The comfort in change

Ask anyone that has spent their adolescent years in Dubai, and they will tell you that one thing is clear; people come and go.

I’ve always thought of Dubai as a waiting room. It was usually clear to me that this was not the final destination. My parents were going to go back to Lebanon at some point; my brother and I were going to study abroad after we graduated, and then maybe get a job in Dubai for a few years and then leave. It was a waiting room for everyone I’ve ever met, either people with me in school, leaving with their parents to continue life back in their hometown because circumstances have lead up to this point, or people I’ve worked with that just know that they will stay in their jobs for two years and then leave somewhere else. I’ve never met anyone whose final destination was Dubai, unless they were going to raise a family (and even then, Dubai was constantly followed by until further notice). And that should be a given, because the majority of the people that I’m referring to are expatriates (including myself); and we all are currently doing something that takes a couple of weeks/months/years until the plan changes.

What aggravated me the most about it was the fact that it was inevitable that people would leave, and they all did. Some people stayed for university but all others are scattered around here and there, never really at home, never really lost.

It turns out that this was never only about getting used to change and understanding circumstances, it was mainly about getting used to the fact that most things simply are temporary.

I remember dreading the house moves (we’ve moved houses around 4 times while staying in Dubai, it’s not uncommon), and then moving to another country for three years, and then moving to another continent, and you end up finding parts of yourself in some places you lived in, and also end up leaving bits of yourself in these places, and in some people too. We leave footprints that are much more complex than passport security stamps and crossed borders. We’ve travelled to many more places than we’d like to admit, that we sadly won’t have a stamp to prove of because the only proof we’ll ever have will inevitably have to be traced in our heads.

I’m currently sitting amongst the overwhelming clutter in my dorm room in France; the reason for the clutter is the obvious packing, and once again I find myself in a bitter-sweet situation where I want things to stay the same, but at the same time the usual reshaping is already taking place, and I don’t really have a say in it.

I really do wonder sometimes if there will ever be a constant. But then again I wonder if I would want that.

I think that’s why we cherish particular moments so much; if they’d always happen, they’d probably lose their value. It’s the fact that you can lose them from today to tomorrow that makes you grab on. Because the only thing permanent about moments is their bitter-sweet unfortunate exceptional temporariness.

The voice of a Sunday in Grenoble

Sundays to me feel especially relaxed and laid back, which is why I enjoy finishing up some work that has to be done for the upcoming week, most probably because stress is minimized; people stay in bed all day and most shops are closed.

It’s usually pleasantly quiet. As I was working on my laptop, reading up on some faint concepts of brand management, I squint at my paper, tracing my notes, trying to glue the information to my head, when I suddenly hear a voice coming from outside my dorm-room. Immediately thinking it’s either my upstairs or downstairs neighbor, I don’t really pay attention to it.

I go back to my notes, still hearing the voice coming from somewhere I can’t really point out, I start recognizing a very familiar tune.

In a rush of unexpected disbelief, I drop my pen and hurry to my balcony, as I was hearing an Arabic song that I had recognized, called Fo2 el Nakhal. I tried to be very quiet in order to know where the sound was coming from, and whether the person was in my building, as I still managed to listen to him sing the entire song.

As quiet as it was in a little street in Grenoble, France, not many engines running or people talking, the only thing you could hear was his voice echoing in the quiet street. I stayed outside for about two minutes with my feet firmly stuck to the cold floor, tip toeing from the third floor of a student residency, trying to see if this person was on his balcony.

It was heartwarming to hear the familiar tune, even though I’ll never be able to link a face to the voice, but for a second a Sunday in Grenoble felt a lot like a Sunday in Beirut.

 

My teacher asked me to write this.

My day started with 11 coughs in a row, 2 Panadol pills, a blocked nose and a sore throat. For the second week in a row.

I’m personally convinced that I have discovered a new species of bacteria and living organisms inside my body, as I feel nothing human in me anymore.

You see people usually get sick for a few days, but I have managed to become one with the virus. As I fight my way through morning agony and unbearable sunshine, I drag my sorry little legs to school. A two minute walk that feels like a 2 mile hike. What’s even more incomprehensible is that I live with a roommate that wakes up literally twenty minutes before the class, and always, and I mean ALWAYS, manages to arrive to class before me. I don’t understand how she does it, it’s really beyond me how I wake up at 7:20 am for an 8am class and I still manage to be late every. single. day. 

I looked at her this morning, and she looked back at me, and I felt her questioning my decision to brush my teeth in the living room, but she did not ask, and I would not have bothered to answer.

Regardless, I arrive to class and the brouhaha hits me like a brick wall, as most things do nowadays. It’s a constant buzz in your ear, but then again, I’ve gotten used to it, and it helps get your mind off things when you feel like death is a few sneezes and Panadol pops away.

We meet with our groups, the ones that I saw a couple of hours ago (last night, working on our presentations, a constant and ongoing, never-ending state in GEM school, where social life slowly disappears, so does rationality… and sanity, but who needs those right?)

and now I’m behind my keyboard, writing this post, word after word as the teachers glares at my screen from the back. Wishing this keyboard was a cushion and this chair a bed. I’m going home.

TO ALL ADULTS WHO ARE FAILING AT ADULTING

If you’ve ever felt like a complete and utter failure of a human adult; i.e if you ever feel like you really, truly, unquestionably suck, don’t you worry! You’re not the only one that does 🙂

To those who have snoozed the alarm over four times in the morning even though they mentally promised themselves the night before that they were going to wake up at 8am and run to the grocery store. I salute you. 

To those who have had different flavors of chips as their balanced meal for breakfast. I salute you. 

To those who wore the wrong attire to a business event, those who wore mismatching socks because they were too lazy to do the laundry for two straight weeks and now have to deal with what’s left in their drawers. To those who tried sitting on their shirt to try to remove the wrinkles instead of ironing it because they do not have an iron and absolutely need that one shirt for this one interview, I feel you. (no, mom, I did not actually do this one.)

To those who pretend to forget to brush their teeth at night, you know who you are!

Those who pretend to like children but actually try to scare them when their parents are not looking.

To those who have never even used a treadmill in their lives, and are constantly surrounded and reminded of their lack of physical movement and health awareness. I am here for you. & I hear you. I’m also here to those who promise themselves they are going to sleep at 11:30 max and end up turning off their laptops just around 3am.

To those who have been having the same meal for the past couple of lunches just because they don’t feel like learning a new recipe, and to those who sit WAY too long under their hot shower and even WAY longer in their bath robes just contemplating life and scrolling through their newsfeeds, naked. Rolala mais comment j’vous feel! 

To those who break half the egg on the table and the other in the pan, those who forget the oil on the pan for too long, and those who forget to turn the heat on altogether. I’ve recently realized that you can mess cracking an egg open and heating it up even if it’s not your first time making an omelette! Life is really full of wonderful surprises, so let’s just hug, right here, altogether and embrace our mutual suckiness. Take it all in. Take a napkin if you need.

The list goes on and I feel it, because (truly sorry mom and dad, but especially mom, who struggled to make me wear slippers around the house; which I still sometimes don’t.). I really try to “adult” but there is just so much to do and I cannot thank you enough for not loosing your marbles on me (most of the time). Thank you for your patience, and I promise I will try to adult better; but for now, it’s pretty much trial and error.

 

Particulars; and why you need to surround yourself with them.

Think about how much more wonderful life would be if every person on this earth did what they were passionate about and pursued it ’till the very bits of its end. Think about the outcome and how much positivity you will be surrounded with. How great it would be to be courageous and driven enough to run after what you want (and, in a perfect world, conquer all obstacles thrown in your way and find long term success, whatever that success may be.) How much more clear laughs will sound and how truer words will be spread.

Sometimes it hits me late at night (as it did now, I’m afraid), right as I’m trying to draw a close to my day for a few hours before I begin again; I really start to think (and I know you did too, at some point in time, think my exact thoughts), that time is running by. I don’t want to put it harshly but there is a finish line and sooner or later everyone will cross it and that’s about as clear as day. But unlike usual marathons, this one counts on what you actually accomplish on your way to the red band you will tear, because everyone will reach it; and unfortunately the faster you do, the worse it will be for you, because the saddest part about the marathon is that there are absolutely 0 winners. You won’t be given a trophy for finishing first or arriving a few seconds after the winner, what will determine your “success” is how you ran (I hope I haven’t milked this metaphor too much, please tell me if I did).

My mind was wandering around ideas like how much less weight there would be over our tired little shoulders if people really dug deep to find what truly and unquestionably motivates them and makes them happy, and went after it.

Throughout my (still pretty short compared to others) life, I have met a wide range of people, and I have realized why it is that I am attracted to those that I will from now on forward call “particulars”. They are the particular souls that you just feel are different from the rest of the bunch; and that difference usually comes from them being open about what they like, what motivates them, and generally who they are as people. They are the ones who are unafraid to question themselves repeatedly and fearfully (yes, fearfully), but they do, and they try as much as they can to do what they love in a world absolutely filled and overflowing with judgements and pre-judgements and pre-pre judgements and doubt and the fear of what will happen if I do what I actually love doing. These particulars inject what they love doing in their daily lives and you can just feel their presence when they walk into work or when they get back home. They are the artists who, even if they did not become artists, ended up injecting art in their lives so well that they never needed a canvas.

If you know these particulars/ if you’ve felt their presence before, you will know who I’m talking about. These are the people who are not just “good” at what they’re doing, they are the change and the difference. They are what makes this life extremely enjoyable in all its mundanity and unpleasantly usual routines.  They can be that teacher you had that really, really made an impact on you, a person you met in the office that does their job so absolutely brilliantly that you start questioning what you really got from your Masters Degree. They can be a classmate that teaches you so much more than what’s written on the slides, and who knows? It can even be you, particular person. (Because I’ll let you in on one last little secret before I literally fall asleep on my keyboard: we are all f***ing particulars! In our own ways. But for your own mental health, stay around these people, learn from them and let them influence you in the best way possible and let them make your brain itch sometimes because the clock is still ticking! and you’re still running, but by being more particular, in your own way, you’ll learn to forget that there’s a finish line.

*Sidenote forgive the cheesiness in this post if you smelled it, it’s 2:33 am and my brain may be farting bubbles. Hope you enjoyed the read 🙂

Number 5

“Mon Paris, right?” -an old french woman remarks, as I was telling my friend to smell my wrist to fully take in the scent that I sprayed on a few minutes ago.

I look at the woman just a few feet behind me, surprised by her immediate recognition of the scent.

“Yes, it is” I smiled.

“It’s a great fragrance”

“I fully agree”

The woman was around her mid-sixties, faint makeup on her lips and a dusty rose on her eyelids. She was holding on to the leather she had around her arm with the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram.

“But honestly Black Opium has much more distinctive tones”

“Yes it’s much more bonbon” I nodded in agreement.

“But my major preference is Chanel number 5.”

And Chanel number 5 fit her like a glove. It’s what she had decided to wear on her that day and that’s when I recognized the strongly familiar scent. She was elegant and knew her fragrances quite distinctively. Her collection of perfumes included Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Chloë, and she could tell between them, and knew which one fit the occasion; and on that day she had recognized a scent I had barely sprayed on my wrist, that had made its debut in France not so long ago, I believe it had been on the market for only a few months.

The woman was particular in the way she dressed, very chic and elegant; and I knew I wanted to write about her the minute the conversation ended.

As my friend and I walked around Grenoble on a Wednesday evening in January, I saw a few other women with some similarities. They were so elegant and tasteful. Some of them walked in clothing shops dressed in black skirts to their knees, blazers with embroidery and pretty little details. Women with polished nails and statement hats, wrapped in elegance and chic faux-fur scarves, pointed heels and red lipstick, the smell of Chanel number 5 following them wherever they went, and I was fortunate enough to talk to one of them that day.

Holding on

My recent plane trip to Dubai was very far from forgettable, and I’m going to tell you why.

The flight takes about 7 hours total and that was already a burden for me, as I do not like flying, nor do I like sitting in one little chair for hours pretending like we’re not 40 000 feet above the ground, while trying to enjoy food that looks like it has been canned for months (Sidenote: Shoutout to Emirates Airlines for making edible food that people can actually enjoy. Thank you for relieving us from the pain we have to endure on other flights.)

Anyway back to our moutons, I’ve honestly been starting to associate longer flights with bumpier outcomes. I know it’s probably completely wrong, but every time I’ve been on what I call “the longer flights” (+4 hours), we seem to have a lot more turbulence, and THAT my friends, is scary for me. It is both life-threatening & stress-inducing for my little heart to handle and I CAN’T TAKE IT OKAY, I’M SERIOUSLY THINKING OF TRAVELING VIA HORSE FROM NOW ON. I just need to be on the ground.

On this stressful-7-hour-long-flight, the first thing the captain told us when we fit our tired little bums into the narrow seats was “folks, the flight is going to be a little bumpy, so please keep your seat belts on when the seat belt sign is switched on”. The man was speaking as if we were on a bus driving 80km/hour on a rough highway. MY MAN, WE ARE FOURTY THOUSAND+ FEET OFF THE GROUND, WHAT DO YOU MEAN A LITTLE BUMPY?

And bumpy it was. I had never experienced such bumpiness actually. And I don’t think I have ever prayed this much on a plane (or anywhere, really). Jesus, Allah, Vishnu etc. they were ALL CALLED UPON. I needed safetyyyyyyyy. After a big “bump” that ended up dropping the plane literally maybe 1 foot in a matter of seconds, I was on edge.

And suddenly, the woman sitting in front of me asks her husband, sitting on her left, if he’s awake. In which he does not respond although his eyes were slightly open. So she looks at him anxiously and asks him again louder, while touching his arm. Things were starting to alarm her (and me, because I was looking at what was happening). She immediately removes her seatbelt and sits on his lap for direct and clear interaction with his face, as the plane was dark due to dimmed lights; and she starts talking louder, her voice shaking, calling his name and pressing her hands against his cheeks. She wanted to call a flight attendant but no one was there so I pressed the blue button you press for them to come. Slowly, people around the couple started noticing something was happening and people offered help, one man even slapped her husband to wake him up. Scary-long -story-short the man did not die, but he ended up needing 3 oxygen tanks to stay awake and breathing, as he was falling in and out of consciousness.

But strangely enough, even though I saw his face and all other encounters we had on the flight, the only image now glue-stuck to my brain is her face, looking at his like it was the last time she will be able to. It is a state you do not wish to see people in, whether you know them or not. It is a state of unfortunate panic, and what sticks to my mind is that mix of incomprehensible emotion I was seeing from a woman I had never met in my life. I saw shock, incomprehension, and all similarly unpleasant emotions, but I saw overwhelming immediate unquestioned love. That woman held his face and started kissing him before any of the flight attendants showed up, before anything started happening she put her face against his and did the only thing she understood at that moment. She held on while she still could.

As often as we see it on social media posts and quotes, do not take the moments we have with with loved ones for granted. Love them everyday and remind them whenever you can, because that moment you have with them is euphoria. Living right now at 7:05 pm on a Sunday in January,  breathing them in to fill your soul with enough of their presence in order not to feel empty when they are gone. And you still do.