The Wandering Self

Where is home when you have lived everywhere, who are you after you've lost your anchor? A viewpoint of a modern nomad  

von Lina Alhaddad

Photo: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection/ Library of Congress
Photo: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection/ Library of Congress

Who am I? A simple question we address with complex answers. For its sake, we would revive ancient ethnicities; summon prophets, messengers, teachers and saints, languages and dialects. A familial, vocational, and social class history. Bank accounts, stories, tales, gossips and love affairs, ambitions and desires.

But when it comes to me, my story is simpler.

I am the humble sum of my small habits. I am long nights spent with friends in passionate debates on the universe, consciousness and the concept of nations. I am the lazy relaxation on Sundays, fully immersed in my book, or laughing out loud at my favourite sitcoms. I am the waking up dancing to music I love. A cup of coffee I sip slowly on a balcony, in front of a window or any celestial opened space through which I can joyfully follow the clouds passing before my eyes, ever so slowly. With no worries and no destination that awaits them. I am the compelling sunset, with all its chemistry and physics that gives complex equations enchanting colours. I am the merciful wisdom of the sunset “I tried hard today and tomorrow I shall try again”.

I am the wild mood swings. The melancholic sadness followed by euphoric joy. A flaming spring passion that fades into summer indifference and the careless wait for a new story.
I am the wandering aboard a bike, a bus, a train or a plane.
The bewilderment and the mouth wide open before the greatness of what mankind has built in such a short period of time, and the dread, and submission in the altar of timeless mother nature.

I am also my small belongings, which fit with effort in a large size suitcase. I carry them with me when I cross to new plays, at a new home. I am a pair of silverearrings, from ancient traditional shops, embracing Umayad Mosque in the Qemariya of Damascus; my mom gifted me those. I am a braided bracelet of white, red and yellow threads that a friend gave me. It comes from a peaceful, historical temple in Koya mountain, over which Buddhist monks have prayed and wished its owner happiness.

I am my small adventures. My disappointments, failures and successes. I am life-lessons that come with expensive price tags. Ones that would firmly hold my hand on the crossroads of loss. And whisper in my ear “It’s all right, we’ve been there before, remember? You thought it would be the end and it wasn’t. You shall make it through this as well.”

I am a long deep breath that I inhale slowly while I count on my fingers: one two three; a deep breath that I keep in my lungs while I count on my fingers: one two three; a deep breath that leaves me slowly while I count on my fingers: one two three. Then I repeat, then I repeat, then I repeat.

I wipe my tears, I whisper to myself: “I will be OK.” I get up. I march on.

I am the audacity of selecting new authentic colours to paint myself with. I am the transparency of leading a life that looks like me, that represents me here, that represents me now.

I am the fondness of the unlimited possibilities of all we could be, of all that makes us who we are, of the billions of stories my people roam all corners of the blue planet seeking new chapters. I am a lot of love for this life, for this opportunity, for every second of light, of pulse and bursting passion, I receive my seconds with joy and unpack them carefully, like a precious gift, that I vow to deserve.

I am the acknowledgement of our singularity, of our differences, of the beauty of all what brings us together and all what takes us apart.

I am a small person, imperfect on the outside and on the inside, and pursuing perfection in neither. I ride waves to unknown destinations. I cross lands and the lives of all the people I meet cross me in return. I take out my pen, flip through the pages of my story, I write, I rearrange, I draw and colour it, I hug it affectionately: this is my story, this is me, my only truth, my unique truth.

Whenever I find myself stranded in a new place, in a new empty apartment, in a big unfamiliar city, I empty my bags piously, I arrange my small belongings, practice my small habits, read my storybook, take a long deep breath, I am well, I am at home, I am home.

For I carry my home within me, wherever I shall travel, wherever I shall land.

For I am my home.

Lina Alhaddad is 29 years old. In Spring 2011, upon graduating from Damascus University with a BA in psychology, Lina took her first ever international flight to Kyoto, Japan, to pursue a master degree in Medical Sciences on a full scholarship at Kyoto University. Promises were made then to friends and family to be back home for the summer holiday of that year, six years have passed and she has never made it back home. She spent four years and a half in Japan, before coming to Germany in autumn 2015 to work as a psychologist in refugee camps, and find traces of home in the expanding circle of Syrian expats in Berlin. Since then she won a grant to do a PhD in Psychology at Freie Universität – Berlin, her research investigates the predictors and facilitators of the acculturation process young refugees experience in Germany.

Her literary writings attempt to grasp the different states of “being” and “becoming” from the viewpoint of a modern nomad.