Doing the Spanish Limbo

149H

Courtesy of Gratisography

The worst thing about temporarily setting up your life in a new city is that it’s temporary. I feel as though I’ve been suspended a foot over the asphalt for 3 months. I couldn’t get too comfortable because my  expiration date would soon come to pop the balloons overhead.

During this suspension, I’ve been partially living in Barcelona. Working as an intern, staying in an Airbnb apartment, and partying with visiting Lebanese friends. I’ve been floating just a few inches above the complete submersion into Catalonia. Teetering between tourist and expat is such a beautiful way to learn about the world but the allure can only last so long – especially for someone who doesn’t know how to live without a plan, to live without roots or some kind of routine.

Truth is, I started packing 9 days ahead of my flight (also to see if a pair of classic black & white  Superstars could be shoved into my second suitcase) and I’m ready to hit the ground running. I want to go sit in Urbanista for 6 hours drinking cappuccinos and planning AIGA ME events. I want to see the Sursock Museum and spend a Saturday in Horsh Beirut. I want to make some money and build my empire. I want to go to AUB to hang out with some affectionate cats while eating Kababji tabbouli on the Green Oval. I don’t want to be surrounded by garbage, deal with a shitty internet connection, or count how many weeks we’ve gone without a president. But I do want to start making my next move. I want to get back to my life. Real life.

Beirut, even if Putin is hijacking our airspace, I’m coming for you.

Wake-up Calls

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

Courtesy of Death to Stock Photo

There are some conversations that serve as wake-up calls. You may not notice them when they happen and the person you’re talking to may not realize that they’re snapping you out of a hypnotic routine. They’re not telling you anything you don’t already know but they’re a human catalyst forcing you to react and turn off autopilot. Below are 3 of my own.

Spring 2007
I had wanted to change the major on my enrollment card before starting my first year at AUB but decided to give pre-med a try. Worst case, I would transfer to architecture after a semester. But every term, I’d start out strong, get encouraged to stick to it, and then steadily plummet to mediocrity by the time finals rolled around. In this particular class of my second pre-med semester, I had survived my 3rd quiz of organic chemistry with Dr. Kaafarani. By survived, I mean my average was now suffering thanks to tanking on the last quiz before the final.  Kaafarani noticed this trend and asked me how I was doing in my other classes. I told him the truth, that I was doing very well in anything that wasn’t pre-med and it wasn’t something I was used to since I had always been a high-achiever. “Have you ever considered pursuing a major in humanities?”

When someone says that in our society, especially an instructor, it’s as if saying you’re not good enough for the science route. But coming from him and the way that he asked about my academic history, interests, and saw that I could perform well, it seemed he was telling me what would take me another 2 years to be convinced of: I could do it but I just didn’t want it badly enough. I graduated from AUB and went into the design program at LAU that same year.

June 2014
I had just finished up with an AIGA ME event at Coop D’etat for Beirut Design Week. A couple of expats had joined me for some beers so we could all catch up with each others’ lives. I was talking about my job and what I wanted more of, where I saw myself going, and what I wanted to do when my friend said, “you’re living in your worst case scenario right now.”

Where I was, at that moment, was an option that would always be available to me. If I tried to go do something else for a little while and it didn’t work out, I could return to my safety net. Home wasn’t going anywhere. But if I didn’t try to explore the possibilities in front of me, I would not move forward. I would be accepting the back-up as if it were the only path I could be on. The next day, I asked for a transfer to another office within my company’s network. It didn’t work out but it got the ball rolling.

February 2015
I’ve previously posted about this particular wake-up call. Following the passing of a high school friend and then a girl in my gym class, the words of the instructor struck a chord. He told us,“tell the people you love that you love them when you can.”

Nothing new or profound about that statement but, in retrospect, it may have been a combination of things that made his words give me chills after an hour of cardio. Love is the sole motivating force behind everything I do and I’ve always felt that you should put your entire heart into every action. That month, I was feeling stuck in molasses, trapped in a repetitive cycle that even a quick trip to Dubai couldn’t break. I was losing my drive, my passion, my self. This wake-up call was more about time, how little of it is spent wisely, and how much of it is invested in the wrong places or people. Eventually, I resigned from my job so that I could take advantage of my abilities, my privileges, and my future but, in order to do that, I wanted to have some say in the present.

I don’t know if these examples are as monumental as I’m making them seem here; like I said above, they’re usually triggers to thoughts that were already cooking, coming to a steady boil. Still, they are the sparks that light the fire under you and we could all use some heat to catapult us out of complacency. Feel the burn.