Before 2016, my world was stuck between a Lebanese upbringing, and an American early adulthood. For as long as I can remember, I was lost. At 17, I thought maybe moving to the US will make me happy and allow me to follow my dreams, but then I slipped into a long depression. Next, I wondered if moving to San Francisco will cure my depression and allow me to plant new roots. I did that, and after a little while, I was even more lost. At that point, Europe seemed like the final place where I could find my tribe. I was wrong yet again.
My life felt like a movie. The background was constantly changing. The plot was constantly developing. But in the foreground stood the same lost main character, pulled in all different directions, unsure where to fit in his own story.
I want to spend as much time with my parents, my siblings, and my nephews and nieces, but they live in a place that sucks my soul out and renders me empty. I want to build a life in Denmark, or France, or wherever in Europe, but it never truly feels like home. I want to go back to my home country of Lebanon, but the dire situation there threatens my future and livelihood. At this point, I know that changing countries is simply not a solution anymore. I’ve done it time and time again. Herman Hesse says: “Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.” Ehh.. That has never worked for me. It’s hard not having stable roots to return to, and that’s what makes an immigrant’s a little different.
In fact, it wasn’t just home. At some point, I gave up trying to discover many things in life, some of which people spend their lifetimes trying to uncover. I didn’t want to know what my purpose was anymore, or where I “belonged”, or whether I’ll ever have children, or any of the questions people try to answer over time. I’m writing this not because I’ve figured out where my home is, or found my purpose, or any of the above things. I’m writing this because I’ve blissfully accepted ignorance and have learned to live with the uncertainties and nuances of life and destiny.
Here’s how I do it.
It all starts with managing anxiety and living one day at a time. Seneca says:
“It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering?…Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.” — Seneca
Then comes turning inwards and fighting against the tide of ever-growing wants, most of which are superficial and fueled by consumerism. Seneca again remarks:
“True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied, for he that is wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not” — Seneca
Finally, a whole lot of patience and gratitude. I’m grateful for simply being alive. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities in my life. I’m incredibly grateful you are even reading what I’m writing, let alone the ability to speak a non-native language, something my parents and ancestors had to sacrifice a lot for me to have. Our lives are infinitely small in a universe that’s unfathomably massive and old. Practice this enough, and you won’t find yourself being upset at the train being a bit late or the traffic light taking an extra 5 seconds to turn green.
I leave you with a wonderful quote on patience by my favorite philosopher Epictetus:
“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It’s yet to reach you? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a partner, work, with wealth — one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.” — Epictetus
I may never find home or purpose, but at least I’ll eventually find myself. :)