Hello, said Doubt.
I was six years old when I first met Doubt. It was when my family decided to move back to Canada. One day I was in Egypt, and the next I was in no man’s land. The change came out of nowhere — it left me damaged. My language was no longer my language. Everything became lost in translation. Nobody understood what I was saying, nobody cared to understand. I was speechless. My language was their trash, and I had to throw it away and conform. To the land of Language.
I was confused as to why this teacher wanted to teach me in a special classroom where I was the only student. It was only when my parents arrived that things started to make sense. I remember asking my dad, “But, why do I have to leave my classroom?” His response was “to learn the Language.” Everybody thinks ESL is a place where people learn the Language. But the only thing I learned was how to be Doubtful. ESL stands for English as a Second Language. This title in itself indicates that no matter how well you learn the Language, the Language will never belong to you – you will always be secondary. Always Other.
My classmates noticed that I needed help with the Language, so at recess they chose not to play with me. Because to them I was the girl who spoke in a different language. To them, I was weird. They would take my paper and say, “How old are you?” questioning my intellect. I never blamed my classmates for their thinking because it was the adults who removed me from my own classroom and isolated me from everybody else. I felt ashamed for not knowing the Language. So, I did what I knew best: I began collecting the seeds of Doubt from an institution that prided itself on being a safe place where children could learn.
Salam, said Doubt.
I was fourteen years old when my family decided to move back to Egypt. I yelled, but the decision was final. Everything felt like déjà vu. I time-travelled to a memory that I suppressed over the years. But this time, I knew how to blend in with the unknown. Because of my past experience, I became less terrified. Now, I fluently spoke the language of the unknown. I came back to a country whose language I once knew. But I felt displaced. So, my mother took me to educational centers so I could re-learn the Arabic language. But it didn’t matter how much I studied the language because I was unable to speak the language fluently. I was told by people who knew me, “How could you forget a language that you once knew?” My response would always be “I understand the language,” but that was not enough. I felt misplaced. Wherever I went, I had to continuously re-learn languages or else I became an outcast. Most people view language as a bridge that brings people together, but in reality, language divides people. In my first year of schooling in Egypt, people chose not to communicate with me because I did not understand their language. Some students would talk about my situation and would wonder among themselves, “why would someone move to a country where they do not speak the language?” Not only did this question make me feel unwelcome but it made me feel unlanguaged.
Because nothing has ever belonged to me, I decided to change the narrative. I decided to change the language. After a year, I noticed a shift: the Egyptians started viewing me as their experiment. They would only communicate with me so they could practice the English language. And they found this funny. And to me having their company was better than having no company.
I am always in-between countries, in-between oceans and in-between Llanguages —I am always carrying luggage filled with Doubt. And I am left with excess baggage and nowhere to belong. Somewhere in this liminal space — I became stuck. I built a home of uncertainty between countries, between oceans and between Llanguages. For a long time, I became satisfied with quarantining in my liminal home, where nobody could see behind my mask. I was invisibly uncomfortable with myself. Until the day I decided to answer the door of dreams.
My calling has arrived, but I am stuck in my liminal home. I am unable to embrace my dream because Doubt caged me in-between lands and in-between Llanguages. I try to write, so I can escape. I try to search for my ink. But these spaces suffocate me with Doubt. I am afraid that I am not good enough. I am afraid that people will see through my mask. I am afraid that I will not be enough. I am afraid, and unable to JustBe.
I search for my ink within spaces that are filled with Doubt. I have allowed the in-between Llanguages to imprison me, believing that I was not enough. It was time to be courageous. It was time to JustBe.
I allowed myself to escape from these spaces that only served Doubt. I finally had the ability to scream, to tell the world: I WANT TO BE A WRITER! But in every corner of Llanguage, I was met with silence. I crawled back into my cage because Doubt was having a laugh at my sorrow.
And I was unable to JustBe:
I was filled with pain while I ached for validation. I tried to be brave, but I would remember the silence that followed my dreams. And some nights I could hear Doubt sneering, I told you so.
Why did I answer the door? It is an action that I regret from time to time. I would call out for help, but silence followed with every sound I spoke. During this torment, I searched for my ink one last time. Because I was in despair, writing became an obligation to sustain my sanity in this liminal space that was filled with unknowns. I fled from a cage that imprisoned me, that kept me STUCK in-between Llanguages.
But then my hands found the ink. And the empty paper, lay waiting, patiently, for the ink’s arrival. And the ink had a story to tell, and the paper was ready to listen – to hear. A union was formed between. And in-between the two is where I belong. Between the ink and paper: a home where I could JustBe.