With every day I spend abroad, away from my natural habitat, my direct family, my childhood memories and the place closest to my heart, I question the reasons that made me leave and whether they are still valid. A while back, before starting this blog, I across parable that I was reminded of a couple of days ago. It might be longer than you are willing to read, but I promise you it is worthwhile.
A businessman was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. Astonished by the quality and quantity of the captured fish by a small boat of one-man-crew, the businessman initiated the following conversation.
Businessman: Great fish you’ve got there. How long did it take to catch them?
Fisherman: Only a little while.
Businessman: Why wouldn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?
Fisherman: This is enough to support my family’s immediate needs, what is the point of surplus if I can catch this much every day?
Businessman: But what do you do with the rest of your time?
Fisherman: My days usually go like this. I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.
Businessman: You know, I have an MBA from a prestigious university. I am an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and also a CEO. I you allow me, I would like to give you this advice since you seem to be a talented fisherman. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to a bigger coastal city, eventually to the capital, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
Fisherman: But this is my home, why should I leave home to be successful?
Businessman: Home is where you make money. You have to follow the source of income wherever it may come, and within no time, you can buy whatever makes this place your home.
Fisherman: How long will this all take?
Businessman: I would say about 15-20 years.
Fisherman: 20 years seems to be a lot of time, dedication and hard work for something that I do not really need.
The businessman laughed and said: That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.
Fisherman: Millions? That’s a lot of money. What can I possibly do with millions?
Businessman: Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.
Of course, this is a parable and not to be taken literally and simplistically, but just like most parables, it does hold a lot of truth between its words.
Reflecting on my own life, I was surrounded by two loving parents, a happy supportive larger family. I had a decent job, a brand new car, plenty of good friendships. I was able to afford most of the things I wanted. I was partying every weekend, I could afford new clothes whenever I needed. Most importantly, I enjoyed a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose.
I won’t deny, I had plenty of moments of frustration when it came to the instability, lack of implementation of the laws, of the corruption in politics, but for the most part I lived a very happy life. I will not make it so shiny and glamorous, for I did experience nepotism, I did get stuck in traffic, I was always anxious and nervous of all the political turmoil. I did experience wars, I was a few minutes and meters away from an explosion that was part of the series before the Syrian army exited Lebanon.
Despite all that, I look back and I remember how happy I was. I was content, satisfied and looking forward to enjoy life and try my best.
Here I am now, surrounded by snow and temperatures below freezing. Here I am going through life with no family around me. Here I am abroad, happy but always reminiscing. I promise myself to go back after I get enough experience, save enough money, or maybe until things get calmer back home. But I was living with all that when I was back there and I was still happy.
Why did I leave? For the most part, I think because of the promise of better opportunities abroad. I wanted to see what was out there for me, what I could accomplish. I wanted to catch more fish, buy a bigger boat, have my own fleet, with the hopes of selling all that at some point and coming back to where I started….
We all have our reasons, and we all know Lebanon is not a perfect country. Are the reasons we left for still valid? Is life that much different abroad?
I would like to hear from all the Lebanese Expatriates reading this post.
Why did you leave? How do you read the parable above?
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