I realize this is, strictly speaking, a book/media blog and nothing more, but hey, I’m a Livejournal transplant, so I’m accustomed to sharing bits and pieces of my life online. Granted, Livejournal was a much more private platform, so I’ll be more circumspect than I normally would be. But I think it will be good for me to write out a few things. All of this to say, I tend to ramble, so feel free to skip.
So first, this last Monday I returned from a two-week vacation in Egypt, which, if you didn’t know, is where my whole family is from – and still resides (apart from my mother and brother, who live with me). In the past few years we’ve been visiting more often than usual, mostly to see family, because we’re all really close. I love my extended family so much, and I always wish I could just teleport the lot of them to live here with me so I can be around them as much as I want.
Unfortunately, aside from family, the trip wasn’t as pleasant as I had anticipated. I found myself much more frustrated with Egypt than the previous two times I’ve visited, when I was almost enamored. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was wearing rose-colored glasses, but I was definitely looking at Egypt with the eyes of a child of the diaspora. I felt nearly the same as I had when I was living there as a teenager.
Here’s the thing: as a teen, I hated that I was Arab. I would literally lie awake at night wishing that I could somehow become white (in particular, English or Irish). I wanted to change my name, deny my heritage, abandon my family. So, in college, when I finally started to decolonize and unlearn all this white supremacist nonsense, I think I overcompensated. I decided that that I was aggressively in love with Egypt, with what it was, what it is, and what it could be, and I definitely romanticized it. I decided it was home in a way the West never could be. I even considered living there for a period of time, almost as though I owed it to myself to give my ancestral land a chance.
In the past year, I’ve changed. It sounds rather twee to say, but the process of writing out my Fulbright application has affected something in me. It hasn’t changed me or changed my interests, but it has made me rediscover them. It has helped me to conceptualize and articulate my interests in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It has also helped me to legitimize them. I’ve always been interested in the occult, the macabre, and its place in Victorian England. When I proposed a statement of grant purpose that unified my interest in the Gothic with my own heritage as an Egyptian, it felt like a restructuring, like two separate pieces of me were coming together.
In acknowledging my deep interest in 19th-century English history and culture, I was finally able to reconcile what had recently come to feel like a betrayal of my roots. I had been asking myself, why should I be so passionate about England, the country that colonized my own? But in unifying 19th-century England and 19th-century Egypt in my Fulbright statement of grant purpose, I finally felt like I was free to completely give in to my strange obsession with Victorian England. And I finally realized how to properly give voice to my interests in an mature, comprehensible manner. No longer am I just a creepy emo teen with an unhealthy interest in death; I am a scholar and librarian investigating the relationship between Orientalism and the Gothic tradition! How grand!
Anyway, I just had my Fulbright campus interview, which, dare I say, went rather well! I’m proud of the project I’ve developed, and even if I end up not receiving the grant, I will still be proud of it, and I will still attempt to actualize it at some point in the future. Once I incorporate some of the suggestions I received, I can place the finishing touches on my application and finally submit what I’ve been working on for nearly a year, and thinking about for about eight years (yes, I’ve wanted to apply to Fulbright since my freshman year of college). I will finally be able to sit back and not worry about my Fulbright application. I can’t wait for that catharsis. I’m not worried – whatever happens, happens, and I will be okay with the outcome either way.
Having the Fulbright off my plate means I can also focus on the gazillion other things I’m doing. I’m working full-time as well as going to library school full-time, with three classes this semester. They’re all interesting, which is great, but a ton of reading and work, which is not. I’m managing well enough, and I’ve long ceased being too concerned with grades, but I do need to maintain a certain GPA to maintain my scholarships.
#DVpit is in a few weeks! I’m going through the final polish of my manuscript before the event. I’m trying to do a few chapters a day, because editing is exhausting, but I hope to be done in the week before #DVpit. I like my story a lot. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that, or supposed to feel that way – there’s a tendency to assume all writers are or should be insecure, self-effacing disasters, and I suppose some insecurity is necessary in order to actually make a piece of writing better, but overall I think I’m happy with what the final product will be. I’m excited. Also trying not to get my hopes up too high.
Speaking of writing, I had a burst of energy yesterday and submitted two short stories to online venues. One of them is a story I wrote about two years ago, and even though it is probably my favorite story that I’ve written, no market seems to want it – it’s had about fifteen rejections. The other is fairly new, one that I haven’t shopped around at all, so I’m excited to see how it fares.
And finally, last but never least, autumn is coming. The weather has already begun to chill. Have I mentioned how much I love autumn? Autumn is the season of my heart. I cant tell you how lethargic I become during summer; I hate it so much. But autumn? Autumn is pumpkins and scarves and warm drinks and bright colors and Samhain and cinnamon and scented candles and cozy fireplaces. It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s bliss.
And next week, I will be in the mother of autumn heartlands, Vermont! I’m visiting my friend Rachel (pace, amore, libri), and I’m incredibly excited. I’m also planning on putting up a themed Autumn TBR soon. And by themed I just mean reads-I-anticipate-will-be-cozy-or-creepy-fall-reads. So, basically, lots of Gothic and Victorian novels. Which should be no surprise.
3 thoughts on “Fireside Chats: Life Update + Some Musings”
Best of luck with Fulbright. I do slightly relate to you about viewing the home country of your ancestors through rose-colored glasses. As someone who is living abroad I have my doubts about coming back home.
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Such a fascinating post! Good luck with your application x