Being your own anchor

When friends bail on my plans, when no one is there to deal with or solve my problems, when life is hopeless and unfair, I feel angry. Utterly angry.

Slowly and slowly, however, what I’m starting to learn is that no one, absolutely no one, is responsible for my safety, my happiness, and my problems. In fact the moment I stepped into my university’s extensive halls, walked around the mighty campus, and became a part of the community, I realised that I am one drop in the vast ocean…

I come from a highly protective background where every emotion of mine has always been heard. This little world of mine was my oyster and I was it’s pearl. But out here, nobody cares. My solo trip, too, forced me to rely on myself as nobody seemed to have cared that it was my first time taking 1 flight, 1 train ride, a 2 hour road trip, and a hotel check-in all by myself. As it occurs to me, there is no reason they should have had to either.

Life at some point teaches us that we just cannot keep waiting around hoping that someone will magically save us from our nightmares. No one is supposed to ask us how we’re doing and make everything okay. We must eventually learn to rely on ourselves because we are the only ones who can give ourselves the lives we want.

Having said that, we all undoubtedly have people whose love for us is genuine and worthy. However, even they can’t help us every time. Sometimes they won’t have the energy or the money. Dropping my expectations from the world around me has hence made me a happier person. I can’t get too excited to grab dinner with someone because they could cancel the last minute. I can’t call someone and expect them to always show up. I no longer get my hopes up about things that are out of my control.

In the end, you’re all you got. Create your own happiness. Be your own anchor.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Bittersweet Changes – Poetry

Happy Friday! Here is a poem I wrote that reflects my feelings around leaving the comfort of my family and friends behind. When we’re faced with big changes, overwhelming emotions stir up. But every fresh chapter holds the path to an invigorating, new, wonderful journey…

Bittersweet Changes

When I was little
I never quite planned
The puzzling path of life
Where in the world I stand

Never trembled with panic
When met with fear
My parents consoled me
Wiping off my tear

As I grow up and older
My emotions surge too
There are times I feel
Like I don’t know what to do

When I run into problems
I’m drowned in doubt
Like nothing will get better
As if there’s no way out

But as I leave my home
Looking up to the sky
I’m a bird set free
All ready to fly

With every ounce of courage
I step out the door
A world full of opportunities
I can’t wait to explore

When we’re faced with changes
Some are bittersweet
But when we learn to embrace
We shall grow gracefully

- SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Solo Trip to Turkey!

I visited Istanbul this weekend – an enchanting land of diversity, beauty, and a rich culture. Lucky for me, it is a welcoming city part of both Asia and Europe, offering some breathtaking views. In this post, I would love to share some pictures as well as my thoughts on venturing off alone!

While solo traveling, I learnt that we are strong enough to handle anything life throws our way. The biggest challenge for anyone entering a foreign world is the language barrier, so it was no surprise I struggled communicating with Turkish people when I wanted to buy something or get somewhere. However, an essential part of communication is in fact non verbal – the way our body and facial expressions work (how many of us here use emojis while texting? 🙋🏼‍♀️). So with a little help of Google Translate and some nods and amusing looks, I was actually able to get things done!

One of them involved taking a train to the ocean side, Eminönü

Discovering places alone also becomes a beautiful journey of self discovery. When I travel with my family, we all want to do different things (specially when it comes to food 🤦🏼‍♀️). When I travelled alone, however, I figured that I take great pleasure in trying new things and exploring local cultures. I loved starting my days off in Turkey with simit bread and some Turkish tea.

Cannot forget the Turkish Delight! 🍬

Lastly, solo travelling is magic to our well-being. Sometimes, there is nothing better than escaping our normal lives and friends for a bit. Getting lost in old town Balat, complete with colourful buildings and cute vintage cafés, I felt like no problem in life could ever get to me.

The (totally instagrammable) neighbourhood of Balat

Becoming “in charge” was a feeling so special and invigorating to me. Here are a couple more pictures to wrap this up…

Me reconsidering why I handed my phone to a stranger 📸
Taksim Mosque 🕌
Galata Tower

The best thing about solo travelling is that in a world of constant socialising and interacting, for once we get to find ourselves – and some journeys, like this one, can only be discovered alone!

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Our Sense of Belonging

In social psychology, the need to belong is linked to being socially accepted. The need for love and belonging even lie at the center of the Maslow’s Hierarchy as part of social needs. This is why many psychologists today curiously study the concept of “groups”.

All of us enjoy being a part of something – a community of people who understand us, include us, and accept us. And it’s interesting because nearly all human activities like working, playing, and learning occur in groups.

I know whenever I was a new kid at school, I loved connecting with other new kids joining in that year. At my most recent high school, we formed a lovely group sharing that one thing in common. Being a new kid can be an isolating and lonely endeavour. “Am I the only one who feels this way?” Finding myself in the company of others wrestling through pools of similar questions I remember felt extremely relieving. Groups in this sense remind us that we aren’t alone.

The WordPress community also brings together people who express emotions, have stories to tell, or insights to share. I feel motivated when I know there are others who care about my progress as a writer. Every time I publish a post, it is generally a gratifying experience because of the comments and feedback I receive that help me improve. Networking within communities hence guides us towards achieving our goals, and the more we socialise and participate in activities with others, the more we gain confidence in our abilities.

Sometimes however, we naturally become a part of certain groups. For instance, in the larger world, socially constructed identities form – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious groups, etc. In these cases, they can often form the basis of discrimination, comparisons, and conflicts with other groups. A group that an individual identifies with becomes an in-group, and everyone outside the in-group becomes the out-group. I watched the movie “Get Out” one day which reinforces the psychological struggles of a black man, Chris, as the white family of his girlfriend forms an in-group bias.

But let’s say a football team, a baking club, a work group, a yoga class. Which such groups have you joined by choice? And in what ways have you benefited from belonging to this certain social group? Let me know in the comments!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

The Beauty of Trying New Things

As someone who loves to explore and travel, trying new things is something I’ve been encouraged to do. I often wondered: what do I know about life outside my immediate circle? It turned out: so very little…

When I was in Slovenia, my family and I stayed at a student hostel for a day since all city hotels were fully booked and it was only a matter of a day. We later learnt that despite the tiny space and shared bathrooms, it was a fun, cheap, and more sensible choice which in fact gave me a peek into what life will look like for me in a couple of weeks time at university. When we surround ourselves with the same people, ideas, routines, and conversations, we are unexposed. But by being open and adventurous, we come back with expanded perspectives.

The sleeping capsule in the hostel – how cute is this?

In Singapore, my sister, my mom and I struggled to find food we normally eat. As an island surrounded by water it is no wonder seafood is a big part of Singapore’s cuisine. My mom is a picky eater, but my sister and I are more open to trying different foods so we went to a (very!) local market and ate a whole chilly king crab. And Wowzers it was divine…

So, trying new things also helps us figure out our likes and dislikes.

Me trying a king crab 🦀

In Mumbai, my sister and I were stranded in the rain late at night after a good dinner of sushi and ramen. None of the Ubers were around our area, so we took an auto rickshaw by ourselves for the first time. The cool breeze on our faces and the extremely bumpy roads made the journey feel like a roller coaster. Sometimes, it’s good to try new things simply because it’s…fun!

India’s autos 🛺

Above all, I believe trying new things makes us interesting people. I know my travel experiences have left me with exciting stories to tell, and there is always a way to build conversations with people. Life is too short not to try something new. After all, better an Oops than a What if, right?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Finally 18!

It is that time of the year where I get to be the centre of attention for a day. Where another 365 days lay ahead of me to make a wonderful difference to this world. But this day, unlike others, is extra special – well at least that’s what people say. Turning Eighteen. A magical milestone into adulthood…

Looking back, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt (with 100s others yet to come) is that in the depths of pain and confusion, we learn some of life’s most important lessons. For example, moving around schools and countries has been a pain for me. Making new friends meant leaving special ones behind. But it also enabled me to become my own best friend – not having to depend on anybody for my happiness. I have learnt that people come and go, but what’s more important is to build a solid foundation within myself, something I’ve only been able to do because of this pain.

I’ve also learnt that not everyone wants what you want. And that’s okay. Co-living with a twin for 18 years has taught me that in the time of certain types of conflicts, mutual respect leaves everyone better off. As my dad keeps reminding me, strengthening a priceless relationship is more important than winning a minor argument. I’ve also realised that we either try to change people who are different to us, or we avoid or ignore them completely. But there is actually a lot we can learn from them. My sister, for instance, taught me to empathise with others even though I may feel like I’m logically correct. Like it’s said, empathy doesn’t require a solution, only understanding.

I look forward to entering this stage where I’ll meet with many changes – some good and some bad, both with countless lessons to learn, as well as build beautiful relationships with the ones around me. Ready. Steady. Go. It’s time to adult!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Travelling to the US – first solo trip!

Last week, my sister and I travelled around the US. This was our first ever travel trip without our parents, so it was a fulfilling journey of independence and learning (along with ridiculously crazy instances).

Here’s what we did in a nutshell:

We organised this trip primarily to tour around campuses of the universities we may be joining this fall. So our first stop was Illinois, as we wanted to see the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was located at a serene location complete with squirrels, rain drops, fresh trees, and lots and lots of greenery.

Me on your left, my twin sister Diza on your right
My sister and I in front of the UIUC campus

We also stayed in Chicago for a day and something really scary happened. We were filling the gas of our (rented) car and in America, as I learnt, we have to do everything by ourselves. How very convenient… not. So when we were adjusting the gas, the petrol splurted all over my clothes 😱. Luckily there was a gas station convenience store, and the guy let me change to a fresh set of clothes in the bathroom since we had our luggage! I used to love the smell of petrol. Now I’m traumatised…

Downtown Chicago
Also downtown Chicago

Our next stop was Seattle where we saw the University of Washington (where I’m most inclined to go). A soft pink campus complimented with a touch of blue – perfect for the princess I like to pretend I am!

The University of Washington

We also stopped at the Starbucks Headquarters. It was a luxurious private reserve where we treated ourselves with a scrumptious skillet chicken with white wine sauce and an aromatic latté.

Our last stop was New York where we saw NYU 👩‍🎓, and there are no words to describe the vibrant, buzzy lives people live over there. We were walking all day to get from place to place and that was what I loved the most about this city (Psst…I didn’t workout for a whole entire week otherwise🤫). Also, here, and in fact in all the other cities, it was lovely to encounter a lot of Mexicans from Latin America, so we got to practice our Spanish! ¿Que guay, no? (How cool, no?). The people were also incredibly kind and in general we felt safe (considering this city can get pretty unsafe if one isn’t careful).

Times Square, New York

All in all, we had the time of our lives and travelling without our parents was a not-so-bad-as-I-thought experience. I love my parents to the moon and back, but a bird must eventually leave the nest of her family, right?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Birthday Poem for a Friend

I wrote this poem for one of my loveliest friends, Gabriella. A little bit of background: it is also our last few days of high school before we all head off to universities and start new chapters of our lives 🤧

Happy Birthday Gabriella!

I want to thank you 
For everything you’ve done
From always being there 
To all the laughter and fun 

I’ve moved around countries 
To worlds that were new
It was indeed very rare 
To have found a friend like you 

You’re smart and selfless
Exceptional the way you are 
I revere all that you do 
And know you’ll go far 

I’ll miss you immensely 
These coming days 
But our friendship will hold 
Even in parting ways

Because friends are blessings 
That change our life 
I’ll never forget the difference 
You’ve made to mine 

- SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Comment down below – do you think she will like it? 🥳

Healthy Life

I remember how, a couple of years ago, I used to eat one Cadbury dairy milk bubbly and drink one sugary mixed berry Lipton iced tea every single day at my school’s tuck shop. Every lunch break, the comforting sweet aroma of the tuck shop would cave me in. I didn’t care. It was my way to feel good and get momentary pleasure.

However, now that I’m more aware, even though I indulge in a delicious chocolate Oreo milkshake every once in a while, in the long-term I realise the importance of living healthy. Just like we can keep our minds healthy by positive thinking, our bodies need the same amount of respect, and when we let ourselves go, we are not respecting ourselves. Recently, I have been taking care of my health and I see the difference it has made to my body and my mind. I no longer hit the gym feeling like it is a “task”. Instead, when I exercise, I feel happy, confident, capable. And when I eat healthy, I feel clean, refreshed, and so so good about myself.

I also figured it out from direct experience, how beneficial stretching, yoga, and meditation are for living a healthy life. They help our bodies as well as our minds (something we all need help with 😅). Each time, I feel a little more grounded, a little more spacious.

What we choose to feed our bodies, whether it’s food or thoughts, determine how our bodies respond. And I think our bodies deserve the best and it’s always on our hands to take the first step of healthy habits. After all, a healthy outside can only begin from a healthy inside, no?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️