Friday, January 7, 2011
He sat down across the room from me with his wife next to him, and the minute he heard the very first part of my answer to his question, he interrupted me in front of all my folks who had come to visit, saying "Come back Tony, you have done nothing for yourself over there, you're 37 and still not married, you don't own your residence and you have no career".
It didn't come as a total shock, I was expecting it, just not from him. It was not his place to judge me the way he did. But he judged me according to his definition of success, not mine. I just said that I was happy and it's all that mattered to me. When I added that I had pretty much built a life for myself in the US, his wife stopped me from continuing my sentence saying "Stop building already, just come back, it's better for you here". But how is it better for me here? How does she know that? Does she know that I feel that I belong in my current town more than where I grew up? And what difference does it make when I am a minority in both places yet in one of those two places, no one ridicules me the way she and her husband did.
The next morning he saw my sister and asked her to convince me to come back. My sister, who never loses her cool, asked him for the reason I should come back and he said "Your brother did nothing in 11 years" and she went off on him. She mentioned to him some things I didn't even bother to think of, and she was right.
My philosophy considers being happy and enjoying the present as the prime reason to live, and the standards to being successful. And though I'm happy, his words got me bad. Why? I look back at those 11 years and reflect, I think of the 8 visits I made across the ocean all the way to my home town in Syria, I think of the 4 trips I took to Europe, Canada and Mexico. I think of the 10 visits I made to different US states and of the 13 trips I made across California itself. I loved every moment of those trips, I learned from different cultures and I met wonderful people.
In 11 years I have been in 2 major relationships, one of which, is current, but yes, I'm still not married and I'm 37. In 11 years I met four of the closest friends that I call best friends and a lot of people who care for me and would not use words that make me feel the way he and his wife made me feel. In 11 years I moved from one of the most dangerous cities in LA to one of the coolest places that costs me an arm and a leg a month in rent, and I don't own that place because I can't afford buying it.
In 11 years I climbed the ladder professionally from an entry level to the top, Managing entry levels, and I excelled at it. In May of 2009, I gave all that up, by choice, to start my own business, when I found out that it added no value to my life. And I admit that financially I took a steep decline.
In 11 years I made several attempts to break into the music industry, I finally managed to get two CDs out. Did they come back with an income? No. But that didn't stop me from doing what I enjoy. I will always write and sing.
All that came with a cost. I won't put down how much I could have saved had I not moved out of Inglewood, had I not had the chance to visit with my father before he passed, had I not brought him over to see where I live and how I live, had I not given up my career that was causing me so much stress to be able to save a grand or two every month, had I not enjoyed my hobbies as an outlet to expressing who I am, had I not visited with friends, dined out exploring the city and went out on different dates. Yes, I would have saved a lot of money if I didn't choose to live. And I would have turned into a bitter, stressed out, resentful man, who would have successfully owned his house and made something for himself.
I question myself. I question the funds I have in my bank account today more than I did 11 years ago when I had only $ 3000.00 hidden in my jeans. I question the safety of where I live today more than I did when I lived at a place where crime rate hit all time high. I question the relationship I'm in today more than the casual dates I went on when I didn't know much about myself. But most of all, I question the reason why his words got into me the way they did.
There's no stability in my life today, so I live hand to mouth, but I'm lucky doing what I love to do and I hope that one day, I will be able to do what I enjoy doing the most and have that as a full time job. I am done fooling myself into the American dream. My dream is to live the present which is all I have. I live at a place that I have the privilege of calling home and feeling at home under its roof, I don't own it, but what difference does it make? I ain't taking it with me when I die anyway. And how do you explain any of that to him or his wife? And why should I?
I smiled to him and politely said "I'm happy where I am. My happiness has no price tag attached to it, and for me, it's all that matters. My happiness is the standards of my success, and that is what I have done for myself".