I am tired. Tired of being Lebanese, tired of being tied to the fate of my identity, my roots, my home.
It feels like this terrible destiny. You’re born into a beautiful country but you struggle to live there. You spend your youth planning your exit, only to build a life abroad and then miss everything about it. And when you do take a major step to come back to serve your country, you’re faced with the daily dilemma of whether it’s wise to get back out of there.
When you’re born Lebanese, you’re always living a struggle. You’re either wishing you were there with your family, or you’re there but can’t wait to get out.
Tired Of Being Strong
I didn’t envisage it to run me down this way when I first decided to return. I had no idea we would get this far down the gutter. We have lived through many atrocities in our past. We lived through civil wars and massacres in the 70s & 80s, we lived through foreign wars with Israel in 2006, we lived through the many assassinations, mutilations, censorships and bullets of the 2000s. You’d think we have it in us to weather the toughest storms. But a year and half in and I am tired.
I am tired of feeling frustrated and leaving Lebanon, then living with the nostalgia of balmy summers in my homeland. I am tired of missing real Labné, of missing the rainbow of fresh summer fruits. I am tired of missing tabboulé and warak enab. I am tired of missing the camaraderie of my people. I am tired of missing the endless inspiration that Beirut never stops serving. I am tired of feeling these strong pangs of patriotism that pull me back each time.
But I am also tired of coming back and wishing things were different. I am tired of the power cuts, of seeing the same old man on my drive to work, still in his pressed shirt, begging for help. I am tired of searching for powdered milk in 15 supermarkets only to find a pack for an exorbitant amount.
I am tired of jumping off my seat each time I hear thunder. I am tired of wondering whether I’m missing out on my career abroad. I am tired of swearing at the television. I am tired of having to make the hardest decision every morning.
I am tired of waiting. Waiting for the day I can access my money in the bank. Waiting for the lira rate to settle, waiting for my city to be rebuilt after the August blast, waiting for streetlights to light up again, for the corner shop to stock my coffee again. I am tired of waiting for electricity to come on, whether we’ll be able to afford to eat meat tomorrow and whether it’s even worth hoarding nappies for the kids.
The Endless Dilemma
Being Lebanese is exhausting. You’re damned if you leave and you’re damned if you stay.
If you leave you’ll spend your life wondering what it would have been like to live around your family, to have you kids grow up around their cousins. You’ll live with the guilt that you let your parents grow older without you, that you’re not there to look after them in their darkest hours. You’ll wake up one day and wonder if you’d have planted all this energy to build a better Lebanon instead, whether we’d all be better off today. You’ll live in this perpetual conflict between feeling like you’re betraying your own people, and knowing that you deserve better.
If you stay you’re faced with the daily struggle of Lebanese life. You live the nightmare of not having access to your money and then not knowing if you can afford your next supermarket run. You waste energy comparing 27 different shops and products to get your best deal. You spend half your day in the dark because there’s no state electricity and your generator is knackered. Your kids can’t do their home schooling because the internet is out. It. All. Feels. Heavy.
I am tired and I am numb. I can’t see the end of the tunnel. Life feels so grim to Lebanese people right now and we are spent. It feels like the nightmare has been going on forever, and we can’t seem to wake up. Whether we are there or not, whether we like it or not, we all dream of a Lebanon that doesn’t exist anymore.
And I’m the privileged one, I can still leave any second. There are those who would give anything to leave but cannot. They live their lives wishing they were elsewhere, anywhere, somewhere that respects their livelihood. Little do they know that the fate of being Lebanese will always haunt them. And then there’s our youth, fresh, vigorous and full of hope. But it’s been stolen away from them, they have been betrayed by their country; their big dreams slowly pulverised under the thickness of our existence.
Hope Runs In Our Veins
But we Lebanese people have been built on hope. You cut our veins and all you get is resilience and promise. Near or far, we are an army ready to build our country again. Give us a glimmer and we will deploy everything history has ever taught us and we can rise again. There’s no question that we can, we have repeatedly proven our ability to rebuild after each catastrophe that we have endured, and this one will be no exception. The question is, will we live to see the change or is this our unborn children’s work?
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