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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Grow Old In Joy

Tonight was Karaoke night in the cafeteria. The students worked hard to make it special with helium balloons, napkin bows on the back of each chair, pizza and burgers, and fun themed punch. We sat listening as one by one, the brave singers followed, or stumbled along behind, the cued words on the screen marching on without grace. I didn't stay long--I had work the next morning and the evening was winding down after 10 pm anyhow.

As I stepped outside, the thick autumn night wrapped itself around me. It wasn't humid but the short rain just minutes before had left a hint of winter's torrential downpour in the heavy air. The sky was a muddy Halloween shade of orange, the cloud cover reflecting back Beirut's night lights. As I passed the towering pine tree that somehow had escaped being trimmed or chopped down in more than 20 years since we'd first met, I gazed up into its thick boughs. They stretched to the sky, sturdy and reassuring, a beautiful composition of black against the orange ceiling.

Moments later, I stepped onto the roof to the panorama which soothed my heart even while I caught my breath at the stunning sparkle of colour. Construction glittered in the distance, a skyscraper's vertical marquee threaded up and down like a mesmerizing snake, and headlights illuminated the way to the done-up section of downtown. Two stars peeked out between the clouds overhead and off to my right a flash of light reminded me that airplanes were still busily bringing people home.

Now I sit on my pink polka-dotted bed, my zebra print fleece carelessly pushed to the side, listening to Westlife sing It's You on a YouTube playlist I didn't create. I hadn't sang at the Karaoke night, though I'd scrolled through my YouTube history to find a song that might resonate with the crowd who were half my age. I'd settled on Kelly Clarkson's What Doesn't Kill You or Michael Buble's Home. What I really wanted to sing was Way Back Into Love but that was a duet and I wasn't brave enough to find a guy to sing it with me.

These are the moments I fall into by surprise and each time I marvel at how perfectly it feels like home. When I first came, I spent days, weeks and months wondering what would happen, preparing to return to the States. Now I wake up each morning afraid I will have to return and then I remember that I don't. Perhaps I'm somewhat selfish in my choice to stay. I should be settling down, earning towards Social Security, on a retirement plan with a stable job, purchasing a house, learning to can applesauce and peaches.

Instead I'm living in a single room (though it's very comfortable and has its own bathroom), planning to work for what would be less than minimum wage in California even though the cost of living is comparable, returning just long enough each summer so they don't take away the piece of paper that I worked hard for. And my heart is full of joy and peace. It doesn't make sense to the outsider but that doesn't matter. What matters is that I have found my place.

This is a gift most TCKs don't experience as they drift from country to continent, searching for the song that echoes in their heart. This song changes with the mood and the season, it is filled with longing for the inexpressible, and the lucky ones hear its harmony in a place or a person. I am one of the lucky ones. I have found it in both.

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