“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I am torn between two worlds. Born in a place where people are forgotten, I often contemplate how I can serve as a beacon of hope. Yet, I have escaped to another world, where I can propel my own happiness. Alone in the darkness, the voices of the unheard constantly creep into my mind and keep me awake.

My mind flashes back to the time when I picked up the blueprints for the water well that we were building for an impoverished village. Born an hour’s drive away, only luck and faith put me on the more fortuitous side of life’s equation. The area didn’t look far from a time when our pharaonic ancestors ruled. In the middle of the desert, humble abodes line the village filled with overlooked people, who don’t even have clean running water. I could say, “Who cares? They’re nobodies.” But, how can I look into the eyes of a kid that looks like a younger version of me and not wonder what could’ve been.

Back in my own hometown of Cairo, I delivered books to an orphanage. Inside an old building overcrowded with children running around, it feels like there’s no direction and life goals seem irrelevant. I could say, “Why does it matter what happens to them? At least they have food.” But, how can I look at my younger reflection and not desire for them to have ambition? Without my own parents, I would’ve just been another statistic of illiteracy in a third world country.

My moral insomnia continues to drag. If I can’t find enough motivation to act for them, how will I accomplish anything meaningful in life?

— Ahmed Farag