Back in the days when I was a teenager, and even a student in university, I used to wish that I was born somewhere else. Somewhere like the other side of the ocean, in North America, or even in Europe. Just anywhere other than where I was then, Lebanon. Now don’t get me wrong on this, I love Lebanon. I have spent most of my life, the best part of my life in the Middle East, in Lebanon and in Dubai. In the words of Ray Bradbury:
“When you are away from a city it becomes a fantasy. Any town, New York, Chicago, with its people, becomes improbable with distance.”
The main reason for my wish was the civil war. I lived on campus so that I would be away from trouble, from the danger that lurked in every corner of the city. The American University of Beirut had a beautiful campus protected from the outside world by tall concrete walls. There were security guards at every gate asking for students’ IDs. My dorm was on the seaside, overlooking the American Embassy.
On some nights when the militia bombed the embassy, shells would fall near our building, shattering the glass and creating havoc and panic among us students and sending us all down to the safety of the basement for shelter. The next day it would be business as usual. We would all go to class as if nothing ever happened. And by evening when our lectures were over we would come out of our classrooms only to find ourselves stranded on campus, because militias had taken over the streets of the city, just outside the gates. Oh how I wished then that I were someplace else, somewhere where things were normal and where most importantly there was no war.
And now that I am living on the other side of the Atlantic, my worries are on a totally different level. On some nights when I try to close my eyes and sleep won’t come for one reason or another, and I think about the times and places I lived in the Middle East, I become so nostalgic that it hurts. That’s when I realize that no matter where I live, trouble will always await me as if it were my own shadow.
Life is full of surprises, some good, some bad. So I have come to the conclusion that the best way to live my life is to have no expectations whatsoever, and to accept whatever life throws at me, instead of wishing for something that will never happen. As Ray Bradbury writes in his book Farewell Summer:
“Ice cream cones are always gettin’ done with. Seems I’m no sooner bitin’ the top than I’m eatin’ the tail. Seems I’m no sooner jumpin’ in the lake at the start of vacation then I’m creepin’ out the far side, on the way back to school. Boy no wonder I feel bad.”
“It’s all how you look at it,” said Doug. “My Gosh, think of all the things you haven’t even started yet. There’s a million ice cream cones up ahead and ten billion apple pies and hundreds of summer vacations. Billions of things waitin’ to be bit or swallowed or jumped in.”
“Just once, though,” said Tom, “I’d like one thing. An ice cream cone so big you could just keep eatin’ and there isn’t any end and you just go on bein’ happy with it forever. Wow!”
“There’s no such ice cream cone.”
“Just one thing like that is all I ask,” said Tom. “One vacation that never has a last day… Gimme just one thing with no tail-end and I’d go crazy. Sometimes I just sit at the theater and cry when it says ‘The End’… And there’s nothin’ so sad as the last piece of popcorn at the bottom of the box.”