When I was 9, I had lived in Casablanca for two years. The Hassan II Mosque was being revamped and I had started a collection of tiny zellige tiles that I would uncover from the dusty piles of rubbish and store in a little wooden box. Zellige tiles were little gems to me, you see, so I gathered pieces of a deconstructed puzzle and reconstructed a puzzle of my own. Jade green, Cobalt blue, Teal… the shades were endless. I was nine, and I wanted to be an artist.
I thought I had to persevere and keep filtering my interests, like filtering gold in a pan full of gravel, shaking it in a left to right motion until the gold, heavier, sinks to the bottom.
At the age of 12, after a lot of sifting, I found gold. My first poem was getting published in the school’s journal. I was ecstatic. My own words – there they were, in black and white. My name was signed at the bottom too; how overwhelming! This was the time when everything in my life had to rhyme. Palm trees were swaying, children were playing… Poetry in English does not suit me. So there I was, ready for life. I wanted to be a poet. Baudelaire, Verlaine, Hugo, they were to me what a compass is to a sailing boat. I was ready.
Then I turned 15. This was an important year, dominated by one event which I had 9 months to prepare for. 114, Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris. Ecole Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot. June 26th, 2005. I was a pianist. This was my first important exam, so important I had to travel to Paris and play in front of a jury of four very stern pianists and professors, in an otherwise empty, resonating concert hall. June 26 came as fast as a dust storm arises. I was not ready. When is one ever ready? As I walked in, the concert hall was silent. Later, I watched my anxious self walk towards the Steinway and Sons on the shaky footage that my mum had taken from the balcony seats. The verdict was announced a week later. I had passed. And in this moment of elation, I realised I had found gold again. I wanted to be a pianist.
My life was becoming a gold mine and all I had to do was dig. Like a hopeful, fervent treasure hunter, I was on a quest.
Nothing could stop me; there are so many things a Man can do, why stop there? I suspected the next clue would reveal itself when the time came to choose a degree. Following a succession of events, long arguments with my remarkable yet stubborn grand-mother, everlasting and exhausting monologues, a decision was made. I wanted be an Interior Architect. And so, I packed a suitcase (or two) and off to Brighton I was. England welcomed me following every cliché in the book – ten minutes in, I was drenched. I dried myself, settled in, and the hard work to shape my career began.
Three years. Countless all-nighters. An obscene amount of caffeine. Wonderful friends. Let’s be honest, a few house parties. Weekly rides along the seafront. An average of a three hundred pictures of the Burnt Pier. A few gigabytes of work lost due to software crashes. A graduation cap thrown in the air on a sunny 23 July 2012.
I was now a graduate trying to put a name on what I wanted to be. A musician? A writer? An architect? A calligrapher? Who would have thought that so many passions could lead to so much hassle and confusion? Why was it happening? Because we are pressured. We have to choose. Choose a Masters. Choose an internship. Choose a company. I soon realised it was not going to be easy for me. I did not want to choose, I wanted it all.
Today, after a three-year, post-graduation state of confusion, I am finally realising I do not have to choose. I can be everything I want to be. No more sacrifices. No more agonizing over empty words like career and path. Today, I realise that being a writer embodies everything that I am.
Being a writer is also being a designer, a researcher, a philosopher, a treasure hunter, a calligrapher, a musician, a sculptor, an explorer, a collector of thoughts.
Being a writer is continually digging for gold. It is an unrelenting search for a complex version of yourself. A thrilling collaboration with the world.