10 Things About Me
The other day, a friend tagged me in a fun Instagram story, spurring me to divulge 10 facts about myself. Why not extrapolate that to the blog, I thought, the perfect medium for writing listicles. It always intrigues me to see the lengths to which ‘grammers go in order to create elaborate stories, only to have them vanish into oblivion a mere 24 hours later. If I have to jump through hoops, rummaging through photos and matching them to intimate details about me – ten times, mind you! – I’d readily prefer the permanency of this web diary.
The purpose of this exercise is two-fold. First, if you’re new to the blog, this is a quick glimpse into the gal behind it. And second, pandemic. I need a bit of a release. Nuff said.
(1) I am the second of three children born to Lebanese immigrants who made their home in Southern California, where I was raised and where my parents continue to be based. I grew up in the 90s watching “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and spending long, humid summers in Lebanon. Naturally, I fell in love with the motherland and vowed to return one day in a more long-term format.
(2) I majored in mechanical engineering, much to the grief of my freshman humanities professor, who saw in me a natural writer and articulator. During high school, I was at an absolute loss as to which field I would designate my calling. I was a straight-A student and graduated as valedictorian. I’m not exaggerating when I say I enjoyed and excelled in every single subject. I finally opted for engineering, which I found to be at the confluence of numerous fields of study – materials, mechanics, structures, chemistry, mathematics – and thus innately challenging. At the same time, I matriculated to a prestigious honors program at the University of California, which was supposedly commensurate with a liberal arts education at Harvard. That translated to an undergraduate thesis, laboratory research, two years of social sciences and humanities core, and special seminars. In all honesty, I do not think I would have had nearly such a compelling education at an Ivy League as I did at UC Irvine.
(3) One of the biggest factors in my decision to enroll at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for my master’s was the active presence of a Lebanese social club. As though the name and reputation of the university were not enough of a shoo-in (hey, I was oscillating between full fellowships at Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Princeton and Columbia!), I was pleased that there were a fair number of Lebanese lurking on campus who got together weekly to plan activities and enjoy Boston. Now you know how much of a die-hard Leban-ista I am.
(4) I dropped out of the PhD program at MIT to pursue an MBA in Paris. It wasn’t just any MBA though. How many 23-year-olds can attest to a fully-sponsored degree that combines classroom education with a real-life junior consultancy at a top company in the heart of the City of Lights? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Best year of my life. We traveled to Germany, Switzerland and Italy for coursework with our peers, and I had the rare opportunity to pitch the verdict of my yearlong endeavors to the executive suite at AREVA, then considered France’s premier nuclear energy corporation. It was surreal. The only thing that came between me and a full-time position after graduation was my less-than-desirable American passport. Can’t blame the Europeans for prioritizing their own folk.
(5) I dabbled in management consulting in Abu Dhabi for two months after my MBA, but I couldn’t stand it. To be fair, I was never sold by the fancy recruitment events put on by McKinsey, Bain, and BCG to lure us into what others might consider a glamorous career. All-expenses paid travel, five-star hotels, and a rather generous salary meant nothing in the face of 12+ hour workdays synthesizing PowerPoint presentations and fussing over font sizes. It seemed like an affront to my intelligence. Weekends, I found myself pacing Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates in search of some self-validation. I didn’t find it and tendered my resignation eight weeks in. Hasty? Hardly. I’ve never looked back.
(6) I come from a family of lefties. That’s right. My father is left-handed, as are my two brothers. My mother is the odd (wo-)man out. Is being a southpaw a source of pride? You bet! Approximately 10% of people are left-handed, so figuring into the minority is ennobling. In fact, I exhibit cross-dominance, meaning my hand preference changes between tasks, and this is rare, with about 1% prevalence [Annett M (2002). Handedness and Brain Asymmetry. Psychology Press.] In other words, while I write and slice fruit with my left hand, I cannot for the life of me kick a ball with my left foot.
(7) I am married to a fellow Lebanese-American, and we met on Lebanese soil. Jimmy was born in Michigan, raised in Beirut, and educated in Montreal. He graduated with a degree in finance at the height of the financial crisis of 2008 and thus treaded back home to Lebanon in search of work. We met three years later, I during my rotation at the bank where I had barely completed four weeks, he during his notice period. Jimmy was bound for LA, from whence I’d quitted months before. He decided to stay in Beirut, and the rest is history.
(8) Jimmy and I have two boys, the eldest of whom shares his birthday with mine (and from the looks of it could verily join the ranks of southpaws!). Stephen is three, and Alexander is one. Ever since I became a mother, I willingly walked away from a demanding career in banking to focus exclusively on parenthood. The stay-at-home status allows me to entertain freelance projects I never had time to pursue whilst employed. So it’s a win-win in my book.
(9) Even though one of the pillars of this blog is food writing, I’m not a celebrated chef or a passionate home cook for that matter. I’ll take baking any day over cooking. It’s my husband who dons the toque and apron. He is obsessed with method, process, and above all, exceptional-quality ingredients. Jimmy has been badgering me for months to watch the cooking courses in his Masterclass subscription together. I always find an excuse to wiggle out of them!
(10)I know I’ve taken some time off from the blog this past year. It’s true that I used to be rather prolific, averaging two pieces per week. Not a day goes by that I don’t give thought to composing something, conjuring up a title in my head and possible points to hit. Then in an instant, I let loose the thought. In the grand scheme of things, as the world battles a nefarious pandemic with a daily human death toll surging in the thousands, as the country of my ancestral heritage suffers from irrevocable financial and political failure, and as I struggle to make out where my family and I will be not in one year, but in one month, I decide there are bigger, more pressing needs than waxing poetic. How about a more passive and edifying activity, like Netflix? Bridgerton, anyone?