“Is it over?” “Are we there yet?”
If you’ve ever travelled with little, inquisitive children, you’ll understand what I mean. A trip is never complete without repeated utterances of these well-known yet irritating phrases. We’ve all heard and said it ourselves many times. Why do we even ask something like this? To know how long, we have to put up with the car ride or how much longer we have to wait for the destination, we have been eagerly waiting for. Whatever the reason, positive or negative, it helps to mentally cope with the reality of we’ll get there when we get there.
As I write this blog I am on a trip; a journey through a section of my life. What is my journey? How will I know when I get there? Three months. It seems like a long commitment, yet now that I’m near the end, it seems like such a short time. There’s so much left to say, to do, to live.
Sometimes all we need are ambiguities to take us on an exciting trip. However, not all experiences are fortuitous. While the future may still appear dismal, our lives had been permanently altered. That’s what the impromptu lockdowns and Covid-19 did to all of us. But then;
“There were a couple of hours where I was within a whisper of a very dark place”
Seems familiar? That describes all of us in different points of life. I was as free as a recent graduate can be. Confusion, excitement, hopes, expectations, and uncertainties were all swirling around in my head. Confusion about the next step, exhilaration for finally entering the professional phase, hope and fears for the future. The next path looked bleary and the future a bit bleak. I needed to do something, anything. That’s when I stumbled across this Amal Academy advertisement. An education startup funded by Stanford University that teaches professional skills to students and corporations. A career fellowship. I had always been curious about who I was, what I wanted and where I fit in. Amal seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“Knowing oneself is not much of a question of discovering what is present in one’s self, but rather the creation of who one wants to be.”
That’s what I wanted to figure out. July 15, was when I set out on a journey to find where I belong in this new, uncertain, professional life. I expected to learn all that this fellowship offered. The daunting email in my inbox brought many doubts and questions to my mind, but Amal seemed to promise an experience of a lifetime. So, I took that leap of faith.
Before Amal, I had no clue about resumes, CV or cover letters. I was always involved in my academic activities and in my free time, I would read books, play games, browse or watch movies. Developing skills wasn’t something I ever focused on. My goals were clear: the first was to improve my health, and the second was to figure out what I was skilled at so that I could go for a fulfilling career. I was also looking for a method to achieve all of this while excelling in my own field. In short, I was attempting to do too many things at once, like I always do. But, then again, these were simply broad generalizations. At Amal, I learnt how to translate them into SMART objectives.
WHAT I LEARNED…
Do you ever come home from a long day at work feeling a little grumpy?
Many of us have very little energy left after coping with all of the demands of a day’s work. It is so simple to leave work and come home physically but to be mentally and emotionally absent.
You’re physically at home, yet you’re still thinking about and fretting about the issues of the day or the worries of tomorrow. What it takes to be successful in one activity may spell disaster in another. Because your job requirements differ greatly from your home requirements, being in work mode at home may have a detrimental influence on your home environment. This occurs because many of us conclude the day thinking about everything that went wrong, the person who annoyed us, or all the work we still have to accomplish. At Amal I learned to reflect on these instances, a powerful method called positive reflection. Kind of like what I’m doing now. This method allows your brain to reflect and refocus its energies, a kind of a positive note.
The productivity training had the most influence on me. However, every video, from “Pursuit of Happiness” to “Kid President” and “Taaray Zameen Par,” had a significant influence on me. I found myself thinking about those small lessons that pinched my heart and made me reconsider my choices. From Elizebeth’s retake on those letters to Tim Urban’s note on procrastination, they all were packed with advice, suggestions and life lessons that would be difficult to forget. But with all those Zen life lessons, Amal gave us amazing concepts like “Amal” “Ek or Ek Gyaara”, “Kam, Kam, Kam” and “Khudi”.
All those life stories motivated me on another level. Listening to these stories and watching them in a short but impactful video, hits you hard. I recommend all of these courses, they are insightful and I’m sure they would prompt you to think differently too. These courses made me rethink my decisions and the way I used to perceive things before. When you listen to compelling stories, your brain may really drive you to form thoughts, views, and ideas that are similar to the person presenting the story. A well-crafted, one-of-a-kind, and relevant narrative may be eye-opening. A good storyline may elicit any feeling, whether it’s empathy, grief, joy, or motivation. It causes us to perceive things in a different light. Provides us with the motivation we needed to believe in ourselves. Others have done it, and we can do it as well. While completing every course, this is the change that slowly developed inside me. I started to observe tiny details and emotions, my perception of life changed. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I loved experimenting with new ideas, like learning a new language or skills, but within my comfort zone. Amal encouraged me to step out and take lead. And now that I think about it, I should have submitted those introduction videos. Maybe, that could have been another milestone of my life. Maybe, I can give it a try again.
Would you believe me if I told you that I didn’t even know what a blog was before I started blogging? Okay, I understood what it was, but I had no idea how to even follow, let alone write one. I love Pinterest, it saved many assignments of mine. That could give me some brownie points in the blogosphere, only I didn’t “follow” any specific blog on Pinterest, let alone knowing the photos on there were from blogs. It was a catastrophe. So, you may very well be wondering… if I didn’t know what a blog was, why would I even consider starting one? Well, Amal made me write them as project work, which we fondly call PW’s. You get them every week. (sighs)
I remember vividly, sitting at the kitchen table with a piping hot coffee thinking and brainstorming how I would ever get by one blog. Then I thought of all those people who live off of blogs and earned through it. How difficult could it be? Right? So I used the Amal principle of “Just start”. I’m a naturally pleasant person, or so my mock interviewer claimed. (No, I’m not trying to be cheeky…. okay maybe a little bit) Putting my thoughts into words come easy to me. All those little quirks and weirdness is just part of the charm.
My first post, you see, was written without any planning or foresight. In fact, I was meant to be developing a complete strategy for how to go with it, but life happened and I simply had to write about it. And there you have it. A blog was born. Wait for a second, there must have been a lot more involved in creating and writing a blog, right? Why don’t I save that for another day? If you’d want to hear about it, please let me know and I’ll gladly tell you about it. It would be fun to write about. It’s ironic that your first post is meant to make you cringe. You’ll be humiliated. Mine actually mortified me, but it felt like that first doodle you do out of nowhere and end up loving it nonetheless. It was raw. It was a little rough around the edges. And you know what? That’s alright. Amal taught me that the first step is the one that counts and that I should never be embarrassed by it. The thing is Amal pulled me out of my comfort zone on so many levels, it’s hard to comprehend myself and I’ll be forever grateful to Sir Saim Fiaz and Mam Wajiha Ikram for being the fun-loving yet the most supportive facilitators.
There had been no such instance that strikes me now, because when I look back, all I see is, us, having fun and just learning from each other. A healthy classroom experience in itself. My university should definitely take notes. The whole fellowship up till now was an impact in itself, an unforgettable experience. I got a lot from this fellowship, but the most important would be “Amal Family” and “WhatsApp stickers”. (falters) I mean “Beautiful Memories”.
And because I’m typically always hyperactive, the energy was always high for me, and I’d devote the moods to our facilitators and perhaps Noor Fatima. Her stories always got me laughing, in a good way.
THE END…. OR THE NEAR END
With the stressors of PWs, the people I’ve encountered, and the experiences I’ve had the privilege of going through, I can confidently say that Amal has given me the keys to an amazing world. A universe that is full of possibilities, potential growth, and surreal experiences. With that said, it became nearly inevitable for me to experience some sort of transformation. Although my original aims remain the same as they were before attending Amal, they have unquestionably developed and extended in the most profound way conceivable. I’ve come to a clearer understanding of who I want to be, as well as what I want to do. The most I would miss from Amal Academy would be its courses and weekend sessions. Also, all the games we played so far. It was fun to be a part of this.
So If this blog of mine got you curious enough, why not give it a go next summer? You may even hear your mother exclaim, “You’ve changed! in a positive way at home, you appear to be enthusiastic for weekends. What have you been up to?” At that moment, simply grin and enjoy yourself. It’ll be our little secret.
THANK YOU AMAL FAMILY!