25 at 25: Life Sans The Bullshit
Taking the bullshit out of the constant fluff that we're fed by our parents, grandparents, bosses, and bawabs, Monica Gerges dishes out 25 truths she's learned in her 25 years.
Welcome to the real world. It sucks! You’re gonna love it. - Monica Geller
Friends was always good at pointing out reality's misfortunes and making us laugh at them. Right from the pilot episode, we step into the lives of these six twenty-something New Yorkers who are faced with real life's often amusing frustrations - friendships, relationships, work, sex, family, independence, growing up. With Rachel having run out on her dream wedding, she jumps from her sheltered rich world into the throws of real life. Monica's right. It sucks. (Note: Monica's always right). Friends taught us that commitment is scary, that good friendships sustain strains, that everybody has feelings, and never to take food from someone's plate on a first date (or ever).I'm often told that my life would make a good sitcom; I don’t disagree. As you’ll soon learn, I always manage to get myself into situations that I couldn’t script if I tried – and I’m a writer. Until someone discovers the poetically chaotic hilarity of my world and decides to make a sitcom out of it, I’ll stick chronicling my many moghamarat on CairoScene. Woven through every sitcom are nuggets of wisdom and practical lessons learned through experience; here are 25 bullshit-and-fluff-free realities I've learned in my 25 years of life:
Always talk to strangers. That’s how most of my misadventures tend to come about. Egypt is overflowing with people - seriously, we've passed 90 million; make conversation with them, ask them questions, get to know about their lives. There’s a story behind every person you come across – the taxi driver, the wel3a guy, and even the driver who cut you off this morning – and people will sometimes bare their heart and soul to a stranger because that stranger won't have any direct ramifications on their life. Be that stranger. You'll hear stories that'll blow you away, and quite possibly restore your faith in humanity. Don't forget that every person you interact with on these mean city streets is still human. Kollo bel 7ob.
You need to develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Nothing beats sandwich sogo2 iskandarani from 3abdo Talawos at 4 AM with good company, but let's make that an occasional thing and not a nightly ritual, shall we? Having a healthy relationship with food and exercise builds your self-control and dedication, and you feel great after every workout. If even for just a few minutes a day, exercise. Move your ass a little. While you're at it, pack a lunch instead of ordering fast food for the sixth time this week. Put down the soda and drink some water. Seriously. Your body will thank you.
Friendships need to be regularly analysed. If you have several hundred Facebook friends but spend Thursday nights hoping for your phone to ring, or find yourself feeling lonely in big gatherings of those you call friends, something's not right. Chances are, some of these friends of yours are little shits. Are you getting reasonable returns on your investments? Go with your gut. There are some friendships that you know, way deep down, are no good for you - no matter how much they claim otherwise. Stop investing in them - good riddance to bad rubbish.
Compare wisely. Our parents always compared us to ibn el geran or bint khaletna who were achieving more than we were - they were on to something. Compare yourself to those with qualities and traits you wish to emulate; it’ll challenge you to grow and persevere and be better. Compare yourself to how/who you once were; your progress will encourage you. Don't compare yourself to those who have more than you, to whom life has dealt better cards; that will rob you of your joy. Remember: to someone else, you are The Kardashians.
Your laziness is ruining your life. You're not dumb; you're lazy. You're not incapable; you're lazy. While you’re waiting for opportunity to come bite you in the ass and say “ana ahoh,” others are seizing your opportunities. Find contentment in your circumstances, but don't let yourself get lazy and complacent. Hoping for change won't create change. Your life is yours. It's up to you to make those changes. Be a big kid and own up to it. Yalla, hez teezak.
Balance yourself between routine and spontaneity. Routine grounds you - it gives you discipline and something to shape your days around. Spontaneity saves you from the endless perils of monotony. Hop in a car and go on a road trip to Safaga - why not? Just be wary of becoming complacent in your routine.
Budget now, or forever drown in debt. Budgeting is difficult and annoying, but so is minimum charge and being broke. Don’t spend what you don’t have, and manage what you do have. If you’re ever compelled to say “but I need to buy this 15 LE croissant for breakfast,” just remember that sandwichaat fool are still 1 LE.
You don't need to have your life figured out, but you do need to start. Stop numbing out to mindless television and useless shit online because you're avoiding answering the important questions in your life. They're not going anywhere and, at this rate, neither are you. Hop in the shower, get yourself cleaned up, and go introspect a little – that’s what the Nile is for.
You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé, but you don't have as many personal assistants or as much money. Seize every day, but don't worry if you can't take over the world in one night. Leave that one to Pinky and the Brain and cut yourself some slack.
Question anything that doesn't make sense to you. In a culture that hushes those who question ‘most anything, ask tough questions - no matter who or what you're questioning. Question yourself; your decisions, choices, beliefs, and ways of thought. You'll be fed a lot of fluff over the years; learn to sift through it and find what really speaks to your heart. Disregard the rest of the fatye.
Long car rides are cheaper than therapy. A good friend would always tell me that traffic just means we get to spend more time together. Go on long drives; have good conversations; embrace the traffic. That shotgun seat is mighty comfy. However, your friends are not therapists and can easily be the source of some of your worst decisions. Some days you need to go lay down on that couch and talk to someone with a license about your childhood – embrace those moments, too. Serrak fe beer, matkhafsh.
From here on out, the only thing that will remain constant in your life is change. It'll serve you well to learn the art of adaptability instead of throwing a bitch fit when things don’t quite go the way you planned. This process will also take you way longer than you'd like. Life doesn't often turn out the way you expected it to, neither in the big things nor in the small things, and the most difficult changes you’ll have to face are those rooted in your own character.
Regret of missed opportunities is a far worse feeling than morning hangovers or vomiting raw profusely after your first time eating kebda min el share3. Try everything once.
Your education will not prepare you for the real world. It just won’t. It won't prepare you for interviewing and not getting hired because you don’t have a wasta; it won't prepare you for bills to pay and no money to pay them; it won't prepare you for people moving forward while you're still 2a3ed 3al ahwa and living with your parents. It definitely won’t prepare you for getting a job in your field only to realise that you didn’t study any of this stuff – that, or you slept through too many lectures. Your most important lessons you'll learn from the teacher that is experience.
You're allowed to have bad days. It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to throw your hands in the air, yell "deen 2om keda!" and decide to try again tomorrow. Give yourself some grace but just don't wallow. Pity parties are a lonely party for one - reject their invitation, no matter how tempting it may be. Have yourself a Jack and Coke, instead.
Self care isn't selfish; it's wise. Learn to say 'no', not ‘inshallah’. Draw some boundaries. Don't accept every offer. Don't go to every outing. Don't volunteer in every situation. Don't bring work home. Don't stretch yourself too thin.
Burnout. Nobody is going to give a shit about your wellbeing if you don't.
It's only too late when you're dead. Wenta btetsha2leb fe torbetak ya habibi, then it'll be too late. Otherwise, "you're never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream," in the words of literary genius C.S. Lewis. That also hypothetically eliminates the idea of 3anneset, so you ladies can breathe a little easier now.
Just because you grew up believing in God doesn't mean you always will. Just because you've chosen to believe in God as an adult doesn't mean you always will. There will come many times when you doubt and seek and question and struggle, and that's okay. You're allowed.
You can do well on your own, but you were made to live in relationships. No, we're not taking on the role of khaltak and telling you to go get married. Spend time alone and do things for yourself - that's really healthy and we often don't do it enough - but don't cocoon and shove people away. Your Playstation is not your friend unless you're playing with people.
Sometimes part of being an adult includes WhatsApp messages to your mother, thanking her for putting up with your crap. If you’re anything like me, part of adulting also includes voice notes to your mother about how to heat food using the stove. You're never too old to tell your parents you love them and to thank them for excessively tolerating your shit. You're also never too old to watch Captain Maged – that’s a fact.
Shut up every once in a while. Everybody is interested in speaking. Be interested in hearing. Be interested.
Silence is not to be feared. I love noise and commotion - the din of cars honking and mothers yelling “etla3 yala ya M7amad kefaya keda!” at offpeak hours of the night - but, my God do I love some silence. Silence is fertile ground for introspection, and I know that’s scary. If you’re someone who always needs to play music because silence makes you uncomfortable, I challenge you to sit down to your own thoughts for a while. It’s a scary place to be, inside of our heads, but it’s territory we need to explore in order to better understand ourselves. Trust me, 2o3odo ma3 nafsoko shwaya.
Nobody likes a negative whiney bitch; don’t be one. We’re always either bitching about something in this country or laughing at the things we should be bitching about – a lively bunch we are. Try being thankful for three things every day. Embrace the art of gratitude and your attitude will follow suit, and eventually your every word won’t sound like Ross when he says “hi.”
The hardest person to be honest with is yourself.
Life does not slow down when you're older. Life will not slow down for you when you're busy. Time does not free up and the world doesn't give you more grace. Unlike friendzones, you can switch out of a time zone - travel now. Meet new people now. Invest in those around you now. Go on adventures now. Spend your time well now. Do crazy things now. Live now.
Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. - Ferris Bueller