When I was a little girl, I formed a group that is made up mostly of girls in my grade level. The name of the group would alter each week; some days we would call ourselves the Winx Club, other days the Bratz; it depended on what TV show I was fixed on during that week. I took my responsibilities seriously. I would hold group meetings, recruit new members, give out orders, and expel anyone who doesn’t follow the rules. My role as a leader continued throughout my school years.
I would take the lead role in every school play, recite poetry in front of the whole school, became the class representative, and was the valedictorian at my graduation. I always pushed myself to be the best version of myself possible. When it was time to choose a university for my undergraduate studies, the only university I was interested in was the American University of Beirut. Not only was it the best in my country, but also the Middle East.
I was the laughing stock of my friends and family. Who was I to get admitted to this prestigious university; I didn’t even have the financial means. Then, March came along with my acceptance letter and a scholarship that would cover 70% of my tuition. Adapting to AUB was one of my greatest challenges. The competition was tough. Most of their students came from prominent schools and were privileged enough to an adequate education, while I had to fill in for my English teacher because there was always something he needed to attend to during class. I worked twice as hard; I discovered what overnight meant and what 3 cups of coffee could do to a person.
Slowly, I started seeing improvements and began thinking about graduate studies. I’ve always been independent with my thoughts and actions; my views often contradict that of my parents. In my culture, women are expected to get married young, and graduate school will only lower their chances of finding a good husband. My mother would always tell us: why would a girl need higher education when in the long run, she’ll end up a stay-at-home wife raising the kids? As much as I respect those women who willingly choose the “housewife life,” I don’t see that in my future. I strive to reach the highest point I could reach in my career, and when I reach it, only then I would feel content. Now, pursuing a graduate degree in my country is out of the question.
During these past two years, the people revolted against the government. The streets were not safe, violence everywhere, but we were still obligated to attend classes. Our economy collapsed shortly after, my father’s salary barely reached $200 per month, and doubts on whether I would continue my education haunted me. Nonetheless, I pushed through like I always do. Living in this country can make a person resilient, and so, I completed the spring semester with my highest grade yet. Then came the dreadful day of August 4th. An explosion took place in the port of Beirut, killing over 200 people and injuring much more. Approximately 300,000 people were left homeless. Survivor’s guilt and PTSD were the least of our injuries.
My government killed my people, and to this day, no one has taken responsibility for what happened. I survived the blast by pure luck; somehow, the windows in my bedroom didn’t explode on me while, in the apartment next to us, the same type of window shattered all over the neighbor’s floor. We are living in survivor mode every single day. We go out never knowing if we are going to return; you feel blessed if you just survive the day. Our lives have turned into a game of minesweeper, never knowing when a step would be our last.
I want to get out, experience the world. I want to finish my studies like any other student. I want to receive a Ph.D. and become a professor. I want to publish a book or two. If not for me, then for the people who lost their lives during the explosion. My people, the ones who were murdered and never got to achieve their dreams. All I hope is thatI make it out in time before I end up being another martyr in the name of a country that doesn’t belong to us anymore.