I was travelling through the Lut desert with a group of friends a couple of years ago. As we approached the first sand dune, I ran to the top, crossed my hands on my chest and rolled down the dune at top speed. Sand working its way into my clothes, mouth, ears and nose. Before long, the sound of our laughter filled the air as we each rolled down the dunes and ran up for the next turn, trying to roll faster and faster each time.
After a while, a friend – an incredible being that I am so lucky to be able to consider as a friend – summoned me to the top of another dune where he was sitting motionlessly. I climbed up next to him, and he said listen. So I sat attentively and closed my eyes. Slowly, I became aware of the sand that was playfully tapping at my face, slowly, I became aware of the gentle whoosh of the wind as it brought the sand to life. I became aware of the rhythmic pattering of the sand that was whirling in the wind – it was mesmerising. It felt like I had suddenly been welcomed into the world of these tiny particles, a secret world filled with beautiful music, subtlety and energy.
After the hill reps today, I took a detour towards the sea to collect the bits I’d left behind from the morning swim. As I approached, I was greeted with the most beautiful view. As I sat on the cliff top watching a couple jogging with their child in a pram, I decided to revisit what my friend had taught me on top of the sand dune. I looked at the beautiful deep blue of the sea, slowly becoming aware of the unfathomable amount of shades of colours that form its beautiful blue. I became aware of the humming of the waves as they crashed underneath me, the deep blue breaking into a distinct, foamy white before reuniting with the deep blue of the sea.
One side of me wanted to soak in all the beauty surrounding me, the colours, calm and freshness. The other side of me mercilessly questioned what I’ve chosen to do with my life. It reminded me of what one of the sport authorities advised me in Iran, which is very much the echo of my own mindset at times: you could do more useful things with your life. Don’t pursue sports, go further your studies and find a real job.
I sat on the cliff top in a bit of a conflict. One side of me said, isn’t this what life is about? Acknowledging these subtle yet significant beauties that inspire and energise us, filling us with so much peace, joy and love for our surroundings and for life? Allow the love and beauty of life to inspire you. The other side said, what are you doing with your life? Isn’t it time to get a real job and to tick a few boxes of what you ought to have ticked by now? Follow the life that you ought to pursue.
I wonder what this journey and the conflicts that it has created will ultimately teach me. There’s definitely one thing that both sides of me agree with, though: life is a learning curve.
I often saw Ms. F at my aunt’s house. A fun, energetic, loving and caring lady, always making the most hilarious yet inappropriate comments, making the victim blush to the ear lobes and everyone else rolling around with laughter.
She spent the final two weeks of her life in hospital. As I was cycling past the hospital on my way home, I decided to stick my head around and say hello. I wasn’t expecting her to even remember me in her old age and deteriorating circumstances, but thought she might appreciate some company, no matter who it may be.
When I got there, she held on tight to my hands, and gave me the most loving smile. Two other ladies were by her bedside. It was time for food and they wanted her to have her dinner, but she would not let go of my hands to eat. She looked at me and said: stay for a while.
I had invited people over for my mum’s birthday for 7:30 that night. A while later, with the time at 6:45, the guests due to arrive at any moment, and dinner by no means anywhere near ready (I hadn’t even bought the ingredients yet!) I told Ms. F I had to go – but promised to come the day after. I was so touched and emotional as I left the hospital.
On my way to my aunt’s on Sunday, I stopped by the hospital again. As I approached her room, I saw that her family was by her bedside and hesitated by the door. I didn’t want to disturb their time together, yet I had promised to visit her again… I entered, shyly. She had a huge oxygen mask on her face this time and was struggling to breathe. She had shrunken since last I saw her and was using her entire body in an attempt to breathe. As I took her hands to say hello, her eyes opened and ignited with love, energy and her mischievous twinkle and she gave me the biggest most loving of smiles. She shook her head from side to side with affection and said: I love you, I love you, I love you like a tape on repeat.
Ms. F died the following day.
Two days later, I got home late in the evening and was browsing through my inbox. I was very excited to find an email in which I had been put in touch with a very exciting triathlon project, and they had responded so positively. It lifted my spirits so much that I kept twirled around the room chanting I love you, I love you, I love you, incessantly. I suddenly stopped still as I realised I was imitating Ms. F.
It made me realise how awesome a human being she had been – to be lying on her deathbed, with hardly any energy left, literally fighting to breathe… Yet still go through the trouble of mustering enough energy to show so much love and affection to me. To a near stranger, to a no-body. To make the effort to make even me feel loved, welcome and appreciated. What an amazing person with such an amazing personality. She set the bar so high: to magnanimously say ‘I love you’ with sincerity shining through her eyes. To make anyone, no matter who you they are – or how she’s feeling herself – loved, valued and worthwhile.
I met up with a very dear teacher/tutor from school yesterday, someone who has impacted my life so positively. It struck me how close you can feel in thoughts with someone, yet how little you may know of them. Although it felt like I last saw him a year or two ago, in reality it had been more than 7 years!
What struck me even more was what amazing human beings, teachers are! They impact the lives of so many people, in such subtle, beautiful and thoughtful ways. They shape, form and guide us, giving us wings to fly towards our dreams. They have one of the most important jobs in society, yet are the most humble of human beings. I, for one, have been blessed with such wonderful teachers who have impacted me so much, helping me grow into the person that I am today.
It seems that often in life people do favours with some sort of interest in mind – a transaction with some sort of return in time. But teachers… I’d never fully grasped how they have always given so selflessly, so generously, wholeheartedly and gracefully, and yet so unassumingly. All the time they spent with me, the guidance, the thoughtful words, the encouragements and helping me through difficult moments – and never expecting anything in return. A silly girl who took her 7 years to merely say thank you for all that you have done for me. What a noble, humble, inexpressibly incredible person one must be to become a teacher.
To represent Iran, I need to race in clothes that respect the rules and conditions of the country. In the lead up to the ITU World Champs London, one of the main defining points of whether I would get permission to race or not was down to the clothes I proposed to race in.
I presented to the sport deputy minster the sportswear I proposed to race in, to which she added the changes she saw appropriate and asked me to go to a workshop with the amended design.To put time and the urgency of the situation in context, I was sent to Merooj, the sports workshop on Saturday. I was scheduled to fly back to London on Tuesday, as the race was on Sunday.
I found myself in Merooj, a bustling workshop with phones ringing non-stop and people running up and down the stairs in a frenzy to get everything done. I explained my situation to someone in the workshop, sheepishly adding that I’ll have to have to the clothes by tomorrow or latest Monday morning. How many pieces, he asked. Just one, I replied. He unceremoniously showed me to the door.
At that moment a lady came into the room. I explained my story to her, and she called in, Dr. S, the workshop manager. Dr. S listened to my story, called in the tailor and asked him to help me out. Objecting about the timeline, Dr. S asked him to drop what he was working on to make sure I get the clothes in time. The tailor said he’ll try to get it ready by tomorrow evening. That would leave me with Monday to take the garments to the ministry for approval.
It was now Sunday afternoon. I called the workshop but they hadn’t had the chance to finish the clothes. Monday morning, I went there hoping to take the sportswear to the ministry as soon as it was finished. The clock just ticked on mercilessly, 9:00, 11:00, 13:00… my heart was starting to skip a beat by now. I ran into the sewing room and start begging, everyone was working as hard as possible, but the garment was simply not finished!!! 14:00… I just didn’t know what to do. I ran into the sewing room again, whatever you’ve done, its enough! I said. I’ll take what’s available to the ministry before they close. But we haven’t sewn the seams, or the pockets or the… I can always bring it back to you afterwards for the finishing touches! Just let me get the general form approved!
It was around 14:30 by then, I called up the ministry to say I’m on my way. They said we’re about to leave. I asked them to stay for an extra half hour so that I could get the clothes approved. They couldn’t. I still had Tuesday morning, my flight was in the afternoon. There was still hope. The most productive thing I could do was to make sure that the clothes are finished and flawless, completely ready for tomorrow, so I put the clothes on for the first time to check the fitting.
That sinking feeling as I tried to wriggle it on! It is a good 2-3 sizes too small with the sleeves and length of the top far too short, and the whole garment so tight I could barely breathe… There was no way on earth the ministry would ever approve it. I’d created such chaos in the workshop for the past two days, they’d put so much effort into this… what do I do?!!
Dr. S asked me about the clothes. I’m trying to think of a modification, something, anything that would shed some hope to the situation. I didn’t have the heart to tell the truth, but the only words that came out of my mouth were: It’s just too small. On one hand, I was now so relieved that the people at the ministry were not able to stay for another half hour – otherwise it would have been game over. But how on earth would I be able to make suitable clothes by tomorrow morning?!! ‘Mr. Youssef’, says the manager to the tailor. It may be an overnight job, but you need to help this lady out. I was speechless! I had already created so much inconvenience, – and he was still willing to go further, to help me so much!
To help is human, to care is human, but to go out of ones way to this extent, to still keep on helping despite the enormous amount he had already done, and the emotional and financial cost he’d already embraced, is pure angel. The sportswear I raced in will always remind me of the sheer emotional ride of those two days and Merooj Sport’s unshakable support to produce them for me. You really were my saviour angels.