As a child growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, every time the fighting would start (or more accurately, resume), my family and I would run to the main corridor of the house to seek shelter. This was a typical response for many a Lebanese family during the war.
Why corridors? Well, they seemed to be the safest space in the house: they had no windows and were separated from the outside world by at least two concrete walls making them a mini-bomb-shelter. They were also closest to the main entrance of the house in case we needed to make a run for it.
We’d gather in the corridor and start conversations about everything and anything. We’d tell jokes, share stories, play games, and sometimes talk about things we'd routinely not talk about during more ‘normal’ times.
Perhaps those experiences had an intense impact on me because of the contrast I felt between the terror looming outside and the safety of all-too-familiar bodies and smells of family and friends huddled up in the corridor. In a way, the experience is not too different from the joy of watching scary movies and feeling at once terrified and safe; in a state of fight-or-flight and everything's-gonna-be-alright.
My next experience with corridors came from teaching.
After class, a small group of students and I would walk out into the hallway and as we slowly paced down the corridor, we’d talk about a miscellany of things: myth, meaning, sci-fi movies, heroes, AI, dreams, martial arts, the economy, politics, revolutions ...
Perhaps these corridor conversations were so meaningful to us precisely because they were unpredictable and unscripted. In these corridors, we felt we could grapple with a wide spectrum of ideas without the restrictions of a syllabus or curriculum. I learned so much from these conversations. I felt that my students did so too.
In fact, one of these corridor conversations led a group of students and myself to start something called خارج عن الصف which translates into both 'out of line' and 'out of the classroom'. For a number of years, we would meet in cafes and public spaces around Beirut to continue the learning journey we had started in class and to grapple with key questions we had about the world we lived in.
Another special encounter with corridors came from my experience with play, theater and starting a company.
A few years back, I co-founded a company called In Playful Company that helps teams unlock their potential for creativity, collaboration and innovative risk-taking through play and dramatic techniques. Throughout my work, I discovered that play opens a corridor between reality and imagination in which people can safely explore possibilities and test out different ways of being in the world.
Today, I realize I've learned so much in these corridors where open and unconstrained conversations are allowed to take place.
In my coaching practice, I draw on my experiences with creating deep and meaningful corridor conversations to help my clients design their life journeys in more intentional and creative ways.