When I made the decision to step away from my career, someone close to me said that it would be a tremendous learning experience. They were right. This week I had the chance to visit with family whom I haven’t seen in years. I spent the week with my older cousins, Sarah, Amani, and my sister Ivan, who are each strong, courageous women by their own rights. I also spent time with my younger cousins–four beautiful, loving boys. It was amazing to see how each of them has their own personality and individual ways that make them special.
It has often been said that people come into our lives for a reason. This idea has revealed itself time and time again as my journey continues. The opportunity to spend time with the boys was a blessing. It must have been God speaking to me. More like yelling, loud and all at once! I felt renewed by their energy and laughter. I didn’t expect it to be a learning experience. But it was a testament that life is a continuous learning process, and we can learn from people who we least expect to. One particular moment served as a lesson to me.
Khalid, the eldest of four, is 11-years-old, and he is learning to play the trombone. One afternoon in the kitchen, I overheard him and my sister having a conversation. She was speaking of a friend who is in film school in New York, and who has always dreamed of making films. Khalid, in a matter-of-fact tone that only an eleven year old can articulate, asked, “Why is she doing that? Do you know how many people fail trying to make movies?”
I was taken aback that someone so young would say such a pragmatic thing, but also saddened by it because he seemed to lack the idealistic outlook that I expect of someone his age. My sister, ever the optimist, pushed back and replied, “Yeah, but you’ll never know if you don’t try to pursue your dreams. And if you fail, at least you tried, right?”
The next evening, Khalid brought his trombone out and played for us in the kitchen. He filled the house with high notes, and we all gathered around and applauded him. His younger brother, Ehab, acted as conductor, while Nedal and Omar waved their arms and danced around the house. We even gave him a stage name, Kal Raz (although that’s still being contended). Khalid told me that he practices in music class at school, and every day at home too.
Later that evening, the two of us went for a walk together. I asked him about school, and what his favorite subject was. History. Then I asked him if he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation, he said “A lawyer.” I smiled, impressed by his confidence. “That’s great,” I told him. “I think you’d make a fine lawyer.” But deep down, a part of me flinched, hoping that he will keep playing the trombone, because I saw the way his eyes lit up after he played the first song for us. Or perhaps one day he’ll want to play the guitar. Or be an aspiring writer. Whatever it is that makes his eyes light up the way they did. Because as mature adults, we know that our interests and passions change along the way. Before I left, I told Khalid to keep practicing and working hard at the trombone. Because he’s good at it, and you have to work hard at any talent. I told him that one day he could be a great trombone player. In essence, I was pleading with him to follow his dreams. Now that I think back, I wonder, was I pleading with myself too?
I have always been someone who has sought advice from others. I am the youngest of four siblings. I was fortunate to have people guide me and teach me and learn from their mistakes. I have been blessed with amazing mentors who believed in me and supported me. I am so grateful that I have had so many people willing to help me and share their knowledge with me throughout my career. I deeply value the insight and guidance I gained from all of them. But I never imagined that I would learn something so inspiring from someone who still has his whole life ahead of him.