About My Happy Place

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to go back to.”
– Anonymous

Because there is something more beautiful than Lebanon?

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this phrase. This question to which each generation gives a particular interpretation. For some, it is a key to the past, when they used to take pleasure and true happiness in getting up early in the morning. For others, it is connected to the hope that those beautiful days will return so that we can finally experience them. For young people of my generation, the interpretation is seen as a veil of sarcasm to follow up on the fact that despite all that is going on in this country, there is still beauty to be found here like nowhere else.

Nearly four years ago, I boarded the plane with two large suitcases and a backpack full of food. The music was cranked up to a song by American Authors called Neighborhood. I told myself that I was making the right decision and that the adventure would be worth it. I pictured myself at the foot of a high mountain that I was about to climb. But once I arrived at the airport, the idea of climbing my Everest gave way to the neighborhood.

This neighborhood where I spent the first twenty years of my life, where I left so many memories, so many family, friends, support, hope. I had dedicated my week there before this departure. I tried to create new memories that could be recorded and transported across borders. I had spent time with all the people I wanted to see. My bags were full, but I still felt empty; something was missing. I was leaving something important behind: it was a lot of baggage that no suitcase could ever hold. This luggage was my true identity, not the passport I am holding in my right hand right now. It was at that moment that I realized that I was not saying “goodbye”, but “farewell”.

As I speak, it’s time. I kissed my parents one last time. I feel funny. My legs were limp, my throat was swelling to the point of exploding, and my heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. A feeling of guilt came over me. An urge to melt, to hide my shameful face. That voice inside me said, “My parents have been through some terrible things in the last few decades. They deserve all the happiness in the world. They deserve to be comfortable, to not have to worry about what’s going on around them, to enjoy life. Yet I am the one who is leaving.”

At that moment, my mother whispered in my ear, “Come back soon. I will miss you.” My response was, “I promise. After all, is there anything more beautiful than Lebanon? At the time, I used that famous phrase as a joke to take our minds off of things. When I think about it today, I feel a certain vanity in those words. If that was really the case, then why did I fly? Why did I decide to listen to people telling me that I was leaving “at the right time”? Is there a time to leave a whole life behind and start over?

I was ready to leave, to start a new life in a country that was not my own. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted to tell them that their sacrifices were not in vain. However, my heart sinks every time I think of them. A crack that deepens and widens when I hear their voices on the phone. So many moments I wish I could share with them over the past few years, reduced to simple photos or messages on the WhatsApp family group. This family is the main reason for my vacation in Lebanon at least once a year. It’s still a strange country.

We don’t go back to Lebanon because we miss the country. We go back because we miss our family. We just want to get back to our neighborhood. That’s what we call our Happy Place (our home) like in the Saint PHNX song. The definition of home is not limited to a place or a person, but to that which allows us to find a spiritual peace that we will not find elsewhere. It turns out that this happy place is in Lebanon.

This country that we try so hard to repress in the back of our minds because the mere thought of it makes us stressed and anxious. This country feeds a feeling of guilt deep inside us because we left. As if we were abandoning it for good because we thought we were better off.

Because there is something more beautiful than Lebanon?

Today, it turns out that my neighborhood is still in Lebanon.
Today, this image pains me so much that I don’t understand myself anymore towards this country.
Today, seeing what my neighborhood is going through, I feel deprived of my happy place.
Will I ever find it again? Will I ever feel the great joy of returning to Lebanon?

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