Sunday, February 10, 2019

Dear Raza


Raza,

I can’t believe you are going to be a one-year-old this week. What a year it was! So much took place that it doesn’t feel like all of that could possibly have occurred in just twelve months.

In reality, every three months was something new. The first three months, you and I were trying to figure out our new normal while my only goal was to keep you alive and well! The next three months you started daycare, your travels and sitting up. The three months after that you began eating everything, sleeping through the night and experienced my favorite season, fall. The last three months you got lots of teeth, began crawling, pulling up and discovered tantrums.

There are many firsts that are forever etched in my heart. There are moments I will miss because I know they will become rarer as you get older. So for now, I am going to cherish every nose kiss, hug and cuddle I can get from you.

It was also year of many many adjustments, mostly of my expectations. You see everyone says motherhood is wonderful and such a gift, which it is, but they don’t talk about the challenges. Motherhood is also lonely and isolating, not for a lack of people in our lives but simply because you are exhausted and can’t ever find the time. There are moments that are not enjoyable, moments when you question your sanity and wonder how you will ever survive. There is so much happening so fast that moms often lose themselves along the way. Our bodies change. Our minds change. Our hearts change. But life outside mostly stays the same. I had to learn how to merge these two identities and figure out who the new me was while learning how to be a mom at the same time.

I am proud of the fact that I was able to breastfeed you for an entire year. I would be lying if I said it was easy because it wasn’t. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done but one I wanted to do for you. I am excited that my day no longer revolves around pumping. Actually beyond excited.

I also had to adjust my expectations of friendships. Some people I rarely see anymore. Some people I see when I reach out. Some people I see because they insist on checking on me and making sure I am ok. As someone who rarely asks for help, I am now so comfortable asking of those who I know will help no matter what. I wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

I was lucky. I got to do most of what I wanted to do because of a lot of wonderful people who love you. Your grandparents, your aunts and uncles and two great babysitters who watched you countless times while I had to be somewhere else. This really allowed me to feel like I had “my all” because there is no such thing as really having it all. All moms have to decide what their all is in order to find their balance and happiness.

I cannot imagine life without you. You have brought such joy in our lives and I can’t wait to see who you become.

Love,
Mom

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My love of travel


This article gave me all the feels today. It speaks to the courage of one woman but really speaks about all women because we have each taken a bold leap of faith at some point in our lives. I also happen to read it on the day the 116th Congress swore in a record breaking 127 women in to office which is a monumental milestone.

Me somewhere in Cappadocia
It is of no surprise that travel is my first love. I say that often and with pride. But I don't think anyone has ever asked my why. Reading this article brought up all the reasons in one sitting over dinner and I couldn't stop beaming as I glanced over at my husband and son. You see travel is the best life lesson I have ever had. I have learned more about myself on trips than I have living the day to day. 

Jada Yuan won the trip of a lifetime courtesy of the New York Times. They sent her to all of the 52 places to visit in 2018 and she got to cover them. After traveling for a year she had seven lessons to share. As I read her lessons, I couldn't help but think back to my earlier travel days and the lessons I learned as a result.

Lesson No. 1: A year is short
I remember when I decided to take six months off and move to Cambodia to volunteer. I knew the time would fly by but many around me were worried. Wasn't I scared to leave my life behind for six months? To be without my husband? To quit my job? Six months came and went much quicker than I could have ever anticipated. Technology allowed me to stay in touch with my loved ones on a daily basis. The hardest part was not being able to hug or kiss my husband and I am so grateful that he understood why I needed to do this for me. 

My apt in Birmingham, England
Lesson No. 2: Know thy logistical self
When I was moving to England, it was the first time I would ever be living by myself in a place of my own. I was a little too ambitious and being Pakistani I had to be extra prepared. My mom helped me pack dishes, pots, cutlery, along with clothes and other essentials. Two suitcases and a carryon later I was off! Well my thrifty self did not purchase a direct ticket and had a layover in Amsterdam. This layover was also where I needed to grab ALL my bags and recheck them for Birmingham. Navigating this was not as easy as I thought it would be. One of my bags rolled down the escalator and I was at the mercy of a complete kind stranger who brought up my tumbling bag to me. He didn't have to. I now only travel with a carryon or pieces I can carry with my two hands. 

Lesson No. 3: Develop your superpower
Like Jada, I used to be able to sleep anywhere, under any condition. My best friend hated me for it. It allowed me to wake up refreshed and ready to go no matter the conditions of the journey. This was always helpful when there were only a limited number of hours/days in any given city. 

Lesson No. 4: Try it
I won't try fruit but I tried a whole lot more during my travels. Couchsurfing. Being vulnerable with complete strangers. Bunjee jumping. Crash landing in a hot air balloon. Riding in a scooter and crashing but still managing to see a beautiful sunset. Taking a train alone in India. Eating all the street food. I have not regretted a single one of these decisions. 

Lesson No. 5: Learn what safe means to you
My gut is something I adamantly listen to even if it is annoying at times. As a solo female traveler, I may have erred on the side of over precautious at times but I always went with safe rather than sorry. Everyone has different barometers and that is ok so long as you listen because you know you best.

Strangers who became friends
Lesson No. 6: Still, talk to strangers
A stranger let me live with her for a whole week! While I had couch surfed plenty of times, I had never moved in with a complete stranger. That's exactly what happened in Cambodia on my first day at work. I had an apartment lined up but after arriving discovered that my landlord decided to gift it to his newly married son. And so I was homeless. I shared this with my new co-workers and one of them, Anjana, offered her bed to me while I looked for another place. So for seven days I shared a bed with a girl I had just met and it reaffirmed that the world is an inherently kind place. Many strangers, like Anjana, have become some of my closest friends and I would have never met them had I not talked to a stranger. 

Lesson No. 7: Alone does not mean lonely
Many people I know are afraid to travel alone. Traveling alone for me has been one of the greatest discoveries of life. Through it I learned about me. When else can you be with yourself and really get to know who you are? It is an experience that allows you to learn your comforts, your boundaries and your greatest fears. But after doing it you also realize your strengths. And with todays technology you are always connected to your loved ones. 

So why am I telling you all of this? Well I hope it convinces you to take that trip you always wanted to but found a million excuses not to or to go somewhere where everyone else thinks you are crazy for doing so. I guarantee the trip will change you for the better. The bigger issue is you'll never want to stop.