The Human Condition

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error. These were wise words, spoken by Marcus Tullius Cierco. Based on these words, every man is an idiot. In fact, humanity itself is characterised by idiocy, for after centuries of opportunities to learn from our endless mistakes, we find ourselves in a new age, continuing to make the exact same errors as our long-deceased ancestors. 

John Keats, Simone de Beauvoir, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath…All literary legends have one thing in common: they write about the Plight and Pain of humanity- about the dangers of greed, power, jealousy and love. Every book that has ever been published since the beginning of our existence as a species has sought to teach us at least something, but we persist in repeating these errors. How many more books must be published in order for us to comprehend that pain is an intrinsic component of certain pursuits?

We are a rebellious kind- we are willing to risk everything for certain things, and certain people. That is the unalterable flaw that we all share- it is the nature of the human condition. We make a mistake, and then

We make it again.

Sadia Ahmed, 2016


A hurricane is near.

It emerges from the outskirts and finds its way to my mind-

The epicentre.

There is no helping me now; I have lost

What it means to be found.

So tell me not of rationality or love or fulfilment,

For I am empty,

And the hurricane, it comes,

And it sweeps up the debris of stagnant satisfaction.

I am now happy, for I am empty no longer.

The calm centre- the eye of the storm- is where I stand, breathe,

My blood boils and my thoughts are a whirlwind,

But I stand and I breathe.

I let the hurricane lift me from the comfort of the ground.

It plunges me into the unknown,

And sheds the part of my skin that dared to make me feel unworthy.

Sadia Ahmed, 2016

Career Crisis

At fifteen years old, I have recently withdrawn myself from an intense existential crisis about my personal identity, however I now find myself entering a new phase of crisis: a career crisis, even though I have never actually had a career. 

It genuinely surprises me how often the topic of future career options springs up in daily conversation. I am habitually asked about what I would like to become in the future, by my friends, my parents’ friends, teachers, and even fellow passengers on public transport. I am a very ambitious person, and I would undoubtedly like to make something of my life by impacting the world in a positive way, but in truth, at present, I do not know precisely what I wish to become in the future. There are tens of thousands of potential choices out there, and I cannot narrow my options down at this point- I have yet to take my GCSE exams, let alone decide unequivocally on what my life will look like in ten years’ time.

The incessant questioning regarding my desired career path has led me to think about the world of work, and where I would fit into it. I have realised that our society and every single industry within it shares one particular thing in common: they each rely on human problems. Businesses exploit problems to make a profit; doctors solve health-related problems; lawyers deal with conflicts, which are a human problem. Problems are absolutely essential to the progression of our society, but society will never be perfect. As humans, we have all found ourselves in this futile search for perfection, both on a personal and wider scale. When people ask me about what I would like to become in the future, I now rephrase the question in my mind, and instead, I ask myself: what qualities, skills and interests do I have, and how can I harness these to solve a particular set of problems in society?

Ideas about my potential future career choices have changed drastically over the years. First, I wanted to be a teacher, and/or a journalist. Then, my interests changed for a while, and I wanted to become a doctor…then I was absolutely certain that I would become an astronaut…but then I developed an interesting in the field of engineering…and then (more recently) I thought about becoming a lawyer, but not one who defends criminals. Instead, I wanted to be a lawyer who would defend the human rights of civilians in war-torn areas of the world, such as Palestine and Syria. When I told my prying teachers about this potential choice of career path, I was met with strong disapproval. My teachers assured me that there were ‘better’ options for me out there- options that would make me more wealthy and ‘successful’.

Ultimately, the average salaries of people in different industries will, no doubt, be a relatively important contributing factor to the career path I end up deciding on, but for me, money is certainly not a central element. I would like a job that will be decently financially rewarding, but most importantly, I desire a job that will be morally uplifting- a job in which I feel challenged (enough to feel fulfilled) and secure and satisfied – a job that will harness my abilities and constantly stimulate my mind. In the meantime, however, I will live most contentedly in the present. I will work hard and focus on expanding my mind and bettering myself as a person.

And I will stop and smell the roses. 

The Value of Money

When people think of success nowadays, the amount of monetary income one receives usually springs to mind. The youngsters of my generation habitually mistake the pursuit of money- mere tokens of exchange- for the pursuit of happiness. The idea that money is an intrinsic source of happiness is centred on an exceptionally flawed premise. Children nowadays are indoctrinated with the idea that hard work leads to a higher income, and that, in turn, a higher income is somehow synonymous with happiness- with finally being at peace with oneself. 

In reality, the accumulation of wealth does little more to the soul than threaten to poison it with greed and eternal restlessness. As human beings, it is wired into our nature to constantly pursue things that give us a temporary rush- a fleeting escape from reality. We want and want, and we receive, yet still we are never satisfied. Ultimately, I can only compare the blind pursuit of money to one concept: attempting to fill a void of despondence with paper money, unaware of the fact that the money will simply disintegrate and decompose.

The only thing that can truly sustain and replenish our souls is love- love for people, for concepts, for the beautiful existence we share. Money cannot make a person infinitely happy. Granted, it can buy you certain material goods that will give you a short-lived taste of ‘happiness’, but no number of designer handbags or super cars can ever replace the inherent bliss that stems as a result of the shared human experience: love, friendship, laughter, peace.

The evidence for this is everywhere. The world is full of inconceivably wealthy men and women who possess everything their hearts have ever desired, and more. But these people forget about the aforementioned human experiences- too often we read about celebrities who have developed severe mental disorders or resorted to drug abuse because the money they owned did little to sustain them spiritually. In the same vein, the world is also filled with people who only possess bare necessities- young children in rural parts of Africa and India who own little more than a few rags they wear as clothes, yet they still somehow manage to be happy. Their happiness is prolonged and genuine; it does not rely on something as soul-destroying and illusory as money.

Sadia Ahmed, 2016

How to love yourself

Last week, I faced myself in the mirror and told myself, “I am beautiful”. My tone was firm and unwavering.

“I. Am. Beautiful.”

To be completely honest, I did not believe myself at first. In the past, I had always been intensely insecure about my appearance, always internally accusing myself of being ugly. Whenever someone complimented me on my appearance, it had almost become permanently wired into my nature to reflexively respond, “Thank you, but I think you may be visually impaired”. Indeed, we live in a society where self-hate is a prolific act. In the pursuit of perfection, we are our worst enemies, obsessing over things ranging from body weight to nasal structure.

Eventually I realised that this incessant self-deprecation was becoming increasingly detrimental. I was losing confidence in myself. Then, I came across a poem- a delightful written piece about the ambiguity of beauty. There are 7.125 billion different definitions of beauty in this world, and I finally came to the realisation that I am one of them. 

There is a fine line between loving and appreciating oneself, and downright hedonism. Loving oneself should not be seen as synonymous with excessively indulging in materialistic goods. Instead, self-love involves recognising your beauty, sowing in yourself the seeds of confidence, and ultimately, becoming aware of the fact that, in this world, you are your most valuable companion.

The path to loving myself was arduous and full of uncertainty. Everyday I would stand before the mirror, searching for my own beauty, even though it was always present before me. I would pass by my reflection in shop windows, reassuring myself that I am beautiful. I wrote myself a poem to capture my own beauty. I took myself on little adventures in an attempt to get to know myself better. And no, these were not acts of vanity. These were acts of self-appreciation after years of the exact opposite.

Soon, I fell in love with myself, and I realised that only when we love ourselves as much as we love those around us, will we ever truly be happy.

Sadia Ahmed, 2016