My Story with Writing
I don’t remember a lot about my grandfather, except for my running towards him and trying to say a couple of words in Armenian, and I would usually stand by his chair and repeat the words my mother would have taught me, and he would smile at me and I barely understood what he used to say. However, one of the few times he spoke in Arabic to me, he said, “You never feel what’s something is worth until you lose it.” I courteously smiled and nodded as if I had understood anything, but my mind had to wait for about eight more years to explain this simple saying.
By the time I finished junior high school and turned fourteen, the memory of my dead grandfather had long gone and I would spend my whole free time reading information about the world. I wanted to know about everyone whose name earned its place in history books or encyclopedias, and to an extent, I was looking for a way to earn my place too. “I don’t want to live on the margin of life,” I told my best friend once. By that time, I had tried almost everything I managed to lay my hands and eyes on. I drew, played music, and played different kinds of sports with one idea in mind at the beginning of any new activity I would take up: “Can I be number one?” My enthusiasm would become a whim only when I would figure out that I could not. I had even written a poem and published it in the school’s journal and in religious group’s journal. The acceptance I received from my childish writings encouraged me to write on a regular basis.
I can still remember using a pen or a pencil to twirl my hair with my forehead frowned to look like one of those writers I saw on TV from time to time. By that time, I did not know that one of those I saw on our two-channeled TV would later become my favorite Arab Poet, Nizar Qabbani. However, twirling my hair and suffering to find a word I would have already written, memorized and kept in my mind until the right time when the most beautiful girl in the world would pass in front of the most famous boy poet in the neighborhood. We barely talked, but I considered my bursting out with revelations of the already memorized poetry lines to be our conversation. She would respond with a smile or just a careless look, but I would always explain these gestures as admiration and the first seeds of love. I still did not understand then what my grandfather meant, or what life had in store for me, but I definitely understood what love was and that I loved this girl and my writing, or my writing came first, I could not tell.
I had already identified myself as a scholar with dreams of nothing less than Ph.D. when my father announced that we were ready to move back to Lebanon after the civil war was over. I had a bad feeling about that move because I sensed all my life at school was about to be blown away. We had lived for fourteen years in Aleppo during the time of the Lebanese Civil War, and now it was time for us to move back to our motherland, Lebanon. The plan was simple; my father claimed he would register me in some school to adjust my level of French with the high level required in the Lebanese educational system. Then, he said, I could have enrolled at one of the schools nearby our home. Needless to say that none of that ever happened. Summer was over and I can still remember watching with bitter tears dropping on my cheeks while I was going to my supposedly temporary summer job other children in their school costumes going to school. I cried more for I instantly remembered grandfather.
It took me five years of working, thinking and writing to decide to go back to school. I had lost a dear friend, but writing became my new closest friend. Those papers and that old notebook full of my childish poems I still have on my bookshelf, which I read anytime I feel afraid of the blank paper. Five years with no formal education could have destroyed my lust for learning, but writing kept me alive all that time. I decided to skip two years and take my chances with the high school senior certificate, called Baccalaureate in Syria, where I went back to school. Writing taught me about the hidden caves in my personality; it made me strong, sociable and confident just like before. When everybody thought I was going to fail, I knew I was taking the right steps towards victory, not only the academic but also the individual triumph I had bled for working as an upholsterer for five long years. I took the certificate all alone and managed all other students but one, so I became the second best student in all Syria that year out of about 150000 students. I knew at that moment that I was able to do anything in life, and I could recover from any situation. I chose my best friend to be the path drawn for the aspiration of my life. Writing has never left me alone ever since.
I fell in love with the apparently weak because I remember the days I felt as weak. I fell in love with trying to instill a drive to find a reason for which one may live, thrive and conquer because one day I needed a reason for myself. Individualism has become my constitution in a world I cannot help in any way if I cannot help myself first. My writing, which welcomed the English language as one more medium I use to say what I want to say, has taken these people as the most important thing I can write about. I write about love, war, and peace; I write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. However, the only true thing that overshadows all my writings grew from my own individual victory that I hope to tell everyone about. I still dream of writing about this idea in all the languages of the world and no matter how awkward my writing sounds in any language, my ideas speak no language as all of our thoughts in the entire world speak the same language. We come with our differences, beliefs, traditions and cultures and define the rainbow nature of this world.
In the end, I love my father more than ever before, for he gave the challenge of my life, the challenge that defined my own unique human being that I carry with me at all times. Without this rock he threw onto my path, I could have never learned to jump up high and fly.
September 18 2014