Making Sense of Things: Starting twentyfivex25

At 25, I can look back and see that processes of making sense of things have evolved with me over time. My new project, twentyfivex25 is part of the whole journey to make sense of things, to understand better and seek knowledge of both who I am and what’s my place in this world. There have been various steps along the way.

Early Start

Naunehaal was pretty much the best thing ever. I wonder if they still publish it.

I grew up in Karachi in a middle class family and my parents were amazing at creating a nurturing environment focused on learning and helping my siblings and I excel at whatever we wanted to do in life. My earliest and happiest memories include those of listening to my mother reading to us or telling us stories, and arguing with my siblings over who would get to read this month’s copy of Naunehaal first. My mother would write columns every now and then for various newspapers, and encourage all of us to read books and try and make sense of the world.

Was I a curious child by nature? I don’t know. Did I fall in love with the world and learning about it because of my parents? Yes.

Learning

As a child, I grew up with an incredible sense of wonder about the way the world works. I think even at 25, I still try everyday to hold on to my childlike curiosity. We didn’t have cable TV until I was maybe 11, but my forward-thinking parents bought us our first computer way before that and we got an always-on internet connection pretty early on. After we got cable TV, my day-to-day life included a lot of National Geographic and Discovery Channel programming. I was a huge nerd.

Early to mid 2000s, I exposed myself to a lot of art and culture -mainly on the internet- and my views of the world grew with me as I spent hours on internet chatrooms and online forums, learning from and with people of the world. I played chatroom trivia and my memory retention and recalling skills became significantly better (or so I believed at 15). Video games provided some critical thinking practice and an older brother who coded javascript for fun (nerdiness runs in the family) provided a model of inspiration.

At 16, I left Pakistan to live in the US as a foreign exchange student and during that one year, grew into someone who was interested in personal growth and tapping into our collective potential to make a difference. I saw museums, and spoke English for a whole year, and read blogs about design and art and marketing and personal development. I also learned to appreciate diversity: of ideas and experiences and became more open minded towards difference of opinion.

Over time, learning had definitely raised a lot of questions. The dissonance, arguments, things which didn’t make sense no matter how hard I tried became a part of my process. Curiosity eventually became uncomfortable until expression came along.

Expression

Over time, learning had definitely sparked a knack for expression. As I was learning and absorbing all of this information, a lot of it was definitely overflowing in various ways and coming out of my brain into tangible (and not so tangible) forms. I soon realized that regardless of the choice of medium, expression would always be a part of my existence much like the rest of humanity; I would always use these media to make sense of things to find answers to questions other people didn’t have answers to, and to continue the journey of life, of growth and of richness of experience.

For the next few years, as I was going through college and working at an NGO, work provided a time and space for me to creatively express myself through problem solving, critical thinking and through social interaction. Writing was pretty much the only tangible go-to outlet though. I wrote poetry, and pretentious as fuck accounts of my life experience. Smartphones came along, and so did the obsession of recording the mundanity of life through photos and videos.

KarachiTips circa June 2011

Sometimes I still go back and read some of the things I wrote in my early twenties on my blogs (and i had a number of them), and smile at the desperate attempts I made to not only find meaning in everything, but also to find my voice. Now that I look back, I can see it so clearly that I was practically gasping for air as I wondered and tried to figure out who I was, and am and will be, and what’s my place in the world.

None of these processes existed in vacuum though- everything was practically happening at the same time. Along with writing, visual media that came along as well. I became better at visualizing thoughts and ideas, learned some new skills and did some freelance graphic design work on the side.

In 2011, KarachiTips became a thing and Typewriter happened in 2013. Public platforms which created incredible engagement provided a lot of insight on how people behaved, what they believed and how they felt. All of this helped me in developing an understanding of the world. The experience of running public projects helped me realize: things started to make sense even more as my life experience became richer.

Experience

At 24 I saw myself as somebody who had luckily managed to accumulate a lot of life experience. My life story, of struggle and impatience, of heartbreak and denial, of acceptance and optimism helped me make sense of a lot of things. A lot of experiential learning was accidental- for I didn’t choose to expose myself to as many new experiences as I could but whatever life threw at me, good or arguably bad, I managed to walk away as a better person.

At 25, I know that all of these things have made me who I am but the journey continues for I still don’t know if I’ve found my voice. Hence, twentyfivex25.

twentyfivex25 is this year’s big project. I will be undertaking 25 different projects, spending an increasing length of time on every single one of them as I move along this year, and hopefully by the time I’m 26, I will have a better understanding of who I am, what I believe in, the ways I’m growing and in which ways I’d like to evolve as a person.

Some of the project ideas include exploring painting for 5 days, a social media tune-out for 7 days, raw veganism for 8 days, and yoga for 21 days.

The idea for a project came forward as a result of many different conversations, things and art projects that I’ve exposed myself to over the years.

Just trying to become a better human being.