College, Lifestyle, News, People, Sports

Born, Bred, Dead: Stages of an NCAA Championship Loss


It’s 11:37 a.m. and I’m waiting for the bus at the edge of campus. I’m still wearing last night’s clothes; my hair is in an unforgiving knot on the crown of my head and my makeup is smeared from a long night of tears after a Tar Heel loss.

My current physical state mimics the emotional state of every single person who passes me on the sidewalk.

The briskness of the late morning sends a shiver up my spine, a reminder that even God Himself is weeping with us in this incomparably depressed, heavy-hearted zip code. The bus arrives with a slow, screeching halt, and I board quickly, in an effort to get out of the cold and away from the painful gloom of Carolina’s campus.

It’s mostly empty inside. I sit at the front near two older men, one with unkempt curls falling over a faded windbreaker, the other with a Walkman and headphones that sat atop his ears, just high enough for his music to be heard throughout the otherwise silent bus.

They turn to me and say, almost in unison, “you must be cold.” I smile and reply that I had not expected the weather to be as heartbreaking as last night’s game, which is met with a few quiet chuckles, followed by a symphony of sad sighs.

I rest my head on the window above my seat asI  think back to the night before:

It was an emotional rollercoaster to rival all others, glorified by the sheer nirvana that came out of Marcus Paige’s last basket, only to be derailed by the crushing reality of Villanova’s last basket.

It was all over.

I had never actually experienced the feeling of my heart sinking all the way down to the floor. But there I was, among the other tens of thousands of students and fans, milling around Franklin street because my feet literally did not know where else to take me.

It was post-apocalyptic. Men cried in the arms of other men as He’s Not Here dismantled the overhead projector in their courtyard. A line of tortured fans formed around the block below Top of the Hill, expecting to drown their sorrows. The streets were flooded with grief.

No burning couches, no brave pole-climbers, even the police officers on duty expressed their desolation.

And yet, just ten minutes earlier, we had lost our voices to the utter astonishment of being tied with four seconds left. None of us even had our phones out to document it. That’s how invested we were in this moment. God forbid we get distracted by a text and miss the last few seconds.

Anything can happen in a few seconds. Anything.

The best advice I had ever gotten about moments like this was from the youth pastor at my home church, Reverend Susan Norman Vickers: a trusted leader and a loyal follower, a faithful friend and a vicious foe in a heated game of Spoons, a rare Duke and UNC fan. She seemed to have all the answers, but assured that she, too, was always learning.

Every time we had a lot of people together, whether it was a service project or group dinner, a church service or a casual moment fellowship, she would say, “take a minute to look around the room. Never again in your life will you be with these people, in this room, at this time, for this reason. It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.”

There have been many times in my life that I have thought back to her instructions, that I tried to share it with others, but it was during this game that I finally understood the gravity of her advice.

Looking around the room, I considered how temporary this moment would be, how fleeting the fellowship was, regardless of the outcome of the game. Every single one of my people was huddled around a TV and a bowl of buffalo chicken dip, cheering on our alleged close personal friends playing their hearts out on a court down in Houston, during the most important, anxiety-inducing, enthralling basketball game of their college careers.It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.

To have hundreds of thousands of people across the globe watching you put your heart on the line is something I will likely never experience. But to experience even a fraction of the passion, the perseverance, the pride despite the loss, I could not have been happier to be a Tar Heel born and bred.

Though this morning I surely feel Tar Heel dead, it is worth all of the fellowship of the past four years; it is worth the victories and the losses; it is worth the tiny infinity of our last basket during the 2016 NCAA National Championship game.

No three-pointer could take that away from any of us. Not even Nova’s.

College, Education, Lifestyle, People

The Millennial Job Search: The Real March Madness

It’s almost April, and even though I’m atrociously near-sighted, I can tell that graduation is around the corner.

For the past month at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, my professors have graciously invited professionals to speak about the job search, look over our resumes, teach us how to leverage LinkedIn and even provide contacts for recruiters at companies of our interest.

While the resources and advice are incredibly helpful, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed think about the other 1.8 million college graduates who are going to enter the work force at the beginning of May.

This is the real March Madness: staring my future in the face only to realize that it is a big black hole of uncertainty and indecision. My feelings toward this black hole can be completely summarized by the full-bodied cringe I experience every time someone expectantly asks, “So what are your plans for graduation?”

It’s not that I’m not trying to make plans; believe me, I’m trying. Personally, I’d rather spend my whole paycheck on Blockbuster stock than have to honestly answer “I don’t know.” Because not knowing is terrifying.

In an effort to internalize as much professional advice from anyone who offers it, I cannot help but quote the former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, who once speculated: “There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also known there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” The last of these is the most terrifying, but it’s also the most helpful.

Let me start with the known knowns:

I know that I am not alone. There are almost 2 million people graduating in the same week as I am, not to mention the ones who graduated last May but are still looking for work. As part of the largest living generation, I should feel a mental solace in this united effort for the job search, but after hearing what hiring managers think of incoming millennial new hires, I’m not so relieved. According Newsweek, we can be summarized by the following things:

  1. Millennials are entitled. They feel that after graduating, they deserve a job that they actually like, an income worthy of their college debt, a work environment that is supportive of their individual passions.
  2. They aren’t easily satisfied. Millennials hop around between jobs, take a gap year, pretend that we need an “Eat, Pray, Love” episode to find ourselves.
  3. Millennials are high maintenance. It wasn’t just a phase of high school. They need a praise from the boss, but they don’t want to be micromanaged. Millennials want a pat on the back but they also need room to breathe.

These qualities are glaring, and while they might not be written explicitly on a resume, they can still be interpreted before the interview even begins.

Now for the known unknowns:

As a member of the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Class of 2016, I can confidently say that we are smart, driven, innovative. What we lack in experience, we make up for in skill. We are talented, we make good first impressions, we network, we leverage our resources, we bring more to the table than just a resume. But for some reason, that is not enough.

  1. What is enough?
  2. How do I know that I’m doing enough?
  3. What makes my “enough” better than another candidate for the job?
  4. What happens if I’m not better? Where are the 40% of millennials who are unemployed? Do they work waitressing jobs until they get wifed-up by a hot shot who comes in every day for lunch (See: My Big Fat Greek Wedding)? Is there a corporate Rest Home for Burnt-Out 25-year-olds all across America for all these applicants who sleep on stacks of unread cover letters?
  5. Is anyone reading our cover letters?

And lastly, the unknown unknowns.

The things millennials don’t know they don’t know. The things no one is going to tell you, because nobody told them.

  1. Moving back in with your parents isn’t self-defeating. They probably miss you, anyways.
  2. The first job doesn’t have to be the best job. The best job probably requires experience at inferior jobs.
  3. In order for people to care about you, you have to care about yourself.
  4. You can do this.
  5. We can do this.
College, Lifestyle, People, Travel

Home Away From Home

On the last night of spring break, Miranda and I took a backpack filled with dinner, wine and utensils out to the shore down the block from our little Airbnb in Redondo Beach, just south of L.A.

We ate quickly as seagulls gathered unabashedly around our picnic blanket, and the sun disappeared beyond the horizon like a fat peach rolling off the edge of the kitchen counter. Miranda and I waited until the last shades of daylight were replaced by moonbeams on the water.

“Come on,” I said as we gathered our belongings, “Let’s go home.” I wore the blanket like a coat; the night air was getting colder by the minute.

Miranda laughed at me, “it’s only been a week and you’re already calling California home!”

I thought of all the places I call home: my duplex at school, my parents’ house, my host family’s apartment in Morocco. And now, of course, our funky little condo in Redondo.

Walking back up the block, I remembered a quote from Miriam Aedney’s Kingdom without Borders I had seen while studying abroad. I had been scrolling through my Instagram feed when I came across one of those kitchy sunset pictures with a cursive text overlay that read, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

At first, it resonated with me. I smiled at the thought of all the people I had met abroad, students at the university, my host family, the guys who helped us hitchhike to Pamplona, local shop owners, women at the local bathhouse. I smirked at the number of places with names I had finally begun to pronounce properly: the nearby markets, our favorite cafés, my host dad’s furniture store, the French hotel with the gym down the street, that one ice cream stand by the edge of the old medina. The beach, the mountains, the desert.

But then, upon considering the scope of people and places I associated with home, I knew the first part of that statement would never be true for me.

I will always be at home, because parts of my heart will forever be scattered across continents, in the homes of people I know and love, the places I once set foot, and can only hope to travel yet again.

I will always be at home in places I have visited, but also in places to which I have never ventured, provided that I continue to love and be loved in each of them.

I will always be at home because I choose to be.

I turned back to Miranda, who was already halfway up the shore, half-dancing, half-running. I ran to catch up with her, trying not to trip on the oversized towel cloaked around me.

She had brought me to her state, with her family, in her home, and made me feel like it was my home too, even if it was only for a week.

“Of course I’m calling it my home,” I defended as soon as I caught up to her stride.

“It’s about time,” she teased.

Art, College, Education, Lifestyle, Music, News, People

A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg Dies at 45

When was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?

Probably the most recent instance that you let the celebrated 90s rap trio, A Tribe Called Quest, flow through your speakers.

Slick, jazzy samples from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and innovative lyrics from Phife Dawg and Q-Tip created the imaginative beats that blazed the alternative hip-hop trail and inspired other rap artists to think outside box.

That self-proclaimed “funky diabetic” known as Phife Dawg, was one half of the ingenious lyrical tag-team of ATCQ. Born as Malik Taylor, Phife battled diabetes throughout his rise to hip-hop fame. “I was in denial. I had to have my sugar,” he claimed in the group’s documentary.

“You have to accept it,” Phife warned. “If you don’t accept it, it’s going to kick your ass.”

At the age of 45, Phife died late at night Tuesday, March 22, from complications with his diabetic condition, according to a statement by the family.

While the world grieves in the face of losing this lyrical genius and “rap word warrior,” we must also celebrate the incomparable progressive contributions made by Phife to the hip-hop industry, which wouldn’t be where it is today without A Tribe Called Quest.

As a part of ATCQ, Phife pioneered the genre of alternative hip-hop through the early 90s. After their first album, The People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm in 1990, and the subsequent departure of the group’s original fourth member, Jarobi White, the group released four lengthy albums and appeared on countless others. Commercial success landed each album within the top eight slots of the Billboard 200 before they disbanded in 1998.

Back by popular demand, the members reunited for a tour in 2006 and starred as themselves in Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, the 2011 Sony Pictures documentary about the group’s history. As part of a reissue campaign, ATCQ rereleased People’s Instinctive celebrating its 25th anniversary in late 2015, which features remixes from artists like Pharrell, Cee-Lo Green and J. Cole.

Though the late MC was known most famously for his success with ATCQ, Phife went on to pursue a solo career, releasing Ventilation: Da LP in 2000, and appearing in several films and albums over the next decade.

Despite how the group matured and evolved over time, the Phife kept his youthful posture as the creative, witty “Five Foot Assassin,” standing 5 foot 3 inches tall. Phife’s lyrical finesse and quick wit outstood his size, as he emerged from his underrated stature as the trio’s beloved kid brother to one of the most celebrated voices in hip-hop history. “The Trini-gladiator, the anti-hesitator,” Phife was the most relatable of the three Tribe personas with his brutally honest humor and political transparency.

As prayers of love and support for Phife’s family, friends and industry peers reverberate throughout the media, there is sure to be an influx of speakers bumping “Can I Kick It?” and other highly-exalted hits. Lifetime listeners and newfound fans are coming together around the sound of socially conscious rhymes with innovative beats, just as Phife would have wanted.

One thing is for sure: When I die, I hope I get to heaven, because I’ll be anxious to see what Phife is working on up there.

Rest in peace, Phife Dawg.


College, Lifestyle, People, Travel

Getting “Randomly Selected” as an Arab-American

I’ve been standing in the security line at the airport for 25 minutes, and it hasn’t moved. My flight is boarding soon, and I can’t even see the front of the line. I feel my stomach rumble and I realize I left my lunch on the counter at home. I take a deep breath.

In front of me is a mother and daughter; the little girl looks about 6 or 7 years old. She rests her head on the metal handle of her Frozen suitcase and tugs on her mom’s shirt. The mother looks down and quietly consoles her, asking, “Remember what we talked about? What’s the most important rule of air travel?”

The girl lifts her head and lets out an extensive sigh, “always be patient.” She rolls her eyes, displaying angst that is well beyond her years.

“Exactly,” her mom coos, “especially when waiting in line.”

“But mom,” she groans, “this is a super line.” People around us start to smile, myself included.

She’s right, this is a super line, and not in a good way. I check my watch again; boarding starts in 10 minutes. This child has a much better grasp on patience than most of the adults in this line, considering there are several hundred people waiting to remove their shoes and laptops.

The security guards begin to proactively check people’s boarding passes before they even make it to the front of the line. When the attendant asks for my documents, she follows up with questions about my trip.

Am I traveling alone? Did I check any bags? Where is my final destination?

Yes. No. LAX.

“Step out of the line, please.”

I am used to this. Almost every time I have traveled, I get “randomly selected.” Blame my Arabic name, my Arabic eyes, my Arabic family, my Arabic stamps on my passport; no matter which way you skin the cat, it’s still racial profiling.

I follow the attendant, turning the little girl’s words into my temporary mantra. Always be patient. Always be patient. Always be patient.

She leads me to a separate line and explains, “you have been selected for TSA pre-check. I just didn’t want to say it in front of the other passengers because it usually makes people upset. Have a safe flight.”

She was gone, probably to offer the same great news to another lone traveler.

I’m thrilled, but mostly surprised.

I, an Arab-American, just got “randomly selected,” and it wasn’t for extra screening. This must be what regular white people feel like all the time, I think as I notice how exclusively white the pre-check line is. But that’s a conversation for another time. I have a flight to catch.

I scan my bags, arrive at my gate and board with minutes to spare. I retire my mantra and mentally high-five Allah.

A small step for Halah, and a great leap for Arab-kind.


The Dangers Behind “If You See Something, Say Something”

Last week marked the ten-year anniversary of a heart-wrenching attempted homicide at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

On March 3, 2006, a 22-year-old Tar Heel alumnus drove a rented Jeep into the campus Pit with the intent to end the lives of bystanders. An Iranian-American, his motive was rooted in vengeance for innocent lives lost in the Middle East at the hands of American soldiers.

While the tragedy was evident in victims’ injuries and heightened tensions on campus, its occurrence speaks to a larger issue that plagues the experiences of college students across the United States: the negative stigmas of mental instability.

Even just typing the words mental instability made me pause a little bit, but in reality, it’s not so cringe-worthy. Nor is it uncommon. Whether it’s suicidal thoughts or just plain nervous energy, 25 percent of adults experience mental instability in a given year.

And yet, we rarely talk about it.

As was quoted in the DTH article, the driver had been experiencing aggression and anxiety for a long time, not to mention social isolation. Regardless of his motives, he felt so socially removed from his community that he couldn’t communicate his feelings.

“[T]he biggest reason for his anger toward the American government and former President George W. Bush, he said, was the lack of social interaction he had. ‘Had I been socializing with people more, had people I cared about and loved, that would have prevented me from committing a crime like this.’”

What if he hadn’t felt isolated? What if he had someone to talk to, who helped him feel human? What if this stigma around mental instability didn’t exist?

Of course it’s scary and dangerous and threatening for people to have recurring thoughts about homicide and vengeance, but these ideas stem from very human emotions rooted in aggression and anger.

If we can’t talk about these emotions with our loved ones, what is the point of having relationships with them?

By ignoring the darkest parts of ourselves and others, we turn very common, human emotions into outliers, making them impossible to address.

Often times we hear the phrase, “if you see something, say something.” It’s an encouragement to be observant, to be vocal when someone looks suspicious. Whether it’s sneaky behavior at an airport, or a friend having an off-day, we are reminded to “say something.”

But this doesn’t work for emotions that live below the surface. It’s not always possible to tell when someone around you is about to rent a Jeep and drive it into the Pit.

People experiencing mental instability, no matter how extreme, often mask it through their interactions with others or choose not to interact at all. So how are we supposed to combat this?

Perhaps it’s time to graduate from “if you see something, say something,” and opt for, “if you feel something, say something.”

It’s okay to feel anxious, or aggressive, or depressed, or angry, but the real harm comes from harboring these feelings without asking for help.

If you feel something, say something.

Call your parents. Talk to a friend you can trust. Find a mentor. Visit campus health. College is one of the only times where counseling is free! Use it. Often. Getting advice now will help you explore strategies you can use for the rest of your life.

If you feel something, say something.

You might feel embarrassed, or hurt, or confused, but talking to someone can help you feel human.

If you feel something, say something.

It could save someone’s life, needless to say your own.

Art, College, Education, Feminism, Lifestyle, News, People, Politics, Relationships, Women

A Guide to Celebrating International Women’s Day

You’ve probably heard that tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, but have you ever actually celebrated it? How do you celebrate it anyway?

Maybe it’s like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day; it’s surely highlighting a practice we should be observing on a daily basis. Maybe corporate America is going to profit from human tendencies to make up for what we forgot to do all year long. Except it’s not.

Drug stores haven’t preemptively arranged tables of commercialized gifts for the “special woman in your life.” The floral industry isn’t rushing to jack up the prices of rose bouquets. Children aren’t bringing their mothers breakfast in bed. There won’t be any clearance holiday items at the grocery store tomorrow.

No one is capitalizing off International Women’s Day. Not even women.

In 1908, the first International Women’s Day was observed as 15,000 women marched in the streets of New York City, demanding equal pay, better working conditions and voting rights. More than 100 years later, women still don’t have equal pay and recognition in the workplace.

What we do have, as women, is a day dedicated to our achievements, a recognition of our victories, a celebration of our centuries-long struggle to prove something we shouldn’t have to prove: International Women’s Day is observed in 27 countries around the world, and the United States even designates the entire month of March as Women’s History month.

So how are we using it?

The 2016 International Women’s Day campaign is centered on #GenderParity.

Why, you ask?

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the human population, we still fail to account for a proportionate amount of political, social and economic power across the globe.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that actual gender equality would not be reached until 2095. A year later, they adjusted their estimation such that this golden year would not arrive until 2133. (a moment of silence, please)

If we can’t move toward equality faster than a glacial pace, let’s hope that some woman somewhere invents a cure for mortality.

If you’d like to see change from somewhere other than beyond the grave, consider taking any of these steps to celebrate the women in your life:

  1. Call your mom, or someone who has been a mother to you. Chances are, you didn’t get to where you are today without the help of at least one woman (ex: your birth).
  2. Vote! Women fought long and hard for the right to vote, so don’t let it go to waste! The more women vote, the better representation we will have in political office. Don’t know when your state’s primary is? Click here to find out!

Side note for any time-travelers who have come back specifically to 2016 to change whatever historical events are about to happen this year: please vote. Now is your time. We’re begging you.

  1. Be a leader! If you don’t like the leaders in your community, become a better one! Take a pledge, join a club, run for office, start a petition. Any leadership role is a step toward equal representation for women.
  2. Go global! Check out all the opportunities on the International Women’s Day website, or visit to find resources to support women in communities beyond American borders.
  3. Bask in female creativity! Women contribute socially, culturally, artistically, academically and professionally to the content we consume every day – cherish it! Go to an art gallery, read a book, watch a TedTalk, do something to foster appreciation for the work that women do every day.

The point is, there are an infinite number of ways to celebrate. However, the biggest obstacle to celebrating International Women’s Day is awareness. The best thing you can do to celebrate is starting a conversation. You might not know everything about the day, but you sure as hell know at least one woman. Show her some appreciation today! If you’re a woman, show yourself some appreciation! What better reason to treat yourself (all month long!)?

Did I miss something? Let me know how you’re celebrating International Women’s Day in the comments below!