Lessons I’ve Learned

I’ve had a very unique journey over the course of my education so far. Compared to the typical path that most people take, my journey is uncommon. I transitioned to CSMB from Al-Salam Day School in mid-September. For me, the idea that I could take a step beyond everybody else has always been in the back of my head, and this was no different when it came to education. I had completed neither Pre-school nor Kindergarten and was home-schooled for first-grade. I completed second grade home schooled as well but when I went to ADS for the next year, they forced me to repeat second grade because I wasn’t old enough to attend third grade. Since then, I’ve always had the vision that when I personally feel like I can do it and the opportunity is there, I was going to jump ahead.

I attended ADS until fifth grade, was home schooled for sixth grade, and then went back to ADS. For the entirety of seventh grade I basically just coasted through. That may sound good but it really wasn’t. I’m not the type of person who tries to make things challenging for themselves but spending hours upon hours everyday without feeling challenged or doing something productive felt mentally entrapping. I found the opportunity when my mom had been informed about CSMB. She showed me the school as a plan for the next year and I stumbled upon something in the requirements section that asked for 7th grade MAPs. I had the crazy idea of attempting to get in this year and told my mom about it. To be honest, I had very little faith in that plan and thought to myself it was simply a typo or just something I didn’t understand. Nonetheless, I wanted to take the plunge and see where it would take me. I ended up landing an interview with Mr. Clato and was accepted into CSMB.

The perception I had of CSMB was different from reality. I had envisioned the school as a place where everybody was some sort of  upscale citizen who only cared about work. I imagined the teachers as really strict people who would be ready to scrutinize and execute you for making mistakes. During my interview, Mr. Clato spoke about homework loads of 3-4 hours a day which absolutely terrified me. Having not really worked or put in much effort into academics before in my life, this was a nightmare. When I actually arrived at the school my idea of how other students would be was (thankfully) not true. A lot of the people there were kind and welcoming and the teachers helped place me on track.

Throughout my time at CSMB, I’ve learned a lot about myself. This is a result of being pushed and challenged both socially and academically. I’ve become more focused and take academics more seriously. At the same time, I’ve still retained some lifelong weaknesses which I hope to eradicate.

Personal Strengths


Surpassing standards has been something that I’ve pursued for as long as I can remember. Personally, the idea of being “normal” kills me on the inside. I’ve always had the desire to be the person on top in terms of everything. I learned this trait from my parents because they have always pushed me to do my best and to surpass expectations. Another way I learned this is from watching sports. Players like Kobe and Calvin Johnson weren’t my favorite players, but seeing them get dragged across 5 yards by 2 muscular athletes into 10 inches of snow and still hold the ball or tear their Achilles and still shoot free throws caused me to really admire their competitive drive. I became conscious of this trait back in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade, I had this friend who was always the best at both sports and academics. We competed for years and honestly, seeing him get angry several times whenever I achieved something better than he did used to make me feel good on the inside.

I think the main way to strengthen this trait is to keep good company. While I don’t feel satisfaction over seeing people get jealous anymore, I believe competing with people who achieve and setting high standards for myself can only strengthen this trait. Meanwhile, if I keep bad company who are lazy and aren’t ambitious can cause me to lose this trait.


Efficiency has been something I’ve developed over the past 4-5 years. I started noticing this trait in fifth grade. I learned this trait from trying to impress my parents. As a kid, I would always try to do things to impress my parents. One way I tried to impress them was by doing things fast and effectively like when I was 4, I would try doing multiplication really quick and showing it to my dad. Sometimes he would simply correct my mistakes and that disappointed me. These memories are somehow some of my most profound memories from that age. This quality is related to my competitiveness in that I always want to be the one to accomplish the most. This trait has helped me in school quite a few times. The most recent incident was the Animal Farm essay we had to do. I had lost my notes for the test and had to get a good score to help my grade. During the duration of the class I had chosen a new question and written my entire essay on the spot for which I received a decent score.

I can improve this trait through better time management and experience. I can also lose or weaken this trait by being lazy and not putting in as much effort. This quality is something I believe will help me in academics and in my career. Being efficient is important and it’s something I hope will only improve.


Being thick-skinned is something that helps a person both personally and professionally. Being thick-skinned doesn’t only mean being able to receive insults or jokes about your mom, being thick-skinned means you are able to take criticism, constructive or destructive, and use it to your advantage. I think I subconsciously learned this trait from my father who’s probably the last person to care about what criticism somebody else has. Personally, I really value feedback and try to take whatever beneficial advice I can get. I think this trait is very helpful for making an immediate impact in everything you do. An example of this trait helping me out is in debate. I had 3 days to prepare for my first debate right after I applied. During that time, I tried to get as much advice and guidance as I could get from other people and I would ask the judges for feedback after debates which helped me receive an award on my very first debate tournament.

When people see that you are unaffected by negativity, they will cling to you because you seem like a much stronger person. Showing your resistance to negativity will also block out additional negativity and set you up to complete your goals. I feel like this is a trait that I will retain for the rest of my life. Having thick skin doesn’t make you invulnerable to cuts. I can improve this trait by focusing and putting things into perspective whenever somebody has something destructive to say.

Staying away from trouble

I’ve never been the type of person to get caught in major trouble. In fact, I don’t remember being grounded or really aggravating my parents for the past 7 years. I got this trait from my parents who disciplined me well. Another cause of me having this trait is my faith. In Islam, we are taught to be upstanding and be the best in society. This trait has helped me personally and academically. Academically, this trait has helped me all throughout and especially at CSMB. I have no demerits and I don’t really anger my parents so I have a good relationship with them which helps out a lot. I think this trait benefits others because it produces a better atmosphere than one where rules are constantly being broken.

Even when I actually do something that may break the rules my tendency to stay away from trouble gives me a good reputation which defiantly helps in some cases. I can grow and strengthen this trait by maintaining self control. I can lose this trait by keeping bad company and allowing myself to be influenced by the wrong people. What helps with staying away from trouble is also having independence. If you fall into peer pressure, you can end up getting yourself into trouble. I can personally refer to instances where I was being pressured to hurt somebody or do something bad.

Taking Initiative

This is a trait I’ve developed very recently and has been very beneficial since coming to CSMB. I developed this trait through self-evaluation. I noticed that whenever I was in a group I would be more passive. As a result, I made it a personal goal to make myself more comfortable with taking initiative. This trait has helped me become more comfortable with people very quickly. I’m no longer afraid of being the person to break the ice or start a conversation in a group. This trait has helped me in school by making group work more efficient and enjoyable.

Taking initiative is an important career skill because many jobs nowadays have you cooperating or working with others. One way I’ve developed this skill is through communicating with my cab drivers. If you ask the people I ride with, they’ll tell you that the cab drivers become more and more comfortable with us as we communicate with them. Because of that, some of my most memorable moments in school are during cab rides. None of those experiences would be possible had it not been for me taking the initiative and actually speaking with my drivers.


Responsibility is an important trait and it’s something that I’ve developed as I’ve grown up. For the better part of my life, I viewed responsibility as a “boring adult thing” that meant nothing so I never really developed any true sense of responsibility at that time. I developed this trait from a Qu’ran teacher I used to have named Mustafa. He would always give us life advice. One piece of advice he always gave us was to be mature, honest, and responsible. Mustafa was a very fun person to be around and I enjoyed being around him. Because I saw him as a fun person, that piece of advice made me realize that responsibility doesn’t mean living a boring life. As a result, I developed a sense of responsibility that is now ingrained in me to a point where I hate giving excuses and feel terrible whenever I fail to do something.

This quality has really helped me in school because it has given me determination to complete work at times that I feel like I don’t want to do it. It has also made me a more trustworthy person. I can lose responsibility if I lose bravery. If I lose bravery, I will become less responsible because I’ll be afraid to take responsibility which won’t get you anywhere.

Personal Weaknesses

Lack of Dedication

Lack of dedication has always been a weakness of mine. Like many of my weaknesses, it feels as if I was born with it. Whenever I see a professional athlete or somebody who is just really good at what they do, it makes me think about myself. The problem for me is that I can’t dedicate myself to one thing or goal. Because of that, there is no one thing that I’m just extremely outstanding and incomparable at. This has hurt me in school because I never really master a subject. I’ll know something and understand it but I never actually master it completely. When I try to improve myself in one way I find myself losing track or just jumping to something else. I feel like in order to counter this trait I need to find something I am very passionate about and completely focus on it.

Poor Sleeper

Sleep is another lifelong weakness. My mother has even told me that ever since I was a baby I’ve had a difficult time sleeping. Even if I do get in bed, it takes me at least an hour or two to fall asleep no matter how exhausted I am. This weakness has seriously affected my academic progress because I come into school tired practically everyday. I try to curtail this by doing productive things at night and by doing pre-sleep stretches which makes sleeping easier for me. I feel like I can take advantage of this weakness by being more effective and efficient at night instead of laying helplessly in bed. Not only does it take me a long time to get to sleep, but I also keep making excuses to stay up even though I know I have a long day ahead of me.

Voice Control

One weakness I’ve experienced lately is controlling my voice. This is because I’ve spent most of my life as a fairly quiet person and now, I’ve become more social. At times, it is hard to adapt because sometimes I’ll be way too quiet and unclear or too loud and obnoxious. The reason I continue to support this trait is that I feel like this is part of the process of being a more clear and well-spoken. This weakness has actually helped me because sometimes I say things too quietly for people to hear on accident that I may not have thought over very well. In order to overcome this weakness I need to become more comfortable with speaking up and being wise in terms of what I say.

Lack of Self-Optimism

I’m not a person who’s depressed or lack self-confidence, but I have trouble pointing out my strengths to others. I get the feeling that I’m being arrogant and selfish whenever I do that. This trait has helped me by making me a more humble person. It makes it easier for me to point out and focus on my weaknesses so I can improve them. This also prevents me from being too egotistic. This quality has never really hurt my academic progress because I’m able to adapt when I need to. It has made certain assignments, such as this post, more difficult though. I hope to curtail this weakness by being more outwardly optimistic about my strengths when I need to. Having self-optimism is something I will need in the future because I will probably have to fill out a lot more applications and complete many more interviews than I have so far.

Very poor Penmanship

This trait is also a trait I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I really took notice of this trait in my second year of second grade when my language arts teacher criticized my handwriting. This has hurt my academic progress by making some of my papers illegible and making notes less organized and clear. I curtail this weakness sometimes by typing instead of handwriting some assignments whenever I can. I feel like there is not enough need for me to put in the effort to lose this trait because nowadays, the world is becoming more and more technological than it used to be.


A weakness I’ve developed very recently is stubbornness. I’ve developed this trait as a result of trying to speak more. This trait has gotten me in a bit of trouble. An example of this is when Mr. Clements told me to change into uniform during a debate meeting and I was too stubborn to change. This led to me having to serve lunch detention and diagram a long sentence I didn’t want to diagram. This trait has also helped me stand up for myself and others. One instance when this occurred was during January of 2014 when I threw a snowball after school and it hit Hamza’s taxi. The driver immediately slammed on the brakes and walked out to me to tell me not to ever touch his cab again. While he was walking everybody else stepped away and I stood my ground and showed no sign of being intimidated. While I didn’t mean to be so mean, it gave me self-confidence because I didn’t know I would be able to stand up to somebody like that. I would’ve felt bad had he not been so assertive about it. I continue to support this trait because I feel like in moderation, I can benefit from this trait and turn it into bravery if I learn to control it.

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