’t deserve. I talk about wanting to be partnerless than be with someone I don’t like. And as always, I follow what I preach. 

I am single AF. And I am the one to blame. And again, I don’t really care. 

The scary thing about me is that I know exactly how to magically put up walls all around me, iced anyone that I don’t like, and not feel anything at all. I am good at shutting my emotions down just to prove a point, or get what I want. I know how to pretend I don’t remember certain memories. 

What’s even scarier is that lately, I’ve been obsessing over having a great career. At 23, I am fully determined to take my life seriously. 

No strings attached with anyone. No personal relationships involved. There’s only one word that I have in mind — and it’s not love — it’s success. 

I’ve had so much shit in the past few years and I guess I’m just done playing games with anyone. I hate wasting my time. I hate sharing my attention and energy to those who don’t give a crap about the person that I am becoming. I highly value my future and I am quick to turn around to anyone who’s going to slow me down. 

I love my job. I love my client. And I love my company. This is what I’ve been waiting for so long. This is what I’ve been dreaming to have. And I earned this moment. 

Everyone’s most likely having a good time at the party. Everyone’s going to stay late. But I won’t. Because it’s not the kind of party that I came here on earth for. I’s not the kind of party that can ultimately make me happy. And if people are going to blame me for being alone, I don’t really mind. As long as I will live this life unapologetically, fabulously, single AF. 

30 Hours After We Separated And I Am Already Missing You

I swear I never thought that, one day, I’d be writing about you. It’s even weird that I feel this way — feel like I lost a major part of me when we separated ways — but I do. For over five months of almost seeing you every single day, somehow you made a special place in my heart. I took the time that I spent with you for granted because on the surface of my mind, I knew you’d just be one of those people that I would meet temporarily — no strings attached. 

But there’s something in the bond that we created that made a long lasting impact in all parts of me. Maybe it’s the fact that I easily declared to myself that you weren’t so bad to share my ordinary, most usual, vulnerable moments with. I mean, you were fairly okay. And at some point I became so glad that you were there when I was having a difficulty sleeping. 

I wasn’t the type anymore who would open up to somebody quickly. It was you who did the talking most of the time. You were chatty every time we hit a conversation. I knew your personal details and I wondered whether you were thinking why I wasn’t sharing mine too. But during the times when I had emotional breakdowns, my mouth would open and words came flooding the floor between us, climbing to your bed and into your ears. 

It was so easy to talk to you. Like I didn’t get the chance to be awkward. Like I never had the opportunity to backle up and swallow back my words. Of course I’m never going to romanticize and make it seem like everything was perfect when we were having discussions, because, sometimes, I caught you looking down while I was talking and showing some sort of disinterest — but I’d like to see the good side in every situation. Having you around me was enough. 

There are so many things that I wished happened so differently. Like, I wish we made our last week together more memorable. I wish I didn’t hate you when you decided to be loud at 12 am. I wish I hadn’t make you feel how upset I was. And I wish I didn’t sleep over the sound of your voice while you were in mid-sentence — but you knew how damn tired I was, so I bet you understood. 

I think the bottomline of this is that I truly miss you. But not in the, “Oh my god I think I’m in love with him and I miss him” — al though it sounds like it. No. No. No. I am positive few days or months from now, this feeling would be irrelevant. I think that my leaving happened so quickly and I never had the proper chance and enough time to say goodbye to you. I never had the chance to get to know you more. I never had the chance to exchange valuable contact details with you. But mostly, I never had the chance to say thank you because you’re the best roommate that I had so far. 

I miss you because you respected everything about me — my time, my silence, my privacy, my ugliness, my sassiness. I probably won’t be seeing you ever again and I’m okay with that. You being part of my life — even for a short period of time — is yet another reminder for me to cherish all the people that I come across and build good relationships with them. 

The journey that I had for the last twelve months has been wonderful because of you too. I am so happy that I was beside you when I decided to put an end in one chapter of my life, and be totally ready to move forward, and never, ever, look back. 

Everything Is Actually Okay

I finished reading a book tonight. The moment I got to the last sentence; memories came flooding in my mind – not from some scenes in the book but from a special place in my past. I was being brought back to a certain, important moment of my life.

I zoned out and when I closed my eyes, my feet were once again touching the carpeted floors and I could see the four-lane streets below the building. I immediately felt all the blood inside of me running wildly. I could convince myself that it was real but I knew better that when I opened my eyes – I would be reminded of where I am.

It was so different back then and it seemed – to me – like it was all just a dream. I know I should probably stop writing about what happened to me over one year ago, but I don’t know, I just feel like that part of my life was so important to forget and bury somewhere. It was a huge turning point in my story and I am one hundred percent positive that I wouldn’t have some great lessons to share and tell the world if it weren’t for all the pain, heartache, and lost love that I experienced.

At 21, I was pretty much lost. Maybe I had an idea of who I was but I didn’t know what I wanted for myself. I was so confused about everything in my life and along the way, I forgot who I was. As I look back, I think that the biggest factor why I couldn’t recognize myself anymore was that I spent a lot of time with people and almost no time for myself. I became a combination of those I surrounded myself with and somehow my identity vanished out of thin air.

I was deprived of the chance to be in my own head for a really long time, away from the influence and opinions of others.

But maybe it was also because I was so young and inexperienced and completely oblivious about how the world works, how real life works.

Some nights like right now, I could scream and admit to the world that yes, I regret the decisions that I made. But a tiny part of me wanted to stand strong for the beliefs and principles that pushed me to say goodbye to everyone and everything that made me feel unhappy.

There are a lot of things that I am thankful to have in my life right now because of the changes that I embraced, and it will be unfair to hate myself and wish I could go back and do things differently. This is my reality now and even though I am disheartened about some parts of it, I know that at the moment – I have no choice but be okay with it

I am learning to be careful with the people that I put in my life. And I am brave enough to walk away from anyone who drags me down, slows the process of my growth, and doesn’t care about the person that I am becoming.

At 23, I am more concerned about building myself and developing the skills and talents that I have. I want to be successful in the later part of my 20s and be more successful in my early 30s. Sometimes I forget that I am literally young and I have decades ahead of me to meet the people who are going to be my best-friends.

Besides, there are thousands of strangers all across the globe right now who appreciate me and love what I am doing. I get a lot of messages from different people who express their gratitude for the articles that I am putting out there. I am inspiring thousands of people every week and that is a million times better than having people in real life who take me for granted.

Internet has been a better place for me because that’s where I meet different writers from the other side of the world that I consider best-friends. It just sucks that I can’t hang-out with them, but I’m still grateful to have them in my life.

I get love from people online and in a strange way, I feel like I belong in the communities that we are creating virtually.

In conclusion, I believe that I am stuck at where I am at this very second because this is where I am meant to be for the meantime. I just need to grab the opportunities that are being thrown in my way to make myself busy. There are tons of activities that can make me truly happy and satisfied. I think I need to stop overthinking my situation and remind myself about the fact that I literally have no time.

Social media has taken my life by storm and it’s getting most of my time nowadays. But I am not complaining, because I love every part of it.

People on the internet need someone like me more. And that statement alone should be a big reminder that I am actually going places.

Twenty Three

Exactly one month from now I will be turning 23. I can’t believe I’m on the sixth version of this now. The first time I started this, I was turning 18. Six years quickly came by in what felt like a blink of my eyes.

A year ago today, when I wrote my first draft of what happened to me before I turned 22, I was sitting at the 2nd floor of Subway fast food, overlooking the Dubai Metro station and Emirates Tower. I just had my lunch. Everything was so different then. My mind was consumed. I was a little bit scared and uncertain with where I was, and with everything that I had. But I was keeping myself intact. I was fighting, with my head above the water.

Now, 12 months later — I am here, back in my home country. Back in the city I’ve lived for almost 6 years, sitting at a conference table, overlooking the city skyline. Saying a lot has changed in a year is an understatement. I mean, look at where I am right now from where I was?

How did everything happen so fast? How about we start from the very beginning.

Six hours before I turned 22, I decided to spend the night and wait until midnight at Jumeirah Lake Tower. That place always had a special place in my heart so I thought why not celebrate there? It was the first time I’d be welcoming my birthday outside my home and I knew it would be exciting. And it was — but not everything that happened afterwards.

I had my last dinner as 21 years old at a Chinese fast-food chain. I celebrated my pre-22 all by myself. I thought it was a good idea to think things through very clearly. I never wanted to turn 22 if I was being honest with myself. I had an incredible year and I felt like I didn’t want that to end. A huge part of me wanted to stay young forever — careless, worry-free, ambitious, don’t-a-shit young adult.

But I had no choice. As soon as the clock in my phone turned 12, reckless party would be over.

So I roamed around for a bit on the shopping boutiques along the JLT Boulevard before I head down to the beach. It was pretty dark already as far as I could remember. I saw this amazing grocery store. I never saw it the last time I was there, I thought to myself. I went in, bought some snacks to munch while I kill time before midnight, and promised to myself that I’d go back later. I didn’t care about the money I was spending, even though I was technically a broke 21 year old kid. It was my pre-birthday after all. I deserved a break.

Finally, I walked to the beach. It was quite dark but I was glad for the moon, the first-world country establishments, elite residential, and Movie Theater in front of the beach that gave tiny light to my surroundings. I knew the Palm Jumeirah didn’t give much impact on what I needed, but I was glad too that I could see it shining brightly on the distance.

I sat on the sand, breathe the salt pre-summer Middle East air, and allowed myself to unleash the real me.

I watched these two kids playing around by the water. Their parents were sitting not so far beside me, watching too. I wondered if they’d grow up to be the person they wanted to be. I looked at them and they seemed really happy and content with where they were, with what they had.

I stood up and had the urge to walk along the beach. There were few people still on the ocean even at around 8 pm in the night. I walked more. The ocean looked blue green. I thought to myself, “I would never forget this moment.”

I pondered about my life as I let my feet drag me further down the beach.

Am I really happy? Is this what I want? I’m so broke here. I feel like I’m living under the rock. Should I just go home? But I’m already here. Besides wouldn’t that be an embarrassing move to do? Especially that I spent the last four years bragging I’d be here sooner?

I was confused. I was somehow lost. Al though I couldn’t remember how terribly lost. I talked to God while I walked. I knew He’d help me. I was also worried about something else. Someone else I needed to save. I was worried about a lot of things in general. Money. Rent. Gadgets. Travel. Food. Savings. Choices. Name it.

There was this weird mist in the air I was having a hard time to explain. But it was like the wind was warm, but the ocean was cool, and they just sort of collided. I don’t know. I hope you could picture that out.

I realized I walked very far. So I turned back to where I left my bag and snacks and slippers. One more reason why I fell in love with the city real hard was that, there was almost no record of theft. You could leave your things and you could always find them.

I sat back to the sand. I looked at my watch. I had less than 4 hours to kill. What else would I do? Should I just head back to my apartment? This was silly. I pulled out my phone, inserted the earphones in it, then played Ariana Grande’s newest album. It was my pre-birthday gift to myself. I loved it.

I dragged myself to the tip of the ocean, careful not to wet my shorts, and listened to Ariana Grande’s songs while I twirled around the water, pretending I was on the music video, and being sexy. I was that weird. Really weird.

I got tired so I settled back to where I was sitting. I thought about my life more. My mind was bleeding — that’s for sure. I was 21. Did I truly know what I was doing? What my purpose was?

I was a very deep person. That was me in my normal habitat.

I got tired, sat back again, then made a list. I shouldn’t forget that to mention here. I made a damn list! One that I would love to call “Jinxed list”. Almost every item in there never came true. The content was stored in my iPhone4s. I should re-read that again. I wrote the list and promised to myself, “These are the things that I need to have or achieve at 22.” Which was bullshit obviously.

But in case you’re wondering, from what I could remember, the list included: having a go-pro, writing another novel, saving someone, focusing on career (?), save money (!), go back home to visit. And so on. I can’t remember them all.

So I was getting a bit bored. I browsed the shops more on the Boulevard, and went back to the grocery store as I promised to myself.

I walked into the store and I said to myself, “This is such a movie moment.” It’s kinda weird but I was starting to feel magic. Like, something was just so different. Like, everything at that moment was special. I looked around me in that shop and I swore I could live in that moment.

I went out with a huge cookie I guess and a ginger ale. A freaking ginger ale because I wanted to get drunk but apparently Dubai banned alcoholic drinks ever since, so I dumbly thought ginger ale would do. Freaking ginger ale.

Two more hours before Angelo officially turned 22! How exciting it was to celebrate by myself. I mean, wow!

I transferred to the back portion of the Boulevard and left the sand because it was getting late and it was getting creepy there. I sat on the well-maintained grassy area with all the beautiful night lights around me. Some expensive restaurants were closing behind me. I could still see the ocean from my spot all too well.

Different people walked pass by me. But it was pretty much spacious since it was a weeknight. Again, it was such a movie moment. I inhaled some air more.

I yawned. I was somehow dead tired, and my emotions started creeping in. I looked at the Palm Jumeirah. Still bright. And I finally faced that one thing that was looming on the surface.

The truth that I had no love life. That I felt lonely for most part. That I questioned myself if there was something wrong with me. But how could there be something wrong with me when I’m so dateable? All of my girl best-friends would testify to that.

But I was all alone, not only that night, but for most part of my life. I guess I shed some tears on that hour. I thought leaving my home country would make a difference in my romantic life but alas, it didn’t. So I thought about going back home again since being there was stupid anyway.

My then considered best-friend, texted me to greet me Happy Birthday and sent me a picture of, ahm, (N). She thought it was a crush joke. I thought too. But subconsciously there was more to that. And there was more to that story later. Specifically how N affected some of my decisions.

Few minutes before I turned 22, I was giddy and pumped and beaten up and sleepy. But pretty much alive. I counted down the seconds before midnight like it was a New Year. And I sung myself Happy Birthday. How sad right? I wished to the world, to God, to everyone or everything that was listening. Do I remember what I wished? Uhm. Not exactly sure. But they had probably the same fate as the lists.

Okay. Take a shift in your seat. This is the turning point of the story.

Not even an hour after I turned 22, shit already came bothering me. And it pretty much set the tone for my whole year. I know. It’s weird and strange and odd. But I felt like that moment, the world was giving me a warning sign.

What bad signs? I’d give a quick montage: no more bus, no more train. Had to take taxi. Paid almost 80 dirhams. Embarrassed myself to the taxi driver. Transferred to the only bus that would bring me to the apartment. 2 am and people had so much shit already. Bus driver yelled at me. I felt weak and just allowed him win over me. Said to myself, “Fuck this. Does he know it’s my birthday?”

Came home safe. Slept.

Want more bad signs?

Woke up in the morning with no breakfast. Cooked my own. Was kinda yelled at. Lunch was whatever. But good thing we had dinner party planned. More personal horrible story I wouldn’t share.

But unto a good one on my birthday, my Aunt — favorite Aunt — surprised me a bouquet of flowers. How lovely! Yes it was but… she was the first person who gave me flowers. But it’s okay! I was still sort of happy. Birthday dinner was okay. It was sweet, small, solemn, and yeah — unforgettable.

End of my birthday.

But wait.

Worse signs came in after that. And the world didn’t truly give me a break. Not even 3 days after my birthday, my entire hope collapsed.

I went back to the office with no birthday greetings. Nobody cared. My best-friend and few of my friends (?) tried to give pleasant wishes, but they were also just whatever. No surprise. No anything.

I locked myself in the toilet for Idk how long. Cried. Missed home. Felt the loneliest in my life ever. I was wearing something special and beautiful, for nothing.

But here’s the worst part on that day. I was called for a special meeting. I was lectured for not following a company policy for which I ignored, didn’t care, or was ignorant. I informed someone high-ranking through email about me taking a day off as I would celebrate my birthday in the most light-hearted and funniest email I sent in that company. But since I had no luck whatsoever, it didn’t work.

I was 22. It was the only day I took an absent. And it was the most special day of my life. Was that hard to understand or sympathize? Were people really that cruel? Would this be the life I wanted to live in the next 2 years?

I was heartbroken. And nobody knew, cared, understood. I am a human being. I have emotions and feelings.

Things changed after that. I felt even lonelier and purposeless. I had my lunch alone for couple of weeks that followed. I barely talked or trusted anyone. I snapped too easily to anyone. I just didn’t care at that point. Because I was a young 22 year old kid and nobody gave a shit about me. So why would I?

The best-friend I thought would protect me ended up not caring too. The person I had feelings for (N, this was you) wanted me out. The person I believed had a crush on me just stayed quiet, and chose to be blind. The person I shared the same roots betrayed me.

How could I continue to live in that environment? I was suffocated.

I tried to get my shit together and stick around for more.

Back to my personal life, maybe God answered my wish. I was on the lowest point in my life. Literally about to give up. Then you came into my life A. We met on the bus. (For those of you who’s interested in this meet up story. Scroll down and find a piece with the title “June 6, 2016”)

We dated. Or so I thought. No actually we were fucked up. We were complicated. But it was Ramadan. You were weak — I meant vulnerable — for the whole month. I don’t know what we were.

I was worried more, and worse this time. I was worried about the person I wanted to save, about A, about both of them going home. But guess what? We all went home. Wasn’t that the sickest joke?

Back to the working life, so we could wrap these detailed parts already. I tried to change, fitted in, swallowed my pain, and smiled like nothing was wrong. But I was just about to see the worst.

Before things blew up, there was this one morning and I could remember  so well. I was in your car N. It was Ramadan month, and as part of your “charity”, you gave me a free ride. Which was fitting because our apartments were only 10 minutes apart by walk.

While you were driving, I was on the back seat, looking at these tall buildings from the distance. They were all perfectly aligned. I wanted to take picture of that scene but was afraid you’d judge me N. What strike me, though, was that I felt something in that particular moment. It was weird. And I almost whispered to myself, “Take a look. Take them all in. You’re going to miss this.” It’s like I was saying goodbye already.

Maybe the universe was screaming at me, making me feel what was about to go down – a preview of what I’d do.

But before we go to that part, I have a question to ask.

Do you know how sometimes, it feels like you have a complete control over a situation, and one little decision can change everything?

Well, I had that moment. And it did really change everything for me from then onwards.

I was having a rough time at work, pissed off as usual. I compromised my liberty in response to your “charity” N. Because I’m the kind of person who has a heart. But you took me for granted. All of your folks took me for granted almost every day. And I’ve had enough. I was honestly tired. You wanted to take more of my freedom, but I couldn’t. What you were all doing to me was too much. Too much.

And if there’s one thing you should know about me N, as I write this, is that I’m smart. I know what I’m doing. What I did on that day was a thought I decided was right.

You don’t know this N, but when you wanted me to finish something and stay longer, I was planning to lie and walk away afterwards. I finished some parts of what you wanted. I had few couple of minutes of debating whether or not I should pursue my plan. A series of flashbacks passed before my eyes as I deliberately weighed my options.

I decided to do what I was about to do. I smiled. I turned off my computer. I stood up. I slung my backpack to my shoulder. I walked pass you. Then you were stunned. You didn’t expect I’d do that. You asked me if I was done. I said, “Yeah”, nonchalantly. You asked if I was sure. I made a hand gesture to confirm yes, and showed how defeated I was already at that point.

Did you see how defeated I was N? Did you even care?

I went to the pantry to get my lunch-boxes, then you watched me through the glass doors as I left. You found out I lied. I left my task unfinished, on purpose. I wasn’t dumb. I knew what would happen next. And I chose that to happen.

But did you know where I was heading N? Did you know why I was eager to leave?

I went to my cousin’s birthday. Yes Adrian. I picked you over them. You didn’t know this too. We celebrated your birthday while I was trying to bury my worries. I knew I was done. But I wanted to enjoy the night. I wanted to see you happy on your birthday.

Because, Adrian, honey, I will always choose you over them.

The following day was, well, the doomsday. I didn’t want to go through the details as few people knew the story already. There was a piece in this website where I told the part when I was standing at the 19th floor, crushed on the inside and so done with the world, while I looked at the highway below. I watched the fast cars raced through the streets and thought it’d be the last time I’d see them.

My final words that all of you folks would never forget was, “This isn’t the kind of life I pictured myself living in.”

It was the bomb that I dropped that destroyed everything.

The list I made before I turn 22 turned out to be defective.

I made bold moves. My theme on my 22nd year was: “Carpe diem that one great leap of faith and have fun for the wild ride.” And I did carpe diem the great leap of faith. Was it a wild ride? I bet.

Half of my 22nd year, I spent sort of lost. I didn’t know what I really wanted. I had no idea where exactly I wanted to be. I was weak. I had so much in my mind. I played a little too aggressively — impulsive even.

I admit that there were so many things in life I couldn’t understand or wanted to understand. All I knew was that I was young and I should be having fun. But I was wrong.

Half of my 22nd year, I spent redeeming myself. I gave myself second chances to do things right, to correct my mistakes, and to begin again. It wasn’t an easy process. Some days, I would get discouraged. Some days, I would regret for what I did. Some days, I wish I could go back in time.

But you know what? As I sit here right now typing this, I am wholeheartedly decided not to go back in the past.

Yes this city I am in right now is stupid. It’s killing me every day with its flaws and imperfections. But this is where I actually feel more at peace with myself than where I used to be.

I have a room for myself. I have a decent salary for my age. I eat take out fast food every day, as opposed to canned goods. I see my grandmother every weekend and it’s the best thing ever. I get to be in my room at the country side every weekend too. My work schedule is light. I have 4x more time here, and because of that, I am able to write for Thought Catalog. I can buy myself expensive clothes in here as well, but I just choose not to. Sure I probably can’t risk my money with chocolates, but will they just eventually destroy me if I go on with that addiction?

Point is, I should truly consider the substance over form. Intrinsic value over face value. It’s true this city is nothing compared to the beauty of Dubai. But I’m actually calmer here. I have more time here for myself, for the things that I love. It’s just a matter of opening my eyes and knowing what makes me really happy. And where I’m genuinely happy.

I recognize that I’ve let some people down because of my decisions, and I choose to silently ignore them, and proceed to living my life. But I just want to say to anyone who rooted for me, that I am sorry you realized I wasn’t that great.

But I think I’m allowed to make mistakes at this age, and figure out what I want for myself, and not for anyone else.

I know it sucks. But I’m trying to move on, be better. And I hope that you do too.

I will be turning 23 soon. It’s a totally different story this time around. Now, I’ve found my voice, my dreams, my goals, myself.  And it’s time to make the tables turn.

I am not scared anymore. I am no longer the 22 year old kid running around, always panicked, always worried. I am confident with the skills that I have and with what I can offer to the world. I know what I want to pursue and I have plans in my mind I want to execute patiently.

I see a bright future for me now and I know I can bring a one big success this year. I’m starting to figure out my purpose and why I am here. I am glad with the achievements I’ve had in the last five months, and I think I’m good for it to go on until I’m ready to make my own mark.

I am moving on slowly. And writing down my past allows me to let go. I am comfortable with my own skin. I barely have insecurities anymore. I only do what I love, and not pay attention to anything that’s irrelevant in my life.

I am happy and I think I’m living the life that I picture for myself. This year, I can feel that I’m going to be even happier. I trust myself, the world, and God more.

I am working hard day and night for some of my dreams to come into fruition at 23. I am excited for this year, for all the possibilities, for all the better experiences, for more amazing memories, for more people to meet, for more places to visit. I am more focused on my goal now, and craving for success, than I’ve ever been.

And I think I am finally seeing the stripes of lights, because I know, in my heart, that I’m heading to where I am supposed to be.


This Is How You Remind Me What Truly Matters

Dear God,

You really have a strange way of making me understand my life, my journey. You don’t want me to think that the choices I’ve made are purposeless. You want me to see everything clearly, find reasons, know the answers to my whys.

I’ve stumbled upon this website called: instant street viewer. I’ve known it before, used it before. Whenever I’m missing a certain place, I’ll just visit the site and type the address of where I want to be.

I chose the place I lived for 8 months. I didn’t exactly know why. I just felt like I wanted to revisit it, and made myself feel like I was there again. I picked the part where I’d go down from a bus stop and walk home. It was so funny that I still knew every single direction to my apartment. It’s as if I could navigate my way even when my eyes closed.

The feeling was all TOO familiar, as I passed through the street using the cursor, instead of my feet. Immediately, a sense of longing and nostalgic poured inside of me. Everything felt so near, yet far so away. I remember all the details that I saw. I can’t believe that part of my life ended abruptly.

I used to walk on those streets every day of my life, and… it was disheartening how I took those moments for granted, not knowing that one day they’d soon end. I wonder how many times I walked on the same cul-de-sac, how many times I smelled that distinct odor, how many times my heart fluttered as the wind brushed my hair.

I remember how lucky I was to be living somewhere different.

But then, when I was on my halfway through my old apartment, I realize how the park in front of me reminded me so much of how young I was at that time.

I remember how stupid, and ignorant, and emotional, and weak I was. I remember all the reasons why I should not look back. I rolled my eyes and contemplated whether I should close the screen. But then a part of me wanted to finish what I already started. So I pushed through.

10 minutes to the building. I saw the grocery store where I bought my snacks on late afternoons. I saw the car shop — I used to think how amazing it would be to work there, because my place was close to it. I saw the spot where I dropped my phone. Everything was still fresh in my mind. It was only less than a year of me living there, yet I couldn’t forget all those memories that I experienced.

I tilted the screen to look up at the sky. This was the part when I said I wanted to go home. This was the part when I was so crushed on the inside and nobody knew or understood why. Nobody wanted to know or care. This was the part that I asked You why.

5 minutes to the building. Those establishment I saw on both sides of the street were old (this website wasn’t updated). I saw men in their traditional dresses. They used to frighten me in the beginning. But they made me realize that the world is actually a safe place.

I was below the building that I lived. I couldn’t go inside. Guess they left that part for privacy reasons. I looked around. Turned around and round. Checked the sky. The street. I was here. I used to live here. I’ve made lots of choices. LOTS.

I admit I missed everything. Ugh. Too much emotion. It was getting hard to explain.

I moved on to the main street where I rode a bus to get to work. Again, I knew the direction by heart. I saw the big grocery mall I went into — even at 11 pm. That was such a fun experience — midnight grocery shopping. Think I should write about that one day. That was such a movie moment experience.

A long stretch of road. I saw the bench I sat on a late summer afternoon. My body was sweating and I was unable to cry because I was SO dehydrated. (Middle East problem)

I saw the city mall. Again, I missed it.

I’ve had enough. It was too much time, too much memories, too much looking back.

Towards the end of it, I felt okay. I have learned that my emotions are confusing me a lot of times, especially during this age. I wanted one thing and then hated it. I left one place and wanted to go back again. I admit that sometimes, I don’t know what I want. I don’t know where I want to be.

I’m hot and cold. I’m young and impulsive.

But I guess that’s what You want me to learn.  You want me to learn how to control my emotions. And maybe one day I will. I’ll just have to give myself time.

Some days I missed the cities that I left. But as I closed the window on my computer, I knew in my heart that I was happy with the final decisions I made. I’m happy with where I am. I’m happy to be with the people that I love, and who love me.

I get confused once in a while, but I think that, what You’re wanting me to learn is — knowing exactly what’s really important to me.

And ultimately, this is what is important to me.