25 things I’ve learnt by 25

1. Verily, with every hardship comes ease.

This simple ayah (Quran, 94:5) has gotten me through many, many tough times. Whenever I feel like life is too tough for me to bear, when I feel like I am on the verge of losing hope, when I am at my lowest point: I remember that Allah SWT does not do anything accidentally, If I am experiencing hardship, that means that I am being tested and that I have been granted all of the ‘tools’ to overcome these tests. Yasin Mogahed further explains:

“The ease is at the same time as the hardship. This means that nothing in this life is ever all bad (or all good). In every bad situation we’re in, there is always something to be grateful for. With hardship, Allah also gives us the strength and patience to bear it. If we study the difficult times in our lives, we will see that they were also filled with much good. The question is— which do we chose to focus on?”

2. No matter how good you are to people, it won’t make them good to you.

No one owes you anything in this lifetime. The sooner we realise this simple truth, the better. We can only take responsibility for our own actions and we cannot make other people react in kind. Sometimes, people simply aren’t in a position to reciprocate your energy ─ you need to make peace with that. This does not mean that you need to stop being good to people however, this just means that sometimes you won’t get what you give.

3. Just as sure as the sun rises and sets, there will always be another day & another trial to face & overcome.

You can’t dodge life’s trials. It’s like Karma in the sense that you can’t miss it, no matter how hard you try. The thing about trials is that they aren’t permanent, though. There will be plenty, sure, but they will be short lived. You will live to see another one

4. You can’t escape pain. It’s necessary.

The only way out is through. Grow through what you go through. If you do not experience pain, you will not learn resilience.

5. Pain however, isn’t the only thing that shapes you.

Too often, we are scammed (yes, scammed!) into thinking that staying in abusive or toxic situations helps us self-actualise. Struggles are inevitable, yes, but we do not need to create them or stay in those situations to realise our self-worth. Positive experiences can build your character just as well as pain can. Don’t short-change yourself by thinking that your situation is set in stone and unable to overcome. You don’t always need to face difficulty to have ease. Refer to point #1.

6. Worry less about what people have to say. They’ll talk anyway.

I am so sick and tired of hearing people say: “What will people say when they find out?” So many lives have been ruined by this simple question.

I once read a phrase that said “The truth, much like the sun, will always come out” and that resonated so deeply with me because too often, we try to hide our truths out of shame because of what others will think or say. The truth will always be revealed sooner or later, it’s only a matter of time.

I’ve watched enough Scandal to know that a whole lot of drama (seriously, an entire season) could be avoided if you just tell the truth upfront.

I digress, the point that I’m making is that people will talk inevitably. Some probably won’t have nice things to say. Sometimes it’ll be really bad ─ but it’ll blow over and there will always be something new to discuss.

Live your life according to your own standards. Don’t let the fear of what others say/think keep you from doing that. Mind over matter.

6. Be accountable for your actions. Don’t shift the blame and make sure to apologize when wrong.

Part of being a responsible adult is the ability to admit when you’re wrong and accept the repercussions of your actions. It’s always easy to blame someone else or get off with a slap on the wrist, but that cheap trick can only work a few times and eventually, you’ll have to acknowledge that you aren’t without faults or shortcomings. If you are at fault, take immediate action to rectify that. Start with “I’m sorry that…” Not “I’m sorry if…” ─ be accountable.

7. Treat everyone with the same respect.

The one thing I’ll always remember about my father’s passing is how he was remembered by the people he left behind. Let me tell you a brief story:

On the day we came to collect my father’s belongings at his workplace, we ran into an old colleague of his ─ the cleaner. This woman teared up at the sight of my family and expressed genuine sadness at his passing. She said that he was her dear friend and that he was always kind toward her.

We also met his former employer on that day. She sat us down in her pristine office and explained to us how he was working a late deadline that day and that she had no idea about his high-blood pressure condition. It was quite apparent to me that she had little idea about anything concerning his life at all. She did however say that he was loved by many in his department, but unfortunately she had no personal information to depart.

My dad was a kind man ─ a good man ─ and he instilled in me the need to always treat people with the same respect. He was loved by all and he treated everyone the same, no matter their occupation or social status.

9. Stop making excuses for peoples’ shitty behavior. If they could, they would.

It’s good practice to give others the benefit of the doubt and try to see the positives in every situation. However, a line needs to be drawn on people who make a habit of wasting your time or people who simply overlook you.

Sometimes, what you give isn’t what you receive, and, as I have previously expressed, that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that you need to just accept that kind of bad treatment from others. “Cut your dead ends for growth.” Let these people go. Stop making excuses for their bad treatment toward you and start seeing it for what it really is (This is some serious tough love).

10. Learn to say no.

Two letters. One syllable. It sounds ridiculous but there are many people who simply haven’t mastered the art of saying ‘no’ even in adulthood. Despite what we are socialized to believe, saying no isn’t a crime. In fact, we desperately need to start saying no to things that make us uncomfortable, things that don’t sit well with us and opinions that we don’t agree with.

Saying no doesn’t always result in conflict and I believe that it can actually solve it sometimes.

Most importantly, say no to abuse. I know that it isn’t easy but it’s very necessary.

11. If you don’t ask, no will always be the answer.

Conversely, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t, you’ll never know what the answer is and consequently, you wouldn’t have explored that option.

12. Just because someone says it is, doesn’t mean it really is that way.

It has long come to my attention that things aren’t always as they are perceived. I’m about to drop some elementary post modernism thought so pay attention:

Reality is subjective. Language is arbitrary. Everything we know and learn is but only one perspective of many that can exist.

Basically what I’m saying is; don’t let people tell you what your reality should be. Find out for yourself and live in that truth. Everything else is purely speculation.

13. Everything and everyone has their own timeline.

I mentioned earlier that not everyone has the very same 24 hours in a day. Everyone has a different lifestyle and reality and it’s quite unrealistic to expect the same outcome from different people.

Do not compare yourself to others and more importantly, do not compete.

14. Do not fall in love with someone’s potential.

Love them for who they are today. Who they potentially could be should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

When we try to make others fit into a preconceived mould, we set ourselves up for disappointment when they fail to conform, especially when they didn’t even know you had these expectations to begin with.

Do not confuse what I’m saying though. I’m all for helping someone grow their potential and supporting the process, just don’t go in with expectations. Leave that to yourself.

15. Speak less & listen more.

When you’re not speaking, you have the opportunity to actually gauge more information in a conversation. To quote Mufti Ismail Menk:

“The truth is: we’re too busy speaking our mind that we forget to listen to what is said. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to someone’s viewpoint. Try to be a good listener. Unlike your mouth, your ears will not get you in trouble.”

16. Listen to understand, not to respond.

On the above point, don’t be too quick to get your 2cents in just for the sake of having something to say. Listen to what is being said and think about it before responding.

17. Read more books — even Mills & Boons.

Reading is fundamental. No I’m not quoting Ru Paul, I’m saying that this is something that everyone should practice doing. You learn so much when you read and it unlocks new worlds for you to discover purely by imagination. You don’t need to learn the dictionary or know the encyclopedia from cover to cover, you only need to find something that piques your interest and explore that.

18. Self-care at least once a week.

Exfoliate, tone, deep cleanse and wash your beauty utensils at least once a week to ensure a healthy skin. It gives the impression that you have your shit together and it does wonders for your skin─ plus it just feels good.

Reavaluate the relationships and things in your life and make executive calls on whether they’re worth keeping around. Block f*boys and delete toxic friends from your contact list and then make a list of all of the things/people you are thankful for.

19. Confront your shortcomings.

Self-care isn’t always about the ‘good stuff.’ It’s also about introspection and purging yourself of bad habits. Sometimes you’re the common denominator. Acknowledge that and take the necessary steps to correct your behavior. Don’t stifle your own growth with toxic behaviour.

20. Beyoncé is the best performer of all time. Don’t get it twisted.

This one is self-explanatory.

21. Examine your breasts and go for the regular checks as many times as necessary.

I can’t stress this enough. GET CHECKED LADIES! According to CANSA, Approximately 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older live at-risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer – the cancer affecting women in South Africa the most. If this doesn’t urge you to get checked, at the very least, spread awareness.

22. Start today.

Don’t wait for Friday to enjoy your life. Don’t wait for next year to change your ways. Don’t wait for someone to validate your ideas before you act on them. Start today. We are living on borrowed time, so make sure that you’re only spending yours in a meaningful manner.

23. Coconut oil.

Dry hair? Coconut oil is the solution. Bad skin? Coconut oil is the solution. Too broke to afford a new highlighter? Coconut oil. Sore muscles? Coconut oil massage. Healthy diet? Coconut oil in your food ─ I think you guys get where Im going here…

24. Support other women.

It’s so important to support women. In a world that tries to break us, objectify us, use us, abuse us and kill us, there really is no other option than to support. We need it, our children need it and the future needs it. Believe women’s stories and stand up for those who don’t have the voice to stand up for themselves.

25. You come first. Always.

Put yourself first. Don’t waste time and energy thinking about what others may have to say about you and don’t ever put anyone elses’ needs above your own. Don’t go where you are not celebrated and don’t live in anyone elses shadow. Always put your own wellbeing first ─ your life depends on it.

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