If every person in this world has a moment that changed their lives forever, then the memory of mine is quite vivid. It was the first day of summer after I had just finished my junior year of high school, my older brother drove me home from school, and he told me that I should use my summer properly by helping our father in his writings. The reason why he needed help was because he could not see well due to numerous failed eyes surgeries. Though I was frustrated that I was not going to be traveling or doing something fun for the summer, I agreed without hesitation to dedicate my summer helping my father with his writings.
Fast-forward to the last night of my summer, I was exceptionally excited to see my friends and teachers and start off the most important year of my life, the one that would decide everything. The excitement kept me awake at night, and it mixed with all sorts of worries and concerns. The summer break was marking its end, and I can surely say that I made the most out of it. I was leaving with mixed emotions, but I was going back a different person. I was leaving with all the experiences that I learned, and without all the problems that I solved. I set the calendar to start the countdown until the next break. But until that time, the blog would remain a secret that he would never find out about.. or so I though.
In some sense, I have always felt like I saw my future. I am sure you heard of the saying “the light at the end of the tunnel”. I felt like I could foresee what is beyond that light because there is indeed an entire world and an entire life that is infinitely wider than the tunnel. When I was five, and before I made my way into school, I saw myself going to a boarding school. I do not recall any boarding schools in Jordan at that time, and even if there were any, I am sure I did not know of it. I only saw one on television and told myself: “one day you are going to end up there”. Fast forward 10 years, I ended up attending one.
I can recall a few other instances, but the one thing I always rejected was the day I would lose my father. My self-proclaimed amateur ability to see the light beyond the tunnel always dimmed and blacked out whenever I thought about it. I saw it way further down the line as I felt there was still so much in my life to happen and for my father to witness. College graduation, first job, maybe a wife and a first baby, a grandson for him, but the biggest one of them was my first book. You see, we always think we have enough time to do things, say things, achieve things, but the harsh reality is that time is cruel. Once a second is gone, it is never returning, and once you think about that second, another second is gone. It is a constant losing struggle.
It leaves you with a lot on your mind: unfinished conversations, unfinished stories, and hidden secrets. It leaves you with a heavy weight on your heart: utter sadness, unbearable sorrow, and a constant feeling of loss. Yes, you lose faith, you lose control, you lose patience, and you lose your heart. You become a heartless person, not in a cruel way, but in a way that you feel detached, distant, and alone in an empty place. You feel like you no longer have a heart, you are just a soul now; an ancient soul, an old soul because you feel old on the inside.
I have come to a point in my life that I can barely tell the difference between dreams and reality anymore. It all started last summer when I heard the sad news of my father’s passing. I lost the most valuable person in my life, and I had to find him somewhere. I looked everywhere. I hung pictures of him on all four walls of my room. So that wherever I look, he is there. He is there not only in the form of pictures on my wall, but also in my heart and on my mind all the time. It was not enough though. I needed more than that; I needed to talk to him and hear back from him. That was when I turned to my dreams to find the perfect world for me, the world I have always lived in but did not fully realize it. I built the perfect world, a world where I can find him every night, talk to him, hug him, and hear him.
Three years before my father passed away, I had worked closely with him on one of his books, which sadly was his last. His eye condition made it necessary for him to have an assistant to ease his writing process. I decided to become his full time assistant during the summer before my senior year of high school. I wanted to achieve more than merely assisting him, which in fact was valuable for both of us. I decided to start a reflection blog on the Internet aimed at emphasizing my father’s writing process, telling the story of his book, and highlighting certain social and political events in Jordan and the Middle East- the most prominent of which was the Arab Spring. The blog became widely followed and reached 12,300 viewers, but it was missing one person; the only person I was always terrified of telling about the blog: my father.
When he passed away, I needed to talk, so I dug up the blog I had buried a while back. I felt like I needed to overcompensate for my fears. That was when I decided to transform the blog into my book The Life of a Writer Through The Eyes of His Son. I made sure I emphasized his unique writing attributes, from his rich style to his noble beliefs. Despite the fact that he never saw many of his articles and books before they were published, he was always able to produce some of the finest pieces of literature the region has seen. He was loyal to the reader, and he believed that should a reader choose to read him, he would enjoy a fully detailed and a well-researched piece presented in a rich lyrical style, celebrating the beauty and the musicality as well as the sophistication of the luxurious word.
I found a haven in writing the book. It became a meaningful process carrying my father’s voice and the beautiful memory of that precious summer. My father wanted to keep the beautiful word alive, but his efforts went underappreciated. Though he was strong and never showed it, I always knew what was going on in his mind. That is why I decided to finish the book even though he was never going to see it. I dedicated the book for his underappreciated efforts, for his beautiful soul; the soul that fought against corrupt journalism. I spent five months after his death working day in and day out on finishing the book.
I looked far and near for fulfillment- that feeling that accompanies achieving something big. I thought that if I rushed and finished my book quickly and got it out to the world sooner rather than later it would give me the satisfaction I sought. It had, but only for a split second. Everything I did was for him to see, but it was too little too late. People have told me he knows, but I am not sure. I was looking for satisfaction, the satisfaction that accompanies me physically telling him about it. I tried every superstitious way possible. I went to his grave and told him about it. I said everything in my heart. I did not leave a thing inside, and oh how I wish I could have done that a year earlier. I asked God that day that he make me see my father in my dream to answer my question: “are you satisfied with what I did?” Prior to that day I had not dreamt of him in almost two weeks. I had a dream about him that night; it felt real, and I told him about everything I did. I handed him a copy, just as I had planned it in my mind all along. Then I asked him the question: “Are you satisfied with this?” He said “no”.
I woke up with a terrible heartache. I felt sad, for my satisfaction was forever denied. One might say that was just “your subconscious telling you what you feared to hear”. Is that true? Would he be satisfied and proud? Why did I not man up and tell him before? So many unanswered questions resulted in a cruel life that does not give you the luxury of learning the lesson before giving you the hardest of tests.
You think you have all the time in the world to tell someone what is on your mind; sure, it is easy to think “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Are we sure tomorrow is going to be the same as today? It is good to count to three, but it is horrible to count to three million…
Of his many dreams, one I promised myself to fulfill. He had always wanted to expand his audience to include those who did not speak Arabic. He dreamt of getting one of his novels translated into different languages and labeling it as “a novel from the Middle East”. I vaguely remember him telling me to try translating one of his books myself when I went to college. As soon as I made my decision of going to college abroad in the United States of America, he was excited because he believed that not only did I have the ability to translate it, but I also had the market. Indeed, I had promised myself to make his dream a reality, and so I did.
Though he never found out about my book, written about him, nor did he live long enough to see his dream fulfilled, the way he spent his years pledged to writing and fully committed to his beliefs propelled me to march on, through the pain of losing him, into something productive. He was a million miles far away from money, but his wealth was infinite; his wisdom was his priceless treasure. I dug deep to find that treasure and all I found was one thing: if you believe in something, you never give up on it, even if you spend all of your life chasing after it. For me, this is the ultimate postmaterialistic manner; materials do not matter, one’s thoughts, beliefs, and dedication do.
If I could leave you with one thing, I would plea that you never give up on your dreams. With great dreams come great responsibility.. and limited time too. Remember, count to three, but never to three million.
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