So I’ve been thinking lately a lot about what I want to do with my life. I suppose that’s because I do a lot of sitting. And a lot of thinking. Actually, about 9 hours of it per day to be precise. Sitting in front of a computer monitor, occasionally working on excel spreadsheets. Gazing bleary-eyed over endless lists of number, and profits, and figures… that I really don’t give a damn for.
I’ve realized this weekend that I’ve been indirectly trying to answer the question of what I want to do next with my life for the past few months now. It’s strange… I always thought I was somehow above that question. I’ve known I’d wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department since my Junior year of Highschool.
Part of me still does.
As an American I still no doubt feel a duty-bound obligation to uphold the Republic of my Founding Fathers’ creation. And though government and civil service are among the most distinguishing and faithful ways of doing so, there are no doubt other ways. Was not the Fourth Estate created and enshrined in our Constitution as a check on government power? The Fourth Estate, regardless of its current circumstance and condition, has always been a central part of the American project. And it has played no small part in the history of this country.
When I think back to the courses I took in the three years I spent at the University of Colorado, a few stand apart from the rest in terms of the number of classes I actually attended and the level of energy I invested and devoted. Off the top of my head, the best were an upper-division writing course I took with a focus on Colonialism & Imperialism, from which I produced a massive paper chronicling the history of the European imperial role in the creation of Lebanon. The second, was a course on Global Media as part of a certificate course constructed by my department of International Affairs and CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication – the International Media Certificate. As a part of this I took a course on Global Media where I began to research the Middle East, and Lebanon again, from the stand point of the media institutions and their evolution in the region. The third course I took that was probably the most interesting of the entire three years I spent at CU, was a course on War and Disaster Reporting. My professor was an Asian-American foreign correspondent, and though his name now eludes me, I remember how fascinating his stories used to be – of reporting from conflict zones around the world. It was a cool class as well – a mix of journalism students and international affairs kids. I miss college.
Anyway, it got me thinking that perhaps this was really where my real interest lay, in the enjoyment of hearing stories and doing the best I could to retell them to friends and family, upon my return home from Lebanon.
There are not many people I know who have had the chance to travel to the Lebanese border with Israel unwittingly participating in a campus organized trip that was a front for none other than, you guessed it, Hezbollah. I mean, it was absolutely fantastic. And I’ve never written of it on here because I feared that the State Department might decline my candidacy for the Foreign Service upon learning that I had not only visited the border with Lebanon’s one and only Islamic Resistance, but also witnessed a military parade arranged by them, complete with armed convoys with weapons and battle hymns.
Like I said though, it was probably one of the highlights of the time I spent there. Same goes for visiting the areas of the country being de-mined, from the 2006 war with Israel, by the Lebanese Army, or more specifically, the Lebanese Mine Action Center, comprised of the Armed Services as well as the U.N. in addition to other NGOs.
Or my visit to the Palestinian Refugee camp at Shatilla, where I spent the day volunteering to tutor at one of the few madrassas for children in the camp. I’ve mentioned this experience before, but basically I spent most of the time learning more Arabic from a sweet girl named Asra than I could teach her English.
But it was amazing. And I don’t have any clue why I left to come home to the States, other than to finish that one pesky science credit left in order to graduate. But otherwise, to put it bluntly, I have no fucking clue.
I simply don’t feel as alive here as I did over there. It’s taken me nearly half a year to realize that. I belong there, and I know it innately. I really don’t care what I end up doing as long as I’m there. I’m sure I’ll be able to figure things out.
I’ve been thinking about the number of people I met there. My frequent chats with the Lebanese grandparent generation. The stories I’d hear about how the demographic makeup of Beirut’s neighborhoods used to look before the Civil War. About the trees from which Gemayzeh street borrows its name. The only trees now in Gemayzeh are those ringed with alcohol bottles and twinkling lights. But I always wondered when I walked down it, whether I was drunk at night, or hungover during the day – what did those trees look like? What fruit did they bear? What was it like waking up in Beirut before 1975 and watching the rays of sunlight glance down through those trees?
I still wonder.