Paki Yuppie: What It Means to be a Young Urban Professional in Pakistan

It means you wake up warm on cold winter mornings, and whine about how cold the bathroom tiles feel beneath your feet. It means your cook probably makes you breakfast, while you strategically shower at the time when you know hot water will be available. It means you dress to impress, whether that means twirling a scarf around your turtleneck, or flicking on some eyeliner. It means you probably own a pair of loafers. It means you spend your mornings in the office trying to wake yourself up, your days running around trying to complete your projects, your evenings breathing in relief through your cigarette, and your nights in bed with Downton Abbey, or Game of Thrones, or Star Plus dramas.

It means you vaguely discuss politics – broad terms, quick generalizations, general acceptance of failure – while you calculate sales figures, or browse Khaadi online. It means you are quick to joke about how Pakistan is a failure, and have no real concrete idea of how to fix it. It means you know you are privileged – everyone’s been telling you that your whole life. It means you are kind to those who aren’t whenever they knock at your car window at a red light. It means you love traditional clothing and food, speak of them fondly, but always as “traditional”.

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It means that you live with your parents, usually even if you’re married, and don’t pay rent. It means that you worry about how you didn’t buy any new clothes this season. It means you crib about rishta auntie culture, but you probably had an arranged marriage. It means you’re ambitious about something – you need to make something of yourself, otherwise what’s the point of you being so privileged, so educated, so well-groomed? It means maybe you went abroad to study and are now back in your home country, wishing you could have just stayed in London. If you’re lucky, it means when someone compliments you on your clothing you can reference some loving aunt from abroad who sends you Zara, or H&M, or Forever 21.

For many of us, it means we have a father or an uncle in the army, and someone or the other in the police, customs, foreign ministry. It means, of course they would never be corrupt, but they can help you out if you’re in some kind of big fix. It means we make promises that we don’t keep and then joke our way around them. It means we have “first world problems” that we joke about openly. It means the girls are always worried about gaining weight and the guys are always worried about their egos. It means we enjoy things like book launches, art exhibitions, qawwali nights and hand embroidery. It means we plan weddings months in advance, and often shy away from vibrant colors, favoring pale pinks, whites, reds for an “elegant look”.

It means we hesitate to take chances. It means we use words like dynamic and innovation. It means we casually reference the work trip to Thailand, and the summer our parents took us to Europe. It means we are upset over Shia killings, and attacks on schools, and donate money to cancer research, and participate in candlelight vigils, and talk of freedom of right and freedom of expression and freedom of belief and just a lot about freedom – all the time. And then we say, ‘but our culture…’, ‘but our religion…’, ‘but our families…’. It means we are fond of the disclaimer. Fond of not feeling too much, not saying too much, not meaning too much – or rather, not saying, feeling or meaning the wrong thing. It means sometimes we stand up for our values, but mostly, we’ve got other things to do. It means we’re not heartless, we’ve just got a lot on our plates.

It means we probably would leave the country if we could, but we’d probably come back in 10-15 years. It means we say we know “hardship” but we don’t know hunger. It means we are grateful, but we have probably never begged. It means we know of faith, but we struggle to feel it. It means we yearn with all our hearts for our country to get back on its feet, but we also yearn for 3G internet services. It means we spend money to go watch movies in cinemas and eat nachos, but nothing makes us happier than a bowl of well-cooked biryani in our dining rooms.

It means we have two sitting rooms – one for the guests and one for ourselves. It means we have multiple sets of china – some for the guests and some for ourselves. It means we have servants – staff, if you will – to wash our cars and cook our food and clean our houses, sometimes even to raise our children. It means we are kind to these servants, but get upset if they disrespect us.

It means we have egos. It means we are Pakistani. It means we are young. It means we are flawed and perfect in our own ways. It means we can evolve, we will evolve, we have evolved. It means we are you, you are us, we will always be the same and yet different. It means nothing, and it means everything. We are different, and we are the same. We are a colorful mosaic of insecurities and talent.

It means we are human.

[This post was written after a conversation with a Kazakh friend of mine, where we decided to write and tell each other what daily life was like in our respective countries, sharing things that aren’t traditionally on the news or in books.]

How I Learned the Gratitude Game in 2014

What’s wrong with my life?

Let’s see. I’m overweight – not enough to threaten my health, or so that I can’t find clothes my size at the department store, but enough to make me pull at the stomach of my shirt before I sit down, enough so that I would rather perch on the arm of a sofa than try to squeeze in with my friend, enough so that I spiral back and forth between self-doubt and self-confidence.

There’s also that pesky problem that concerns my parents – the way they just won’t let go. The fact that I’m an adult now barely seems to register with them, unless of course I need to do something I’d rather not. Then, all of a sudden, it’s a lesson and mandatory because I need to act my age.

If we’re really starting to make a list, then how could I forgot the best friend that suddenly pulled a Ephialtes (the guy who betrayed the Spartans) in my last year of university? And the guy that said he loved me but then also somehow loved that beautiful girl with a name more delicate and flowery than anything you can ring up at a Cath Kidston counter?

What’s my point here? Don’t we all have stories like this? True sorrows we save up in our hearts and only share when we feel a real connection with someone, small wounds we tend to while secretly “hearting” the emotional quotes with stars for backgrounds on Tumblr.

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Almost 18 months ago, I ran into a group of people on Facebook (I got lucky, because the group only temporarily became open to all those winning – no that’s not a typo – to join.) and started reading their stories. I was surprised how open they were about their lives, sharing their own stories and those of their families. And why did they do this? To find gratitude, and share what they could of it. The group had a single mandate – be as grateful as possible, for as many things as possible, as often as possible. I was surprised as I read through stories of children struggling in school, husbands helping with the yard work, office politics and more – these men and women of all ages struggled with real lives, real problems – nothing dramatized and difficult to relate to. These were lives just like mine. These were men and women who had chosen strength in the face of difficulty and gratefulness during times of ease.

I was skeptical at first, of how this could really help me. Would it make any difference for me to start posting in this group? Would this improve my life in any way?

Eighteen months of irregular posting (sometimes every day for a month, and sometimes not for 2 months) and I stand here a stronger woman. It wasn’t so much the act of logging into Facebook and posting on a daily basis. It was the effort to come up with something to be grateful for. Some days it was easy – thank you for my new job. Grateful for the sale at Mango – 50% off on sunnies – YAY!  And some days it sucked – what the hell was I supposed to be grateful for when it felt (insert dramatic music here) like God was taking everything from me? Whatever harsh lesson I was supposed to learn, I would think, I’ve learned it. Now can you just stop, God? 

But that effort – to claw out of the negativity – helped me rebuild myself after suffering heavy blows. The community responded beautifully. I made friends with women three times my age, and women from different cultures, races, lifestyles. Mothers, wives, daughters – the friends I made, I hold close to my heart now. I know their children’s names, and wish them luck during their trials. They’ve done the same for me. I hope to continue doing the same for them.

I guess it’s true what they say – you control how you feel about the world. You control how you react to things and how much something can hurt you. Developing a realistic but positive outlook is one of the healthiest changes I’ve made in 2014, a year that proved to be more of a roller coaster ride than I had originally bargained for. Through the highs, stating my gratitude helped me ground myself and realize the value of what I had, whether it was feeling pretty with my new makeup, making a new friend, or graduating with a great GPA. Through the lows, forcing gratitude taught me that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if the light is from a crappy 60-watt bulb that’s flickering madly.

Through these incredible women I’ve had the chance to connect with, I realized how it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do – what matters is that we’re all human, and we all go through highs and lows. Conquering our lows? That’s where the game’s at.

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The Cycle of Desi Pasta

It’s not just food, it’s a way of life….literally.
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Remember that time when you visited an Italian restaurant that just opened new in town? Did you all of a sudden find yourself to be a ‘connoisseur’ of this very elegant dish, falling in love with every bite, endeavoring to get every bit of creaminess stuffed inside each pasta. The pasta itself cloaked in fresh tomato sauce, and perfectly balanced basil sauce. And that smell, that made you feel like Marco polo himself came to serve you this dish ..… *Sigh*

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Only did you know that this dish will make its warm place in the cabinets of every Desi’s kitchen. With 2 table spoons of Desi, one tea spoon of Chatkhara and a whole a lot of Awesomeness, it now has the pleasure to be altered in more ways than ever imagined,
For all the pasta lovers out there, you must have tried these dishes below.

THE MID-NIGHT SNACK

While you looked at the mirror all day long and complained about your recent weight gain, we all know none of that matters anymore when its past twelve. All you need to worry about right now is that if there is any of that left-over curry from dinner that you could use as sauce for your pasta. HEAVENLY! I mean, it’s okay because you promise you’ll start dieting from tomorrow… definitely

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THE MASTER-CHEF DISH

You add the first thing that you get your hands on in the collection of your kitchen’s “Masala Cabinet”. You’re really proud to apply things that you overheard on one of the episodes of Master Chef Australia, such as “A hint of acidity in the dish realy brings out the flavor”. To top it off, you’ve sprinked chat masala on top. When you plate up your dish you feel like you just won the Master chef competition 2014.

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THE ATTENTION SEEKING CHEF

So some of your friends are over for Dinner, and have they tried your Famous Penne Pasta? Yes, I know its amazing. You’re out of words? Well some would say its like bits of heaven in your mouth.

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THE BINGE EATER

Specially during Exam times. Everyone knows that the rate of you chewing food is directly propotional to the intake of knowledge, …… of course.

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THE DESERT JUNKIE

Now lets end this on a ‘Sweet note’, shall we?
A reticunni pasta salad with well cut combination of fruits and a topping of Mayonaisse. Something worth trying!

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What Nobody Tells You About Your First Job

Growing up is such a big deal. You’re graduating (hurray!), you’ve landed your first job (hurray!) and now you’re well on your way to joining that Eligible for Marriage list (hurray?) that rishta aunties are always updating.

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And while there will be plenty of people with celebratory smiles (and hopefully, cake) and words of praise, there are some facts you need to get straight before work life completely surprises you. This is a list of just some of the ones I’ve managed to figure out (thanks for the heads up, everyone in my life).

1. People at the office are not all the same age as you.

We’re used to environments where everyone around us is relatively the same age. School, internships, even extra curriculars – we are, essentially, always surrounded by our peers. When you start working though, there’s people from all walks of life and all age groups around you. That girl that looks 25 might just be 36 and married, with two babies. (Bravo for aging well!) That guy with the greying hair and darker skin may be from a small rural town, or of a different ethnicity, or even just a year older than you are. Remember to be mindful of this, especially if you grew up surrounded by people more or less like you. Not everyone has the same color, race, religious background, and financial status – of course you knew that, but it’s easy to let it slip so far back in your mind that you say something silly.

2. It’ll take a while before you can actually start calling it “the office”. 

You won’t just belong right away. Having a fancy title and getting a handsome starting salary doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Being accepted in the workplace takes time and effort. Remember to represent yourself – as clearly as you can – don’t make promises you can’t keep, and just work hard. Everyone respects the ability to do your job well, and a friendly demeanor never hurt either. Respect those who have been there before you for that simple fact: they’ve been around longer than you have.

3. Prioritize: big presentation comes before seeing if the copy machine can scan your hand.

No, this is not the same as the lecture your parents give you about balancing friends and shopping with work and family time. This is about work – and how you need to make sure that out of all of your tasks for the day, the most pressed-for-time ones get done first. Often, we have a tendency to push big tasks towards the end of the day, doing smaller, easier things first. That’s fine if you know you’ll buckle down towards the big task at the end, but that’s a lot harder to do than say. So make sure the work that you’ll be evaluated on, that reflects directly on you, is done on time, and done well.

4. There is no monster under your office desk.

You will mess up. This will happen. Nobody will eat you. (Hopefully.) You may be chastised or even reprimanded, but don’t take it to heart. Learn from it and use it as a reminder to double check (perhaps before you email the wrong person, or when in a rush, put down the wrong statistic) yourself. Things happen and your job will go on – apologize when you’re wrong, and pick yourself up. This is only the start of your career, and you’re in this for the long run.

Source: www.ragan.com
Source: http://www.ragan.com

What did you learn at your first job?

Appreciating an Idea Whose Time Has Come

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I’m an unapologetic foodie and I take great pride in being born a Pakistani because everywhere I go in this country I can always find people to share my passion for food with. When it comes to food I crave variety, which is why trying new things and eating out are regular past times, the only obstacles being the inconvenience of going out at whim and the shrinking finances. So, if you take someone like me and introduce them to virtual festivals by foodpanda it is like an idea that couldn’t have come any sooner.

Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals show that things have really moved forward in this digital age. Who would have thought that we’d be having online food festivals offering both good food and good prices? It’s actually an ingenious idea taking foodpanda’s competitive advantage even further. One significant aspect of this festival, and one of the reasons the food outlets have probably jumped at the idea, is that even if someone wasn’t thinking of ordering out, the big discounts worked as a huge motivation to participate, regardless. I don’t believe something like this has been done before in Pakistan. Food festivals had been generally well received when the idea came out a few years back, but naturally going to an actual food festival requires you to put in quite a lot of time and effort to get to the food compared to a participation  from home with your mobile or computer.

My Honest Opinion:

Digital is the way to go in most cases and it shouldn’t come as surprise if competitors looking at the potential of this idea  come up with festivals of their own to outdo these festivals foodpanda have managed to pull off. Like I mentioned above, it’s almost a win-win situation where the discounts have the ability to convince a huge part of your target audience. I as a university student, living in hostel, who hasn’t warmed up to the idea of ordering online, jumped at discovering these offers. These festivals, no doubt  provide companies with publicity and business however, it multiplies chances of customer retention and forming new customer base. Since this concept of food festivals is relatively new there is more we can anticipate in future. For example a burger festival or a desert festival etc.

My recommendation:

  • The only thing I would change would be increasing the emphasis on marketing these festivals. Announce the date for these festivals at least a week in advance and then create a social media campaign. This campaign would consist of content that would go viral getting more and more people interested not only in the campaign but in foodpanda itself sort of like a simultaneous PR campaign. In short, foodpanda can use these festivals to increase consumer numbers.
  • Another addition to these festivals could be short online quizzes and trivia leading up to the festival date offering winners free meals at the festival, this way there is even more building up of interest and hype for these festivals.
Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals are a unique idea with a lot of potential. Observing the response and gaining more consumer insight can help foodpanda decide the kind of festivals it wants to conduct and how they can get maximum audience involvement for their benefit. It’s definitely a pretty good deal.

Reading & Eating – A Match Made in Heaven

unnamedReading and eating makes a heavenly combination. Some bookworms at foodpanda, the leading online food ordering marketplace, figured out a way to make it as little messy as possible. They listed down food items that give a reader more accessibility and less discomfort while eating. If you are an avid reader, this friendly little piece of art will save lots of food stains on your books.

Meanwhile you decide what to eat next, here are some interesting facts for your reading:

  1. Biryani: Originates from Persia and took a while before it arrived in India.
  2. Chocolates: One of the famous potato chip brands sells chips dipped in milk chocolate.
  3. Lasagna: It can be cooked in a dish washer!
  4. Penne pasta: Ridges in pasta allows it to hold more sauce.
  5. Ice-cream: People ate ice-creams to celebrate ending of World War II.
  6. Pizza: Scottish people normally deep-fry their pizzas.
  7. Cookies: Standard amount of dough for one cookie can hold 50 chocolate chips.
  8. Soup: Chinese meals always begin with soups.
  9. French Fries: There is a museum in Belgium dedicated to French fries.
  10. Burgers:  At one point in history, burgers were considered to be renamed as ‘liberty sandwiches’.
  11. Pop corns: In some parts of the world, microwaves are sold with a pop-corn control button.

For the love of food…

With so much talent in Pakistan, it’s no wonder so many new businesses are springing up every day. From fashion to computer science, to food – it seems that every industry has got a budding new name to boast, with motivated youths giving it their all to make it in the business world. I’ll be talking about some of these businesses and how I think they’re enabling the youth to step up and take charge in changing Pakistan. One of these up-and-comers that I personally enjoy is foodpanda, an-order-food-right-from-your-smartphone app. I’m not going to elaborate on how awesome that is, because it’s pretty obvious. Here’s a fun survey of what people are eating in Pakistan.

Other fun facts to keep in mind are that foodpanda has already received over 15,000 food orders in the first quarter of this year, and that they’re playing a huge part in the ‘Mobile First’ business trend that’s emerging in the developing world.

How do you think innovative business upstarts affect the economy and the daily lives of citizens, either in Pakistan or other countries? Have you heard of a new business that you’d like to share?

Accept me please! – The Senior Year #College #Survival #Guide: Grad School Edition

This is part 2 of my series The Senior Year College Survival Guide. To see part 1, the Friends Edition, click here.

Today’s topic: Being worth something.

That’s right. Say hello to adulthood. You’re anywhere from 21 to 23 when you’re graduating from your Bachelors, and it’s about time you put the big boy (or girl) pants on, because it’s time to get into grad school, and while that girl from the fancy private school is Instagramming every second of her life at Harvard, and your neighbor’s car has a shiny UPenn bumper sticker on it, it’s time to *gulp* face those applications.

It’s your final year in this safe little shell that has become your Bachelors degree. Now, you need to pursue higher interests. Those grad school you’re looking at – somewhat ambitiously, let’s be honest – ask about research objectives, passions, extra-curriculars and pesky standardized tests. All that fine print makes your eyes water, and makes you question yourself. More than one final year BA student has been found whispering to themselves, “Do I even HAVE a passion? Why am I passionate about [insert subject here]?” It’s times like these that you need The Official Survival Toolkit.

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  1. Mentors to guide you through the tricky process.

    With every grad school having its own dedicated webpage, and some with their own Facebook pages (hello, education 2.0) with unique requirements, confusing UIs and even a complete lack of information (why won’t they just tell you what GRE score you need?), applying for a future as a graduate student is a daunting task. Make sure you ask a professor, an older sibling, or even an experienced friend to guide you through the finer points in the application process. It always helps to have someone there to send you an extra reminder, to read through your personal statements, and help edit that resume.

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  2. Friends to take you out for a stress-relieving meal.

    Ah, friends –  those lovely people who, at this point in your life are either getting married, or going to grad school with you, or taking some time to “find themselves”. They’re the ones that will listen to you whine about your hectic schedule, pencil you in for that much-needed mani-pedi or take you out when you’re at the brink of nervous collapse. Rely on your friends because they know you – and sometimes that’s exactly what you need for your applications, a third-person perspective. You may not be able to identify your best qualities off the top of your head, or know how to phrase mention of your volunteer work, but they’ve shared those experiences with you and can help you through it.

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  3. The ability to pick yourself back up again, from admittedly minor, but ego-shattering realizations that your GPA just isn’t going to cut it.

    This one’s crucial, folks. There comes a time in every application process where the applicant faces serious self-doubt. Is my GPA good enough? Have I done enough community work? Am I clear about my research goals? Am I good enough? This kind of thinking can be toxic, and the worrying and constant stress are likely to make you feel low. Just remember that climbing every mountain is tough, but if you make it to the top, the view can be exhilarating.

 

The Senior Year #College Survival Guide – #Friends Edition

Sometimes, life seems like you’re at the end of a long race – you’ve been performing more or less consistently so far, and now there’s that last stretch. You can see the finish line. You can practically feel the finish line, but no matter how fast you seem to be running, you can’t seem to get there. It’s like trying to write than important email on the last 2% of your smartphone’s battery. Or, if you’re in my situation, it’s like trying to graduate college.

Here I am in my 8th semester, and it’s as I’m in a movie theater watching a play-by-play of every decision I’ve made over the last four years. Remember that time you backed down from an opportunity? Remember that time you bungled up something that could have been great for you? That time you spoke harsh words when perhaps being kind would have been the right thing to do? Well, if you’ve ever been a college senior, I’m sure you have. With graduation just t-30 seconds away, the pressure of applying to jobs or grad school mounting with every passing day, and the rush of recommendation letters, constant self-assessment and bingeing on comfort foods, a college senior’s life is like a mash-up of Survivor and Girls.

Source: Tumblr
Source: Tumblr

Well this is a survival guide, written by yours truly, based on experience, my oh-so-profound 21-year-old wisdom, and some old fashioned advice from my mum.

Start spending time with the right people.

College is 4 years. That’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of “Crap, this assignment is due tomorrow!” and “Can you please, PLEASE run down to the store to get this printed?” and “Anyone wanna grab some food tonight?” and that’s without all the social media interaction. It’s four years of making connections, whether those grow into deep bonds of friendship, or that strange phenomena known as the “frenemy”. In all that time, you’re bound to have a few people around you that just inevitably take away from the quality of life you could be living. Whether it’s the girl who is always around with a sweet smile when she needs something (and then gone the second she gets it), or that guy who always wants to copy your assignment, or anyone else for that matter – it’s time to make some cuts.

tumblr_n43eh7FaIi1twcgkfo1_500Streamline your life so that the people you have around you are those that you truly cherish, and who love, appreciate and support you. This does not mean that they’ve never let you down in the past, and this does not mean that you guys have “omg never had a fight, like ever”. What this does mean is that the people you surround yourself with are positive – they want good things for you and they want good things for themselves. The phrase “a man is known by the company he keeps” is so well-known for a reason. Think about what qualities you want to develop in yourself, and who can help you grow in that direction. If you’re surrounded by hard-working, goal-oriented almost-adults, chances are you’ll be able to focus more clearly on your goals as well.

It’s important here to remember that moderation is essential. The point of this post is not to tell you to ditch your friends ASAP because they don’t have the same outlook on life as you do. If you’re an aspiring journalist and you’re friends with a future physician, a painter, a professional sports player, that’s even better! Diversity is important. What’s the essential common denominator should be is the will to develop and grow, and to explore exciting new avenues in life.

 Sometimes, a friendship is vital because even though you have different goals and plans for the future, you’re both on the same level when it comes to supporting each other and giving each other honest feedback. Whether it’s “Yes, you look bad in that skirt.” or “You probably didn’t get the internship because you were out partying instead of preparing for your interview.” having someone around you who will be honest with you is key.

This is something I’ve been learning in the last few weeks. I’ve spent time with people who excite me to be better, to try harder, and to share my dreams – people I admire because of their drive, their skill, or even just their patience and kindness. I’ve cut down on wasted time here and there, and focused on my work and myself, and been able to focus on quality time with my friends, rather than quantity, and it has done me a world of good. At the end of the day, the strong meaningful friendships you build will be worth so much more than any popularity contest ever was.

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God, Drugs and Thugs – My Messy Beautiful

Zainab Khawaja:

This story is so inspirational. I am proud of everyone, whoever they are and wherever they are in the world, who has had the strength to recognize their weaknesses and make an effort to fight back against them. Whether it’s drug addiction or other challenges, everyone has weaknesses and to overcome them, we need great courage. That’s something that not everyone can find and even when we do find it, it takes a great amount of self awareness (which often comes with time and at great cost)and strength to stick to our goal of improving ourselves.

As Anais Nin once said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

I wanted to share this story on my blog because there’s so much out there for each of us to achieve in our lives and we can, if only we find some courage.

Originally posted on God, Drugs and Thugs:

4e67614cfe13a73a2b81c15780fa8395I read something this morning that took me back 5 years, 9 months and 20 days – to a moment which is never too far from my consciousness. As I approach my sixth year clean and sober, the image burned into my mind on June 17th, 2008, doesn’t haunt me like it once did. That skeletal frame, covered with bruises and track marks no longer chases me, fearfully, toward sobriety. The hollow, lifeless eyes are no longer black holes threatening to swallow me whole unless I begin sprinting toward a spiritual life. No, today the memory brings up a feeling of sorrowful gratitude. The girl in the mirror has sunk to such a low point that she can’t even recognize herself anymore. Absolutely nothing in her life makes sense anymore. Once upon a time, she was really something. She “coulda’ been a contender.” On this day, though, she has finally lost her last…

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