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My Syrian Diary: Changing My Worldview, in Darker Days

Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, shares her stories of life in the war. She recently moved to Damascus to continue her education, deciding to focus her college studies on prosthetics. She hopes to help heal the injured in her country’s conflict.

Written by Marah Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes

I was brought up as a rose is tended to in a loving environment, that’s given fresh water and is nurtured by a gentle breeze. It left in me a sense of youth and tranquility, which, until now, I had thought were always present. I didn’t know that the world around me was filled with ugliness. What I was accustomed to was due to my upbringing. As days went by, I realized that I had been deceived by this life because my family had forever taught me to believe in ideals that do not exist.

It was then that I experienced the same strange feeling I had when my father had died, when relatives turn into strangers and friends turn into enemies. My mother argued otherwise, convincing me that every person has their own circumstances and reasons that would explain their situation: that would excuse them and relieve them of any guilt or blame.

But then I saw the ugliness with my own eyes. My city was filled with bad people who had lost their humanity, who didn’t care about a child going hungry or being cold, and who didn’t care that the blood of innocent people was being shed as they blindly followed their greed for money and wealth.

This greatly affected me, and was the reason behind me leaving my city in search of a better and purer world. Unfortunately, I have only encountered the worst here. Everywhere I turn, I see degenerate people whose lack of morals and deceit I was never accustomed to tolerate or accept. They are a different breed, and for a minute, I thought they might belong to a different planet. They are nothing like any other person I had met or known. This was particularly true in university, where one can find all kinds of people. I found myself making up excuses for everyone, silencing what I believe in and not knowing how to bring myself back on to the right track.

I soon started a new job, the one I told you about, which allowed me to meet different kinds of people. One customer was an arrogant, ignorant man with no manners. He thought everything could be bought with money. His first visit to the shop upset me as he said some things I didn’t like. Then, I had decided to keep quiet and did not comment. On his second visit, he tried to harass me in such lowly fashion that I couldn’t help but slap him out of rage. The store manager held me accountable; he only cared for the reputation of the store, and the customer was a man of means. But I didn’t budge. I insisted that I wasn’t in the wrong. That alone almost cost me my job if it weren’t for the company owner, a lovely old man who intervened and put an end to the situation with a few wise words.

After the customer left, the wise old man pointed out that I shouldn’t repeat what I did, and that I must learn to control my anger. He said power lies in the ability to exercise self-restraint, and asked I be stronger and wiser to face the city life that was very different from the quiet countryside where I came from.

I returned home, my mind racing. One is asked to change to be able to survive, but what does this change consist of? And where does it take me to? Am I meant to become a monster fighting in a jungle full of predators or am I meant to give up my principles and go with this overpowering tide that’s pulling me elsewhere? Or am I meant to adapt to my new environment to be able to survive in these unfamiliar settings?

I asked my mother to explain to me what the required change was, and she told me the story of the falcon. When a falcon turns 40, it either chooses to succumb to death or it decides to go through a painful transformation where it breaks its claws and beak, and plucks its old feathers that had been hindering its flight. My mother explained the amount of pain and hardship the falcon must go through to allow itself to live on for another 30 years. It was only then that I realized that one must change on the journey of self-improvement. One must rise up to the challenges to be able to survive in a changing world. I will do my best to change for the better, and when I am where I want to be, I will work on eradicating all of the misconceptions out there. Only then I won’t be marginalized and weak, but I will be stronger thanks to the positive transformation I went through.

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