Freedom I Want, Attachments I Need.

After writing on belonging, side talks with a couple of friends, few messages, and comments on the blog gave me a hard time sleeping. Amazing,! It is working! I am reflecting on my reflections in what apparently turned into an infinite process. Yay, thank you all!

These talks set off several thoughts, and one particular pressing idea kept on nagging on me, and still.

I always believed that true relationships are essential to be a true version of myself; to give space for a better version to emerge; to feel safer in the midst of a cruel world (inside and outside); to discover unknown realms of life; to be happier. And I am also aware that these true relationships are embodied through beautiful people, and not in the abstract. Hence, my need for special people, for friends in my life is crucial to love and be loved, all times, everywhere, I mean in general of course. But doesn’t this contradict entirely with the concept of freedom (that I was hailing in my previous post), by which I should not be attached to anyone or anything that forms a condition to happiness?

Was I lying to myself celebrating a deceiving freedom that will no longer exist once I find new “attachments” in my new place? Attachments that come with the new locational bonus, and “physical” presence! Am I celebrating a mere transitory freedom?

Oh, I think I am. Well, this sounds heavy, but I am afraid it is also true. At least it has been true for the past 8 years, where I didn’t enjoy any changing situation I lived through, until I created a “family” around me. Yes, I always used to the term “family”, and today I think I see why. I wanted us to be “attached” for good, assuming that is how families are supposed to be. Then, when lately my actual family fell apart, this illusion disappeared, but the need to be part of a whole never ceased.

That is who I am. So, how I can be free and real at the same time? Can I ever live life to the fullest free of attachments? For now, I don’t know. What I know is that I am waiting for my new ecosystem in Montreal to see light, so life becomes brighter, more meaningful and funnier.

Until then, Canadian winter is the best excuse for a slowly emerging social life. I am just afraid that it stops snowing prematurely.

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On Belonging, Freedom & Happiness…

If, by any chance, you and I happened to know each other few years ago and we dialogued on the concept of belonging, I would argue that human beings cannot live happily without belonging to something. And by “something” I would be either referring to a place or to a group of people.

This has changed entirely! And I am still reconciling with this change.

During the time I spent in Beirut between 2015 and 2017, if anyone asked me where I am from, my straight answer would be “from Aleppo”, not from Syria. It wasn’t about the geography or the culture (though the Aleppian cuisine was and still my favourite). It was simply about my identity. My WhatsApp status sounded more like a motto: “From Aleppo with love”. Yes, I know, I took the idea of a personal status too personally.

My sense of belonging to my city was overwhelming. Therefor, all my attempts to replicate my Aleppo life in Beirut were in vain. I hung out with the same Aleppian group with whom I spent my last couple of years in Aleppo; we occupied a cafe shop run by an Aleppian guy in the Hamra district in Beirut; talked about the day we will all return to Aleppo and so on so forth. All that failed to reproduce the same old feelings.

There, there was a revelation! I don’t belong to the friends we used to live together in Aleppo. I only belong to Aleppo the city.

And then I visited Aleppo. That was in mid 2017. By then, the vast majority of my friends and family had left the city, and those who stayed were too distanced from themselves to relate to. They were living with no future at hand, and hence all their talk was about the past, which I was fleeing or contesting. Places have been changed, or destroyed. I was a stranger in what once used to be my hometown.

There, there was a new revelation! I don’t belong to Aleppo the city.

Then what! For me belonging is a condition to happiness. And honestly, I want to live my life happily. It took me few years to process all of this. I finally realised something interesting about myself.

I realised that I belonged to “the concept” that I am from Aleppo, and to “the concept” that I am from this or that group, rather than an actual belonging to a city, or to people.

This realisation explained a lot! When I have been recently expressing that I belong to “a community in Beirut”, I was in fact pointing at the values, the struggle, the fun, and the new “home” that I shared with my friends. Again, concepts! Concepts that are realised through people I love, or maybe hate.

I am not trying here to sound profound or sophisticated, but rather to be in touch with my own truth. The truth that sets me free.

Once I discovered that I belong to concept/s, I found a way to freedom. And with freedom, I found a way to unconditioned happiness. Today, I can say that I belong to no specific place, to no specific people. I belong to the values, to the purpose, to the interests that I can share with different people in a different places.

This current belief comforted me as my “belonging” to the people who already have special place in my life is liberated. It goes beyond space and time because the concepts that brought us together persist.

Although happiness away from my friends in Beirut and elsewhere is not easily foreseeable, I am eagerly waiting for Montreal to introduce me to new “concepts” that I would admire, and follow to find new pieces of myself.

And until further notice, Aleppo food remains the best.

Reflecting on change: from pharmacy to “hmm, I don’t know exactly how to explain it”!

In a previous life, I used to be a pharmacist, but not any more. I only claim to be one when I am on a cab, in front of an immigration officer, or when I want to convince a friend to see a doctor or take meds. Otherwise, I am “hmm, I don’t know exactly how to explain it!”.

I quit pharmacy around 6 years ago. Or maybe, I did quit it 16 years ago, the day I decided to study something I didn’t really know much about, or at least I knew I had no passion for it. However, it took me 5 years of study and 5 years of practice to eventually manage to take that step and move on.

Today, I work in peacebuilding and social development, a field that I chose, studied and loved. But you know, or you can imagine, that it is not easy to explain what I really do in short – or even to give it a name – especially when people expect a “pharmacy-type” answer.

It was frustrating! Not only due to external responses, to be honest. It was me who at times expected a “pharmacy-type” reaction, and then was hit with a polite disappointment.

That is why, in some situations I retreat to my older version, to save myself and my interlocutor an embarrassment. “I am a pharmacist, Madam!”.

On one hand, people’s uncertainty about what I do, used to evoke my doubts. With time, I managed to build some immunity, or maybe some self-awareness. However, I don’t deny it. I still ask myself from time to time “are you sure about it?!”.

On the other hand, a passionate conversation with a friend from the field, or a nice story from work, give me a sense of meaning and pride. I found my way!

Obviously the credit for making that turn was not totally mine! It cost the country a war, and my community a dissolution, so that I found a way out of my undisputed perceived reality. It was the external uprising that inspired my internal revolution. Before that, having other options was not an option whatsoever. All I could dream of was making some modifications within the boundaries of “what is now”.

Today I wonder. Is it possible that peace imprisons us in our realities, while wars set us free? Does “change” have to be that costly? I am afraid in my case, both answers are yes!

Ironically today I work in peacebuilding. I deeply hope I am not contributing in creating any mental or social “prisons” of any type that would cost people 16 years – or a war – to break away from their realities and discover their own ways. I deeply hope I will never be asked to choose between peace and change. “Pardon me! I am not sure I understood your question. I am a pharmacist, Madame!”

Blogging to cope with change, through creating further changes!

At the age of 34, I am writing my first blog. Thanks for giving it some of your time. Although I thought of starting my blog few years ago, I haven’t typed down a single word under so many pretexts. So why now?

Coping with change might come easier with further changes, I suppose. They (the new ones) might give further meaning to the original change, I hope! I moved last week form Beirut to Montreal; a step that I have been avoiding for a long time. This was my second biggest move in my life after leaving Aleppo (my home town) traveling to Brighton in 2013 pursuing my Masters.

But this time, I had a new revelation! I found that moving in time and space is the easiest thing in the whole journey. The hardest part actually, is the travel across the different ego levels; from a boosted ego (that I used to enjoy in Beirut) to almost a zero-level one (that I am experiencing now in Montreal).

I think I can claim that I am aware of the trap of this ego shift, and I need to talk about it maybe more later. Nevertheless, this awareness doesn’t make the challenge that it imposes on me in my adaptation phase any easier.

I still have to deal with few serious questions like: WHO I AM HERE, NOW? and WHO I WANT to BE, SOON?

Thus, I decided to start blogging! As you might tell, this is one added change I created to deal with the original – the geographical – one, not as a distractor, but as a stabiliser, as I hope.

I like to see this space as a new tool to face myself with new questions, to challenge it to find some answers, and to park all emerging thoughts and inspirations in one interactive space. Hence, thanks a lot for enriching my journey with your interaction.

From -35c Montreal

Elias