“I look in the mirror, is this really me? Where I am now is different from where I used to be.

What a transformation! That’s what I always hear. Where did all this come from? That, too, rings in my ear.”

In the words of my dear friend Patricia Audrey Hakim, with whom I have had the pleasure of seeing again after a long time, and this time with many questions focusing on her life and the essence of shaping oneself from her perspective, Patricia has always been a source of energy and inspiration for me, and I want to share her story with you—in her own words.

Being the excellent communicator and podcaster that I know, Patricia started with “My journey took a little bit of time, and it still continues. It’s true, I have transformed 180 degrees from when I was a child, then a young adult, and into the mature woman I am today. For each part of my life, I could write a book. Today, I want to concentrate on the steps of my evolution. It was a struggle, with myself and with those in my inner circle. I did it, slowly but surely. And, most importantly, non-violently. It was extremely challenging at times, but soon enough, everyone learned to appreciate the qualities that make me who I am today.” Thus shaping the main focus of this interview.

Tell me about your childhood and upbringing.

Let me give you a quick briefing. I was born in Ottawa, Canada, to Lebanese immigrant parents. I was an only child, overweight, and a bit odd too. Living in a Lebanese-culture household in a Canadian city, I could never fit in either way. Add to that having my parents from completely different backgrounds in Lebanon: my mom, a rich (then bankrupt) family, and my dad, a middle-class family from the village living in the city. I was confused about who I was and who I should be.

Let’s skip a few events and a few years to when I met my husband. We met at the University of Ottawa. His family had emigrated to Canada during the last two years of the Lebanese Civil War and moved back to Lebanon as soon as the war was over. My husband and I were together for a few years before we got married in Lebanon, where I moved and have been here ever since.

How was your move from Canada to Lebanon, what was your feeling about it?

Culture shock is an understatement! No matter how much one knows about a place and a people from afar, it’s very different to suddenly live among them. Especially when you are constrained in a patriarchal and relatively conservative society.

So, I am lost even more. I adjust and conform to a new family, a new society, and a country that is often referred to as either a jungle or the place of good times.

It was so hard for me. I went from a modern country with functioning infrastructure, a lifestyle with the freedom to move and think, to a country that eventually became a failed state, with people who are continuously at a crossroads and who have a very narrow mindset. Don’t get me wrong, there are great and not-so-great people everywhere, I am simply stating my observations as a newcomer.

I need to clarify that I was not an ideal person because I was kind of like a lost soul. I needed a connection. I needed a bond. What we learn later in life, is that you need to connect with yourself first to be able to bond with others at any time.

Here, I was starting from zero. Adapting to a new society, a different way of thinking, it takes so much time to make friends. Although I was well educated and well-traveled, I was a simple and down-to-earth person. The complete opposite of the typical Lebanese woman is sophisticated, fashionable, and so well-kept. Trying to keep up drained me. To this day, I never seem to be on the same level as their trendsetting style.

The country was just coming out of a 15-year civil war, so the places to distract oneself were limited. Plus, I didn’t know anyone or know where to go to keep busy. I finally joined a small gym and attended classes three times a week. At least, it was a start.

Let’s talk more about your family, your kids, and how this has impacted you.

A couple of years later, I had my first son. He was my little world. He was my little smile, my little joy. I loved hugging and holding him. He was always in a good mood and so active. A couple of years later, son number two came along. His character was a bit more difficult, but I shared the same feelings, doting affection over him, although I was much more tired of having to take care of two babies. It was always quality time: playing, bathing, reading, cooking, arts, crafts, sports, and the typical mommy/kid stuff. Although being a mom will always be the most impactful role in my life, I am much more than just a mom. I still needed to find out exactly. Five years later, here comes son number 3! This is when things started to change.

What was that change? Was it for the better, or did things get more difficult?

By the time I had my third son, I was going to the gym regularly. I became a fitness addict. I guess to fulfill an empty part of my life and because I was always so self-conscious about my appearance. I had lost the weight by then and was obsessed with keeping it off. I was a bit shy at first. Soon enough, I made quite a few acquaintances; the friends came a bit later.

I also registered for culture courses—first one, then two, then three, then four! The heavy stuff! Philosophy, religion, mythology, history—I was fueling my brain. It was my daily vitamin pill. Exercise first thing in the morning, courses at noon, kids in the afternoon, and family in the evening.

I was a little bit intimidated at first in my classes. I felt everyone knew so much more than me, they were so well-educated and well-read. I was quiet, but diligent.

The professors were absolutely wonderful. They really inspired me, and I was in awe of them. I simply loved learning. It also helped me think better and more clearly. Meeting so many people changed my perspective on my life and on life in general. I began feeling more confident and knowledgeable. I had so many emotions stirring inside me. I wanted to capture the world, one step at a time, through comprehension and thanks to the people who taught me.

My kids were growing into young adults by this time, and so was my eagerness to accomplish something.

Now that you have had the time and focus to converge into your “new” self, how has your life been impacted?

I was becoming popular at the gym and in my classes, completely the opposite of who I was when I was younger. I finally began feeling good about myself. I looked better—pretty good, actually. I had a unique look of my own. With my backpack instead of a purse, my short wild hair and almost no make-up, a continuous smile, being easy-going, and an appearance approachable to everyone.

My circle of friends was getting wider. Thanks to the moms of my kids’ friends and all the people I met in my activities. I finally had the confidence at this point to appreciate myself more and more.

Now came the time to push my learning even further. After a bit of soul searching and looking around for further studies, I decided, with the encouragement of many people, including academic mentors, to study for a certification in mediation. I was now in a whole new ballgame. Everyone praised my choice, knowing I have such a calm and serene demeanor.

More seriously, with much more accountability and work, I was getting into something new. I thought that my peaceful manner was going to make this easy. How cocky of me! One should never take anything as a given. There is perpetually a lot to learn. No matter how valuable your qualities are to a field, without putting in the muscle, you will never lift that weight.

And so, I went through another lesson in life, about being in an academic institution with others, mostly professionals, who are more knowledgeable and experienced than myself.

I absorbed so much in this field, and I am so grateful! I also refined my communication skills with better words, better timing, and better listening. Throughout this part of my journey, I started to realize how much people connected with me so easily. I mean on a face-to-face basis, not necessarily professionally. This was a huge boost for me.

Now that your continuing education was on track, what was your next step?

Soon enough, came COVID lockdowns, one after the other. They were turbulent times, to say the least. But I did use this time to continue courses online. My Favorite? Non-violent communication is quite an eye-opener.

Next, more learning! NLP certification, namely, Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner. Here I went from one certification and workshop to another, refining my skills and connecting with more and more people.

This was the time when voice notes were becoming more and more popular. Another quality I discovered is that people enjoy listening to my voice a lot.

Then one day, it hit me. My voice and connecting with people are a great combination for a good podcast. Again, with much enthusiasm from my mentors, I threw myself into a whirlwind.

I can confirm that you have one of the sweetest and smoothest voices I have ever heard! I want to hear more about how you took that talent professionally. Especially that this is very relatable to me, leaving many things behind and following my calling in the arts.

I was a bit anxious about doing this on my own at first. I thought about partnering with someone to do this. It made me more comfortable until it didn’t, and so I decided to go about this alone.

Things are moving so fast now. I got huge support from my son’s drums teacher, who insisted I do it all in the music studio of his music school. Isn’t that amazing? It was almost handed to me on a silver platter. He and his brother are part of the family, and I am forever thankful to them for facilitating my first step in podcasting.

It’s important to realize that I am an unknown in the world of social media and media in general. This was going to be a huge challenge.

I rushed to get started. I am asking people to be my guests. Gratefully, everyone whom I asked accepted. I will always appreciate each and every person who stands by me. It was difficult in many ways to set up on various platforms, on the technical side, the design side. I was also blessed to have the most wonderful young lady and precious friend to help me with all the graphic design and social media aspects of the tasks.

How wonderful it is to have so much encouragement and support around you. Especially when they are not obliged to do so and they do it out of kindness, friendship, and, most touchingly, believing in me.

I have to admit, I was dizzy in this unknown world. I had hope, but I was still very amateurish in so many ways. I discovered a talent for writing, and in the meantime, I discovered my creative storytelling in the reels promoting each podcast episode. What was missing was the extra professional touch. After all, I couldn’t impose too many free services on my friends, they already had so much to do on their own. I reached a sort of burnout, and I stopped everything to reorganize and restructure.

What did you do after things looked challenging in your new project?

I am describing my state of being at the time very briefly. There were so many ups and downs. I never thought of quitting, but I struggled so much. Nobody will ever really know what I was going through inside. Starting anew, at middle age, learning from scratch, on a low budget, in a completely new world. I felt alone, scared, but consistently tenacious.

Skipping a few steps again, a wonderful young lady suggested I write articles and post them to give myself a bit more credibility until relaunching the podcast again. Honestly, that got me so excited because I felt like I had a world of thoughts and personal wisdom I wanted to share. I always wanted to write. I just never knew how to get started.

And just like that, I started. In my vlog, I named it “A Note to Think About.” I wrote and wrote and wrote. My personal reflections on life were flowing out. It was as though someone opened a champagne bottle, and it all came out at once. I filmed myself on my phone. People liked what I had to say, but I needed to refine it a lot. I went professional, finally. There’s only so much you can do to try to save money. You have to do it right in the end.

It took off gently. I was getting the hang of it, delivering my message better, and condensing it too. That’s all I kept hearing. The attention span on social media is very low, your reels have to be shorter and shorter. Philosophical reflections on life in less than a minute? Great! When people discuss issues and topics for ages, I had to make my point in less than one minute. I did.

My content is not the type to go viral quickly. Especially speaking in English in an Arabic area of the world. I will get there. Those who follow me enjoy my reels and my demeanor while I talk. They love that even more. There’s something about my voice that sinks in. On a small, funny note, a lot of people tell me they like to listen to my notes before going to sleep because my voice calms them down. To be honest, sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing!

Now that you took a step back, re-evaluated everything, and put yourself back in the game, what is your next step and what changes have you decided to make?

Where am I at now? Relaunching the podcast. 10 questions for an extraordinary person I am recording in a professional podcasting studio. Although it was very nice before, it has a whole new look with a renewed concept highlighting extraordinary people from all walks of life.

I feel so blessed to be enriched by such wonderful people. They give you that extra push in life. They inspire you to give more of yourself.

Each and every person on my journey has a special place in my heart. I did the grunt work; I pushed myself to never stop learning, to strive for more. I want to be an example for my kids. I want them to understand that there is so much that people and the world have to teach us. The more we are willing to learn, the younger our spirit remains.

Even though I went through very difficult moments in my life, these moments were the pillars of who I am today. It was so hard. Slowly but surely, I focused and organized. Once I prioritized being true to myself and being authentic with others, I gained a certain fulfillment. I continuously reflect on the people, circumstances, and events that surround me. I have the upmost admiration for those who taught me to think. To think for myself. I balance that with being a good person as well. I meet and greet people with a smile. I learn from each and every one of them. Each one of us has a story. It’s up to us to continue writing the story we want. Life is like that. We are humans, and we all go through those upward and downward moments. There are no exceptions. It’s up to us how to build and strengthen ourselves to face any situation in life.

Patricia ended on a lovely note to think about with:

I look in the mirror, I like what I see. How far I have come from where I used to be!

A smart, sensual, sensitive woman, that’s what I always hear. I worked hard, I learned, I struggled to get here.

I am here.

This is truly inspiring to me, and many people are out there dreaming of what they could become. What you dream of is a part of you, and you can only tell by taking that leap of faith and jumping into your new journey, and you will be surprised at how much support you will receive from those around you, all in the favor of helping you achieve your dreams. Thank you, Patricia, for being such a great example and for sharing your story!