Ask: :)))

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Dear :), 

Thank you so much for your kind compliments. You just made my day! I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog articles. Please make Du’a for me! 

My tips for getting started with writing are as follows…

Don’t think; just write. Especially if you intend to publish your works, it may feel tempting to think before writing: to generate criteria to which you plan to adhere, and to intricately plan out what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it. But something I find that really helps me to get into the ‘flow’ is this: writing as I think (and, thus, thinking as I write). I never know what my pen’s ink will end up forging. I like to just sit with my open notebook and pen (sometimes under a tree or something; sometimes simply in my room). It does truly help to have around you some material sources of inspiration — at least, in my case, anyway. Vases of sunflowers [shoutout one of my beloved friends for randomly sending me some!] and/or candles, and the like. Ambience. Though, when it truly comes down to it, the things that matter are: your mind, the paper, and your pen [or your laptop or whatever].

And then, I like to just write. I try not to think too much about whether or not my words are sounding particularly beautiful there and then. I sometimes don’t even ask myself if they are making sense. In my opinion, writing is best — and, certainly, most enjoyable — when it is authentic to you. Even if you find they are a bunch of random words that you have messily woven together. Most of what I write is for my eyes only; I like to be as free with my pen as I can be, even if I am not always writing particularly ‘well’.

I find the process itself to be extremely enjoyable and engaging for my mind. As with most activities, if you can reach that wonderful state of ‘flow’ while writing, you will likely find the most possible benefit and enjoyment (and, also, the best end product) as a result of doing it. Flow, flow, flow. Sometimes I simply sit down, tell myself, I am going to fill three whole pages of this notebook. And then, I just write. Even if I don’t particularly feel I have much to write about: my mind finds things. Things to say about the sky, or about… bread. In a similar vein, sometimes I set a timer for five or ten minutes. And I let the ink flow, and I try not to stop before the timer is done.

When it comes to works that I do end up publishing or submitting for competitions, however, I tend to read my work aloud to myself afterwards. Sometimes, several times. I go back and edit; swap some words around, etc. And I occasionally send things over to a particular friend of mine whom I consider to be very trustworthy. If something I have written is a little substandard, or if some of it is difficult to understand, or if it contains some misleading information or something, I truly trust this friend and her honesty. She also tells me which of my articles she has liked the most, and why. I really value her opinion (as well as those of a select few others) and, whenever I am in strong doubt about my writing, I do find I look to them for validation.

If you are looking for some sort of second opinion for your writings, I wouldn’t mind at all if you were to send some of them to me… and I promise to give you my true opinions about them! Feel free to email me at: sadia.6@outlook.com

Also, trust me, my thoughts often feel quite all-over-the-place, too. And this is precisely one of the reasons as to why writing is so wonderful. As an art form, as a therapeutic means. It is logic and beauty, wrapped up together: individual letters and the seemingly infinite ways in which they can be arranged. The beauty and the power of words. Through writing, order can be born out of chaos, while the mundane, the confusing, can be rendered gorgeous and strong and undeniable!

Writing prompts can tend to be quite useful, too. Focusing on a particular word. Like… ‘luminescent’. Or a question — like, “What makes you melancholy?” or, “What do you suppose dying feels like?” And then just writing whatever comes to mind as a result of beginning with such a word or question; thereby creating your own flow, and going with it.

Finally, a belated congratulations on your A* in GCSE English! But, even if you had not managed to acquire such a high grade in the subject, it would not necessarily mean that your writing is ‘bad’: examiners seek out certain tick-box criteria in pupils’ exam scripts. Honestly, I think the best writing is often the type that is… unscripted. Spontaneous and real: fresh out of the oven that is your mind, and true to (and, from) you. 

I hope this has been of some help to you.

Salaam!

 

Ask me a question (or tell me what’s on your mind) here


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

 

Ask Sadia: Evil & Suffering

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Dear Mia,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

The presence of evil and suffering in the world does not ‘disprove’ God at all. Firstly, our ideas of ‘good’ and ‘evil’: from an atheistic standpoint, such ideas have no objective value, and all we really care about is survival and reproduction. However, the Islamic view maintains that our notions of good and evil have been prescribed for us and, to a large extent, have also been imbued in us from God. It is, in our view, foolish to morally criticise the very originator of morality. What is good is good because God has deemed it to be so; what is evil, the same principle applies.

In fact, the presence of evil and suffering does much to fortify the Islamic worldview. For starters, we do not believe that this world is all there is. This world is only a prequel, so to speak, to the world of the afterlife. And here, we will face difficulties and we will encounter evil.

In the Qur’an, God tells us that He created this world to test us – to see which of us do much evil, and which of us do much good.

Much of the human being’s capacities to do good are actually reliant on the presence of evil and suffering. The job of a doctor, for instance, would be rendered quite pointless if human sickness did not exist. Acts of charity, too, are only meaningful because poverty exists. And God does also tell us that He will ‘test some of us through means of others’.

And the ones who suffer: firstly, if they are destined to go to Heaven, there is a lovely Hadith – a saying of the Prophet (SAW) – that tells us that such a person will be asked, in Heaven, if they had ever suffered in this world. Due to the sheer ongoing joy and comfort that Heaven will facilitate, the person who suffered here will reply, “No”. 

We believe that the life of the Akhirah – what follows this worldly life – is like an entire ocean. And the life of this world – whether in terms of suffering, or in terms of happiness – is ‘but a drop’ upon one’s fingertip.

And, in terms of questions of evil and suffering, we human beings are extremely limited. Limited in knowledge, limited in our abilities to understand things beyond our currently-accessible frames of reference…

But just because we cannot access Divine wisdom, does not mean it does not exist.

One of my favourite Muslim academics, Hamza Tzortis, says the following on the matter:

“This reasoning is typical of toddlers. Many children are scolded by their parents for something they want to do, such as eating too many sweets. The toddlers usually cry or have a tantrum because they think how bad mummy and daddy are, but the child does not realise that the wisdom underlying their objection (in this case, too many sweets are bad for their teeth). Furthermore, this contention misunderstands the definition and nature of God. Since God is transcendent, knowing and wise, then it logically follows that limited human beings cannot fully comprehend the Divine will. To even suggest that we can appreciate the totality of God’s wisdom would mean that we are like God, which denies the fact of His transcendence, or implies that God is limited like a human. This argument has no traction with any believer, because no Muslim believes in a created, limited God. It is not an intellectual cop-out to refer to Divine wisdom, because it is not referring to some mysterious unknown. Rather, it truly understands the nature of God and makes the necessary logical conclusions. As I have pointed out before, God has the picture, and we have just a pixel.”

Although I empathise with their concern and anguish at the suffering inflicted on fellow sentient beings, some atheists suffer from a veiled type of egocentrism. This means they make special effort not to see the world from any perspective other than through their own eyes. However, in doing so, they commit a type of emotional—or spiritual—fallacy. They anthropomorphise God and turn Him into a limited man. They assume that God must see things the way we see things, and therefore He should stop the evil. If He allows it to continue, He must be questioned and rejected.

I would truly recommend that you read the rest of this article (entitled, ‘Is God Merciful? Islam’s Response to Evil and Suffering’) here.

On the topic of murders and genocides, we do not believe at all that people simply ‘get away with’ these things. These yearnings for justice that we human beings tend to have: they will be satisfied, eventually!

From an atheistic, Darwinian perspective, however, these justice-related inclinations are not very meaningful at all. For instance, if a woman were raped and then forced to carry a resulting baby to term, under this perspective, the ultimate objective of reproduction is being met. So what is it, within us, that makes us vehemently object to such things? It is a higher sense of Justice, surely.

Next, on what you were saying about doing ‘good for the sake of God’. Without God, the truth is, people do things in line with their own personal whims and fancies. There is nothing, under atheism, to morally distinguish between the ‘value’ of things that are done out of empathy, or things done out of, say, greed. Why? Because there is no objective morality. So we respond to our own personal instincts, which atheists tend to believe is for the ultimate purpose of self-preservation, survival of the fittest, reproduction.

The Muslim view is that we cannot rely on our own inner instincts and desires for us to behave morally – because some of these instincts will be moral; others will not. There is a clear distinction, but only religion can give this distinction any actual meaning. We believe that our highest connections are not to ourselves and to the matter of our own pleasure and preservation: our highest connection is the one we maintain with our Creator. So even on the days when we don’t ‘feel like’ (i.e. our inner instincts do not push us towards) doing good, we should endeavour to ‘do good’ regardless.

And on what you said about ‘evil [just being objectively] evil’. How does atheism seek to justify this, I ask you?

Religion – Islam, at least – certainly does not detract from our abilities to appreciate this world, nor does it, at all, discourage us from helping others in the ‘here and now’. Quite the opposite, actually: we are constantly encouraged to reflect on the world, on the beauty of God’s creation. We are taught to be grateful, kind, and more. And we are incentivised by our religion to not be self-serving, but to serve the people.

And from these facts – the Islamic instructions that we are to a) reflect upon, explore, and bask in the wonders of God’s creations, and b) that we improve the lives of others, much intellectual and societal beauty did arise. The first hospital that served ill people – wealthy and impoverished alike – for instance, was established in the 8th Century, in Damascus. Many of the developments and discoveries that emerged during the Islamic Golden Age were inspired by these very Qur’anic and Prophetic instructions.

Finally, homophobia and LGBT considerations may be something I touch upon in a future article, Insha-Allah (God-Willing)!

Please do let me know if you have any more questions and/or contentions…

Sincerely,

 

Sadia

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Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

 

Ask Sadia: Feeling Rotten

 

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Dear M.,

Thank you for your submission.

Truth be told, I’m not really in a position to dish out diagnoses right now [currently, I have literally no psychological qualifications – not even a GCSE in the subject!] however I would definitely advise you to consider seeking out an official diagnosis for what you may have and perhaps some therapy: you might be suffering from mild depression – or dysthymia, as it is sometimes otherwise known.

We need to remember that the thing about other people is that they will always have differing, and subjective, opinions on pretty much everything, including on you. One person may love a certain type of chocolate; his brother may absolutely detest it. Opinions also change cross-temporally. What a person loves with all their heart one day, they may come to despise the very next day.

But is it healthy to allow our views of ourselves to be attached to other people’s opinions/perceptions of us, when we know how unstable – and, how oftentimes inaccurate – such opinions can be? You are who you say you are. It took me a while to fully understand this [firstly, I come from a big Desi extended family, which can be rather gratuitously judgemental at times; secondly, I went to a secondary school at which ‘differences’ within individuals were often deeply frowned upon] but it is undoubtedly true. You will not be palatable to everybody; this is an unavoidable fact. You will be loved by some; loathed by others. But you have the power to choose which group of people you invest your time and efforts into. And, ultimately, the only two beings you actually need validation from are, a) God, and b) yourself – your core self, and not any diluted version of you that others concoct in their own faulty imaginations. Seek advice from your loved ones, definitely, but only seek real validation from God and from yourself.

And are you really an intrinsically bad – a ‘rotten’ – person? Is it not true that all of us are deeply flawed as human beings? We all have our ‘cons’ and we all have our merits. But what we focus on tends to be what grows. So if you internally punish yourself by ruminating on all your deficiencies and flaws, you will come to see these perceptively negative traits as your most defining ones.

I would say that these worries of yours are very real concerns, but I also want to reassure you that they are all surmountable. Even the ongoing feelings of sadness and rottenness are completely superable, Insha-Allah.

I think you should know that this has very much been one of my personal struggles, too: that of fully being comfortable within myself; self-validating, self-regulating, self-loving. This is what I think you might need to intentionally work on: if your core is secure and fulfilled, you will be able to internalise compliments from your loved ones and such in a healthy manner. And [I know with this whole Corona crisis, the practice is strongly being encouraged but] social isolation is not a particularly productive practice. In doing so – in ‘distancing’ yourself, because of your personal insecurities – you are not heroically ‘protecting’ yourself and others. Human beings need other human beings. Your friends are made up of flaws, merits, mistakes, and accomplishments, just like you are. Good friends support each other: they can confide in one another, and they build one another up. So overcoming these struggles with feeling ‘like a bad person’ and such will likely necessitate firstly building a good relationship with yourself, and, secondarily, also actively nurturing your relationships with others. It is so okay if you slip up from time to time: this means that you are human, and that you are trying.

You are not a burden. And you are highly probably not permanently ‘broken’. All people are a little bit ‘broken’, and a little bit ‘ugly’ in terms of the things we feel and do. But there is beauty in all of us, too. We need to focus on this inherent beauty; we must allow this to flourish! There is a Hadith that tells us that for every son of Adam, and for every daughter of Eve, there are some who will love him/her, and some who will dislike him/her. The things that some may love in you, others will find a way to flip into something perceptively ugly. Haters will be haters, but only we get to decide if…they get to decide who we are [if that made any sense at all…].

And it is absolutely never the wrong time to ‘begin again’ if you feel like doing so. Pray to Allah (SWT), and ask Him to help you on this journey. With a little bit of effort on our parts, we can wash away all considerations of yesterday; of our heightened self-critical faculties. Let’s be reasonable and rational here: we are flawed beings, each trying our best. And the fact that you care about being a good – a better – person shows that you are probably not ‘rotten’ at all. Within the Islamic tradition, is it not true that Allah (SWT) forgives all sins if we turn to Him? If our Rabb is so very forgiving toward us, why is it that we tend to be so very unforgiving towards ourselves? 

I wish you the best of luck on this journey of healing of yours, dear M. And Insha-Allah, in due time, and in parallel with your trying to be kind to, and gentle with, yourself, all these negative feelings will subside, and all that is (inherently) good within you will come to bloom. Bismillah.

Sincerely,

 

Sadia.

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Sadia Ahmed, 2020

Ask Sadia: Gap Year

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Dear Spongebob, 

Thank you very much for your kind compliment regarding my blog, and thank you for submitting a question. And yes, you heard right: I am indeed currently on a gap year.

I would say that the advice I would give in response to this depends on the nature of the ‘various reasons’ that have led you to regret not deferring your offer. For instance, if it is a highly pressing health concern (e.g. severe anxiety, or some other chronic illness that makes prioritising your studies extremely difficult) I would highly recommend taking a year out. However, if your reasons are mainly because, say, you are comparing yourself to people you know who have chosen to take gap years and who are seemingly greatly benefitting from them, I would say that there are other ways to obtain similar benefits to them.

And I do think that taking a year out of institutionalised education is so very beneficial, in my own subjective opinion. I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone – even though it was a fairly last-minute decision that I had made. But I really have (Alhamdulillah – all praise be to God and His Plan) benefitted from this year out (thus far) in a number of ways. My working in retail, for example, has led to my acquiring skills and wonderful experiences I really could not have garnered elsewhere. I have met extraordinary people, and have managed to network with people from a range of different occupational backgrounds. And it is so true what they say about how gap years are a great time to ‘find yourself’. I have never known myself as well as I have come to know myself within the last five months.

Ultimately, the amount that one can benefit from taking a year out is crucially dependent on one’s willingness to plan it well, and to find and seize beneficial opportunities. I must admit, these days I find myself in a state of exhaustion most days, because my weeks are filled with work shifts and events and meet-ups with various friends and family members and such. But these things, I think, are so important. The amount I am learning – and not for exams, but for my own satisfaction and benefit – and the positive experiences I am amassing and the great bonds that I am actively nurturing… I am glad I do not have a massive helping of university stress to add to this mix (…yet).

That being said, it is all a matter of perspective. I know some people who have also chosen to take a gap year who are stuck on what to do with all their time. Likewise, there are some people who are at university and who are, on the whole, not really benefitting from their experience because they are choosing to treat it as if it is just a necessary evil – a treacherous journey of sleep deprivation and exams that they must undertake if they are to secure decent jobs in the future.

Moreover, it is important to note that, if you are passionate about taking a year out – say, to travel, or to explore your identity and interests and such without having exams and assignments to worry about – you could potentially take this ‘gap’ year after university. In this time, you may wish to work a few days a week, save, and then do whatever you want, before officially entering the world of work.

And if your reasons for regret are centred on not enjoying the course you are currently studying, or not particularly liking the university you are at, know that it is absolutely never too late to change your mind – about anything in life. Ultimately, this is your life. Some people pursue a particular career path for decades and then one day wake up and decide to completely change things up and leave the job they have practically always worked at. Some people retake exams in middle age because they, too, want to change things up. And this is so okay. If your concern is the fear of losing £9250 by ‘dropping out’, well… in the long run, you probably would not resent this loss too much if it means that you do not come to hate your life and what you do every day. Moreover, you are more likely to make more money if you are passionate about what you do – so do bear that in mind.

I hope this response was of at least some help to you, Spongebob. And I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

 

Sadia.

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Sadia Ahmed, 2020

Ask Sadia: Self-Acceptance

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Dear gossip girl, 

From reading your submission, it sounds to me like you might be an empath. You are attuned to and absorbent of others’ emotions. This can be immensely rewarding – it can make you a better listener, and a more nurturing friend – however, understandably, it can also be a rather draining attribute to have. Sometimes it becomes hard to separate our own emotions from others’. And often it is difficult to stop ourselves from caring deeply about others’ feelings (especially those of our loved ones) even at the expense of our own ones.

I would say that the secret to separate our own needs from those of others is to set emotional boundaries: sometimes, when my brain is congested with multiple thoughts and feelings that I cannot easily categorise into what comes directly from myself and what comes from others, I sit down with my journal and scribble out these thoughts. This helps me to understand myself better, to put things into perspective, and to delineate between my genuine emotions, and the ones I may have simply absorbed from those around me. Of course, doing this will not render you completely indifferent to others’ feelings; instead, it will (hopefully) allow you to create some emotional boundaries, which will benefit both you and them in the long term.

You cannot pour from an empty cup, and if you want to fully embrace the nurturing aspect of who you are, you must nurture yourself first. Maybe come up with a list of things to do that will help you to recharge when you find that your emotional capacities are depleted: this might include a day spent sat outside with some books, or a weekly bike ride, or even cleaning your room (I find this last one to be very therapeutic).

Ultimately, in terms of self-worth and self-acceptance, it all comes down to knowing thyself: if you know who you are, it is easier to accept yourself, and to care for yourself, and, by extension, to have healthy relationships with others. By this, I do not mean attempting to completely define yourself or put yourself into descriptive boxes. I mean, you must come to know your own strengths and weaknesses, what you like, what you don’t like, and the signs that indicate when others’ emotional pressures are becoming a bit too much for you (this is when you need to refer to those emotional boundaries, and back off a little). And then, you must embrace all this self-knowledge, and grow into yourself.

The way that it sounds like you are willing to love others: you really need to save some of that love for yourself. Cringe-worthy as it may sound, loving yourself (without developing an egotistical obsession!) is the most worthwhile thing to do. You must give yourself the same nurturing energy that you offer to other flawed, albeit still deeply lovable, people. Remember that we only criticise ourselves so much because we have the most direct access to our own insecurities and inadequacies.

And, adding on to the topic of emotional boundaries, you really need to ask yourself: the amount of care and attention you offer others – is that same level of support offered back to you? And do you seek it when you need it? 

It is worth bearing in mind that most of us are driven by a desire to prove ourselves, and to escape the feeling of not being ‘good enough’. But once again, we are all flawed, and we each possess our own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Given that our time on this earth is rather short in the grand scheme of things, you may find it worthwhile to embrace and make the most of the brain, the beauty, and the personality you are fortunate enough to possess now. Perhaps none of us will ever fully meet our idealistic expectations of what being ‘good enough’ entails. But it is never not worth it to wear this all on your sleeve, to love irrespective of flaws and to be loved in the same way in return, and to exude your unique and powerful energy with pride. 

Sincerely,

 

Sadia.

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Sadia Ahmed, 2019

Ask Sadia: Impostor Syndrome

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Dear lish, 

I have definitely felt (rather intense feelings of) Impostor Syndrome in the past. In particular, when I first started at my sixth form (where literally everybody is very smart) I remember often wanting to speak in class, but being too terrified at times to do so. I would constantly go through a frantic process of editing what I would say in my mind, asking myself, is this even worth saying? They probably already know all this, and more. They’ll think I’m stupid. They’ll scoff at me and find my opinions laughable. Even despite the evidence that suggests that I deserved my place there, and my grades, and to express my thoughts and ideas, I would see myself as an anomaly, as intellectually inadequate. This problem reached its peak when I went on a residential trip to Cambridge for the first time. We had the chance to participate in an introductory seminar on imperial history. I came up with many points (which, in retrospect, were valid and fruitful) and many questions to ask in my head, but there was a giant lump in my throat stopping me from saying anything, for fear of what they – these superior academics – might think.

But over time, this has certainly improved. I feel more confident in myself, and in participating in discussions, projects, and such, and I really hope this follows me into the world of work. I, and you, have the same right as anybody to at least participate. Since that initial university residential trip, I have been on a few others, where I have attended lectures and seminars in which I have managed to successfully remind myself that my perspective, my taking up space, and my words, are just as valuable as anybody else’s. I feel far more confident in classroom discussions too, second-guessing myself considerably less, but still asking myself, is this a useful thing to say? I have noticed that many people simply contribute to discussions in a decorative – and not a substantial – manner. But we tend to trust what they are saying if they speak with self-assurance: a bit of confidence goes a long way, and confidence gives rise to even more confidence. A multiplier effect, if you will (judging by your alias, I am assuming I know who you are, and that you do Economics).

With the exception of narcissists, I am almost certain that everybody experiences this feeling sometimes. Feelings of professional or academic inadequacy are no different to every other type of insecurity we self-impose when we over-analyse and over-criticise ourselves. I find that what helps me overcome such feelings is reminding myself that I am curious, I love learning, and that in learning environments, both my unique perspective and my unique mistakes are equally useful. I can benefit myself and others by speaking my mind, and if I mess up, I can crack a dad joke at my own expense. But I, like those around me, am in the process of learning. They have much to teach me; I have much to teach them.

Last year, when my personal experience of ‘Impostor Syndrome’ reached its peak, I too was worried that I would not progress to where I wanted to be, because of my own anxieties. But we are our own worst critics. If you were to look at yourself from another’s perspective – at your unique way of thinking, shaped by your unique experiences, in addition to your qualifications and other achievements, you would probably be rather proud of yourself. ‘Impostor Syndrome’ is irrational: wherever you are now, your own hard work and capability brought you there. Sheer luck can only help us so much. Also, the people you might compare yourself to – the ones who you think deserve the academic or professional positions they find themselves in – probably experience the very same feelings as you do; the ones at ‘the top’ have been in your position at some point, feeling insecure and inadequate. But to achieve your goals, and to grow into the person you have the potential to become, you must tune out the noise of critics – and that includes the cacophony of the shitty committee in your head.

And besides, as one of my friends frequently points out to me, all you need to get through life and be successful is the self-assurance of a mediocre middle-aged white man. If their overconfidence can be conducive to their (immense levels of) success, your realistic confidence – a trust in yourself and your cerebral abilities – combined with a bit of productive work can get you to anywhere you want to be in life.

You need to do this for yourself. 

Sincerely,

 

Sadia.

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Sadia Ahmed, 2019 

Ask Sadia: Childhood Trauma

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Dear Wedasameppls (???) ,

I wish that I could have replied to you personally, only…  I don’t know who you are. But I am truly sorry to hear that you have had to endure, and are still forced to endure, this much pain. You were hurt by someone who you trusted, and who was meant to protect you from harm, at such a delicate and impressionable point in your life.

It’s scary just how much our childhoods, and childhood trauma, can affect us later on in life. But whoever you are, I am so proud of you for carrying on, in spite of the scars, and in spite of the panic attacks. It’s truly unfortunate but not at all surprising that your dad still finds a way back into your thoughts. When we are very young, we are constantly in the process of learning about and attempting to decode the world around us, and that includes absorbing feelings of danger as a survival mechanism.

Panic is irrational, but tends to have a rational basis. In your case, you were abused, when you deserved the absolute opposite: gentleness, nurturing, and protection. The blame is entirely on him, and the scars that you are left with are his imprints. To slowly combat the psychological trauma, it would be wise to try to rationalise it all, gradually. Those moments are in the past; you are (I hope) safe and loved now, and he is gone. I don’t want to romanticise the scars whatsoever; sometimes they do not truly make us stronger. They make us, understandably, weaker and more vulnerable, more worthy and deserving of care.

And that is okay. You are not an attention-seeking teen: anything but. Everybody deserves attention for their mental and emotional health, but in your case, given your past and the flashbacks you get, you deserve it more than anybody. The people in your life will probably not be able to fully empathise with your situation, but they are there to make you feel safer than you were made to feel when you were younger. If you trust them, know that your fears, your panic, and your pain, are not irrational, and it would probably relieve some of the emotional burden if you discuss your feelings with them.

Given the gravity of your situation, I would really recommend seeking professional help; doing so does not make you weak nor dramatic. You do not have to pretend that you are completely fine, especially not for others’ convenience. Your loved ones will listen, and NHS therapists and counsellors are qualified to guide you through the process of healing. It may be hard, and perhaps you will not see the positive results immediately, but if anything, what you deserve right now is to get your biological father and those insidious thoughts off your mind. You – that eight-year-old child who was unjustifiably abused at such a fragile point in your life – deserve to be free of them, but first you may need to confront them fully, by talking about them.

Neither the flashbacks nor the depression make you weak, and they should not be sources of shame. The trust issues are almost a given, and I am sorry that you have had to deal with the emotional consequences for ten years, and alone. The least you deserve now is a space to let the firewalls down, to admit, at least to one person whom you love and trust, that this is what you went through, and this is how it has left you feeling.

I think people are just obsessed with masks and having to pretend that they are okay and without any trauma whatsoever, all of the time. This just adds to the problem, making survivors like you afraid to tell others, for fear of being labelled frail or oversentimental. But think about it like this: if an innocent eight-year-old child came to you now and told you that they were being abused by a family member, what would you do? Would you call them an attention-seeker? Or would you do everything in your power to care for and protect them, and start and aid their process of healing?

At the core of all our beings is a child – our childhood selves, full of creativity and life, and often a great deal of suffering. Yours requires some extra attention right now; he or she has suffered immensely and unnecessarily, and, in this silence, is still suffering.

P.S. if we really are “dasameppls” as your alias suggests, I am always here to talk, and I have nothing but respect for you. 

Sincerely,

 

Sadia.


Sadia Ahmed, 2019

Ask Sadia: A-levels, Second Year

Claire asked: “Hey Sadia! Love your blog… it’s so insightful and aesthetically pleasing I’m currently in my second year of A-Levels and I didn’t do so well last year. I was wondering whether you had any tips on how I could get my act together before the big A-Levels themselves. Thanks x”

Hi Claire! Thank you for visiting my blog, and for leaving such a lovely comment.

As you might already know, I’m also in my second year of A-levels, and if I’m being completely honest with you, I feel a bit lost myself this year- I feel overwhelmed, both with my intense academic workload, and with life’s goings-on in general.

But I do have some tips that, hopefully, we might both be able to benefit from. 

Firstly, I think it’s important to choose to focus on the here and now. Past failures should not be dwelt upon too much; what matters is what you do from this point onwards. I guess you could come to see it as quite comforting that AS-levels are no longer a thing, as first year doesn’t really count for much anymore.

You might have moments where you worry that you will not have enough time. You might regret not ‘starting’ earlier, but it might be comforting to remember that, ultimately, the examiners who mark your papers won’t know how much time you spent revising. All they will pay attention to is the marks you pick up.

So how can you make sure you pick up the right marks? In my opinion, the art of studying (which I definitely need to re-master, mainly by following my own advice) can be simplified and seen as the product of three things: understanding the content, creating good notes, and then doing exam practice.

Understanding the content would, obviously, entail paying attention in class… but if you’re anything like me, you might find that a lot of the things that teachers say simply do not get registered in your brain. I, for one, definitely have a habit of zoning out in lessons whenever the teacher happens to be saying something very important. Thankfully, the internet is at hand to help with this: YouTube videos can prove immensely useful for helping you teach yourself certain things.

As for the notes part of it all, I know that a lot of people try to make their notes as aesthetically pleasing as possible. If this helps you make your studying enjoyable, then by all means, do this. But ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your notes cover all the content (use subject specifications as checklists to ensure this!) in the most concise and comprehensible way possible. And once your notes are all done, you are ready to move onto practice papers.

(My personal goal – if I can overcome this winter study rut – is to have all my notes done by January, and then I will move onto constantly reviewing them, and completing past papers)

Practice papers should be completed under timed conditions, and then marked and reviewed. Pay attention to what you’ve done well, and what you might need to revise a bit more. And as for essay-based subjects, making essay plans and writing them out under timed conditions would be the way to go.

Finally, don’t worry too much: a lot of people are in the same boat as you. I would definitely recommend buying new stationery, making a study plan (allocating different topics and different past papers to different days, and spacing out your revision), and then getting stuck in with making notes, and practising under timed conditions. Panicking and overworking yourself at this point in the school year would probably only lead us to be burnt-out and less productive when it comes to exam season, so I would really advise you to take things slow and steady for now.

Make a plan, stick to it, and know that if anybody can succeed with their A-levels, YOU can!

Sincerely,

Sadia


Sadia Ahmed, 2018

Ask Sadia: Uni Course

Lydia asked: “Hey! I’m a sixth former as well, and I’m so lucky to have stumbled cross your blog – it’s actually so interesting and perceptive and insightful. Just wondering, what course have you applied for (at uni)?”

Hi Lydia! Thank you so much for your lovely comment; you’ve honestly made my day.

I’ve applied for a bunch of interdisciplinary courses – mainly involving a combination of Politics, Anthropology, and Sociology… although one of my options involves a bit of law, and another one involves psychology… As you can tell, I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life, but I really love the idea of studying an interdisciplinary humanities course.

I hope this answers your question, and I wish you the very best of luck with A-levels.

Sincerely,

Sadia


Sadia Ahmed, 2018