300 Books Before 30

Part of my identity has always been that I am a reader. I cannot remember a time in my childhood — from my earliest memories — that I did not love books or count myself among those who love reading; whether it was thick, cardboard-paged books about a spotty dog, The Famous Five, Sweet Dreams (cringe!), Sweet Valley, then finally the more mature books about life, love and such… books formed a huge part of my identity.

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But, increasingly, in my young adult years through to my current adult years (old adult?), I’ve found less and less time for reading. And I know that’s just because I’ve made less time for it. I’ve found more distractions, more stress, more work, more world news, more to fret about, and more Facebook and YouTube to numb my brain with.

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Forever Young? Not Quite.

The month of April brings with it the day of my birth. Another year further away from youthful vigour and reckless abandonment. Okay, okay… I exaggerate. I was never that vigorous or reckless in my younger days, I was a rather timid young soul, and… I’m not that old… right? I mean, twenty-four years old–pssht, what’s that? Early twenties are when you’re still living it up, living the good life. Sleep? What twenty-something-year-old needs sleep? That’s for babies and old people. But then why is sleep all my body craves–night and day?!! Am I–I can’t even say it–am I an… am I an old person?!! I haven’t even yet reached the quarter century mark of my life, but I already feel so old! At twenty-four years YOUNG, I find myself worrying about my ageing, and what I’m doing with my life, and where I’m going. I used to look forward to each new birthday, as every child does, and I used to dream about being in my twenties. I never did understand people who lamented their age, seeing it as the loss of something; the loss of youth, the loss of life, the passing of their spring. I will never be like that, I would say to myself, I will accept my years graciously. But now? It is not that I am lamenting–I am not. No, really, I’m not. I am happy to be where I am. It’s just that, I don’t know how I got here so fast. It’s like, just a few months ago, I was getting ready to graduate at university, and I was still working part-time jobs. And now, ka-boom! Just like that, I’m here at twenty-four. There’s still so much I wish I had done when I was younger. So, being in this mood of reflection, I drew up a list of some of the things I wish I had done before turning twenty-four.

24 Things I Wish I Had Done Before Turning 24:

1. Gone on a real, outdoor camp. Tent and all.

2. Learned to swim.

3. Learned to ride a bike

4. Learned to roller-blade. (Yes, yes, I know. My friends tease me about having been deprived when I was younger. Poor me.)

5. Learned to speak another language. French or German would have been cool. Arabic would have been even cooler (I know some of it, but I am, sadly, not well-versed enough in it to actually speak it with confidence).

6. Travelled to more countries.

7. Learned to cook. I can cook, okay? Just not big pots of the kind of food your mom probably cooks.

8. Written a complete and proper short story, beginning to end. I keep getting stuck somewhere between the plot and character descriptions…

9. Roadtripped across South Africa. I fade away into a daydream every time I think about this one. I still really, really want to do it!

10. Opened a savings account. Is it bad that I haven’t done this yet?

11. Memorised the Qur’an.

12. Taken an actual writing course–with real, successful writers as teachers.

13. Done a photography course. I’ve always had a crazy passion for photography.

14. Bought me a professional, awesome-quality camera.

15. Learned how to sew. On a sewing machine, not by hand. Then I could sew my own clothing! And I could save so much money! To put into my savings account! Which I am yet to open…

16. Done third year at Darun-Na’im (an institute of Islamic learning). I’m always saying that I plan to go back and do it someday, in-shaa-Allah (God-willing), but I have a feeling that life will just keep happening, and I might never be able to return to complete it. Or to re-do first year… and second year. Why would I want to re-do them, you wonder? Because they were the best years of my life, spent in the best way, at the best of places. I learned so much, and grew so much. And even through re-doing it, I know with certainty that I will still learn so much more the second time around.

17. Completed a TESL/TEFL course.

18. Taught English as a foreign language in a foreign country (specifically South Korea) with my sister. We had planned to do this a long time ago, my sister and I, but then, life–as it always does–happened. And plans changed. She, however, went on to teach English in a foreign country, albeit not in South Korea, but I am yet to meet her there–which I do plan to do, some day, in-shaa-Allah (God-willing).

19. Rode a horse.

20. Rode a camel.

21. Read all the Harry Potter books. No, I haven’t read any of them yet. Don’t look at me like that.

22. Watched The Lion King. Apparently it’s one of those movies that you just had to have watched as a child, and I’m a real weirdo because I haven’t watched it yet. But do not fear, for I will remedy this soon, so lift your jaw back off the ground. And stop looking at me like that!

23. Slept more when I was ‘younger’ so that I wouldn’t be SO TIRED all the time now that I’m ‘old’! It makes one wonder, doesn’t it, what I was doing in my younger years that kept me from sleep, and yet, still, there is so much that I haven’t done? Well, I was doing stuff, okay? Just because there are twenty-four cool things that I haven’t done yet doesn’t mean that there aren’t another twenty-four, or even thirty-four, other totally fun and awesome things that I have done! Maybe that should be my next list… hmm…

24. Gotten married.

Where Do You Go to be Brave?

You’re not a teenager anymore.

That is what I keep telling myself.

You’re not a student anymore. This is not your university campus. This is NOT the student life.

Tired nights, followed by lazy days… they can no longer be passed by moving from lecture hall to lecture hall in a student haze, strategically picking a seat far enough away from the lecturer, but close enough so that it does not look as though I’ve intentionally selected my seat so that I may go unnoticed by the lecturer, still recovering from the all-nighter of the previous night — by catching up on some sleep to the soothing melody of my lecturer’s voice.

I am a teacher now. I must set the example. I must teach. And my students will not sleep in my class — and neither will I.

So student life is behind me now. And adult life looms before me. I have responsibilities — not only to myself, but to others. To my students. To their parents. To my employer. To the generations that are still to come, the children that my students will nurture and raise!

I have responsibilities.

As a student, I only really had a responsibility to myself: to ensure that I handed my assignments in on time (and that it was well-researched and well-written), that I study for exams, and that I show up for exams — on time. If I had failed to do these things, the only one who would have suffered the consequences would have been me. The only one who would be failing would be me. The only one who would be repeating a module would be me. And I would probably have had to find my own way to pay for it, since it would also be me who would have been suffering the punishment and wrath of my parents for failing, thus resulting in them not paying for the module I would have had to repeat.

But now, as an adult, I don’t just report to myself at the end of the day. It’s not just good results on an exam that I am working towards. It is so much more than that. I have to think of budgeting and saving, of short-term and long-term. Being an adult is scary. Leaving behind my Chucks because they’re no longer appropriate footwear to wear to work was daunting. Going to bed at a sensible time because I have to wake up sensibly early the next morning and be at work a sensible ten minutes before the time was challenging — no, is challenging. Making sure my car is filled up with petrol because I’m no longer leeching off my father by driving his car — horrifying (to my purse).

But if being an adult is scary, being a teacher is absolutely terrifying. As a teacher, I have so many young minds before me, waiting for me to actually teach them. What could I possibly teach them?? The thought sometimes paralyses me. At times, I feel small and inadequate. I feel as though it’s all going wrong. I feel scared. But then I remind myself to be brave. But that doesn’t always work. I sometimes have a difficult time actually listening to what I tell myself. And then it’s time again for me to just suck it up and do my job: go into the classroom and teach those girls. Give them something to learn. And that’s when it happens. That’s when I get my courage. That’s when I’m reminded of why I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. That’s when my passion grows. And I fall in love with all of them all over again. When I need to be brave, I just step inside the classroom. I am greeted by my students with zest: “As-Salamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh!May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon you! What more do I need? What more do I need  to be brave than the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah, and the students whom He has guided me to teach?


Do you get scared sometimes? What scares you? Where do you go, or what do you do, to be brave? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.