WITH THIS SPECIAL FIRST EDITION, I WANTED TO GIVE EVERYONE SOMETHING EXTRA. A VERY PERSONAL Q&A WITH THE PERSON THAT UNITED US.
I sent this list of questions:
Tell us about your childhood. Where you grew up, what your family was like, things like that?
What was your favorite toy?
Did you attend university? Where? What was your major area of study?
What is your favorite piece of literature?
Who has had the greatest influence on you growing up?
What are your goals in life?
How do you plan to achieve your goals?
Do you have some kind of philosophy that guides you in life? Not a religion, but perhaps a mantra or motto that helps you stay on course?
What is your greatest personal fear?
What random thing makes you happy? Sad?
What hobbies do you have other than gaming?
What do you do for a living? Is it what you planned, and if not, how did it come to be your career?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What are you most thankful for in your life?
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and what did you learn from it?
What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
What is the craziest/stupidest thing you have ever done? Why did you do it? Do you regret it?
What is one thing you wish you knew how to do that you are no good at?
Who is your favorite historical figure and why?
Is there anything else about yourself you would like to share with everyone?
What he sent back was a personal look at himself, an autobiography, if you will.
I came kicking and screaming into this world on one of the most important days in our (Bahrain) calendar—December 17, which is our National Day. Thus, my parents have had a double reason to celebrate for the past three decades.
To say I had a lovely childhood would be an understatement. I was blessed with loving parents and grandparents, brothers and a first cousin who engaged in every game, escapade and dare we children could think of.
My greatest influence would have to be my grandfather-may he Rest in Peace. He left us to a better place in Heaven where we’ll meet in time. To me he was more than a grandpa, he was a legend that I looked up to in everything. And from him I learnt to always give more than asked for. Always strive to give a little more than previously given before, and with that to leave a legacy behind when it is my turn to join him in Heaven, hopefully leaving the world a better place for those that knew me.
Most of my fondest memories of early childhood occur during the summer holidays (no school- hurrah), when my brothers, first and second cousins, and I would all travel together with our parents. These holidays were filled with fun and excitement during which we faced no shortage of ideas on ways to get into trouble, often having to just as quickly think of ways to get out of the trouble we’d gotten ourselves into. The three summer months were spent between London, Marbella and a third city, depending on what tickled my parents’ fancy that particular year.
Our parents believed in the power of play—outdoors rather than indoors. Not for us were long days spent cooped up inside a house, staring at walls or lounging on the couch. No, we were ‘encouraged’ (sometimes kicked out) to get out of the house and explore the world at large. We found that the days seemed to speed by when we were engaged from dawn to dusk in every kind of sport we could think of, from football with whomever we happened to meet at the park (thus making new friends every day) to rollerblading, which was my absolute favorite and one I think excelled in, due to the speed with which I picked up a few tricks. My dear mother probably disagrees, judging from the number of scars I now sport courtesy of those stunts.
In the evenings, worn out from the outdoor physical activities, yet too wired to sleep, out would come the indoor games: an original Nintendo Gameboy and a Sega Gamegear were always a favorite, along with Monopoly and other board games. We also enjoyed a card game or two and would continue long into the night, until we’d dropped off to sleep one by one, or the adults had had enough of the bickering and allegations of cheating.
I can’t really pinpoint a particular toy that I could say was my favorite, but I had probably a store’s worth of toys still packed in their original boxes that I hadn’t quite enough time to get around to playing with--mostly remote controller cars and boats, as well as other video game gadgets and mobile devices such as the Gameboy in all its myriad releases.
Lest I seem ungrateful or wasteful, it is worth pointing out that my favorite ‘toy’ (when I was not completely immersed in my latest book) was my computer, and everyone knows that a computer ‘geek’ has little time for anything else, once he or she starts playing the latest game.
One incident comes to mind that perfectly shows my attachment to my computer. It happened on a weekend (not a school night, luckily). I woke up in the middle of the night, heart pounding and brain aflame with the urge to go and play Civilization—my favorite game at the time. So engrossed with it I was, that I played through the night, not even stopping to get myself a cup of water or a packet of crisps to provide me with some necessary fuel. Well, nature eventually won and I slumped over in a dead sleep, somehow ending up under our oversized OTT early nineties computer’s desk. Our family then learned that said desk was possibly the best hiding spot in the entire house, when in the morning there was quite a chaotic scene which ensued when our long suffering nanny had to inform my parents that one of their four delightful sons was missing. A parent’s worst fear—with all sorts of scenarios one never wants to think about coming to mind. Before everyone got too frantic, in I walked from the office to witness everyone at the front door in a panic. There was no getting out of the explanation I owed everyone, considering the bleary-eyed, mussed up state I was in. Though in hindsight, I like to think I was giving my dear parents a practice run for when there would be other times a son wasn’t in bed when he should have been.
Always think of others—that is my motto and it has served me well.
Literature has played a great role in my life, from the novels and fairy tale type stories of my childhood to my collection of Educational Publications from the University of Midlands.
Out of all the books my Goosebumps collection has pride of place in my house and in my heart. I have to thank my father for that—he was the one who encouraged me to read Night of the Living Dummy, Werewolf in the Room and the rest of them. Though perhaps he hadn’t quite anticipated just how strong my imagination was. What would he have thought had he any inkling of how much I feared Jumanji. How the thought of the Goosebumps monsters coming to life kept me awake at night. Or, how after hours spent nose deep in one of those tales, my father would tell us to hop into the car to get some shawarma, LEAVING the car to go and place our order, with little old me staring about in sheer terror, just dreading the appearance of a Goosebumps monster. And what about the Haunted Car! –what if our car was more than it appeared? To a child, the line between reality and imagination can be very thin, if practically non-existent.
My love of stories doesn’t stop there though, I also recall being entranced by the Norse Sagas, Viking Sea Adventures, tales of love, loss, piracy, adventure, swashbuckling heroes, mythical monsters, wizards, witches, warlocks and enchantresses. There are times I close my eyes or catch a scent that reminds me of where I was when reading a particular book, and I can recapture those feelings once more, if only fleetingly. Nevertheless, my all-time-favorite, still-not-bested-by-any-other-book- or- series has to be the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I have read every book at least twice and still find myself picking up one at random, opening on to any page and soon finding myself right back in the world she’s created, lost to my friends and family once again.
Having developed a life-long interest in the books, it’s no wonder I couldn’t miss out an opportunity to travel and discover the Scottish Highlands. I did just that, and it’s a time that will be imprinted in my memory for the rest of my life. I will never forget the beauty and the wildness of the lands that I walked through, retracing Clare Randal’s paths, reminiscing as I walked of her struggles and trials, as well as her triumphs. Scotland has a ruggedness to its beauty and it is like nowhere else on Earth. To any who love the books as much as I do, I definitely recommend that you visit it at least once, to get a real sense of the place Diana has brought to life.
When it comes to ‘reality’, I haven’t slacked on reading—of that I can assure you. My parents, teachers, and my own love of a good read and natural curiosity made certain of that.
While I do love learning about history, sociology, World events both in the past and present, I’ve found that I can’t think of a historical figure to be honest that could be my favorite--there are so many that have contributed to humanity. You’d probably find me fascinated about one person today and another the day after. But for now, I would say Christopher Columbus is the historical figure that is of particular interest to me. Maybe because I’m in the vibe of discovering the unexplored land of Elyria. And determined to revoke the myth of a flat, finite Elyria.
From the wonderful, magical days of childhood until now, I have not lost my love of books, games, or technology. But my teenage days-- I would say--was when the penny dropped. And naturally all the activities I enjoyed were subject to wilder upgrades, for instance remote control cars turned into fuel-based monsters rather than miniatures charged with batteries for speed. Movie time was more often Hollywood and Bollywood than Disney, and rollerblade tricks graduated into jumps, rim slides and 360’s. Yet most importantly, throughout all of this, console and computer games remained the core of any fun activity when I was hanging out with my friends.
Following school, I embarked on my university career with the idea of getting a degree in Computer Science (mostly due to my interest in video games. Yes, my childhood love of gaming led me to believe that what I wanted more than anything else was to study programming languages such as C++ and Java). Surprising those who knew me best, I actually stuck around for a few classes and created my very own sophisticated calculator. But that was it. Finished!! Never to be entertained again. My love of gaming has not died, but it did not translate into a love of programming.
I believe as I naturally matured, I came to the realization that there were perhaps more important things in life. Surrounded as we are by hot spots in the Middle East, I grew up learning about the misfortunes of the Palestinians and Africa’s food shortages, amongst other things. I learnt to be thankful and grateful for all the luxuries of life that I was blessed with and came to understand what my grandfather and parents had wanted me to learn, all throughout my childhood. I realized that I wanted to get involved with the United Nation’s humanitarian work in those regions. Pity I never realized that dream.
I think, looking back, that my biggest mistake in life was during those frenetic years of university, when I realized my life’s passion was to help others and I had the opportunity to study International Politics and Humanitarian Aid, yet I did not transfer my major and remained in the field of Computer Science.
What do I do nowadays? Funny you should ask. I specialize in insurance. Yet I do still maintain my interest and keep up to date with the developments of my surroundings—both humanitarian and scientific.
I have the opportunity to read about Global warming, natural and humanitarian catastrophes, and our responses to them. It is quite disheartening to see how conflicted our leaders seem to be when it comes to addressing the problems we as a human race face, not to mention the animals and fauna who share this planet with us. I would say I’m a strong advocate of the One World and a firm supporter of human rights across the globe.
As I get older, I continue to learn more about myself and the world around me, while being grateful for the life I have been given and content with what I have. I know that so long as I’m living, there are always new things I can do, learn and try. I know that my passion for making the world a better place will lead me to a point in my life where I will be able to fulfill my grandfather’s mandate and make the world a better place.
I want to learn a new language and I would like it to be French. It sounds interesting from the history of the country, its food, its culture and literature to simply the sounds of the letters themselves.
Other items on my bucket list are to learn kite surfing and the piano, and maybe publish my own short story one day.
On a daily basis, I am not short of interests that keep me occupied well past my ‘bedtime’, though my days of curling up under the computer desk are long over. Besides video games, I enjoy playing football--which I do at least twice a week, enjoying the fresh and good company of my friends and those I have grown up with. If I crave a little more adventure and the feel of wind rushing through my scalp, then I have a choice between horse riding and wake boarding, depending on the weather, horse’s temper and the tides. Rollerblading is an activity I indulge in all too rarely nowadays but if I ever find the time and energy to take it up again, I wouldn’t surprise myself if I rediscover a love for it (and add a few more mementos to the tapestry of scars that I currently sport). Snowboarding was an amazing experience and I would love nothing more than to repeat it yearly. There’s so much more that I could do outdoors and I would very much enjoy, yet having the time for all that is a struggle, as any one of us who are faced with adulthood, career, starting or raising a family know.
It is ironic that once we achieve a certain level of independence from parents and have our own income, that our ability to make the time to do what it was we’d sworn to do as children is no longer within our grasp, by forces beyond our control.
Being from a sunny island you would imagine most activities I engage in during my free time are outdoors.
When I am indoors, my readers will find that I am just the same as when I was a wild, carefree, and apt to give my nanny premature grey hairs youngster. If my nose isn’t in a book before I turn off the lights at night or on my way to the office (currently reading both the Magna Carta and Lord John and the Private Matters), then you will find me engrossed in yet another video game.
Back in the days I used to play a lot of board games with family and friends, but thanks to my superior skills and the number of undefeated wins that I’ve laid claim to, though many have tried, I find myself not invited to these games as often as I would wish. This is, of course, a joke. Most of my childhood companions are in the same boat as I—unable to find the time to indulge in past times such as these, though I would very much love a sophisticated immersive board game that lasts for hours on end with companions as eager to lose track of time and the outside world as I. No, any spare time spent gaming with family and friends is limited to card games.
I want to end with something interesting about myself but I can’t really think of anything at the moment, other than what I’ve already shared. I suppose, like most people, I have my moments when I feel I am capable of changing the World, moments in which profound thoughts come to me, making me feel I am on par with Voltaire, Socrates, even Newton. And then there are times, like everyone else, when I struggle to string two words together.
So from whence do I find meaning in life—whether philosopher or dunce? It’s simple really, my life revolves around my family—both those I was born a part of and those who I have met on my path to adulthood. I believe that meaning is derived from having a solid foundation that comes in part from having firm connections with those around you, a grounding that gives you the stability you need to reach for your goals, while knowing that there are those waiting to catch you if you stumble. It’s that foundation and support that gives me the courage to follow my dreams, knowing that life is to be experienced and that my personal philosophy and approach to life is fluid—shaped by experiences that come my way and how I respond to them.
It’s progressive—in every sense of the word. For now, I would say, being selfless is not a bad thing, permit loving yourself to love others. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, be a giving person and leave a memory that you would love to remember if the roles were reversed. Memories come in all forms: be it a scar that hurt and yet I’ve learnt from, or a reminiscing moment of affection that cannot be described with even thousands of words by the most skillful of orators, but must be experienced in full in order to be felt.
And, above all, in the words of Charlie Chaplin: always smile (though your heart is breaking), always be thankful and show gratitude for whatever life brings to you. For instance: a tiny piece of chocolate could literally make my day, if I were on a diet (which I never am, and even if I were, chocolate wouldn’t be on the naughty list as it is a ‘super food’), yet even without the constrictions of ‘diet’, a simple piece of chocolate will literally make my day. Or, it could be something as simple as a word of encouragement or a pat on the back. Any of the above works wonders and fuels me to continue do what I do best.
The one thing I never realized, or prepared for until it smacked me in the face, was to let go of the ones that held the most influence over me and left a huge mark in my soul with their departure. Over the course of last year, I’ve lost some of the most influential people in my life, who were family members or those who came into my life at the right moment. In either case, their leaving to the Elysian Fields have left a huge hole in my heart, and there are days when I feel I have been literally punched in the guts when a sudden, unexpected memory pops up in my brain, driving all rational thought to one side. That this is a part of life that all must go through does not make it any easier. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all must experience loss, and if it doesn’t break us, it at least leaves us with scars, albeit more hidden than those from athletic pursuits. This is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to go through. I guess that’s how the story is written up in the sky. I’ve learnt, through these experiences, the sorrow and the tears, to value the strength of vulnerability, acceptance, and resilience. Not so much fear, as why fear what will happen to all of us? But it has encouraged me to relentlessly resist the routine of the modern life in favour of a life less traveled, but one I would consider well-lived. Setbacks, discouragement and a lack of progress means I ought to try smarter, maybe harder and with a different path. Perhaps that’s my advice for the day.
I am just another human, striving to do my best to make it from one day to the next, traveling this path we call life, in hopes of living as a good, decent human and thus being accepted into Heaven when my time is over. I might be influenced by the natural desires of a human being—desires celebrated by the ancient Gods and Goddesses such as Innana and Dionysus and are certainly ones shared by all of us. But that’s strictly P.G. 21 rated- a story for another day with some fine drinks and a generous helping of popcorn—once I know you better.
For now, I’d say my philosophy is: always think positive—look for the best in life and your own situation, believe in yourself, and you’ll achieve your hearts’ desires. Meanwhile I’ll be here- indulging in a game I’ve long waited for while cheering others on in order to pass the time. Love yourself, your loved ones, and your life. Cherish every moment. And be grateful, as life is finite and we all leave this life when it is our time to go. Just be sure to leave some memories with others to think on and enjoy once you are gone.