The Launch of Maktoub 3 Loubnan

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The more I toy with the idea of leaving Lebanon, the more I realize how many Lebanese have gone through the same contemplation at one point or another. Many left and many returned but most stayed in their new adopted homelands, setting up a life and roots for the future. What I find peculiar about our diaspora is how connected one becomes with the country after leaving it. This is not special to us alone – after all, you can’t be homesick if you never leave home. But beyond the undying tie to the land, for once, you find people identifying themselves as “Lebanese” rather than as a member of a sect or political party. Why must we leave to create this kind of solidarity with the one thing that unites us all together?

Thinking about how spread out my fellow nationals are led me to start this project:
Maktoub 3 Loubnan. I want to create a record of those who were once here or feel linked to Lebanon by paper, blood, or memory. If you’re Lebanese and not living in Lebanon at the moment, please send a postcard indicating your new homebase to the address below:

Maktoub 3 Loubnan
P.O. Box 16 – 7115
Sassine Square
Beirut, Lebanon

All I ask is that you share a written memory of Lebanon and send it home. I want to unite these memories and share them with the world. I want to tell the story of who Lebanon has given to the world and what Lebanon has given to its people.

Postcards will be uploaded on the photoblog under the same name effectively building a visual archive of the Lebanese diaspora.

Care to be a part of it?

Dear Britain: An Alternative Reply from Lebanon

our Banksy replica, Mar Mikhael

our Banksy replica, Mar Mikhael

Dear Britain,

We appreciate the letter and thank you for the Independence Day wishes. Coming from a country that is fully equipped with a public transport system, functional infrastructure, as well as separation of church & state – well, we’re grateful for your advice.

It is true, we need to stop listening to everyone else and focus on ourself. However, maybe we can learn from each other. The fact that you have a reputation for raising our youth (the school systems, the language, and eventually adopting them when they arrive on your shores for graduate programs) is just one of the many things we could try to implement in our own way. If we invest in our rising stock of brainpower, we may have a fighting chance at becoming a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, we are good at networking in a world that will be built on networks but this cannot be used to allow a mass exodus of an intelligent and capable workforce. Unfortunately, one of our best exports is our bright minds and so many of our neighboring countries are benefiting from that.

Like most countries, we have many people that are not as privileged as others. These are the people that need the most empowering, employment, and empathy – such things that are out of reach because our government is in limbo and crippled at its best. Perhaps we are “so much better than we admit” but, in all honesty, being humble is not one of our strong points. You are right when you say that we should prioritize Lebanese interests and demand more from our leaders. That’s not a statement coming from a “higher power”, it’s common sense; yet another thing that is not our specialty.

Although we are aware that your motives for writing such a letter may be also in your best interests, as a population, we should learn when to embrace any form of support when we are on our knees and in need of someone in our corner.  We know how the public scene works and how difficult it can be as a foreigner who tries to appeal to the masses. We know your a busy-body that gets a lot of attention on social media. We know your representative donated blood on the day of the Bir Hassan explosion. We know you reach out to our youth and have conversations with them, making them feel like their opinions matter; this is something we have yet to master. Regardless of why, thank you for setting a good example.

Anyway, thanks again for the letter but we have to wrap this up – we’ve got a lot to do and tomorrow’s the first day of our new chapter.
Allah yberek fikon w kilkon zo2,
Lebanon

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Using achievements of the past or petty remarks about dental hygiene is no way to justify any form of condescension. Just be thankful and continue to work hard on your own efforts toward making Lebanon better.

My Email to the NSA

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Dear NSA,

I’m not going to expect you to read between the lines anymore. I know you’ve been reading my emails, screening my posts, and following my tweets. I know you have folders of my pictures dating back to when I was an awkward sophomore who mistakenly cut her own bangs and thought wearing her dad’s Champion socks was okay. I know you’ve saved some of my juicy gchats to keep you company on late nights. I know you read my blog and I’m sorry about my hating on GOT right before the massacre at the Red Wedding. I’m assuming you’re a fan because it’s all about the security of the realm and the defending of the throne; you know, your kinda thing. The season finale was still “meh” but I’m not going to poke at fresh wounds. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the joke’s on you. All this time, I was trying to reach you indirectly; I was trying to get you to fall for me because I knew you were watching my every move. To put it simply, I was playing you and I was playing hard to get.

But enough playing.

I’m addressing this one straight to you and I’m putting it in plain English so you don’t have to decipher my codewords or dissect my convoluted prose. You don’t have to download entire threads and reread them to know what I’m actually saying to you without saying it. You don’t have to be confused or say, “chicks don’t know what they want, man.” I will spare you the hormones, the mood swings, and the spazzed cat GIFs.  I don’t simmer in a hot tub full of any of the aforementioned things – except the cat GIFs, I can’t get enough of those – so I think what I want is going to be very clear to you if you haven’t already figured it out. I want you to want me.

I love that you care so much about me. Others would call it a “pathetic obsession” or a “violation of privacy.” I think you’re protective and you’re just watching over me.  My security is as important as yours. It’s almost one and the same. I hope that I’m not the only special one out there; I do wish that every person gets to feel this sense of being watched over by someone else.

And I’m not afraid to say any of this flat out because the mere fact that you are still hanging on every word I say, that you are going to great lengths to see what I will do next, that I intrigue you to such an extent – all this tells me that you are hooked. You can’t stop thinking about me. You want to know every detail because it fascinates you. How could it not? I feel like I am your pot of gold, found on the other side of the rainbow of light that bursts out of a prism. So there is only one conclusion dear NSA: you’re in love with me.

But don’t fret. I’m in love with you too.

Me

P.S. When I email myself, I think of you.

A Designer’s Love Letter

Dear Paper,

I have never expressed my love for all the things that make you different – that make you shine on a pedestal and make me want to sing Gavin DeGraw songs to you in the middle of a small-town BBQ. The amount of gratitude I have for your very existence cannot fit between the covers of a book.

You have given me so much of yourself that it is baffling how there is still anything left of you. I think the greatest thing you do for me is tell me what I’m afraid to tell myself even if you’re just repeating the words in my head in a different form. And when I forget or doubt all that I have told you or etched into your very fibers, you are instantly there to remind me. You allow me to soak in my memories and float away on a lily notepad of neglected ideas. Even your blank stare is not daunting or intimidating, all I have to do is start over. I have yelled at you, cried on you, and torn you to pieces. I’ve even sliced you with a box-cutter and thrown you away. You have been here to show me one basic truth: all things are possible.

You have become a recycled resource – a quality that is delicious in that your texture has a history that only my fingertips know. Pixels and light, it’s just not the same. I like the way you feel when I touch you, and your smell is…sometimes I smell you in the wind and in that moment, if I close my eyes, I can still smell you on my skin.

You are a fundamental part of every piece of art and beauty. Everything that has been constructed, made, or invented by me has begun with you. You are quiet and humble. You do not hum, click, or buzz. You do not need protection or updates installed. You are ever-lasting and timeless. You could survive a tsunami or an iceberg. Your only enemy is fire and it is only natural that you are not invincible but it is poetic that the only thing that can destroy you is something that burns. You disintegrate into ash and join the earth again.

Everyone around me seems to be aiming for the next digital explosive discovery. Not you. You are a dying breed. I see less and less of you and that is not entirely your fault – I’ve made decisions that left you up on a shelf waiting for me to remember you’re still there in the shadows.

All I ask is this: when you are there in the darkness, please know that I cherish every inch of you.

Designer

Jay-Z, Will You Be My Valentine?

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Hey Jay,

Can I call you Jay? First off, let me say that this is an entirely platonic Valentine request. I am not romantically in love with you, I do not want to make a rainbow of babies with you, and I don’t have any form of erotic fantasies involving your physical entity in any shape or form. Think of this as a friend request in the shape of a heart because my love is that sincere, ’tis the season, and it don’t cost a thing. Please don’t let my J.Lo reference count against me. Beyonce for life.

[And I mean that especially now – girl, I ain’t after your man. I just want to be part of your clique because you guys are the most stylish power couple with business brains. You also are smart personally – I mean look at Ye and Ri – they don’t know what they’re doing with their love lives. Be, I respect that you admitted to your lip-synching at the inauguration because Barack is your boy – you can’t let him down.  I also respect that you are the right match to Jay, equally pulling your weight financially and, probably, physically. Really, your monster thigh muscles scare me. Have no fear, I am not a threat even if I’m a white Arab chick from Beirut. Since we’re talking like this, I just have to say “Run the World” was just another single that followed the whole independent-woman streak you seem to fall back on too often and you can do better. You don’t need it, you’re BK from Texas.]

So Jay, as I was saying, I admire your ability to shift into many different realms of creativity. You’re a chameleon, while seeming totally down to earth, you are effortlessly suave, just a very cool guy who happens to have a net-worth of $500 million. And I don’t mean I’m after your money. I mean you are successful. Ambition is a quality that I want in the people that I surround myself with. Ambitious people give good inspiring energy.

Musically, don’t get me started. The Black Album is one of my favored LPs but the fact that you can make mashups with Linkin Park and Dolly Parton sound good separately – now that’s saying something. Then you go and work with JT and Timbs. YES. “Decoded” is a beautiful publication by the way. I was skeptical because that Nets logo was average, but the book is lovely. Your affection for your wife and family (blood or otherwise) is admirable. I don’t care if it’s publicity like that subway stunt with the grandma – I grinned like a buffoon – it’s good to see.

So what’s the initiation process to be an intern? Or just shadow you so I can soak up some residual awesomesauce? Do I take S-A-Zs? A test of 99 problems? Just grant me a moment of clarity to know what it takes. Ladies is pimps too but I won’t be standing at the “tabownacle” forever.

Thanks,

Me

P.S. – Is “that shit cray?” short for “crazy” or the Kray twins? Because if it’s the twins, I need to make a new t-shirt.

My Restraining Order to Enrique Iglesias

Dear Enrique,

First let me say that I am incredibly flattered by the level of your passion for me. I do think that feelings of this intensity are a beautiful thing when they are well-placed. Yours are so powerful…like I can run, I can die but I can’t escape your love. That would be endearing if it didn’t sound like you were actually willing to test the theory.

Second, honest to God, I wish that there was a part of me that felt the way you do because I have always wanted an all-consuming love affair with a man who isn’t afraid to wear a beanie. The problem though is that I want that longing to be reciprocal and you’ve begun to scare me with your fierce adoration.

I know you’re going to throw this back in my face and say that I’m in a rush to throw you away but it’s not like that. Don’t be offended that I’m taking legal action, we can be friends. From a distance. If you asked me to dance, I would dance. If you asked me to run, I would definitely run and never look back. I wouldn’t cry if I saw you crying though because you love to see me cry. I cry because the fact that you love to see me cry freaks me out so I cry some more and you just keep on loving and it’s this vicious cycle, you know? Don’t be sad either – think of it as just another Monday night.

Please don’t feel like I’m a mentiroso. I’ve told you all about this before and I know you’re tired of being sorry so this is the perfect arrangement for the both of us. You’re not in love habibi, it’s just a phase that you’re going through. I know you will survive.

Everything’s going to be alright,

Me

All I Have to Do is Dream

Dear Dreams,

I’m writing to you to ask for an explanation on a few things. You see, ever since I was young on to my undergraduate psych classes, I have heard conflicting information when it comes to your functionality. The only one that can reveal your true nature is you. I’d really love it if you could tell me the extent and purpose for your existence, the depth of your accuracy, and your relevance to reality.

According to Freud, you are a manifestation of the true desires of my subconscious. All the trepidations and conflicts that simmer in my brain come alive when it is in its resting state. The thing is, Freud, with his twisted complexes and theories, links almost all imagery to phalli, penetration, or the womb. I’m not about to assume that we all want to be ambushed into a game of musical chairs with veiny male genitalia just because our consciousness is on hiatus. Other theories about you claim that you are essential to development; while more say that you are completely insignificant, being just a series of randomly strung together memories or thoughts like a video montage done for an 80’s teen movie.

There are so many questions. For example, if I am in a lucid state of slumber and I die, could it be so vivid and believable that my brain would quit? Speaking of lucid, how do I know I’m not in one of those Matrix pods hooked up to a stalk in a field of humans being juiced for the machines? In behavioral neuro, we were told that the best way to tell if something was actually happening was to see if information was fluid. In other words, if you looked at your watch and it said it was 5p.m., check it again. If it changed, then you’re not in the real world. Of course, I don’t remember being in complete control when I’m unconscious except for the voluntary ability to scream or fall off my bed.

And that’s another thing: why are my memories of you so selective? Is it like emotional memory versus memory about emotions? An emotional memory is stronger than a memory about an emotion. For instance, you remember giving birth to your child but you don’t remember how it feels giving birth – because if you did, we wouldn’t have a population problem. If Freud is right and my mind is revealing all that I am denying myself, which is valuable info when you’re a lost puppy in your twenties, why do you slip away so quickly before I can even take notes? Don’t you want me to realize that I should direct a music video with Alejandro Sanz playing his Spanish guitar on a pink elephant? The greatest question for me though is this: why don’t you make any sense if you know me so well? If my brain is your creator, why do you feed me baloney sandwiches when you know it makes me nauseous ever since that Thanksgiving when I had one and hurled because I refused to eat turkey breast and gravy? What good is it to make me watch my mother tap-dance on my laptop? Maybe you are just a form of torture or a way of teaching me to be grateful that a black trench-coated figure isn’t standing in my closet waiting for a moment to smell my hair.

However, I am not just referring to the version of you in my head which is a combination of surreal and impossible. There is the abstract yet tangible version that has made you into a synonym for goals, aspirations, and “American Idols.” The you that I create intentionally without the ability to blame it on the Id. These are the wants I know I want, not the ones you tell me I need when I’m asleep. This is when we switch teams and, even though they are a part of you, you get confused about the extent and purpose for their existence, the depth of their accuracy, and their relevance to reality. Since I’m expecting an explanation from you about your half, I’ll give you one for mine.

The extent of their existence is always under construction until said dream has been accomplished. This is related to their purpose for existence: they exist as a form of personal drive so that I will have an endpoint to reach for, a destination in sight, an Emerald city at the end of my yellow bricked road. The depth of their accuracy is dependent on my sanity at the time of their inception. You are not allowed to judge me on this one because I think all the dreams that I conceive are more probable in nature in comparison to your  half-baked thought bubbles laced with LSD. They are quite relevant to reality for I am grounded in my ambitions. Don’t laugh at me for wanting to travel to New York City to become a successful designer who eats breakfast on the steps of the Met every morning. I know my life is not an episode of Gossip Girl and you know that a large portion of my motivation for going to NYC is just to find out if Gray’s Papaya is truly the shit. I know I may reach for the stars with some things but no one ever said being an eager beaver was a negative trait in a world where Paulo Coelho was wrong: when you want something, all the universe does not conspire in helping you to achieve it. If I’m dreaming of it, then I have to get off my ass and go get it.

It’s all quite simple. Your turn.

Sleep tight,

Me

Dear Unemployer

Update: This post was inspired by the struggle of many young people in my age group. It is written on their behalf and is not a diary entry directly related to my personal experience. 

Dear Unemployer,

First of all, thank you for rejecting me. I think about your graceful brush-off ever so often in the moments before sunrise. My mind creates scenarios as to why you were so cold and distant. I can’t help but wonder if you ever think twice about your decision. You seem to go on without any consideration. 

Second of all, I think you’ve made a huge mistake. In a world where the young dabble in “natural substances” and “travel to Amsterdam”, you should know that, regardless of my low tolerance for bubblegum cough syrup and that time I almost overdosed on Flintstone chewable vitamins, I’m as clean as the interior of a Clorox bottle. I also have a pristine virtual photographic history which is an asset in the age of the Internet. I don’t have pictures in digital space that will tarnish your company’s reputation. Ain’t nobody don’t ask me, I’m just so fresh, so clean.

I’ve done countless things to outshine all the other applicants. I’ve done internships, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and I’m a social media fiend. I once Facebooked a YouTube video that was tweeted from a Tumblr page on Pinterest. I don’t share bogus links featuring Morgan Freeman narrating the death of a 40 hamster-mass-suicide. I spread useful, original, corroborated stuff. I even blog about various important topics that affect our youth today like globalization, love, and happiness. Hell, I have two bachelor degrees and a minor. I know you’ll claim I don’t know a lot of languages in a market where the majority speaks at least 4 but I am eloquent in English, unintentionally hilarious in Arabic (I once said I did it with 3 cakes), and I can piece together enough French to order lunch for the office. I also have enough Armenian friends that I can tell you that although you think that “gogortilos” is a wicked Mexican dish consisting of sex wrapped in tortillas, it actually just means “crocodile.”

Lastly, I’m just an overall really GOOD person. It’s just in my nature ever since I was a child – I couldn’t eat meghleh when my younger sister was born because I thought it was made of Mowgli, I have an unexplained hate for Clive Owen, I use inappropriate jokes to see if a new acquaintance is weird enough to be my friend, and my vocabulary is not very “lady-like” at all times but that’s quite a sexist label for the fucking 21st century. What I’m trying to say is, my bad points hardly make a blip on the morality radar and the Dalai Lama would be my homie if I lived in Tibet. 

The fact that you have rejected me should probably discourage me. After all, you were my gateway to freedom, my paycheck to adulthood, my ticket to an unlimited supply of BIC pens. You’d give me the power to buy useless furniture and “decorative pieces” for my own living space; I’d finally own a statue and invite friends over for a night “at my place.” I’d be like “bring some wine” and they’d be all “okay, as long as you make your guacamole!” and then I’d freak out because avocados are expensive but it’d be okay because I’m making paper. Therefore, your rejection should make me feel hopeless and defeated. It doesn’t though. Sure, it stings like when you remember Hogwarts isn’t real, but I’m not that torn up. Actually, the Hogwarts void is harder to accept. I mean, come on, even you wonder what you’d see in the reflection of the Mirror of Erised. I used to think I’d see you but now I know that there are bigger and better things out there for me.

I will be diplomatic and say that, perhaps, I wasn’t the right fit for you. Maybe you aren’t meant to be with me. Maybe the fact that Kathy Bates‘ advice was easier to remember than anything ever explained in those etiquette classes in my private elementary school is a sign that I am on a different wavelength of comprehension so I will never get why you don’t want me. Or maybe I’m just too “overqualified.” In which case, you’re right, I’m too good for you. 

But you know what? Whatever it is, I really do thank you. If you can’t appreciate what I’m offering you then you don’t deserve to have me. Translation: I’m going to work for your competitor and make you cry someday. 

I’m strong, smart, and made to succeed. What’s funny is that I could’ve been all these things with you, but I guess you’ll never know since you let me go.

Warm Regards,
Unemployee

I Haven’t Forgotten You Yet


Dear AUB,

How’ve you been? Do you remember me? Of course, you do. We go way back. Haven’t heard from you in a while…

Actually, I know I say it’s been a while but it hasn’t. I didn’t think you’d move on so quickly. And for someone younger, quicker, and untainted by harsh realities no less. I get it. I guess I didn’t stand a chance. I thought there was a special bond between us- after graduation, when you met my parents, you said I’d never forget that night. I thought it was because you wouldn’t either. You did though.

I want to believe that this is the way things have to be. I want to believe it when you say I can have life and have it more abundantly because of you. Sure, being with you gave me the strength to discover what I really wanted. Staying with you helped me build the courage to go get it. But leaving you made me realize I had to do it alone. I don’t think I’ll be able to erase the effect you’ve had on my life. You erased mine on yours though. To you, I’m just another number.

Even with all this, I also didn’t think I’d still miss you this long after it all ended. I didn’t think you’d still make me grin sheepishly to myself whenever I hear your name. It seems, you will always be a part of me and I will always feel at home within your arms.

Taking a page out of Neruda’s book, I must accept that our time together is over. I must carry on with my life even though I carry you in my heart.

You know, even if I’m with someone else now, I still think about you. You never leave my mind.
But then again, they always say, there’s nothing like your first love.

I haven’t forgotten you yet,
Alumnus

A Heartfelt Letter from Brain

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Dear Heart,

I would’ve staged an intervention but you wouldn’t have endured it. Like so many times before, I have resorted to putting my thoughts into words since, it seems, only through a romantic written letter will you be open to thoughts that are an honest patch of free association writing.

First, let me address something that you are, no doubt, peeved about. I know you are not the heart, that cardiac thumping ball of blood and striated muscle fiber. I know you are the figurative heart and are so insulted by being represented by the organ, a pagan symbol or any song “written” by prepubescent teenagers whose blood could be used to jumpstart a menopausal woman in the midst of a hot flash. But for simplicity’s sake combined with my impatience to find the correct scientific label for your complicated and debated existence, I am just going to call you Heart. At least I capitalized it.

You are the abstract entity that is blamed for the avoidable pain in my life; the force that makes me stash an old 3 of hearts playing card in my wallet, the overwhelming compulsion to ignore all harmful repercussions, and the sneaky bastard that allows smells to creep up and open my Pandora’s box of buried memories. The power that, sometimes, gives me some form of immediate satisfaction at the expense of my mental sanity.

You are what I give away selflessly. And I give you away repeatedly and completely hoping that, one day, you will tell me you are safe forever. That you will not come back to me and set my insides on fire. That you won’t be angry with me for abandoning you in the care of another who let you go. And I should learn – but I give away all of you all over again. I say sincerely to the recipient , “I give you my whole Heart” and it’s not a lie because that’s the whole we have left. I lost parts of you along the way. You trust me even after you return, missing a piece. I know this sounds like I should be apologizing to you but not quite. I am just acknowledging that I have not been good to you, either. This is why I do not blame you for your form of payback, for making me feel like I swallowed a supernova while the rest of me yearns to be sucked into a black hole. What I’m saying is, maybe I deserve it.

I think you will be unharmed because I cannot imagine strapping a relative of yours to a fender and dragging your bloody carcass through the town square. I assume that no one will do that to you. That no one can do that to you. Because I can’t do it to them. Somehow, I feel you won’t be a sacrifice. It always seems like a fair trade. You shouldn’t have to be retaped together and then placed in line with a lawn mower. I should protect you.

The problem, though, is this: you tell me it is okay. You practically volunteer. I hear about the symptoms of devastation and internal spontaneous combustion that can result from mishandling a Heart. I know about the withdrawal that comes in fits after the addiction owns your veins. And I think you know, too. But you get so captivated, so certain that the vulnerability will make you stronger. You get so courageous that even my fears are squashed by an Acme anvil. 
Heart, I need you to be careful. I know there is beauty in what you seek. I know that you are not naive and reckless. You are laying yourself on the line in exchange for tackle hugs, silent dances, and tangible tenderness that time will stand still for because it gives you a constant to depend on. 
You are taking a leap of faith. Just be easy on me when I’m the only one there to catch you if you fall.
Love,
Brain