Six Years In, Am I Where I Thought I'd Be?

Six years and four months ago, I came to Lebanon on a mission. A couple missions, in fact. The immediate mission was under the auspices of MIT, my alma mater, to recruit high-potential students in the region. I visited numerous learning institutes throughout the country in an effort to promote MIT and to elucidate the application process, student visas, extracurricular life, and Boston.

When that mission terminated, a new mission was born, partly out of circumstance and partly out of self-will. I decided to stay in Lebanon and look for work.

On mission with MIT -- pictured here at Sagesse High School, Ain Saadé (Jan. 2011)

Trust me, to this day I’m beleaguered with questions as to why someone like me – armed with an American passport, a topnotch education, and big dreams – got mixed up with someplace like Lebanon – where dreams are snubbed, derided and spat upon before being thrown back at you in absolute mercilessness.

My motivation was threefold: (1) I’d always yearned to live in the country of my heritage; (2) I happened to already be on its soil; and (3) I was unattached, both professionally and personally. How often can one say that about oneself? I mean, it was perfect. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, my academic degrees were in the bag, I was in between jobs, and I was single.

After a few months of tedious, deceptively positive interviews that didn't elicit any callbacks, I landed a job for which I hadn’t even applied. In fact, the job did not exist. The management of a leading Lebanese bank got wind of my CV from a mutual contact and, being a firm believer in young promise and fine education, they snatched me up. A position was carved around my background and interests. And I officially began my Lebanese career six years ago, on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

Four weeks later, I met my now-husband, as I was rotating through different divisions in the bank. He’d just tendered his resignation and was renouncing Lebanon for sunnier shores – LA, to be exact. Ironic, isn’t it? I’d only left LA months before, and here he was, itinerary booked and lofty visions in mind.

Sometimes I think, what would have happened had he followed through with those plans? Would I still be here?

Perhaps if he’d gone, I may have met someone else, married, and settled in Lebanon anyway.

Or perhaps he and I would have entertained a long-distance relationship. Would I have inevitably followed him back to LA, back to where my own family resides?

How about if I hadn’t met any potential husband material? Would I have thrown in the towel a year or two later, fed up with Lebanon, its naysayers, and its oppressive way of life?

At the reopening of Grand Cinemas ABC Achrafieh (Jun. 2014/Beiruting)

Shifting through could-have-beens, would-have-beens and alternate realities is a never-ending exercise that can only result in confusion. No matter how you flip it, the fact remains that you’re here, this is you, and this is the path you chose.

Six years on, I occasionally bite my lip wondering whether I made the right choice. Back then, I’d painted a different actuality for me now, and I’d mentally ticked off certain milestones I have yet to achieve.

But then again, I never considered I’d have an internationally-recognized, award-winning blog. I never imagined I’d meet so many people – creatives, food artisans, entrepreneurs, store owners, hotel managers, sommeliers, pizzaioli, PR agents, bread bakers – merely by stringing my observations together, in polished English, for others to analyze and critique. 

I never really thought I’d be a writer with outreach, whose active readership and engagement straddles Lebanon, Europe, the US, UAE and Canada. I hardly knew what a brand ambassador was, let alone yearn to be one. And I certainly didn’t think I’d be rubbing elbows with media, socialites, and so-called “social influencers.”

Did you catch me on LBCI news last month? My fourth TV appearance!

Life has its own funny way of schooling you, of rewriting your happy ending and adjusting the scale of your expectations. You may not know where you’re going, but you have a feel for what makes you happy and where you fit in.

I definitely don’t regret the path I chose, nor do I second-guess the decisions I made. Lord knows I had to live in Lebanon, otherwise I would never have been able to live with myself.

In a world of what ifs, it’s one of the few things I couldn’t have been surer of.

Exploring Mina, Tripoli (Jan. 2011) -- and yes, I have a head of curls!


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