Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here we go again

When I started writing this blog, I had no idea on what it's going to be. It was mainly a description of exciting events and thrilling thoughts I was encountering in England. In retrospect, it seems to me as a description of a rather sweet kind of cultural shock. While this pleasant shock made me start blogging, it was the appalling reverse cultural shock I had after coming back to Syria that made me quite Blogmania altogether. Now, I am "back", and experiencing a "double" cultural difference: the helluva difference between Syria and the USA (of course), and the one based on the stupid assumption that I would find America to be "almost" like England. So here we go again.

When I say cultural shock people might think I'm talking about stuff like driver's seat being on the right, the electricity being 110 volts instead of 220, having to squat down to use the toilet, or the dime being actually smaller in size than the five cents coin. But that sort of stuff doesn't really matter and would only cause a problem to an obsessive-compulsive. Surprisingly, what I'm talking about are stuff like People smiling back at you, cars stopping for you to cross, how everything here will start almost on time instead of being always half an hour late, streets having names and directions for Heaven's sake, and the fact that everything here seems to strangely work out instead to screwing up due to some mighty destiny. These kind of stuff make the concept of cultural shock seem absurd, but the difference still exist anyway. However, I can assure you that, under right weather conditions, it wouldn't take any sane person more than two hours to get used to the place. Cultural shock my ass.

And here I am, back and kicking! But would I need to describe my mood during the last non-blogging months for you? Well, you can continue reading if interested, or you can quit and wait for Lessons from London, my series on cultural shock that is still worth writing even though I have left England more than a year ago.

Depression is not the right word for it. I would say 'disgust', but I really think language is limited to come up with a descriptive word that combines the positive (yes, there is!) and negative aspects of living in a messed-up place like Damascus. Anyway, I can say that those who haven't been there would have no idea on what I'm talking about, while those who live there would know what I'm talking about anyway and need no description.
I would only say that I am easily affected by surrounding environment, and I can go all the way up or down simply for being with a genius or with an asshole. I don't blame anybody other than myself for that, and I can say that this last year has told me more about myself that the past 6 years together.

The most valuable gift anyone can give you is a reflective mirror to see your true face. To believe what you're seeing (the warts and all, to quote Cromwell) requires a huge amount of bravery. For that, I feel extremely happy I had the chance to know who really I am, to know my limitations, to expose my weakness, and to denude my vulnerability. Living in two extremely different environments would only enrich that experience.
I can't claim that I have finished with myself, but I daresay I know what I already have and what I still have to acquire. For all of that, I can now start to trust myself and learn to feel the confidence. After spending all that time preparing for just a single USMLE exam, I can trust my knowledge and say "I don't know" with a full mouth without embarrassment or shame. I can walk around in my white coat with the confidence of a learner instead of the arrogance of an ignorant. Most importantly, I can feel content, which is the key of true happiness.

So now, after being in 4 different countries in just four days, I am finally settled. And finally I can tell my dear fellow bloggers: here we go again.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lesson No.1: Inspired

Expressing one's self; Effect of environment

It has been a while. I don't even know how I'm supposed to feel. What's the purpose? I ask myself. Why I am blogging? I can easily find one thousand reasons for not doing so.

It’s astonishing future can be different from how we (like to) imagine it. In my England days, I had absolutely no difficulty in expressing my ideas, at least in writing. I only was too busy to write it all. Besides, I was living the experience, learning the lessons. I thought to myself: well, I’ll have all the time in the world to write about my lessons when I get back. Apparently, it didn’t work that way.

So what’s the problem? Does it really take more than a pen and a piece of paper in front of you to write what’s in your mind? I can’t really say how it is going that way…I can only see it and feel sorry for myself. Sorry for not being able to write when I want to, at the time I choose, about the topic I pick. Never before I have felt the effect of environment to be that big on me. I knew I was always inspired by it, but hated to discover I was almost possessed. I bitterly found out that I can’t be who I am. I felt like a mirror, just reflecting beams. My belief in human will was fearfully deteriorating. The place where we live, people around us, the “atmosphere” as a whole, all owns a big share of the decisions we make…if you believe we can say: decide. We are just too weak to change everything around us, especially if everything seems like it needs to be changed.

I thought to myself: Had it not been for my short stay “there”, would I ever think about blogging? I doubt it. After all, the act of expressing one's ideas and thoughts has been quite uncommon during all those years. It may even be considered a dodgy business. Your feeling should be kept to yourself. When you’re anxious and frustrated you don’t nag, you say nothing. You put up a false smile so that even your closest friends think you’re happy. No one should be able to read your mind, interpret your ideas, or know how you’re feeling. Sometimes you don’t know how you’re feeling yourself. That’s the way it is. Nobody says what’s in mind, and nobody can change that. A very unhealthy environment for writing. So much for a blog. How can I challenge all the habits, problems and mistakes I grew up with? Why I was never late “there” and I’m never on time “here”? At least I want to know: how much of myself do I own?

“I looked at the sky through the white light and the water mist, and my chest was so constricted from all these arguments that I was amazed how birds could keep themselves in the air. Then I realized, perhaps they have no little voices in their head, telling them they can’t do things. Imagine every time a bird wanted to fly, it stopped breathing long enough to think why it shouldn’t fly. You would have a lot lame-winged contorted creatures hopping around on the beach”

When I read that I suddenly looked out of the window. It looked quite the same. Gleams of light were penetrating the heavy clouds of a late winter day. Birds were flying like I haven’t seen before. For the very first time, I felt myself a part of all that. I had wings, and I wanted to fly, too.

Is there any way out? Well, hardly, but yes. I shall get back to my dashboard, no matter how many reasons I can find for not doing so. After all, there are more reasons for things not to happen, but life still happens here and elsewhere. Embryos grow up to be born, even if it seems impossible when we think about it. Seeds that are buried under soil find some way out. Sun shines among the clouds. Universe is full of many and different forms of life that finally make it, against all odds.