Saturday, June 25, 2016

I am a fresh graduate, with 20 years of experience

"Stay Hungry" artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Someone reminded me lately that it has been 20 years since I graduated from AUB. Yes, that is a lot of time. But if anything, my career which should have been as straight as an arrow as a government employee, took twists and turns, went in loops and rounds, resembled spaghetti and gummy bears.
Recently, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele explained his SS17 collection using a TS Eliot quote: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time".
And how moving, and correct, that quote is.
Many times throughout my itinerary, I found myself in situations that I experienced earlier, or with people I have encountered casually before, or having to take decisions from the same set of data I have, and - please no déjà-vu-they-are-reloading-the-matrix comments - I found myself (much like the fool in the major arcana of tarot cards), taking the same decisions I had taken whimsically way back but now taking it with more wisdom, or showing the same pronounced interest in the people in question albeit in a new way, or looking at the situations in the same angle but differently.
Twenty years after graduation (note I am not counting the post-graduate degree) is two decades, that must count for something. And for all the seeming tameness in my life, people have no idea how much excitement every day brings. New things to read, unknown knowledge to discover, fresh artwork to create, unmet people to connect with, and the list continues.
Sure, I am very stubborn (no mule comparisons, thank you), but one thing about me I know - once I decide to change, the process is so swift it dumbfounds people. A friend remarked not-long ago “you are not you anymore” as he observed my minimalist one-color shirt – a far cry from the patterned jungle that used to be my trademark in terms of visual presentation of myself.
But I am me, I changed while remaining the same (funnily, that was the topic of the dissertation of the 1991 anticipatory examinations we took for the French Baccalaureate – which makes it 25 years ago, another anniversary). I still feel the same, even if there was an axiomatic shift in my being.
But before you think that I am some novelty-embracing character who throws out the old in a blink, let me tell you that I am deontological (meaning someone who adheres to the champion philosopher behind the current i.e. Kant) even if for a long time I thought myself to be utilitarian or Aristotelian. “To do the right thing for the right reasons” sums up Kant’s categorical imperative. And – sadly for me – I am so. I take my responsibilities, and my ethical choices very seriously. Always have, and again sadly, paid the price heavily for such principles and beliefs.
Twenty years back, two parents endured the sweltering heat of the summer to see – from afar – a gowned and capped young man be given two pieces of paper inside a brown envelope at the green field of my alma mater. We are so dismissive of theatricals in my nuclear family than neither me, nor my other two brothers, bothered to frame the thing. I keep the graduation papers among my official folders.
“These are the days of miracles and wonder” wrote Paul Simon, and even if people assume my life to be too tranquil and rather downbeat just because I do not participate in a lot of public events or go to corporate-sponsored gatherings like a good blogger should, they know not how much magic comes my way daily.
I may not lead a "perfect" life, far from it, but I took decisions and abide by their ethical repercussions. Twenty years down the line, I guess, like the Whole Earth Catalog said in its epilog (and which is sadly now being wrongly attributed to Steve Jobs ever since he used the quote in his farewell letter to Apple employees) I “stay hungry, stay foolish” and much like TS Eliot had predicted, I am at a place where I arrived where I started and yet, “know the place for the first time.”