I was six when I moved to the United States of America. At the time I didn't understand the difference between Jordan and Arizona, all I knew was that there were Safeway’s everywhere, and we could go to them, unlike Jordan. I find it so ironic now that it had to be Safeway that lead the way, because safety was always a concern from the moment we stepped off our plane at LAX. We never, not for a moment felt safe, and before we could learn to integrate and feel a sense of safety and security a woman released her two labs, monstrous creatures to people that have never seen a dog, and disrupted our picnic. We have never had another picnic since then, and I can still see her smiling right before it happened.
For years we struggled with stability and safety, but like with many others those two concerns became normalized and despite them my sisters and I were able to integrate fully into society. Because of those safety concerns though, inflamed by our house being robbed and years of pain and misery after 9/11, we moved to Canada. But Canada did not like us anymore than the US did, and instead of loving it like we loved the US we felt victimized by it, even though the situation was far better there.
Years later, I'd move back to the US to study my undergrad after years in Jordan, and I'd feel like I'm right at home despite being in Massachusetts now. I was right at home with the sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Ableism, Colorism and everything else we dealt with on a daily basis. I was comfortable in it. I knew my place, I knew my privilege, and most of all I was comfortable enough with it to want to stand up against these injustices. And so in college, I started standing up, something I didn't know how to do anywhere else. For a long time I thought that was the only reason, but along the way I realized that my investment in this country came from a place of love and compassion. There were things I did not like, but like a faithful son I stood by, trying my best to support a system I did not agree with. I worked everyday to change this genius of a system that works flawlessly to oppress both within its borders and outside. I love this place, and even though I know I am needed elsewhere and know I have the capacity to love other places, I am still here, despite everything. Because for better or for worse, this is my home.
But these days the worst is overwhelming. We have become a country that's democratic by name only, to the point where Asylees are saying that maybe facing persecution at home is better than facing it here. We've always known there were problems, and despite everything we've invested to support the systems growth, the system has made us feel delusional because it said that none of what we were saying was real. A few months ago, President Reagan's adviser admitted that the War on Drugs was a tool to oppress. This with police brutality coming up every other day on our news channels we now have proof that everything we've always known was real and the system, like many current presidential candidates, have just been gaslighting.
So today I need to question that love. If this was a relationship with another individual, a significant other, a friend or even a family member I would have left a long time ago. There's only so much investing one person can do.
I'm a mental health professional. I support individuals to get out of these toxic relationships and yet like an actual abusive relationship I, and so many others, still have hope. We hope that our love will change, and things will go back to the way things were before…
I know it’s not exactly the same but I don’t think I am capable of leaving despite having the option to. I am incapable of leaving behind so many others that will and are being abused as I write this. I can’t just turn my back on them. So I choose to stay, to endure, and carry the hope that someday we can all get to a better place.
The staple of abusive individuals is that they make you feel like you can’t be without them. They get you to rely on them, in ways that you believe you can’t do alone. But in reality, there’s so much more to all of us. What it is they have, you can have too. And without them you will shine, and you will be you. Better. Stronger. Capable. Without them.
I am privileged in my ability to somewhat stay and somewhat stay, never in either world, but somewhere in between. But I’m so tired of all the leaving and I wonder if I’ll find a place that’ll love me back, so I stay. I stay to try to change a world I have always known was not mine to change. So I stay, and wonder if maybe, just maybe, I am wrong.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Founder and Executive Director of Life in My Days. An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, and a Novelist. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.