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June 23, 2021

My Country vs. Me: Why Survival may mean Leaving. 

The piercing sound of the alarm clock woke me up that Thursday morning as I stretched within my cozy warm haven.

Phone in hand to turn off the alarm, I came across a couple of messages from colleagues voicing their frustrations as they were driving to work. “Fill up your tanks today as the fuel companies will run out of gas in the next couple of days.” 

A large number of gas stations have recently closed down and you will not be able to miss the long queues at the ones that are open, causing the extensive traffic this morning.

Since the Lebanese citizens’ fear of rationing and shortages has intensified, the issue has escalated.

Unable to drag myself out of bed, I reflected on the various turn of events that Lebanon has witnessed this past year, and how day after day everything is going downhill. When everything around you is falling apart, how can you drag yourself out of bed? How can you motivate yourself to be a better version of you?

Picturing my day, I envisage hopping into my car. I would need to pass by the gas station and fill up my tank, which in turn would take me a minimum half hour, and then get stuck in traffic for an additional hour in order to get to work. You want to believe that your job means something in spite of everything that is happening, however, how can you when you are living in an unequal work environment?

Desperate to motivate yourself, you strive to accomplish a milestone not just in your career, but in the company’s timeline as well. Is that a consistent way to keep yourself driven? Don’t you need compensation, entitlement, or even praise?

The day hasn’t even started yet and there are a million things to worry about:

“What is happening to the currency fluctuations today?”

“Will we ever get our money back from the banks?”

“Are we able to guarantee our parents’ medications this month?”

“Will we be able to actually afford our food necessities—that is if there is anything left on the shelves?”

Finally, as I drive back home and see the port to my left, I feel so beaten up inside as life goes on and nothing and no one is being held accountable for the mass exodus our politicians have neglectfully implicated on everyone. Trying to avoid the cataclysmic sight, I turn the other way to see the mounds of trash piling up on the streets in a dispersed manner, until I reach home.

It’s 6 p.m. Instantly, the power is cut off and we wait for the generator to kick in. To end this horrific day, I would have enjoyed a glass of wine with my friends on the balcony.

Fortunately, none of them are here to experience this demeaning existence. Many gave up on this country a long time ago and they were lucky enough to have left for better and wider opportunities. For those of us who stayed, whether because of our families, our love for our country, or just because there was no way out, we are trapped.

Some of us have invested all our income in a local business or project, while others have witnessed their entire life savings depreciating before their eyes, with nothing they can do about it.

We all want to believe that everything is going to flip back around to the way it used to be—even if that wasn’t enough. We are holding on to some kind of optimism that may never happen.

There will always be this pattern of destruction waiting to be unloaded onto us. Every time this butterfly tries to spread its wings, it is cut off.

We have no money, our dreams are shattered, our friends and relatives have fled the country, and we are done fighting a battle that is bigger than us. We just want to survive, and there is nothing selfish about that.

We deserve that freedom of expression, thought, and choice. Freedom to feel safe and pursue happiness. Freedom to evolve—autonomy and democracy.

There’s a word that keeps echoing back to me: “Leave.”

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