We often hear about how hard it is to be articulate in a foreign language, but when I began to study Arabic, what took me a long time to learn was not how to speak but how to listen.
Looking back, I see that my inability to listen well cost me my first love.
The man I loved was an Iraqi doctor. Young like me, he had been forced out of his country by war and had come to Syria to work in a refugee camp. This was in 2008, before the revolution.
I was in Syria to study Arabic. We met in that camp, and for the next year we were constantly falling in and out of love, breaking up and getting back together, pouring out our hearts and fighting, mostly because of all he wanted to tell me was that I didn’t understand.
Tap, tap tap. Clatter, clatter, clatter. I hear them fervently type away. They stop. They take a deep breath. They read out loud and/or think aloud what they are typing. They resume. I’ve become so accustomed to the pattern of sounds, I tune it out easily. This process repeats and recycles itself for the entire 9-5p shift.
During my first few days I could not help but think, what are they saying so much? Who do they communicate with so frequently? These people are the definition of workaholics.
1. a person who compulsively works hard and long hours.
I dabble in the arts and I look for inspiration in everything. Well, almost everything. I’ve been painting since I was thirteen, and my tendency has been to draw women; women in nature, portraits of women, and women in different settings of life.
Lately, I’ve wanted to explore the other side of the coin and draw men. So I’ve been looking for a muse. A male muse. Strange perhaps, but let me explain.
A muse is a person — typically a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration. We’ve seen examples since the dawn of time of men looking at women and wanting to (pro)create. Picasso is one of many male artists who has had muses, women he desired and who fueled his creativity. However, we rarely hear about female artists and their muses. Which begs the question can men be a source of artistic inspiration for women?
I say HELL YEAH, I’ve (Instagram stalked) seen my fair share of men who have inspired my desire to (pro)create. So what’s up with the disparity in muses?
Growing up in a typical Asian family where feelings, emotions, and affections are rarely expressed and everything is bottled up, had a negative effect on me. Most of the time, you know the affections are there, but you never get to experience them fully nor hear them described to you in words (and words are powerful). As a result, I always find it very difficult to show my feelings and I come off as cold or shady to people who are not close to me. Communicating my feelings became a skill I acquired in college, through interacting with diverse groups of people who have taught me a great deal, simply by watching them.
Displaying emotions can be viewed as a weakness in many societies, but it also can be a strength. Living in a place where two worlds collide, emotionally stern Asian family and expressive American society, has molded me into a unique individual. I’ve become somewhat expressive about my feelings after college but also emotionally constrained in certain circumstances. I rarely show my anger to the world, even during grave rage. It takes a very skilled and incredibly patient person to maintain that type of composure when angry or enraged.