This is “Episode V” in the memoir I’m writing for my Creative Non-Fiction class. Previous installments are here, here, here and here. This one covers a “what-if” kind of thought.
What would my life be like if I never moved?
It’s a question that crops up almost every time I open Facebook and scroll through the infamous stalker-enabling news feed. I see several of my elementary school classmates sharing pictures of themselves as high school seniors, talking about the “good old days” and making plans to visit one another, wherever they may be.
It’s been fourteen years since the last time I saw any of them. These faces used to be those of classmates, friends, and acquaintances. Now they belong to kind strangers, wrapped in an aura of familiarity but nothing I can reach out and hold onto. They had all laughed, cried, partied, and struggled through their high school, and even college, experiences together. What can I, a faint memory of a quiet, bespectacled 12-year-old who buried herself in library books, possibly have to say to them now? After a couple of failed attempts at a reconnection, I now simply content myself with knowing they are happy and successful.
I remember something a friend of mine in Qatar once said: “I was born and raised here, and even lived in the same house my entire life.” She was twenty-one at the time, and I clearly remember that the first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh dear lord, the THINGS you must have in that house!” (Anyone who’s moved at least once will know exactly what I mean). The second thing was, “Damn…that’s an insane amount of stability.”
My five years in Canada were spent in three houses. Even my first twelve years in Saudi Arabia had me living in two. If I wasn’t moving houses, I was moving countries. “Born and raised” is a term that I never used.
So, sometimes I sit back and think: What if, when I moved to Lebanon from Saudi, I never moved again? Would my life be better? Worse? Or just…different? I’ve always felt that my experiences living outside of my home country made me a better person—and I still do. But at what cost?
When I was abroad, I was exposed to an incredible variety of lifestyles, religions, and people. I knew what it was like to be in a society that treated everyone as an equal, and demanded respect in return. The more I remember, the more I know just how vital these experiences are in shaping who I am today, and I try to never take them for granted.
However, as silly as this may sound, I’ve also never had the unique experience of having a childhood friend. I’ve never had people who stood by me as I grew and changed other than my immediate family. (Obviously, it’s hard to have that kind of relationship when you move every few years). I left Lebanon at fifteen and came back a full-fledged 24-year-old with my own worldviews, knowledge, social experiences, and life stories. It was nearly impossible to find common ground with those I left behind. Even cousins I called friends for years as a child no longer knew me, nor I them. A loss that I can’t deny was sorely felt.
In the end, my lifestyle left little room for fostering long-term history, connections and attachments with people I cared about. It’s probably what hurts the most on those quiet evenings when my mind is bored and starts to dig up an analysis of Life So Far.
If I was given a do-over, would I change a thing?
You know what? Probably not.