Journalism

Struggling to Find My Calling in Life

It has been a very long time since I’ve known what I want to do in life.  I’ve been racking my head over it now for months, probably longer. And I’m getting absolutely nowhere.

Yesterday I came out of watching The Hobbit thinking that maybe what I need to do is spend the next two years learning Kung Fu. Then maybe I could go back to Egypt and use my Kung Fu superpowers to save the country from the evil dragons that have taken over the country. I really did decide this was going to be my calling. Those elves and their martial arts really got to my head.

Two days ago I decided that spending so much time on social media was not helping me figure out my calling. Perhaps if I cut back significantly I would be able to spend more time figuring it all out. I have been using social media quite heavily for several years now and it has definitely not helped me find my calling; the evidence being that it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. I did go through a phase where I felt that communicating through Facebook and Twitter had become my job. My husband once asked me to put down my phone and to focus on the moment that we were in – we were travelling somewhere. I replied, “But Colin. This is what I DO!” I have definitely been through phases where I have thought that my Twitter and Facebook followers were hanging on my every word. When did it become so important for me to communicate my every thought to a virtual world? Two days ago when I made my decision to cut down on social media, a thought came to my head and I struggled with myself for hours not to write down on Facebook. I told myself that if I still felt it was important later that evening then I could write it to the world then. I didn’t. The status would have read, “The women at my gym in the UK show hardly any emotion when they workout while I grimace and curse the whole time. I wonder what they are like during child birth.” Clearly this is a completely inconsequential thing to say. Before the Internet, that thought would go through my head and it would then die there. Now it comes into my head and I have to tell the world. What is that all about? I must admit that I am now relieved it is out there in the world through this blog post, though.

But no. I have decided that social media cannot be my calling.

I have not always been at a loss like this. (more…)

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On the Prowl for the Perfect Job

I’m at a crossroads in my career. At the end of June, I’ll have completed the organization of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2011. I have been working on this conference for two years.

It’s time for me to look for a job.

Thing is, I don’t want just any job. I want the PERFECT job.

(more…)

I am not the 1st anyone to summit Kilimanjaro!

Only two days after I first announced to my friends that I had successfully summited Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, I read the first article that claimed I was the first

My summit picture - holding the Egyptian flag against the cold winds

 something to summit the mountain. In this case it was the first Muslim woman and it was published on IslamOnline.net.

I immediately called my friends there and asked them where they got their information. “What’s your source,” I asked. Journalists aren’t supposed to write information based on instinct. They have sources of information. There was no source, I learned. They just thought this was the case. I went into ugly Nadia mode. “There’s no way on Earth to know who the first person was of any religion to summit Kilimanjaro,” I explained to them (actually, I pretty much yelled it). “People don’t register themselves when they come back from the mountain based on their religion,” I continued. The article on IslamOnline.net was thankfully edited into telling the story of a woman who summited Kilimanjaro.

One of the first things I did when I reached the base of the mountain was that I called the Park authorities to find out if any Egyptian women had summited the mountain before me. It took two days for the authorities to get back to me. In the past two years alone, I was told, at least four young Egyptian women had summited the mountain.

Since then, I’ve made a point of telling journalists who interview me that I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I know this as fact. Journalists assure me that they understand this. Nonetheless, twice now (in Egypt’s Shabab and Kul Annas magazines) there have been articles about me with titles claiming that I’m the first Egyptian woman to summit the mountain. When I ask the journalists who interview me how this happened even though I was very clear with them about this point, they tell me that they don’t write the titles. They write the article, hand it in to the desk, and someone at the desk writes the title. Some idiot, that is. That idiot either imagines things and writes up a title based on his/her imagination, or decides to spice things up by writing a lie.

Now when a journalist calls me up for an interview I make sure they know while we’re still on the phone that I am not the first anyone to summit the mountain. And if you accept that fact and still want to interview me, you are welcome to my home. They usually do accept and ask for the interview.

But this whole thing has really upset me about how the media function in our country. I’ve also learned first-hand why scientists, for example, have reservations about talking to journalists about their research. It seems that in some cases, no matter how clear you are with the journalist,  she or others above her will manage to get things wrong – if only to sensationalize a bit.

It’s disturbing. 

So for the record, world, I am not the first Muslim woman to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Arab or Egyptian woman to summit Kilimanjaro.

And none of that matters.

Nadia El-Awady, a then 40-year-old Egyptian mother-of-four, summited Kilimanjaro. And to me, that’s a pretty amazing achievement without being anyone’s first.