Beautiful, Musings

10 Life-Changing Things That Would Have Never Happened if Didn’t Exist

lifechangingRight now, as I write this, I am on a stay-cation (please don’t hate me for using non-words like ‘stay-cation’).

I’m taking this time to sleep-in, catch up on reality TV trash, see my grandmother more, get a massage, and dive headfirst into several chocolate cakes. Mostly, however, I’m on this vacation for one particular reason.

To step back from my life for a second, and re-evaluate.

Because here’s the deal: in the span of the last two years things have been feeling different.

Like wake up with a different face, in a different house, on a different planet and not even have enough time to fully register it kind of different.

There really is no better way to put it. My life has been exactly that feeling for the last two years and no one is more gobsmackingly shocked by it than me.

I’m not the kind of person I thought I was or could be. I’m not living the life I lived before or thought I eventually would. I’m not pursuing the same goals, the same milestones, and the same ‘dreams’ that I thought I had planned for my whole entire life.

And, y’know, that’s a little scary.

Because for the longest time now, I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly that had led to this monumental, unseen, overwhelmingly powerful overhaul in pretty much every single part of my life over such a short period of time.

But in the spirit of this zenned out, chocolate induced, detoxing stay-cation, I got to thinking about it. And I’m happy to say that, after many contemplative hours of heavy chocolate-binging, I’ve finally and totally figured it out.

It was just a blog.

This blog. This tiny, sporadically updated, totally non-particular, drop-in-the-Internet-ocean blog.

A blog that literally only happened because I was feeling bored and hungry one late night some few years ago. A blog that I thoughtlessly named ‘Owl Olive,’ for a reason that is ridiculously cutesy and kind of meaningless, really.

This one blog––has incurred more life-changing events in the last two years of my life than almost all other things in my human existence so far have.

And, in celebration of this wondrous, sublimely beautiful, and miraculously true realization, here is a list of 10 life-changing things that would have NEVER EVER HAPPENED to me if didn’t exist:

1. I Would Have Never Experienced the True Power and Comfort That Comes With Being A Feminist

I didn’t start calling myself a feminist until I took a graduate class on Feminist Theater at 21 and I realized that that’s what I was, which was about a year before I started this blog. TURNS OUT I’ve actually always been a feminist but I just never had the right name for it or I didn’t understand what the word feminist even really meant.

(I was totally one of those people who used to support and represent really female-empowering stuff but then I’d ring it off with something stupid like, ‘but I’m not one of those crazy feminists.’ If you do this, even subconsciously, congratulations: you’re a feminist.)

Before I started this blog, however, and even as an already admitted feminist, I didn’t realize how much power that word gave me not just as a woman, but as a person in general. Writing, sharing, and talking about posts like this, this, and this (and really anything to do with this), over so many mediums and social platforms has taught me that a) my words and thoughts on ANY SUBJECT are more powerful and important than anything I could ever wear or own and b) that there is a HEAPING TON of people in KUWAIT specifically and the world generally that care about this stuff just as much as I do and really want to talk about it too.

2. I Would Have Never Grown Such Thick, Drama-Resistant Skin

If I had ever come across situations like this, this, or this (plus about 50+ other horrible emails, comments, and actual real-life threats) before I started blogging I would have probably combusted into a pile of blithering mush. Now, however, I’ve learned to deal.

3. I Would Have Never Found So Many Kick Ass Readers-Turned-Friends

The amount of people who have become real-life friends of mine because of this blog, many of whom I now call, WhatsApp, email, and/or regularly interact with on social media is so many and so extraordinarily beautiful, that it makes me want to keep blogging just so I can keep meeting people like that. Also the fact that I even have something that remotely resembles a ‘readership’ is, frankly, a little bananas to me and it has humbled me in ways that I have never been humbled before.

4. I Would Have Never Gotten to Know and Work With Lana Al-Resheed

Okay, the only reason that this deserves a point on it’s own and didn’t get included in the previous point is very simple: my meeting and interaction with Lana Al-Resheed THROUGH THIS BLOG SPECIFICALLY AND EXCLUSIVELY didn’t just give me one more new, awesome friend like it usually does.

It changed the path of my professional and personal life in a very real and profound way, through the following series of blog-exclusive events:

  • I first met Lana for about 10 seconds at this event that I was exclusively invited to as a blogger a year and a half ago, during which time I told her I was a huge fan–something which, apparently, stayed with her and made her aware of me as a blogger for the very first time.
  • Six months later I started Running With Heels on the blog (note to self: revive that!) and chose Lana as my first feature interview. The post got plenty of comments; plenty of interaction; plenty of Lana lovin’ all around! A great kick-off to a cool blog segment but not much else, right? Right.
  • Unbeknownst to me, however, it was that interview and that blog post that talked Lana Al-Resheed into contacting me two months later, working with me on a small project, and offering me the position of General Manager at THE CITY Magazine all before she had learned my last name AND ENTIRELY BECAUSE she liked my writing on this blog and liked my interviewing style, which she had experienced firsthand also on this blog.

Which leads us to peppy number 5…

5. I Would Have Never Realized What I ACTUALLY Wanted To Do With My Life

All my life, I was told by friends, by family, and by myself that I wanted to pursue a career in English Literature academia.

I studied for it in college; went on to get my M.A. in it; had plans to eventually earn a PhD and teach with it.

I lived day-in, day-out without ever questioning my future plan as an academic because everyone around me from professors to friends to work colleagues all kept telling me how good I was at it and how this was so clearly what I was meant to be. And, all the while, I completely agreed with all of them.

I really was good at it and for the most part I really enjoyed doing it. But did I dream about it?

Was I inspired by it?

Did I imagine all the ways that I could enrich my life and the life of others through it?

Nope. Never. Not once.

And the more I blogged, the more I wrote creatively, and the more I connected with people through stories and conversations (instead of theories and analysis), the more I realized it. I realized how much I loved editorial work, loved journalistic writing, and loved content creation (all of which I actually had extensive experience in but that I never truly concentrated on because it wasn’t in ‘the plan’).

It was something that Lana Al-Resheed saw in me and saw in this blog before I even saw it for myself. And the minute she offered it to me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was exactly what I had wanted to do all along. This is also one of the reasons that I will never not owe Lana Al-Resheed for pretty much changing my whole entire life.

6. I Would Have Never Found My Sense of Humor

Through blogging I’ve learned that a) It is absolutely possible to be PLEASANTLY sarcastic and cynical about stuff, which has allowed me to laugh at myself and at the world a little more, and b) this makes me a funny person, which I did not know that I was.

(Attention, trolls: I know that you are all so excited about this big, gaping troll-hole I just presented to you, and you can’t wait to tell me that you don’t think I’m funny and you could totally blog waaay funnier than me. That is totally fine. A lot of people don’t think I’m funny. But enough people DO think I’m funny that they have actually taken the time to comment SPECIFICALLY on my funniness on this blog, in emails, on social media, and in real human life. The end.)

7. I Would Have Never Gotten Over My Privacy-Phobia

When I first started this blog and established it’s ‘Owl Olive’ social media accounts, I was dead set on maintaining my anonymity (as a lot of Kuwaiti bloggers usually tend to do). This is was pretty comforting for me because I used to have a lot of hang ups about sharing personal details about myself and my life with strangers or, really, anyone who wasn’t super duper close to me.

At the same time, I was sharing more about myself, my mind, and my heart on this blog than I had ever previously shared with any amount of people before in my entire life. It didn’t feel half bad. Eventually, that made me want to share more stuff in places like social media, and made me want to identify the blog with other daily parts of my regular life–things like my work, my family, my home, and my actual name. More and more, I stopped caring as much about being private and started caring more about being selective instead.

(In case you don’t know this already: my real name is Shaza Ayesh, which beats the hell out of ‘Owl Olive,’ I must say.)

8. I Would Have Never Really Figured Out Where I Stood On Things Like Age, Marriage, Religion, Parenthood, Politics, or People In General

Self-explanatory really. The truth is that a whooole lot of things that I learned about myself as an adult 25 year old woman out in the world I learned because, at one point or another, I thought it would be a really good subject to blog about. Might not have realized it at the time, but it’s actually turned out to be the main reason that I always return to blogging no matter how long it’s been. It helps me find out who I really am.

9. I Would Have Never Realized My Deep, Unabiding Love FOR ALL-CAPS





10. I Would Have Never Known The Delightful Positivity and Hopefulness That Comes With Ringing Off Every Blog Post With ‘All My Love!’

And with that…

All my love!

Feminism, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

How I Should Think About My Weight (If I Absolutely Must)


Ah, another day, another chance for you and I, as women, to talk, think, and downright obsess about how much physical space our bodies take up in this big, bad world. At least that’s how it’s felt like for me ever since I came back home from Montreal a year and a half ago and started to steadily gain more and more of a circumference spectrum than I’ve had since at least six years ago. See, for the better part of the last six years of my life I never found myself outside of the healthy-for-my-height (173 cm) range of 64 to 66 KG. At my lowest, I was a spry 63. Today, I am a 72. Not a huge amount by any means, still within a healthy range, and certainly not the heaviest I’ve ever been but still way more than I had become accustomed to for the last several years.

And even for my feminist-defined, thoroughly skeptical, shruggingly blasé self it’s been a struggle. I am a mere mortal after all, not Deepak Chopra. Bu I also think it’s been especially difficult because, in my line of work (the media/magazine industry), you can’t so much as blink without being bombarded with some form of conversation or imagery about the subject of weight. The gaining of weight; the losing of weight; who gained/lost what; how they look; how they did it; how you can too; GODDAMNED ETC. But you know what? Screw that. Here’s how I’m going to personally start thinking about the subject of my own weight from now on (if I do at all).

Try it out for yourself if the idea of owning your own body strikes you.

WEIGHT THOUGHT #1: This Is Some Grade-A Crap Right Here

Okay, coming from someone who is thoroughly embedded within the media bubble system, I’ve gotta tell you that, when the media around you starts pushing the idea of perfect people in your face YOU WOULD BE WISE TO BE EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL. Really, the only correct way to consume images of perfectly tailored human beings in media is with deep, delicious, instant doubt. Saying this is probably hurting my rep as a ‘media-person’ (wait, what?) but, hell, it’s the goddamned truth. It’s advertising, you guys. It’s supposed to make you want something. That fact ALONE makes the whole thing AS FISHY AS THE FREAKING ATLANTIC. So when you see those types of images in your various media outlets (so, basically, anywhere) you really should move forward very cautiously (or better yet: not at all). So, instead of letting yourself feel flawed or even mesmerized by the images that are directly and indirectly telling you to shrink yourself away, I suggest you start seeing it as a sad, slightly hilarious, icky, desperate cash grab. Because that’s what the hell it really is.

Feminism, Musings, Running In Heels, Uncategorized

Six Lessons Lana Al-Resheed Taught Me Without Even Realizing It

Photo 4-18-2014, 6 20 02 PM

Mentors are not magic. Your mentor is not your Professor Dumbledore. Your mentor is a human being. They are allowed to have flaws and personality quirks and you are allowed to not like those things about them, and vice versa.

I personally grew up in a family of overachievers and in an environment that inadvertently taught me (or tried to teach me) that I should enter into all things either a) knowing everything or b) pretending to know everything. The more I grew up the more I resented this kind of intimidating and isolated attitude especially when it came to work or school. As a result, I tend to seek out indirect guidance and education from anyone around me who I think is a little extra special, regardless of whether or not they are my superiors in a professional environment. In hindsight, I’ve found that this one trait alone has given me such an overwhelmingly HUGE advantage in my careers as an academic, a writer, and as an editor/publisher. Because I’ve always unconsciously tried to soak up as much professional knowledge as I can from literally every single person around me, I think I can now safely say that I have a very extensive, advanced knowledge base in my chosen fields that most people who are my age don’t have and that usually only develop over a period of much longer, more complex work experiences.

Most recently, I’ve had the crazy lucky fortune of working super closely with known marketing badass and general all around awesome lady-person Lana Al-Resheed who, if you recall, was my debut Running in Heels interview over a year ago. The actual story of how Lana and I met, got in contact with each other, and eventually started working together would have never EVER happened without this humble blog. If you think about it, it’s a pretty strong and beautiful indication of who Lana Al-Resheed is as a person and how much risk and support she is willing to put into someone she believes in and feels a special connection to–even if it was someone she hardly knew like me. The story of how Lana and I came into each other’s lives is one of my favorite stories to ever tell just because it sounds so wonderfully unreal and miraculously fated by God. But it IS real and it’s goddamned beautiful.

Even after having worked with her for almost an entire year now I still don’t know what the exact reasons were for her choosing me and believing in me as much as she did (I don’t even think she knows exactly). All I know is that Lana loves it when she sees things that other people don’t see and she has told me that ‘you are something I saw that no one else saw.’ And, because of that, all I know is that I am lucky and so is she.

From my own experience, mentoring relationships usually end up being some of the most rewarding and meaningful relationships for both the mentor and the mentored, and they almost always develop into lifelong, family-tight bonds, even after the fact.

So, since I think that everyone on Earth needs to, at some point in their professional lives, find their own personal ‘Lana’ (even the Lanas of the world need their own Lanas), here is but a short list of some of the most important lessons that Lana Al-Resheed has taught me without even realizing it. (I actually tried to see if she realized it and asked her to list six of what she thought were her most important lessons for me and she didn’t mention ANY of these, which is, of course, proof that wisdom, authenticity, and versatility are second nature to Lana Al-Resheed.)


On Turning 25 (and Other Glorious Ages)


A little over two weeks ago, I turned 25 years old. And, as does happen to most of us, my birthday (and all the people congratulating me on either staying young or getting old) made me face up to my many feelings about the inevitability of aging. Now, I happen to be blessed with a huge group of friends who vary in a number of age groups, sensibilities, and life trajectories. So, as many of them grow older and reach different stages in their lives at different rates, I tend to notice how they all approach the idea of getting older.

When it comes to most of my female friends (and, for a while, me as well), age was a matter of escalating concern as the years went by. I noticed that, as they grew older (and wiser and stronger), a lot of my female friends were also strangely growing more and more fond of attaining a certain compliment.

The apparent Holy Grail of concerned agers, everywhere: “You look great for your age!

Personally, whenever I hear someone direct that compliment at me or someone I know I find it beyond weird. It’s even weirder when I see how enraptured with happiness other people can be upon hearing that they don’t look like they’ve been on this earth as long as they actually have been.

I mean, if I look great for my age then it’s because the way I look is one of many ways a person can look at 25. That’s one way 25 can look. If you were to round up 100 different 25-year-olds you would get a huge, diverse spread of bodies and faces that vary in accordance to their lifestyles, genetics, and plastic surgeries. But its not as if any of us are going to look 12 or something. At some point, your age catches up. Even if you could realistically find some compelling exceptions to the rule, you can’t deny that aging is still happening on a cellular level to all of us.

On a basic human level, aging just can’t be undone no matter how much you try to customize your lifestyle to accommodate it. I don’t know anyone who looks younger than their age that’s actually fooling anyone–not really. Even the greatest looking, most genetically blessed, impeccably worked on, seeming non-ager on this earth still basically looks about their age. In the most extreme cases of unutterable beauty, some people can maybe buy themselves about 5 to 10 years, give or take a few.

That’s the thing about telling someone they look great “for their age.” It’s weird. And, as I turned 25 a few weeks ago, I’ve had to hear this well-intentioned sentence blurted out at me one too many times for comfort. But, despite how admittedly weird it is, I completely understand why people would think I (and other women) would be delighted to hear it.

I know that for ALL WOMEN ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET the fear of “losing our looks” is a concerning issue for us all to various degrees. Because the truth is that a woman’s looks are nothing if not currency, and it takes a damn near bulletproof self-esteem to go through your life, birthday after birthday, with enough grace to not care about the inevitable deterioration of that said currency. It’s not like any of us are going to be sad when someone tells us, at 65, that we don’t look 65. Weirded out and  a little confused, maybe, but not sad.

But, you know, as an admitted, completely understanding, formerly concerned, currently ecstatic ager of the world, I’ve gotta say it all sounds like a bunch of crap to me. As I’ve gotten older and as the universe has continued to apply time + gravity to my human body, I’ve realized that nothing will ever quell your fear of aging better than aging itself. Here’s why:

We Actually Age So Slowly That We Don’t Even Notice It Happening

Look, it’s not like you or I or anyone else is ever going to go to bed beautiful and wake up a complete hag. We age so gradually that we only ever notice every once in a while. And sure, those few moments when I DO happen to notice (must use more moisturizer) may offer a pinging moment of mortality, but its hardly a cause for deep depression or concern. Mostly it’ll just remind me that I’m human; that I’m still alive; and that no one lives forever.


On the Sometimes Horrible, Mostly Hilarious Forms of Hate


Here is an unwavering fact of life: at some point in your life, no matter what, someone (or maybe lots of someones) is going to severely dislike you. They may even dislike you so much to the extent that they will use the word ‘hate’ when describing how they feel about you. Now, before your minds trail off to far-flung pastures, let me just briefly clarify the kind of hate I’m talking about. This is the lowercase kind of hate.

Not violent. Mostly vibe-y. It really just kind of annoyingly hangs around like that errant fly that you just can’t get rid of for several days. I’m talking about super-intense, off the charts dislike. The severe aversion some people may have to all (or most! or some!) of the things that make you you. Either way, it’s pretty much an unavoidable rite of passage in life and growing up, especially if you’ve got any kind of existence online at all. So we’ve gotta learn to deal.

It will probably surprise about 1.5 percent of you that I have some experience being hated. Something about me, especially when expressed in verbal form, just tends to rub some people in all the wrong ways. I have way too many close friends who have told me this. I have a somewhat strong personality and occasionally strong opinions which are, unsurprisingly, a lot easier to hate than your average mild-mannered, get-alongness kind of attitude. Shocker.

But here’s a special caveat that’s important to note if you happen to be one of those people who has been ‘hated on’ one time too many: Not being hated does not necessarily mean that you are a super awesome person. It just means that you are not controversial. ACTUALLY, LET ME CLARIFY: Not being hated ever can SOMETIMES mean that you really are a super awesome person who is consistently wonderful and genuine and just a bucketful of sunshine AND HOW IN THE WORLD COULD ANYONE EVER POSSIBLY HATE YOU, BAMBI’S SECOND COUSIN? But, other times, if you’ve never even been mildly hated then it means that you’re basically human oatmeal. It means that no one has ever even noticed you enough to realize how mind-numbingly blah you actually can be. But, hey, it also means you’re lucky!

And, just because I don’t want to come off as an actual hate-mongerer (i.e. someone who condescendingly thrives on people hating me, i.e. Kanye West), let me just very briefly debunk some common ‘hate-talk’ that I don’t ever actually subscribe to.


The Complete Guide to Getting Zero Closure (And Being Ok With It)

ClosureGraphLife is a dubious thing. I mean, gosh, even the word itself has this alluring, almost slippery quality to it. Dubious. It’s one of those words that you enjoy reading out loud and like having in your arsenal but don’t ever want to use in a serious conversation about your life. But, lately, dubious things have been on my mind. And for good reason.

Y’see, not in the very distant past (a little over a year ago) I broke ties with a woman who was, in all honesty, an incredibly close friend of mine and whom I had known for many years and shared countlessly personal experiences and stories with. I’m not going to talk your ears (or eyes?) off with the specifics but, over time, it turned into a very dramatic relationship dynamic and I just decided it was no longer a friendship worth salvaging anymore. So we both cut off real communication from each other and the whole thing just kind of tapered off slowly and naturally.

This is a friend who, at one point in my life, I considered one of my very best friends so on occasion my thoughts do return to her and I wonder about her and how she’s getting on in the world. I know that I will always care about her as a person and I do genuinely want good things for her. She’ll probably always be one of those definitive friendships in my life and I’m never going to have the heart to delete her number from my phone. So I figure its pretty normal for people to find themselves recalling these kinds of important relationships from their past at odd, random moments throughout their lives–sometimes on-trigger and sometimes not. Very run-of-the-mill nostalgia stuff happening here. But this friend is a little different.

See, this friend is a fellow blogger.

Now, I certainly will not share any specifics about her or her blog here but, the very nature of the fact that she is a blogger in Kuwait makes recalling her that much more common and that much more uncomfortable for me. Because there’s the occasional social media mention or tag among other bloggers that includes her. There’s the super-awkward, always shocking event sightings. There’s the group emails sent out by companies that find her blog’s name on the list along with my own.

Plus, there’s all the normal human, regularly awkward and slightly baffling social niceties like the ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ and ‘Happy Eid’ broadcasts that I get from her a couple of times a year and which always leave me feeling like I stubbed my toe in a dark corner. Infuriatingly painful and ridiculous.

Point is! No matter how much you think you may be done with a friendship, a relationship, a job, or that annoyingly rebellious strand of unruly baby hair that wont straighten NO MATTER HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN BURNING YOUR SCALP WITH A HAIR DRYER, it will always find a way to pop back up in your life one way or another. Always. Getting real closure is about as possible as winning the goddamned lottery. We’re all both mystically hopeful of it and deeply annoyed by it at the same time. Because while we secretly know that we probably just threw our hard-earned cash into the wind, there’s always the one in 3 billion chance that we could make beau coup bucks overnight. Usually though we’re just out the time, the money, and the hopeful good vibes.

So, how do we deal with not winning the lottery? Well, apparently, we read. Studies show that people who do not read are more likely to make snap judgements, think stubbornly, and ignore alternatives once their minds are made up. Readers on the other hand have been found to have more agile minds that don’t require “cognitive closure,” don’t hastily judge, and are more willing to consider change and alternate options down the road. So, essentially, readers are just better people.

Bookworms of the world, rejoice! We are justified! All we have to do now is just read read read read read read AND POW! Better critical thinkers!

But I don’t want all you non-readers out there to feel left out of the broad-minded fun (although you ARE reading this blog, so there’s hope for you yet!). With you anti-bookworms in mind, here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to be totally cool about getting zero closure at all times.

Kuwait, Musings, Writing

Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment


So a couple of weeks ago I got word of the fact that one of Kuwait’s most highly anticipated and editorialized magazines, Athnain (Arabic for ‘two’), would be available to order in Kuwait via Tap (I believe you can only access Tap from your smartphone for the time being) and I pretty much made like the wind to snag that sucker!

Now, like many other starry-eyed Instagram onlookers, I was deeply fascinated by the way everyone had covered the launch of the magazine and the way that Athnain itself had created an identity which revolved around the notion of cultured individuals exploring Kuwait’s untapped and unexposed artistic endeavors in a way that was both meaningful and different.

Lofty aspirations? Sure. But, from what I previewed on Instagram and all the other social media buzz, Athnain seemed to have just the right amount of daring confidence and alternative prowess to pull it off. I was honestly the very picture of human excitement when I received a launch invite and all but kicked myself in the shins when the universe so sinisterly kept me from attending.

But after getting my hands on it, Athnain (at least the premier issue) seemed to read more like a polished thought experiment than the purposeful expression on new modes of art, creativity, and identity in Kuwait that I had initially hoped it would be.

And, sure, ‘a thought experiment’ is not an overtly negative term–not by a long shot. No matter what angle you’re coming from, Athnain will challenge or probe your mind in one way or another. That is good for society by any measure and it’s an admirable effect for anyone to have. It just slightly underwhelmed me and maybe that’s partly my fault too (although that would mean I should lower my standards to appease someone else’s ineptitude, so no). And, hell, ‘thought experiment’ could speak for a whole host of different experiences.

So, because I know that different people buy different magazines for different reasons, and because I don’t ever want to come off as a Negative Nancy (I’m honestly not, I just think the key to a good critique is an open attitude), I’m going to briefly tell you guys what to expect from whichever brand of ‘thought experiment’ you’re particularly interested in getting out of Athnain. It goes without saying, of course, that if you’re not super interested in the concept of thought-provoking media (and it’s totally fine if you’re not–I am an absolute connoisseur of reality TV trash, so I’m not about to judge) then Athnain altogether just might not be for you.