The Many Lives We Lead.

To my family, I am the middle child. The calm one. That glue that often keeps the peace.

To my friends, I am multilayered. I enjoy the company of a variety of different people; I thrive in exposure to diversity in all its forms. In fact, I’ve only recently learned a core lesson about myself: that when I feel tethered to a single group, I often feel suffocated, because I do not feel like myself.

The self is a complex entity indeed, if not because of the way each individual with whom we interact with or hold a relationship with knows us in a different way. Does that make it difficult to identify who we truly are?

Yes and no.

I used to think that I was stuck being one kind of person, and any new person I met must only know a single form of me. It wasn’t until much, much later that I realized, it is simply not normal to be a linear entity. Human beings are so complex, and that’s putting it mildly. The only thing that should remain consistent about ourselves is our core values. It’s easy enough to say that we cherish certain characteristics in ourselves and others – but it’s not until we are put in a situation where our true self is revealed that we realize, we are not quite who we thought we were.

Is that good or bad? It depends. If I were to call myself resilient – a characteristic I constantly strive to maintain – the resilience would manifest when the going gets tough. But in addition, context is key and it always depends. Resilience is practice, and one cannot simply say they are resilient: they must actively show it. Similar to another valuable trait – kindness – you can certainly call yourself kind, but only your actions will prove it. Saying isn’t being.

A lesson on forgiveness.

I studied Ammu’s visage where she sat opposite me, chattering away in the booth we selected at the back of the bustling Bangladeshi restaurant under the pretense of privacy – though truthfully, it was to avoid the disapproving gaze of those we’d firmly deemed as “nosy Bengalis.”

Prom night discussion lay on the table. It seemed like ages ago that I chose to spend the better part of my senior year of high school attending to irate customers eager for their cheeseburger fix at Shake Shack in order to save up for my dream prom dress, but I digress. The conversation wasn’t about me. It was about my older sister, Prima, and her inability to attend this so-called pinnacle of the golden years.

Hearing that phrase attributed  to the four-year period of prevailing awkwardness, horrible clothing fads and questionable life choices that is high school is really sobering once you’ve reached your late twenties. I’ve experienced several more iterations of these periods of time when all is supposed to be going swimmingly well and carefree, and in hindsight, I don’t think I ever knew what the fuck was going on.

The topic of prom stemmed from a conversation that began with forgiveness. My father, a permanently contrary man of nearly seven decades – with the years of long-held grudges etched on his face to prove it – had once prevented my sister from partaking in a number of life experiences common to the average American teenager. But then again, as Bangladeshi immigrants hailing from an overwhelmingly conservative culture, the usual rules don’t apply here.

Here in New York, the “average” teenagehood just doesn’t exist, not when so many variances in lifestyle appeared from one diverse community to the next. As the eldest child, there was an endless number of things my sister wasn’t allowed do. I vividly recall the outbursts and steady flow of tears when she hit roadblock after roadblock for seemingly nonsensical reasons other than the age-old justification, “manush ki bolbe?”

Of course, she was simply furious when I came along and partook in the same activities she missed out on and more – nearly effortlessly at that. When I think back, it’s a wonder that at nine years old, my parents allowed me to get a second ear piercing and a year later, bleach my hair a different color. At twelve, I conned my way into purchasing an electric guitar for no rhyme or reason apart from desiring one at a whim – one which my poor mother, who only worked a minimum wage retail job and whose only weakness were her children, purchased at my behest.

It was returned days later, but the initial act was done.

Sometimes I wince at these memories, and at times can still feel the years of buried guilt gnawing at me. Do my preteen behaviors speak volumes about my own character, or my mother and father’s parenting? Would speaking these memories to existence make others think ill of me, or is it an honest homage to my childhood experiences?

Well, bringing us back to forgiveness. It’s been years since prom. When my sister finally attended college, she wasted no time in exploring and threw no caution to the wind. First to dorm, first to study abroad, first to gain financial independence away from my dad – and it showed.

The man was a domineering character throughout my entire life. My childhood certainly shaped the lens through which I view the world, though I’m fortunate enough to have gained a decent sense of self-awareness. One of my deepest fears, however, is miscalculating the impact that such a volatile upbring has had on my interpersonal relationships, as well as the one I have with myself.

In recent years, my family chose to forgive. After my dad suffered a major stroke in 2014, his health saw a steady decline and all other components of his life followed. Growing up, I knew him to be a workaholic: in 2017, he was forced to retire from the travel agency he spent the last 20 years pouring his heart and soul into, as the company was shuttered in the wake of the industry’s pending doom. Left with no choice and seeking new sources of comfort, he turned to the same people from whom he had long withheld those very same things: my mother, my older sister, my younger brother and myself.

I have never ceased to be amazed by the effects of passing time and its ability to diminish havoc once wreaked upon our hearts. Combined with genuine goodness and an aptitude to empathize, a trait my mom and myself admittedly share in copious amounts (much to my chagrin) its’ natural progression leads to just that: the capacity to forgive.

For some, forgiveness isn’t always an option, particularly when there is a blinding, white-hot rage involved. However, it isn’t until once experiences the strike of tragedy – be it betrayal, death, heartbreak, or an event that leaves one completely blindsided and at an utter loss in what to do – that we fully realize why we need to forgive: for ourselves. Because choosing to cradle each of those feelings close to our heart and refusing to part ways with the hurt serves only as a disservice to ourselves.

We forgive not to let the offending party get away scot-free, but to allow ourselves to heal and move on. All else aside, we only have ourselves at the end of the night. Forgiveness is a core tenet to self-healing. Forgive – but never forget. Allow every curveball to serve as life experience and truly reflect and learn, otherwise the hurt never wanes.

The most peculiar part about change.

The steadfastness of life that I have come to know seems to be in utter flux these days. It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it certainly is…different.

26 is a very strange age when it comes to managing expectations of how events are meant to unfold. You’ve surpassed the youthful milestones of ages 18, 21, 25 that you spent years anticipating. When you reach 26, you come to the conclusion that things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how hard you try to carefully coordinate the pieces so that they all fall into their rightful place.

To set the record straight: I’m not saying I feel old. I’ve grown to resent that word and all that it stands for. God knows that if I read this ten years from now, my 36 year old self will warg back into present-me for a well-deserved smack in the face.

It’s just that at 26, the difference in mental maturity in comparison to the past few years has never felt so tangible. From the flow of my thoughts and my inner monologue, to the measured precision in my actions, to the numbness towards certain emotions that would have once threatened my inner peace.

Of course, it’s natural. It’s all real now. The days that make up the rest of your existence move much more rapidly, and every decision you make feels weighted – almost as if there’s no more room for spontaneity, only calculated moves to eliminate risk. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the rains of castamere doesn’t just come falling – it’s pouring. (I really hope these Game of Thrones references still resonate during my ten-year reread.)

Like the risk of losing your lifelong rocks: your parents. On the first day of Ramadan, the only time of year where I feel a natural inclination towards spirituality and tranquility (cue the Ramadan Muslim sneers), I found myself in the dreaded yet overly familiar emergency room at Weiler with my mom. After she was discharged the same day, I breathed a sigh of relief – only to draw the same breath back in when she ended up right back in the same place the very next morning.

Fortunately, she’s fine now, but nothing like a good ol’ health scare to thrust you back into the throes of reality and how fragile life is – and why meticulously planned decisions become necessary.

Lesson #1: There is no such thing as forever.

My relationship with my dad has certainly changed over the years. In 2014, after suffering a major stroke, life turned upside down for the scowling man who had once been the source of much of my anguish growing up. Suddenly, I found myself swapping roles: I became co-parent, along with my siblings, to a capricious and finicky old man who with all his eccentric ways of life, was now more vulnerable than I had ever known him to be. And I wasn’t ready.

But here’s the thing – life doesn’t give a shit if you’re ready. Like the most trying of battles, these are the sort of left-field curveballs that love disturbing the lull of your so-called normal life to settle itself comfortably around your shoulders. It’s like a pregnancy discovered too late – it doesn’t matter how you feel anymore, it’s your responsibility now.

Lesson #2: Things change, people change, feelings change too.

Made-for-radio hits have this magical quality to them. Car karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes – there’s nothing I love more than belting the lyrics to a decent jam at the top of my lungs. It’s funny though, how the lyrics are almost always meaningless until and unless you find yourself in a similar context to that of the song.

The last couple of months have been topsy-turvy, to say the least. As I mentioned, losing anything you’ve come to lean heavily on is bound to leave a massive impact.

Is it hard? Obviously. But to my credit, adulthood has granted me the gift of being able to move forward without visibly exposing my internal distress. I’m kind of awed, given that one of my key characteristics is the fact that my face is an open book, whose pages gleefully give away the spoilers to any secrets I might want to keep to myself. Just a few years ago, my life would have been in shambles if such an event occurred (which it did.) Yet here I am, alive and kickin’

This isn’t my first rodeo, but it’s my first taste of this version of adulthood. And I think I’m starting to like it.

Lesson #3: The period of growth following change is crucial.

I’ve grown wary of some of the individuals I surround myself with because of their intense aversion to change. Another trait I’ve come to appreciate is being able to recognize certain faults or flaws I have and making some effort to rectify these flaws, or at least get better at addressing them.

When the lull of your day-to-day finds itself shattered – the cause being death, a breakup, some sort of loss or heart wrenching event or otherwise – be mindful that you will experience mental change. Every action and decision you choose to take will bear their consequence. Being wise and not succumbing to the abyss of bad choices is hard, but once those choices adapt to becoming your new normal, it’s the end.

On the other hand, it doesn’t even need to be that drastic. Sometimes, it’s the little things that are slowly building in the shadows that are the most ominous; whose repercussions we fail to acknowledge until it’s too late. In direct contradiction to what I said earlier, there are times (like I’m experiencing right now) that everything seems to be moving in the right direction, until one thing suddenly changes. And then another. And another. The monotony that we once despised becomes that which we crave, because change is hard.

I’ve always admired the ones who remain stoic no matter what happens to them. My friend Sammy offered choice words recently that resonated with me: “You don’t need to have an emotional reaction to everything.” Probably one of the more difficult challenges in this era of the outrage culture.

It’s important to make the choice to, when facing adversity, practice behaviors that will help you grow stronger in the long run. Make the choice to not give in to whatever hurt you. Acknowledge and address personal characteristics that do you and others harm, especially when you find yourself confronting them time and again.

You know what they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.


The Write Way.

Three months into the year 2019 and five weeks into age 26. I’ve lived many lives, and yet here I am, confronted with the usual existential dread and despair when gazing upon the blank space of an empty blog.

One of my favorite mantras, one that I often tout to friends when they are facing some version of hopelessness, is one that also rubs me the wrong way when I consider it in the loneliness of my room or inside the chambers of my head. Reverberating over and over, with the power to both irritate and inspire that only motivational quotes can incite.

“The hardest part is to start.

And here I am, just starting.

But is it enough to to just start? What about to continue, to prevail and to improve? Do we not strive for greatness anymore, or have we been reduced to this sense of mediocrity where we pat ourselves on the back for simply picking up the pen and pressing it to the sheet of paper – or in my case, letting the pads of my fingers move to and fro along this well-worn keyboard?

Or – an even more terrifying thought – what if it’s just me?


Image result for healthy mind

Lately, I’ve been pondering the complexities that lay in defining one’s character. We often separate the world and people into categories, into black and white. I’ve known for awhile that shades of gray prevailed, but it took some time to get to a point where I’ve begun exploring those hues.

How is it then, that an individual deemed as “extroverted” by their peers can feel strong symptoms of social anxiety, of loneliness and feelings typically attributed to those far less outgoing or introverted?

How is it that in a given moment, we can feel immense confidence, feel clear headed and certain about our choices and situations in life – and in another moment’s notice, watch all that confidence tumble to the ground and wonder how we ever stood at the top of that mountain?

It’s been a long and arduous week, and most of it is due to my participation in the Olympics of mental gymnastics. I’ve ran laps around creating scenarios in my head that don’t really exist, and have only recently began to understand what it really means to have “confirmation bias” about how I perceive the way in which the world works, and how it actually works.

In times of strife, turning to the wise always helps: in this case, I looked for podcasts to help me figure out what was going on inside my head. I came across an episode on “UnF*ck Your Brain” that delved into cognitive bias, neuroscience and negative thoughts. I found it quite amazing how just a few minutes of listening to the “experts” can shed so much light on the way your mind operates, and knowing that you’re nowhere near special when it comes to feeling like you’re the only one experiencing what goes on in your head – that nearly everyone is experiencing the same thing in some capacity.

In any case, writing always helps. I need to maintain this “drumbeat” as they say in the corporate world, for my own sake.

And the hardest part is always to start.




Let’s talk about coffee.

A grande chestnut praline latte at Starbucks such as the one I purchased this morning costs a whopping $5.93. Six dollars for what amounts to little more than a blend of milk, sugar, and syrups.

Buying a Starbucks coffee is something of a treat for myself. Despite knowing how much I value this guilty pleasure and the lift a good coffee drink brings to my morning, I internally agonize every time I find myself craving a fix. In fact, the only reason I inevitably cave in to the purchase without feeling guilty is by way of compensating in other places.

For instance, if I brought my lunch in 4 out of 5 days of the week, I’ll allow myself to indulge. If, however, I made multiple extraneous purchases over the course of the week, the move to buying a Starbucks drink weighs heavily on my chest for days on end.


What induces such a phenomenon? I recently came across this very question being asked on a Reddit thread, and I am inclined to agree with one answer: social pressure.

When making a solo purchase, there is no one around to gently nudge you into spending those few extra dollars just because. It’s just you, your conscience and several refreshes of your Mint account to make sure you can afford it. If however, you find yourself in a setting like a bar or any group outing where everyone is making ludicrous purchases and spending outside the norm, then, well…

As the old saying goes “If all your friends jumped off of a cliff, wouldn’t you?” The FOMO and peer pressure is real.

These past few years have brought on a wave of new social anxieties, primarily driven by Instagram (in my opinion.) The effects of watching others’ lives unfold on a platform, purportedly full of success, endless riches and eternal happiness have inevitably gone on to affect aspects of our lives like spending habits.

“Oh, that person is the same age as I am and somehow has money to live their best life. Why shouldn’t I do the same?” “FashionNova models EVERYWHERE!” “Sponsored ad showing me products from the brand that I was just talking about? Why not?”

The point I’d like to make is that if you’re feeling guilty about a seemingly small purchase like a $5 coffee, but think that an $8 cocktail is fine because it’s “happy hour” then…you really need to reconsider your priorities and take a good hard look at your finances.

Be careful not to get swept away in one of the worst types of peer pressure in your mid-twenties – spending frivolously. Even if people are telling you (okay fine, telling me) that now is the time to spend like there’s no tomorrow, they’re wrong.

Invest in yourself today. Don’t buy the overpriced coffee or the outrageously expensive martini. Ask yourself this – can I live without it? Can I find an alternative or substitute immediately that will quench that craving? There’s a fine line between treating yourself, and earning that treat.

Earning it somehow always makes it taste better.

The leftovers.

Recently, my dear old dad has taken to referring to my older sister and myself as “leftovers.” It’s not a term born from his own vocabulary, but one he acquired after reading a particularly formidable book called “Marry By Choice, Not By Chance.”

I’m rather late to the game seeing how the book made headlines upon being published a few years ago, but it is an outrageously misinformed work filled with outdated ideas on the importance of young women getting married early on written by a woman with questionable values that was so ridiculous, it made it to the hands of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. 

The phrase refers to young women who choose to pursue career endeavors or strive for some personal goal rather than making marriage a priority. Thus, if you’re in your thirties and unmarried, you’ve sealed your fate – you’re doomed.

At the time, I laughed it off. My dad’s perception of modern society aligns with the author’s old fashioned views and I’m long past raging over his views (sometimes.) However, the term itself struck a different chord than the one he intended, and I’ve been mulling it over for the past week.

“Leftovers:” (noun) Something that remains unused or unconsumed.

At the ripe age of twenty five, I think it’s safe to say that I am experiencing the notorious phenomenon that is quarter-life crisis. In fact, it’s been a perpetual feeling for the last year or two. Somewhere along the way past college graduation and coming to terms with the fact that there are no more summer vacations to look forward to, I’ve learned several crucial things:

  1. Number one, and most importantly: there is no more fucking around, ever. The bubble I left behind after graduating has officially burst.
  2. My parents are legitimately getting old. My dad had a stroke in 2014 that left him with a permanent limp, and he is retired. My mom still works a minimum wage retail job and is now suffering from sciatica among a myriad of health issues.
  3. We still don’t have a permanent home.
  4. My sister and I are officially the heads of the household.
  5. And finally…I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is my entire family, myself included, who are the leftovers.

It’s been a slow realization, but with each passing year I’ve been confronted with things that confirmed that we are disadvantaged in many ways, particularly rooted in my upbringing.

Most immigrant families begin their lives in negative in the United State. Moving to this country with an entire family requires a different kind of thinking and most importantly, courage and open-mindedness. We lacked these traits in so many ways.

I realized this when I moved out to pursue my so-called independence and came head-to-head with the fact that I didn’t know how to cook or clean.

I realized this when at the age of 23, I was the first one in my family to get my driver’s license. We always had to depend on others for travel because my dad refused to let us learn to drive or even get a car.

I realized this when my family finally moved out of our crap apartment into a nicer place, with my sibling and I supporting us entirely – minus my dad, because he refused to come with us, even to upgrade our lives.

I realized this when I began to plan the next few years of my life and, somewhere along my thinking, I screeched to a halt: not only do my parents not own a home, they don’t even speak to each other. They haven’t for my entire childhood into adulthood.

I’m tethered.

At this point I’d like to remark that if it sounds like I’m whining and exhibiting clear signs of daddy issues, it’s because I am and I do.

In fact, we’re not quite leftovers – we’re left behind. We are the ones who are unconsumed – by modern life, by progression. For my entire life, I’ve been unable to make own decisions, largely because I was so dependent on my dad and because we are not financially well-off.

Now that I have some control of my life – not all by any means – I have to determine how to become consumed without drowning.

It’s tough to be a product of the diaspora. Every immigrant family story is different, some far more horrific than others. This is my story, and the next chapter is blank.

But the pen is in my hand, and the ink is permanent. It’s not up to some vague deity to determine what the future holds–it’s up to me.

Tizzed out on a Tuesday.

I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person that needs caffeine in order to achieve any sort of productivity.

Image result for must have coffee

Roll your eyes if you must, but it’s true. Whether it’s a trick of the mind or not is up for debate, but I’ll divulge a secret–I drink decaf too. My body’s dependency on a hot cup of anything, really, is key here.

Now, with the start of Ramadan this past weekend, you see the issue here: no more daytime caffeine breaks for poor Tania. As logic dictates, that must mean the productivity rate sees a sharp decline.

Well…yes, yes it does.

The problem at hand should be apparent–it’s not possible for a working, professional adult to remain in a slump for 30 days without detriment. Actively working in your career, striving towards your goals and staying fit for a month without any sort of sustenance during the day, as well as a now-dysfunctional sleep schedule, is difficult, to say the least.

How to get around it? In the last 30 seconds since starting this post, I’ve devised a solution: FAST.

Find ways to occupy your day.

Always keep the bigger picture in mind.

SLEEP as long as you can.*

TIME is of the essence.

As a 24-year-old early in her career and in the midst of a serious existential crisis, all of the above serves as a testament to the ideas that I try to hold true.

Time is truly of the essence in all respects, Ramadan or not. It is a crucial step towards success to keep that in mind (stop keeping that internal countdown.) There will always be some sort of obstacle on the road, but the key is to stop using it as a reason for procrastination.

Lesson being: there is no true reason to a decline in productivity. These are all excuses in disguise.

*technically this is cheating, proceed with caution.

Life Pro Tips: On Taking Risks.

Here’s the thing: in the year 2017, reaching the the ripe old age of 24 feels like the end of the world. In your mid-twenties, having been exposed to the seemingly endless list of accomplishments the Mark Zuckerbergs and Evan Spiegals of the world, you are convinced that you’ve reached the peak of your youth and capabilities.

The crippling self-doubt that often permeates the thoughts of my mind and many others I’m sure, the insecurity and lack of accomplishments, the already sky-high stack of problems on my plate too often serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to failure, because you’ve already convinced yourself that you can’t do it before actually trying.

If you find yourself teetering on the edge of an enormous decision, it is because there is always a nagging voice in the corner of your mind reminding you of the challenges ahead.

Discontent at work and want to quit? Where will you get money? You should have started on this years ago. You should’ve known better than to study liberal arts. You’re too old to get the hang of new skills.

Want to travel far and often? With what money? Why do you get to travel and leave family behind with their problems?

Have passions you want to pursue? Who is going to pay the bills and support family while you do that? You’ll be so behind others in the field. What if investing in this thing doesn’t pay off and you’ve have wasted time, money and have to climb over a mountain of disappointment?


Anyway, you get an idea of the self-deprecating whirlpool of thoughts that is my inner monologue.

The internet is filled to the brim with motivational quotes,  inspiring videos and articles telling us how to get it moving. But it’s not until you get some sort of proverbial slap in the face that really gets you moving and as cheesy as it sounds, it comes from within.

Yesterday, I came across the Facebook status of a classmate. He was in my debate class in college and one of the most well-spoken and level-headed people I’ve known–during controversial class discussions, he would coolly dismiss arguments with flawless logic and appeared unscathed by provocative comments. This is likely due to his being a top performer on the debate team, but the traits were nonetheless highly admirable.

He discoursed on the topic of risk-taking in a way that resonated with me: here’s a few highlights.

YOU must start re-engineering your brain towards risk.. LOOK, in order to gain courage, you have to start doing activities that require smaller amounts of courage and keep doing different, slightly outside the box activities in order to start moving on to the bigger and, ultimately, more impactful work via risks that will then change your life and those around you.
Most people never take any real risks because they have been engineered and wired not to. You have been conditioned especially because of school and other structural constraints to have a worldview that not only limits the field of what is possible, but also, and more importantly, always dissuades risk tasking and attempting to find meaning/purpose outside of a pre established framework…
But I know one thing, you can’t know without experimenting. Ruthlessly. Relentlessly. Constantly. And it doesn’t even have to be that big the first few times. You don’t have to be unrealistic about it when you first start out…
Risk taking, especially at a smaller level, is the only way to deal with the main reason people don’t ever take risks: fear.

For some, taking a risk comes with a higher price tag than for others. Not everyone can bounce back.

But really, it is all about how to hard-wire your brain to think differently than the way you have become accustomed to, and that means saying no to fear.

It is true that you only have one life to live, and the depth of that notion becomes deeper ingrained with every passing year of passivity, of no action because of fear.

Don’t let the fear of taking risks for its potential repercussions control you.


As the saying goes, you are a prisoner of your own mind. You must do all that you can to break free of the chains.

This is how I have been striving to accomplish this: small goals. Once you achieve those, you begin to gain the courage and confidence for larger goals until there are no more zero days in your life.

Granted, there will be moments, days and weeks of despair–but as the great Gary V (only half sarcastic here) intimates, the journey is your drive. You gotta love the journey.