You walk in your brother’s, father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, that is how people raise an Egyptian boy. He goes from primary to preparatory to High school and most probably ends up as an engineer or a doctor. Or at least this was the plan until this rebellious kid begged to differ. “I saw my brother go through the National Thanaweya Amma, I witnessed private lessons’ money go to waste while depression takes over and pressure sinks in. Then, I decided I didn’t want it,” Hossam Heikal tells.
“I was practically a perfect bait for bullies. I had to be more like them to survive their poison”
“You are not about the normal”, a friend said after he suggested that Hossam joins “Sanaye3” for technical education instead of Thanaweya Amma’s slow death. Coming from a well-educated and established family, it was hard to throw this kind of fire stone in their faces without expecting an explosion as a consequence.
And indeed, his life changed forever, “I joined a technical education school only to be the middle-class kid with silky long hair, a backpack and home-made sandwiches! I was practically a perfect bait for bullies. I had to be more like them to survive their poison. I cut my hair, I picked up their attitude, I used their language, I even walked like them until I became one more lost impolite kid to the extent that all our relatives wouldn’t let their kids sit with me”, Hossam says.
“I used to go to school every day only thinking of how to get back at that kid who had slapped me and avoid those that opens a hand knife at me in school. This wasn’t what I signed up for but it was the life I got and so I would tolerate everything and never tell my parents what I had to deal with because I thought I was being a man”, he adds. “The first job I ever had was in a school’s ready-made clothing project. I used to do the shirt’s wristband and earn 7 L.E per day”, he explains.
“You can come from the darkest of places and still see the light”
And in the next phase of his life, this opportunity-seeker joined the workers’ university in Alexandria and clung to every work opportunity that came his way “I worked as a waiter at a koshari restaurant, I’d break plates, slip on the stairs and I don’t think I ever took my full salary. Then I worked as a gas station attendant and an office boy. My parents never understood why I worked when they can just afford me a living”, he says.
“I would tolerate everything and never tell my parents what I had to deal with because I thought I was being a man”
“I wanted to save up money and buy a sewing machine to start my own project and I did everything I could for that dream. At a certain point, I used to dress as a Pooh for a living. It was good money but kids used to humiliate me all the time which affected me psychologically”, he adds. “And one time a man about my age kicked me while I was working and at this point I cried.”
What he thought was a random down moment in his life, was in fact fate twisting, “This same guy came back and invited me for lunch. He asked about my story and so I told him. The next thing I know is he got me an interview in real estate”, Hossam says.
With the simplest of conversational skills, Hossam got himself a sales job. As soon as he got on that ladder, the going up became a routine. First a sales operation manager, then a deputy regional director at a huge sales group. “I was around 23 years old and I had so much money for the first time. It was an opportunity to do all the wrong things especially when surrounded by the wrong crowd. I tried coke, DMT and lots of things that not all people had access to because they are expensive”, he says.
“I didn’t talk to my parents at the time. I was a fighter at work but I was still immature and careless about my parents. This is a phase that most young males go through because their parents create a huge gap between them. Parents always fear that if they befriend their kids they will lose respect. But what really happens when you create such a gap is that kids lie, hide and turn their backs on their parents. This is something that my dad now understands. We are very close friends and I tell him everything but I wish this had happened sooner”, he tells us.
“Parents always fear that if they befriend their kids they will lose respect. But what really happens when you create such a gap is that kids lie, hide and turn their backs on their parents”
This 29-year old innovator is now a lead consultant at a marketing company, a business developer in real estate, an ICF certified career coach, an author of “ElMa3na f taree2i” book and founder of ‘3ayel yesharaf’ (an honorable kid) initiative. “After everything I have been through, I wanted to tell people that you can come from the darkest of places and still see the light. So, I took this initiative on a tour to all universities to reach more than 180,000 students all over Egypt and give motivational talks. What I want to say is, I was different and my parents couldn’t comprehend or address this difference because it was new to them. If I was blessed with their support sooner maybe I wouldn’t have done lots of mistakes but I am glad we have come to peace with each other”, he concludes.