My earliest memories are of me sitting on the floor cross legged in front of the TV watching old episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" and eating cheese and crackers. You see, I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. That was my home for the first seven years of my life. In 1983 my parents, who are Egyptian, decided to move us all back to Cairo, Egypt. Needless to say, the little seven year old me was in for quite of a shock.
Before I proceed it is important to understand the nature of Egyptian parents, most importantly the Egyptian mother. Egyptian mothers are the grand pharaohs of a household. Their commands are to be obeyed without argument or even an attempt to understand their rational. This demand of obedience is not solely driven by the Egyptian Mother's dictatorship, no, but by the fact that all Egyptian mothers are always right and more knowledgeable about everything concerning their children. In the spring of 1983, my sister and I were told, by our Egyptian mother, that we are going to move to Cairo where we will live for the rest of our lives. Our opinion on the matter was never sought nor considered in our parents decision.
Upon arriving to Cairo, my only form of protest to this abrupt exile was to give everyone the silent treatment. I would sit in the corner and refuse to talk. I supposed people assumed I couldn't understand Arabic, but that wasn't true. I understood Arabic very well, although my conversational skills were not that good. I spent the summer of '83 in utter silence, speaking to my only friend Amany, my older sister.
Unfortunately my silence didn't pay off. We have moved to Cairo and we were there to stay. Over the years, I had surrender to my fate, but try as I may I could never fit in with the Egyptian culture. I was always labeled odd or weird. As a teenager, this bothered me, so I tried my best to assimilate to other young Egyptians. This was an unsuccessful endeavor. I didn't like Egyptian pop-culture. I thought the movies were pointless, actors were not handsome, and songs were silly. Finally, while in college I was able to embrace the fact that I am different from everyone else around me. I didn't show that different side of me in public, only a few close friends and my sister got to see the real me.
Not conforming to the Egyptian Culture has helped throughout my career. People would assume that I was educated abroad and thus have a better understanding of my profession than my Egyptian counterparts (another fascinating aspect of the Egyptian mindset, what we call the Foreigner Complex - valuing the skills of foreign professionals more than local ones). I was able to push the envelop and defy people's notion of how things are done. I was also constantly criticized for being out of touch with reality and too inflexible. I was often told that my way is not how things are done in Egypt and I have to allow more flexibility. I preserved and people came around, eventually.
On my 30th birthday I had a break through, I like to call it my mid-life crisis. I went through a long and emotional phase of self re-discovery and self appreciation. I experienced a magnitude of emotions, but most importantly I stopped caring about other people's opinions of me. I am who I am, and yes, I like who I am. I'm not everyone's cup of tea and a lot of people are not going to like me. Very few people will see me for who I am. The moment I stopped caring about what other people thought, I was able to allow the true me to come forward for all to see. It has been seven years since my mid-life crisis. Everyday, as I let my self be what it is, I discover new things about me. Somethings I like, others I don't. However, by being true to my self I am able to evolve as a human being.