‘Who am I?’
Some might just decide on an answer to this question, and then spend the rest of their life trying to fit within their answer. However, others may spend their whole lifetime simply trying to find the answer.
For me, I’ve always seen myself as fitting into the latter category. I’m trying hard to find an answer to the question of who I am. And yet, I find that the harder I try to look for answers, the more questions seem to appear in my mind. I used to call myself a writer. But there is so much in my mind waiting to be put into words. Perhaps I am a reader? But there are so many books on old dusty shelves waiting for me to open. Maybe I’m a knowledge hustler? A truth seeker? Maybe, maybe, maybe.
‘A Palestinian’, I used to answer before I was even asked.
I don’t know if this is because I was spoon-fed to be proud of my nationality from a young age, however I do know why I stopped defining myself that way. It no longer made clear sense to me. I didn’t fully know what ‘I am a Palestinian’ meant. All I knew was that ‘the Jews are bad, they stole our land, we are the victims of history and we will get Palestine back one day’. But never was I told the difference between a Jew and an Israeli, never was I told the other side of the story, and never was I told whenthat one promised day of liberation would come. With so many unanswered questions, and so little clarity, I lost faith in my ‘I am a Palestinian’ answer.
A part of me wanted to understand more about what my nationality meant, but it all seemed so overwhelming, and so full of unknowns. The weight of this question of who I am weighed on my shoulders, and to be honest, my response eventually was to ignore it all, to turn my back on it, on me, my books and my writing. I never wrote a character that is Palestinian or even Arabic. I simply preferred reading translated novels. I felt ashamed of my heritage and culture, and didn’t know how to ask the questions, which pushed me further away from the answer. It all made me feel down about myself, and I felt that my story was not worth telling or writing about.
But, at a time when I needed it most, a friend of mine convinced me to try volunteering with Zimam. I can’t explain how thankful I am for this friend, and the fact that they did this. I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t sure about the idea. But I knew that I needed something to fill the hole that stopping writing had left, and I was curious.
And my first time volunteering never stopped. I have been a volunteer for nine months now. And I think it’s helped me get closer to answering my question of who I am too.
Zimam is a movement that teaches young Palestinians to engage with politics, with Palestine, and trains them to be leaders in society. My national identity as a Palestinian, try as I might to deny it, is an unavoidable part of who I am and who I’ve grown to become, and Zimam has helped me to realise that avoiding or suppressing it for so long had done my quest for self-discovery a deep disservice. Putting a mirror up to myself, and accepting the realities before my eyes are essential for self-growth, and for getting to a clearer ‘me’.
I feel more rooted than I used to, and here I am writing again too.