When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I loved books and paper and pens. I loved to read books and create stories in my head. I loved to collect pens and pencils and journals and diaries and notebooks of every shape and size; white paper, colored paper, lined paper, blank paper…
My favorite pastime was doodling on a blank page. I would just write anything and everything on the page. Stories I came up with, things that happened to me, thoughts that occurred to me, phrases that did not make sense at all. I would continue writing for as long as the ink lasted in my pen. And then I would tear up the pages. As Arthur Hailey writes:
“I never just sit and think; I do it by making notes because you doodle naturally. The first ideas are always very naïve, and I always destroy them because I never want anyone to read them.”
By the time I was in high school, the civil war had started in Lebanon. Overnight everything changed. All the dreams that I had for my future suddenly became impossible for me to realize given the terrible state of the country. I gave up on most of my dreams – survival became the priority.
Years went by and I finished university and got married. The company where my late husband worked closed its offices in Beirut and they offered to transfer us to Dubai. We were lucky. It was a wise move at the time, even though it was emotionally very stressful.
The war was still going on in the country and we were leaving behind our families and friends. At the same time, we were happy since we both had jobs waiting for us in Dubai. For us having a job meant security and peace of mind.
By the time the civil war stopped we were already settled in Dubai. We had our circle of friends, and somehow Dubai had become our home away from home. Our life seemed to be normal once again and I was free to dream. Finding the courage to dream again, I also found that the parts of myself I had put aside or misplaced were alive and well.
Neil Gaiman writes:
“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”
I started writing. I participated in writing workshops and enrolled in correspondence courses. I stopped tearing up the pages I wrote and I started to share my writings with others. I realized that the more freely and openly I spoke about myself and my experiences the more people could relate to them, and the more connected I felt to the world. The more genuine I became in communicating my feelings and doubts, the more people connected with my writing. In the words of Carl Rogers:
“That which is most personal is most general.”
Dubai offered me comfort and safety and my job gave me the security I needed to realize my dream. I became not only a writer but an author too when my first book got published there.
I still remember our first Christmas in Dubai. In December 1985, on Christmas Eve, after attending my husband’s company’s Christmas dinner, we stopped at the nearest supermarket to buy some milk on our way home. As we were about to enter, a group of little kids came out shouting and screaming cheerfully. They were so young that the oldest looked hardly ten years old. They were kids from the neighborhood, the boys wearing their traditional dishdashes and slippers, and the girls in their long colorful dresses with their black shiny hair combed into long braids. The youngest of the boys, the tiniest, stopped to speak to us. His face beaming with happiness he said in an excited and loud voice,
“Look! He gave me Christmas, did he give you yours?”
He showed us his hands. He was such a sight to look at. We went in to find Santa handing out goodies and sweets, much to the amusement of the local kids.
So whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or New Year you’re celebrating, I hope it will bring joy and peace to your hearts the same way it brought happiness to that little boy even though he belonged to a different faith.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!