It was back to the summer of 2009, that I recognized this reality about myself!
Back to this time I was in this famous crossroads dilemma of switching careers. By then, I gave up journalism (or to be honest the attempts to become one, once I realized that I hate this profession and I would rather develop my travel writing) and tried to gain experience in the field of Art management.
By then also I had just quit my temporary job at Al Mawred Al Thaqafy, and I couldn’t yet take the decision of going back to Alexandria or staying in Cairo and try to find another job in this challenging very underpaid field. Jobless, penniless, I got this unexpected chance to travel to the United States to attend an institute of art journalism in Washington DC. I used to apply here and there to any chance in writing or art management. This opportunity was completely and positively out of my expectation.
During 21 days, with an international group of art journalists I didn’t do anything but visiting galleries, art exhibitions, museums, talking to curators, and collectors. 21 days of intensive doze of art and culture.
During the institute, I was not doing anything but introducing myself and getting introduced to new people. I found it a bit challenging to identify who I am and what I am doing and mostly to tell it to the others. The story was complicated at the beginning, how to explain the dilemma of my life to strangers: Yes I do write articles but always as a freelancer, no I am not into news or all kind of articles, yes I write about people and places, yes it seems like travel writing, however I like art and culture, no I am not an art critic, no I am not an artist, whoever I do like to coordinate art projects, and no I am not yet an art manager. (I have to say that by this time I was not yet very confident to use the glamorous “art manager” label. Matter of fact it took me three years of experience and one master degree to be able to shift to it J )
A long story that Is not very easy to tell briefly between two smart jokes and without sounding completely a confused lost person.
Well it got better every time I introduced myself, the story got shorter, smarter, and funnier. By the end of the institute, I was fluent: using different tones, accentuation, stops and even I knew where to tell my jokes, and where to take it serious. I got trained to show the uniqueness of my great self, or selves.
The “I do write articles about places and people and I try to work in the art scene” became, with practice, the “I write about travel and I freelance in the art scene” to finally “I am a travel writer and art operator” tata…
It may seem that the shift in the story was trivial and very subtle. However in this small “very tricky” shift, relay all the danger of all these selves that we become, reflect, manifest and narrate.
To my defense, I am not the only one! And honestly speaking I am not yet the worst. For instance, in these conferences, workshops, seminars, and network meetings you can find all kind of individuals armed by many diversified smart stories, silly smiles and business cards, you can witness all kind of circus shows of these selves who are competing to manifest.
And to give these individuals some excuses, it is very hard not to join the parade, not to identify yourself with a a)position, b)skill or talent, c)social status, e)ideology or any kind of identifiable identity. It is hard to introduce yourself by simply saying your name without a story, or stories, especially when a pair of eyes stares at your face waiting for a reply to the question “what are you doing?” (no the “who are you?” is by default answered! God bless name tags!)
To free myself of this pressure and regain some balance, I decided to travel alone for two weeks to a country/social environment where I should not be asked about myself(ves). I will travel to get a new learning, to be locked in a class room where I will be only be asked to communicate with people through body and tactile language. (no nothing obscene about it! :))
I am travelling to have a course of traditional massage in Thailand. I need to be able to connect with people without using a verbal language, without using my brain. I need to give back some peace, to use my body energy to heal others, to … oups careful! it’s another story that I am developing. A new fresh beautiful cheesy story to narrate about the new self that I am developing!
May God have mercy on my soul! 🙂