It Is What It Is…

Hello everybody! It’s been a busy week for me at the U. It’s great to be back in what is a break from a seemingly endless cycle of analyzing research papers mixed in with the occasional stupor of staring into empty space and contemplating the meaning of it all, in what is an effective cocktail of scientific education that is my PhD so far. In fact, the busy-ness of it all has molded into a slightly routine affair over the last eight years of my life in academia, and that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about today. Isn’t that great?

At the ripe age of 26, I already feel like an old man running through the wheeling seasons of the years. With each year’s passing, I bear witness and welcome the arrival of a fresh batch (and ready for the picking) of students jumping out of the proverbial frying pan that is high school and unknowingly (but optimistic nonetheless) into the fire that is university. At the same time, I bid farewell and sink into a boat of nostalgia on those good friends who continue onward in their singular adventures beyond university, and wherever they deem life should take them.

University, in many ways, can be likened to a pit-stop. It is not a necessary one, and for the ones who are offered the chance for it and take that opportunity, it may be a short or long-term visit. Some could even consider it to be a rite of passage while for others it may be a trial through fire or as my good friend Zuko would put it, an Agni Kai!

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But beyond everything else, university is an experience. With every end that comes to pass, there is the beginning of something new right around the corner, and amidst a plethora of mixed emotions: laughter, sadness, anger, relief, melancholy, love…there endure the countless memories rendered complete in an unforgettable experience.

I’ve had my fair share of adventures over the last eight years, going back to 2009 and all the way to where I’m now in 2017, comprising my time at university. I can relate various stories in what would be a compendium of tales to share since then. But that would be too long of a story to tell so in my own liking as your “griot”, I will share what I can of what was (and to a certain degree still is) my life as a student at university.

YEAR 1: In search of “One Piece,” the grand adventure begins.

Embarking on an adventure was really what it was. I left my family, and set foot in Canada in 2009, beginning the first year of my studies at the University of Alberta. It all started with me getting lost on my first day of classes, and running about the streets trying to find my way to the right building, before eventually settling into a class only to realize it may not be the right one. An adventure that began with a misleading compass, but eventually finding the right pinch of curiosity to spur me onward to an endless horizon that sprang forth ahead of me in the dreams that I wished to seek. That was pretty much my first year: coming to terms with the fact that the journey was real.

YEAR 2: Facing my first COLOSSAL obstacle.

An adventure without any obstacle is quite boring, and as the second year of courses came around, I would finally face the first of my many challenges, mostly revolving around balancing my studies while working part-time. I would learn that the world is bigger than what I had previously thought. I would meet others of great intellect in my field, and at many times feel dwarfed by my own inabilities. But most of all, I would learn to never give up. No matter how colossal the problems felt in the heat of the moment, I would strive to be strong for the sake of achieving my dreams.

YEAR 3: Sinking In Self-Doubt

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With the progression of every year, university grew into an endless stream of assignments, and I struggled to stay afloat. Bearing the brunt of my own personal struggles in an identity crisis that followed in the wake of a lost friend, I began to view the world differently. Where there were dreams and a never give up attitude, I began feeling the fatigue of it all, sinking into the tediousness, unable to connect with the original purpose that had brought me to university.

YEAR 4: Getting Back On My Feet By Letting Go

You can always count on family to be there for you when in trouble. I had my father on that day when I just needed to let go of it all, and while there wasn’t much to be said, I realized that the doubt that seemed to plague me was nothing more than an elusive catalyst that motivated me to keep pushing, and understand that there is nothing wrong with redefining myself and my dreams. I would soon find myself sitting in a packed auditorium of students waiting to receive my undergraduate degree. I can’t say I was happy. Things hadn’t gone the way I had hoped in the years prior, but the spirit still remained in me to keep seeking an answer beyond the persistent questions. University, in that manner, was as much about asking questions in class, as well as about myself, my dreams, and what really made me happy. I found my answers by letting go and taking a break.

YEAR 5: Trying Something New

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Learning to let go was difficult, but I eventually got my way about doing it. Doing so, I redefined my road, trying something new in my life for a change. I found a partner to join in my adventure, meeting as we did in the crossroads. Moving forward to the future, I reassessed my dreams, thinking back to what I had lost and what I had gained through my experiences over the last four years, and finding new purpose in making my own path I decided to pursue graduate studies in a field and topic of my own interest.

YEAR 6 & 7: Reinvigorated Purpose

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The following two years would pass in bliss as I engaged my Masters degree (which was VERY different from doing an undergraduate degree). There was a measure of intellectual freedom and space that followed with my graduate studies which was quite unlike the hectic lifestyle of my undergraduate years. I made the most of it. Of course there were ups and downs but for some reason things just didn’t seem as difficult as before. In retrospect, I could attribute this to the fact that I believed that nothing could seem to phase me worse than my own self-doubt, something that I had learned to overcome and master. With that being said, the road only stretched ever forward, inviting me to reach for the stars.

YEAR 8: From Our Last Summer To A Little Bit Of Everything

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And so, I arrive at where I am now.  Finding a particular love in writing, I push forward to a bigger goal to be a science communicator, and toward a long-term goal in retiring as a writer and mangaka. I chose my PhD to be a platform for that dream, and in the grand scheme of things that is what motivates me. In this vein, university, FOR ME, has essentially been a proving ground of sorts to find my place.

My journey here is yet to end, with three more years ahead during which I hope to finish my PhD degree. I look forward to it. I say that not because the story will end soon but rather with the realization that as long as I keep pursuing my dreams, wherever they may take me, the journey is itself the destination. With that thought, I find my own resolve to put my all into what I love, reminiscing every once in a while happily on the memories of our last summer, and enjoying a little bit of everything that life has to offer.

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Presenting “A Little Bit Of Everything”

After three years of hard work, words cannot express how happy I am in making this announcement today on the publication, and official release of my book, A Little Bit of Everything. It has been a long journey leading up to this moment, and I’m glad that the final product turned out to be exactly what I wished for.

While the tale to be read is fictional in nature, the book is a spiritual successor to my first work in Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir. The foundation of the plot is in fact inspired from very real events in my personal life involving an assortment of themes from love, hope, and dreams to personal identity, friendship, and family. An author’s copy of the book now rests in my bookshelf alongside a massive binder consisting of three different drafts of the work through the years.

One aspect that sets apart A Little Bit of Everything from Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir involves the illustrations that accompany the story. A picture is worth a thousand words or so they say; I decided to roll with this philosophy in expressing the ideas and emotions of various scenarios through the drawings that span the book’s pages.

Having published the book, I’m both happy, and sad. I’m happy in that I succeeded in bringing to life a story that had resided in my heart for many years; sad in that this wonderful journey has come to an end. Moving onward, I relish in the joy of being able to share my story with all of you!

A Little Bit of Everything is now available through Amazon (Amazon.Com; it’s also available on amazon.ca/.uk/.de/.fr/.es/.it/.jp/.nl/.br/.mx/.in/.au/) as a Kindle e-book. Similarly, the book is also available in paperback format on most of the aforementioned links (a few more days before it will be available on all of them). The paperback format is also distributed through my Createspace E-store (ALBOECreatespace), and will be distributed (within 6 weeks from publication) through online and offline retailers such as Barnes & Noble and to distributors such as Ingram, NACSCORP, Baker & Taylor (which distributes to libraries).

Over the days to follow, I will consistently provide promotions, and updates that would allow me to talk more in-depth about the book as well as my journey towards publication of the work. I’m thankful to my dedicated audience of readers on this blog. I hope you all get a chance to read the book, and most importantly, enjoy it!

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Passage Of Time…

Gazing out the window, I observe the tempestuous motion of clouds in the sky. The chill of a wet breeze strikes my skin as I swing along with the rhythmic motion of the trees in my neighborhood, dancing to the progressive wind. Relaxing in the comforting solitude of my humble abode, my reflections render a view across time, allowing me to travel back, and revisit the nostalgic memories of the past that led me to my current life.

A journey that began in a small corner of the world, I awakened my dreams at the sight of the luminous lamps of fire that lit up the night sky of my hometown. Contemplating on the questions that beset my curiosity, I stumbled forward, on and on, desperate to seek answers. Soaring upon the wings of my ambitions, I ventured forward into the unknown, finding strength in the arms of three beings without whom I would not be the man I am today (Mom, Dad, Sis, I love you).

Bidding farewell to our last summer, I would pave my own path in life, meeting various personalities along the way, experiences with frequent beginnings, and ends. Reinventing myself over, and over, I eventually discovered my grounds in who I wished to be in the place of another’s heart, completing a journey that brought me full circle to the little bits of everything I found in her, and appreciated in life (Thank you, Leina).

Time waits for no one…and so I wish to fall briefly into the wrenching melancholic, and bittersweet nostalgia of all that has come to be in my life so far. To the friends, and family I have met, and who have supported me along the way I give you my deep-felt thanks. Though we may be distances apart, seeking our own ends in life, our memories together will forever remain in my heart.

Now, as the tides of time push me forward, I find my resolve in the joy of our times together, and remembering those happy days we shared. Embracing the present that is built upon those memories, I find my reason to smile, thankful for all that I have been given in life. Alighting on my 26th birthday, I look toward a new, and grand horizon of adventures to follow. Thus, I’m led forward by the me of tomorrow, who holds my hand, and filled with dreams of the future, but supported all the way, by the me of yesterday, who holds all of our memories together, and follows right along…in what has been my life, or rather a passage of time…

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Cherish the memories of the past, Embrace the present, and happily Anticipate the future…Time may progress inevitably, but it is our choice to make this life, a moment that transcends eternity…

Happy Birthday Sis!

Having a younger sibling isn’t always easy. One moment you find yourself the center of attention, and then all of a sudden, your thunder seems stolen when all everyone talks about is the newest member of the family. At least, that’s how it seemed to me when you entered my life. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a wonderful, and life-long journey of friendship to follow.

I can never forget the day when I first met you. You were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen in my life (you still are, for me). Approaching on my tip-toes, I had come to your side, looking down with great intrigue as you lay fast asleep, your deep breaths coming with the gentle rise, and fall of your full-sized tummy.

You eventually opened your eyes, closing them almost immediately into a narrow slit. The light must have hurt you, but you didn’t give up, as you opened your eyes a bit wider, struggling before they tuned in to focus on my own. It was then you pulled back your lips, your face radiant with a fleeting smile that left me speechless, and overwhelmed. There was no doubt whatsoever. I knew then that this was my baby sister smiling at me, and in  a moment that tied me to you forever, I was utterly, and irrevocably smitten.

You would soon become my best-friend, and my greatest nemesis. You would have my back whenever I needed it the most, and also turned out to be the best partner in crime I could ever ask for. You brought the best in me, and still do so to this very day. Over the twenty-years of our journey together, there is not a moment that I would want to change. While our dreams, and ambitions may take us to different destinations, I can never forget our beginning,  a moment that will always bring us together.

Happy Birthday Annie. On this day, I want you to know, I love you, and will do so forever. Nothing will ever change that. To me, you are and will always be the light in our family, a vibrant flame I wish to protect, and hold dear for all my life.

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You are not alone…

Holding your hand, I walk by your side. The joy in your eyes, a vibrant flame that nurtures the promise I made in a dream to cherish, and protect you forever.

With our continued acquaintance, I remain satisfied, the depth of our bond personified in a silence that renders words impotent amidst the emotions that persist.

I had found you in the void, where you lay alone, the light of your heart shimmering in the darkness that clung to your shoulders.

Unable to discern your truth against the tempest of your soul, I embraced you in a vow to help you break free of the shadows.

Urging you to smile in a struggle that perseveres, unyielding to the passage of time, I fail continuously to wrest the burdens of your heart.

But in this grudging hour, where I’m forced to accept the truth of my own limitations, I find a greater purpose to our journey together.

Encouraging me to stay strong, to remain at your side, to live for the moments when I can see your beautiful smile.

It is a sweet pain that indulges my efforts, to maintain my promise to you, so that even when I stumble, I find joy in the knowledge that you are a part of me, as I am of you, bound together and forever.

Believing yourself to be imperfect, broken, you collapsed under the weight of your doubts, falling victim to your own thoughts.

Inspired by the same, I will strive to help you understand, that beyond those imperfections and the broken reflection you may perceive, you are the innocent and graceful soul whom I love and wish to set free.

I wish for you to be happy, and though I may not know exactly what I’ll be able to do for you, if there is one thing that I would want you to remember, now and to the end of time, it is that I will be with you, and that you are not alone…

To the heavens, I will set my eyes, in hopes of the day when I shall find thee, flying free…

So What’s Been Happening So Far?

Hi everyone, I’m back! Sorry for the delay in uploading the post. I’ve been busy with the merry season currently in full swing. I had promised that I would provide an update of my two week season of sickness, and I will stay true to that promise with this post, which will basically cover what has happened in my life so far, and what I’m really looking forward to with 2017 just around the corner. Now, I may be four days late for one, and two days early for another, but I would first like to wish all my readers,

Let’s begin! December 9 was the beginning to a memorable end of the roller-coaster ride that has been 2016, and it started with me falling sick. What started out as a mild cold became a sore throat followed by a week of quality time with my good old friend, the bed. While physically bedridden, mentally, I was primed. Aside from pondering the purpose of my existence as I lay in bed, my mind was overwhelmed with an insurmountable wave of creativity helping me set up the groundwork for 2017 regarding my plans for forthcoming writing projects, my career (as I will begin my PhD studies in September 2017), my work as a budding manga writer, building on the developments for The Pensive Reverie etc.

So many ideas! Why did I have to fall sick in the first place for this to happen?!

Thankfully, I was not alone in this wonderful exodus as I was accompanied all the way by my ever gracious partner who also fell sick. This meant some quality time together doodling about, playing board games, binge-watching TV shows, further discussions, now, on the purpose of our collective existence, and pretty much waiting for time to pass just so that we can feel better again.

Jenga (check), TV (check), fast-food (check), tissue-box (check), Are we both sick? (check).

But in the end, we were both able to make a complete recovery right on time for Christmas allowing us to round up this past weekend by celebrating the merry season as well as our four year anniversary together as a couple!

These four years have been a wonderful adventure, and I can’t wait for many more to come. Thanks so much for bringing so much joy, and happiness into my life.

To my partner Leina,

あなたはわたしのゆめのじょせいだ

はじめてあたときからすきだた

いつまでもいっしょにいたい

愛しています

Now, with 2016 coming to a close, I have successfully completed my robotics internship, and am currently going through a rigorous course of content editing Agent X [my second book!] I hope to get this done by January 15, 2017, and moving forward from there, set in motion my plans for publishing the book, as well as promoting my work on this blog! At about the same time, I will be traveling to India to visit my family on a much needed vacation.

Can’t wait to see you all very soon!

It’s been eight years since I last visited my hometown so I’m looking forward to returning home. In the meanwhile, I intend to keep up with my weekly blog posts, and discuss my daily adventures. I will keep you all posted in case of impending delays or absences.

And, that basically all there is to it! I wanted to keep this blog post short, and simple. I will soon be posting my analysis on Chapter 1 of Dragons of Eden where we will discuss the cosmic calendar, and have a brief adventure involving interesting theories, and discoveries in the field of cosmology!

 

Constructing an Identity

Who am I? 

It is a question that everyone asks at some point in their lives, and characterizes an individual’s struggle to define their identity, relative to themselves, and the world. Understanding this allows one to examine, as well as recognize, their own potential, and qualities as an individual. It is also highly influential in one’s decision on who they choose to be,  particularly in relation to their social circumstances.

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I’d spent the past week wrestling with this concept, that incidentally suffers heavily from the bias of vague, and open-ended statements. It is also an onerous task to maintain a degree of impartiality in discussing the various facets of a concept that is implicitly co-dependent on the individual, and their environment. Thus, for the sake of brevity, and a measure of focus, I will abstain from a generalized mode of approach, and inject a dose of my personal experience, as a third culture kid (TCK), to guide my review of this subject.

What is a TCK? 

A third culture kid is a term used to describe children who were raised in a culture, or an environment outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their years of development.

Self-identity is a measure of an individual’s growth, and is paralleled by their personal intelligence. Self-knowledge is the understanding of oneself, and one’s motives, or character. Personal intelligence is the exhibition of this self-knowledge, allowing one to correctly evaluate oneself, and others. Possessing personal intelligence also allows individuals to acknowledge their own limitations.

Altogether, it could be said that this triad  of elements, and their dynamics in an individual define his/her personality. An analogy can be made to the form of ideas, and their subsequent expression via actions. The question of identity is a sponsoring thought, precursor to the ideas that form the foundation of our self-knowledge, to ultimately result in the growth of our personal intelligence exercised in our ability to adapt to our environment, and our decisions.

In constructing one’s identity, an individual confronts the objective of maintaining a balance between these three elements, while remaining open to an assortment of external influences that pervade one’s environment. This balance exemplifies the ideal “perfection” that every individual may seek as dictated by the boundaries of  their life.

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Perfection was of paramount importance to this particular individual.

An Identity Crisis 

An identity crisis is not so much a crisis as it is a natural consequence of life. One may experience such an issue at any point in their life, and at times, repeatedly.

In my case, the root of the crisis was in the difference of my views, along with the influx of conflicting “agents” that set about the expansion of my world. It was a process that eventually led me to acknowledge my status as a TCK.

These so-called “agents” were the structures about which my life revolved, and a casual listing of a few would include: culture, religion, family, education, and personal experience. My identity crisis originated from a combination of these factors, and had a significant influence in my mental, and physical maturity.

Every individual we meet in life maintains a unique view of the world, none of them being perfect. At times, we aren’t conscious of this world view, and there is an associated vagueness on the rules that we abide by, or prefer to choose, in leading our lives. Problems in self-identity arise as reason pierces this vagueness that clouds our psyche.

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My exposure to a clash of cultures, and my daily interactions during my life at Egypt, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Canada, the differences in religious rituals, and conversations, the changes in family dynamics as well as the choices made in my personal education, and the acceptance of selective experiences allowed for clarity, and a brand new integrated perspective on the rules, and standards that dictated my life.

My struggle primarily concerned communicating my differing views, and perspectives within the conservative habitat of my family. To call for blame was redundant, and the solution followed the simple necessity of an open conversation, but the path to it was fraught with afflictions of self-doubt, and a gradual disintegration of the boundaries that once delegated my life. I often liken it to seeing the two faces of a coin, describing the dual identity I maintained, while in contention with an objective to delineate the appropriate behavioral balance in between.

What is the bigger picture?

The environment contributed vastly to my progress. My childhood was predominantly in India, in a society that constituted a collective form of individuality, where there is a preference for group mentality, particularly surrounding family relationships. As a ten year old, I was not able to critically assess my status in this culture.

The rest of my life was spent traveling from country to country, completing my secondary education in Egypt, followed by my higher-secondary studies in Sudan. While my family would continue in their collective journey to Sierra Leone, I decided to pursue studies at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, and where I am now to this day.

In between these transitions, I slowly confronted the persisting doubts, and questions I had of the various cultures, and communities where I had lived. This led to the conflict between the conservative dynamics of my family, and the open attitude I embraced in my life.

I found the inability to openly discuss individual differences within my culture as a major obstacle in communication. Social interactions would rather become a form of control (abusive or non-abusive), followed by an equally weighted concern for internal, and external judgment.  Influence seemed a selective process relegated upon the younger population via the codes of conduct (or ritual) held in high esteem by the older fraternity.

On the other hand, the allure of an open approach towards life, fostered an independent attitude, and relationships. There was an inherent favoritism towards the individual, and his/her actions could reflect along the lines of, “You do what is right for you-haters gonna hate.”

Confronted by these differences, I decided to choose the best of both worlds. It is a choice that I still debate, and contend with. My identity crisis entertains a search for balance between the differing values, and ways of life in the two communities. Neither was perfect, and both had their share of deficiencies, and advantages.

How do we make the right decisions?

It is the final destination. An identity crisis ultimately comes to debating the right course of action. In my opinion, there is no one absolute answer.

The choice of identity is a highly selective, and fast-evolving process. At the end of the day, it really is up to the individual to decide on what they wish to believe in, and the path they choose to pursue.

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It would be highly favorable  if this decision is made with an open mind that not only acknowledges the compromises that may be made, but also the necessity to remove oneself from an environment that may not be suitable in their lives.

This willingness to separate oneself from their immediate world, can be accompanied by a healthy endeavor to integrate the multitude of perspectives, and views that concern their life.

To what end? 

My comments on the prior section may provide an air of selfishness about the individual in choosing their well-being over that of others. In my own life, my choice to follow a unique path was falsely viewed as an act of selfishness. This is very common, as we are after all discussing an issue that pits an individual against his/her immediate environment, and peers. Thus, it is natural to have a difference of views, or a parting of ways among the subjects involved.

Identity is an evolving concept. It is a lifelong transition, and depending on the individual, it may or may not find a resolution. I’m still very much in the process of constructing my identity, and have found my resolve by focusing on my dreams, and aspirations. Compromises have to be made, and is inherent in our struggles to find a place for ourselves in this world.

But, in the end, what matters the most is that we do so being true to ourselves, and who we wish to be. While doubts, and misgivings may persist, it is up to us to keep pushing forward, even when a resolution may not be evident, in this grand adventure that is life, for isn’t that what it means to be human?

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We might not be together every day, and the coming of one adventure, may mean the end of another, but no matter what we do, or where we are, the bonds that we have shared with each, and every person along the way will never break. That’s what it means to live free.

 

To my readers

This post describes my personal opinions on this complex subject. I invite critical comments, and discussions.