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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

And I Am Not Lost Anymore

How are you doing? Do you need a job? There's openings for academic records personnel, graduate enrollment coordinators, etc. 

I stared at my phone's screen, the email from my graduate program's advisor staring back at me. It was a face-off and I wasn't sure who was going to win. Sure, he'd sent me links to apply to before, he'd recommended me for positions within the department, or departments he had connections with. I'd even been flown in and put up for the weekend when short-listed for assistant registrar three years ago and then put back on the short-list for a similar position in distance education just before I came out here.

Now I was settling in to life in Beirut, Lebanon. I had a good job with a variety of tasks so I was never bored, an excellent boss who valued my work and my opinions, dear friends who brought such joy to my life, a wonderful church family where I felt like I fit in, a cozy little room that had just enough room for all my things, and the most stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea just out my front door. Life was good. Not perfect, but good.

Then the email came.

In the past, I would have sent back a quick Thank you for thinking of me but I'm happily settled here email as I had done a couple of times before. Now, like that second thought of an old boyfriend who was never right but you couldn't quite shake, or that second glance that leads to the second slice of cake you know you shouldn't be eating at midnight, the doubt began to creep in. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe I should apply and see if doors opened. True, I had a life I was happy with here but there were still some things missing and maybe if I moved back to the US I would find those.

Every time I closed and locked the door to my studio-apartment-sized bedroom with ensuite bathroom in the past 15 months, I sent up a silent prayer. Please God, let me come back. Each time the plane lowered itself down to touch Lebanese soil just after gliding over the sea, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home again. So why the angst at a suggestion, a hint, that is entirely my choice to ignore, delete, pretend it never existed?

Perhaps it's because I still feel that weight of responsibility weighing heavily on my shoulders. True, here I am serving on sacrificial wages, particularly when compared to what I could make if I were to work in the US in a position comparable to my level of education. Yet I don't think about that. For me, being here is being home, so I'm just happy to have a job that allows me to stay and pay for my expenses while saving up a little for the future. The question still nags though. Am I being responsible enough? Should I be working a job where I could save five times as much so I could buy a house for my mother far sooner?

A job in the US would mean financial stability, a hefty retirement package, being closer to my mother, the increased possibility to marry an American, and a recognized job within the SDA system at my alma mater. The campus has a large international body, the employees are kind and intellectual, and I could start working on my doctoral degree, taking one free class every semester. But would this bring my heart joy?

I'll admit, there have been many days recently where life hasn't been as easy as it was in the fall. I've started to see the cracks in the makeup, started to see my days slip into weeks too full of administrative responsibilities and too few chances for service, started to realize that life is mostly made up of the mundane and it's not possible to keep up a constant round of activities and excitement. The joy seems to have shrunk, like a teenage boy's polyester t-shirt accidentally mixed in with the hot wash.

Even in the swirl of this, though, there is still hope. There has to be. Hope that the deep joy will once more fill my heart so that I cannot even breathe in anticipation of tomorrows. I catch glimpses of it and for now, that is enough to keep me going.

Should I apply? I picture myself, trudging through snowfall up to my waist, sitting in an office where day after day I must look at the same paperwork, then returning home to a small apartment filled with books but devoid of memories. Suddenly I know why I must stay. This country is the keeper of my memories, the sacred trust of who I was, and for the past 15 months, who I am today. Lebanon is slowly bringing together my two identities, while helping me forgive the years lost between. I cannot pick up and move now. It would be disrespectful to the process, shattering the puzzle before I had even built the border around it.

Tomorrow I'll send a little email to my advisor. I'll thank him for his consideration and remind him that I've accepted a position here. But I won't say what's really the reason I'm still here. I need to be here to feel fully alive, fully at home, and fully at peace. This is why I stay.

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