Reflections on love & faith //

Alternative title(s) : Musings on love and fulfillment; The pursuit of inner peace; and A cautious tale of ignoring your heart

A few months ago, in the middle of an especially emotional conversation with my best friend I wondered out loud whether I have ever experienced love. The logical part of me would rush to say “Of course I’ve experienced love! I have a good family and great friends that show me they love me each and every day” but in that moment, it didn’t feel enough. The love I found myself craving and longing for wasn’t exactly familial or romantic love, I knew that much. But I didn’t know what exactly to call it.

After taking an honest look at myself, I came to one conclusion: the love I was looking for was unconditional love. This was the type of love that would always be there even when I wasn’t entirely deserving of it. This love would uplift me, encourage me, support me, envelop me, and carry me from where I am now to a better place, forever and always. I was looking for a type of love I couldn’t receive from other people, not because they are flawed, but because they are human just like I am. When I realized this, I felt broken but not because I thought this was impossible. I felt broken because I knew this type of love was entirely possible. I had experienced it before but left it for reasons I couldn’t exactly remember. I needed to find my way back.

Thankfully, the month of Ramadan (a spiritual month that Muslims all around the world celebrate once a year) was just around the corner. Finally, I thought, this was my chance to fill the emptiness that had become all too familiar. While I was excited to experience this month in all of its glory, I was also worried. Had I strayed too far? Had I been so caught up in the deadlines and the frustrations of the day to day that I had lost sight of nurturing my relationship with the one that is the most loving? Faith and my connection to God, is the lens I see this world through so naturally it was here I would begin my self-reflection.

In the almost three weeks since Ramadan started, I’ve been reading the Qur’an, listening to beautiful reminders, and generally becoming more aware of Allah’s miracles in my life. I’ve also been thinking more and more about who I am and the kind of person I want to become. In Islamic tradition, there is a large emphasis placed on self-improvement. From a young age I was taught that each day, I should strive to be better in terms of my level of closeness to God and my relationships with others. If I remembered to thank Allah after one prayer today, I should strive to thank Him after two prayers, and if I gave charity a bit hesitantly today, I should continue to give until I could give freely. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the word for this continuous self-improvement in Arabic – Tazkiyah.

The word Tazkiyah originally meant “to prune a plant”, that is to remove what is harmful or inhibiting its growth. Islamically, this means that the believer should look inwards regularly, cleanse their soul, and work towards improvement for as long as we are on this Earth. This may not sound new – I know others have called this the Growth Mindset or generally categorize it under self improvement – but what resonates with me is that this reflection and commitment to beneficial change isn’t done for tangible gains. It is done for the ultimate Creator and for Him and Him alone. In this way, everything that I do to improve is an act of worship. With this realization, it finally dawned in me: the love I was looking for was the peace I felt when I was most connected to Allah.

Most nights last year, I found myself at a loss for words to describe how I was feeling. Through tears and with cramped hands from writing too much too desperately, my soul cried out to my Creator, begging for peace. It’s the feeling I desire most in this world but the one that feels the furthest out of my reach. But this month has taught me that each day I carry peace within me. In my search for this ever elusive feeling, I failed to remember that my heart is the one in control. It knows where to go for peace because it will always call out for it’s maker. While I pushed aside my heart in order to follow my brain around in circles, exhausting both my body and soul, my heart quietly grew small. As I commit to embody this concept of Tazkiyah, I also commit to listen to my heart. After years of ignoring its well-intentioned voice, what will it tell me now?

This reflection was inspired by some of my favourite books including, “Don’t Be Sad” by Aaidh Ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni & “All About Love” by bell hooks.

Proceed with extreme caution //

Warning: consume at your own risk. Side effects may include: daydreaming, disappointment, and euphoria.

She started chasing Love in the fourth grade.

After months of intriguing conversations, hilarious inside jokes, and intimate confessions of deepest, darkest fears, she had finally found The One. But The One, named X, had to go ahead and ruin it all by giving her a ring made out of thick grass to go along with his declaration that they would be married at recess. She knew X in a way that not many people in their class did so this behaviour was out of the norm for her mild mannered crush. As the world crumbled around her, X was standing there with his smile slowly turning to a frown. Sensing that she would not reply the way he thought she would, he shrugged, threw the ring to the floor, and ran off to join the other kids. As she crushed the grass ring below her shoe she questioned his behaviour. They were In Love and he was The One. So how could he disappoint her like this?

Over the years, she would find herself feeling sure that someone else was The One. She would cycle through this pattern of feeling intoxicated by an all-consuming crush and getting to know this crush, only for it to fall apart. On her 28th birthday, her friends, who were very familiar with and tired of this cycle, gifted her a single present: a book about love by bell hooks. At first, she laughed because self-help was never her thing (what a selfish pursuit!) and surely this was a gag gift leading to the real thing. But as soon as she realized her friends were serious and no other gifts were coming, she solemnly promised them she would read it in a few days.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into seasons, and before she knew it, she was sitting at home with the book staring back at her on the eve of her 29th birthday. This wasn’t what she had planned. Her 29th birthday celebration was supposed to be a kick-off to enjoying the last year of her 20s. Instead, an emergency alert lit up her phone at 5 AM that morning warning of an imminent thunderstorm and advised people and businesses to safely shelter at home. All day she had been trying to convince family and friends to come over (it’s just a short drive! We can shelter in place together!) but no one was coming. As the skies darkened and the rain began to pour, she decided to get comfortable and start reading all about love.

…while I wanted to know love, I was afraid to be truly intimate.

to know love we have to tell the truth to ourselves and to others. Creating a false self to mask fears and insecurities has become so common that many of us forget who we are and what we feel underneath the pretense.

…as long as we are afraid to risk we cannot know love. Hence the truism: “Love is letting go of fear.”

While she read the last few phrases in the book, one question kept floating through her mind: had she been afraid of Love this entire time? The revolving door of crushes that seemed to burrow their way into her heart and mind certainty didn’t make it seem like she was afraid. On more than one occasion, she boldly claimed to love Love in all of its forms. Her favourite movies, books, stories, paintings, and songs were all about the different faces of Love. If she looked at it that way, she definitely didn’t fear Love. But she knew that for 28 years she had been pointing to these examples as a way to reassure herself that the Love she was chasing was not the problem. Love was perfect but the men she was infatuated with weren’t. Simply put, that was the problem. And as she checked the clock and noticed it was well past midnight, a large part of her wanted to continue telling herself that lie for another year so that she could live the way she always had. It’s unclear whether it was because of the increasingly loud winds outside her window or the sweet calls of the sleep deprivation sirens, but at that moment she made a decision. She would confront Love head-on once and for all.

The idea of confronting Love set off tingles all over her body. For so long she had been taken in by the idea and promise of Love and heartbroken when it let her down. X wasn’t the shy romantic who spent his evenings telling his mom and dad about how he loved her so much he cried himself to sleep. He was just a normal kid who did normal kid things and who sat two seats in front of her in class. There were many more X’s than she would like to admit but at least they were better than the Y’s. The Y’s were the ones who were perfect until they weren’t. Y would hook her in with his mystery and the allure of being someone that couldn’t be figured out. She would spend her days telling friends all about him and spend long nights browsing through tweets, posts, and pictures to better understand who he was. There was never enough to figure out Y so she would do her best to get to know him in real life. Over a series of conversations, she would piece together the puzzle and just when she was certain he was The One, he would do or say something to make her reconsider. The disinterest in his eyes that she loved so much would change to something that terrified her. He would lean in a bit closer, laugh at her jokes a bit louder, or call her “just to say hi”. Moments that would make her heart flutter as they unfolded onscreen or on the page caused her mind to initiate a flight or fight response of the highest degree. She ran away from it over and over again because this wasn’t the Love she wanted.

Her idea of love was shaped by early exposure to an upbeat duet from a certain 80s musical. The song was only 2 minutes long but that was all she needed to dedicate her life to the lifelong pursuit of Love. In the song the woman sings about how the man is everything she ever wanted and instructs him to move his legs, shimmy his shoulders, and come closer so she can hold him tightly by the waist. He sings in response and tells her that she too is perfect and among all the women living on earth, she is the best. Together they hold each others arms and agree to protect their love as they dance their way offscreen. Years later, she would play that clip from the musical and listen to it as she imagined her and her latest crush dancing and singing along. No matter how many times she would be disappointed by Love, it would remain in its purest form in this clip, beckoning her to come back. This clip was replaced by a song with lyrics so beautiful (“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathing in your dust”) that she would lose herself in it for a little while. Soon, she had her own required reading list of songs, movies, and books that taught her true Love was easy, fun, and lighthearted. It promised her that all she had to do was find The One and she too could laugh and smile everyday of her life. In the early hours of the morning, with flickering lights as her only companion and lightning making contact with the earth outside, she came to realize this was nothing more than an idea but it also wasn’t entirely a lie.

Love really could be easy, fun, and lighthearted, she knew that for a fact. She had experienced this form of Love over and over again. This version of Love was what she referred to in her mind as the “plug-and-play”, special edition, version. All it required was a curious romantic with an active imagination (her) and a co-star to join along on this journey (mostly X but sometimes Y). But the love she was reading about in the bell hooks book was a different kind of love. This love was all about intimacy, vulnerability, and honesty. This love required work but promised to be more fulfilling than the one she was so familiar with. This love scared her whereas her Love comforted and shielded her from the harshness of the world. But the promise of this love was far greater than what she could have ever imagined and to reap the benefits, she needed to step outside of the safety of her daydreams into reality.

As she closed the book sitting in her lap, she closed her eyes and thought of all The One’s there had been. Every single one of them was alluring in his own way but she preferred them when they were strangers. Once she got to know them, they would reveal themselves honestly and wait for her to do the same. She was a private person but gave off the impression of being open to everyone she met. Her closest friends called her out on this, several times, but she would laugh it off and share just a snippet of herself to satisfy them. She was only truly vulnerable and honest with God. Did she have to bare her innermost thoughts and desires to another human being to love and be loved? This realization dawned on her just as the phone rang. It was her friend on the other side, calling to make sure she was safe and wanting to stay on the phone with her until the storm had passed. For the next few hours, she would share her reflections with her friend, laugh as they reminisced about the past, and share their biggest fears. She may not be open to loving someone romantically just yet, but she decided that these moments were also love and she would do her best to dive in with her whole heart.

Making her mark //


Quietly, she laid down her belongings and sat by the water’s edge.

She was a curious figure, clad in all black except for the flashes of green coming from her scarf and from the pen she used to finish writing a letter she would never send.

When she woke up this morning, she had no idea she would be here, staring out into the lake but the day’s events compelled her to find the calm she so desperately sought.

So off to the water she went.

The ripples on the water’s surface always found a way to soothe her. The uniformity of it all was mesmerizing but she knew that, just like life, nothing was entirely as it seemed on the surface.

Fueled by energy from the wind, the ripples left their mark on the water’s surface. Each ripple blended carefully into the next but each one was unique in its beauty. A mix of jealousy and awe filled her soul. 

She stayed for a bit thinking about everyone that passed her as she watched the water. Who were they? What force of energy brought them here? She thought about this until she could think no longer.

Slowly, she packed up her things, slipped the letter she was writing into her jacket pocket, and disappeared.

As she walked, her soft movements travelled through the air and across the water’s surface and, for a moment, sped up the flow of ripples on the lake.

Welcoming a new decade: My goals for 2020 //


I know it sounds cliche but I genuinely cannot believe an entire year – 12 months! – has passed. Last year, I wrote out my themes for 2019 and shared them here as a way to document them and hold myself accountable. This helped as I went back a few times in the year to remind myself what intentions I had set for the year. Before writing about my goals for 2020, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on my previous goals.

My first theme in 2019 was balance. While I believe that all of my 2019 goals are lifelong ones, this one in particular is definitely one that I will keep working on moving forward. This year, I had a lot of change in my life and keeping focus of what matters most in those times of change has helped me become more balanced. A consistent nighttime and morning time routine still eludes me but in absence of that sort of balance, I discovered that no matter how hectic life could be, I could always be grounded. This also relates to the second theme of evanescence because in these moments, I remembered that this life is temporary and what seems impossible today will soon be forgotten and replaced by another seemingly impossible challenge. I’m fortunate enough that my stressors tend to generally be ones that are fleeting but even in those moments where it seemed like nothing would ever be normal again, remembering that life is temporary and momentary was soothing.

In 2019, I also made an effort to become more determined and work my hardest. As a perfectionist, I have trouble differentiating between doing my best and doing the best which has made it difficult for me to be satisfied with my efforts. But by focusing on why I am doing something, I rediscovered the joy in doing things that are purpose-driven and as a result, I became more satisfied with my end results. I have also realized that just because a deadline has come doesn’t mean it has to be the end of what I have been working on. I can come back to it later and continue to build and improve on it without the external pressure.

Finally, my last theme of 2019 was learning. This past year was one where I actively went seeking new knowledge, wherever it may be. I’ve had conversations with friends, strangers, and acquaintances that have reminded me that each and every person in this world has their own unique knowledge based on their perspective. In addition to this, I’ve continued my formal learning as part of my masters degree and did a lot of learning at my workplace. Moving forward, I want to listen, read, and write more to continue my learning journey.

So, in 2020 and into the new decade, I will build on the themes above while focusing on the following three themes:

  1. Consistency: I will strive to become more consistent in the practices that are important to me in order to work towards a more balanced life.
  2. Mindfulness: I will be more consciousness of the things I consume, whether they be the food I eat, the things I wear, or the things I read, watch and listen to.
  3. Experience: I will make a conscious effort to experience new things and give them a chance before closing the door. I will become more receptive and open, each and every day.

The 2010s have brought me joy and heartache, success and failure, but above all this past decade has taught me the power of being self-reflective. I’m still working on incorporating this self-reflection into my photography but having this blog and documenting my thoughts and the things that bring me joy has been extremely helpful. So, thank you to those that have come along this journey with me. Whether you are new or have been here for a while, I am grateful for your support and kindness.

Happy New Year and New Decade and I hope you stay tuned for more to come! 🙂

196 Possibilities //

196 Possibilities //

I breathe in and open my eyes.

I’m on top of a hill somewhere in the English countryside.

I feel the lush green grass beneath my bare feet and as I look off into the distance, I see the breathtaking view of rolling hills. There is a slight breeze but I can still feel the heat of the sun beating down on me. The heavenly scent of rain on the earth tickles my nose one last time before I return.

I breathe out.

I breathe in and open my eyes.

I am surrounded by the sound of rush hour traffic.

Cars honk up and down the street while pedestrians dash across the sidewalk. As I walk to the side of the intersection, I stop to watch a man strumming on a guitar and singing a song. The tune sounds vaguely familiar which might be why a crowd has formed and people begin humming along. I drop off some change into the guitar case in front of him and turn back to the road. I see bumper to bumper traffic with the yellow cabs distinctive of New York scattered throughout. The sights and sounds of the mid-afternoon summer commute leave me feeling breathless.

I breathe out.

I breathe in and open my eyes.

I reach up over my head and I touch the low hanging leaves of the Amazon.

The humidity hangs in the air and I feel its constant presence on my skin as I walk across the forest floor. I hear the lovely song of a bird up above and as I look up in search of it, I am greeted by a small kinkajou that’s sticking his long tongue at me. We stare at each other for a little bit longer before he scurries off into the forest. I run my hand across a moss covered rock and take in the warmth and beauty of this rainforest.

I breathe out.

I breathe in and open my eyes.

I am suddenly overcome by the rich scents from the spice stalls in Marrakesh.

The powerful smell and breathtaking colours of cumin and paprika excites my senses. My eyes hungrily take in the bright fuchsias, electric blues, and royal purples that surround me. All of a sudden the strong smells, beautiful sights, and hushed conversations amplify and I am swept up by the intensity of it all. I spin and spin and spin. Colours whirl together before my eyes and my ears pick up a mixture of conversations in English, French, and Arabic. I reach out to touch the leather hanging in one of the tanneries and— “Hurry! Sawyer is coming.”

I am called back to the real world by the rushed warning of one of my colleagues. He’s tapping me on the shoulder while straightening his dark blue tie. I rapidly exhale and with a jolt I stand up and start fixing the stacks of paper that litter my desk.

“Good morning.” Sawyer says to us as he makes his way to his office.

I hear my co-worker breathe a sigh of relief before relaxing back into his chair. He swivels his chair around to face me and says, “That was a close one. Next time, will you please give me a warning when you go off into your head?” I thank him for alerting me and settle back into my corner cubicle.

I unlock the cabinet to the right of my desk and rummage around until my fingers locate the piece of paper I was looking for. I pull out the tattered map. I find England, the United States of America, Brazil, and Morocco on the map and mark a huge ‘X’ over these countries. I hold the map at arm’s length and smile as I realize I only have a handful of countries to visit. I do a quick mental count and mark the date and 146/196 on the bottom right hand corner. I place the map back in the cabinet, lock the door and get back to work. My memories of the days travels keeps me going until I leave the office later that night.


Hi everyone! This concludes my three-part series of short stories. I had fun rediscovering these old shorts I wrote and I hope you enjoyed reading them! If you haven’t already, please make sure to check out the first and second stories of this series, “Table for 2” and Sweet Viola’s Post Office. Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming aka my film photography posts!