Remembering Sept. 11 — and one woman’s path from high school dropout to college student | NoDropouts.org

Oh. This. I haven’t read this since I submitted it last year. 

Remembering Sept. 11 — and one woman’s path from high school dropout to college student | NoDropouts.org


This is life now.

Going to bed at 4 a.m. Waking up an hour, maybe two hours before work if I’m lucky. Staying in my pajamas all weekend because showering signals to my body that it’s time to Go To Work. When I’m at work, I love it. When I’m not, I…don’t? This too shall pass. Everything is scary and new. I’m scared and new. I’ll find my footing. 

I miss D.C. so much it hurts. Need to visit. Even just watching Scandal and knowing full well it’s not filmed in the DMV and knowing Metro stations are not all bright and cheerful but hearing my old red line – Shady Grove  – stop made my heart flutter. 

I thought I’d be young forever. 


Thigh gap

I joined a gym. It recently opened next to my house. The boy behind the counter started saying unpleasant numbers, like $62 for this and $125 for that.

I channeled my inner Desi auntie in a display of skills that would make me cringe in the past as a little girl watching my mom haggling and ended up paying $10 to join. 

I’m so excited. I have a little keychain card and everything. 

I had taken it as a sign that I needed to start working out again when my Panera Bread swipe card snapped off my keychain from overuse. 

Also, my job will kill me if I allow it. I’ve been letting 20 percent of my week dictate the other 80 percent but it’s time to do a switcheroo. 


How to get a job in journalism

It starts when you’re in school.

Don’t gossip or rake anyone over the coals, be it fellow students, professors or colleagues.  This program has little ears. That professor you’re talking shit about today? Tomorrow, your career could be in their hands with one click of a mouse or pen stroke. Treat them with respect. 

Pay attention to posts like these:


Don’t just click the “like” button. Act.


Don’t make any fucking excuses. Shut your mouth, and silently own up to being lazy, unprepared, or a combination of both. Do better next time. 


Intern early, and often. 


You’ll gain valuable experience from actually putting your hands into the fire. You will get burned a few times. Many times. You will feel unprepared and scared. Your first day, your ass will stick to the seat from fear sweat. That’s OK. Push outside of your comfort zone. “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” applies to you, too. 

imagePhoto by Jessica Saggio

Write for the school paper. Even better, work for the school paper.

You will never forget your first byline. God, it’s like seeing your name up in lights. 

 You will disagree and you will call a sergeant a corporal in a headline and there will be names spelled wrong and maybe even your own name spelled wrong. You will make mistakes. Typos will sneak through and you will print corrections. You will apologize. Forgive and be forgiven. 

Write all the time, even when it hurts and you don’t want to. 

Apply for jobs before you graduate. Cry a lot. Pray a lot. Get hired. Dance around the kitchen holding a grumpy cat. 

The day you walk across that stage, your eyes will prick with tears and you’ll wish you could go back and do it all over again. 


I suck at goodbyes.

I really do.

There are giant gargantuan mountains hewn by God Himself outside my window that I should be picturesquely walking past saying my wistful goodbyes to, but instead I am holed up in my room with the remains of freezer bag chicken bites clinging to a plate and back-to-back episodes of The Mindy Project on Hulu. I so, so suck at this. 

I got the job. I got the job. They liked me. They liked me so they put a ring on it. I’ll have an email address and a name badge and I’ll get to forget Tupperware in the shared fridge like everyone else. 

I’m still so sad to leave. This is bittersweet. I don’t want to leave my XtraTufs. 


Things I Miss About Florida (in no particular order)

  • sandhill cranes
  • my mom
  • my family
  • warm sunshine
  • palm trees
  • the UCF rock climbing wall
  • clean sidewalks
  • flip-flops
  • eyebrow threading
  • Cubans
  • Cuban coffee
  • downtown Vietnam 
  • boba tea
  • español
  • not having to wear a jacket
  • strawberry festival
  • the beach
  • Cady Way Trail
  • the UCF fountain
  • UCF in general
  • chai that my mom made
  • roti that my mom made
  • anything my mom made
  • Channel 9
  • Channel 2, 6, 18 and I’ll even give 35 a shout-out
  • My bike
  • driving
  • retention ponds
  • thunderstorms
  • lightning 
  • hot people
  • young people
  • Masjid al-Haqq
  • Lake Underhill Road
  • Lake Underhill park
  • Blanchard Park
  • Oranges on trees
  • Grapefruit on trees
  • anything on trees
  • Lake Eola
  • lakes everywhere


I hope you have the chai of your life.


It’s Wednesday morning in Seward. 

I’m sipping on chai that has been heated to optimal temperature on the borderline between scalding and palatable while snow falls softly and steadily outside. Hair’s still wet from a shower after a gym workout with the Distinguished Ladies of Seward minus one. Cats are munching on food, living the dream. Eat, sleep and bat my hijab clips and bobby pins around. Oh, and knock my pumice stone from the bathroom to the kitchen, you little rascals. 

The phone lies silent next to me when a moment ago it wasn’t. Hoping and praying for the best. I’ll find out in a week. 

In the meantime, there are stories to be told and the first draft of history to compose about a quirky little town that loves fiercely and keeps no secrets.


The Incidental Diet

I’ve lost four pounds since I came to Alaska. Now when I look in the mirror I’m slowly starting to shift from, “Damn, I need to work on x, y and z” to “Damn, x, y and z are really workin’ for me!” 

I didn’t realize I was gaining weight over the past year until I stopped hearing “Oh hush, you’re so skinny” when I would complain about weight and instead receive encouragement and tips. Jhoooke. Something had to change. 

I think these changes here are attributed to:

  • Walking almost everywhere
  • 30 minutes of exercise in the morning with my editor almost every weekday morning, plus yoga and working out a couple of evenings for about an hour
  • Not driving and not incurring driving-related stress
  • eating less
  • cooking my own meals and having more control over what I eat
  • feeling more in control of my life and not feeling helpless

I think feeling helpless is the biggest hindrance to being healthy. Life just feels like a continuous fall down a flight of stairs that never ends, and we’re resigned to just wince and flail as we bump and bruise our way down. 

It takes real effort for me to say, I’m not going to eat an Oreo cookie. I’m going to open the fridge, take out the spinach, avocados, cucumbers and lemon and make me a salad, dammit. (With a liberal sprinkling of chaat masala, of course)

I have to give a crap about my life, my jaan, my zindagi. That’s what it is. It’s not just about numbers on the scale, it’s being healthy. Healthy means waking up and not wanting to go back to sleep because I dread my life. It means waking up and looking forward to being a productive human being and member of society. 

So! Action items for Orlando, Fla. —

  • Work out for just 30 minutes. Every day. Even if I feel like I can do more, 30 minutes is enough to start with. 
  • Do something awesome and fun every weekend, like stand-up paddle boarding or drive out to Cocoa Beach and go for a run along the shoreline. 
  • Go on the offense with food, packing my own lunches and not falling victim to eating out, food courts, or snack machines
  • Love. Me. I’m so worth it
  • Ride my bike if my destination is within 10 miles of where I reside. Do practice runs and learn more about bike maintenance. 

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. I’m inspired. 


Do me a favor and be ever odd.


My first introduction to archery occurred in high school. I was around the age of 14. I had never shot a bow and arrow. I remember after a few days I hit the balloon off the bull’s eye in the center. I was so proud of myself I carried around the scraps of that balloon in my pocket for the entire school day. 

Fast forward 10 years later. I’m in Alaska. I never thought in my life that I would be in Alaska. Holy crap, I’m in Alaska!

So when a new friend of mine, Corinne Cogger, asked me if I was interested in doing archery with her at AVTEC, I jumped at the chance. 

Well, it was more a straggling hop. There was a Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner that I couldn’t resist. Then there was meeting I had to cover. And finally, that all changed last Wednesday. 

The hour before Corinne was due to pick me up, I started to feel anxiety. I made a turkey sandwich. Put mustard on it. Sat and chewed as I chewed on my thoughts. God, what if I sucked and was laughed out of there? What if it was all a bunch of pros and I would be the only newbie?

What if someone thought I was part of some sleeper cell practicing for a takeover and called the Department of Homeland Security?

Okay, that last one didn’t really cross my mind. Well, maybe for like a second. 

I threw all my doubts to the wind when I heard the crunch of Corinne’s tires outside. 

After a botched ice cream run for her friend Laura who was leaving for Colorado the next day, we finally arrived.

It was a little intimidating. There were guys with some really impressive looking compound bows, as I later learned they were called. 

But then there were people like me, who were fairly new. 

Handling the bow was a little awkward, and I ended up shooting more of the tarp and the floor than I liked, but the feeling I got when I sunk the target—or was at least in the neighborhood—was a pretty cool feeling. 

I felt like a modern day warrior princess. A warrior princess who needs a lot of training, as my second-to-dead-last score indicated.

I still had a hell of a lot of fun. 

The Seward Archery League (16 years and older) meets on Tuesday nights from 6-9 p.m. at the Railroad Terminal from Jan. 8 through March 12. Drop in fee: $8 or $50 for the full 10 week session.