Getting Over Waiting Anxiety

By Sauda Salim

1 day ago. 22 hrs ago. 5 min ago. One can never guess how much time we spend analyzing the timeframes between messages, applications, emails, our everyday communication…

There’s generally a lot of anxiety around time, and rightly so. First, because we don’t really have much of it. And second, because it is widely accepted that faster responses are an indicator of interest. However, waiting, specifically on responses and results, does not have to be the anxiety-inducing activity that it is. No, it shouldn’t be your Barzakh. Here are some few tips to equip yourself with every time you hit the send or submit button in a message to a potential partner, employer, hiring agency, that cold outreach on LinkedIn, the list goes on. I’d also like to share with you some anxiety-inspired mistakes that I’ve made that I think you should look out for the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.

Give Them Time

I know this heading sounds exactly like telling a sick person to “just heal“ or telling a depressed person to “just be happy, happy is a choice.” Of course, you are not to blame for growing impatient minutes after you send that message, or for overthinking possible scenarios for why a person would delay a response. Worrying while you wait is inevitable, and a sure indicator that there is value in what you are waiting for. But here is one thing you leave out when you are over-thinking: well-thought responses take time. We tend to forget that responding is active decision-making and decision-making is not easy. This makes a lot of sense if you are waiting for your college admission officer to get to you, or a job application, or a request for mentorship, etc. But it also applies to seemingly smaller decisions like how to respond to a ‘u up?’ text. The anxiety you feel when waiting for a response is possibly the same or even more for the respondent. Therefore, while waiting anxiety is a natural thing, please have mercy on yourself and avoid refreshing the page every 30 seconds in hope for a response.

Get Distracted

‘Do good and go away’ is a common Swahili proverb that is used on people who have done their very best and have nothing else left to do. This is probably the case for you too. In a recent study carried out by the Africa Mental Health Training and Research Foundation, a team of researchers noted that individuals had relatively higher levels of anxiety for projects that they worked particularly harder for as compared to individuals who did not put in as much work. Often, when we do not put in much effort into projects, we get a prior feeling of acceptance that our stakes at winning are much lower, and this significantly reduces our anxiety levels. I can say this for a few interviews and exams that I did not prepare entirely for. However, the dilemma of a perfectionist, or at least an individual who gives ‘one hunnid’ is that they have to worry both during the execution and during the waiting period. Work around this by picking up a hobby that is totally unrelated to the object of your endurance. Perhaps read a book, challenge yourself with something that takes as long as the waiting period, learn to code? Just get away.

Admit Finality

While this may sound similar to admitting hopelessness, it is in fact quite the opposite. Admitting finality is making room for hopefulness, for hope is only introduced when we play our part and end it. As a child, I would admit that I made a mistake during the examinations and hope that the graders would not see it. As an adult, I do my best in my projects and hope that my supervisors see it. Learn that there isn’t much more to change once you hit the send button, and we still do not have the technology to poke people into responding at the times that we want them to- unless, of course you send triple emails- which might work for a friend but not a potential business partner.

Occupying ourselves less with worrying about things we cannot control is essential to a happy life. While it is not easy, following these guidelines could make it a tad bit manageable.

Still unsure about how to deal with anxiety? Follow our page for more tips on how to deal with anxiety and other mental health conditions, or leave your own thoughts in the comments section!

You Get To Name This

Trust me to make a fuss and to lose my head over a 10-hour+ flight. I’ve been fidgety as hell and I’m sure my boomer seatmate is already pissed off by how unsettled I am. I am not always like this, because I’m not always flying.  

I think I’m terrified of flights, because in the last 4 hours, my exchanges (monologues mostly, some internal, and others external) have been along the lines of:  

“Yes, we will crash!” 

“No, we won’t, at least not now…maybe eventually.” 

“Don’t say that too loud! You’re a Muslim and this white guy might think you actually want to crash this thing!!”  

I’ve tried sleeping and failed miserably. It feels like one of those terrible tech start-ups that never gets off its feet. Except my sleeping attempts have had my feet off the ground in all directions. For circulation, see. If we were to write a function given a constant legroom (l) and a varying patience (p) and consideration threshold (c), I’d have to take off my sock off my left foot and put my bare foot on the arm rest of my right arm, which luckily is also the window, and crane my neck at a certain angle (a) in order to achieve a considerable amount of tranquillity to ensure sleep. All these mathematical equations…which, since everyone knows I’m bad at, have enabled me to successfully bomb all attempts at a good nap. Doha will see me snoring.  

I’ve also just been extremely sceptical, and I remember saying, rather loudly for a sane human being, to my near empty sanitizer bottle:  

“Really?? We have a pandemic, and now is when you feel the need to generously squeeze out of the bottle? Your brothers are out of the market! Do you consider, in your charitable endeavors, that you are now an endangered product?” 

Speaking of being off the markets, my clean sock, which I improvised very well to make a face mask, now that we’re waiting for a new batch to fall from Mars, decided to fall on the floor.  

“Mmmh…well, I guess, CheErS tO inHaLinG eVeRythInGG?!!!!” 

I don’t usually rant this much, I promise. I try to be grateful. Which is why I’m redirecting all my energy to paper instead of literally ranting, which is a terrible argument by the way, but guys, can we focus here?  

Uh-huh! Commercial Break. (In my head, if a commercial break was put in writing, it would look like this…) 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 

I’m listening to Classical Music composed by a group of Arab girls… 

ARABBB…           &&      GIRLSSSS….. 

Not Tchaikovsky, Not Beethoven, Not Vivaldi 

They’re called SANDSTORM.!!!  

And if that doesn’t make you smile, bruh?? 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 

END COMMERCIAL BREAK.  

Back to Qatar 787, or whatever this plane is. I just came from a treasure hunt for my most prized possession and I’m sure this pissed off Mr. Thai-American boomer whose name I’d have known if we were at sea level. I’m much kinder at sea level. But I’m sure he understands.  

See, I’ve had this golden-sphere hijab pin for more than two months; it’s the last of my pins, having lost its predecessor to the terrazzo floors of Dallas Fort-Worth Airport. I would be broken if this happened again. Once again, I apologize to the Thai-American teacher of English at River Kwai.  

We had a smooth transition here, I promise…my editor cut it out. 

Flashlights!! This trip has shone a couple of flashlights for me. First, I went all liberal arts scholar and DELIBERATELY watched an interview in Arabic on “Thinking in the Quran.” Imam Khomeini stuff and all.  Then I watched a comedy special by Gary Gulman with a touch of mental health awareness that left me feeling like a proud mother, therapist, and member of the audience all at once. And an insight into Tupac’s theory of THUGLIFE.  

Very random thought: this all reminds me of a movie I watched with my sister, ‘Collateral Beauty’, whose meaning I did not figure out until I Googled it at the very end of the movie. The collateral beauty amid this pandemic is surreal! First, I have time…I’d seriously forgotten what that meant. And my pen works!! I’m still that writer who writes about the most random things in the planet and experiences joy while I’m at it. I realized that a lack of rhyme in a poem can be just as beautiful as scheduled rhyme. And a lack of flow in an article does not necessarily mean a lack of meaning. That just because things don’t work out as planned doesn’t mean it’s all wrong. Any-who…too much cheese (Yes, I made this up because saying something is ‘too cheesy’ is the ghetto).  

The rest of this article was an actual rant. The editor cut it out too!  

Who even made her editor anyway?? 

I guess what I’m trying to say is the food here is whack, and I don’t know how to use Zoom for my online classes, but if this post which I wrote from 41020 feet high (which is why it sounds high) made you smile, I guess you just have a bad sense of humor. 

But that’s okay. You have to be bad at something.  

I’m bad at editing, and for those who are bad at joining dots, yes…I am the editor of this article.  

So…Do You Have A Snapchat?

Just a lil playful sumn’ for my peeps

Houston, Texas

I said when I started thinking this up, that this would be a written journal. But then, I’m lazy, and probably would not have been able to write down as fast using the pens I got from Wharton Behavioral Lab. 

I should be doing something else right now. Not listening to Ave Maria on loop because it came up on a commercial 2 hours ago. Or writing this journal, even though I got the idea 2 days before I flew in here. My trip is about to end, just like my life was about to end today. Hold on tight, that’s also part of the journal.

I’m quite sentimental as I write this, tomorrow I leave, and that makes me really sad. But let me tell you all the happy things that I did since I got here. First of all, you absolutely want that stylish aunt who lives in the US to be the same body size as you. Goodness! The number of clothes that I have come with from this place!  Things I can wear after a Thanksgiving feast and not look like a blob, and things that may require me to work for that killer body shape that I want. Which is why tomorrow, I will go for a run. 

But you see, that’s not even the most important part, I just mentioned it first to get the materialistic part of this journal out of the way. And don’t get me wrong, I love the clothes and the shoes. And my extremely generous aunt. But Houston had more for me than that. It is true, for instance, that the only site seeing I did was looking at beautiful Texan faces all the way from the airport and back. Plus a couple of Walmarts, Burlington, Ross, Texas Children’s Hospital, Nrg Stadium, Rice University, and so much more(Houston is beautiful!!!!). But the actual lessons here, wueh…

Like, Houston has taught me that you don’t really need that Snapchat handle. Baby you do not! Philip, this guy from Burundi that I met on my way here at the airport in Philly…we talked for nearly an hour, in Swahili. He told me about his diplomat dad, and I nodded when he said UHBC schools in Norway and Baltimore as if I knew what that even meant, his favorite songs, his African-American girlfriend, all that! And when we were called to board, he walked right behind me, someone got in between us in the plane and I walked on to my seat. Just then, I realized that I hadn’t asked for his Snapchat, or Instagram, or even phone number. I felt like I had lost a friend. I will never see this guy again, but he was a wonderful experience, and at least I have that! 

Also, if you get that Snapchat handle, you are under no obligation to add people! Like Troy, the one I sat next to on the plane after we abruptly parted with Philip. We talked eventually on the 95th minute of this 2-hour flight. And he told me how being undecided in ‘your school’(and I’m getting used to people getting disappointed when they hear I go to Upenn and not Penn State) may mean I won’t make good money in the future. He asked me how I thought he could end racism once he becomes president and of course, I rambled big yet meaningless terms like ‘eradicating institutional racism’, a weakness I’m working on. He gave me his Snapchat handle, told me I should start applying for a green card because he will be president(Also, why do Americans think we are so in need of citizenship here?)…oh, I did not add him. 

Natasha, this one knew exactly what was going on. She said, “Isn’t it amazing how short life is, to think I may never see you again? Even after we’ve talked for this long and known each other this much in such a short time?” I never saw her again. It reminds me of all the people I knew for years, months, weeks, people I went out with, people I deeply connected with, who ended up being experiences in my memories, not individuals, just an experience. It reminded me that people too, like objects, can be let go of. And we have to live with that…the fact that everyone has a role to play but they leave at some point. 

Speaking of short lives, did I tell you how Mama Zyan, this smart lady behind the steering wheel on our way from downtown Houston swerved just in time to escape a truck at 60mph in front of us. I want to thank God here because, in such a short span of time, I could envision my death…how this truck would slam on my side of the car, both of us at very high speeds on Westheimer, and my last words would be “What the actual hell??” 

There have been more characters in this short Thanksgiving weekend that have already become an experience in memory. I might meet some more tomorrow on my way to Philly. But if a lesson had to be reinforced in my life through this journey, it definitely had to be that accepting the fact that one day you have to let go of some people, and some people have to let go of you gives you a certain level of peace that you can’t find elsewhere. 

Be Compassionate. To Yourself!

Image result for amazing
With love…

Believe it or not, I prayed over this piece. I took a piece of tangerine and savored its taste in my mouth, half-hoping it would add flavor to my thoughts. It’s been a dull few weeks–of learning, observing, hating, and trying to love. When it first hit me hard, my title was ‘Social Comparison’. I couldn’t write beyond two lines, too afraid to state my vulnerabilities on a blank Word document. It hadn’t hit me hard enough, until recently…

‘Black Meer?’, I ask her, wondering if this was a new word foreign to a non-American like myself. It’s actually ‘Black Mirror’, that’s just how you pronounce the word apparently. So she shows me one episode of it; Nosedive. Nearly an hour of social comparisons, trying to get people to like you, and forgetting to love yourself. It reminds me of a post on Instagram. 

Khushi Shelat–amazing individual, Australian, public speaker, and most interestingly, a boxer. She’s scared to post her workout pictures on the gram because “What if they think muscles on a woman are unattractive?” She gets over it though, and I’m glad she did, because there’s more about ourselves that we haven’t gathered enough courage to publicly embrace. 

I bet my roommate has noticed how I put my whole closet on my bed, changing and changing, just so I can go down for dinner. “This one makes my arms look big” or “I think these jeans make me look like I don’t have curves.” It takes hours I tell you, and ranges from Google searches such as “How to stop hating my body” to more positive ones like “What amount of pancakes can I eat before I start looking like a balloon”. Depends on the day really. 


Reminds me of another Instagram post: Ibtisam Habib-on body shaming for slim people, or something else on my news feed, on “How to lose weight in a week!!!” or companies that have the audacity to go with names like ‘Ideal Image’ with big promises to women who hate themselves. And men too I suppose. Capitalism, Psychology, and Marketing-when you walk with these Wharton kids, you begin to understand!

I wonder if this post would be complete if I didn’t mention first-time, or second-time, or even third-time mothers trying so hard to love their bodies after they change. The girl who said of another, “If I was a man, I wouldn’t date her because she’s just there.” When your skin starts to sag, that scar after the accident, how weirdly your stomach bloats, or your two beards that everyone shames you for because “there really is no point in you participating in No-Shave November, girly face!”, breasts not perky enough, your constant need to shave, your PCOS, or Alopecia…it’s a long list.

These thoughts burden my soul, as I type away into the night, thinking “perhaps they don’t approach me because they think I can punch them?”…I mean, it’s a beautiful thought to be the intimidating one in the room, but self-hatred has a way of making you feel like your body wants to wipe you from the face of the earth. That it is the enemy. Honey, it’s not. 

When I sit down to reflect–I hardly do these days– but when I do, I remember how short this life is. Yara Shahidi recently reminded me that compared to the lifespan of the universe, this life we live is just a day! When I come across verses in the Quran that explain how this universe works, it hits me that it’s not worth wasting time to please people. We clean our houses in which we live, and make them happy spaces: whether they be a three-bedroom apartment, a fancy condo, or your bedsitter in Juja. But our real homes are where our souls reside. So as we live in them, let’s be compassionate to them. 

#ShameBodyShaming! #21Days Rising #SpeakUp&ReachOut

For The Motherland…

Amazon…Fire zone

You smell of fresh daisies in the morning,  And careless vulnerability, 

You smell of broken promises, And unappreciated emotions, 

You smell of a love-struck poet, Who lost her ability to describe,

You feel like a long day, a starless night, 

You taste like a Syrian refugee’s plight,

Metallic, like blood.

I see you and I see Vietnam splitting, Berlin wall building,

Genocide in Rwanda, Attacks in Somalia,

I see tears in your eyes, And how you were once whole,

I see, rather I feel, How you gave wholly, 

And how quickly it was all taken from you.

I see your babies, whom you fed,

Ripping you from the same womb,

Making a site of fertility a tomb.

I see how cold they’ve turned you.

But such are men aye?

Bear us women mother…

For your sons do to us what they did to you,

Your sons mother, 

Are so keen to make us like you,

So they rip us on the insides, And they turn us cold,

Take advantage of our careless vulnerability, Which we only offer as love

Tie us down and cage our spirits, Saying “Orders from the One above”,

Your sons mother, They say are refugees,

But did thou teach them, Of what’s worse?

To be a refugee in your own land..

Did you tell them?

That the land cannot run away from itself,

That you are the land, and I am the land?

Did you teach your sons, mother? How to farm?

They play skilled when they plough on us,

But did you teach them how a stone cold land,

Bears no fruit?

See us mother, your daughters,

Bearing your plight…

See your sons mother,

Running away, crying in other lands,

When it is them, Who tore you apart, Who tore us apart.

You smelled of fresh daisies in the morning, I did too,

But now we’re just a lonely night,

Refugees in our own land,

We’re the ashes from the bombing,

But mother, we must rise.

The Coffin Homes of Hong Kong.

The other day on my feed, I read about the coffin homes of Hong Kong, and how much people paid for so little space. How willing they were to cramp themselves in order to live the city life, how much they were ready to pay in order to ‘survive’. It’s a metaphor isn’t it, of how some of us live coffin lives? Let me delve in straight to the how’s!

I find joy in liberation. In walking by the beaches of Mombasa, giving back to my people, speaking before crowds and making people laugh. In my head I could do stand-up comedy but my friends tell me I’m not funny enough, while they laugh! I find peace in being able to pick a book and read it as and when I want to, cooking in our cramped kitchen in Majengo even though my cooking is a mess. I find happiness in playing with the many kids I see at home, in orphanages, on the streets. But guess what I haven’t done in months…A coffin life!

I don’t like to see my spirit rot away under the sheets with my eyes before a screen for half of the night, a process that I most definitely will repeat, in a different attire, a different place, during a different time. I hate burning out, or trying to fit in a certain intellectual sphere because I am a different type of intellect. But my intellect is no New York, or Hong Kong, so I pay with my health, and my wealth, and my sanity, I could go on, just to find myself a coffin home in an intellectual sphere that is more of a city and less of a town.

So I’m not alone, I also came to realise. You’re doing law when all you ever wanted was to be an artist. Living in the city when your spirit yearns Kirinyaga. Or studying medicine because it’s noble to walk around a building with half dead people in a white coat. What’s the point trying to save half dead people when you’re half dead yourself? What’s the point in life if you do things that hardly make you smile? I wish it was easy to think this way in reality, I only do this in WordPress. I wish I could make choices that make me happy, take a turn when choices that once made me happy cease to serve their purpose. I wish the line between quitting and choosing my happiness wasn’t that thin!

So in a week I’ll go back to my coffin home, to be buried once again. In a week I’ll cremate my spirit, and I’ll do it over and over again. I’ll pay, with my wealth, and my health, and my sanity, I could go on. Is it worth it? The answer is obvious. Will I listen to myself? Not so obvious.

It’s Okay To Let Go.

I’m scared. Even as I write this. Of disappointing. But I’ll start by telling you what I hate. When people have expectations of me. Hate when they expect me to stay in a toxic relationship because “I’m supposed to be happy right?” How I should be a doctor, from Russia, China, Turkey, wherever. Hate how my designs have to be top-notch because I’m me and well, I have standards. Or how I should go to Yale and be a multi-billionaire to buy land for relatives I have no idea about. I try to hold on to many things, and on days like these, when people’s expectations get to my neck, I ask myself, can I not just let go?

A few months ago, when I was struggling to perfect my essays (because I simply shouldn’t disappoint), I got an email from an institution telling me “It’s okay to let go. Submit that application!” Darn it! I wish they sent it earlier, when I was trying to be a perfectionist and please everyone: parents, teachers, friends!

I’m not saying you should not work to make things look perfect, or that you should settle for less. I’m not saying your code should have messed up indentation, or you can submit your term paper with errors. Neither am I saying that you should not try to make things work out in relationships. But sometimes you have to serve it raw. How are people going to know your truth if you keep polishing it?

I swore I wasn’t going to be a motivational writer on WordPress, but some truths need to be said. Know what you can handle and let go of things you cannot. It’s okay to not be perfect, we were not meant to be that way. It’s okay to say “You know what, I’m done!” Submit that assignment that doesn’t look like it was written by a flawless angel. Tell your boss, “I did what I could.” Walk out on that partner who plays with your emotions. (A mental note)…Scroll up to that blue ‘Publish’ button on your WordPress acount, because after all, it’s okay to let go!

The Email I Was Never Sent.

New Message

To: Sauda Habib

Subject: It Will Be Alright.

Look,
I know this isn’t the kind of salutation you’re used to, but that’s
only because I’m talking to a different version of you. You’ve written too
many emails this past year and I bet you expect the normal ‘to whom this may concern’. I know when you write these emails you try to stay optimistic, mistake the admission officer’s hello for a
welcome, and I know you’re wounded. More for the disasters that await
you than for those that have passed. I know how you feel.


But aren’t you just the strongest! At heart, at spirit, your agnostic
mentor probably won’t point this out, but at faith too. Keep reminding
yourelf how great you are darling for I’ve seen the wonders it does to
you. I’d write you a poem. You sure do deserve it. You deserve much
more than what you’ve written in acknowledgement of others. You
deserve someone to hold on to at 3 am when your pain suffocates you.
You deserve someone to understand that you don’t understand why you
don’t understand and it hurts you. I wish I could split myself into
two, to be a double you, because I’ve never seen solace as effective
as the one that emanates from you.


Honey listen, I know it’s hard to stop that tear from falling. I know
you think no one can hear your muffled wails in the restroom but I do.
And it hurts me that you have to go through this much.
I’ve seen you struggle, I know how bitter you are. I’ve seen you crying to God in the middle of the night and I know the feeling of
deception that overcomes you when you think He hasn’t heard. I know 2
days, 2 weeks, feels like a lifetime. I know you’ll constantly doubt
yourself and feel inadequate in this wait. But honey, and no other
honey that you know will tell you this and be as genuine as it should
be…You are gold in a world of aluminium! You intimidate, but I hate
that you can’t rise above this intimidation, I hate that your own self
is part of this intimidation. Rise honey, rise. Rise above fears, rise
above rejection. I know it hurts to be rejected 5 times in a row, but
you know what’s better? Being accepted the same number of times in a
row.
I promise you, you’ll smile, and we both know how much the world loves to see your smile. I promise you’ll humble all those that were too
proud to take you in. I promise that I will be here when you finally
genuinely smile again. And I promise I’ll be here if you ever have to
go through this again. But for now, I have code to write so carry
on-It will be alright.
I love you.
Sincerely,
You.

Know Thy Self

I wasn’t listening much on that day when they invited a guest speaker to talk to the candidates but if there was one thing I picked up on that hot Tuesday, it was the phrase ‘Know Thyself’. He said it was written in Arabic on one of the pyramids at Gaza. I’m not sure if that remark was as true as the piece of advice itself. It’s been more than a year since that day, it’s been more than a year since I started making attempts at knowing myself.

“I’d let you date me but I’m not sure I’m ready to let you know me before I know myself”, every single time a guy asked me out. “I don’t really know why I’m having a panic attack”, every time I let code get to me, did sums that I couldn’t get myself to digest.

Women are complicated I’m told, but have you met a woman traversing through the journey of ‘knowing thyself’? Have you met a woman who walks into the bathroom to cry because suddenly she realised she has no idea what she’s all about? Have you met a woman who begs for someone to translate to her who she really is? WE ARE HELL!!!

Well, here’s what I’m trying to say: It’s tough for those of us who haven’t figured ourselves out. It’s as tough as the Kenyan vibe of ‘Njanuary’, the JKUAT ‘dryspells’, learning Angular, transitioning from a 15-minute-80-word passage in the 8-4-4 system to 55 minutes of comprehensive reading in SAT.

Look, I’m no guru in life, or WordPress for that matter- but knowing thyself, that’ll get you far.

-Sauda Habib.