Thursday, 31 August 2017

17 feels

Time seems to pass me by, almost like it's slipping through my fingers when you hopelessly grab a handful of sand and watch it funnel away and return to its masses. Whilst I am still in my youth I am being approached by big decisions. Like University. Do I want to go? What do I studyWhat do I do afterwards? Stuck in-between raging loose, enjoying my teenage angst years or making responsible decisions like driving and education. It's a strange age. One year until so-called 'adulthood' whilst still being institutionally classed as a child despite the fact you're making such impactful choices. I didn't know how to approach writing this because it is so easy to fall into making a generic "__ things I learnt" or "things I would tell my ___ self." So I will talk about my growth this past year. Sixth form. New people. My blog. Writing. Self confidence. Social anxiety. Fresh set of struggles.

I've realised the importance of education and encouragement regarding it. Coming from a very pro-education family I always knew it was necessary. Now I finally understand why. So not only am I trying to help myself I have simultaneously taken on the role of helping others academically. I tutor a few individuals, write vaguely useful academic guides and provide revision notes to those who need them. I hope to continue this until the end of my academic journey because it is all very worth it.

I've grown more conscious of everything. I transitioned to vegetarianism as I gained knowledge of what I'm putting into my body and how it harms my own health and the Earth we live on. I researched, read, watched and listened to anything I could find regarding it and ended up writing a hefty post all about it which can be found here. And now that I believe I know enough about it I'm now trying to get others to pursue cutting out meat because I love helping others become enlightened.

Returning to the motherland is key. I didn't get to go home to Morocco in the summer of 2016 and subsequently, the rest of that year and the next were my most difficult times. I booked my ticket to Morocco for this summer in April because it was the only thing motivating me to get out of bed in the morning. The prospect of home is what got me through everything, regardless of whether it set me back £400. And when I was finally there I felt new and like all the tiredness of the past year vanished. Happier, smiling more, my skin was glowing, more inspired and outgoing. Being somewhere you're used to where everyone looks like you, has the same God, same language is comforting. Because in a country where you're a minority, going back to where you feel comfortable is the most heart-warming feeling. Trust me, I cried throughout the whole plane journey back to London and on the tube home from Heathrow terminal 4.

Family first. Part of why I always yearn to go back to Morocco is family. They are my biggest support system and without them I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am right now. why am I crying? They encourage me to try new things, better myself and motivate me to work hard. Because despite the odds of living in a country, hell, continent that has been overexploited and severely mistreated by the likes of European colonialism in the past, they are still defying odds, gaining masters and working, working, working. Nothing beats the feeling of going back after a long time and literally being flooded with love by them. أنا أحبك جميعا، إذا كنت تقرأ هذا.

I am always learning. School wise, blog wise or social issues wise. We are surrounded by various information outputs. So take advantage of them. Sign up for taster lectures at nearby universities, living in London provides a wealth of these. I personally love SOAS, Kings College and LSE for this. There is more to YouTube than Zoella and clickbait. Crashcourse and Vox are perfect channels for learning new things, regardless of whether you're in education or not. I can not imagine myself living a life in which my learning is stagnant and neither should you.

I have finally realised the importance of taking time out for yourself and not exerting too much pressure on myself. Anyone who knows me is aware of the immense expectations people and myself have on me. It is destructive and is often counterproductive. Worrying about not getting a top grade will actually fault you of it. I've lived it. Self-care is something that is thrown around so much but never actually practiced. It is seen a something that only privileged, middle aged, successful white bloggers do with their Jo Malone candles in their semi-detached Notting Hill home...not something for the more urbanised, underprivileged youth. wrong. Sit somewhere and cry. Then go home, have a hot shower and think. Then put on a face mask, moisturise your skin with pretty potions and wholesome oils and listen to Daniel Caesar or Jorja Smith whilst you chill. I need to do this more often.

I understand why having physical memories and copies of things is so crucial. Ever since my (poor, poor) iPhone 5s began to show serious signs of software wear and briefly reset to factory settings in the beginning of August *but somewhat returned to normal* I cried so much over all the photos and notes and short stories I had collated ever since December 2014. I quickly backed everything on there onto my laptop and started using the disposable camera my little sister had bought me as an early birthday present (thank you so much Malak) I have been trying to use those 27 shots throughout the summer and beyond: taking pictures with family, experiences, beach trips, picnics and more. I cannot wait to develop them.

I have stopped internally pressuring myself into making friends. I can assure you that I don't wallow in my own self-pity because I'm constantly alone. Just when you move to a new sixth form, you feel like you have to make friends with everyone. You don't. I stick to a few people and religiously keep in contact with old ones. Do not feel like you must be loud and bubbly in order to not be alone. Learn to be more confident with yourself and your own company but do not completely block out any support from friends and family.

Contrastingly, internet friends are so amazing and you need some. Don't ever let anyone mock you for having friends on the Internet. Those friendships are just as valid as those you have in real life. They remind you that not everything you do has to be conventional. To all my internet friends: Fran, Lexie, Tasha, Esme and more, I love you all so much.

So, 17. This year will see me through the most stressful year of my life so far. The run up to final A-level exams, university applications, personal statement writing and more of that fun stuff. But I wholeheartedly believe that I will be okay and I will be able to power through it. This post is here for me to look back on when times are tough. When I feel like giving up. When the weight on my shoulders is unbearable. future Dalal, please drop your shoulders, I know they're tensed up right now, relax your forehead muscles too (premature wrinkles!) and don't sweat it. You've survived 100% of your worst days. You're doing great. And regardless of whatever happens, it is all written out for you. So you just have to take it as it goes. It is all meant to be. Don't be too hard on yourself, okay?

-with love, Dalal

Thursday, 24 August 2017

last min a-level advice

With results day literally being today (you can always count on me to post in true Dalal fashion) I thought I’d do something that I wish had been around this time last year when I was a) absolutely shitting it for my results and b) wasn't even 100% sure on what A-levels I was going to take. I only thought of this yesterday evening, quickly tweeted asking if this post was wanted, reached out to everyone I know on snapchat and got writing. I’ve rounded up (almost) all honest opinions on a range of A-level subjects so that you can know what it’s really like to study it before you fully commit to it. I study Biology, History, English Literature and Spanish so I’ll be chipping in my experiences with those throughout my first year and have got a few friends to write paragraphs their experiences with their subjects.

  • Bio: Biology is my favourite science, hence why I picked it. This is the subject I felt the “jump” most in. Trust me it was so immense I went from being a straight A/A* biologist at GCSE to a solid E/D in my first few weeks. But it is expected with sciences. Something as simple as labelling an animal cell in the earlier years (it was literally just cytoplasm, cell wall, cell membrane and nucleus) had escalated to 3D diagrams including the golgi apparatus, extra and intra cellular ribosomes, centrioles and lysosomes. Oh an trust me, the learning curve is still happening; I had a brief insight into my A2 content and everything you know about photosynthesis and aerobic respiration is a lie. Photons, Krebs Cycle and the Calvin Cycle are included. To sum it up, with A-level biology you should: have solid maths skills as most exam boards are incorporating more mathematical calculations (much to my despair), be prepared to do 100s of practical investigations, have a lot of content fit into one lesson (I swear my brain dies a little after each lesson) and make sure you actually understand every bit of content you learn, especially the Foundation in Biology module because everything you learn throughout is transferrable. Oh and please focus in every lesson and try not to miss any because you will come back confused boy. 
  • Chem (same with bio)
  • Physics (same with bio)
  • Maths (will fill in asap)
  • Psychology: According to Ambra, psychology is relatively simple and is just a matter of learning the content and applying it to essay questions (even though it's "fucking annoying to write essays") Even though the content is easy to learn, there's so much of it. 
  • Sociology: SHIT TON OF ESSAYS (no seriously, that's the first thing my friend just sent me) but enlightening nonetheless and REALLY enlightening. You'll have to reference sociologists and make real life applications and/or links. The classroom discussions help you gain different views for exams which is always helpful and you will be trained in writing essays. Although there's a lot of content, it's fairly easy to understand because it applies to everyday life and is straightforward when remembering because of how relevant all of it is to our society. You need a lot of evaluative thinking. 12/10 pick it.
  • Law: ofc my friend Rudo went all out and did the most with her response but consider yourselves lucky ;) My name is Rudo and I study Law, English Literature and History at A-Level.Here’s my honest opinion of law at A-Level so buckle up. First of all I just need to put out there thatyou DON’T need to study law at A-Level if you want to study a law degree, since many universities understand that it is an arguably niche subject which won’t be offered at every sixth form in the country, in the same way that Maths or Biology is. Having said that, I think it’s fair to say that studying A-Level law gives you a slight advantage because you get an early understanding of key legal concepts and theories. It also allows for your legal/analytical mind to be sharpened but as I say it’s only a SLIGHT advantage. In terms of law as a subject I really enjoy it, my school uses AQA and I like the way the exam is structured under them. I studied statutory interpretation, judicial precedent and criminal courts and lay persons in Unit 1. A lot of the content in the unit 1 exam is based off of common sense and there’s not a great deal of applying legal knowledge. All of the questions are worth 10 marks so it literally comes down to memorising essay plans and you’ll be able to do well in the exam. There is only a certain amount of questions which they can ask you because the content is so restricted. You can also usually pre-empt what they will ask you since there are usually patterns which can be picked up on year to year, as with any exam, but this is a risky game to play (so just revise the whole spec!)I then studied introduction to criminal liability and contract law in Unit 2. Now unit 2 is a completely different ball game to be honest with you. You learn a lot more content and you are expected to apply your legal knowledge to problem questions, unlike regurgitating information like in unit 1. In the exam you’re given a scenario where they present an issue to you and they ask you to apply the stature (laws) which you learnt in your lessons to it. Usually the scenarios are stupid but you need to read them quite carefully to make sure that you don’t miss anything. You have to memorise the elements of different laws like assault and grievous bodily harm. It’s way more fun though because you feel like an actual lawyer making judicial decisions rather than a student who is reading a law textbook. 
  • History: I simultaneously love and hate this subject because I swear my emotions towards it are different every week. I have a natural affinity for history but the amount of work it requires is crazy. Admittedly, I slacked throughout the year because I saw I was getting solid A’s throughout with minimal work so when I sat my mock, reality slapped me in the face. Which is why I must reiterate the following: do not get too confident and keep up with all your work. Do not take A-level history if you are unable to write well or if you can’t read anything other than fiction books otherwise you will suffer. Your essays must be perfectly analytical and readily able to scrutinise every source, regardless of whether it supports your overall argument or not. You need to read countless historiographies and input other historians views to help support your argument or help you undermine the given one. As well as that, you should definitely check out exactly what history your college/sixth form offers so you know what to expect. With that being said do not let it put you off because trust me, as a modern history lover when I learnt that I’d be studying the German Reformation and Yorkist, Lancastrians and Tudors in my first year I just about died. A year later I can tell you that regardless of what you study exactly, you'll enjoy it because the study of history isn't solely about the actual part of it you study but of the analysis and judgement of it.
  • Geography (will fill in asap)
  • Spanish: I take Spanish but will also speak on behalf of all languages because the course structure is pretty similar throughout. Personally, languages at A-level are completely different to the study of it at GCSE mainly because it advances to a much higher level. Definitely one I wasn't expecting at first but less than a year later I can say that I’m much more confident in speaking, reading and writing the language so the initial shock is worth it. You are given much more freedom and creativity with A-level study (this is across the board!) and the course content is incredibly interesting. For example in Spanish we study a film, a piece of literature, religious attitudes in Spain, cultural celebrations, family attitudes, gang violence across South America, LGBTQ rights and more. The oral exam in year 13 is what sounded most daunting when I started as I was told I would have to speak for 25 minutes in non-stop Spanish. I can assure you that by the end of year 12 you'll be able to do this, because if I can do it (and go over my time) then anyone can. Your independent research project literally gives you so much freedom to run wild and research anything within your languages sphere it’s amazing. If you are resistant about taking a language, I urge you to do so. 
  • Film Studies: This is not what you're expecting, trust me. You won't be sitting around and watching a ton of films and try to act classy whilst discussing them. There's a load of analysis, case studies on producers and audiences included in the study BUT I would say that it is a very doable course because of the massive discussion element of it and if your teacher is nice, the handouts too. If you're unable to study without a textbook then this isn't for you, you'll have to make your own notes. You have to write a lot of practice essays to finally get the gist of its structure. 
  • Product Design/Art: I only picked Product Design because all the other subjects were dry. i have a vague artistic background and am moderately creative (or so I think.) Don't worry if you can't draw for shit, you've just gotta know how to use a ruler. The course is honestly so damn fun it covers working with your hands, sketching and 3D modelling (which are good for future employers.) I would explain the details of the course but it's bound to chance soon. If you're doing a lot of STEM subjects then this course is a way to add in some diversity. You unexpectedly gain a lot of life skills. I wouldn't consider the court easy as it requires a lot of dedication to finishing projects but yeah, I recommend it. 
  • Drama: With drama the teacher literally leaves you to your own devices most of the time. At the end of the day your grade is up to you and the people you work with. The best thing about it is that the people who initially took it because they saw it as an "easy A*" end up dropping out, leaving only a few dedicated individuals in your class which helps with efficiency as you can probably imagine. 
  • Music: Music A-level had the smallest leap from GCSE in my opinion as it was prxtially the same same structure and same way to how you complete the A-level; the only difference being the quantity of work growing tremendously. Composition and Performance continue to have a big influence on your grade, so the more creative you are with these, the higher your grade. This definitely helps a lot, especially if you hate the written work and Setworks. In addition, the the increase of Networks, there are more links between them which makes it easy to revise and remember how to answer in exam conditions. On a whole, Music A-level must be approached by student who are willing to extend their creativity and put 110% into each section. 
  • English Literature: This is the biggest L of 2016/17 for me. I picked this subject on enrolment day because my other options to fill the empty block were either Maths or Geography which were massive no’s. I have always had a strong background with English but I don’t think the further study of it at A-level is for me, however I think it’s mostly due to my disgraceful exam board than the actual discipline itself. My exam board (WJEC) is renowned as the hardest board for A-level English Lit with many other boards being significantly easier which is why I am deliberating on dropping it when I return this September. 

I really hope this can be of any use to any of you. It's very last minute so not as detailed as I would like it to have been but I will be adding to it as more contributions come. I want to say a big thank you to all those who sent me their passages, I appreciate you (and hopefully my readers do too) 

Also good luck with your results, I hope everything goes/went how you want/ed it to! and if not, this is not the end as you can always bargain your way in- your new GCSEs were seriously hard...major props to you all <3 so proud of you!!!

-love, Dalal

ps: if you have anymore questions/concerns then pls email me ( OR dm me on twitter @dalaltahira and I'll answer you...promise

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


Humans are the most selfish species that inhabit the Earth. We continue to harm our environment constantly in order to benefit ourselves through using fossil fuels, disposing large amounts of waste (usually non biodegradable), contributing to the meat industry and consuming great amounts of fast fashion that is rendered useless within a few years, if not months. We cut down trees to make more space for housing and commercial buildings. We fund companies that test on animals in order to use makeup products from brands we like (doesn't that sounds so trivial) We do things without considering the ramifications. Biologically speaking, there is a reason for this selfishness and lack of remorse, the theory of evolution through natural selection suggests that individuals must behave in manners that will maximise their ability to survive and pass on DNA. Because that is essentially what we are here for, from a biological perspective, to ensure survival of our genetic material for generations to come. Of course artistically speaking we could say life is to create and love but that is besides the point. We are intrinsically selfish creatures, by nature but we can change our habits and lifestyle to show more compassion to the world we live on. There are some altruistic decisions we can make to lower the negative impact we have on our environment and ourselves. I am a firm believer of your body being your temple and how we only have two homes in our life, our body and our earth, hence why I made the conscious decision a few months ago to completely cut out meat and most dairy because my tastebuds and personal satisfaction is not worth the rape of billions of cows for milk and the murder of 56 billion farm animals (excluding fish)

The cultural and religious traditions I have grown up with have always included the consumption of meat. When a new child is born into the family, it is almost ritual to kill and eat a lamb (or cow) to celebrate. I remember when my younger sister was born and we went to Morocco, my uncle slit the throat of a sheep that I had grown so close with a few weeks beforehand. The ground was bright red with blood whilst the sheep's body continued to bleed out. From then, at 4 years old, I made the decision to never eat lamb or beef again. Therefore I guess it was quite easy for me to cut out all meat products because I had gone without a big part of it for almost 13 years of my life.

Within the last few years there has been a new found consciousness regarding the meat industry (thanks to documentaries like Cowpiracy and What The Health) and subsequently, a soaring growth of vegetarians and vegans. I do not want anyone to feel like I am pushing my diet and beliefs upon them because that is the most counter-productive thing I can do. I respect everyones dietary choices, regardless of whether I believe they are "right" or not. I have a platform, regardless of how small it is, and I want to use it for good. If I can get one person to just question their eating habits then I will be happy. I do not like the stereotype that comes with non-meat eaters, especially vegans, as it is so misleading and only focusses on one type of person which is why I love Earthling Ed's channel, because he approaches people and gently questions them in ways that make them think rather than screaming at them for contributing to murder. You do not even have to cut out meat completely but perhaps limit the amounts of time you eat it per week. The average family incorporates meat into their meals almost every day of the week and consumes 40lb of meat a month. Too much of anything is bad for you and everything must be taken in moderation.

If you would like more reasons to go vegetarian then here you go...

  • Meat nowadays is detrimental to your health. And I don't only mean it in terms of cardiovascular health and cholesterol but actual antibiotic resistance and your immune system. The majority of livestock are kept in cramped conditions where infections can be transmitted across thousands of animals in a matter of weeks. As a result, farmers pump numerous antibiotics into their animals to prevent mass death and help the animal grow up to 3% larger which is significant in an industry where the meat is sold by its weight. 80% of antibiotics in the US are used for livestock, meaning only 20% are for human use.  When animals are fed antibiotics for a long period of time, they begin to retain strains of bacteria that are resistant to it (same principle for humans). Then you buy the meat after it's slaughtered and eat it which passes these resistant bacteria (MRSA is the most common one) to you, if the meat isn't handled with caution or is slightly undercooked. This means that no antibiotic can treat the bacterial infection because the over use of it when the animals were still alive led it to becoming resistant. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern across the world as we begin to realise that these drugs may not be the solution to bacterial infections anymore, and the consumption of drugged up meat is continuing to contribute to this.
  • The meat industry is disastrous to our environment in so many ways. 18% of greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change, comes from the livestock industry which is more than the emissions of cars and trucks around the world combined. You've probably seen the statistic that 1,847 gallons of water are needed to produce 1lb of meat. There are so many shocking statistics available online to show just how much livestock farming can harm our precious environment.
  • Possibly the most eye opening factor that led me to vegetarianism is the fact that we could end world hunger if we stopped consuming meat. We have enough food to feed everyone yet 36% of grain and 76% of soy consumption is for livestock and the land it is grown on is strictly for the animals when it could be used to grow crops for human consumption. More than 1 billion people cannot access food in the world even though the grain that is fed to livestock is enough to feed 2 billion people. 
  • I mentioned earlier that it takes almost 2000 gallons of water to produce 1lb of beef. Not only is this extremely wasteful and unsustainable (water is precious, people!) it also leads to water contamination as studies have found that 60% of US water is contaminated largely due to agriculture. Nitrate pollution from fertilisers used for crops for animal consumption is the main reason and also leads to severe eutrophication which is negatively impactful on human health and our ecosystem too.
  • Every animal deserves a chance to live, just like we do. We are not at all superior to other organisms on this earth. What makes your pet dog or cat different to a cow or pig? They are conscious animals at the end of the day that do not deserve to live a life away from its mother in dark and cramped conditions before being taken to the slaughter house to be stunned and packaged for human enjoyment. I find it so hypocritical that people refuse to wear fur (9 out of 10 people in the UK say they would not wear real fur) because of the "cruelty" behind it but continue to consume meat as if there is no cruelty behind that either.

"Perhaps the greatest contrivance in human evolution is the notion of "the self." By virtue of the fact that each and every one of us believes wholeheartedly in our own significance, our own primacy, we are selfish. One could conceive of humans as barely sentient creatures that imagined virtually everything we are able to experience in reality. Our capacity to label, quantify and organize information and ascribe meaning and direction to the shift in matter gives us a kind of god-like ability that is not evident within what we believe are lesser animals. I have spoken to and interacted with various people from all walks of life, and from what I can discern, none of them are "happy" or "satisfied." This is because we are not biologically programmed to be either. Almost all humans strive for the same thing and participate in an artificially constructed social system that perpetuates suffering and ecological domination. Most of us believe in the idea of "deserving" more, having more, being better...But in truth, we own nothing, are never truly better and don't deserve a thing. We are entitled, and the narratives we have prescribed to for centuries have become so deeply entrenched in our genetic makeup that we are all convinced that we are all special and that we are all worthy of happiness and fulfillment. This is fallacious, and our presence on the planet has triggered certain events that are now unavoidable. Billions of animals are slaughtered yearly for our benefit, we produce tonnes of waste and expand at an exponential rate without any real understanding of the consequences. We believe in time but cannot see that it is a man-made construct and that in fact there is no time, no linear upward progression or improvement in circumstances. We all dream this life, believe that we're going somewhere afterwards and that if we do this or that or buy this or that, we're going to be happy forever. It's a terrible, terrible joke, and every day we live the worse it all gets. Life never considered the ramifications of its own ambition, cannot conceive of an end, yet all of us must inevitably perish. In the expanse of infinity we are but a drop in the ocean, and we are an aspect of nature that should not have been. Our consciousness is an incontrovertible mistake, and we are all going to pay dearly for our egregious selfishness and lack of foresight. Humanity had its shot, but it never thought about what it was...What it was doing...And now we sing our swansong - and ultimately, it's for the best."

If you are interested in learning more about vegetarianism or just want some good veggie recipes I live by then comment down below and I'll find a way to contact you. Also, please feel free to exercise your right to freedom of speech in the comments- I love a good debate.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The (not so) Ordinary products

You have instagram, right? So you're probably familiar with this brand and their clean and very Scandi inspired aesthetic. It's a rarity to come across non-drugstore skincare products that are below £15 these days and rightly so, good things come at a price. Therefore when I saw these products for the first time, the packaging, ingredients and pledges screamed high end to me yet when I saw that the prices were literally £10 and under I had a little "well damn" moment. Because nothing this good can be so cheap (welcome to capitalism)

I searched for my nearest store and ventured there with the intention of gifting these to my mum. I asked for items more suited for "mature" skin (sorry mum) and if most of the things hadn't been out of stock, I would've left with more than two items. I got the Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% and 100% Plant-Derived Squalene which both aim to moisturise and brighten and slow down the effects age. All for a mere £11.40. My mum and I share these, using a few drops of the squalene every morning and night whilst saving the lipoic acid for use bi-weekly. I'm not sure whether it's the absence of a-levels that has made my skin so much more healthier and -I hate this word- glowy or if these two products are actually working but I assume it's the latter. Considering that these products are full of (gentle) chemicals, they don't smell strong or harsh at all which is always a plus especially as a bio student, I don't want to be smelling Phenoxyethanol and Potassium Sorbate anywhere outside the labs lol.

What I love most about these products is how they are so focussed around the foundations of products, the biochem behind it. The Ordinary develop different formulas to cater to their demographic and sell them at such a low price to show that good skincare can truly be accessed by anyone. Not only are they super affordable, they're cruelty free, vegan, alcohol free etc. I'll paste their statements regarding these things below. Everything about the brand is so transparent and overflows with integrity which is why I'm patiently waiting for their lactic acid suspension, hyaluronic acid, caffeine solution and salicylic acid products to come back in stock in the Shoreditch branch (hint hint)

"All DECIEM products, across all brands including The Ordinary, are free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, benzalkonium chloride, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury, oxybenzone. If you have questions about any ingredient that we use, please reach out to us and our lab will provide a response. 

DECIEM does not test on animals and does not pay others to do so. For this reason, none of our brands are sold in mainland China since such sales require animal testing for registration purposes."

As I read through this post, I realise more and more how much it seems like I am being directed to saying these things. I can assure you that all my views are totally genuine and this is not sponsored (a girl can dream) but it would be amazing to work with the cool people at The Ordinary (hmu)

I don't even know whether this is a product review or me continuously gushing about this brand but nevertheless I hope I've managed to clarify the brand and their products a bit more!

Have you heard of The Ordinary or tried anything from them?