Identity is a complicated notion. Who are you? Which part of the world are you from? What is your ethnicity? What religion do you adhere to? What is your political stance? What is your personality like? What do you want to do with your life? What are you doing now?
Add these to a hundred more annoying questions that the world throws at you everyday and then comes the idea of pride.
As a kid, I had always known who I was. I was a Muslim girl born in Bahrain who liked to read and watch television. It was that simple, really.
I fought with and loved my siblings. School was an unpleasant but necessary thing to get through. Truth is, there’s more to the story, and there always is.
Growing up, my parents quoted and told us stories about famous Arab poets and writers. Thanks to them, the words of Nizar Qabbani, Mahmoud Darwish and Aboul-Qacem Echebbi are still etched in my mind. I knew where Palestine was from a very young age, and can still recall talking about it with a friend in the fifth grade while eating vanilla ice cream at the mall.
At school, I was the girl who was best in English, but at home I would fall asleep reading detective books written by Egyptian author Mahmoud Salim.
Years passed, and my English improved. My love of reading, and the fact that I was a teenager meant that my head was in Harry Potter books, Twilight books (guilty) and glued to shows like One Tree Hill, The O.C. and Gilmore Girls. Attempting to be cool, I shamelessly copied my sister’s taste in music, and yelled out the lyrics to songs by Linkin Park and Busted. I loved English, reading it, writing it and watching it. Still do, actually.
The idea of pride brewed in my head a couple of years ago. Living away from home, in a country thousands of miles away, I had plenty of time to think. I found myself drawn to watching documentaries about the poets I grew up hearing about. I looked up with interest whenever I heard someone speak Arabic, and started to talk about my views to my friends. Politics and life issues became a real deal. Arabic songs, books, and newspapers are still important to me.
Even though I was immersed in my new surroundings, I brought with me pieces from my old surroundings as well. The black and white image I had in my head when I was little now became more complex and confusing.
Having to determine what you want to do with your life, where you stand on something and what change you will bring to the table is not easy. Hundreds of mixed thoughts float around in my head everyday. I also developed an awareness of issues facing my community, while I was thousands of miles away. It seemed I was in the middle of two realities, for the time being.
That is when one thing became very clear: the part of the world I belonged to was one I truly loved. The more difficult my region got, the more I clung to it. I am a product of my history, culture, politics and language.
You want to see Arab pride? Look no further.