Can you hear it?
Yes, I did just quote Bob Sinclar , but with good reason. As of 11:15 AM yesterday, I was officially relieved of any and all of my academic duties as an undergraduate student. Of course, my results are still pending and my actual graduation ceremony isn’t for another couple of months. I also have a sizeable amount of library fines to sweet talk my way out of, but regardless, exams are over and I am, for all intents and purposes, done.
Needless to say, I’m extremely relieved. This year has been brutal, in every sense of the word. But now that it’s done I can honestly, for the first time in my life say that I’ve done my best. I’ve worked harder, and been more disciplined than I have ever been before – and while it came close to taking a toll on me at times, I’m hopeful that my efforts will have paid off.
Discipline is a funny thing. While I’ve always been a good student and hard worker, when I was younger I never “lived up to my potential” as some of my high school teachers so eloquently put it. There were times when I definitely lacked drive and ambition, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel like a fish out of water amongst an amazing group of friends who were vastly talented and academically driven. When it came time to part ways for university at the end of the summer of senior year I was scared, and apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what I would become, or how I’d be able to define myself outside the confines of the safe little bubble of Bahrain. I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle being 40,000 miles away from my family, or the constantly gloomy weather. I never admitted to this, but while everyone was excited to start a new life – I was wondering if I’d even make it past winter break.
That first semester seems like so long ago now. It came and went, as did many others. I became a frequent user of skype, bought the world’s sturdiest umbrella* and a plethora of winter coats. I took advantage of my fresh start; I started working harder, threw myself into new experiences and met some incredible people. Slowly but surely, I found my way.
When I managed to secure a job at a top multi-national corporation in London for my industrial placement year (read: UK equivalent of an internship), I was elated. It went on to become one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Although I’d never pegged myself as the corporate-desk-job type, I loved everything about it. The routine, the formal dress code, the witty office banter (I had some pretty weird and wonderful co-workers). But most of all, I loved the responsibility. For the first time in my life, I felt worthy and like I was actually good at something. Exceedingly good, in fact (and I don’t mean this to sound like I’m bragging, although I’m sure it will). The praise and positive feedback I got from co-workers and executives across the organisation was overwhelming. It instilled in me a sense of discipline I never knew I had and motivated me to work harder and be better every day. Though I was hardly the perfect employee, most of the time I felt like a superstar. A 20-year-old, tech savvy, problem solving, pencil skirt wearing superstar.
As the year went on my pursuit of perfection extended beyond the four walls of my office – the pressure of being surrounded by so many young, attractive and competitive colleagues re-ignited my desire to finally get into shape and lose weight. My newfound confidence and ambition led me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. Unfortunately I was right, and then some . My battle with weight loss became a slippery slope which almost ended in my body defeating me.
The point of this long-winded and nostalgic spiel is this: discipline is a funny thing. It can be used and abused so easily, the results of which can escalate from terrific to terrifying in practically no time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 4 years, its to never lose sight of myself and who I am as a person. Life will be full of many worthy goals and obstacles – all of which warrant an appropriate amount of hard work, ambition and of course discipline, but nothing, is worth sacrificing your mental wellbeing, physical health or happiness for. Least of all a dress size.
Some other things I’ve learned/perils of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way:
1. I don’t care what part of the world you come from, or how privileged you were growing up: doing your own laundry for the first time will always feel like a herculean accomplishment.
2. As will cooking your own dinner for the first time. You will quickly learn the answer to the question “how much pasta is too much?” when you end up making enough to feed a small family 5 nights a week.
3. British people love a good queue.
4. The appropriate response for “You alright?” is not “Yes, I’m fine – why?!”
5. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. On Oxford Street. In Topshop. For 4 hours.
6. Marmite is disgusting.
7. The East Midlands Trains wait for no man.
8. Neither do National Express coaches.
9. And in light of the last two points, an Arab’s sense of timing/punctuality is something even 4 years in Europe can’t change.
10. There is nothing more powerful than the unconditional love and support of a parent.
11. Heartbreak and disappointment are inevitable – don’t ever let them stop you from putting yourself out there.
12. Packing your life into boxes sucks. Like, a lot.
13. If you move to England, you will be mocked for saying “pants” instead of “trousers”, “chips” instead of “crisps” and “vacuum” instead of “hoover”.
14. You will also learn that complaining about the weather is a national sport, of which snow season is like the olympics.
15. Nothing is more telling about a person’s character than their behaviour in a tough situation.
16. If you’re homesick for some Arabs, visit your nearest Starbucks or Primark.
17. Never, EVER, under any circumstances use “but when I’m away at uni, you have no idea where I am at 3 AM!” when trying to convince your parents to let you do something.
18. The airport duty-free stops being exciting after your 3rd or 4th flight within the span of 6 months. In-flight turbulence however, never ceases to scare you shitless.
19. A few measly inches of snow has the power to bring an entire country to a screeching halt (see 14).
20. You will never go hungry with a well stocked cupboard.
Which brings me to today’s recipe. Knowing that I needed to vacate my apartment ASAP, I’ve spent the last week trying to use up some store cupboard items (cue a lot of veggie burgers, lentil dhals and oodles of sprouted mung beans). So when I came across a jar of amaranth, an assortment of nuts, seeds and dried fruit a new (and coincidentally gluten-free) cereal/muesli mix was born.
Gluten Free Muesli Mix
Makes about 4 servings
- 1/2 cup dehydrated buckwheat
- 3/4 cup puffed amaranth*
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup assorted dried fruit (I used raisins,d ried apricots and goji berries + 2 tbsp desiccated coconut)
- 1 tbsp ground flax
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice or ground ginger
- Pinch of sea salt (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and store in an airtight jar.
I hardly consider this a recipe, but I seriously think puffed amaranth is way underrated as far as cereal grains go. Like buckwheat, it’s a complete protein (meaning it contains all 12 amino acids) and it actually contains 30% more protein than wheat, rice and my beloved oats. Not to mention a slew of other essential vitamins and minerals (which I won’t go on about as this post is already far too long).
Either way, a healthy filling, and gluten free (for those of you who are so inclined) muesli mix that’s perfect as a cereal, smoothie or yoghurt topper.
And a great way to use up leftover nuts, seeds and dried fruit, even when you only have a small amount left.
Now, I bid you farewell as I revisit #12 on the above list, for the 4th but probably not final time.
*Ps. The umbrella referred to was purchased during my first day in Nottingham. I unknowingly paid £15.99 for it, but it turned out to be a pretty sound investment as it has seen me through 4 years of “pleasant” English weather!