Archive for Roba

Almost Done with My 20′s… And Life Is Still One Giant Highschool

I did not subscribe to highschool cliques when I was a student.

I avoided the typical nerds, because the typical nerd is one-dimensional, spiteful, and a socially-awkward loser. I avoided the “mean girls”, because I hated anyone who collected an army of fans with weaker personalities (or less money).

Fortunately, my best friend Nisreen also happened to be my classmate all throughout highschool. We navigated the journey to adulthood shunning the conventional highschool roles. We were both always top of our class, and yet you could never describe us as nerds because we both had listening problems and were never really “there” (I later realized that this is was the result of a reading-writing learning preference, and an absolute inability to comprehend auditory information, which unfortunately is the most common method of teaching).

We were just ourselves. Life was comfortable. We graduated and started real life, and stayed comfortable in our own skin.

You know though, when you’re a kid, you assume that these highschool cliques and roles disappear as you grow older… that people sort of “level up”. That’s what adulthood seems like, and that’s what you’re made to believe by the adults around you.

But its been 11 years since I finished highschool, and every day, I realize how highschool never really ends. The cliques are still there, and the kids who were losers grew up into adults who are losers. They married other losers and befriended other losers. The “mean girls” still collect a museum of drooling fans willing to do their bidding, buy them drinks, and carry their stuff.

It is so strange.

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On March


My life is now complete… Anne Rice has shared AndFarAway

You know what one of the best feelings ever is?

When one of your all-time word heroes shares your words.

anne rice


I’ve written a hundred million times about how important Anne Rice has been in life. She influenced many of my choices, from why I decided to study the fine arts to my fascination with ancient history to my feeling towards religion.

Then one day, 16 years after I read “Pandora”, Anne Rice shared AndFarAway.

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All Night I Dream of… Solutions

I think I have a superpower. I can’t really be sure, but I never met anyone else who also uses their brain best when they’re sleeping.

You see, I almost never dream.

At least, I never have those story-like dreams where I’m in a particular scene in my head, living life normally in a parallel universe.

Instead, my brain seems to continue to function normally when I sleep, and I have no problems whatsoever remembering my exact thoughts when I wake up the next morning.

I first discovered my night-time superpowers when I was a highschool student. I noticed that when I have an exam, all I had to do was read over the parts I needed to know right before going to sleep. When I would wake up the next day, the information would have “settled in” nicely into my repertoire of data.

When I went into design schcool and we were assigned particularly difficult projects that needed a lot of creative thinking, I would always wake up with the perfect solution, even if it was just after a nap. It worked like a charm. Even today at work, when I’m stuck with something or when I have a task that needs inventive solutions, the answer always comes to me at night.

It’s convenient, to say the least.

I’m not sure if this is related to the way my family sleeps. One of the perks of being a Assi is what I refer to as “conscious sleeping”. We all sleep with our eyes open, talk in our sleep, and have the wonderfully powerful ability to carry out proper conversations while completely unconscious. It was brilliantly practical when we were kids. Whenever I’d do something I wasn’t too proud of, I would tell my mother about it when she was napping. When she’d later ask me why I didn’t tell her, I’d say “But mama, I told you the other day after lunch.” She’d have a vague recollection of the conversation, and I’d be on the safe side because she knows that her eyes were open and that she was talking back in her sleep.

The funniest part though is when I wake up and my brain is still stuck on the last word I had thought of before it dozed off, even if it’s midsentence.


Happy birthday to the first love of my life

I was 12 when I met you. I already knew a little about you. I was so excited.

My father brought you home that night. He was sitting on my favorite chair, the one with the red metal legs, and the computer’s screen reflected brightly on his face. He fiddled with the wires of the modem, configured the NoorNet dial-up connection, and lo and behold… I heard the magical sound of connectivity for the first time in my life. It was a sound that would become dearer to my heart than any song or television show or jingle. It was the sound of the beginning of you, the beginning of the Internet.

Beep booop eeeeeeeeee beep boop.

Imagine the scene. My father, in front of a big, fat computer screen, excited to show his little kids this new genius technology called the World Wide Web. I was 12. My youngest brother was six. How do you show your kids the potential of the early, text-heavy web?

We were lucky that my father worked at a company that was the first to bring the Internet to Saudi Arabia, and we were among the first familites to “test it”, before it was rolled out to the public. But none of our friends had Internet connections yet, and so we had no idea this new, virtual thing was.

But back to the question. How do you show your little kids the potential of the Web? My father being my father, he opened the website of CNN. Look, he said. You enter an address here by typing it, and it takes you to a website.

As the website rendered (it took 15 minutes), a button clicked in my head. The magazines I read had recently started including a little string of characters starting with “http://” every now and then, and I knew they were related to the Internet. But I had never seen the Internet, and I didn’t understand how it functioned or what you could possibly do with a string of characters starting with “http://”. I ran to my room and pulled out one of the magazines, and insisted that we all visit the website of the Spice Girls.

It was much less entertaining than my CD of Encarta 1995.

That’s when my father had a genius idea. He called his cousin, who also had an Internet connection, and asked him to log on to Yahoo! Games. There, they played a game of cards simultaneously together, while we watched with amazement.

This was 1997, and IT WAS THE MOST MAGICAL THING I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. There couldn’t have been a better way for my dad to make us all fall in love with the Web. Again, it was 1997, and that shit was straight out of science fiction. I instantly fell in love, and I knew that the Web was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Today, it’s the web’s 25th birthday, and 17 years since that fateful day when we hovered around my dad as he played cards with his cousin online. A long 17 years.

Happy birthday, Web. You were the first love of my life.

And you will always be the love of my life.

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How to be happy, according to Roba (and science)

If you follow this space, then you would have noticed that I’ve been obsessing about the philosophy of happiness and contentment for the past few years.

Maybe it’s because there are a gazillion self-help books on happiness (which I find absolutely absurd). Or because I’m a happy person amidst a generally unhappy world. Or because depression is such a common disease these days, and I can’t even begin the fathom the psyche of depression. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I came up with a pretty simple formula for my own happiness, and it all stems around contentment. You can read my thoughts about that in different places:

How to Be Happy
How to Be Happy in Five Easy sSteps
How I Discovered the Secret to Happiness, and Other Things I Learned in 2012
Hope is Foolish

A small excerpt:

Once you start truly and deeply grasping the importance of your insignificance, you automatically become happier. After all, you won’t have to deal with the emotional issues that stem from self-destructive attitudes arising from an inflated view of self-worth.

Once your ego is tamed, you can start thinking about the mechanics of happiness. Do you start searching for happiness when you open your eyes in the morning? Do you look forward to your night out, because you feel that it might make you happy? Do you move from one thing to another seeking more pleasure?

There lies the paradox of happiness. You can seek only what you do not have. Thus, to seek happiness is to lack it. When you have it, on the other hand, what remains to be sought? A way for it to last? That would mean fearing its cessation, and as soon as you do that, you start feeling it dissolve into anxiety. Such is the paradox of happiness, and the futility of hope — the hope for tomorrow’s happiness prevents you from experiencing today’s.

Instead, the way to happiness lies in “Memento mori”, Latin for “remember you shall die”.

And apparently, science agrees:

STOP IT. Stop trying to be happy.
If you take away one thing from this post, let this be it: to be happy, there’s a decent chance you’ll have to stop trying to be happy. Sorry to get all zen-master on you, but that’s the way it is.

Nevermind the fact that measuring happiness is a lot like trying to weigh an idea in pounds and ounces. Yes, there are ways to gauge happiness, whether chemically or with a questionnaire, but when you get right down to it, “happiness” means different things to different people, and is one of the single most nebulous ideals in existence — and one of the biggest downsides to this truth is that setting a goal of happiness can actually backfire.

Some of the most important research on happiness to emerge in recent years stands in direct opposition to the cult of positivity typified by bullshit positive-thinking self-help books that place a lopsided emphasis on setting grand personal goals of happiness. In a review co-authored in 2011 by Yale psychologist June Gruber, researchers found that the pursuit of happiness can actually lead to negative outcomes — not because surrounding yourself with positive people, mastering a skill, smiling, getting therapy or practicing self-governance aren’t conducive to happiness, in and of themselves, but because “when you’re doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness,” says Gruber.

So be the zen master. Stop trying to focus on becoming happier and just be. Surround yourself with people not to become happy, but to enjoy their company. Master a skill not to increase your happy feels, but to savor the process of becoming.

Via io9


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