Hazem Omran (21) leans his left shoulder against the doorpost. Behind him, his compact, quite tidy room. The door opens onto the paved garden where there’s a bar table with a couple of empty bottles of prosecco. In the left corner, for some unknown reason there’s a dome tent. For the photo, Hazem has carefully chosen his black trousers and white shirt, because they look good with his beloved guitar.

Plays guitar every day

As soon as the discussion moves to music, Hazem smiles. It makes him happy. He plays guitar every day. In fact, just the thought of being able to play every day makes him happy. “This is what I always wanted”, he says. “Weird that two years ago, I couldn’t play at all. And that I wanted to give up because my fingers were so sore.”

Until he was fifteen, Hazem wanted to be a doctor. When he moved to the Netherlands from Egypt, he discovered more of his creative side. He started acting, singing and chose the International Bachelor Communication and Media. At the start of the pandemic, he bought an electric keyboard, and not long afterwards his first guitar. Now it’s a matter of practising.

Hazem plays whenever he can. Before an online lecture, in the breaks and sometimes during a lecture. “But so that the guitar is – hopefully – out of shot.” He plays other people’s songs, like Dancing with our hands tied by Taylor Swift, but he also writes his own music.

Hazem on campus

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Not giving a fuck

Hazem’s songs are about love and relationships, but also about how it feels not being comfortable in your own skin. “It feels good to write about those emotions. Even though the songs are sometimes about things that I’ve never experienced. Like having a huge argument and then splitting up; that’s never happened. Or about two boys in a village, with one feeling so bad in that village that he ends his life. At the end, you hear that the singer is the other boy. All imagined.”

When asked which artist is an example for him, Hazem immediately has an answer. “Do you know Taylor Swift?” He feels that she’s modest. Not someone who tries to be tough, or exaggerates, but someone who makes music that people can enjoy. That’s what he wants to do too. Be someone who supports and encourages other people, in the hope that they will support him too. Although that’s not always the case.

“I feel that Taylor is a kindred spirit,” says Hazem. He explains that the global star has received so much hate over the years. Whenever she responded to criticism, for example moving from country to pop, she just got more criticism. It wasn’t anything to do with her music, says Hazem, but with her personally. “People sometimes don’t like me for who I am either. I try not to give a fuck, just like Taylor seems to be doing now. The art of not giving a fuck. Except that I haven’t yet totally mastered it. It still gets to me sometimes.”

Enthusiastic about the future

Hazem sees his creativity as a positive side to ADHD. Nearly a year ago, Hazem officially got his diagnosis. Before that, he used to wonder: what’s wrong with me? He now sees that he can use all that creativity in his work. For example, while making posts for social media.

“I’m now really enthusiastic about the next phase in my life. I’m increasingly finding that I can apply what I’ve learned about marketing and communication. Now I’m halfway through my bachelor, and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m getting more enthusiastic because I see that my hard work is paying off. In September, I’m going on an exchange to the United States, to San Diego. And you only get that opportunity if your grades are good enough.”