Lose yourself in Lebanon

A couple of weeks back, one of my best friends who lives in Canada called me and asked me if it was safe to come to Lebanon. I honestly didn’t know what to tell him as there were talks about a strike on Syria and the security situation wasn’t that good but things have been like that forever in Lebanon, so I was like “Book your ticket and come! What’s the worse that could happen? You’re Canadian, they will evacuate you somehow, we’re the ones screwed here”.

Of course it’s one thing to visit Lebanon for a couple of weeks and leave but to actually work in Lebanon when you’ve lived abroad all your life is quite difficult and challenging sometimes. This is what Fida, a good friend of mine and RagMag’s Editor in Chief, has been experiencing in the past few years, and led her to write an open letter asking Lebanese to help her get to the plane and come back to Lebanon.

This issue I’m writing to you from Canada. My parents live here and I was born and raised here, so every so often, Gina is kind enough to let me work remote for a few weeks so that I can reconnect and regroup. If I don’t go home once in a while, I have no issues admitting to all of you that I will go crazy. I call it the Lebanon Detox.

While I enjoy my time in Lebanon and the rest of the region (Dubai and Doha included), I miss Canada’s calm (and sometimes boring) daily life. I always tell myself that living and working in Beirut is definitely a great experience, and I’m learning something new every day. But this time it just isn’t enough. I’m tired. Really tired. I’m tired of the politics, the instability, the civil unrest. I’m tired of the lagging economy and the constant chaos. I’m tired of people shouting at each other car-to-car and I’m tired of the constant negativity and electric violence that permeates the air.

Here’s the truth: if it wasn’t for RAGMAG, our staff and most of all, our readers, I would have left Beirut a long time ago. You have made it worth it. Your tweets telling us how much you enjoyed an article, your pictures with the magazine month after month, and your love for the staff that you all demonstrate so often on social media makes it worthwhile. I wake to tons of people giving me feedback (almost 100 percent positive) every day. We’ve had glowing comments from as far away as Russia, the US and the UK. While those comments are nice, it’s not the same to me as hearing from our Middle East readers– those of you that I’ve lovingly nicknamed the #RAGMAGCult. Lebanon has an amazing capacity to love, and on the flip side, a huge capacity to hurt itself.

It’s that same hurt that exhausts me day in, day out. I need some motivation to get on the plane back to Lebanon to get this issue to print. I need a reason to keep believing that what I’m doing in Beirut is worth it. In the beginning, the staff of RAGMAG were told by advertisers and PR agencies that none of you would read the magazine. We were warned that we had “too many words”. Your support and aggressive loyalty has proven all of the naysayers wrong, and it’s given me a reason to wake up and head straight to my laptop every day. It’s given me a reason to work harder at giving you strong and varied content. It’s given me a reason to keep RAGMAG on top. I can’t take any of the credit for the simple reason that it’s you that keeps RAGMAG on top, and I appreciate all of our readers every single day. You people (in specific the online community) have made RAGMAG the most relevant magazine in Lebanon and even Dubai shows us constant love. Not bad for a Beirut-based publication, if I may say so.

Honestly speaking, we are all sick and tired of living of Lebanon, but for those of us who don’t have a choice to leave, we learn (at least me) to live with this reality, stay positive and try make the best out of it. As for others who willingly chose to come and work in Lebanon, they just need to put themselves in the right state of mind and focus on the little things that matter the most here. I for myself went through phases where I just wanted to leave this country and forget about it but I wasn’t able to until today, and even though my Canadian papers are almost over now, I am still reluctant to leave because it’s not that simple anymore specially after I got married and bought a house.

Despite all the chaos, instability, violence, bad economy and wasted opportunities, I took a decision years ago to phase out all the negativity, ignore what’s happening around me (up to a certain extent) and just live life to the fullest here. I know it’s easier said than done but I’ve changed as a person and having the blog has helped me enormously specially when it started (and still is) attracting more and more readers who agree/disagree with my thoughts and are mainly interested in the fun and interesting stuff. As hard as this may seem, it is not impossible to phase out the negatives around us and make the most out of everything here in Lebanon.

While it’s true that issues like electricity, internet, pollution, reckless driving can be frustrating, there are a lot of positives to counter these like the food here, the nightlife, the chill out places, bars and pubs, the convenience, the proximity of the mountains, the people here and of course friends. Of course the latest bombings and ongoing armed clashes are worrying and depressing, and no one wants to see innocent people die or suffer whether they are Lebanese or refugees, but we can always hope that we’ve hit rock bottom so things can’t get any worse. Life must go on and we should be more cautious these days but hopefully not for long.

On a last note, I am not trying to convince anyone of staying in Lebanon but if you like your job here, know your way around, have a few good friends, and are not suffering financially, you could always give it a try here and invest only in what makes you happy and positive. It’s only normal to feel frustrated and saddened by the bombings and the loss of innocent lives, but what Lebanese need are not just condolences messages but someone telling them to keep fighting for their rights and staying away from violence, keep loving and enjoying life, and most importantly keep spreading positivity and hope instead of turning against each other.