Juggling Between Two Nationalities...Easier Said Than Done: Part One - A Personal Confession
I am often asked the question, actually often is an understatement, rather frequently prompted to answer the following question: Where Are You From?
Born in Montreal, raised for 6 years in Canada, moved to Lebanon in 1996 only to move back in 2000 to Canada (Montreal and Windsor back and forth), returned to Lebanon in 2005, by then I was in my 9th grade and in the summer of 2006, moved back to Canada (this time Ottawa) only to return again in 2007 to complete my senior year in Lebanon. Graduated from the faculty of engineering in 2013 and now completing my PhD in Chicoutimi, Quebec.
Put yourself in my position, what would you answer if someone asked you where are you from ?
In a troubled and yes confused mind, juggling between two identities, two nationalities and two sets of cultures and traditions, you can understand that answering such question is a difficult task. It is not that I am vocabulary incapable to manage the answer, but because I have a different approach to this subject, particularly the notion of "personal identity". The main ambiguity and confusion is our assumption that "nationality" and "identity" are identical and I find that the true intention behind the question is Who Are You rather than Where Are You From. I will elaborate more on this topic by first examining the difference between "nationality" and "identity".
What is a nationality? It is nothing more than a civil status, for each state or country has its own set of doctrines and regulations concerning as to when a particular individual is granted his nationality. In other words, it is simply a small notebook given to its citizens, we call a passport- Nothing More ! In this sense I ask the following question: what physical, spiritual, social or intellectual change occurred after one is granted a given nationality? Do you gain more wisdom? Do you suddenly become an intellect or an enlightened soul? Obviously not.
As for "identity"? If we agree that nationality is a civil status then are all citizens with a common nationality identical to one another? I define one's "identity" as the set of morals, principles and knowledge you built and gain threw time and space. Yes people of the same nationality share similar characteristics, but there is no direct correlation between space and ones identity.
Now I turn to the confusion (that exists especially in the Eastern societies) between nationality and identity. Presently, I am reading an excellent book by Dr Ali Shariati, where he states "The fact is that our assumption that the enlightened, scientist and intellectual, are synonymous has confused us so that we are not able to understand who is enlightened". Likewise, I believe that the fact is that our assumption that "nationality" and "identity" are synonymous has confused us to regard a direct correlation between nationality and social status. I speak from experience when I say that I have witnessed this confusion, and I admit that it has tremendously affected me during my teenage years. This impact can be seen in the evolution of my answer such as: Lebanese born in Canada, Canadian-Lebanese, Canadian but my parents are Lebanese, Lebanese, Canadian, and well its complicated. Although, I may not hold responsibility of moving back and forth between Lebanon and Canada, but adapting to the environment is my sole responsibility. Adapting does not mean change or break your boundaries, but rather learn to built a "self-awareness" and ultimately a proper "identity". Once you discover your self-awareness, time and space become one where, regardless of your location on this earth and regardless when your allocated, you can answer with pride and confidence, my name is ... and I am from... I have come to realize, the issue is not that incapability to identify where I am from but who I am. I pray to God in this Holy month of Ramadan to inspire and bless me with his hindmost knowledge, and allow us to receive his blessing in this world and the world hereafter.