When in Doubt, Watch a Movie.

Does anyone remember the first movie they’ve ever watched? I mean the very very first, the one that after you’ve seen whether you hated or loved it, made you decide that storytelling through images is cool, and you want more where that came from.

I don’t remember my very first movie, as hard as I’ve tried to. That is very sad, because movies played such a big role in my life, that I feel somehow indebted to the one that started it all for me. Of course, had I known movies would end up affecting the course of my life this much, I would have watched that first movie with great care and utmost attention.

How did movies affect me? I think in some parallel cosmo, had I never started watching movies at all, I would have become a complete different person. An idea as frightening to me as it is stunning.

Dreams are one aspect where movies impacted my life. I started watching movies when I was in third grade. I lived in an Arab country, so I spoke and understood only Arabic at that age, and did not even have adequate knowledge to follow an English speaking movie from beginning to end without translation.

Even the Arabic translation was a struggle; often it would move too fast on the screen, or I’d focus too much on getting every word that I would miss chunks of the movie.

But I loved it.

I often wondered about it, this art of translation. It sounded more exotic and exciting in my head at that age, but it was just that- art. I would imagine this person- who in my mind was nothing less than a knight, worthy of our awe and respect- as a connector of cultures, a messenger between civilizations.

This person, who had the privilege or luck of knowing two languages, was doing more than translating a badly montaged Hollywood movie so I and the less fortunate can understand the plot. To me, this translator built a bridge between the two worlds, two continents, and two opposites: the East and the West. He or she is responsible for my traveling into this new world, and broadening of perspective of society.

Of course at that time I believed the movies I watched actually represented the Western culture, but that’s another discussion.

So, as my love for movies grew, so did my love for translators. I became an expert too. I started recognizing the different translations one English word can yield in Arabic. I could predict the ending of the spoken sentence said just by reading the whole Arabic sentence written on screen. I started understanding new English vocabulary that kids my age did not know. These little victories for an elementary student meant a lot, and that was about the time I decided I wanted to become a translator.

I wanted to study languages to become that knight; that person whose skills would bring different people closer and help the world to become a friendlier place. Fast forward to after I finished my last year in high school: it was time to apply for universities. I was 16 then, and my dream was still intact.

I was going to learn languages. As many as I can.

I felt so comfortable that day, seeing everyone around me confused, conflicted, and worried about what to study, while I’ve got it all figured out.

But something happened along the way that I forgot to mention; I had watched a show that planted an idea in my head: What would I be, if I studied media?

A simple idea, yet it conquered my mind and began to grow slowly, all the while shadowing my long decided dream. I felt like Mal in the last scene of Inception (warning: spoiler) when Cobb admits he’d performed inception on his wife in the past with a little idea. But that harmless small seed grew in Mal’s head day by day until it became the thorny forest of doubts that eventually destroyed her.

Ok it was not that dramatic, but you get it.

Suddenly I was no better than these around me, lost, confused, and worried about the future. A choice had to be made: languages or media? I was certain of one thing: each one would transform me completely, turning me into a new person.

I just had to somehow predict which would get me closer to my envisioned future self: being translator or a media person?

Eventually I did what I always do when I’m confused: I prayed istikhara, and two years later I’m studying Journalism in the American University in Dubai. Had the dice played a different number, maybe I would have been somewhere else in the world, growing into a different person maybe better, maybe worse.