48 Blips for my 48th Year…

Lina AbiRafeh
8 min readDec 28, 2022


I turned 48 on December 25. Yes, I know. Christmas. Also known as LinaMas — to a select few. This has a nice ring to it, I think. In Spanish, this means “Lina… more.” And sure enough, with every passing year, there’s more of me. And I’m “more.”

I used to always be told I was “too much.” I think people meant it as an insult. I now prefer it — far better than being “not enough,” I say to myself. So, in the spirit of “too much,” I decided to write down the 48 fortune-cookie blips of wisdom I’ve gathered in my 48 years. Maybe some of them will resonate with you too.

  1. Start where you stand, as has become my mantra. Meaning, if I care about something, I need to get up and do it. I can do good now, wherever I am, otherwise I’ll never do it. And no one will do it for me.
  2. Start here. I followed a path that led me around the world, but it didn’t need to. There’s plenty of work right here, wherever we are. When it comes to women’s rights — and most social causes — we don’t have to go far to do good.
  3. I live with the voice of teenage-me telling me that everything is terrible and my body is a blob. I’m ignoring her. Instead, I’m learning to love my body now. It’s only going to deteriorate, so I might as well enjoy the chaos with grace. And appropriate women’s healthcare.
  4. Accept your quirks. I accept that I will never own wine glasses that are real glass — because they won’t last a day in my life. And I accept that I cannot put on pantyhose without making at least one small hole and having to clear-polish it and ending up with nail polish/pantyhose stuck to my leg. Some things I cannot change.
  5. Defend your space. I have often found that people expect you to take on the issues they care about, in addition to the ones you care about. Why are you working on x? Why aren’t you working on y?! They might ask.Why aren’t YOU?! I might ask
  6. Similarly, someone will always ask What about (insert group here)?! Defy WhatAboutery and believe that doing something for someone is better than doing nothing for no one.
  7. It’s probably wise to always have extra undies and socks. Can we ever have too many?!
  8. Smile on the phone. I’m sure people can hear it in my voice when I do. It makes a difference, especially if I’m trying to get something I need. Smile at strangers — without looking creepy or insane. We can see each other’s expressions again! So much better than having to read eyebrows.
  9. We need to do a lot of work to (re)claim women’s right to pleasure, to spend more time talking about it, and even more time actually achieving it. Working on violence against women is miserable stuff. In addition to our right to live free of violence, we should have rights to all aspects of bodily autonomy and integrity. And pleasure is a fundamental part.
  10. Own your choices. We must be free to make our own choices, regardless of society’s opinions. If you do not decide, someone will decide for you. And it probably won’t end well.
  11. Pay it forward, as they say. Every so often, surprise people with some unexpected kindness. It will come back to you. And even if it doesn’t come back in ways you expect, do it anyway.
  12. Be the change, as they say. These sayings are often used — for good reason. Behavior is contagious, so we might as well make it good.
  13. It’s ok to pour out old coffee and make a fresh pot without weeping for brew down the drain. There are only so many times coffee can be re-nuked. I’m not sure what the exact limit is here, but I’m sure there is one!
  14. Facts. Data. Evidence. It’s hard to know what to believe these days. I believe women, giving them the benefit of the doubt first, unless proven otherwise.
  15. Numbers matter, but people’s voices and stories matter more. Data isn’t always enough in some cases. And when it comes to violence against women, the data we have is an underestimate of the reality we endure. And — even one woman, one case, is one too many.
  16. Sometimes you need to know you’re making a difference, even if you can’t count it. Working on women’s rights comes with very few victories. I have to believe that something I’m doing will count one day, even if I might be decomposing when it actually takes hold.
  17. Cooking is love. I’m trying to make more stuff people might actually come over and eat without checking their health insurance. And cooking is creation. Cooking sans recipe is the best way to truly understand the magic of food. Iron-chef your life, a challenge to make things with limited ingredients — a good skill beyond the kitchen as well. When the (food) results are questionable, just add hot sauce.
  18. Learn how to say no as a complete sentence. NO. (I still struggle with this one.) And when I say yes, make sure it’s a “hell, yes!”
  19. Cookies. This is a complete sentence to me.
  20. Never start a phrase with “Sorry…” WTF am I apologizing for?! (Unless I’m actually apologizing — that’s a different thing.) Similarly, don’t preface things with “Just…” Instead, just take up space.
  21. Music matters for your mood. We can feed the mood we have — or mold a new one. Manipulate it accordingly.
  22. In a world of intersecting and hyphenated and politicized and prioritized identities, people often expect that we pick the one that suits them. Or the one that is the most obvious. We pick for ourselves. And I pick feminist. The rest is less important to me.
  23. There’s a lot that working in emergencies can teach us about real life, like seeing things through the lens of women’s safety. If women are not safe, no one is safe. Yes, all women.
  24. Sing your praises everywhere like it’s your Tinder profile. You’re amazing, and no one will sell you better than you do! Write a “dating profile” for work. Anyway, it’s among the most important relationships we’ll ever have!
  25. Sometimes I go out without my phone. It keeps me from spending too much time looking down. I have to remember that there’s a whole world going on while my eyes are on the screen.
  26. Measure yourself — against yourself. No one else matters. And when you do, ask if your heart, head, hands are all in it together. That’s where your magic is.
  27. Read stuff beyond what you normally read. Like many of us, my life can be an echo chamber of voices who sound just.like.me. I’m working on bending my brain in some new directions. And, I’m trying to read more — anything less than a book a month is borderline illiteracy. And, audio books! Someone reading me a story while I do things around the house. This is sorta revolutionary.
  28. Everything has a gendered implication, whether we see it or not. We don’t live gender neutral lives. If we don’t know what the impact might be, ask women! I believe that the world is fundamentally unequal. And women deserve more.
  29. I play this game with myself where I imagine what I’d do with my life if I didn’t have to do this — and then I go out and try to do one of those things.
  30. Lead… and know what that means as an everyday act. See leadership in others, and help cultivate it. Especially young people. They are already leading in ways that we cannot imagine.
  31. Mentor. Pass the mic — or we die holding it. And it dies with us. And — seek a mentor. We all need guidance. It makes a difference when good people point us in the right direction.
  32. I need to forget about using superglue responsibly without gluing my fingers together. There’s only so many times I can make this same mistake, right?!
  33. The fight for women’s rights isn’t only about “other women, over there”. It’s all around us. As I’ve said about Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere: Just because our heads aren’t covered doesn’t mean our eyes aren’t covered.
  34. Don’t explain yourself to those who don’t deserve an explanation. In many cases, a polite “because I said so” is enough.
  35. Art is everywhere. Make more time for it — build stuff, break stuff, create stuff. My favorite art is in the trash — rescuing and resuscitating it reminds me that I can build a better world and make broken things beautiful.
  36. Pay attention to food expiration dates as more than just a loose suggestion. Sometimes it’s really over, and I just need to say goodbye. (Or maybe I should eat faster?!)
  37. Choose family, friends, love over work — every single time. I’m reminding myself to tell people I love that I love them — all the time. That includes loving my dog with reckless abandon — and telling all dogs I meet on the street that I love them because Dog is Love.
  38. Take yourself on solo-dates and solo-moons. Travel travel travel — even if it’s within your neighborhood.
  39. Know who you are fighting for — and against. I love men. It’s patriarchy I hate. Ending patriarchy (and misogyny, its evil spawn) are the goals of my lifetime. Why? Because women deserve better.
  40. Write more, write often, write real stuff. Write the hard stuff. My writing is better when I’m raw. The academic stuff is interesting, but the icky stuff is relatable.
  41. Stop texting on the toilet and tempting fate — it will catch up with me one day.
  42. It is wise to brush my teeth before getting dressed so I don’t have to clean toothpaste blobs off my clothes. And I probably should avoid wearing white since it will end up a mess. After 48 years, I should know this about myself!
  43. Be healthily selfish without justifications or explanations. Self-care isn’t just “spa day” stuff. I’m learning to be mindful of the many micro-violations of my own self-care. For instance, nights are for sleeping (or other nocturnal pursuits), NOT for answering emails at 3am. Similarly, holidays are for holidaying — like, adios laptop. Indulge yourself — if we don’t do it, who will?!
  44. The stuff that makes you angry also ignites your action. Poke the sore places and focus your energies there. It will make a difference.
  45. Ending violence against women is not the final goal — it is the bare minimum. It is the first step to ensuring that women have rights, equality, dignity, respect, choice, voice, opportunity, and all else that has historically been denied.
  46. Savor all the bizarre coincidences and happy accidents that make up your life. So many wonderful things have happened because I’ve literally tripped over them unprepared.
  47. Love where you are. I smile thinking of the promise I made to my 10-year-old self to live in NYC. It took 24 years, but I got there!
  48. Function in disaster, finish in style. That was my high school motto. And it’s stuck with me ever since.
Me. NYC. And the shirt says “feminist” in Arabic.



Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights expert, author, speaker, aid worker, feminist activist with 25 years of experience in 20 countries worldwide - and lots of stories!