We’ll Know Better Next Time


There’s a thought I’ve been turning in my head, over and over; I can’t seem to make sense of it, and every time I try to fight its dizzying waves, I find myself carried away by its ebb and flow –


is it really better to be alive in a box than dead in a box?


“Ask yourself: if I asked you straight off – I’m going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead?”


Imagine this:


You are, for some reason or another, contained in a box.

You wiggle your toes and your fingers, pins and needles – good, nothing seems to be broken. As you try to bring your hands up, get a feel for your confines,  you jam your elbows on the rough edges of your prison, and no matter how much you try to draw your arms up and out so that you may at least attempt some semblance of escape, you are unable to. You must settle with crossing your hands over your chest – but it’s alright, isn’t it? You can feel your heartbeat; your hands sink and swell ever so slightly with the rhythm of your breath.


Your breath – you… you are breathing, right?


For now.

How long before you aren’t? How long before your lungs succumb to the slow suffocation, the lack of oxygen – the lack of life itself?

You open your eyes – or do you?

It’s dark – so, so dark – that perhaps you would be better off closing your eyes anyways.

How long before empty becomes enough?

Perhaps something is broken.


Of course, there are a variety of different boxes to which we may condemn themselves – we needn’t feel limited to only one.

The box I just described? That’s my Despair Box. Lately, I seem to be spending a bit more time in there, since I’ve realized that I am quite possibly a quarter of the way through my life and I have accomplished next to nothing.

The box right beside it is the Uselessness Box. You’ll note that it is just a metal frame without walls – it fails as a box, much as I fail as a human being.

If you look a little ahead, you’ll see the beginnings of my Procrastination Box – I’ll finish it off soon enough, I imagine, right after I finish building the Self-Hate Box, the Incompetence Box, and the Inadequacy Box.

It really is quite the endeavor, don’t you think?


These are my Boxes. I am my own antagonist, the creator of my little coffins, the Boxes through which I stifle my soul, not because I want to, but because I’m afraid I deserve it.

You know, not many people realize it, but it gets awfully lonely, sitting here building these Boxes.

“You don’t understand the humiliation of it – to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching…”

I hoped that someone was watching, once. Don’t we all wish for it, in the secret folds of our souls? Don’t we all wish to be saved from ourselves?

I thought,

“Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking, well, at least I’m not dead. In a minute, somebody’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. (knocks) “Hey you! What’s your name? Come out of there!”

And so I waited.

I waited in my little Box, fingers pressed firmly against my chest, because how could my hands – these hands that condemn and cage – also be the hands that save?

“We pledged our identities, secure in the conventions of our trade; that someone would be watching. And then, gradually, no one was. We were caught, high and dry. It was not until the murder’s long soliloquy that we were able to look around; frozen we were in the profile, our eyes searched you out,
as each patch of turf, each log, each exposed corner in every direction proved uninhabited, and all the while the murderous King addressed the horizon with his dreary interminable guilt… Our heads began to move, […] and the King faltered.
Even then, habit and a stubborn trust that our audience spied upon us from behind the nearest bush, forced our bodies to blunder
long after they had emptied of meaning,
until like runaway carts they dragged to a halt.
No one came forward.
No one shouted at us.
The silence was unbreakable, it imposed itself upon us;
it was obscene.
We took off our crowns and swords and cloth of gold and moved


How long have I waited for someone to knock on these Boxes of mine, while I stiffened my own hands against any semblance of struggle?

If you are alive in a box, are you even really alive? Perhaps you’re just pretending you’re not dead.

I look down at my hands.

All my life, I have eaten out of the hands of others. I have waited for them to ascribe to me some sort of significance without ever attempting to find it first within myself.

I have lost so much to myself.

If I try to regain it, will I stop hurting?

Tentatively, with great trepidation, I press my palms flat against the Box. I confront the convict and the jailer, the Heaven and the Hell, palm-to-palm with an almost-stranger.

I walk away from the Boxes I have built, from the Despair and Procrastination and Inadequacy and Incompetence and Self-Hate that have claimed my soul for far too long.


A Box is just a box.


“Well, we’ll know better next time.”


“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”



And again, I say:


“Ask yourself: if I asked you straight off  – I’m going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead?”










Before I get any concerned emails from you guys, let me reassure you – I’m alright! 🙂 Whilst watching the haunting, ethereal magic that was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, there were two quotes that struck me fiercely; namely, the quotes about the desire to have someone watching after us – and therefore, caring for us and looking out for us – and being deprived of that, as well as the quote where Guildenstern puts on a brave face and resolves to know better next time. Looking back on it, I think the response reads a little like how Rosencrantz thinks and speaks, which is kind of cool since Rosencrantz is low-key my spirit animal. I feel that I was able to somewhat understand why these quotes meant so much to me via the connection to the Boxes within us all. To be deprived of company, – love, caring, a chance at understanding – to be forced to stalk the stage of life alone, without guidance, as though you meant nothing, is, for me, perhaps the epitome of despair and hopelessness. It makes my heart hurt, that one could be deprived the very thing that sustains them and provides them life. Personally, the quotes also stirred religious sentiments in me. There are two mediums through which my soul manifest – my writing, and my religion. You don’t know me until you know just how much these two feed my being – everything else stems from the unity they spur within.

Sometimes, I can’t help but be wrought with despair when I think back on the various ways in which I’ve screwed myself over, sinned against the values I claim form the core of my spirit. The separation this fuels in me – this divide between the desire to hate myself and the desire to allow mercy to absolve me – was brought to the forefront through these quotes.

How many times have I abandoned myself in my own boxes? How many times has my own self-pity prevented me from seeking the mercy I so desperately craved? In denying myself respite, I deny myself the connection to God – I deny myself the only thing through which I find peace. How could I turn away from the One who watches over me graciously? How could I blind myself to the One who is cognizant of the contents of my heart? I find solace in knowing that when I turn back from my mistakes, when I seek God’s Grace, my gaze will not falter from confident to hesitant to desperate – for how could one return disappointed from His Kingdom? I don’t know that I could bear turning around only to find myself deprived, without somewhere to return to.

Everyone needs a home.

There is a supplication – known as the Supplication (or Dua in Arabic) of Kumayl – and every time I read it, I can’t help the hope that blooms within me once more. It’s a prayer that reminds me that outside of my boxes, the confines of my insecurity, there is always, always someone, so long as I am able to recognize that fighting for these connections is worth it.

This is a prayer from my heart, my home, to yours. I hope it finds you happy and content, and if not, then I hope it reminds you that there is someone waiting, with their hands pressed against the wall of your box, supporting, longing for your wellbeing:

My Nourisher! Have mercy on the infirmity of my body, the delicacy of my skin and the brittleness of my bones…

o’ Thou! Who is readily pleased, forgive one who owns nothing but supplication, for Thou doest what Thou willest.

o’ Thou! Whose Name is the remedy (for all ills) and Whose remembrance is a sure cure for all ailments and obedience to Whom makes one self sufficient;

have mercy on one whose only asset is hope


whose only armor is lamentation.




Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


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6 thoughts on “We’ll Know Better Next Time

  1. Dear Hijab,

    Let me start off by saying that I was quite surprised when I read through this post, but don’t worry I won’t send you any concerned emails. It’s great to have you in the class as there are many qualities that you bring which has helped me in my own writing. You can articulate yourself so well up to the point where it comes to you naturally – a trait not many people have.

    Now getting to the actual post I can say that what I really love in your writing is how it has such insightful ideas without being convoluted seen through the question you gave: “is it really better to be alive in a box than dead in a box?” The way you were able to take one simple idea and add this level of depth to it is remarkable. Your ideas were quite easy to comprehend while still containing lots of depth. The way you described the different boxes that we manage to create in our own lives kind of underlines why people can be so pessimistic – often experiencing self-condemnation. Lines like “it gets awfully lonely, sitting here beside these boxes” and “I hoped that someone was watching” truly shows how people wish to have others looking out for them but sometimes feel hopeless when they feel that this support isn’t there. As

    For improvement, all I could find was a recommendation in that maybe it would enhance your piece if you used less comma’s. The reason I say this is because less comma’s would help to effectively mimic the frantic feelings that come with desperation and hopelessness. Instead of it feeling slow-paced, I feel that it could work to add more this already amazing piece. This is just an idea, so you don’t have to use it if you don’t want too.

    Ultimately, this free choice was great, and I am glad that I took the time to read it because it holds so much truth. I can’t wait to see how this year turns out and witness the imprint that you are going to leave on us all.


    1. Abhay,

      Believe me when I say I was also really surprised when I went back and read over this post. Like, I was genuinely confused (always a good sign when you’re reading your own blog post) because this was both very near and very far from the voice that I usually write with – so foreign and familiar all at once. It’s kind of terrifying, because it’s an articulation that feels like a confession I didn’t know I needed, a confession I wasn’t aware I had voiced.

      Basically, ’twas weird.

      Now that we have whatever that was out of the way, thank you so much for reading my free choice! It means the world to me, especially coming from someone with ideas as intricate and intriguing as yours. You have such an innate ability to look at things with a perspective others wouldn’t even consider; you look into the folds of the universe and come to conclusions others could only dream about. Its honestly been such an honour to get to know and grow with you so far in the semester – I’ve learnt so much from you about embodying a willingness to grow and strive for what completes you. This class – and the beautiful souls in it – offer me a means through which I may begin dissembling my boxes. It’s not easy, because since when does furniture ever make sense (I’m looking at you, Ikea), but it’s so, so worth it. Thank you for teaching me that. I also really like your suggestion about the commas, because it could really add to the tone of the piece – I’m definitely going to look into incorporating that! Thank you so much, Abhay! I’m looking forward to an awesome semester with you – you have such an air of wisdom to you, and I can’t wait to see it flourish!



  2. Dearest Hijab,

    What a truly remarkable and relatable piece! I totally see this piece as something I wouldn’t be surprised to hear out of Rosencrantz’s mouth; on that note, to crack myself up, I imagined you reading it out loud – I want to hear it now!! I love these many boxes you describe and this take on a line from the play was masterful.

    I love the chaos of this writing piece, I felt as though you were taking me on an adventure inside your soul because I do understand how you are sharing bits of yourself in your writing. Like I found myself in this place with you giving me a tour – of what can be considered both a reality and a future. I especially love your full circle effect with the question of “would you rather be alive or dead” because even a person had come up with a response right away, your descriptive abilities would introduce one new idea or, in my case, many.

    I can’t pick out anything really particular I want you to improve on other than for dramatic purposes (stuff that I love to see) to have some form of really significant emphasis on certain lines. I don’t know how I personally would approach that but I feel that because of your choice in formatting – which fits the purpose – there is a loss in seeing the many cool one-liners you have with a lot of oomph.

    You are absolutely amazing at what you do and I am excited to be able to learn more about you in person and online through these posts.


    P.S. love your featured image!

    1. Dear Nimrat,

      Ooh, I can always appreciate a flair for the dramatic! I really like your suggestion about drawing emphasis to some of the ~punchier~ one-liners in this piece – do you think spacing could help with that, or perhaps bolding/italicizing? I’d love to hear any suggestions from your brilliant mind! Also, don’t you think it’d be REALLY COOL if the AP class took some of their favorite lines from their individual blogs/readings and made, like, t-shirts or journals or mugs or tea cozies with the quotes on them, and then sold them in order to fund-raise for a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe?! And we could manipulate people psychologically into thinking they need to buy our things! I THINK THAT WOULD BE SO COOL!!

      Field trips to Shakespeare’s Globe aside (can we actually do this? Is it legal?), thank you so much for your comment, Nimrat! I’m so glad I was able to amuse you from afar as you imagined me reading this out loud – I have fulfilled my purpose :). As a side note – you and Abhay blew me away with your line delivery with Iam; you’re so cool!! The tourist vibes were also an interesting touch that you called my attention to once more – your astuteness in calling it out speaks to the almost universal experience of being a stranger in your own head, and having to re-acquaint yourself with who you were and who you are – thank you for that aha-moment!

      Nimrat, I’m so glad that you decided to remain in AP, because there’s already so much that I have learnt from you and your adorable, impish wit that adds such an aura of playfulness to our classroom. Once again, thank you so much for reading my weird, Rosencrantz-ish blog! I can’t wait to see the phenomenal person you’ll become!



      (I relate to the featured image on a spiritual level – I think it connects so well to Yorick the Jester and the Gravedigger in Hamlet)

  3. Dear Hijab,

    Once more, I am blown away by what I have just read! It’s amazing! You truly are one of the best writers I know – and I say this with the utmost sincerity. You are incredible.

    You have a way with words, and the imagery that you have conjured in your post proves that. Your diction – “ebb” and “flow”, “sink” and “swell” – was effective in allowing me to paint an image in my mind! Because of it, I was able to feel as if I was really in a box, trapped within the musings of my own negativity. I also liked the way you smoothly interweaved quotes from the play into your piece, giving them such a profound meaning that it even brought a new dimension to my understanding of the play – as seen through your eyes. It’s almost haunting. It was your masterful use of rhetorical questions, as well as italics, that enabled me to read the piece but hear it in your voice, thus allowing me to see the emphasis on the main ideas that you wanted to explore through your post. Amazing work, Hijab!

    In all honesty, I found myself unable to pick something out that you could work on in order to improve. The only thing – and I have no doubt it was a simple error – was the unnecessary comma in your sentence “…company, – love, caring…” This is, however, really picky and rather trivial; other than that, nothing!

    All in all, I was greatly impressed by this! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the play, as well as the way in which you brought your faith into your understanding of it. Being a play about existentialism, I also found myself thinking about life and the afterlife – God included. Your musings on the way you saw the play through the lens of your faith articulated my own thoughts effectively as well! As a flawed human being, I also struggle with matters concerning my faith and how, because of my faults, I often deprive myself of God’s Grace. It truly is a comfort to know that no matter what happens, we can always turn to Him Who can turn our faults into blessings, despair into hope, death into life!

    Ever yours,

    1. Jieo,

      You see more good in people than what is usually there, and of the many admirable things about you, I think this trait of yours is something that endears you to so many. The beauty you are so willing to see in others is but a reflection of the vast reservoirs of beauty you hold within your own soul. The fact that someone as eloquent, intelligent, and intuitively inclined as you considers my writing something worth reading is more than I could have asked for. For considering my voice and my words something worth listening to, thank you so much.

      (You still have a tendency towards hyperbole, though – I don’t know that I’m even half as incredible as you)

      I’m grateful that my voice was able to carry through in this piece – reading it over for the first time, I was afraid that I had descended a little too far into the realm of “Overly Depressing Thoughts Everyone has Once in a While That No One Wants to be Reminded Of”, and honestly, writing this was so visceral and instinctual it almost didn’t feel like my own – my very own Monster. However, it was a pretty cool experience writing about a side of me I often suppress; there is growth that happens on the precipice of uncertainty, and I’m so thankful for this class, because it allows such growth and vulnerability in an environment with people who care.

      Thank you so much for taking time to comment on my blog, Jieo! I really do appreciate it. Good luck on your exams; you’re going to be phenomenal!!


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