New Year. New Feels.

Wrapping up 2021, here are some reflections and 4 big learnings from this year:

Life is way too short to dream small. Walt Disney famously said that all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. When we dream big about the person we wish to become, we may actually end up surprising ourselves. Until we do, we have no idea what we’re capable of. Writing a book has been one of the most enriching experiences I have endured so far, and having Teenage Chronicles published makes me feel tremendously grateful. People may have their opinions, and circumstances may occasionally be hard. But if you’re on to something big, carry it out with pride. Dream big because no one else is daring to!

Love people more than they deserve. You never know how much time you have left with someone. So if you appreciate someone in your life, let them know you care. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie agrees that love stands as the only act that gives life meaning. In the end, not all relationships will remain within our control as some naturally fade away. It’s the memories we make with the people we love that matter. Make loads, so that you can treasure them forever.

Take risks. Sometimes it is okay to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Skydiving has been an experience that will always be etched in my memories. I overcame my fear of speed and heights (and also felt like Superwoman 🙈). Some of the other brave things I did this year is public speaking for an “Encourage a Young Writer Day”event, riding really fast on my horse Jack, and walking away from something that hurt me. I also tried my first OYSTER this Christmas.

Have an open mind. My travel journies this year have taught me to be appreciative of all cultures. Having an open mind helps us form harmonious relationships with whoever we meet, and there are so many things I learned from others who look and live quite differently from me. Anyone who has ever been to Serbia would agree that kindness defines the “Serbs”. You can talk to anyone on the street and they will gladly help you with a warm smile. Kindness is indeed magic, right?

On that note, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blissful New Year to come. Less bitter, more glitter!

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Christmas Animated Gif | Merry christmas animation, Merry christmas gif, Christmas  animated gif

Happy Birthday Dad

Happy Almost-Weekend!

One day could never be enough to honour how special my dad is to me, but here is a poem I wrote for his 45th birthday:

You are the one
Who inspires me everyday
With countless number of things
In every possible way

You are a true genius
So sophisticated and wise
Empathetic and warm
With invaluable advice

The love people have for you
Along with the respect
I always ask myself
What makes you this perfect

Your intellectual charm
That hits everyone you meet
Your ability to leave a spark
With every room you leave

You shine with pride
After everything I do
I will never feel alone
Because I know I have you

When I lose all hope
Feeling sad and down
You are always there
To hear me out

Thank you for being
The number one dad
Better than any hero
Even super man!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Another Travel Journey!

UAE had its national holidays for 4 days this December, so my family and I decided to travel to Armenia – a city of endless charms. Armenia has a rich culture and history, and the two places I visited: Yerevan (the capital city) and Tsaghkadzor (a town) completely have my heart!

In Yerevan, this time of the year is fall, so it was lovely seeing maple leaves everywhere. The last time I experienced fall was in Boston, so the comforting aura of the amber leaves falling off every tree made it extremely peaceful and enchanting.

Me being mesmerised by Autumn 🍂

My tour guide Rosiana was the sweetest soul, and I already miss her. She made us try the most divine Armenian food and showed us around the city’s main attractions.

That’s Rosiana and me on the left
Armenian Food

Then we headed to Tsaghkadzor, a wintery wonderland. I think I might have celebrated an early Christmas with the gorgeous pine trees and slushy snow!

Got some lovely shots!

We also saw the Temple of Garni which was built to the sun god Mithra (Mihr), who is referred to as the deity of light and truth in ancient Armenian mythology. As well as the Symphony of Stones which is a majestic natural monument formed as a result of the collapse of volcanic rocks.

The Symphony of Stones
Temple of Garni
Dinner with some lovely Armenian people

A short summary video (of Yerevan):

As always, travelling is one of the most beautiful ways to grow, experience, and enjoy. I am incredibly grateful for this trip, lots to see and learn!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

The Power of Self Belief

Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “believe you can and you’re halfway there”.

Self confidence is all about trusting our abilities and believing that we can do what we set our minds to. I’d say I am quite an ambitious person and am grateful for all my achievements – big or small. However, self-belief is also about thinking that our ideas, feelings, and opinions have worth. Here, I find that I often lack belief in my intelligence and always seem to worry about receiving validation and encouragement from other people.

A couple of days ago at school, in English class, we were talking about current global issues. And my teacher said how veganism is the next “global issue” and how it is completely pointless and stupid. This man had zero respect for people like me who are trying to make a lifestyle change – even though I’m not entirely vegan, I hold an incredible amount of respect for people who are. I think it wasn’t okay for him to be so disrespectful, leaving love and ethics aside. I believe that animal agriculture is having a huge impact on our planet and no teacher should shame someone’s lifestyle like that for whatever reasons they may hold. All day after, I kept wondering why I couldn’t take a stand and voice my opinion. And one of the biggest reasons is that I was in a class full of non-vegetarians who would most certainly attack me if I said anything.

Believing in ourselves affects everything we do. And like everything else in life, it all starts with our mindset – the conversations we have with ourselves and the messages we choose to believe in. If we are not confident enough, we will break like a twig the first time we are placed in an uncomfortable situation. But here’s the truth – there will always be several obstacles that will cast doubt on our competences. The only way to get through them is to believe in ourselves. This self-assurance stems from within, when you find your inner strength and take the leap when you need to. I only wish I had!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Hope and Disappointment

Hope is great, but it comes with a downside—disappointment. When we’re hit with this feeling after being hopeful, it hurts. There is really no way around it. The more time we spend fantasizing about how amazing it would be to win, the greater our disappointment is likely to be when we lose.

However, disappointment is a part of life. In relationships, schools, things, and in ourselves. Ever since I was little, I have expected my relationships with friends to go a certain way. However, they didn’t always steer in that direction. At one point, I was tired of being let down by the people I care about. Sometimes, it can even be hard to tell if we should give our friend another chance or try to move on – is it even them or is it us? Over time though, I’ve realised how in real life, it is rare to find one person who will fit all the “boxes” we expect the people around us to fill, and for this it is important to know what to expect from people. For example, if we know we have a fake friend, we may choose not to rely on them for plans to hang out. Instead, we could decide to see them spontaneously or with a group of people, so the consequences of them not showing up aren’t severe (and heartbreaking!).

Similarly with things, we must remind ourselves that if we buy into the myths of perfection, we will end up hurting ourselves and the people in our lives. Myths that we pick up from movies, songs, and simply what the world or Instagram highlight reels are telling us will often clash with reality. Instead, we can avoid the stress and suffering by accepting that life isn’t meant to be perfect, and so we don’t have to be perfect. For this I have learnt to adjust my expectations a little bit – what do I think is realistically possible to achieve with what I have? This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dream big. But if we do, we need to have a healthy relationship with failure and setbacks. Instead, I like to dream big while taking tiny steps.

Also, when I am disappointed with how a situation turns out, I ask myself: Will this matter in 2 years? Or even 2 weeks? So many times I have lost in petty class quizzes/competitions and felt like a complete loser. But asking myself the above questions is the one thing that has helped me greatly to not make mountains out of molehills and instantly feel better.

All in all, disappointment is unnerving because it reminds us that no matter how hard we try, we can never control other people or external circumstances. The good news is that we have the power to control ourselves! Our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions. So, when reality doesn’t match your picture of what could have been, choose to look for beauty in the rubble. Choose optimism.

-SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Life: a series of spontaneous changes

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” — Lao Tzu

I have noticed how suffering occurs when we desire life to be perfect. Somehow, when we expect life to go according to our thoughts and it doesn’t, sorrow ensues. We become resistant.

However, in Buddhism one of the Four Noble Truths is that pain exists, but suffering is optional. We need to work with human nature instead of trying to fight against it as Suffering = Pain x Resistance. The more we resist negative emotions, the more we will suffer and the only option left then is to accept them with every ounce of courage.

It is also interesting to think about how fleeting good experiences should make you less concerned about when they will end, and more grateful of them while they last. Life’s pleasant times must be embraced with wide arms, and that is why I celebrate every time I get a good score on a test, have a meaningful conversation with someone important, make time for my hobbies like growing my flower garden, (clear out my mailbox!), in other words: all my little victories.

Next, because everything is temporary, even horrible situations and feelings are. Remembering that everything is temporary allows me to experience uncomfortable emotions without allowing them to overwhelm me. This is because I know I won’t be feeling this way forever. Just as the good times cannot last forever, neither can the bad.

It is frustrating because we are like a tiny boat being tossed around in a storm at sea. However, the most we can do is hang on and wait for it to pass, so we can emerge unscathed. I see life as a box of endless muddles, but the key is to not get too attached but learn to go with the natural flow.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Why do we try to be like others?

The feeling inside us to be like others is instilled from a very early stage of our lives because of the society we live in. When we are little, playing in the park in the playground, we first begin to notice the differences between ourselves and other children, and we start to mirror the behavior of a dominant group in order to be accepted by them. This mimicry continues into school, high school, and all the way into adulthood, when we unintentionally or unconsciously try to be like others.

Some of us, however, are unable or unwilling to sandpaper ourselves down in order to fit within society’s expectations. The more I delve into this, the more I believe there is a little unbelonging in all of us. We spend our lives attempting to disguise it, but if you scratch the surface of yourself, you will find that it is who you are and what makes you, you. I have always tried to fit in with the people around me at school, even if it didn’t bring me any joy. After a while, I realised I am my own kind of person, and will never be them. The right people who appreciate the true me have always found a way to be in my life.

Perhaps it would be empowering to embrace our differences, rather than fear them. Instead of living our lives in monochrome, it may be more fulfilling to search for the variance and colours, and we can then allow ourselves to be accepted for who we truly are – not for the fragments of our characters we allow people to see. The view from this side can turn out to be the most interesting we ever imagined, and we could very well discover that unbelonging is actually a belonging all of its own.

Feeling accepted means you are part of something, you belong, you have a tribe – and oh that feels good! On the other hand, when we’re not liked, it’s rejection, exclusion, we feel different and weird – and that feels… not too great! However, the less you try to be like others, the happier you will be with yourself. After a while, all the fitting in gets simply exhausting. You find beauty in being yourself. So, why try to fit in when you were born to stand out? Embrace your individuality and take pride in who you are.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

The Beauty of Traveling

After a stressful period of school and work, we all needed an escape. My family and I have always been spontaneous when it comes to traveling. This time, we flew off to Serbia and Albania, and I am beyond grateful for this lovely trip. (Scroll down to see some pictures of me and the place!) But generally speaking, here are some things I adore about traveling…

Traveling is one of the best things we can possibly do for our mental health every now and then. After studying or working for days and months, we all deserve a break to disconnect and recharge. For me, visiting a foreign place away from the things I am used to and see every single day definitely helps me unwind and puts my mind in the right mental state.

Traveling also exposes me to new things. When we travel, we step outside our comfort zones, for one thing. When you meet someone new, whether it’s in another town nearby or in a city halfway around the world, they are also meeting you. And just as you become exposed to new foods, cultures, languages, traditions, and so on and so forth, they also get a taste of yours. It’s a beautiful process of connecting and exchanging. When I was in Belgrade (Serbia), we had lunch with a Serbian guy who enlightened us with some really fascinating things about Serbia, and even recited to me the Serbian alphabets, haha! Talking to strangers and getting a taste of new cultures (and foods!) is an incredible thing that stretches the boundaries of our minds as we explore the things we never knew about. I now know that the word “Vampire” is actually Serbian. And Tirana, the capital of Albania, is one of the only capitals without a McDonalds!

Lastly, traveling indeed is the best form of education that could never be learnt by watching TV or by reading any school textbook. Almost every one of us would agree that life’s real education happens outside our walls. Traveling teaches us history, economy, geography, sociology and so many different things. Bookish knowledge teaches us theoretical concepts worth knowing. However, traveling helps us gather a deeper wisdom as we comprehend real life experiences and knowledge, and discover different ways of understanding life – ways that help us uncover the truth about the nuances of this world.

That being said, tell me in the comments below: what is your favorite thing about traveling?

The Countryside
Me trying to be a Princess at Downtown Novi Sad, Serbia!
The Beach of Vlorë, Albania
The Albanian Riviera

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Everything in life has something to teach

Do you ever feel hesitant in forming new friendships? No one gets to know the real you? How could they? They’d never get it. And what’s the point? Because everyone who enters your life leaves in the end anyway…

Friendships are one of the most important pillars in our life. They form our support system – a beautiful sanctuary where we can share good times and bad times, and feel loved and understood. A place where we feel like we are accepted and appreciated.

Or at least they should feel like that.

If you are someone like me, however, who has questioned the questions above, I often think to myself: why do some people come into my life when they are going to leave anyway? It’s a heart wrenching feeling. It makes me feel like anyone who comes too close will most probably abandon me one day. Very soon. So why get my hopes up in the first place? Over time, though, a bitter truth I learnt is that not everyone who comes into my life is meant to stay in it forever. Some friendships naturally grow apart, and that’s life for us.

One thing this taught me is how to appreciate love even more. Once we learn that relationships may be temporary, we start to appreciate the people around us more, we want to let them know how we feel, and how much we care about them while we still have the chance to. I realised the importance of making memories worth remembering with every friend I make in my life.

When people leave or friendships fade (emotionally or physically), we shouldn’t delve into it, but rather into the lessons they teach us. Unless you’re doing something seriously wrong that pushes the people you love away (which is a separate discussion for some other time), you must remember that this happens not because you aren’t worthy of lovely friends or because you don’t deserve to have good things in life, it’s because everything in life is unpredictable and so are people. It is good to have people in your life. It is better when they make the choice of sticking with you in rain and shine. However, when the time comes and they decide to go, don’t beg them to stay. Being sad about it will be the human thing to do, but in the end, above all things, be grateful for the lessons they taught and brought into your life. They were once everything you ever wanted. They were once your happiness. Don’t allow them to be the reason you start to look down on yourself – someone you will always have no matter what.

Be of good cheer…because everything happens for a reason.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️