She stares at me with her big blue eyes:
“Miss? Are you ok?”
I recollect myself and manage a “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you”.
She nods in response and asks me again:
“How long are you planning on staying here for?”
And for the very first time I realise that I don’t know.
I have spent the majority of my life comfortable with the notion that Lebanon is not the place for me, to the point where I was able to detach myself from almost every major problem that has swept the nation over the last couple of years. And while most of my peers seem to be deluded with the idea that “it is what it is” and “take it or leave it”, leaning mostly towards just “taking it”, I chose to just “leave it” at the first opportunity I got. And you can save your patriotic speeches, I left because I love my country too much to watch it burn to the ground, and I love myself even more to simply let it burn me down with it. It’s not what it is, it’s how we’ve allowed it to become; a bundle of uncontrollable chaos feeding off our apathy and negligence. And although I admit to having the unrealistic ambition of creating change at some point early on in my life, adulthood has taught me that you can’t lead a losing team to victory single handedly. Sometimes giving up is essential for survival, your survival, and I settled exactly for that.
What I didn’t know however, despite my solid convictions is that I will not only be giving up a permanent address and a very atypical lifestyle, I would also have to let go of a very big chunk of who I am and where I stand in the world. It’s one thing to feel like a stranger in your own country, but it’s a whole other experience to be an actual one. Everybody was a stranger in Qatar, we all had an expiration date and an exit plan up our sleeves. It was a pit stop. But no matter how unsettling it is to never be fully settled, there is a certain comfort in knowing that this isn’t “it”. You can fuck up as many times as you want until you get “there”. This is the beauty of being an expat in that part of the world, you just pack and move on with little consequences and often no price to pay.
But the moment I entered The Netherlands, it wrapped its clammy arms around me. It wants you to stay, this much you can tell. You’re no longer a second-class citizen in a country thriving on monarchy. A modern day slave to a system where the elite minority shamelessly flaunts its immeasurable richnesses while the hard working majority stock pennies for a rainy day. You’re an equal, and if you play your cards right in a couple of years you might even become a respectable decision maker and a voter. All of this granted at a very reasonable price; admitting once and for all that this is “it”.
As I write this post by my living room window on a quite Tuesday afternoon, I watch mothers walk their children back from school, fathers with strollers, elderly people with their tiny dogs, university students rushing by on their bikes, and a part of me knows that this might be “it”. But there’s a thick layer of glass and a sour post coffee aftertaste in my mouth. There are years and years of neglected aspirations and a sense of desperation, and not enough time to realise that there’s no need for those anymore. There are people made from the same flesh and blood as me, stuck on a sinking ship a thousand miles away. There’s a language and a history that will never run through my veins. And like a plant with shrunken roots, trapped in a glass of water of my own choosing, I wonder if I will ever fully grow into a tree.