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About Compasses

“So, here you are. Too foreign for home. Too foreign for here. Never enough for both.”
-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

I still remember the last two weeks I spent in Lebanon before packing my bags and coming to France. It was right after my summer vacation trip in Brazil, and they were the hardest and scariest two weeks of my life. I had already experienced some delicate and unpleasant things before, but nothing compares to the thought to prepare yourself mentally to the fact that you are leaving home in less than a month.

I could not get myself to even pack my suitcase properly; matter of fact, I would burst out in tears whenever I did. I had been waiting for this moment ever since I was in high school, and now that it is just around the corner, I cannot stop stressing out. Why was I crying? Why was I sad about leaving? Why was I so scared?

During those two weeks, I could only listen to one song. It was the only song that would get me out of bed, make the most of my day, see my friends, spend time with my parents, visit Lebanon one last time, go on road trips in my car and so on. I have to say, before that song, American Authors would a band I would enjoy listening to, but that completely changed when they capture every single emotion and feeling  in the deepest of my bones through their song Neighborhood.

“Hold dear to your parents for it is a scary and confusing world without them.”
Emily Dickinson

I am turning 22 in three days’ time. I have been living in France since I was 20. My mentality shifted into the fact that I am someone is now living in France and goes to Lebanon to spend his vacation time. My everyday language shifted from Lebanese to just French, with some English whenever I meet someone who happens to not speak French. I no longer drive my car to go to work or class; I take the tube or the bus instead. My parents are not the people I see every day anymore, but my co-workers and flatmates. Even my clothing style and physical appearance changed.

Despite all of those changes, some small things are still the same. For example, I am still listening to American Authors’ Neighborhood as I am writing this article.

Yesterday, my mother sent me the picture of a post she saw on Facebook. The post contained a picture of young Lebanese students saying goodbye to their parents at the Beirut International Airport. The facial expression of each side of this separation said it all: a chapter had ended. One side was leaving while seeing a piece of them stay in Lebanon, whereas the other side was staying while seeing a piece of them leave the country.

This picture snapped me back to the day I said my goodbye to my family, to my friends, to my country. It snapped me back to the fact that some students at my university get to see their parents every weekend, whereas I only get to see mine every 6 months. I talk to them on the phone every day, but I find myself unable to see them smile, to hug them, to take them out for dinner, to share a meal with them, to watch a movie.

“Everyone thinks living abroad is fun… The ideal life. Take it from me – it is tough.”
Shenaz Treasury

Do not get me wrong: I do not regret coming to France for studies and work; on the contrary, I am delighted to say that living abroad has been the best decision I ever made so far. I got to learn more about myself, what I stand for, who are my real friends and so on. Living abroad has indeed been an adventure, one I would recommend to all youngsters. I would always accept to go live abroad.

The only problem is when I have to answer who I am. Before that picture yesterday, I would simply reply by saying my name and country of origin. That is no longer the case today. Today, I answer by quoting the caption of that picture:

“We are the people whose country could not keep them.”

I will not go into the details as to why it is common for Lebanese youngsters to leave their country, other than it is a painful and tragic reality for such a beautiful country. A pain I sense in my mother’s voice whenever I talk to her on the phone. My family got divided because of the situation Lebanon finds itself in: we are 5 members of one same family living in 4 different countries.

“I will always come back to my neighbourhood.”
-American Authors

It is true that everyone has to leave the nest one day. It is true that everyone has to go and build a life of their own. The trigger that we tend to forget when we leave home is that it does not necessarily mean to leave our family. Family remains our compass, our backbone through everything we experience in this life. Even when everything seems lost and everyone has left, family stays. I know that I will always come back to my neighbourhood. To my family.

So tell me, when was the last time you had to leave home for more than a month?
Did you tell your parents that you loved them?
Did you tell them how thankful you are for everything they are and everything they did for you
How did it feel to leave home for the first time and for so long?
What was the first thing you did when you came back?

“Family is not just blood relations; it is everyone who loves you unconditionally.”
Bob Ladouceur

Categories Personal Experience

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