Portrait of an Off-Screener: Passion #1

November 22, 2017

 

 

  Passion      

 

(n.) a thing arousing great enthusiasm 

 

Passion, it is a feeling that creates great joy and enthusiasm, a feeling that can let

people’s eyes sparkle when they talk about it, a feeling of energy. This is why I choose

‘passion’ as my first subject for my portrait series. I will interview three people

regarding something that arouses great enthusiasm within them. Their passion has

either been strongly presented in their past, is fully alive right now, or they possess an

ambition to realise their passion in years to come.

 

My first interviewee is Rana Farag. Some of you might already know her; she is

a second-year student of Media & Culture, and a member of our study association ‘Off

Screen’. I have only known Rana for 1,5 months now, but from the start she gave me

an impression that she is constantly moving, busy with creative projects and

maintaining close relationships with friends and her boyfriend. She has a great

energy,  the origins of which I am curious about - what is behind this energy that keeps

her going? During the interview she surprised me with her passion, it was something I

never would have expected. 

 

 

 

‘Just do it’ 

 

Words that Rana has been hearing her whole youth, coming from her mother who knows how to get things done. Rana’s mother, born near the big Egyptian city Alexandrië, rose to the top of one of Egypt’s biggest cotton companies, becoming CEO. This was an extremely uncommon role for a woman in Egypt, and still is now.

 

Caught up with her busy career, Rana’s mother was not interested in starting a relationship, let alone starting a family. It was Rana’s aunt, the assistant of Rana’s mother at the time, who introduced Rana’s father to her mother. ‘It was love at first sight’, Rana says. And with these feelings, the couple decided to leave Egypt behind

for the beautiful small village Nuth, located in the south of Limburg. Rana’s father already had a job and house there and considering the future possibility of children they both agreed to begin a new life together in the Netherlands. 

 

One year later Rana was born. She grew up in a safe place and enjoyed her school life.

She could always get along with her fellow students, and formed a close group of

friends. 

 

 

 

‘If I had to redo high school for another three years, I would’ve done it,

I had the best time of my life in high school’ 

 

This strong and safe place gave her freedom to develop herself. Rana was considered a

‘hipster’ at her school because of her bold fashion choices and her interest in

creativity. While some people were secretly drinking beer, Rana body painted with her

friends, and made mood boards and paintings in her free time. During this time she

also started with photography, which she taught herself; as with all things. 

 

 

 

 

‘Many times I got so much information at once, I was like: never mind, I’ll do it my own way; I can read big manuals and watch 20 tutorials about how to use a photo camera, but I can also just push the buttons and find it out

myself.’  

 

 

 

 

 

This eagerness for discovery and learning new things, in her own way, is not just

something Rana has inside her; ‘it’s nurture’ Rana answers when I ask where she

thinks it comes from.

 

‘I grew up in two different cultures: the one of my family and the one outside of

them. Because of this, I got two different impulses and ways of thinking which I

didn’t know what to do with; so I told myself: I’ll figure it out myself, I’ll find

my own way.’ 

 

And so Rana did; she started working at age 15, to learn how life would be with a job,

what kind of new opportunities she would find and how it would feel to be

independent. After high school, she was interested in many different studies, from

interior design, to journalism, to earth sciences. 

 

‘I always want to keep all my options open, so I wait till the last moment and

then I’ll make my decision’ 

 

In the end she chose to go for earth sciences at the university of Utrecht, a study in

which she could embrace the ‘environmental knight’ inside of her. Another ‘hipster’

thing about Rana, is that she sincerely cares for the environment. Unfortunately, this

choice didn’t last long, because the moment she found out the company Shell became the head

sponsor of her study association, she quit. And maybe the math and physics were a bit

much too. But Rana wouldn’t be Rana if she didn’t find something else to fill her free

time with. She started working at a real estate bank without any experience. When the

employer asked her to explain her own understanding of banking she answered:

 

‘The only image I have of a bank is the one I got from Netflix.’  

 

Due to this sentence, Rana got hired. Rana worked at the firm for a couple of months

turning out to be successful and the constant winner of employee of the month. After

she took on a new project within the same company, she decided the job was too

much, and replaced it for a job at the Bagels & Beans. After two months, she left

Utrecht for good, and moved to Amsterdam where she started taking painting and

photography courses at CREA (the cultural study centre of UvA) .

 

 Talking about Rana’s creativity and how she puts it into practice makes me think we’re

uncovering her passion. Considering she has so many hobbies, I was wondering if there

was one greater passion driving her. So I asked her:

 

 

V: ‘What is your passion Rana?’ 

 

Silence.

 

R: ‘I actually don’t use the word passion.’ 

 

 ‘Oh’, I thought, this was not what is was looking for.

 

V: ‘What is the word that you would use?’

 

R: ‘Interest, or something like that? Uhm, I think ambition fits better than

passion actually, since, for me, having a passion means you’re really good at

something and that you want to keep doing it. And ambition is something you

want to work towards. Like for example, if I say photography is an ambition, it

means that I’m okay at taking pictures, but I think I can still improve a lot and

I also do it because I want to improve. But if I call something a ‘passion’, I

consider it is something that I’m already really good at and I care so much

about it, and because of that I’m doing it.’

 

V: ‘Ah okay, I get what you’re saying’ 

 

Meanwhile, I’m figuring out where I’m supposed to go to with this interview.

 

R: ‘I’ve been thinking about my passion, talking with Tristan (her boyfriend)

about it, and he also told me I have many passions; for examples, bees’ 

 

We both laugh, but then I realise she says ‘bees’

 

V: ‘Wait, what? Bees?’

 

R: ‘Yeah, so if I would talk about my passion in a sense of ambition I

would say I want to become a city beekeeper’  

 

V: ‘Rewind, please.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So apparently, Rana’s parents knew this cute older couple that helped them with

learning Dutch. Sometimes when Rana’s parents were busy, Rana stayed for a few

hours at their house. They introduced her to a lot of good books, but more importantly,

they introduced her to bees. The man was an ‘imker’, a Dutch word for beekeeper, and

he taught her a lot; for example - how to make candles out of beeswax. He also made

Rana aware of the extinction of bees in cities. He told her, that if she ever gets the

chance, she has to keep bees in the city. Ever since then Rana has kept this thought in

mind and turned it into an ambition. The best of both worlds would be if she’s able to

combine this ambition with her passion for creativity. 

 

Even though finding out that Rana’s passion/ambition lays more in the future, I’m still

curious about who she is now. Throughout the interview, Rana gave me the

impression she is a hard working young woman who knows what she wants and

always keeps going, keeps pushing herself, going for the best. To see if my

impressions correspond with her own thoughts, I ask her wether she thinks she knows

herself, which she answers with a confident ‘yes’. She admits she has struggled with it

when she was younger, due to the two different types of cultures she grew up with, the

western culture and the conservative Egyptian one. Both cultures were different from

each other, which made Rana wonder: what do I actually want? This resulted in an

identity quest around the age of 16, ‘an age where you’re developing and becoming an

individual person’, according to Rana. She needed her space to think about who she

actually was and what she believed. 

 

She feels like she has figured it out now, but sometimes, for example with the ongoing

conflicts in the Middle East, she struggles with her ethnic identity. 

 

‘I question myself: with whom do I actually identify with?’

 

 When I ask her if she feels a connection with Egypt, she says ‘yes, ‘cause I have to

say yes, haha.’ And when I ask her if she feels Egyptian, she also says yes, but admits

she denies it most of the time, because she feels more Dutch. Many people ask her this

question, whether she feels Dutch or Egyptian; expecting only one answer. Due to this

ultimatum question she finds it hard to answer and the struggle of identity pops up

again; 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I’m not 30% this and 70% that, I’m more of a combination of both cultures.’

 

Later I ask her about her characteristics, her good ones. After a little moment of

silence and a ‘hm..’ she quickly gives me an answer:

 

‘I can easily put myself in someone else’s situation; I’m empathetic. And also

because of the two culture impulses in my youth I can look at situations from

both sides. This also helps me to easily adjust/adapt to different situations, like

for example with ‘hospiteeravonden’ (house viewings). The first 5 minutes I

keep myself quiet so I can analyse the situation; once I have figured out what

kind of person they’re looking for, I’ll put my best qualities out there in a way

they would find interesting and in a way that I stay true to who I am. ’ 

 

V: ‘And how about being able to work really hard?’

 

R: ‘Yes of course, I work really hard, I push myself haha.’ 

 

I ask her if she struggles with this characteristic, because it takes up a lot of energy to

constantly push yourself, she answers:

 

R: ‘No, I enjoy pushing myself. Once I have something in my mind I just set a

goal, which forces me to achieve that goal.

 

For example, she bought a plane ticket to Paris so that she can run a half marathon in spring, even though she barely runs; but because of this ticket she has to start training and preparing herself now, which forces her to do it.

 

R: ‘I always make little checklists, because I get satisfaction out of ticking the

boxes after I reached a certain goal, it just feels good.’  

 

I tell her I feel like she is constantly going and moving, which makes me wonder if she

ever stops, or had to stop. 

 

‘Last year I had a pretty low level of energy, I think for a month or so. People

around asked me with concern if I was doing okay and questioned me where

Rana was. I didn’t know the answer, but later I figured it was during the last

month of my 3-year relationship with my boyfriend. On the day we broke up, I

felt so down and didn’t do anything, but this lasted for only one day. The next

day my friends took me for lunch and I realized that doing nothing doesn’t

work for me. I have to keep going, cause once I’m going, I cannot stop.’ 

 

During this period, Rana figured that keeping herself busy and doing many things at

the same time is her way of living her life, preventing herself from coming in a

downward spiral of feeling unhappy. In another period in her life, after she quit her

first study, she was not aware of this and she didn’t feel good either. She made an

appointment with her doctor who suggested another interview with him first to make

sure this was a real problem, before he would send her to a psychologist. ‘Never mind’

Rana said, ‘If it has to go this way, I’ll figure it out myself.’ And so she did. 

 

V: ‘This realization is a sign that you know yourself; so do you also know what

your weak characteristics are?

 

R: ‘Let me see, uhm… My weak characteristic is that I’m easily insulted haha.

My mom always told me, that if you always do your best, you know that the

result you’re delivering is the best you’ve got and you have to be satisfied with

it. And if other people aren’t, then it is their problem. 

 

‘But when people are not satisfied with something I made and with something I

put a lot of effort in, I feel like .. uhm hállo? This is my best result, what else do

you expect from me?’

 

We both laugh and agree it is painful when people don’t like something in which

you’ve put your personal effort.

 

R: ‘But also in relationships. So for example with Tristan, my boyfriend,

whenever I do something nice for him and he doesn’t show gratitude in the

short term, it feels like an insult; which results in me giving him an cold

shoulder and remaining quiet.’ 

 

‘.., but I’m aware of this, so most of the times the feeling of me being insulted goes by

unnoticed by others, because I already reflected on the situation and understand that

my reaction has something to do with me. But other times I don’t feel like rationalizing

my emotions and I just stay insulted, only for one night or so haha.’ 

 

When I ask Rana if people, in return, feel easily insulted by her she answers with a guilty yes:

 

R: ‘I’m pretty direct and I cannot lie, so I’ll always give my opinion. So when I

give my opinion to a stranger about something they do, they’re pretty surprised

and sometimes insulted, cause most people don’t share their opinion with

strangers.’

 

‘I’m aware of this and I know I don’t mean to be rude. Sometimes, of course, it

happens that I cross a line, but when people tell me: ‘Rana you’re really a

bitch right now’, I accept that, cause I was and I’ll just take it into account for

the next time.'

 

 

To me it looks like Rana is aware of who she is as a person, and someone who accepts

her strengths and weaknesses. The lessons she has learned from her mother taught her

a lot about how to become the person she wants to be: an independent young woman

who explores her creativity in many ways and has an ambition for keeping bees in her

future city garden. The more she keeps going, the more exciting and enthusiastic she

gets, and isn’t that what passion is all about? 

 

V: ‘Thank you for the interview’

 

 

 

 


 

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