Reflections at 23

Hafiz Abdulkareem
4 min readAug 1, 2023

Stage I

A painting. A million times she had stood here, with the same tools in hand and the same purpose in mind. Yet, here she stood in front of her blank canvass, experienced yet confused. Confused yet excited as each art piece was different, each art piece was individual. The foundations fundamentally the same, but each stroke of paint combined in such a way that every art piece became a blend of specially unique colours. She dips her paintbrush into the orange pastel, taking up the brush with a mastery only attained after aeons. Destiny’s first stroke is family. Orange for the warmth of his mother eyes, for the security of his fathers arms, orange for the smile of his sister while he took in a world he could barely begin to process.

Then came green. Destiny stroked on the canvas his environment. Green for a middle class family in a third world country but with a father who knew to strive his best. Green for societal expectations, for culture. Already the paints had begun to interact with each other, they had begun to paint an unescapable scene yet she painted on.

Destiny’s third stroke was red. Red to mark his passions, the red paint was influenced by the orange and green, and only those shades of red the previous colours encouraged would bolden, yet she painted on. She painted furiously on her canvas until the foundations of life had been set, leaving the artwork to take a form of its own. She’d been painting for an eternity yet it never ceased to amaze her how the paint came alive each time it hit canvas. She’d given the same strokes to similar paintings yet they came out so unique, so different. For what reason, she could never understand, for her only purpose was to paint till eternity.

Stage II

A note. Sound pierces the silence of the room as the instruments notes take a life of their own. A million times she’d played this instrument. She played it with dexterity and experience. A million times she’d played this melody. The melody that gave her being, the melody that gave her purpose. Yet each song was different. It sang a different tune. It gave a different meaning. One of destiny’s notes was a soft melody. An early loss, a family member dead, a friend gone too soon. She played another, this time a tinge higher. A graduation, an achievement. She played a third, this one sounded sombre and lower. It contrasted with the earlier notes which hinted at the playfulness of childhood. This note represented the birth of a child and responsibility. She played the same notes each time but every dancer moved differently. For what reason, she could not discern as her purpose was to play. Play till eternity.

Stage III

A chapter. As pen and paper kiss under the lamp of destiny, destiny’s last chapter is death. Unique, individual but the same. The journey of different paths but the conclusion at one location. She writes on.

Unlike before, the paintings do not emulsify differently and no dancer showcases individuality. Destiny’s final chapter is death. This, she could understand, and yet she writes. Writes till eternity.

On the canvas, character is the emulsifier. While the music plays, character is the dancer. Character is the ever evolving self we carry to the grave. The line between destiny and free will is the individuality of our different characters. The one variable we can control.


I’ve always been of the opinion that our twenties are the first time in life when we think for ourselves. We unlearn, relearn and dash the assumptions the world falsely told us out the window only to accept what better serves our reality and intellect. Or maybe we’re unfortunate and we don’t, so we end up living a life full of the assumptions of others. For me, the questions which plague my mind are numerous.

What does one concern self with on this journey where one is but a traveller? What is a life well lived? Shall I strap up my boots and conquer the world or shall I find a good wife and make a home? Does one come at the cost of the other? Shall I find comfort in the petty politics of daily life or shall I take the lonely path of a stoic and observe the pitfalls of mankind? Who am I destined to be?

I had a conversation with Ahmed. He said “Hafiz, you transgress only against your own self” he probably forgot he told me that but that phrase stayed with me the whole year and will probably do so for the rest of my life.

At twenty-three I stand at the door of greatness- (my self anointed destiny) and at the foot of achievement aiming only to out do the previous twenty-two years. The paint has been set, the notes have been played and the words have been written. What does this stage of life hold? I am excited and scared to know.



Hafiz Abdulkareem

Documenting my thoughts as I try to find myself in this journey called life.