Fariha Roísín: “Fariha Roísín is kind. That’s a choice.”

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Visual Interviews are conducted long-distance, via disposable camera and a box of ephemera. I’m pleased to introduce you to Fariha Roísín, a writer, from Montreal, Canada.
Who is Fariha Roísín?
I once read somewhere that in order to reach enlightenment you should let go of your ego. Which, therein, means releasing yourself of all the things that define you. I’ve always been enraptured by this idea; it’s so beautiful in theory. But, then, what would we do — no — what are we without our definitions? I think there’s a beauty in capping the narrative on what you are; how you are, and instead just letting yourself be. So that’s who I am: I am a person who lets herself be.

Also not having an ego (or not letting it dictate you) is such a wonderful design, hopefully I’ll get there one day.

Things that do define me however are: LOVE. I’m obsessed with this piece I read about a neurosurgeon’s experience with the afterlife. After a lifetime of being a sceptic he was in a coma and experienced life’s beyond. When he woke up he wrote about it and explained that the afterlife is/was characterized by kindness and pure love. A buzzing sort of alacrity took hold of me as I read it, almost like an aha! moment. I sent it to all my loved ones and came to some kind of peace with myself. Love is it. Misanthropy, bitterness, jealousy are so passé; I refuse to let the pain I’ve experienced define who I am herein out. Recently, maybe for the last little while, I’ve been struggling with extreme depression that’s rooted in the concept of kindness vs selfishness/reciprocity of said kindness. I realized that humans can be mean, and I considered being mean, too. It was like a decided chain reaction. I assumed within that element I’d find resurrection, but I didn’t — I don’t. So, this is to say — Fariha Roísín is kind. That’s a choice.

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How do you care for yourself?
I buy really good food. I love, love cooking. I want to become a pro-chef. So cooking for myself, cooking for friends, is a precious, cathartic experience. Even when I’m struggling with money, I spend what I have on food because it lifts my spirits up in an inexplicable way.

I have these weird habits, like when I love something I have to [refine myself//refine myself] until I reach perfection—like it’s a video game level I have to supersede. I get obsessed with things and I have to know everything about it/them. In cooking’s case, I’ve been buying cookbooks and trolling the internet for recipes that quell my gastronomic pull. I started eating meat again in the last few years and now all I do is eat meat all day, and drink. I drink a lot of Greek wines because the geography gives them a mineral taste and fruitiness that I’m obsessed with. I don’t have a solid relationship with my mother, so one of the things I’ve learned over the years is how to be my own mother. Having a nice home — that’s aesthetically pleasing — is my self-care. I’ll go onto design blogs like The Design Files or Freude Von Freuden or Cabin Porn and inspire myself. I’m lucky that I live in the cheapest city in North America, so I can make money and get by and live a life that’s good. I’ve been single for a long tim — the longest in a while — and I think a lot of my self care has been instilling things that I’d want a partner to do for me. In many ways Montreal is a haven. It’s queer, it’s radical — and yet you can be a walking contradiction and still buy yourself some great wine and drink it on your balcony that costs next to nothing! Learning to live the best life that you can — within your own means — is self-care. So, i’m deciding to live my life well, and enjoy it.

I consider myself to have a pretty laissez faire attitude to life, like I feel very chill, but also that’s so full of shit, because it’s not entirely true. I get so stressed out sometimes and I never realize until I’ve finished a bottle of wine and I’m smoking hash with my ex-boyfriend on his plush velvet couch. Or I’m going for a run and my brain’s out and I finally feel free and calm. But I care for myself (although I misstep and forget everyday) by listening to myself. I’m learning to be okay with my Netflix binges — film, TV and books are my support system. I’m learning to not have conditions attached to myself. I’m unbuckling the belt and loosening the idea tied up to what it means to be a person, or what it means to be me. This is where ego comes in. We’re all dictated by so much, but what if we really thought for ourselves and really catered to who we are? Spirituality is really important to me for this reason. Spirituality — the presence of God — means a lot to me, and who I am going forward. I’ve been grounded a lot by the faith in my life (Islam) and it’s always brought me back to myself like a mandala. God is whatever you want it to mean. It’s nothing specific. It’s you.

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How does “success” fit into your self-care?
I really struggle with the idea of productivity. I hate the fact that I value myself on my own creative produce, and I enact so much frustration and hate onto myself when I can’t, or won’t (due to emotional blockages, etc) create. Recently I’ve felt a great big void in the center of my being. I want to let myself have days off, but I don’t necessarily think I deserve them. I’m a classic Capricorn. I had my tarots read two nights ago and the “Empress” card was my destiny card, but it was also upside down — which means it’s blocked. So much of my lack of self care manifests in my inability to be kind to myself when I most need it. In those moments where everything hurts, and nothing is good, I am obsessed with my weaknesses because ultimately I want to be successful, in the sense that I want to write forever, and have access to do so. This is to say that success factors into my self care, however traditional methods of acquiring said success, do not.

Ultimately, I’m worth more than my productivity. Which is an anti-capitalist love note that I tell myself. I love myself even when I’m not looking after myself — even when I’m at my lowest — because I deserve that love. This is all very theoretical, at this point, but the fundamentals are there!

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Have you learned anything recently that has caused you to re-contextualize your understanding of your world?
I’m writing at the full moon. In the past month my whole world view has shifted from a very negative space to a stable place. I’m intuitive but I somehow always manage to overlook my own needs and project a reservoir of negativity onto myself. I’m constantly terrified of being hurt, and I’ve created a narrative of how I’m undeserving of good things and how nothing cool/nice ever happens to me! Which is ludicrous and also just disrespectful because I am so privileged! I have so much to be thankful for! I’m annoyed at myself for feeling so despondent sometimes, but also — I’m trying to accept that I’m still learning, that it’ll take time.

Recently, I have re-learnt that I’m powerful and that I can let what affects me, not affect me. If people want to be mean to me (which they do, and will continue to) I have to learn to just let. it. go. I don’t know why I brutalize myself with other people’s insecurities. Ultimately, if someone wants to hurt you that’s more about them then it is about you. Period. So, I’m learning to be my own priority and be stronger. I’m learning that I have all the strength I need.

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What do you read when you need to write?
This year has been the year of Clarice Lispector. She has downright been the most influential writer in my life. It’s like when I was reading Sontag’s As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh and I knew she was a Capricorn because she had written something I’d verbatim said that day; the oscillation between self love and self loathing being paramount Sontagian tropes I relate to. Lispector just speaks through me. God, I love her.

Ok, what I read when I need to write are always essays, preferably essays books. Like Changing My Mind is the best thing Zadie Smith has ever written. Now I’m reading Eileen Myles’ The Importance of Being Iceland and John Waters’ Role Models. I just recently finished: Ralph Ellison’s book of collected essays and also The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Zora Neale Thurston is fantastic, I just finished a book of short stories by her called Spunk which was really different to other things she’d written. I also read a lot of History books because they a) inspire me b) inform me c) remind me why I write. I love history, if I could go and get a degree again I’d do a History degree. I’ve been reading the The Black Jacobins by C. L. R James and also The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King (who is so funny!) both these books should be taught in schools. I also recently just finished At The Dark End Of The Street by Danielle L McGuire who accounts many of the rapes and murders of black women from the antebellum period into the Civil Rights Movement. It, too, should be taught in schools.

Other than that, I love South Asian writers. Jhumpa Lahiri has been my idol since I was a kid. Bhanu Kapil is a genius. Zia Hader Rahman wrote the beautiful In The Light Of What We Know last year. Tarfia Faizullah is a favorite poet of mine, she’s incredible. Reading SA writers reminds me that writing is power — but also that I owe so much to my culture, and also to my parents. It also reminds me that my voice is bigger than me. I hope one day I can help encourage other Muslim and/or South Asian women to write what’s deep inside of them, I hope I can help people heal.

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What’s the best kept secret?
Learning to truly love yourself will save you! It’s maybe the most subversive thing a human can do. Cut the affectation, be you — completely.

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Who do you make work for?
Mainly myself. But also my parents. Okay, “theoretically” my parents because it’d be really awkward if they actually read anything I ever wrote even though my dad claims he’s my “biggest fan.” Which actually gives me the greatest joy in the world. But I’m obsessed with my parents. Everything I’ve ever written is about my mother. Everything.

Tell me something funny.
I can do a really great Matthew McConaughey impersonation. I’m obsessed with impressions, and want to have a couple under my belt, only because it’s a dream of mine is to host SNL one day. I wrote a “Ten Ways To Be More Like Matthew McConaughey” by him (well in his voice) but nobody has wanted to publish it yet even though it’s PURE genius. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, tbh.

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Fariha Roísín, interviewed June 2015. Tumblr | Instagram | Twitter | Two Brown Girls