As a kid the thought of becoming a writer scared me. To be a writer meant to be alone. Looking back, I don’t know why I even thought about this. In my social group there were no writers. No one even expected me to become one. For a woman brought up in a middle-class religious Middle Eastern family there were only a few options in life, and being a writer was not included. I was expected to get married one day and have children. My professional choices were limited to traditional professions: teacher (if I’m very smart), secretary (if I’m somehow smart), or seamstress (if I’m creative).
In high school I tried to learn how to sew, because I love beautiful clothes. Unfortunately I could never control the fast going machine on the fabric. As a student I worked as a secretary for a while. It was a great opportunity to develop my Solitaire skills. My best time as a secretary was when I worked in a dental clinic with the most hilarious dentist. I went to work knowing to expect several hours of stand up comedy. Unfortunately this dentist got wounded in a motorcycle accident, broke his arm, and was out of practice for a few months. I quit then. Working at the clinic without laughing was not the same. This work really got into me. Whenever I went on a date I couldn’t stop myself from analyzing people's smiles. By the end of the evening I could give each of my dates a detailed dental chart and a treatment quote. When I graduated from college, despite my previous declarations that I’ll be a teacher over my dead body, I became a teacher. I love teaching. I don’t like being a discipline officer. It wasn’t easy making teenagers learn poetry. Learning literature was the last thing on their mind, not to mention how outdated the learning program was. I had some really smart and talented students. One student found out about my weakness for humor and he made me laugh during a whole class when he imitated all the other teachers in school. He did an excellent job. Needless to say, I was unable to teach that class, because I was laughing for the whole 45 minutes of it. I had to be very creative when I filled out my teacher report for that hour. There were a few students that were every teacher’s nightmare. I remember looking at one of them and thinking that for the sake of society he should be behind bars. Last year I checked his name online and found out that he and his best friend from school are in jail. After one year of teaching, I had enough of it. I don’t like forcing people to learn things that they are not interested in, just like I don’t like learning things that I am not interested in.
I started university in High school. My first course was introduction to international relationship. It was a captivating class and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was in 1989 when the world shifted from a structure of two polar superpowers to one. Following the news, everything we learned became so vivid. At the age of 16 I already imagined myself being the International relations special advisor to the Prime Minister. My big career dreams dissolved when I asked one of the students about the subject of his final paperwork. The USSR Nuclear Missiles Policy – he answered proudly. This sounded dreadfully boring and I don’t deal well with boring. At that moment I decided to end up my glorious diplomatic career. In the next semester I decided to focus on my dream to become a successful businesswoman. I started taking classes in economics and business management. The classes were fascinating. Economics is a social science that uses mathematical tools to predict people’s behavior. While I enjoyed the social aspect of my studies, the math part was a torture. I’m a math wiz when it comes to calculate percentage discounts in sells (something that is close to my heart). Dealing with different calculation formulas is a different story. My brain is not wired this way. The business classes were really easy for me, they appealed to the creative side of me. Unfortunately I could not complete my business degree without passing the required mathematical classes. At 19 I realized that I had to reevaluate my goals. I left to Europe for a year to give myself some time to think. In Europe I decided that my first priority should be to graduate college. At this point I didn’t care what subject I choose, as long as I could complete my studies. I asked myself what subject I enjoyed the most in High school. This kind of a question was new to me. I never cared much about joy but about goals. My answer was literature.
I started taking classes in literature, while still in Europe. The purpose was to complete my degree, but the side effect was joy. I truly enjoyed learning, discussing and writing literature. I felt like I have come home. For me literature contains it all: history, culture, sociology, psychology, philosophy, science, politics and more. Literature is the mirror of our humanity. It is even more astounding to see how literature managed to do so under cultures and regimes that tried to suppress certain truths from their own people. I learned to appreciate subversive literature that managed to pretend being harmless but underneath the written lines contained so much social criticism. I was especially intrigued by women’s literature, how they managed to get involved in society that for many years was confining them to the domestic sphere. My final paper explored how the relationship of Jane Eyre with the men in the story reflected the relationship between men and women during the Victorian time in England. It was a lot more interesting than the USSR Nuclear Missiles Policy.
During my Year in Europe I wrote many letters home. That was before Internet and emails. I bought Air Mail envelopes with thin writing papers, to keep the weigh and stamp price low. I wrote a lot. I used words to share my experiences with my family. I describe the places I saw, the people I met, and the lessons I learned. My mother kept all my letters. When I returned home I got to read them and realized that I recorded the memory of my year abroad in stories. Thousand photos wouldn’t be able to do so. This was when I realized that I am a writer.
To be continued.