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.

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Star Academy 8: The Season Of Gossip

I am not watching Star Academy 8 and nor do I want to. I watch the occasional prime on a Friday night but that’s pretty much it. The show is now in its eighth season and has been dragged for far too long. Many of the winners have gone into irrelevance, let alone some of the contestants. The show has become a vehicle for those running it to make too much money out of people “voting” and TV ads that bring in millions.

However, it looks like this latest season of the show has one thing that didn’t happen as much in previous seasons: gossip.

It looks like everyone’s talking about everyone else behind their back. How do I know this? Well, last Friday, I was home with my mom when a woman visited us and started telling us about the Syrian contestant Sarah: great voice apparently and horribly impolite. How so? she literally talks about everyone. Apparently, she hates Lebanese contestants (no idea why), she talks about them behind their backs, whenever she sees an opportunity to spur something up, she goes for it. She loves to make people hate each other while she stays on the side. And no one is safe from her.

And apparently there’s another contestant, the Palestinian Layan, who started rumors about one of the Egyptian guys, Karim Kamel, to be gay. Karim has withdrawn from the show on Friday with rumors that his family is suing the show. Now I don’t care if he’s gay or not, he’s simply horrible and the only reason he survived on the show was his country bringing him back every single time he was nominated for eviction. But don’t you think it’s horrible to start rumors about someone being gay when millions are watching?

Moreover, the show has been seeing such flagrant voting manipulation that it’s absurd. Since when does a Lebanese candidate beat a Saudi in voting? And not just by a small margin but by a considerable few percentage points! The look on the Lebanese girl’s face when she saw the results was priceless even though she ended up losing a few minutes afterwards. How did she end up losing? the students who vote publicly for the student they would like to keep are seated in such a way that those who have not made up their minds would vote to bring forth a tie, ultimately damaging a candidate over the other. The Lebanese contestants were placed first, the girl was given a lead and then crashed out of the show.

So yeah, maybe Star Academy should simply call it quits after this season. I mean seriously, when a singing TV show reverts to gossip and rumors to increase ratings, you know something’s wrong, especially when they have great talents that they need to focus on, including the Syrian girl Sarah. Until then, the Egyptian guy Karim will have those rumors, true or not, chase him till God knows when and viewers who have nothing else to do will still be entertained by a show getting useless by the minute.

The Lebanese Forces Pioneering

On April 2nd, the Lebanese Forces commemorated the party’s disbanding.

As part of the proceedings, many people spoke about the importance of this party in the lives of many Lebanese and its vital role in the many years that it has been active. I will not go into those speeches, but they were very engaging. At one point a priest told a story about a woman who asked to go into a solitary cell at a convent. Three days later, she came out and told this priest how horrible those three days were and she wondered how the Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, could handle staying in worse conditions for more than seven years at the time. Geagea ended up being imprisoned in solitary confinement for over 11 years.

The Lebanese Forces have always been a highly organized party, as evident by their many events and the acclaim they get based on their level of organization.

However, that’s not where they’re pioneering. After all, many other parties in Lebanon are highly organized, albeit in a different way.

The Lebanese Forces are set to become the first party in Lebanon where the base elects the party’s leader. And that to me, is pioneering.

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Carrie Underwood Fans Should Vote For Brad Paisley For Entertainer Of The Year

Starting March 11th, voting will open for this year’s ACM Entertainer Of The Year category. It seems as if our attempt to get our disdain across has gone unnoticed – as expected.

Regardless of Carrie’s clear snub (check here and here), we, as one of country’s biggest fanbases, need to  support one of the nominees and cast our votes in his or her favor. While we all won’t have the same enthusiasm in voting for that nominee as we have for Carrie (new emails, many computers, emailing people who might be interested), we should at least cast one ballot for one of the nominees to get him or her on top and let him win.

Who that nominee should be is Brad Paisley, for a multitude of reasons.

First, Brad is probably Carrie’s closest friend on the nominee list. She was his opening act for one of his tours and he was so impressed by her that he asked her to sing an awesome duet with him: Oh Love. I’m sure as well that Carrie wants Brad to win over the other five nominees, even though she won’t publicly admit it. Just look at how happy she was for him when he won this year’s Entertainer Of The Year at the CMAs, even though she should have been nominated and win.

Second, Brad is country’s leading male vocalist. He has the longest standing number one streak among all country artists and his songs always resonate with the public. Always. His latest single “This Is Country Music” is racing up to the top of the charts in country music.

Third, Brad has confirmed that he has went to the studio with Carrie to record a song that he felt was unfinished prior to her touch. This is how much Brad Paisley thinks of Carrie. Also, this duet might be his next single: check here.

Fourth, while the other nominees are also deserving, none of them has worked as hard as Brad Paisley to get this award. We, Carrie’s fans, have known firsthand how horrible it is when Carrie works really hard for something and gets snubbed. Brad has been shut out from winning the Entertainer Of The Year category too many times. This is his best chance to win. Why not help him out?

Fifth, Brad’s four year old son has a crush on Carrie. Enough said, right?

Also, in case Brad releases the duet as his upcoming single, a win would boost the hype for this single even higher – if that is possible – benefiting both Brad and Carrie for their upcoming albums.

So for all these reasons, we need to cast our votes on March 11th for Brad Paisley, hopefully next year will be Carrie’s year again.

The link to vote is here.