Chasing Dreams

I flew.

My feet dangled in the air. A patchwork of farms and trees spread below me, carpeting the mountains and hills from the snowy Annapurna range in the north to Phewa Tal lake in the south. The sun was high in the sky at noon; the lake glistened, bathed in the warmth of the light. Up where I was, the air was chilly; the cold winds enveloped me and I was an eagle, high above the noise of the lands.

Back on the earth, I missed home.

My home, praised and sung to since time immemorial. A place I never lived in for too long, but always called it home. Where my grandmother wakes up in the morning and, despite her age, goes to the local markets to pick the fresh crops of the day to cook me my favourite meals. Where I would go every two days to the dairy shop with an empty, white plastic bucket and return with one filled with yoghurt. Often, it would be a blue bucket: that is for when I get goat’s yoghurt. The milk bucket was white, but large; the metal handle always strained my flimsy hands.

I remember my mother — beautiful and wearing a purple and white dress — on the balcony watching me cross the street on my own. I felt powerful and confident; a whole new world was out there for me to explore, beyond the confines of the street. I ventured into the wilderness behind the grocery store. Back then, it was a long stretch of meadow and patches of barren sand; now it is a sports complex. I had on me a water pistol to defend me from evil foes I would encounter. All I had encountered on my adventure was a tomato plant; it had sprung from the earth defiant yet lonely. My neighbour kept it.

Two decades later, I was walking through meadows in Pokhara, Nepal, with a backpack filled with crackers, cheese, a water bottle, a jacket, and two flashlights in case it got dark while I was still out. Bugs found their home on my legs (and a spider on my scalp); I carried them with me on my new adventure to find pieces of my soul I have been chasing. Dreams I have longed to be fulfilled. I found myself at sunset by the lake; the air was crisp and cold and the afternoon sun was breaking behind the mountains. I breathed in the realisation of a dream. For so long have I seen photos of lakes and mountains and longed to be there on sunsets or sunrises. And here I was, enjoying the scenery, bugs and all.


“And what would you really like to do?” I was asked by the interviewer.

“Well truth be told, I would really like to pursue photography,” I replied, a bit too arrogantly.

“No. Let me rephrase. What do you really want to do?”

I looked back through books of my thoughts, jotted down across various types of paper and ink (mostly black), and through characters I have left behind in the digital realm. In 2004, I quoted the late Alone Shepard – a remarkable woman who has shaped my approach to writing since I attended her “Media Writing” class that year – in the preface she has written for our college literary magazine, Realms:

“Writing is in its essence a speech act, shaped somehow into form, where it can become art. Poetry began as song.

“Why do we want to sing and speak our thoughts? And why do we want to shape them into the form of written language?

“Many might answer that we write to communicate, which is ultimately true. Strangely though, writers never say this. Writers will instinctively talk about a deeper level of impulse, more interior, and more invested with intention and need. Writers will talk about a kind of compulsion to write – even if no one ever reads the words. Sometimes, it seems, it is enough to have spoken to oneself. As one of our Realms writers, Kinan, says, the writer’s first impulse is “I desire.”

Desire. It is what drives the world. It is what drives us to do what we do, buy what we buy, say what we say, and eat and drink to our heart’s desire, as it were.

In 2005, I was given enough motivation to express my feelings through writing; I have been a pawn in a lover’s chess game of five. The fascinating days of college. When no one believed my narration of the events, I set out on a small crusade to fulfil a desire in me — a desire to be heard… by myself. In 2005, I was a completely different person than I am today. I was a different person two years ago. I was a different person a few months ago. In my core, though, I could see the little boy I have known all my life. The little boy who looks out from my right eye to look into the left as I face the mirror. My eyes chase each other, each yearning to talk.

Seven years ago, when my feelings had the better command of my language, I have written:

To write what we have suffered an enjoyed is to endow our memories with the duration of our existence. We write so we can read and reread, so that we can remember in secret, and then weep in solitude.

And today, this is why I am rewriting, again. Reading what I have been writing all the past few years shook my core. I am a different man, but the same man. The pages of my journals – digital and traditional – have been too empty. I chat away my years and never write something tangible. People dedicate their tweets to their children – something admirable, and cute, for sure. But my 40K or so tweets add nothing of true value. Not as much as a few pages of any journal entry I have been writing since I learned I could write about unicorns waging wars against each other.

We spend the days “fixing things” that need not be fixing. In an age that conditions us to have results now and deliver results within impossible deadlines, we lose ourselves to work that only benefits the pockets of a few, while we empty the pockets of our souls. My time has not been mine for the past few years, but now, I write this in the office, with emails coming in, and new deadlines and calendar appointments coming in and out. The best time to have a break is when we do not have time to.

And today is as good a day as any.

“You know what, Kinan,” Ms. Shepard told me as I walked her to the car after class, “I see you an old man, sitting in your chair on the porch of your nice little house, writing Hallmark cards.”

Probably not Hallmark cards, but when I close my eyes and see myself in the future, I do not see myself as an old revered photographer, or a market leader in whatever field I am in now or will change into; I see myself as exactly that: sitting in a chair, in front of  a little white house.



Image credit: 81. pen and paper by geronimo89

Social Media 30-Day Detox Experiment

I did it. Finally. After months and months of complaining about social media — and this is from someone who works in the media industry — I decided to put my cynical self to the test and deprive myself of everything digital (with the exception of WhatsApp, which serves to be my SMS app replacement). And what better time to begin with my experiment than when I went back home to Syria before Ramadan, the place where I usually unplug from the online world? With your run-of-the-mill social networking applications hardly accessible, self-control and restraint should have been easy.

Should have been.

Though in Syria I tend to spend my time completely offline, this visit was a bit different and more often than not I had an impulsive urge to share what I was doing with everyone, especially stories that my grandmother narrated to me on the balcony as we observed the streets and prepared Freekeh. Yet I was completely disconnected — and other than email on my mobile phone, I was completely cut off from the outside world.

The first week I suffered from severe withdrawal symptoms. I had dreams of shrinking URLs and twitpics. I created conversation scenarios in my head and lived them, whether they be on twitter or Facebook. Quite sad, right?

When I accepted the fact that I could not use social media, I was flown back to Dubai. Armed with my new-found self confidence that I can remain unplugged for a longer time, I deactivated my Facebook (quite a dumb thing to do as I use many services with the FB login, but that’s another story) and uninstalled all applications (twitter, G+, etc) from all my devices and browsers.

And I came to this conclusion:

  • It is so w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l to be away and focus for once in my life! To have the time (shock) to read books and go out and do other things! To not have to deal with links about Google Plus on Google Plus!
  • Living without social media is d-r-e-a-d-f-u-l. I miss how enriching interactions are and how I felt I was part of a community.
By then it hit me that these are just services and I am the one in charge. I can allow myself to use them the way I wish, or be abused by succumbing to the addiction. I have the willpower to work from 9-5 and drop by on my breaks. I have the choice of what I can post and where. More importantly, I have the choice of what I want to read. It all seems silly, but for a guy who considers himself to be on the inquisitive side, I tend to feel obliged that I have to read everything.
I wanted to conclude with something else but I have this request to make instead: FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY, UNLINK TWITTER FROM THE REST OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICES! NO NEED TO REPLY TO @myexgirlfriend ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK AND G+ AND LINKEDIN!

A New Approach

I am not doing things right, yet, I believe, what I am doing is necessary. Or, perhaps, it is simply the matter of being too involved to come up with a fresh, or different, solution.

What I am talking about here is my workaholism. The irony of things is that I love to relax and do nothing sometimes, yet I am addicted to work. I always keep myself busy. With my current financial situation I sometimes have no choice, yet I know a lot of the times I am being too hard on myself.

Discipline is good, but I am burning myself out. My priorities are jumbled up because everything is a priority to me. I haven’t seen my friends in a long time even. Aaargh!

I know I have to take a holiday and I know I have to mix some fun into my life. My brain is a bit exhausted and I am working hard instead of working well.

I’m thinking of giving a fresh look at everything I am doing, from work to daily habits, and see what I truly value in doing and filter out things I do for the sake of being OCD like, for instance, saving each and every photo I find on some sites and sort them by date, author, alphabetically, subject, or a combination (yes, I am that anal).

Time to get my mojo back!

Nothing Necessary

If there is one thing that would annoy any blogger – or a writer on any medium, for that matter – is the arduous feeling of being encumbered with the weight of thoughts colliding with confusion; you know you have to write before losing your grip on the last shreds of sanity but are too exhausted to do either.

Many events have transpired in the past month that were more worthy of blog space and mental energy than a couple of movie reviews. Indeed, the Egyptian Protests are taking the Arab and most of the rest of the world by storm, as well as our daily, petty problems which, small as they may be, eventually force us to throw in the towel and hope for a better day when we wake up.

For long, I have had the urge to write about many things… things of seriousness and love and humour and nonsense. I kept them in my head instead, until this very moment as I write these thoughts down.

What makes us careless to attend to ourselves? The more I observe twitter, or Facebook for that matter, the more I see people trying to find themselves amongst a crowd. That is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, however, I do feel that perhaps taking some time off to find myself without the crowd is what I need. I’ve put many friends and activities on hold as I pursued the unnecessary, online and offline. I got caught up in my busy schedule that I visited my best friend on the second day after his major operation.

I have so much to write about that I forgot why I started writing this post to begin with.