By mid-December, it's not very often that we get to see London drenched in beautiful sunlight. In fact, most days I can barely see a few hundred feet ahead of me with all the fog. So when the sun does come out, I rejoice. When it shines, I shine too. There's something about a sunny morning that makes want to jump out of bed and get going. It makes me feel optimistic. It gives me hope. And let me tell you... Optimism is a very hard thing to find right now. I don't know if it's because I've become more proactive in learning about the world or because the world really has gotten so bad in the last twelve months. I'm hoping it's the former and that ignorance has let me live so blissfully thus far.
If you've kept up with current affairs, you'll know that this year has been a devastating one, to say the least. From Brexit, the US presidential election and the onslaught of bigotry it's brought about, to all that is happening to innocent people around the world. Beyond the comforts of our four walls, the world is experiencing its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. I will not get into the details of it, because to adequately tackle such a topic is simply beyond me. What I will tell you is this - be aware and be positive. Learning about the injustices around the world is difficult for me, because it makes me feel so helpless... However, I've learnt that all change begins with the smallest of intentions. As individuals, spreading positivity is the least we can do. Be kind, be understanding, be loving - but neither does that mean you should sit down quietly and take it when you witness something you cannot and should not tolerate. Raise your voice, get angry. You will find other like-minded individuals and you will be heard. In the dark, we ourselves must shine and be the light,
Shot at Notting Hill, London.
Photo assistance - Andrea Cheong
Wearing: Zara - Embroidered jacket // Uniqlo - Turtleneck HeatTech // C/MEO Collective - Jeans // Alexander McQueen - Patent leather skull slippers // Chanel - Wallet on chain
A couple of weeks ago, Trish and I decided to explore South Kensington, in search of this insta-legendary wall of scarlet leaves. Needless to say, it was a success. Kynance Mews is by far one of the most photo-worthy spots in London, at least on a gloomy autumn day. That's what I love about this city, you never know where you're going to run into a delightful little corner.
On another note, lately I've been questioning the lengths I go to for my blog posts. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Yes, on one hand I want to share my experiences and journeys, but so does everybody else. That's what social media is for. I started to think back to what inspired me to start blogging in the first place. I remember when I would spend most of my time online admiring the most wondrous blogs, like Gary Pepper Girl and Missing Avenue. The photos created and the stories shared, they filled me with wonder and excitement. Five minutes on either of those blogs and I felt so inspired to not only go out and explore, but to create. And that's when I realised that I wanted to make others feel the same way that I felt. So I hope that I'm on the right path, that I've instilled some form of inspiration in at least one of you. But if not, tomorrow is a new day to try again and better myself.
Very often something as simple as a sound or sight can fire up long-forgotten childhood memories, sending me into the past to relive that moment.
Take the clack of a trotting horse. As soon as I hear it, my very first memory flashes before my eyes, as vividly as a movie. Everywhere I look, I see white. Snow, I presume. Snow on the roads, snow on the trees, snow on the mountains. Even the sky is white. I am moving forward, with an icy breeze in my face. My attention is devoted to the blur of dark figures that I pass by, but I soon realise that I'm in fact sitting on a horse. A white horse. Eventually I tire out and slowly place my head against the back of his neck, burying my stubby fingers into his mane, tightening my grip. And then my memory too fades out into white. My mother, skeptically, tells me I couldn't possibly remember this since it happened when I was only a year old, on a trip to Murree. Perhaps she's right, with infantile amnesia and all.
The sound of crows cawing immediately makes me break out into a sweat. I'm transported back to the balmy month of June, at some undistinguishable age, lying on the floor of my grandmother's home in Karachi. The air is still. I take slow, deep breaths. The marble floor does its best to fight off the heat that's gripping my body as I stare through a netted window at the dust covered leaves of a black plum tree, the crows fooling around beyond the tree, and the black kites soaring like kings even further away in the heavens. I close my eyes and all I hear is the soft whirr of a neighbour's electrical generator, periodically interrupted by the commotion of these crows.
And as such, I have many triggers and memories hidden away, which every now and then take me back to Pakistan. My favourite though, is a particularly milky shade of pink that stirs up sensations of bliss - the colour of Kashmiri chai sipped on rainy winters, the colour of dusty sunsets spent on rooftops.
The reason why I bring up this topic of memories in Pakistan is because over this past summer, I spent six weeks in Karachi. It's the longest time I've spent there in a single stretch. No matter what people say or what you're made to believe through sensationalised news stories, it is a painfully beautiful country, full of gems, full to the brim with untapped potential. Pakistan is a country close to my heart and if you were following me on social media, you'll know that I had an immensely fulfilling time there.
I did have my doubts though. I was a little hesitant and resistant towards the idea of being there for so long, but by the end, I felt the same hesitance and resistance as I was boarding my flight back. The first few days there I felt like I had lost my direction in life, after being separated from the comfort and security of my regular routine. Living alone in London for two years has changed me in some ways (mostly for the better, I'd like to think), but spending time with family I grew up with reminded me of an age of pristine innocence. Every now and again I would recall things that I used to do in my younger days, unostentatious and uninhibited. It really was a time of self-rediscovery and I remembered the many things that really make me who I am today. I guess in order to find your way sometimes you do need to get a little lost first.
Refreshed, I hope to get back onto my creative journey with a stronger direction, filled with more purposeful intention. For some time now, my presence on the blog has been less than optimal. I've been questioning a lot of the things that I do, which lead me to scrapping drafts left, right and centre. Mediocracy is something that I often speak about and never want present in my work. But at the same time, I'm also letting go of the idea of perfection - nothing is truly perfect. If you do something, simply do it with all your heart and to the best of your capabilities and knowledge. If mistakes are made, take it as a learning opportunity and grow.
I wait for the cool breeze; it cuts the thick, humid afternoons into pieces - like a fragmenting river through fertile banks, like a piece of honeycomb as it hits the floor. Another summer day, speckled with pink dust and the calls of crows, goes by.
Yesterday I turned 23. It's the one time a year when I reflect on how much my life has changed over the course of 12 months. Every year I think to myself, wow it can't get crazier than that... But guess what? It does. With every increment of my age, I learn new lessons from life. Important lessons that will stay with me for a long time.
I'm older, but not wiser - in fact, my foolishness grows with each passing day. Being an adult doesn't necessarily mean that you have your life sorted out. Growing up should be a liberating experience. It means to be able to accept the things you cannot change, and live with positivity and gratitude. It means to learn whose opinion matters and whose doesn't. It means to break free from conformities and compromises. It means to be bold enough to live on your own terms and never apologise for it.
Thank you to every single one of you who has taken a moment of your precious time for this underserving fool. Your presence, physical and digital, were the best presents I could ask for. Your hugs, phone calls, comments, Instagram posts, text messages, tweets, video calls, Facebook posts and snapchats have filled my soul with so much joy and I am ever so grateful from the bottom of my heart.
In the midst of procrastinating, towards the end of a month-long period of intensive revision, I stumbled across a screenshot of my calendar that I posted on Facebook in 2012. It was a schedule for Paris Fashion Week. Incidentally, I put together all the show dates and times while procrastinating at a law internship, so that I could get back home and watch the live streams late into the night. Between writing up case briefs, I would fantasize what it would be like to actually be part of the fashion industry - glamorously jetting to shows in amazing outfits, being photographed by streetsyle photographers, meeting Anna Wintour... Finding this little gem of an itinerary made me smile. I had forgotten that I used to be so passionate and enthusiastic about wanting to be a fashion journalist. To my 18 year old self, this was routine every fashion month period. I didn't know how I would ever get there, but I just knew that one day I would. I believed it with all my heart and the universe conspired for it to happen. Lots of blood, sweat and tears were shed along the way, but my dreams came true.
So what happens next, now that your dreams have come true? Thankfully, life isn't a Disney movie. There isn't a happily ever after and rolling credits. You just keep dreaming. Today, I have bigger goals and aspirations. Again, I have no idea how I'm going to accomplish them, but I have a feeling inside that life will guide me down the right path. Never stop dreaming and believing, kids.
Photography & illustration by me.