Friday, May 27, 2011

A mature to be

(Published in Magnificent- April 2011)

Back in August, 2009 I was at the AUC studying the principles of voice coaching and TV presenting. Back then radio hosting and writing were my ultimate goals; they were the dream that forced me out of bed each morning and had me cursing every sunset that came by. On the very last session, the instructor- as promised- sat us all down to give her final feedback and honest advice. We were anxiously fetching for flattery and kind remarks to complement all the hard work we’ve put to ace our challenges. Being the sincere self she’s known to be, Dr. Maha tried her best to deliver her thoughts without embarrassing or de-motivating anyone.
I was expecting her comments to be limited to voice tones, facial expressions and body language when she surprised us all with her graver remarks. She was addressing characteristics that affected the way we talked, acted and reacted. She told me that I, for some odd reason, come off as the shy girl. She told Hossam, that he needs to lighten up his seriousness. She told Heba that she doesn’t need to smile because she already has a friendly face. And then she turned to Nancy; her voice changed, she was now speaking as a mother rather than an instructor. Throughout the course, she kept on telling her that she would be an excellent TV presenter for kids, which drove Nancy crazy because she wanted to be taken seriously, yet, no matter how hard she tried she always came off childish and funny. It was then that Dr. Maha uttered a word that I never thought could affect someone that much. Maturity! Her advice for Nancy was to work a lot, to read a lot, to gain as much experience as she can to become more mature!

At that very moment, maturity was more of a sign to me than just a random remark. That was- and shockingly still is- exactly what I’m missing. I had just turned 22; I was two and a half months pregnant; I was keeping it a secret from almost everyone and I was living in denial! The pregnancy news hit me by storm; it was as if betraying my own dream; a brick wall that I cannot destroy nor cross over. And I kept saying I’m not ready to be a mother; I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother. And it’s true! I was not patient; I was not, by any means, into kids; and I had too much on my plate at that time to simply shut off or make room for what’s about to come. But the truth is I was scared, terrified actually to raise another human being while I, myself, am not done growing up.

It is such a huge transition being married with a kid; before when I was about to go to college, I never felt it was that big of a difference because I still lived with my parents, I still had to study, I still panicked during finals and I still had to wake up at 7:00am! Yet, only one factor was changed and I was never overwhelmed or horrified. But with marriage you become responsible for everything, starting with managing the house all the way to safety and cleaning, that of course and the fact that for the first time in my life I was living with a boy!
Exactly one month after coming home from what I can only call a luxurious honeymoon I found out I was pregnant, and my life started to shatter right in front of me. No more published articles, no more radio shows let alone the possibility of a TV show- because who would want to hire a bloating mum to be- and definitely no more clubs and long late-night dinners with super cool friends who have nothing to worry about. Back then, I thought of those nine months as eternity as if I would always be nothing but a pregnant blob. I just couldn’t see a life for me after having a baby and I kept on waking every night to the same nightmare of being an ugly, boring, fat, 40-year old housewife who has wasted her life doing absolutely nothing.
I was totally alone in this pregnancy; I had to rely on books, internet, my mum’s narration of her tales with what seemed to be a sillier version of me and other mums, who I can tell you now since my son is about to complete his twelfth month were lying straight to my face with the whole motherhood is a blessing story. Allow me to tell you what motherhood really is; it’s being on call 24/7, never having a fixed schedule; it’s to live your life day by day, when plans almost never fall into action. Motherhood means giving up on your wishes to meet your baby’s fierce demands. It’s not sleeping at night for weeks and in my case probably for another year. It’s to put your personal life on hold until your baby sleeps and when he does you spend it hoping his nap would last for at least an hour. It’s a constant sense of guilt and question whether you’re doing everything you can to provide a happy healthy home. It’s playing calm and patient when all you want to do is scream and run away. It’s never having a quite time let alone a quality time. Motherhood knows none of an “I” it’s always he, she or they. That is the ugly truth about motherhood, in some ways it is truly a blessing but most of the time it’s none stop work.

I learnt that the hard way and still to this day I wonder how every woman went through it and survived. I wonder how they get everything done without falling apart and yes I envy those who are still single and not looking. I envy their ability to sleep late on weekends and have a fun night out whenever they want. I’m still waiting for me to adapt, to mature and suck it up. I have a long road ahead of me and a lot of barriers I have to cross. But I can tell you this for now, being a mum is a huge life changing experience even if I’m, at the time being, still struggling, I know deep down that one day I’d wake up a new, improved and hopefully a more mature me…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Strikes and Perseverance

(Published in Magnificent Magazine- April 2011)

It happened towards the end of a new year’s first month when resolutions were still searing with high hopes. But unlike usual resolutions, change no longer seemed far- fetched or scary. This time any change- no matter how tiring- sounded much better than our current today. With the scheming, the stealing, the poverty, and the never ending chain of injustice; it was inevitable for silence to break and for the people to roar.
On January, 25th, 2011, the Egyptian Revolution started…

It was to everyone’s surprise that the revolution kept going, for many it was just like any other riot that has happened before where water hoses and time were enough to put out. Yet, the consecutive blows did nothing to the demonstrators but keep them stronger. This time it was different. This time passiveness was no longer tolerable. This time and for the very first time in 30 years the people were truly fed up and had nothing more precious to lose than what has already been lost.

During the revolution, like many Egyptians, I was tormented by the many contradicting views, between the pros and cons, the supporters and the opponents and the rushing turns of events. Honestly speaking I had my doubts, not in a million years would I have ever thought we’d be where we are today. I never thought Mubarak would actually leave and a couple of months later we would participate in a referendum. But it happened!

During the revolution, like many Egyptian females, I was once more a prisoner of my own gender where Tahrir was considered a dangerously prohibited zone and I was banned from even thinking of going there. But I had to participate in some way and luckily I had three! First, I had my words; I wrote a lot, poured out my heart to white papers and found consolation in my laptop screen. Second, I had my voice; I talked, discussed and debated with those who were- and surprisingly still are anti- revolution. And finally, I had Amani el- Tunsi, my friend and a sincere eye-witness to what was going on in Tahrir. Amani had the guts and the power to go to Tahrir since the early days of the revolutions, I used to call her and listen live over the phone to what was being said and most of the times sung! My heart was just getting hooked to the tales of Tahrir by the minute and she was my only left hope.

After a long night of celebrations on the 11th of February, I got a chance to ask her opinion, hopes and dreams for a better Egypt. After all, she was there protesting and demanding. She witnessed the entire revolution and was firmly biased to Tahrir and did not have a chance to be brainwashed by corrupted media or hidden agendas. Her words were precise and direct, she knew exactly what she wanted to voice to the point that she wrote a book that is going to be published soon under the name “Bent men midan al- Tahrir” (A girl from Tahrir Square) where she has narrated everything, minute by minute, and day by day along with all the people she talked to and discussed with the future of Egypt.

Amani told me that during those eighteen days she felt scared and terrified of what tomorrow might bring. “I used to go there every day with the possibility that I might not see my father again”, she said. “But I was hopeful and was overwhelmed with this strange love and jealousy over my own country. For the very first time, I knew what it felt to be free, to have a voice. What being an Egyptian really means”
When I asked her about the rumors of harassments, she said: “I never felt safer in my life; the men were helpful and defending. They helped us pass by, they helped us park, enter and leave. I felt at home. It was safe and cozy. Besides, we were not at Tahrir to harass or annoy, we had a cause. Even though the reasons may differ but we had a larger mission than silly boyish games”

The glory of this Revolution is not only about its political achievements but its remarkable impact on every person whether a participant or not. The state of being a revolutionary, a free bird who has all the rights in the world to accept or refuse; to demean or encourage; to go on or simply quit. We, as Egyptians, have lost this ability a long time ago. And you can easily spot our passiveness in everything, not just politics.
A student being abused by his teacher remains silent; an employer who is denied overtime bonus does not quit because he is terrified of unemployment; a wife endures her husband’s infidelity to please a sick society that disapproves divorce; A man stays in a lifeless marriage because he cannot afford divorce; A son’s dream is murdered by his parents follow their orders helplessly; A daughter is forced into marriage to escape her family’s prison, etc...
There was a time when no was not an option, when we were forbidden to think, chose, debate or even communicate, but not anymore. The revolution knocked on every door. Everywhere I go I meet people who started to voice their opinions and enforce their rights. Women facing their husbands asking for more respect and engagement; husbands no longer afraid of their occasionally scary wives verbalizing their anguishes; sons and daughters demanding their parents to listen and spend more time getting to know them; employers protesting for their financial rights and health care; students calling for better education; graduates arguing for jobs they can honorably life off, and people fighting the farce of high prices and the scarcity of a good affordable life-quality.

The revolution smoothly relocated from Tahrir square to our homes and minds. The change has already happened. We, Egyptians, have tasted democracy and freedom and I do not think there will ever be a turning back. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the brutality of change compared to the ease of bouncing back to an accustomed life, I say it is better to suffer a year or two of massive confusion rather than tolerating a lifetime of blurry attempts.