Despacito Is Going to Save Us

Read time: 3 minutes

slowly

Here’s what’s going on: A lot of people find Justin Bieber singing the song Despacito intoxicating and for most, the phenomenon is confusing. The first few weeks the song was out, I noticed girls all over Twitter were gushing over this sultry remix to Luis Fonsi’s original version. The sensation of having Despacito on repeat is equivalent to people experiencing queso for the first time.

Recently, after my brother in law belted it out throughout an entire Sunday (off key), I realized the latin-pop appeal is an epidemic beyond gender and age. Sitting at #1 on every chart right now, Despacito is a global unifier. This is the first Spanish song since the Macarena that topped all global charts. I don’t think they’re capitalizing on a movement but I do appreciate the appeal amidst anti-immigrant, inflammatory remarks in America. Even if you don’t want to consider the political connotations, isn’t this all better than more songs to dump into EDM vacuum we’re all suffocating in? I'll take anything that means hearing less Chainsmokers.

To explain why I care/love what's happening, I have to go back to 10th grade me. In 2006, I pulled up to school for summer classes blasting Pitbull. This is before self-proclaimed Mr. Worldwide started churning out formulaic, club bangers. I was a closet reggaeton lover. I’m not sure my closest friends even knew how many CD’s were purposely unmarked. The resurgence of the genre in America carries nostalgic weight.

When I think of latin-pop’s appeal, one song rules this realm: Danza Kuduro by Don Omar. People everywhere, even after seven years since its debut, are still dancing to this song. Because of the song Gasolina, we all know Daddy Yankee. Senor Yankee no Doodle is now an influencer; similar to Lil’ Jon who just cameos in a song to instantly catapult it up the pop charts.

There’s something about the guys and gals in the Latin-tropi-pop world with their perfectly shaped eyebrows, serious faces, and semi-desirable tattoos.

Genre/artist crossovers are getting everyone onto this train: Bieber propelled Luis Fontes, J Balvin did a remix to Beiber's Sorry, Pharrell in J Balvin’s Safari... this might seem meaningless now but you’ll hear one of them on the dancefloor of the next wedding you attend.

The Latin-pop trend reminds us how we’re all more similar than different. Artists from Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, etc are singing in Spanish and inspiring us to relearn where these countries even are on a map (still not sure how our American education system has made most of us geographically handicap). The language barrier doesn’t matter: we all share the common interest for songs about love, heartbreak, and luxury goods.

Anyone new to this genre, I want to welcome you and your dance moves. We can thank Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, and Ricky Martin for being the bridge to the rest of the world and other mainstream latin stars.

I’m not an authority on this genre but if you need some names to get started and keep up, here’s who’s dominating the charts:

My Amazon Customer Review of “Time Off”

Read time: 3 minutes

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Best thing you can buy!
By Tareen A. on April 2, 2017
I recently purchased “Time Off”! I already ordered the “Loooong Vacation” a few months back and this supplemental product is exactly what I need to transition myself into a new career. I would give it a full five stars but the price tag is worrisome. There are cheaper versions but they require you to move back in with your parents so I opted for this one.

Thousands of millennials left gleaming reviews so I’m hopeful!  I’m not sure it guarantees “finding your calling.” The fine print on the box states that results vary for most users. BUT I get to wake up everyday and do what I want - so cool! The best feature is that it comes with enough downtime to get back into the gym. Loving this so far!

Update to my first review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ AMAZING!!
By Tareen A. on April 9, 2017
I’ve had this product for a week now and I can’t believe how well this holds up in my psyche. I’m updating my review to a full five stars! I’ve cooked three new dishes this week and casually glanced at some jobs opening up in my city. I’ve also finished two books!! Gone are the days where I wishfully dream of cooking, reading, and working out! My new life is awesome.

I would highly recommend time off to friends!

Update #2
⭐⭐⭐ Questionable Advertising…
By Tareen A. on April 18, 2017
Hi guys, just wanted to give another update since some time has passed from my first review - I want to be objective here! What this product doesn't tell you is...well, anything. It expects you to go through some trial and error before it all comes together. Right now, my “time off” is giving me anxiety because I can’t figure out where this takes me next. Dear Creators, customers would love minimal guidelines on how to best use this product...

“Time off” is also something all your family and friends will ask about. Everyone wants to know how it’s going and will offer their advice like, “Did you also purchase Rosetta Stone Mandarin?” When else could you casually learn another entire language? (???) Overall, it's going great but it’s worth noting that there are some kinks to work out.

Update #3
⭐⭐⭐ OK..but eventually need to buy a job! 
By Tareen A. on April 29, 2017
This review is more of an addendum to Update #2 because not much has changed and that’s exactly the problem!! I don’t really want to deduct any stars because I understand that it’s already a privilege that I can afford this product. It’s been four weeks so I guess you can say I’ve bought into all the marketing. Since my last update, I’ve had a few leads. At least now I know what type of writer/creative I want to become. Now I just need to figure out how to convince creative agencies to take a bet on me... instead of that fresh, experienceless college grad! Seems easy right?! Well, still no answers from the product but I think time off is more of a Mr. Miyagi and less Mr. Feeny.

Going forward, I would recommend Amazon to discontinue this product unless it also starts to sell viable “career transitions”. It’s a wonderful product as long as you know how to use it properly but I just don’t see how the average consumer can be trusted to figure it out. I just want to already be at that point in my life where I look back and say, “What were you so worried about? See, it all worked out and it’s because you got some Time Off to figure it all out!”

This satirical post was inspired by the Creative Director of The Onion & Editor of Slackjaw in this post.

Travel Hacks and Q&A

Read time: 4 minutes (+2 minute if you read the Travel Hacks guide)

After making it back to Austin and knocking on several peices of wood, I can safely say that I never got robbed or sick. This is my greatest accomplishment from 10 weeks abroad. I'm not sure if anything other than luck played into that. I did maintain a list of tips that we've turned into a downloadable guide (thank you Tariq, for making this visually digestable). 

You can view and download the PDF it here

A couple of friends sent me a list of questions and I thought I'd share some of the answers. When people have asked similar questions in real life so far, I didn't know where to begin. I'm so scatterbrained. So to all the friends so far who got jumbled nonsense from me the past week, here you go!

What’s your new favorite dish? 

Kaya Toast from Malaysia/Singapore. It’s a jam made out of coconut, sugar, eggs, and pandan between two slices of toast. You then crack two barely boiled eggs into a bowl and add soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. It’s basically deconstructed french toast because you dip the kaya toast into the egg and enjoy with strong coffee. I had never heard of it until I visited. I recreated it for my parents this past weekend and they loved it. 

Did you ever have to poop in a hole?

No and thank god! I actually only saw that toilet once and it was in the old “preserved” part of Singapore in Little India. Okay, but in the deepest part of my heart, I’m aware that this is the “best” way to take care of business.

How was your marriage tested/changed since?

We’re very close now. It’s a type of close that is almost too close and can only be achieved by constant togetherness. We have quirks and inside jokes. There were plenty of frustrating moments that came with insomnia, trying to find a place, and being out of your comfort zone for weeks. I know how to cure myself/Tariq now though. Tariq knows that if I even whisper that I want to eat a certain thing, we better make sure and find it that day - even if it’s as obscure as enchiladas in Thailand. Tariq’s food cure is usually an apple tart/pie/crumble type of thing. Now, we can change each other's mood back to something tolerable within 30 minutes because anything longer is unbearable.  

What did you miss the most? (points docked if you say family)

This is specific but I missed good conversation and food with friends. I could combat this by getting meals with new friends but it’s still didn’t keep me from missing the people in my life.

Most awe-inspiring moment?

Angkor Wat was a metaphysical experience for me. My chest tightened as soon as the sun hit the main gallery. I felt a really strong connection to that ancient civilization and was overcome with admiration at the detail and magnitude of the temple(s). This was also I place I knew NOTHING about before the trip. It was added to our last mid-trip. What happened to the Khmer people, the history behind its structure, the buddhist and hindu rulers, and it’s incomprehensible detail inspired me. It inspired me to seriously consider the impact we’re having on this planet. It also gave me a lot of anxiety … because of this core theme of “omg we’re running out of resources”, I barely want to have kids now. What kind of life are we promising them?

How much did you spend from country to country (not counting travel). Which country was the most expensive to spend time in?

Singapore is the most expensive country to both eat and stay in. Japan and Hong Kong come second. Overall, I didn’t change my eating habits regardless of which country I was in - I’m not fully a backpacker because I won’t rough it out too much. The budget ranged from $20-60/day for meals and accommodation depending on the country. The cheapest country was Cambodia. You’d get a delicious lok lak (beef curry with rice and an egg on top) and a latte for $3.

What’s your favorite picture?

Hard to narrow down but the “business babes” from Chiang Mai stole my heart. They were so precious with their temple outfits and their existence epitomized Thailand's hustle culture. I also love that picture because it was beautiful without any edits. It was a picturesque balance of color and culture. Those little girls know exactly what they’re doing.

My favorite thing to do on this trip was to offer to take pictures for strangers. Everyone struggles with selfies or group shots. I went out of my way and hurdle through language barriers to ask if they want me to take it for them. People always said yes. We're all trying to enjoy the experience and take in the same scenary. I love the sense of collectivism that came from it. 

If you could do the whole trip over again what would you do differently?

I would add time in Vietnam; 8 days was not enough. I also wanted to visit Myanmar, and everyone we met was visiting themselves, but I made a choice to avoid that country. There is currently ethnic cleansing against their Muslim minority, the Rohingiya people. There was also a moment when we seriously considered Mount Everest Basecamp in Nepal but decided that trip is best done on it’s own.

What made you sad?

How doomed we are. I’m not a pessimist but this trip made it hard to ignore the irreversible damage we’ve inflicted on this planet. The severity of climate change is making me question how many children I want to bring onto Earth.

  • America is the only developed country I know where there are citizens who deny climate change. Even the underdeveloped countries we visited had signs and take SOME measures to combat our environmental footprint.

  • We talk about fuel efficiency and electric cars but we aren’t considering everything else in manufacturing that requires oil. Once we run out, we won’t be able to produce and harvest enough food to feed the world.

  • This trip gave me a lot of time to think about sexy topics like marine pollution, deforestation, air quality, and biodiversity.

Did you eat bugs?

Refer to chart below.

Did your taste in music change?

Everyone, everywhere is listening to the same music. Good music is a global unifier. It surprised me but there were several times I’d be sitting in a cafe and hear a song that I thought only I knew. I will say, everyone in Asia super digs song covers. They also listen to the EDM version of any song - sad or happy.

This wraps up the Asia series. Thanks for reading! You can view all the photos here.

Questions for My Parents

Read time: 3 minutes

The first generation American experience does not include knowing your parents. Although my parents and I are close, I don’t have a complete picture of who they were in Bangladesh. Our parents’ stories begin at the chapter when they moved, to first provide a better life for their children, and only second to a better life for themselves. I’m not sure what causes this unintentional secrecy but I can imagine the strength required to make this immense sacrifice came at the price of leaving behind your first life.

Last year, we went to Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King show and a part of his segment about flying before a stand up performance to see his dad in the hospital stuck with me. He got to know his dad at a point where it could’ve potentally been too late. Thinking on it, I didn’t know a lot of basic things about my mom and dad either. What are all those questions I would regret not asking my parents? 

What were they like in highschool?

What's a strong belief they compromised once they moved to America? 

During the holiday break, I had some time to ask. My sisters and I created a list of questions for my parents and sat them down without letting them in on too much. My parents and I are close but there is no way my three sisters and I all know the same information. We weren’t really sure what to expect but the four of us sat across from our parents and had a camera recording their answers. It was the most productive hour long conversation I’ve had with my parents. They told us their stories and I was instantly glad this opportunity was provided to us.

This experience was similar to falling in love. Time slowed down and I was completely fixated on knowing everything about them. There were laughs, sadness, reflection, and walks down narrow nostalgia. My mom described this exercise as cathartic and my dad wondered why this didn't happen more often/casually. The days following, we had more questions here and there and our parents were happy to share. My parents felt they walked away with more from this.

We never know something will happen to either us or our parents. If you have a parent (s) or grandparent (s), I encourage you to ask them simple, interesting, and tough questions. Doing this with my parents and parents-in-law has allowed me to start the new year a lasting inner peace.

Because you can’t ask Why are you like this??, here are a few of the questions but I would tailor it to your own family:

  1. Why did you move to America?
  2. What was your favorite hobby growing up?
  3. Which sibling are you most close with?
  4. We never really got to experience our grandparents, what were they like?
  5. Who was your first friend in America and where are they now?
  6. What was your major in college? What did you want to become?
  7. What is something that surprises you both in a good or bad way about American society?
  8. What’s the biggest parenting advice you’d like to pass down to us?
  9. How would your parents describe you?
  10. Were you scared when you first found out you were going to be a Mom/Dad?
  11. What did you like about your parents?
  12. Tell us something about your parents we don’t know
  13. What was the biggest problem you had growing up?
  14. What’s your greatest fear in life or with your kids?
  15. What’s a belief you compromised on once you moved here?
  16. How would your friends describe you in high school?
  Thank you.

Thank you.

The Problem with American Mosques

This post originally appeared on WiseUp. WiseUp is a platform for South Asian Americans and Muslim Americans to become more informed about Texas and National politics.

Read time: 4 minutes

Mosques across America need to establish a more inclusive environment for all types of Muslims. The American Muslim population is now largely represented by first generation, young Americans that have an opportunity to step into leadership roles to reorganize and standardize the mosque’s structure.

Growing up, I envied my church going friends for their excitement towards their religion. I shared their belief in the same God yet we attached two separate emotions going to our place of worship. I wondered what it would be like to meet at a coffee shop in the middle of the week and just discuss what God intended for us. I wondered how long it would be until we had robust youth programs and had visionaries leading every mosque. 

Unless you grow up in a city with a substantial Muslim population, your understanding of Islam and its practice is limited to the perspective you inherit from your parents, online articles, and your local Imam. There is an emphasis that we all learn to read Arabic and finish the Quran in its purest form yet reading comprehension is voluntary. We are led to believe by our community that Islam is a series of rules and consequences for not following those rules. Watering down Islam with fear tactics is elementary and a sin against the beautiful religion. 

Why are we perpetuating a system that isn’t working? 

We’re raised to think there's only one category of Muslim and if you don't fall into that mold, you're not a real Muslim. Overtime, after getting yelled at by everyone you turn to with your questions, the worst fallacy takes a seat in your heart: that Islam is somehow more complicated and a less enjoyable to practice compared to other religions. 

There is a great divide between how we perceive Islam versus its intention - this division matters for both Imams and their congregation.

Mosques, Imams, and Muslim program leaders do not have uniform practices to adjust to their congregations' varying needs. Imams have varying levels of education, degree requirements, and guidelines on continuing education. There is no formalized training on dealing with today's societal and cultural issues that tag along with the already overbearing task of being a Muslim in America. 
 
I enjoyed going to Sunday school, Jummah on Fridays, and looked forward to Eid. I grew up in a town with a Muslim population large enough to sustain good Imams, provide resources to their attendants, and establish programs to inspire the youth. But this experience is not common across America. In small towns across the country, communities lack Imams that are effectively trained and dont have the necessary skills to cater to the American Muslim community. The role of the Imam throughout our history has been to not only be religious leader but also a community leader that caters to sociopolitical issues.  Today, an Imam is expected to continue their role of regularly giving advice on marriage, health, and teen issues. However, Imams do not always have training on providing guidance on these topics or awareness of the real problems facing Muslim Americans. Despite the size or location of a mosque, many seem to come up short on answers to basic questions:

What are the youth’s concerns?

Does the Imam have all the resources they need to lead, continue their education, or serve their congregation?

Who should make up the board of directors and is there some representation of the congregation by age, gender, and race? 

Are we devoting enough time and sensitivity to women’s issues? 

Is there a transparent budget and how much of it is allocated towards social and children's programs?

Does the congregation know who to contact when they are having financial or emotional trouble at home?

Mosque leaders can pioneer this change. We have reached the age where the American Muslim’s voice can resonate. Before we can expect the rest of America to understand who we are, we need ourselves to be excited about our community and our mosque. We no longer have to rely on bringing in Imams that grew up in a culture different than ours and challenge ourselves with their contradictory messaging. 

I am not going to pretend to understand the trials that new and existing Imams face when joining a mosque. They are still trying to figure out their worth and balancing the expectations of the mosque’s board of directors and congregation - all while combating the expected challenges of theological leaders. 

An Imam cannot be burdened with running all aspects of the mosques operations. The board of directors, the Imam, and staff’s roles should be defined and balanced.  The mosques board needs to listen to their Imams needs, standardize continuing education to lead Muslims with consistent messaging that aligns with the Quran. An Imam’s role is to ensure the stability of the mosque and its spiritual mission. 

To follow the example of our Christian brothers and sisters, there needs to be a paradigm shift from the teaching Islam the way it was taught hundreds of years ago. We cannot ignore the importance of reading comprehension and critical thinking of the Quran. We should simply do what it takes for everyone to question and embrace Islam. We should engage the youth to both maintain interest in the religion and a love for its teachings. The bible study model of conducting small group sessions at mosques, Islamic centers, homes, or coffee shops needs to become a more rampant practice across America. Many communities have welcomed this socializing model and have seen greater engagement. 

Unless the Muslim community is considered a safe haven, those struggling with their faith will turn elsewhere. We should seek to engage curiosity, not dismiss it. We should prioritize logic over dogmatism. Mosque activities should focus on inclusivity and nurture the curiosity of young Muslims. There should be an active interest in helping young women and men effectively interpret the Quranic scripture for themselves. We should be able to rely on our Imam when they speak on tough issues like domestic violence, combatting extremism, effectively balancing Islamic and Western values, etc. 

Simply put, mainstream mosques need to be restructured to empower the Imam,  garner the interest of the youth by thoughtfully discussing issues that impact them, and establish programs that address the needs of their congregation.

Extend Your Attention Span for Syria

Read time: 2 minutes

Syria is not in our headlines everyday. When I do see any articles, I avoid clicking on them because I know what it says.

Another airstrike.

More casualties.

Absolute terror.

I knew about the Netflix documentary The White Helmets for a while now and I avoided watching it. It’s only 45 minutes long but I avoided it for weeks. I knew it was going to be good but I also knew it was going to be deeply horrifying. The documentary short is about the first responders in Syria that have saved over 58,000 lives since 2013. They are civilians who have dedicated their lives pull both dead and living bodies out of rubble as the daily strikes continue. Well, I finally watched it.

Incredible stories.

Sad beyond reason.

Induces an ugly cry that lasts as long as the documentary.

I’m glad I watched.

The way we have shielded ourselves from this horror in America is fascinating. It’s something I will woefully look back on and hesitate to tell my future children about.

“I’m sorry, I can’t say much about the Syrian genocide because we were too busy talking about the dumbest and most backwards Presidential election in 2016.”

We also probably don’t talk about this everyday because we don’t even know what’s going on. Everyone’s involvement in this war is convoluted and ambiguous. You shouldn't be embarrassed about not knowing. No one understands the lines anymore (although this video from Vox was helpful).

There’s something else we’re all not admitting here in America. Deep down in our hearts, we know that there’s a huge chance that we’re the bad guys this time. We don’t know the extent of our government's involvement in this war, we don’t want to welcome refugees, and worst of all, we don’t want to acknowledge our educate ourselves on it.

What’s going on in Aleppo is as traumatic and rampant as the Orlando nightclub shooting. Except for Syrians, the massacres are a daily occurrence. This is not a comparison of casualties, this is a comparison of fear. The number of people waking up everyday wondering if today is their last outweighs any tragedy we are facing here. Daily terror is not an abstract concept for them like it is for us. Our inability to admit this is also sickening. We are not entitled to ignore what’s going on Syria. We are not entitled to safety over them.

I didn’t watch The White Helmets last night. I watched it two weeks ago and I am still completely shaken up. If I were to die today and have to answer to God, I know I would be ashamed of my inaction. Please watch this short, please do your best to care, and please donate to these incredible heroes. That’s the least we can do from our desks right now.

Starboy: The Weeknd's Unaired MTV Cribs Episode

Read time: 5 minutes

Every now and then, a song comes out that I fall in love with on the first listen. The Weeknd’s (Abel Tesfaye) first song from his third album, Starboy, is about both the good and bad of mega stardom and establishes a new ear for him.  Around the fifth listen, I figured out why I like this song so much: it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood TV shows, MTV Cribs. MTV Cribs was a show where celebrities gave you a tour of their home to showcase their wealth and lifestyle. 

The song Starboy is like a cover of The Weeknd's MTV Cribs episode that never taped, that never aired. I’m confident Tesfaye grew up watching 'Cribs like the rest of us, dreaming that one day he'd be featured. This show unfortunately stopped airing in 2010, along with everything else that ever mattered. I guess this song is his redemption. 

Tesfaye walks you through all the classic Crib's scenes in Starboy:

  1. Dramatic entrance
  2. Catalog of cars
  3. Mention of their superstar significant other
  4. Celebrity Cameos
  5. Shout out to the haters
  6. Shout out to Momma

The Episode Begins.

The front door of the house opens and Tesfaye goes straight into it.

LYRICS: “I'm tryna put you in the worst mood, ah”

TESFAYE: Welcome MTV, you’re about be mad about all this.

This “welcome” is a special tribute to Dave Chappelle's 2006 episode entrance.

MTV Cribs | 2006

Afterwards, Tesfaye heads to his multi-car garage to show off his latest toys.

LYRICS: “P1 cleaner than your church shoes, ah

Milli point 2 just to hurt you, ah

All red lamb just to tease you, ah

None of these toys on lease too, ah

Made your whole year in a week too, yah”

TESFAYE: Let me make you re-evaluate your church attire because you wouldn’t even be allowed to worship my $1.2 million McLaren P1 with what you’re wearing. Take a few more steps. Meet car #2: a red Lamborghini (with a market price of half a million). What did you expect? My weekly salary exceeds your annual gross income.  

Now, there were some humble celebrities on Cribs (Missy Elliot, I still think about your episode) and then there were some unapologetically honest ones.

We can’t forget Mariah. We never forget Mariah.

 MTV Cribs | 2002  Mariah Carey: someone who only does what's absolutely necessary. 

MTV Cribs | 2002

Mariah Carey: someone who only does what's absolutely necessary. 

LYRICS: “Main bitch out of your league too, ah

Side bitch out of your league too, ah”

TESFAYE: Let’s walk down another corridor in my home. We’ve passed more bedrooms than women all of you have probably slept with... My side girl is incomprehensibly beyond your reach and don’t even ask about my actual girlfriend.

LYRICS: “House so empty need a centerpiece

20 racks a table cut from ebony

Cut that ivory into skinny pieces

Then she clean it with her face man

I love my baby”

TESFAYE: MTV, I know this house is all size with no filling so I purchased a $20k ebony table for everyone to do drugs off. Oh hey Bella [Bella Hadid is now making a cameo in this episode] keep doing you on that table, don’t mind these cameras, love you baby.

 Bella Hadid, Supermodel

Bella Hadid, Supermodel

The best MTV Cribs episodes were all about the celeb on celeb cameos. Like when Ja Rule was throwing a party during his episode and casually shook hands with Vin Diesel when he dropped in. Neither of these people matter now but for a small second in space in time, they were kings.

 MTV Cribs | 2004

MTV Cribs | 2004

LYRICS: “You talking money need a hearing aid

You talking bout me I don't see the shade

Switch up my style I take any lane

Switch up my cup I kill any pain”

TESFAYE: I’m really tired of people talking about their wealth or trying to figure out who I am. The irony is deafening. I can do any genre and when it comes to sex, drugs, alcohol or R&B, I’ve done it all. I can kill any pain.

[The camera crew filming still has no idea what he’s been drinking from his cup throughout the episode. But they're going along with it. That's what Cribs is about.]

It gets a little dark here. Tesfaye describes himself as a starboy, a satirical jab at himself for becoming someone that’s given up their soul to rise to astronomical fame. He’s killed off his self both metaphorically (by chopping off his iconic hair recently) and also literally (by doing drugs). We’re not really sure who he’s blaming: his record label? His fans? His barber?

LYRICS: Look what you done!

I'm a mother fuckin Starboy

Every day a ni**a try to test me, ah

Every day a ni**a try to end me, ah

...

Coming for the king that's a far cry I

I come alive in the fall time I”

TESFAYE: People question me, people test me, and they’re definitely after me. But here’s the truth: there’s an empty throne out there right now. This generation has no Michael Jackson - but I’ve got a long way to go before I can become anything like him but that's the goal. I release my albums in the fall every year, I’m on the pumpkin spice calendar baby.

Probably the best part of Cribs was that most people would drag their mothers into the mess.

LYRICS: “Bought momma a crib and a brand new wagon

Now she hit the grocery shop lookin lavish

...

Hundred on the dash get me close to God

We don't pray for love we just pray for cars”

TESFAYE: The last thing I wanted to do before you all head out is to show you is my mom's new wagon: this Mercedes G Wagon is an upgrade from the station wagon she drove us in growing up. I just want everyone to know that I love my momma and she deserves the best, even when doing ordinary tasks like groceries.

Well MTV, it was nice having you over. I’m about to speed off  100 mph recklessly just to feel closer to the God I'm challenging. 

 Personal note: How do I replace my RBF with this face of indifference?

Personal note: How do I replace my RBF with this face of indifference?

This concludes our hypothetical MTV Cribs episode. I'm sorry this show stopped airing before you became famous, Abel Tesfaye. 

I Tried Spin Class for the First Time

Read time: 3 minutes

I went to a spin class for the first time last week. Most of the 45 minutes in the class was me wanting to yell out that this was my first time doing spin, IS EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM AWARE THAT THIS IS MY FIRST TIME? I need everyone to know this.

I went to an establishment strictly dedicated to spinning because this is somehow a viable business model now. The place looked like a high end yogurt shop with its white walls, neon signs, and fully spirited employees but the smelled like a beverly hills candle boutique masking the stench of wet poodle.

For anyone who doesn't know: spin classes are where you pay whats ultimately a lot of money to get into a room full of 20-40 stationary bikes that require special shoes that latch on to the pedals. Then for anywhere between 45-90 minutes, you undergo a spiritual awakening of self, complete with a pit stop in hell but an ultimate end in nirvana. 

A few yelp review photos helped gauge the level of pretense beforehand so when I walked in, I had an air of confidence like I hadn’t eaten bread in seven weeks. This facade didn't last very long. Clipping the bike shoes onto the pedal was so painfully difficult to perform gracefully that I may pretend it's my first time, ever time.

Probably the redeeming aspect of a spin class - that part raises its rank above other trendy classes like yoga or high intensity interval training (HIIT) - is that they include colorful lights and electronic dance or rap music. This is my ideal scene because it makes me think I’m having a fun night out when reality, I’m sweating at a rate faster than what the gym towel can withstand. The instructor knew that I could pedal through the hardest when the drop occurred in the song. There's no reason to increase your bike's resistance until the *untz untz untz* happens. At this point, the instructor understands me at a deep and personal level.

After class was over, I wondered why I had waited so long to try this out. I had a good run with working out once upon a time. There was a two-year period when I worked out 4-6 days a week and felt amazing. I had that glow, sought out that high, and waddled around the gym a special kind of way after each great session. I’m not asking for an applause right now, I just want to establish the glory days before I talk about my failures. Like an old, ex-highschool football star with a receding hairline, I need this moment.

It took a while for me to figure out why I ever stopped consistently working out. The gym in my building is actually only 10 feet away from my door -  this is a literal measurement. Convenience was never an issue so even though this gym is right by me, I never go. It took me a while (a year while) to figure out that I’m someone that thrives on having a lot of people around me struggling the same way to stay motivated.

This week, I went back to class. The domino effect of one health kick leading to another and then another is already happening. I’m suddenly inclined to replace meals with smoothies and think about probiotics all day. Maybe next week, I’ll figure out how people purposelessly wake up at 6 am..

Yes

I'd like to share something incredible that happened this weekend. I catch myself doodling when I am stressed. My subconscious finds serenity in drawing an island with palm trees, with a sun that needed more than a corner. I find refuge in the idea of warm sand, ocean sounds and blue horizons. In college, I met this boy who I knew would do anything for me. Any time with Tariq feels like being on this made up island. He kept me sane through tough days in college; brought me snacks, made me laugh. He told me I could write. He is the reason I started this blog. Back then, I never understood how rare that was in a friend. Now we’re both mostly adults, finding it hard to fathom we met freshman year in Astronomy class.

Throughout the years, I noticed that my best ideas came from conversations with him. I was the best me when he was around. This person believes in my ideas, my life. He nurtured my creative spirit. When I finally realized all this about myself and him, I was grateful I wasn’t too late. I guess once you know, you do anything to make it happen. There isn’t a right time, only a right person. Time had a way of shaping us both together and separately. I am lucky to have him, I know that.

Together we will soon start the longest hang out of our lives. There will be tears and laughs on this island but above all, I am ready to CONQUER LIFE TOGETHER.

Of course, I will marry you.

- March 13, 2015 -

On Friday night, Tariq and I were walking through Deep Ellum. He knows how much I love music, especially live music. He knows I attempt to paint but mostly enjoy the idea of others' passions. He gets me, he always has. So we walked into Kettle Art gallery.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

He was poised most of the day beforehand. We were in a little bit of a rush, our dinner reservations were in 15 minutes across the street. I normally do a slow graze when looking at pieces but Tariq pushed me to the back where they were playing music. We stood in in a corner. But then he asked me to turn my attention behind.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

It was a painting of an island, a near replica of my doodles but much, much better. A board stuck in the sand  had "Marry Me?" scribbled and when I turned to face him, he was on his knees.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

I couldnt hear anything, I didn't question the flashing camera lights, and I can't even remember if I said "yes". This was the start of a fast and surprised-filled blur.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

See, I do feels things. I have tear ducts.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

"Can I keep it?"

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

"Yes, you can keep it"

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

Shout out from the Kettle squad.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
IMG_5181
IMG_5181

We could have been there for two minutes or thirty. I have no idea. But when we went to dinner, my best friends - who all equally helped Tariq make this happen - were there to cheer. Sara helped with the idea of an art gallery and canvas. Laura stayed up and worked on it with him. Bijal flew in for a night. Sahar brought the most beautiful, delicious cake. It's overwhelming to know you are friends with some of the greatest humans alive.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

And then my family came, late as usual - wouldn't have it any other way.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

For anyone who doesn't know, most of these people are my sisters.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

The surprises, the friends, and the excitement still hasn't stopped.

An Analysis of the Song “Tuesday”, the Tale of ILOVEMAKONNEN’s Pre-Fame Drug Empire

Read time: 4 minutes

Makonnen Sheran , street name iLoveMakonnen, is a hip-hop artist from Atlanta. He rose to fame in 2014 after having Drake remix his life's song "Tuesday". This song is more than a club anthem, it is a modern day classic story about love, the hustle, drugs and power.

Main Hook:

Got the club goin' up, on a Tuesday,

Got your girl in the cut and she choosay 

Makonnen is really busy Sunday, Monday and Wednesday - Saturday. He is against the traditional corporate America work structure.

Your girl likes this, which is why she is currently with Makonnen instead of you. They are in their own special corner of the night club, “da cut”, because she is a refined and selective lady. Note: “the cut” also foreshadows the illegal drug nature of Makonnen's business.

Workin' Monday night, on the corner flippin' hard,

Made at least 3 thousand, on the Boulevard

The story begins Monday, where Makonnen was making multiple, high-quality drug deals. The phrase “flippin’ hard” serves as a pun to dramatize the quality of his goods and his tireless effort to sell tons of drugs. On any given night, he could generate sales of upwards of $3-4k.

I've been workin' graveyard shifts every other weekend,

Ain't got no fuckin' time to party on the weekend

This business is hard, blue-collar work. Homie isn’t clocking out at 5pm, he is flippin’ while you're busy trippin’ at happy hour.

I've been flippin' in the house, makin' juugs on the highway,

I've been ridin' out of state, makin' money like my way

In order to maintain a competitive edge in the blackmarket, Makonnen strives to keep his customers happy. His start-up has skyrocketed in sales on both the “Boulevard” and his home, leading him to expand operations to other cities through covert logistics through interstate highways.

I don't think that I should dance, I'm just gon' have another drink

Through this journey so far, Makonnen establishes that he is no Mom and Pop shop, he is a mogul on the rise. And this mogul has finally had the chance to celebrate on this fine Tuesday. He is humble about his work, thus refraining from dancing and maintaining a demeanor of mystery by drinking.

I'm doin' my stance, you know my molly pink,

I got the loudest of the loud, you know I got stink

Makonnen takes this moment to pitch some of his products. He is being casual while tripping on pink MDMA, in case you had any doubts of his sensitive side. Speaking of product line, we all know you’ve been wondering and the answer is yes. He has “the loudest of the loud”, the best of the best, so look no further: he has marijuana.

My P.O think I'm in the house,

Don't give a damn about what she think

Like most politicians and Fortune 500 Executives, Makonnen has a skeleton in his closet. He doesn’t delve too deep into his pasts’ woes and misfortunes but it involves a serious run in with law enforcement. A tinge of his cockiness comes out here, just as any man would be when his pride and work is questioned.

It ain’t no way no how,

I made it on my own, I made my own style,

I don't think that I should stay, you know I gotta' go,

You're moving too fast, don’t wanna take it slow

At the height of his business and near Cartel endorsement, Makonnen walks away from it all. He knew he created something beautiful from nothing, a true American success story. In the end, it was all too fast paced and he didn't want to stray away from what he truly loved: simply rapping about it all.

Write a Letter to Yourself

Read time: 4 minutes.

Gmail Icon
Gmail Icon

I feel like I'm failing all the time. I have not posted here in a while. Truthfully, I write often but I don't know how to share it. When people ask me about my blogging frequency, I feel guilt. I owe it to myself to write, to get better. My responses are always related to life. Life happening or life just being a lot. 

Like many of my friends, I am experiencing the quarter-century-self-evaluation. It's been nice to see people freak out, desire more from within, desire less from without and change only to unchange. People have quit their traditional corporate jobs for their start-up idea. People are traveling more and desire impact. People made babies, people found love, people lost love and sometimes started over. While all of this is expected, these stories shake us up about ourselves. Then time passes and our reflection of these years are reduced to normalcy. But nothing is actually normal...the same way nothing seems abnormal anymore.

And before I exhaust myself of polar ideas, I urge you to reflect forward. More than reflect on how you became the You of Today, it would be interesting to map out what you expect your next ten steps to be. At 26, I want to look back at this moment now. For me, it’s always been easy to look back and notice drastic changes about myself: work habits, lifestyle, opinions, not having opinions, diet, aspirations, my taste in music or obsessions… but paradoxically, I can hardly predict or even anticipate any of that changing. 

Write a letter to your future self; we hear this advice often but I want to do it for the first time. I want to give myself enough credit for my journey in personal, academic and professional growth. We’re used to feeling like we’re failing. We fear wasting our strengths and not contributing to the world. We came this far in our careers but will have no one to share it with. What if we think that  it's too late? But how great would it feel to be in your mid-thirties and realize that everything changed after all – and for the better? 

Here are some thoughts you might want to share with future you:

  • An idea that defines you
  • Five people you trust
  • What are some of your favorite things in life?
  • What music do you listen to?
  • What did you do the last three weekends?
  • Your current financial situation?
  • Habits you wish you could change; habits you strive to maintain
  • What do you appreciate about your life? What improvements do you foresee?

Writing a letter to yourself is a way to measure your success because at this point, you probably need to give yourself a break. My handwriting is unreliable so I wrote myself an email and saved it as a task reminder within gmail to read a year from now. Save an email draft, physically write on paper, go to futureme.org or whatever makes sense to you. Be clear, simple and candid. I hope you take the time today to do this for yourself.