There is a very good chance I will be heading back to Miami for some much needed R&R this summer.. and as I look back at the past year and a half I can’t help but think of all of the life lessons that Lebanon has taught me.
Even though she has a tendency to over-complicate things and can be incredibly difficult at times (let’s be real here!), it turns out that Lebanon has been one of the best teachers I have ever had.
Some of the more profound lessons she has taught me include:
1. Patience is indeed a virtue – Anyone who lives here knows that hardly anything gets done on time. Be it as non-significant as someone coming to fix your washing machine because the spin cycle makes as much noise as a jack hammer (or wait, maybe that is significant), or as important as getting the necessary paperwork to prove to immigration that you aren’t CIA..everything and anything takes time here. (And oftentimes, an inordinate amount of it!)
That being said, Lebanon has taught me that my impatience, and my constant need to control every aspect of every situation will leave me frustrated, unhappy, and hating life. She taught me that everyone marches to the rhythm of their own drum (or in this case, their own tabla) and to try to get anyone to speed up, or change rhythm would be an exercise in the utmost futility.
2. If you’re not tolerant by nature, teach yourself to be – Not sure if I’ve ever openly admitted to this, but I think I experienced a mini-depression when I first came to Lebanon. You see, I made the mistake of trying to impose my Westernized way of life on Lebanon..and boy,,she was NOT having it! (Those days were characterized by sharp and frequent “What the hell was I thinking?” moments) But……..I had hyped up Lebanon so much to my friends and family back home (“But guys.. it’s the Paris of the Middle East!“) that I couldn’t possibly allow myself to go home defeated just because I couldn’t tame her. So I stuck it out. Determined to give Lebanon my best shot.
In return, she taught me that everyone has their own way of doing things..and even if I don’t understand, relate, accept or respect them..I have no right to impose my way of life or way of doing things on other people. As soon as I learnt to let go, and “uncondition” myself (so to speak) from my Westernized “way of life,” I began to understand, appreciate, and love Lebanon for who and what she is…and with time..the sharp “what the hell was I thinking” occurrences became less and less frequent. 😉
3. Never (publicly) doubt yourself – Lebanon is not for the faint of heart. The moment she senses any weakness in you..she will chew you up and spit you out like a tasteless piece of gum. Humility gets you nowhere with her.. She prefers the qualities of self-confidence, self-assuredness, assertiveness, and arrogance. Even if deep inside, you know that you are unqualified, or don’t have the means/capabilities to accomplish a task/challenge..you must always say the contrary, and deal with the consequences afterwards.
In simpler terms, when in Lebanon, you must: Fake it until you make it. I had a real problem with this when I first moved here..I’m the type that would rather be honest..then stuck in a situation I don’t know how to deal with/get out of.. but that type of thinking is just unacceptable in Lebanon. She will leave you without a job,..broke..busted..and disgusted…
Lebanon forces you to not only bring your A game..but your A++++ game all-day, everyday..(coz if you don’t, someone else will..and probably for LESS!)… Lebanon forces you to over-promise a lot of the time, but..in the end..it is Lebanon who has helped me realize things about myself that I had no idea I was capable of.
4. Live in the moment – Something about living in the States (or maybe it’s just me) forces you to start planning for retirement at the age of 20. I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn’t considering making an investment in life insurance at 22. God I was such a planner and control freak!!! I was living so far into the future that the present moment was passing me by..and I couldn’t have cared less. I had worked out a plan A, B, C, and D for every which way my life could possibly go and every challenge or obstacle I might encounter along the way..
That all changed when I moved to Lebanon. You see, Lebanese people have dealt with uncertainty their entire lives..for they never know what tomorrow holds.. (war, civil war, no government..you name it!) So, to keep themselves from going completely off the wall, they have conditioned themselves to live for the moment.. (As someone living in Lebanon, I had no choice but to adopt this approach too!)
And while this way of life may have spawned some undesirable consequences (living beyond your means, obsession with plastic surgery and material items..etc)..all in all, I admire the Lebanese people for how gracefully they handle what I consider to be one of the most debilitating things of all: not knowing. “Living in the moment” is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Lebanon.
5. Appreciate everything in your life – I come from a different world. A world where everything is easy, and where people expect a trophy (and oftentimes get it) just for showing up. Yet for some reason or another, people from my world take our world for granted and our conveniences as a given. I used to be one of those people.
In teaching me about herself, Lebanon taught me to TRULY value, appreciate, and cherish where I come from and the things I took for granted..Like: peace of mind and safety, 24-hour electricity, running water (that heats up without a switch or gas tank), clean air, urban planning, recycling, high speed internet and telecommunications that don’t cost an arm and a leg, good salaries (proportionate with the amount of work/time required), cheap gyms, relatively easy access to education, opportunity, and a line of credit.. amongst many other things.
Thank you Lebanon..you have taught me so many wonderful life lessons that I will never forget.