Years and years ago, my dad decided to give away my toys when we moved from Ireland to England. I wasn’t upset because I knew I’d grown out of the phase of actual toys (I was 9/10 at the time). But I was upset that he had given away my ballerina Cindy and Ariel doll (her fins changed colour when you rubbed them).

*Fast forward to more than ten years later.* I had come home during my second year of university and I was studying in my usual manner, with my book sprawled all over the table. My parents came home and told me they had a surprise for me. My mum pulled out a box and handed it over to me without saying anything. I turned it over and staring back at me through the plastic packaging was Ariel. I was 21 at the time, and I was holding a child’s doll in my hands. And I was so happy. It wasn’t the same doll obviously and the fins didn’t change colour either. But my parents went out and got her for me and that meant the world to me. As I’m typing this during my fourth year in my university dorm room, Ariel is stowed away safely in my cupboard.

My parents always tell me they love me more than I know. I am so, so lucky to have them. And to think, they remembered something I was upset about when I was 9 years old. I don’t want kids any time soon, at least not within the next five years, anyway. But when I do eventually have a kid, I hope I can be even half as good a parent to her/him as my parents have been to me.


Cheesy Disney quote to reiterate my point:



What the Fuck is Fuckable

Heather Matarazzo

Seriously? What the fuck is fuckable?? I don’t know if I can answer that question for you, but I can share my own experience.

When I was 19 or so, I was standing in a starbucks in west hollywood with a director, talking about the upcoming film we were about to shoot. It had been a long road, but we had finally made it. Waiting for our coffee, I could see that he seemed a bit uneasy. I asked him if everything was ok. He said yes. I didn’t believe him, so I asked him again. He looked at me and said ” Heather, I”m sorry, we have to give your role to another actor. The producers don’t want you.” I didn’t understand. I had been attached to this project for two years, and now two weeks before filming, I’m being let go. I asked him why. He looked me…

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This is a topic that I’ve been trying to write about for a while now, but I haven’t quite been able to phrase my thoughts into coherent sentences. Here goes nothing:

I’m a Muslim. My parents are Muslims. My siblings are Muslim. My family is Muslim. I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood for almost all my life. I’ve never personally encountered any racism/Islamophobia towards me in all my 21 years. A lot of it also has to do with the fact that I apparently don’t look “traditionally” Muslim, as I’ve been told – whatever that means. My family speaks English at home with each other, but I also speak two other languages. My parents are doctors, I’m a third year med student and my brothers are still in school. My point is, we’re a normal family.

Over the past decade and more, the rise of terrorism has become a topic of discussion on the news and social media. After 9/11 in NYC, 7/11 in London, the Boston marathon bombings and most recently, the Ottawa shootings, Muslims worldwide were targeted because of the extremism of a small minority of so-called followers of Islam.

I’m not here to preach to you about Islam. Because frankly, I don’t even know enough about it.

One thing I do know, however, is that I’m scared. Even though I’ve never faced any prejudice, racism or Islamophobia, I’m scared to tell people about my faith and culture.

I’m scared they’ll assume the worst. I’m scared they’ll think I’m like the other minorities in Islam. That I’m an extremist. I’m not. I don’t want to hurt anyone of any race, gender, faith or sexuality. When the KKK doesn’t represent all Christians, when the Nazis don’t represent all Germans, why do these terrorists all represent all Muslims in people’s eyes?

I’m not trying to belittle what tragedies occurred. 9/11 was one of the scariest things I’ve witnessed as a kid. My own mother had just missed the train the morning of the 7/11 bombings in London – the train which blew up. I don’t mean to take importance away from what happened and who was killed and whose fault it was. That’s not what this is about.

I’m scared to walk out on the street and make it obvious in any way that I’m Muslim. I grew up in Dublin/London, which are now more culturally diverse, but I still see racism happening to people of colour and other faiths. Why is it that in 2014, we still have the same problems we did 100 years ago? Debt, racism, poverty, wars? We may have advanced in technology and science but the human psyche is still the same.

I should be able to walk down a street and not care that I’m a different colour to you. Or that I don’t have the same faith as you. Or that perhaps we’re not the same sexuality. Or of the same social class. Why then, in this day and age, do we still kill human beings over such matters? This goes for both the “Islamic” extremists and Islamophobes.

MLK Jr’s speech was revolutionary. But we haven’t learned a thing. His dream was never fulfilled. Because we’re living in what is probably his and people of colour everywhere’s nightmare.

I, too, have a dream. That one day, if an incident occurs, while I’m praying for the victims and their families, I don’t wanna have to be praying that it’s not a Muslim who did it. That’s the world I’m living in now but I hope the future generations never have to see it.

Why medicine is ruining my life:

I’ve noticed that things that should disturb me, don’t anymore. Watching a particularly gory episode of Game of Thrones or Dexter with my friends would have them cringing, but I can happily finish my meal whilst someone is being sliced open.

My skin, once as soft and smooth as a baby’s buttock, is now pock marked and riddled with spots – the aftermath of stress and midnight chocolate cravings.

My hair, once as bright and shiny as Britney Spears’ career in 1998, has become as drab, dull and dead as her career in 2007.

What’s wrong with me?

What’s wrong, is that I chose to study medicine. I know that I chose to do this profession because I wanted to make a difference. For the short time that I am on this planet, I wanted to change someone’s life for the better.

But on the journey to where I wanna be, I swear I’m going to be declared mentally unstable. I knew it was going to be stressful and hard but NOTHING in life can prepare you for this degree.

Take your forearm for example. The area from your wrist to your elbow. How much can there be to learn, right? Obviously you need to know about the bones, the muscles, the nervous supply and the arterial/venous supply. But what else? The cartilages, the physiology behind the muscles and blood supply, what happens to your arm when you injure your shoulder nerve? What happens when the pressure in your wrist builds up? Why does that happen? You’ve probably stopped reading by now and I don’t blame you.

I know it’s all gonna pay off some day, but I just hope I haven’t already been driven to the brink of insanity by then. But I’m sure if Britney can survive 2007 (never forget), then I can survive through another three years before I can finally start saving lives and making a difference.

The Fault in Our Anatomy

How do you decide whether your premature child should live or die? At what point in time does this foetus growing inside you have its own rights?

I was listening to a Radiolab podcast: 23 weeks 6 days. They interviewed Kelley Benham and her husband Tom French about the birth of their severely premature child, Juniper French. This couple had to choose whether they should let their daughter die with dignity at 23 weeks or let the NICU treat her, and possibly end up with a child who was severely disabled.

So as a parent, how do you choose?

If a baby is born before or at 22 weeks, most doctors will not intervene because the child will be too under-developed for even today’s technology and the smartest minds to save it. After 25 weeks, most doctors would intervene and try to save the child’s life. But in between that time is a “no-man’s zone” so to speak. Juniper was born in this critical time frame where no one knew what to do.
If the doctors did intervene, it would mean countless procedures on an infant, not to mention the endless medical expenses and psychological strain on Tom and Kelley’s marriage. If they intervened and Juniper did survive, there was over 80% chance that she would be disabled in some form.

Every inch of their daughter was under-developed. Treatment would be aggressive and would last several months, and even then she could a variety of problems. She could have autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, or both. She could have seizure, respiratory distress, and cardiovascular and neurological problems. Juniper was essentially a petri dish of disorders waiting to happen.

I think what scares me most about the human body is how much we still don’t know about it. I’m about to enter my third year of medicine this autumn and I thought by now I would be more confident about the body. But I still find extracts in my anatomy textbook, which are along the lines of “…the function of which is still unknown” or “…experts are unsure as to why-” and that terrifies me. Even with today’s technology – when we can perform surgeries in-utero (while the baby is still in the womb), when we have 3D ultrasound machines, when we can do genetic testing of parents to see if their child will have any severe illnesses or deformities – we still don’t know everything about the human body.

Learning about the human body is like looking into space. When my dad (cardio-vascular surgeon) talks so casually about his surgeries, it always amazes and scares me simultaneously because so much can go wrong with the body. Juniper French’s story is the proof of that. But technological advancements are being made and even though there is so much more we have yet to learn – that’s the beauty of it. There is always something new to discover and one day we may even have the cure for cancer, or ebola, or autism and advance to a future not even you or I could have envisioned.

Kelley’s original articles: http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2012/reports/juniper/

Radiolab podcast: http://www.radiolab.org/story/288733-23-weeks-6-days/

Porcelain Chamber of Secrets

Languages are a weird concept. We converse with one another in different sounds, with different words, just to say the same thing. Dialects are even weirder. Living in the south of England, my accent started off as very prim and proper, like the Queen’s English. Having moved across different continents and making friends from all over the world, my accent is now a strange, Trans-Atlantic mix.

An Egyptian friend of mine (who is fluent in Arabic) just pointed out to me how similar Arabic and Urdu are.

My spoken (modern day) Urdu is about 90% fluent, whereas my written is abysmal and I can barely read Urdu to save my life. I can read Arabic pretty well but Urdu is disgustingly hard for a foreigner/ex-pat such as myself. I can’t tell if a word is incorrect or just very archaic.

For example, if I’m reading the word that should mean “toilet”, instead of having a simple word for it, the Urdu
equivalent would be like “porcelain chamber of excretions” or some nonsense.

N.B. The word for toilet in Urdu is actually “ghusal khaana.” “Ghusal” means to wash/cleanse and “khaana” is an allotted space/chamber. Which is exactly what it means in Arabic too.

It’s strange how language can divide and unite people all at once. I myself can speak three languages pretty fluently and one semi-fluently and I love that. I think the more languages people speak, the closer we’ll get to understanding each other’s cultures.

50 shades of brown

There’s an advert on local television for some kind of face wash, which is endorsed by an elderly woman who normally does cooking shows. The slogan for the product is “ab gora hoga, Pakistan” which means, “now Pakistan will become fair.” Fair, as in skin colour.

In the western world (America, Europe, etc.) people spend thousands on getting a perfect summer tan. In the east, people spend thousands on making themselves look more fair and in their minds, more beautiful. Advertisements for soaps, face wash, lotions and powders all promise a future where you, the consumer, will have lighter skin, and you will therefore be more beautiful.

The problem is, these ads have become so frequent and not everyone realises how problematic are. One ad I came across had a “dark” girl who wasn’t noticed by a guy she liked. As soon as she tried the product and became “fair,” the guy noticed her.

You are telling people of all ages, from children right up to adults, that it is not okay to be the skin colour you are. You are telling them that if you are dark, you won’t be pretty, you won’t be beautiful, and you won’t be loved. Not only is it racism to the core, but also it’s brainwashing. Can you imagine being a child with an impressionable mind, being told by your favourite celebrity that it would be better if your skin weren’t the colour that it is? Can you imagine a child sitting in the bath that night, desperately scrubbing away at her face, trying to become fairer and more beautiful? There is an actual product range here called “Fair & Lovely.” Why does nobody see what’s wrong with that?

In the west, it’s a similar story. The advertisements may not be as blatant, but they carry the same message – in the opposite way. Why have pasty skin when you can have a bronze summer glow? Why not be tan and desired rather than pale and unattractive? I have a whole other issue with this because I’ve seen people be racist against those with darker skin, and then the SAME people churn out bundles of cash to get a “natural tan”.

We talk about equality, freedom and human rights, but we don’t practice what we preach. You tell your kids that everyone is equal and beautiful, yet you strive so hard to change the colour of your skin so you look good?

We might have abolished the hard-core slavery of the past, but I still racism in different forms around me everyday, and it disgusts me to my core.

It’s just something to think about – what the media is feeding into your head. If your child, friend, spouse or sibling comes up to you, asking to change something about themselves – before you agree or disagree or whatever, just remember to tell them that there’s nothing wrong with how they look, and as long as they are happy with themselves, that’s all that matters.

This is the video I was referring to. If you can’t understand it, and want to know what she’s saying, just message me. But you can get an idea from just the video of the brainwashing mentality I was talking about.


Every second counts

I’m scared because I have PCOS. 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.

The three main features of the condition are:

  • cysts that develop in your ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
  • your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulate)
  • having high levels of “male hormones” called androgens in your body

[If you want to know more -> http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx ]


The reason I’m writing about this today is because I’m scared. 

I’m only 20, and already my PCO is worse than my mum’s was at my age. The main problems with this “ailment” are a little mediocre. If I didn’t have it and I heard someone complain about the problems they’ve faced with it, I would probably sympathise for a minute and then move on. But it’s so different when you’re going through something yourself. It’s different because humans are selfish and we won’t know the worth of something until we’ve seen it first hand for ourselves. 

The problems that have been cropping up more are issues with my weight and the hair on my head. Because of my height, which I consider average (5 ft 6.5 in), you can’t really accurately guess my weight, which is much higher than it should be. And not that “oh I wish I was skinnier” weight, because it’s more like an actually-is-a-health-concern weight. But I can promise you, you’d never be able to tell. My weight yo-yos most of the time. I was extremely lean and extremely heavy in the space of just a year – which obviously isn’t good for my health. I lose fat from my face first so I hear “have you lost weight?” every few weeks – but it’s not the case. 

My hair got thinner as I grew up. Stress can be a cause of hair fall, which makes some sense because I’m a second year med student now. But my hair has become so frail that at one point, it was coming out in clumps like a chemotherapy patient’s hair. 

This terrified me to my core. So my mum helped me out (she’s a doctor) and I changed my shampoos, tried some serums and vitamin supplements and medicines etc. The hair fall decreased to a more normal amount, but it left me with small patches of missing hair – bald patches. So these days if you see me, I will probably have my hair tied up in some way. 

I know there are people out there who have absolutely terrible diseases and my “disease” or whatever you want to call it, seems so mediocre in comparison. (My friend here would argue that just because someone seemingly has worse problems, it doesn’t mean that mine don’t exist).

But when you don’t regularly menstruate, when your weight has increased again despite only having ONE meal a day, when your hair falls out just from tying it up – it gets frustrating. Not to mention the terrifying notion that I may not be able to have kids in the future, or that one of the cysts might turn into cancer one day. 

But, I’m still young and I have a lot more of the world to see and a lot of stupid mistakes left to make. So it’s fine. As long as I have a good support system (and I do), and my own strength and resilience. I think I’ll be fine.


Shimmering, shining, splendid.

I have a problem. 

Up until 2012, I was the type of person who needed people to like me. I craved this social validation from my peers, from strangers, from the world. At one point in high school, I told a guy I was a massive Metallica fan because he was too – and I wanted to impress him. I like Metallica now, but probably not as much as I led him to believe. 

I felt so sure that the only way people would like me is if we had at least one thing in common. And in this way, I was changing myself for society and I genuinely saw no problem in this. 

But now I’ve grown up. Or rather, I’ve come to my senses. I’ve realised that I have a perfectly fine personality. My hobbies include some cool things that I would love to share with someone who cares enough to listen. I don’t need to pretend to have seen that movie, or have heard that song, or read that book. Because you haven’t seen all the movies or heard all the songs or read all the books I have seen, heard and read. You haven’t lived in my shoes and experienced the joys and sorrows that I have. I don’t need to hide my personality and hope that you’re okay with it. 

I spent a significant few years of my adolescent life wanting to fit in and be liked by my peers. But I realised that I don’t need to change myself or my likes and dislikes just so that you’ll like me that little bit more. I have a lot to offer as well and if you don’t like that, then that’s okay. Because there will always be someone who will have read the books, heard the songs and seen the movies I have seen. There will always be someone who has lived in the same country, eaten the same food and spoken the same languages I have.

And if there isn’t? That’s fine too. We can open our minds with the help of these wonderful people, to these new experiences and in doing that, we’ll see a whole new world.