Life and Lexis

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On the first day in my Deaf classroom, I felt like a new student on the first day of school. I arrived with simple plan: Today, I will teach my new students the American Sign Language Alphabet. This way, we can communicate directly with one another about a few things using English spelling. I would plan each day after this depending on how they react to my ideas.

Trying to mask my anxiety, I greeted my students with a wave and a slowly formed “hello.”  I learned quickly that I had taken on one of the biggest challenges of my life. I also saw that, if done properly, this could be an incredibly rewarding experience. My translator, Hadeel, was my greatest asset. Through her translation, I was able to communicate complex ideas to my students. I was determined, however, to have a personal relationship with each and every one of my 20 students. But how was I going to do that? We had countless linguistic barriers between us.

Though I had studied Standard Arabic at my university, my level of Arabic was intermediate at best. Also, my students were not confident in their spoken Arabic ability, and most of them chose not to speak at all. To my advantage, they could read and write Arabic, though at a level significantly below their age expectations. Also, they had been taught to vocalize Arabic phonemes and many of them could read lips in Arabic. I was confident in my Arabic spelling ability. The Arabic alphabet is phonetic, and I soon saw that it would be beneficial to use it for phonetically spelling new English words.

I had also studied American Sign Language, but Arabic and American Sign Language were as different as spoken Arabic and English. My background in American Sign would not be useful to me, unless I had taught it to them first. American Sign Language, however, was not the focus of our class. My goal was that my students would be able to read and write proficiently in English. American Sign Language is recognized as a language distinct from English. It is used in the American deaf community and has its own vocabulary and grammar. The two languages cannot be used interchangeably.

My classroom was much like any other EFL classroom, with some significant differences. Teaching at one of the best universities in the Middle East, I was blessed with a class of twenty, highly intelligent and motivated young women. Their hearing loss ranged from moderately-severe to profoundly deaf. Their communication levels and styles varied greatly. Some of my students preferred to use Sign Language exclusively, others vocalized common words in Arabic while using Arabic Sign. To my surprise, I had students who had never been introduced to Sign Language and relied on lip reading alone.

My students were excited to have a new English teacher, but apprehensive. “We were worried that our teacher would not understand the deaf,” they later told me. “We were worried that she would try to make us speak or lose her patience with us.”

On the first day of class, we practised the American Sign Alphabet. They watched me vocalize the name of the letter, while forming the American Sign on my hands.  Those who were confident enough had the option of trying to produce the sound, but I would never assess speech in my class. We took turns in the classroom introducing ourselves in American Sign Language, spelling out the letters of our names. It was astonishing how quickly they were able to do this.

In my lessons,  I was careful to form the words correctly on my lips so my students could follow my English as I introduced new vocabulary. After I had spoken, my translator would translate my words to Arabic Sign. I watched for her to finish so that I could speak once again. I saw some recurring signs in my lesson, and unknowingly learned the meaning. The first words I learned in Arabic sign were learned unintentionally. “Correct,” “Words,” “Spelling,” “Wrong,” “Grammar.” At first, I did not have the confidence to use my new words. I found though, to increase my direct communication with the students, I would use the sign the words as I spoke in English. This way they were able to follow what I was saying, as I was saying it, and then look to the translator for clarification.

Every day, I learned new words in Arabic Sign Language by watching my translator and my students. I found that my students were willing to help me learn the language by correcting my errors and facial expressions.

“You cannot sign ‘weird’ and smile,” they showed me, “You must frown like this.”

The Alphabet of Arabic Sign Language

Over time, signing became a natural way to communicate with my students. A door for communication had opened up between us, and I found myself conversing with my students without the help of the translator. I was now able to greet them in the halls and ask them about their day. If my translator was absent or late, I was able to converse with them directly. I was surprised to have found that after just three months in the classroom, I was able to use my Arabic Sign and written Arabic to teach them new vocabulary and grammar concepts on my own. Just as I was patient with them, they remained patient with me as I acquired their language.

By using their L1 in the classroom, I was able to connect with my hearing impaired students on a higher level. Since my students were not able to acquire the English language using their hearing, we utilized their language to teach them reading and writing.

For the verbal students, I was able to explain sounds by using Arabic spelling for English words. My background in Speech-Language Pathology helped me to show my students proper lip shapes, tongue positioning and the difference between voiced and non voiced sounds. They had much success with this and I joked with them that they had an American accent similar to my own.

The most rewarding day of my career was when I was given my very own sign name. My students showed me my new name by tracing the outline of their eyes with their index finger and thumb and pinching the side. It was a reference to the almond shape of my eyes.

Basma, a profoundly deaf and mute student signed to me one day, “I love this English class. In three months, I feel like I’ve been studying English for six years!”
“I’m sooooo happy!” I responded in Arabic Sign Language, exaggerating my movements for emphasis.

Finally, the barriers between my students and I had been overcome.

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Some ways Arabic was useful in the classroom. I wrote the Arabic word, and students translated to English.

From a seminar I conducted at the university to simulate language learning for the Hearing Impaired

From a seminar I conducted at the university to simulate language learning for the Hearing Impaired

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Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk.

Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Lak.
‘Here I am O Allaah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am.

Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner.’

The prayer of the Pilgrims played over the loudspeaker on the bus. We were on our way to Masjid Al-Haram, the Kaaba, the holiest place for the Muslim Ummah. We were lucky enough to have been staying just down the street. The bus was crowded and we were surrounded by other pilgrims, wrapped in their white sheets and black abayas.

The whole day passed so quickly. Myself and two colleagues arrived in the early morning from Riyadh and checked into our hotel. After a quick nap and some brushing up, we were dressed and ready to go to the Kaaba. Having made our Niyah, intention, in Riyadh, and having entered a state of Ahram, it would only be hours before we completed our Umrah or minor pilgrimage.

The bus dropped us off on the street next to the Haram. I was astonished by the cleanliness of the place. A flock of pigeons were eating, a woman wrapped in a colorful shawl offered to sell us bird feed. We walked through a street of small shops on our way to the Great Mosque. I imagined the history in this place. Though it had changed considerably since the time of The Prophet (pbuh), this is the same ground he walked. This is where it all began. Before it was the fastest growing religion in the World, Islam started as a man preaching the word of God in this little town.

We were lucky to have gone in December, after the Hajj season had ended. A woman asked me for some change showing me the face of her famished young infant. There were beggars on the street and people selling some trinkets, hand-held sewing machines and prayer beads. However, it was not crowded and there was a peace about the place. There was an air of friendliness present in this city that I had not found in Riyadh.

When we arrived in the Haram, we made wudu with Zam zam water and prayed our Dhuhr Salah. Nothing had prepared me for the first sight of the Kaaba. I did not anticipate such an emotional response, but I felt as if my breath had been taken away. I looked up and saw birds circulating overhead.

kaaba

I was lucky enough to touch the Kaaba a few times and place my forehead upon it long enough to make my prayers for my loved ones. After seven circuits around the Kaaba, we proceeded to Safa and Marwa for seven laps between them.

What was astonishing to me was the difference between Makkah and my experience with living in Riyadh. There was a sense of equality between all people in Makkah. People were in simple clothing and it was impossible to distinguish rich from poor. There were people of all skin colors and no difference was visible between us. We prayed in unison towards the Kaaba, just as Muslims do on all corners of the Earth. When praying at Masjid al-Haram, there is no distinction made between rich and poor, male and female, old and young or white and black. We are all pilgrims, equal under God.

In Makkah, for the first time since I had left America 5 months earlier, I felt at home.

We left Makkah early the next morning. It was a horrible feeling to leave after having spent such little time there, though I don’t know that I’d be satisfied with any amount of time in the place. I thank God that I was able to answer His call and complete my Umrah while I was here.  In the morning, right before we departed for the airport, I received a text message from a friend in America saying she had just been accepted to Medical School. Even though not all my prayers would be answered quickly, I then knew they had been heard.

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A view of Makkah from our hotel, just outside Masjid Al-Haram

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The clock tower outside Masjid Al-Haram, from our hotel room

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Sign above one of the Zam Zam fountains in Urdu, English and Arabic. I was proud to understand all three. 🙂

When I arrived, I thought I would be an ordinary English teacher. Despite my background in speech therapy, it never occurred to me that I had any expertise. I had studied both American Sign Language and Arabic in college, for reasons unbeknownst to anyone.
A few weeks into the school year, I was approached by the HR director of our university. She asked me if I would be interested in teaching the deaf at the university. I was nervous as I had no hands-on experience, but I accepted the offer. I recognized that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and hoped that all that I had learned about the deaf and language had equipped me for the task at hand.

There is very little I can say that will describe the amount of fulfillment I have had during this semester. I taught English literacy to 20 extremely bright, deaf and hearing impaired women at the university. We went from learning letters and basic articles like “a/an” and “the” to writing long paragraphs. I realize now, that this is the purpose for which I had been sent to Saudi Arabia.

My biggest regret is not writing during this experience as it was perhaps the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I wrote a few short blurbs during the time that I will share here.

My students are profoundly deaf. Every day for them presents new challenges. Things as easy as ordering coffee or asking for directions can be frustrating, time consuming ordeals. They can’t make quick phone calls or speak to people they meet. Most of the world misunderstands them, looks down upon them or pities them.
Yet they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Every day I see 20 smiling faces watching me, eager to learn. Though they cannot hear their own laughter, they laugh so loud I have to keep the classroom door closed. They dream of travel, careers and education. Never do they complain about their situations or feel sorry for themselves. There is so much to be learned from these inspirational young women.

Before complaining, remember that there is always someone in a worse situation than you. Happiness is gratefulness for what you have. Happiness is a choice.

And about one student specifically…

One of my students is a 56 year old, profoundly deaf Saudi woman. She’s decided, after raising 8 kids, to get her Bachelor’s degree and learn English. She also lived in the U.S. for a few years while her husband studied at Gallaudet University for the deaf. She spent many years as a cooking teacher and has worked for a Saudi princess. Today she asked me if I have any Amish friends — because she had some in Virginia. She recently read a newspaper article about a woman who began University at 55, and said “I’m 56, I’m back in school AND I’m deaf. Why doesn’t anyone write about me?” Habibty, thank you for being one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever encountered.

 

I even had the wonderful opportunity to attend a deaf Saudi wedding. I was able to experience this wonderful subculture within the Saudi community — something even very few Saudis know about.

“Went to the wedding of a Deaf Saudi couple. They dance to the beat of the drums by feeling the vibrations through the floor. They literally feel the music. #subhanAllah”

In just four and a half months, I have learned Arabic Sign Language, Riyadhi Arabic and how to teach special needs. I’ve had the honor of creating a curriculum for the Hearing Impaired at the university and designing assessments. I’ve taught 20 wonderful girls that have changed my life without even trying.

This is why, despite all the challenges and homesickness, I am still in Saudi Arabia.

They say when you first arrive in a place you go through a “honeymoon” phase.  For the first month or so, I was infatuated with everything I saw here. I had arrived in a Muslim country, I thought. Having been raised Muslim in America I felt that I would find it easy to fit in here. I was aware of the way that Saudis practiced though I did not agree with a lot of it. How hard could it be to adjust?

I was intrigued by everything, snapping photos of soda cans and random buildings. The architecture was different, the people were different. All of a sudden my first language, Urdu, became incredibly useful. I had the opportunity to practice my Arabic as well.

Saudi Arabia Date palmsriyadhnightRiyadh at night

My work environment was amazing. We were on an all-female campus that looked more like a resort than a university.  They were paying us a decent amount to sit around for a few hours a day and teach for only three. I was making friends and exploring the new city. There was always a place to pray, whether I was at work or at the mall. People here were laid back and no one was worried about money. I loved teaching, I loved my students. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, I could stay here for years.

Things began to change in October, however, when I realized my visa situation would not permit me to travel home for Eid break. I ended up spending 2 weeks in my apartment, longing to go home to a society where I could travel freely.

You see, in Riyadh, single women don’t really have the freedom of movement. Since I did not have any mahram men with me, I was unable to do much of anything that required leaving the home. I could, of course, take a taxi. Unfortunately, this puts women in an awkward situation where we are forced to trust and depend on men that we don’t know at all. After a few bad experiences with drivers, I realized I was caging myself inside my apartment or only traveling in big groups. It was so different than the way I was used to living at home and quickly began to feel suffocated.

When our one trusted driver turned out to be undeserving of trust, I began to lose the will to put myself in awkward situations to leave the home. I definitely would not be going out alone anymore. My view of Saudi Arabia as a Muslim society began to crumble. I found myself constantly disappointed by the actions of people, and learned that hypocrisy was rampant. Naturally, homesickness ensued. I longed for the ability to get my own car and go where I wanted to go. I longed for freedom and some sense of equality between men and women. Our visa situation did not permit us to leave the country and return, so unfortunately, I began to feel stuck. I had to choose between my career and this wonderful job opportunity or the freedom and comfort of home.

For a few very good reasons, I chose the first.

I left America on August 15th, having promised myself that I would keep writing and document all that has happened in my time here. Unfortunately, I have been much to busy adjusting, socializing and working to do so. I’m going to try — though it may be impossible — to summarize all that has happened in the past few months.

Leaving Home
Leaving America was probably one of the craziest things I have ever done in my life, though I didn’t realize how crazy it was at the time. I had decided not to think too much as I was leaving my family at the airport, in case I talked myself out of taking this giant leap. Surprisingly, I didn’t even shed a tear and I wasn’t thinking much of anything as I left. I wasn’t thinking about how far I was going or how long I would be gone, I just gave everyone a hug and walked away. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. And that’s probably the only reason I was able to leave the people I love and the comfort of home.

Saudi Arabia

After 18 long, boring hours, and a quick stop over in Frankfurt, I was finally in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The first few hours in the country were incredibly overwhelming. One of the first things I realized was that men here look at women differently. There was almost always a weird smile on their face, something I noticed when I gave my passport to the man at the counter at King Khaled Airport. I learned quickly not to smile back at them. Something that was a polite gesture at home meant something completely different here. In a society this segregated, gender relations were something that you had to be very careful about.

When I arrived at the baggage claim, I was taken aback by the sight of women cloaked head to toe. I had thought I dressed conservatively until I realized I was one of the few women who had my face showing, apart from some obviously western looking women. Almost all the men were wearing white thobes and red checkered shimaaghs on their heads. I saw a fat man walk by in a thobe and aviator sunglasses. Three cloaked women followed behind him. “Where have I come?” I thought to myself, I was suddenly afraid for the first time.
I picked up my bags from the baggage claim. “barra! barra!” a man shouted at me. I swung around and saw a short Indian man yelling at me in Arabic. I knew what he was saying, but for some reason I didn’t care to use my broken Arabic just yet. “English?” I asked. He nodded and gestured outside.

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I was overtaken by a wave of dry heat. It must have been well over 100 degrees. I later realized I had undershot by about 15 degrees. The smell of dust filled the air.  A young boy approached me with dates and water. Ramadan. I had almost forgotten, It was time for iftaar. 

I was luckier than a lot of the other teachers in that I had a few people I kind of  knew in the area. My father’s friends picked me up from the airport. A company car took all of us to my new accommodation.

My new place was small but spacious. A kitchen, queen sized bed, living area and flat screen TV. An upgrade from my college living, I was satisfied. I settled in and met a few of the other teachers. I was expecting to be the youngest in a job like this, but was pleasantly surprised when I was greeted by young, energetic faces… majority of which were from England.

Arwa, from England, said to me “ooooh, you’re American. I love your accent!” This was
something that would take time to get used to. I always knew that Americans were fascinated by British accents, but never realized it was the other way around as well.

Mary, also from England, quickly became my big sister in Saudi Arabia. She was always there to help and was perhaps one of the most generous and kind people I have met in all of my life.
There were at least 15 of us in the building at the time. I realized I had arrived pretty early and had a few weeks to get acclimated to the place.

I spent my first Eid in Saudi Arabia with who I soon began to refer to as my “relatives.”  They were a pleasant family who had moved 2 years ago from America. They treated me as their own and their house quickly became a home away from home. It was nice to have a little bit of normalcy and someone who cared about me in this new country.

In Saudi Arabia they pray Eid Salah just after Fajr. There is a great deal of diversity in this country, and it quickly became one of the things I love most about living here. Women and children hand out sweets and money to one another. There is a general feeling of love and unity among people.

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Minaret on Eid morning

Rooftops in Riyadh
One of my favorite things quickly became spending time on the rooftop of our building. It is something that I wish I could do in the States. You feel as if there is nothing between you and the sky, the stars are clearly visible and the night air is fresh.
Riyadh is a very well lit city and from the rooftop of our building you could really take in the sight. Many times, we teachers had rooftop dinners and rooftop barbecues, followed by rooftop dancing. My favorite thing, however, was being on the roof when it was silent and suddenly all the surrounding mosques would begin the call to prayer. In just seconds the sky would be filled with the call coming from all sides:
God is Great. God is Great. There is no God but God.

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I recently took this quote a little too seriously and accepted a one year English teaching job in Saudi Arabia. I haven’t been off the North American continent in more than two decades, so this will certainly be interesting!

One year ago, it was just a far-fetched dream to travel to the Middle East. I’ve always wanted to see the world, improve my Arabic and experience life in a Muslim country, though I had no idea how to go about it or thought I would muster up enough courage to pursue it. One year, a Bachelor’s degree and a CELTA certification later — I’m preparing for what is certainly the most adventurous thing I’ve done in my life. Life in Saudi Arabia will be profoundly different from life in the States, but I’m hoping to learn as much as possible in this next year, God willing.  Lists are a traveler’s best friend, and I’ve started to make lists of anything and everything. Shopping lists, packing lists, to-do lists, to-see lists. I’ve received a flurry of comments and advice from my well-wishers and it’s been a struggle to organize all my thoughts and emotions. It’s been difficult to balance the excitement and anxiety while attempting to prepare for the unknown.

Excitement

  • Teaching – There are probably few professions as rewarding as teaching. I’m really looking forward to having students and to see them progress and learn throughout the year (inshaAllah!)
  • Learning – There is still so much I have to learn about the World and moving to the other side of the World alone will definitely be a good start.
  • Food – I’ve heard that the food in Riyadh is amazing. As a big fan of shawarma, I’m pretty sure I’m headed to the right place. I also can’t wait to to try the McArabia. Plus, everything is halal!
  • The Adhan – This may sound silly, but I’ve never heard the adhan outdoors, over a loudspeaker. I can’t wait to experience being in public and seeing everyone stop to pray.
  • Ibaya – I love wearing the ibaya and wish I had more excuses to wear it in America! So comfy and elegant in my opinion.
  • Shopping – Many people have told me about how great the shopping malls are in Saudi, can’t wait to check it out myself.
  • History – After studying Islamic history for years, living in the country where it all began will be unreal.

Anxieties

  • Missing America – Every person and everything I care about is in America. It’s going to be tough being away from family and friends for the next year. Also, I’m used to the way things are done here. I’m sure I’ll be very homesick.
  • Being a single female – Life in Saudi Arabia is different for women and being a single woman is going to present its own set of challenges.
  • Weight gain – I’ve been warned that it’s difficult to stay fit in the Saudi but I’m hoping this isn’t true!
  • The adjustment period – The beginning will be tough while trying to sort out all the logistics of living in a new country.
  • Being truly independent – This is my first career-type job and the first time I’ll truly be on my own as an adult. This is both exciting and scary!

“Twenty years from now …

  1. Life is what you make of it.
    An internal locus of control is necessary to achieve any greatness in life. Once you stop believing that things simply happen to you and realize that the direction of your life is determined by your actions and reactions, you can begin to move towards the type of life you want to live.
    Of course, no change is immediate and there will always be obstacles, but if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on its never too late to take steps towards where you would rather be. Imagine the life you wish you had and figure out how to make it happen.
  2. Happiness is a choice and perception creates reality.
    It is erroneous to believe that any person or thing can make you happy. We often think “If I had this, I would be happy,” or “Once I do this, I will be happy.”  In reality, happiness is just a state of mind. You can be happy now, if you truly want to be. Just look at what you do have, instead of what you don’t.
    If you are reading this, its reasonable to assume you are able to see. If tomorrow you lost your vision you would do anything to get it back. Appreciate what you have while you have it and choose to be happy now.
  3. There are lessons in every experience. Find them.
    It is important to remember that learning does not begin or end in the classroom. There is something to be learned from every experience we have and every person we encounter. Every difficulty we face will teach us about the world or ourselves. Every individual has a story to tell, if we’ll only listen. Actively seeking out these lessons in experiences will allow you to grow and learn for the rest of your life.
  4. Plan for the future and learn from the past, but live in neither.
    A common mistake we all make is forgetting to live in the present. So many of us dwell on the past, whether its the inability to move beyond regrets and losses or the longing for days gone by. The past is gone and will not return, at least not in the same form. Though it is necessary to plan for the future, it is not here yet and you need only live it out once it arrives. Don’t let regrets or worries waste the time that you do have. You are here, right now. Feel your pulse, listen to your breathing – stop planning to live and live right now.
  5. Parents are a blessing, appreciate them while you can.
    For those of us who were fortunate enough to move home after college, the adjustment issues are undeniable. After being on our own for so long, we again live with the people who raised us and often times, have to play by their rules. The benefits of living at home are undeniable — you save on pricey rent and utilities, get a cozy home and (if you’re lucky) someone who might even clean up after you. The biggest benefit, however, is immeasurable. You get to know your parents, as adults, for the first time.
    It’s important that we don’t see our parents as banks or sources for food or shelter. Even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye, we owe our parents a lot more than we may recognize.
    Whether or not you live at home, if you’re fortunate enough to have access to your parents, get to know them. Not who they were when you were a child, you already know that. Ask the questions you were too afraid to ask, or simply didn’t think of, when you were a kid. Whether you agree or disagree, get along or don’t, you may be surprised by what you find.
  6. It’s okay to take a break. Fun is essential.
    Immediately after I graduated from college, I felt the need to find a job. Quickly. I mistakenly took the first job I interviewed for, and found myself in a 9 to 5 (often working overtime) just 2 weeks after graduation. I was underpaid and overworked with little hope of  advancement.  Not to mention, I wasn’t passionate about the work and my boss was undeniably unfit for responsibilities. I had little time outside of work to do anything I enjoyed and I found myself sacrificing spirituality at a low price. I needed the money, but this just wasn’t worth it.
    A break after college (or a bad job) is not only recommended, I believe it’s essential. It gives you time to find direction and work through any burn out you’re experiencing. Don’t sit idly by or spend your break on the couch though. Have fun, try new things and  do what you want to do before you commit yourself to  perpetual monotony. Or better yet, use this time to figure out a way to make money doing something you love.
  7. Find balance with money.
    People who are stressed about finances are often poor at budgeting. To feel better about money, know how much you have and how you’re spending it. Plan in advance, calculate your expenses and set a monthly budget for yourself. Spend responsibly but don’t be so frugal that you are unhappy. Most importantly, save! Work your savings account into your budget as a necessary expense. It’ll come in handy when you need that break or a change in direction.
  8. Confidence will take you far.
    Successful people aren’t greater than anyone else, they just think that they are. In the real world, confidence is key. Many times, people get what they want through hard work and self-confidence. Shyness and lack of assertion too often get  in the way of realizing potential. Unlike college, your success is measured by your social intelligence and not just your GPA, so having been a good student will not be enough. Everyone suffers from self-doubt at times, but it is important to overcome these feelings quickly. Break down self-imposed barriers and squash negative self-talk. The more you believe in yourself, the more others will believe in you.
  9. Ignorance is dangerous, arm yourself with knowledge.
    We’ve all heard the saying that “ignorance is bliss,” but what many don’t know is that ignorance can also cause great harm. Ignorance breeds hate, fear and insecurity. Fight this by actively seeking knowledge about new things. We should strive to be part of the solution in the world, not the problem.
  10. Discuss ideas, not people.
    Gossip comes from a place of insecurity. By putting others down, you (falsely) feel that you are elevating yourself. In reality, your insecurities are showing. And insecurity is not cute. It happens to everyone from time to time, but catch yourself when you begin to speak negatively behind someone’s back. Recognize that you’re just trying to make yourself feel better, but are making yourself look bad.
    Instead, showcase your wonderfulness by discussing ideas and issues. You will be much more like-able and pleasant to be around. Don’t partake in gossip even if you weren’t the one who started it and remember, more often than not, ‘those who gossip to you gossip about you’.
  11. If your actions don’t mirror your beliefs, it’s time to reassess.
    Many of us fail to recognize our unintentional hypocrisy. Ideals, by definition, are hard to live up to. Though  we may be far from realizing our potential, we must make sure that our actions are at least in-line with what we believe. Failure to do so shows immaturity or lack of true conviction.
  12. Keep in touch with those who matter and be the friend you’d like to have.
    After college graduation, it becomes a lot harder to nurture friendships. Friends no longer live with you or even in the same town. For 4 years, many of us were spoiled by easily maintained friendships. After college, if you don’t make an active effort, many of these friendships will wither away. Make it a point to stay in touch with the people who matter the most to you. Recognize that many friends do fall out of touch, and that’s okay. People grow apart and there is no shame in it. Know who your true friends are and keep them around.
  13. The only failure is not trying.
     You haven’t failed at anything until you have exhausted all routes to success. More often than not, failure precedes success. It’s your choice when you want to give up, but if you keep trying you’ll find a way to get there eventually.
  14. Embrace change.
    Change is the only constant in life and resistance to change only brings pain. In order to be happy, we must accept that nothing is forever. The sooner we internalize this, the better able we will be to move from one stage of life to the next.
  15. Not everyone will like you. Be yourself anyways.
    Humans are an infinitely diverse species, with a great deal of diversity in opinion. Not everyone will agree with you, but it’s always good to have informed opinions. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and know when to say no. It is likely that if you are always trying to  please others, you are not being true to yourself. True freedom is when you stop seeking validation from others and validate yourself.