23.

I turned 24 today. And it was a horrible day.

I woke up feeling I couldn’t breathe, feeling like it was just another day to get through the motions. I went to the hospital. I took care of my patients. I did what I had to do but not more like I usually do. I smiled as people wished me happy birthday. I had yet to see the happy in the sentence. I didn’t know what else I could do. 

Perhaps there was nothing really wrong about today. But I didn’t see it that way all day. Call it overt-anxiety. Call it over-scripting of things and dramatization. But that’s how it was. My head told me today was a bad day and I didn’t try to tell my head it was wrong.

And then when I got home this evening, exhausted and feeling mentally drained, my little brother surprised me with a piece of cake on which he had lit a candle. And I hugged him as he sang me happy birthday. There was nothing else I could do. I thought that would be it until my parents called and my mom sang me happy birthday over speaker phone. And my grandparents called to wish me long life and the only thing I could do is wish them health. Their calls filled me with so much joy that the only thing I wanted to do was go spend my day with the people who made it as such. 

Then, as I headed to the dinner my friends begrudgingly dragged me to, I realized that many of the people that made 23 the year that it was were around that restaurant table, had called or texted me earlier that day. Those people had changed their pictures into a collage of their memories with yours truly. They were really, positively happy that this was my day and they wanted it to truly be a happy birthday.

This post may not mean much to most of you. But, as I turn a new page, my thoughts turn to family and friends – cliche as it may be – in order to tell them thank you for being there and I hope they’ll keep on being there.

Here’s to all the people that made me. Here’s to all the people that make each of my days worth living.

I turned 24 today. And it turned out to be a good day, indeed.

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22.

As my friends sat around me singing happy birthday to you on that cold Saturday night which wasn’t even technically my birthday, I felt happy. The rain glistened off the window in front of me, it was cold outside but I felt the warmth of the party that was celebrating me turning 22.

I wish I knew in that moment that some of those friends were not there to stay. I wish I knew in that moment what year awaited me as I blew off those candles and people applauded.

/Trust.

I was standing alone in a crowded room on a cold February night and I was just realizing I knew absolutely no one there even those people whom I thought I knew all too well. And they’re not speaking to me, pretending like they didn’t know me. The fake smiles, the fake truths, the fake nods, the contest of who’s acting like they could care less… I had gotten tired of them all. The amount of insecurity that people had was way too unacceptable for me to handle anymore. And as everyone smiled and hugged each other, I started wondering: what did I do wrong not to be the one being welcomed like this?

It took some time for me to realize that I had done nothing wrong at all. It took some time for me to realize that keeping your guard up is a necessity. Trusting people easily should never be a possibility because the amount of assholes in this world is way too high. I realized I shouldn’t be surprised to have been let down because your expectations out of others towards you are very rarely met. So you do your best because you hope that this would somehow return good upon you. But you expect nothing.

Even people whom you thought would never ever disappoint you end up doing so. And they throw around lame excuses to justify doing so but you would have reached a point where you couldn’t care less anymore.

The theory is easy. The practical aspect of it is still a work in progress.

The saddest part though is that for a while after that I had to fight the urge to pick up the phone and call.

Foreign Home.

Your home away from home where you are foreigner and yet you fit like a glove to your hand. The lack of complexity with people. The lack of the need to be two-faced in order to get ahead. I remember the great people I met all too well. I remember the good times I shared with them. I remember the places I went through. I remember standing in front of that Royal Palace and feeling infinitely happy. I remember sitting under the Eiffel Tower on a warm Paris night. I remember walking through a cemetery where people I could only dream of approaching were laid to rest. I remember being at the place where the world’s major decisions are taken. I remember Porte des Postes. I remember Cormontaigne. I remember the grey August clouds overcast on the city as I saw it from the ICU of the hospital where I had spent most of my time being treated like a colleague. I remember those walks I took just to be alone amid the greatness of the place whose air I breathed. And I remember her with her blond hair and red lips and that rainy night in the streets of Lille.

So Small.

It’s easy to get lost inside your own problems which always seem so big at the time they’re happening. It’s very easy to make them seem like they are the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. It’s very easy to over dramatize them: why me?

But on a Monday, in a waiting room at a hospital in France, I realized how pitiful it is of me to dwell on the friends that were no longer there, on the grades that weren’t that good, on the things that I could’ve done. I saw people trying to convince that twenty year old boy of the need to cling to life as much as possible as his body rejected the heart transplant he had spent the previous year undergoing. And I realized then, as I tried to get him to feel better, that my problems are just so small.

Diagnosed.

She’s not invincible. She’s not going to be here forever. She’s weak. Her own body is killing her. As you look upon the worried face of the woman who gave birth to you, it can’t but kill you inside to see her hurting and to know her thoughts are about the potentiality of her not being there for you anymore. And you go in with her to her surgery because you know that being there for her will make all the difference. And it almost kills you to see her there, a shell of the person that she is, because of the drugs they injected into her veins. But you know it’s all for the best. And your senses perk up when the surgeon is stunned to find the procedure he had thought would be fairly straightforward was not. And your worry increases when you find out that the cancer was not as localized as they thought it was. Then when she wakes up from the anesthesia and the first faint word upon her lips when she sees your face is “habibi,” and despite the severity of it all, your worries in the world subside for just one minute.

Even thought she might lose her hair. And even though she might lose her weight. You’d still do anything for her to be there for you. And it may be selfish but it’s really not because you know that there’s nothing more she’d want as well.

Life/

Despite your guard being up, some people roll Into your life who end up surprising you. And you feel happy about them being there. things end up getting better for you and you remember the good times you spent and you realize that you regret nothing at all. You find the family which you had taken for granted will always be there for you. You meet new family members who were taken away from you by life and and time space and you find more in common with them than you’ve thought possible. You grow, you become more critical, you stand up for what you believe in. You take things in and hope that your life isn’t going to waste.

At least now you know where the 13 in State of Mind comes from. And right now, I’m felling 22 one last time, one last day. And thank God for that. Hello November 13th. Hello year 23.

Happy Birthday Little Miss

Today is one of my closest friends’ birthday – little miss Elia turns 22 today. About time, I guess. She’s the youngest one in our click. She’s not even a 1980s person. Isn’t that so sad, everyone?

But no matter, as little miss folds another year of her life today, I figured what better way to make her want to shoot me on her birthday than to write a blog post to wish her a happy birthday. Also, just for your information, she recently took shooting lessons so I’m putting my life on the edge over here. Yes, dear reader, you’re welcome.

So miss Elia, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you – poor ependorf tubes will miss you immensely as you celebrate your day. For those of you who don’t know, Elia is soon to be a biology MS holder (no that’s not multiple scleroris although I think all the time she spends culturing her precious cells will eventually lead her to have this). Her favorite passtime other than watching The Vampire Diaries, which she vehemntely refused to watch until my awesome persuasion skills overtook her, is to cultivate cells and attempt to “teach” biology students how to act like scientists (and limit their answers in the allocated space she has given them, which is in itself one of the most impossible things in the world, akin to asking a philosophy major to shut up).

And then I figured, who would make Elia very happy if he/she wished her a happy birthday? And the answer was so obvious that I decided to get him/her to do it. Sadly, it’s no me. But:

I’d quote Izzie over here. But that would be weird. Happiest birthday missy. May you have a hundred birthdays more during which you always remain kind, you always remain smart. You’ll always be important.

Year 21: The Highs and Lows

Well, today is my birthday. You might have wondered why I love number 13. Well now you know. 13/11.

And for the first time in eleven years, I have the same digits forming my age. 22.

Many people would be overly happy when their birthdays come up. But to me, they serve as an opportunity to reflect on what happened in the year that preceded. In a way, it’s my version of new year’s eve – except that it’s my year.

Year 21 was an alternative current in its highs and lows. When it sank, it sank. When it rose, it soared. When I look back on “21” now, I see a year where I was happy. And that’s almost always the case with life – you consciously forget the bad things that happened, only recollecting them upon an active conscious effort of remembering. The good times are the ones that stay.

So for some introspection and retrospection as my 22nd year starts, I’ve decided to put 21 in perspective.

 The lows:

Prior to 21, I was faced with one of the first key decisions of my life – when I was rejected in the three med schools that I applied to and not knowing what to do next. A biology degree, which I got from AUB, was rather useless in the work field, especially that I didn’t want to teach. So the opportunity presented itself for me to enroll in a rather useless program where I’d be wasting a year, biding my time before I attempt med school again. And that was the crux of 21 – going to classes, attending lectures that you knew had a rather short usefulness span. Many had said that one year is nothing when you look at the big picture. But it’s hard to look at a bigger picture when you see your accepted friends, whose grades are not much higher than yours, nagging about med school when you know you’d do anything to be there. You see, I am not a bad student. Sure, I don’t study as much as I should but I feel I don’t need to. I felt I had done enough to get in and in any normal year I would have gotten in. But the wind blows where it will.

21 was also accompanied by an increased sense of mortality. Soon after my birthday (3 days later to be precise), my mom’s cousin died. He was a great family friend and his death was tragic. I had become accustomed to people I knew passing away then. But you don’t really think about it much, except when you sit with your parents and you start talking about the people you knew. You get to a point where you’d be like: I’m 21 and damn, I know too many people that have passed away. And that number is only going to increase as I move on.

I look at my grandparents and hope nothing happens to them anytime soon. I also look at them during the funerals of their loved ones and I can’t but feel devastatingly sad as I think that most of the people they spent their whole lives with are no longer here. It hurts me when I see my grandfather not bid farewell to his best friend saying: “I don’t say goodbye” as if knowing that his time is coming soon.

We’re all going to die – but you push the idea out of your head as much as you can. Sometimes, you even learn to live with it, thinking you’ve gotten okay with the idea. But what hurts the most is the tears of those that matter to you the most. And then you realize, it will never be easy.

The highs:

I can vote 😀 Anyone who knows me knows I’m very competitive when it comes to elections and such. Back in 2008, I was named “Mr. Republican of AUB.” John McCain lost then but you get the picture. So when I turned 21, and later saw my name on the voter’s register, I felt great. Anyone who says they don’t care is bluffing. You can’t but feel happy when you know you’ve crossed that milestone.

I rocked the MCAT. I admit the program I was enrolled in wasn’t going too well. I mean, I was getting really good grades but the idea of competing again with people who were out of your league back in AUB, well, that’s not the most encouraging of premises for you to want to excel. So it boiled down to the MCAT, which I was taking again. And what do you know, I got my results at an El Molina Tweetup. I can’t tell you how awesome that moment felt when I opened the website and saw my grade which shouted at me: YOU’RE ACCEPTED! GO PARTY!

Subsequently, I got accepted into med school on July 6th, 2011, which also happens to be my little brother and cousin’s birthday. Even though I didn’t feel as happy when I got the news as I felt when I got my MCAT grades, it still felt great to finally have closure for that part of my life. Once you’re in Med School, it’s very hard for you to fail yourself out. Once you’re in, you’re practically there – unless you decide you don’t want it anymore. And for the record, I still want it.

21 also had the honor to be the year where I saw my dad’s family, all his brothers and sisters, together under one roof for my aunt’s wedding. It was the first time in over 17 years that I saw my aunt who came especially to be her sister’s maid of honor at the wedding. I also met my cousin technically for the second time, but for the first time realistically. And if you ever thought that there’d be awkwardness, that was thrown out of the window the moment I sat with my cousin and we started chatting. She was such an awesome person with whom I had more in common than I thought possible. My aunt, also, turned out to be such a lovable person. She cared more than she should and, well, she’s all kinds of awesome. I can’t wait to see them when they come back from Australia this Tuesday.

And speaking of weddings, 21 also had me attending the first wedding ever of a direct family member. My aunt got married on June 17th and the event was just magical. Living with her in our Beirut apartment, I had to bear with months of Bridezilla moments but they all transformed into the best wedding I was ever part of, the testament to that being my whole hometown talking about it two weeks later.

21 was the year when I first hopped on an airplane to spend 17 days in France and Spain. Although those 17 days had their fair share of lows, the moment I rode the plane back to Lebanon, only good times stuck in my head: the moments I spent in France, Lourdes, Toledo, Madrid, etc….

I also started blogging during “21” and I think my attempt so far can be deemed as a success based on the amount of response I get on what I write and the amount of people that are interested in reading what I have to say.

21 was also the time when I met awesome people with whom I’ve become great friends, such as Paul Gadalla whom I helped in procuring a job in Lebanon. I was the first person he told when he got the job. He exposed me to his culture as an Orthodox Copt and showed me their struggle before it became headline news, confirming his fears all along. Paul also helped me in many of the posts I wrote, which many of you read.

And in 21, I became even better friends with the awesome people that were there all along. So thank you Nathalie, Sonia, Elia, Maguy, Hala, Roland, Howaida, Kris for always being there.

PS: spoiled rich girl needs to get a job; Roland and I are rocking med school; Cell biology nerd needs to figure out how to get those basal membrane proteins figured out already… :p

And last but not least, my great family has always been there. I couldn’t have asked for better people to be my parents and brothers. One of my brothers is busy being a womanizer 24/7, the other one is in the US. And although I miss my little brother who’s busy being an exchange student (and rocking at it), this didn’t put a damper on the later quarter of 21. In fact, I feel proud whenever he tells me about the “A’s” he’s getting in his courses. I feel happy for my aunt who’s starting to build her own family now and I can’t wait for her to have little kids that I can boss around. I feel ecstatic for having the warmth of my grandparents’ love surround me. And my parents are the best parents that could be – the sacrifices they make, the sweat they pour and the energy they put to give my brothers and I the best life possible. You can never but be forever grateful to them.

I daresay 21 was great, which is probably why I feel happy writing and reading this. It reminded me of all the good times I had. Some might have been less good. But never bad times. The lows might have gotten me down but the highs came right back there to push me up. Life goes on either way, and, wanting not to sound too cliche, with great family and friends around you, the hard times get easier and the happy times get so much more joyful.

Here’s to 21… hopefully 22 will be even better.

Happy Birthday Carrie Underwood!

Today is Carrie Underwood’s birthday! She turns 28!

So a fan decided to dedicate a video for the occasion and I thought it was pretty great. Carrie even commented on it, finding it to be very sweet.

What can we, as fans, expect from Carrie’s 28th year? Even greater music, a stellar album and Carrie continuing to be the great role model that she is. May she have many happy returns, filled with profuse givings of love, happiness and everything that is blessed!

Happy birthday Carrie!

And don’t forget anyone, when things get tough, just play on!