Tuesday, December 27, 2016

If I die today...

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
I shall begin this with a note of caution. This is not in any way, shape or form a suicide note, nor am I planning to do anything with my life, nor is it belittling or ridiculing mental health issues which - as a Lebanese who has lived the war (or wars!) in its entirety - I have experienced first hand with many people.
And I do apologize in advance for the macabre artwork which is the usual faire-part for funerals in Lebanon albeit cropped for artistic purposes.
But the title is indeed catchy, and - oddly - it is something I uttered  in the realm of a conversation and thought it was fitting (alongside the rather macabre artwork above) for my end of year essay.
Indeed, a bit more than a month ago I was in deep discussion with a brilliant veteran journalist, and we were talking about each of our projects and we were enthralled by what the other did and is still doing. A very rich man passed us by as we were in an uppity social function, and the journalist nudges me and says "why doesn't this man help you by financing your work?" - "I approached him not long ago and the answer was negative" was my nonchalant reply. "Oh, I guess he wants to be the richest man in the graveyard" my interlocutor said. And as it happens so often with me, I got inflamed all of a sudden, and in a very fierce and self assured tone, I looked at the journalist in the eye and said: "If I die today, at least I know, I really know I have changed people's lives".
Such a pompous statement indeed, from a man known to shun the lights, who is not at ease getting praise, who has no personal photos on his Instagram, and who is basically the apotheosis of self-effacement.
But still, at that second I felt like bursting, and perhaps the way I constructed my statement was still reminiscent of the war-reactions still encrusted in us as Lebanese, when every day could be your last. But for whatever its worth, I truly believed - wholeheartedly believed - every syllable I was uttering.
I am not here to catalog what I did or did not do in my life, I shall spare you that.
But strangely, as someone once said to me: "the only advantage of growing older is that you know who you are and you know what you did" - little by little, this is indeed sinking in. And it is true, I look back - even if there's (hopefully) a lot more ahead - and am appreciative of the way I lead my life so far.
Perhaps my idea of "change" is a bit different from how others perceive it - you know: as this global and general sweeping movement. For me change is more intimate, more one-on-one or it could be me just under-appreciating my character and influence, because in the words of the head of a global NGO whom I met casually and to whom I tried to reintroduce myself several years later: "Tarek, either one remembers you or does not know you".
So there, as 2016, gets to a close, and it being another one of my odd-strange-weird years but oddly exciting-exhilarating-thrilling in its own way, I can truly say: "If I die today" and continue "I have lived a satisfying, purposeful and meaningful life".
So here's to more of that in 2017, not just for me, but to everyone who reads this.