Lessons Learnt II

Life-lessonsI guess when you’re so consumed with life, it becomes increasingly difficult to write about it… and… thus my excuses begin. I can’t believe it has been this long since I last attempted to reach out and share my thoughts. Actually I can, who am I fooling, as usual I’ve lacked the commitment. I’ve continuously, consciously chosen everything else but to sit down and make sense out of the constant rumblings in my head. I guess maybe it’s true, I’ve really been consumed with life to have enough time to stop and make sense out of the whole thing. But i guess it is life, most days, it doesn’t really make much sense.

Life has been interesting, to say the least. It has been filled with joy, with hardship, with confusion, and as always with so many lessons. As random as I view this life to be, there’s something wired in me that always forces me to look at the lessons in all situations. I’ve found learning the lessons to be quite worth it. Like President George W. Bush once said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Even though I’m not sipping whatever it is that he’s sipping, like Mr Bush, I try not to be fooled twice, especially by life. Even though there is no rehearsal to this life we can always view others’ life and our own past as a good source of wisdom. We just need to be awake enough to notice. So yeah, here are some life lessons I’ve taken to heart.

It is all in the small things:

If there is a single realization that has completely transformed my life, this would be it. We are always told to dream big, to view only the sky as our limit. We are almost wired to appreciate the grand, the majestic, the achievement of the seemingly impossible. We celebrate college graduations, weddings, the start of new families, financial achievements. We celebrate breaking of world records and new discoveries . For sure, these are things worth celebrating, but in our constant craving of seeking happiness in these grand achievements, we’ve totally undervalued the grandness of seemingly small things, even though life is all about them. If most human emotional misery can be boiled down to one thing, it would be our inability to see greatness is small things, our inability to live in the moment and embrace it. We waste our lives dead, unconscious, chasing after everything else but the small miraculous moments.

Joy is in the cup of coffee you sip while talking to your dear friend, it’s in the contagious laughter of a toddler. It’s in the immersion of a novel, or watching someone like Merlyn Streep bring the novel to life. It’s in the embrace of a lover and the security that comes with it. It’s in watching Woody Allen’s fretful characters come to life on-screen. It’s in the sharing of secrets with friends, and knowing the love you share with your family. Life is rarely about big moments, it’s about our consciousness of small miracles.

Have the courage to be yourself:

Know who you are and be it. It’s so easy to live the life everyone else what’s you to live. It’s even more difficult to decipher between what we want and what other people expect. Most times we think what will make us happy is living up to the standards of the society we live in. The simple example would be this idea of getting married, especially for women. If i had a penny for every time girls i knew decided to get married to men they hardly knew because everyone was getting married. The pain and despair i feel for most of these girls… (this is a whole other post on its own.) The whole idea is know what you want, know what it is that makes you happy and at peace. It may not be some grand success that’s usually celebrated by the average person, but it will be you.

Also, know what your values are – This just makes making decision much easier. Whether it is in work or relationships, clearly knowing your values will help to distinguish between the bullshit you’re willing to put up with and the ones you’re not.

Don’t give up on what you want:

If you feel there’s something you want out of life don’t be afraid to go after it. There is no reason why you shouldn’t. The way i see it, aside from making yourself a good and decent human being, what else are you going to do with your life? We have 24 hours everyday, the time is going to pass anyway, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to do and do it.


I think the simplest ingredient to make life worth living is to love. Not only to love humanity from a distance, ( Wasn’t it Dostoevsky that said i hate individuals but i love humanity?) but to love individuals with all their NIFT and all. When you truly understand life, the only thing you can conclude is, what else can you possibly feel for a fellow human being but compassion? At the end of the day we all have the same beginning and the same end. And the only thing that makes the middle beautiful is love.

Life really is too short:

The earliest great lesson I’ve learned in life must be this – Shi amet ayinor. I’ve always been acutely aware of  mortality a lot earlier than i should have been. This must be why I’ve never been one to stress out more than what was necessary. It could all end in a minute. I heard or read somewhere that everything we do in life is to distract ourselves from death. No truer words have ever been spoken. This world would be so much different if we were always conscious of our mortality. How easy it would have been to love, to empathize, to be kind if only we kept this truth in front of our minds. But rather, now it’s so easy to hate, easy to hurt other people, so easy to be selfish and destructive to ourselves and this earth. In our attempt to deny death, we destroy life.

Don’t get fooled with all that glitters:

Don’t believe in most of the bullshit people show you and tell you about their lives. People lie. keep in mind they don’t do this intentionally, they simply don’t want to air their dirty laundry or be pitied by anyone. I guess we all gotta keep up appearance. People you think have it way better than you probably don’t, they just know how to edit their Facebook profile accordingly. They are more concerned about looking happy than actually being happy. Life is tough, It’s pretty fair that way. We all go through difficult times, and when you do, never think the grass is greener on the other side. Believe it when they tell you, If everyone threw their own problems in a bowl and you got to see it. You’d pick your problem back up and walk away happy.

Cut yourself some slack:

It really ain’t that serous, so don’t take yourself so seriously. Life has the potential to be beautiful, as long as we’re ready to see it, as long as we’re conscious and awake. Like they say life is a roller coaster, so when things seem to be down, know it’s not forever. Life is hard and it doesn’t discriminate. Things might not go your way once in a while, so what can you do? Try again, let it go or go take a nap.

Ok, I think that’s a good enough reminder for the day. I spend more days than i should oblivious to these realities. Hopefully now this will cement it in my head once and for all, and hopefully yours too.

Tena Yistelegn.

Melkam Addis Amet!

Endemen kermachuhal? Our wonderful and beloved New Year has dragged me out of the shell i’ve been in the past couple of weeks (or has it a been wee bit more?) Living in my head most hours of my day is what makes me crave sharing my thoughts with you. But surprisingly these past couple of weeks i’ve done the stepping out of the head and into the world thing more often. “Cogito ergo sum” Descartes had once said, but i’ve somehow managed to distance myself from this thinking, i am now not because i think, i am because i feel, because i live in the moment, because i feel the sun on my skin, the anger in my veins, the music in my soul, the swagger in my groove. As Eckhart Tolle redefined it, i feel therefore i am.

The positive attitude a New Year manages to bring out in the most cynic of a man/woman never ceases to amaze me. The smoker will throw out his cigarettes for the hundredth time in the hopes of beating his addiction. The chubby girl will sign a new contract at the gym in the hopes of becoming fit and fabulous ( Oh how many times have i been down that road). The student will aim for that A that will surely be achieved this year (books bought, syllabus read, mind ready). It matters little, really, weather these goals are achieved. It is the hope, the joy, the excitement of a second chance, or a third, or a forth. It’s very similar to spending your last 5 bucks on a lottery. Weather you realize it or not, your subconscious knows your chances of hitting the jackpot are slim to none, but you do it anyways – for the hope, for the possibility of what could be, for what you can be. The beauty of a New Year, though, lays within the fact that the possibility of achievement is much higher than winner a lottery. You can almost taste it – it’s right there in front of you, the world is bright again!

For most of us away from home, the Addis Amet might be bitter sweet. A New Year without Doro wet and defo dabo, without abebayehosh and adey abeba, without meto haya program and the oh so fabulous ladies, with birr plastered on their foreheads, hitting the eskesta like it ain’t never been hit before, hardly sounds like a new year worth celebrating. But we sure will make it. Some of us will get down to the hip version of abebayehosh by Teddy Afro at the habesha concerts and parties that will surely take place in every “habesha city.” Some will attempt to create their Ethiopia homes in their apartments spending half the time maragebign the buna chis away from the smoke detector, and some will spend it in the virtual world sending out their wishes for all the world to see that it’s their new year, their day.

Whichever way you choose to spend it, here is a cheers from my tiny corner of the world. I raise my glass to having survived the passing year. I raise my glass to endless possibilities, to bright futures, to unflinching dreams. I raise my glass to love, passion and compassion. I raise my glass to living each moment to the fullest, to embrace simple pleasures and to many days of laughter. I raise my glass to you.

Melkam Addis Amet!

What’s with all your stuff?

I bought a dress the other day. A pretty dress. A pretty dress to make me feel better. Yes, dear reader, I have resorted to shopping as my therapy, i have become a real American. And you thought all along you needed an American passport to become a contributing member of the free society, didntchyaa?! If that was the case, i’m afraid you’re greatly mistaken. If you don’t believe me, please refer to the flat screen box sitting in front of your couch – it will give you all the rules and regulations. The information might not seem apparent, but don’t be alarmed. Just observe your thought process and the action that proceeds it – you will quickly realize that you had actually become an american long ago. The rules and regulations have probably sneaked into your conscious, slowly and quietly, making you confuse who you really are with who you’re told to be.

My new pretty dress did its job, the therapy worked! After having purchased it, walking out the store, i was feeling pretty dame better in the hopes of appearing happy and content to my onlookers ( isn’t that ultimately our whole point – to please, to get approval? From God knows who or why). I don’t think i can say i was surprised by what happened – the feel good effect a thing had on me. The ‘wey gud!’ factor was more the slow realization that i actually resorted to a thing to raise my mood, and untimely my self worth. You see, i had always prided myself on not being materialistic. I use my cellphone until it decides to stop functioning, unlike most “modern” females, i actually have countable number of shoes, and any car will do for transportation as long as it has four wheels. So you see, i’m a pretty average gal, or a not so average gal, depending on how you’re looking at it.

So how did this happen to me? How and When did i lose touch with the ME that didn’t require stuff to actually be satisfied with my life? The more i contemplate about it, the more i realize i’ve unconsciously, slowly, been sucked into the consumerism that rules the great US of A. It seems every TV channel i turn on, every magazine i flip open, every billboard sign i’m bombarded with has finally done it’s job, it has convinced me that i’m not good enough.  Aren’t we always told that we should purchase this and that to be bustier, curvier, prettier, skinnier, happier… worth liking, worth loving? I’ve always attempted to make myself aware of the lies we’re being fed on a daily basis so that a rich, fat, white guy somewhere can make a buck while we, the ordinary, drown in our sorrows that arise from our utter acceptance of the fake. The perfect looking couple cuddled up on their couch, staring at their 60 inch flat screen TV will make you question your average-hight, unaffectionate man and your oh so average 50 inch. The photoshopped Cover girl model will forever remind you of your flawed skin and your fat filled belly. The wholesome happy family running by the beach, ‘summering’ in Hawaii, will keep minding you of all that lacks in your life… it goes on and on and on. But hey, no problem, they have a solution for you – to get you closer to the dream – just go shoppin! That’s right, their ain’t much your hard earned Benjamins can’t do. If you don’t have much of that at the moment, no problem! – demo credit card, men serto yibla.

The fascinating thing is that these images that are being ingrained in our minds occur without our awareness of it. We take them from the imaginary world of some far away perfect world that’s being sold to us to something real, to something to actually strive for, when infact we’re always doomed to fail. Don’t get me wrong i’m not preaching against materialism, far from it. I ain’t that self disciplined, mature or in touch with my “true inner self.” I’ve spent my share of time shopping, attempting to find the perfect pair of shoes to go with that skirt that i bought on sale that looks like the one Cameron Diaz had on while on J-Leno! Yes, i can be average that way too at times. What i’m mentioning here is when the innocent want of looking good and enjoying things changes into questioning ones self worth when there is lack of these stuff. Which by the way is quite unattractive, borderlining dangerous.

You see, it is possible to enjoy stuff without letting it rule ones life, but it seems that’s becoming difficult by the day. We’re always wanting something. Once we have it, we want more of it, a better kind of it, and we won’t stop until we get it. We end up trying to validate who we are, our self worth, by the stuff we possess.The funny part is the obsession with stuff is not only promoted by marketers, but is further perpetuated by the communities we live in. About two weeks back i was complimented on the sunglasses i was wearing by a thirty something year old mother. Taking a quick glance at myself in the nearby mirror i agreed and accepted the compliment. So ‘Marku menden new?” i.e what brand is it? Given her shaky language skills and the traditional attire that decorated her full figure, i have to admit i was taken aback. ‘Eee brandu?‘ that was me with a sort of blank yet amused face. Without giving me a chance, “Michael Kors” new? awekshiw aydel esun, Ye Michele Obama’n libse endewem bezu yiseral…” Thanks to my hubby who spent his teenage years in LA falling into the brand hype, i had recently heard him mention that name. “oh awekut esun, ( fara’wan tefeleg) ehe enkuan esu aydelem.” I wasn’t sure if i should lie or just tell this very much 21st century Ethiopian American mother that what i in fact had on were 7 dollar sunglasses from a sale at NY&Co. I’ve never been a good lier so i stuck with the truth. “Wi tey enji?” she said. I thought i saw a tiny little smirk on her face. Being the nice lady she is though, i think she also felt a little sorry for me and my now not so sexy glasses that were not designed by a name she could barely pronounce.

It looks to me the business of selling stuff, untimely fake happiness and self worth, will forever be profitable. We’re living our lives trying to measure up, constantly trying to “perfect” ourselves, following an ideal that’s designed by people who’re attempting to make money to get their version of the better, fancier, high-end stuff. We’re all chasing something it seems and we think we’ll find it wrapped up in all the stuff we accumulate, but alas, to never find it.

Tena Yistelegn!

Habesha Gatherings Etiquette.

Dear Diary,

You and I haven’t crossed paths lately. I’m not quite sure why. Possibly because I’ve been too busy, or maybe it’s because I’m too embarrassed to admit that I’ve become a ‘menga among the menages?‘ Remember when we promised never to become one of those? Ay lijinet! Many things have changed since I last wrote to you – Americans sent a black guy to the White House who, by the way, managed to kill that terrorist (talk about a cliche), the Arabs have been busy with revolutions, it is rumored that Ethiopians are now paying 180 birr for one Kilo of coffee, and I have started recycling.

But onto more serious matters. I hear there will be a huge gathering of Ethiopians in the Peach State in a matter of weeks. Such gatherings happen every year during the weekend of the 4th of July. It’s quite the anticipated event. Thousands of habesha people get together to watch football (the real one) and party those couple of nights away. Don’t think it’s happening in some yewedeke venue, as some might expect, no sir, it’s ain’t. It will be centered, i hear, at a huge Dome where the Americans play their version of eger kuass (incase you’re wondering there is no involvement of eger in this game.)

As you might expect, there are a list of etiquette one is advised to follow during such gatherings involving our people. So in case you decide to visit the State during that week, I’ve decided to share a few of them with you.

For one, you better not look shabby when you arrive to the event. The event is strictly ‘gotata free.’  Which is why, i hear, every habesha male and female goes onto a shopping spree at least 2 months in advance, even if they have to go on a diet of noodles and yegzer weha to make it happen. No one is going to get caught dead looking less than average. I must say, this gives me quite the worry since the only shopping i’ve done lately, and i assume this will be the case for a while to come, is at babiesrus. Hmmm I wonder if they carry sesky shoes for mamas? ( you know what, this could be a great business idea to pitch to the babiesrus people! hotmamasrus?… possible? No? ok i’m trailing of.)

Second, I hear you gotta have a lil extra dough in hand (as taboo as it is to discuss money, a good friend shared this insight with me). Aside from the expected expenses you may have when deciding to join this party, ( hotel, transportation, meals, drinks) you may find yourself in a situation where you feel you will have to pay for others. “Have to” here is a very sensitive and culture specific phrase. You won’t be forced to wash dishes if, say, you don’t pay for a meal. But yilugnta, the trigger of major stress in every Habesha, and ego, the torturer of every Habesha man, will force you to do so. Since the Habesha female suffers less from the issue of 10 anbessa autobiss-put-together sized ego, this problem is faced mainly by men.

Third, Fugera, for this week only, is allowed. Actually in some circumstances, it’s also advised. Keep in mind, this act is only allowed under a need-to-save-face bases. Don’t let yourself be caught in a highly exaggerated fugera. You won’t want to be blowing your own horn to be heard all the way to Timbuktu, one reaching the Metro area shall suffice. This is the case because of the countless high school and other related reunions that take place during the gathering. Let’s face it, there’s always that idiot overachiever that oozes out ‘i got a great life and i look better than you’ bullshit from his every pore. So feel free to embellish a little bit about your own life. Life ain’t perfect, and if you feel like you’ve been thrown a little more than your share of curve balls, and you don’t feel like being thrown a pity party by the idiot or that chemlaka ye’bole lij, forget your reality for that week, feel and look fabulous – yet abatu – man ke man yansal!

These are only a handful of etiquette that i hear will be respected by every Habesha that will be attending this year’s July 4 celebration taking place in Atlanta, GA. Lucky for me, since i currently reside in the city, if the above rules and regulations seem a bit too much, i shall spend my days at home, with my not so fancy attire and my in-need-of-some-embellishment lifestyle. But if i feel up to it, i shall join the party looking fabulous. And incase i run into you, Dear Diary, i promise to buy you the meal (ok, maybe not the meal, but definitely the drink), just remember to limit the Fugera, eshi.

Tena Yistelegn.

A Letter to a friend: To Commit or Not To Commit.

I wanted to share with you a letter i wrote to a friend on August 3, 2008. It was written in a moment of confusion, in my moment of naivete. I’ve learnt a lot of lessons in these past three years. If there is one lesson that resonated with the me today while rereading this letter three years down the road, it’s that of listening to the self, listening to your heart. It is true what they say, your heart will never deceive you, it will lead you to your destiny.


P.S the letter has been edited for the sake of clarity.

“My Dearest Friend,

How wonderful it is to be single! What a relief it is to have nothing to lose, to not be responsible for another individual, to simply live for yourself, being the best person you know how, and just be. You know that feeling where you have everything under your control, to wake up every morning and know what you’re going to be doing for the rest of the day, to know that you are the one and only individual who can harm yourself, thereby decreasing to the minimum the risk of pain and disappointment? You have everything and everyone at a distance and you can be your fabulous self, and – not care. Period.

I know, of course, there are those nights when you crave for another humans touch, where loneliness creeps up and makes you question that very fabulous self that has always been on ‘the straight path.’ Loneliness is a difficult emotion to get use to, yagerochachen sewoch endemilut – meches men yemayelemed neger ale, i doubt applies to it. Can anyone of us really ever get use to the feelings… our bodies screaming for affection, our emotions seeking deep understanding, without having it be fulfilled? Aren’t there moments where for a few scary minutes, nothing matters under the sun except having a significant other next to you? And you want it so bad that nothing, absolutely nothing else matter… making you forget the blissfulness of single-hood?

So which path to take? Are we to be so terrified of loneliness so much that we bring in so many complication in our lives just to avoid it? If i chose to be single, am i risking too much? Will i be one of those women my mom talks about – “rasachewen semay seklew komew yehew keru!” – yemibaluten. Will i regret that decision i’ve made of going only after my career in a couple years and realize that it was simply not be worth it? Should I just give up on a human beings’ ability to stand up just on its own?

If i choose to be two, who and what is the other individual suppose to be? Is that touch i crave for each night expected to come from a specific kind of individual? Or are relationships much more than the touch, the security, the simple beautiful moments of bliss you share with that one person? Should i be satisfied if he satisfies me and only me, or should i make sure that he goes beyond that and satisfies my – mom, uncles, aunts, brother, friends, my friends families, professors, my fellow workers, financial advisor, that man my dad was close friends with, and that other lady I’ll meet while having coffee at…Why am i not so certain, why do i think of everyone’s opinion except my own?

Of course there is that incident where i find that ‘Mr. Perfect,’ the right guy on paper. Wouldn’t it be easy to just commit to him? I know such a guy might most likely fail to get up in the middle of the night to go get you cold water because he has that research to work on first thing in the morning, he lacks to understand that him showing his vulnerability does not mean he’s showing his weakness, he lacks to impress you even when he has himself placed within the creme de la creme. With such a man, you might go to sleep each night being thankful for the life God has given you, because such a life mostly comes with security and predictability, but that same night you will probably wonder if that true love they write about, in fact, exists. If you are lucky, you’ll be given the ability to brush such thoughts out of your head and live your ‘good’ life, if you’re not so lucky you’ll have convinced yourself that true love is only a fairy tale created for the entertainment of the mind, nothing really- only fantasy – and you will have lived the life lived by millions – void of pure love, real intimacy, dedication and inner joy. The sad thing is, no matter how bad I’ve attempted to make this sound unattractive – how easy this path is! you receive approval from your surrounding, you deny your naive self and convince yourself of the truth contrary to your initial ‘idealistic’ beliefs. Really, what more would you want if you’re successful when it comes to your financial stability, if you have the handsome and “educated” husband, your Mercedes and a house with a backyard…. Isn’t this what I should want? Isn’t this what I want? Is it? I don’t know. What is it that’s going to matter 20 years from now?

Oh yeah and also, what’s that bullshit that people talk about – ” you’ll just know when you meet the right person, that he is in fact the right person. Really?!? I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous!!! what the heck happens to those of us who haven’t been able to ‘just know’. Are we somehow deprived of an instinct that the few lucky ones have been given? Are we suppose to feel somehow inadequate? If your logical self hasn’t made you get to a certain conclusion, are you suppose to wait for some sort of a sign that will tell you what your next action should be? By the way, does it come in a whisper in the night or some sort of a loud God-sounding voice telling you – He’s the one? really, what should we expect? This would be a good tip to have. I mean we wouldn’t want to not be alert enough to miss the sign, do we? So please why don’t these – ‘you just know’ communities share their wisdom? Bullshit! – that’s what i think it is, you just don’t know. you live and you see, you work hard on relationships and you become honest about what it is you really want in your life, you stop being a hypocrite and embrace the ideas you’ve been preaching all your life. There is no way you just know. You take time and then you know… after that, maybe, you pray to the all mighty that you’re done your best to find the perfect mate (if there is even such a thing), after that point, he will hopefully take over…

I hope i’m not sounding bitter, because i’m really not. I am confused – i can’t deny that and i wish i could just crawl under my bed and stay there for the next six month… well i guess that’s not reality and that doesn’t show the strength i claim to have. so i’ll pray and i’ll just wait and see…

Awaiting your reply,

P.S uffff, it sure does feel good to vent!”

Tena Yistelegn.

I am not an immigrant.

It is only very recently that I accepted the fact that I live in Atlanta, GA. I can’t even believe I’m typing these words -I live in the United States. Oh God, that feels so foreign to me. Back in college, it was simple really, I would confidently declare that “I live in Addis Ababa, I’m just in MA for college ,” just like someone from New York or Ohio would say where they were from if you met them while studying in TX. Besides I had somehow miraculously managed to go back four times during those four years, so it wasn’t like I was faking. I was still an Addis resident. I still had a valid drivers license.

Things are quite different now, I can’t claim to be a resident of Addis Ababa, because i’m not (what an aha moment!). I can’t claim to know the new hot spot that just opened or give you the best direction to get to yegna sefer Kaldi’s, or tell you the best newspaper to read. I haven’t heard gossip from beautiful hostesoch at the hairdresser’s, watched meto’haya, drank coffee from a cini, eaten croissant from Parissean, drank mango juice from London Cafe, taken pictures at sharp photo bet, taken a walk sefer west, watched ETV, taken a blue taxi or listened to live music at Habesha – in 27 months. Yet it was only last week I admitted to myself or anyone else, that I no longer am an Addisababian. It was like I was addicted to the city, my home, and I haven’t been able to recover from the withdrawal. I’m not looking to recover from the addiction because i’ll be moving there soon, like I was doing 2 years ago, like i might be doing 10 years from now.

If there’s one thing I dread more than not living in Addis, it’s living some place else – as an immigrant. I have never viewed myself as an immigrant simply because I wasn’t, I am not, nor will I ever be…? When does one cross the line from being abroad for a purpose to being abroad as an immigrant? I’m not necessarily talking about being an immigrant on paper, but being one in your mind, heart and soul. I don’t think I’ve passed that bridge, and i wonder if i ever will, if i’d ever want to, if i’d ever be able to. When does one just give up on the idea of eventually going back? Doesn’t every immigrant dream of that day, the day when he’ll be home? Or are there those who completely adopt to the new country and claim it as home? (If such lucky souls exist, I’m sorry to say, I do not relate).

There are two chains, you see, that suffocate the immigrant – the ability, a right almost, to romanticize home or utterly understate, diminish it.  If you are the former, as soon as something goes wrong, as soon as you’re treated by others as if you don’t belong, as soon as your light deems, you see that other road, the greener road – you remember home. All of a sudden you view the people you left behind as more friendly, the air fresher, the buna tastier. Weyne Agere! you declare, you forget why you even left in the first place. Maybe if you had stayed you’d have gotten that other job, maybe your business idea might have become a reality, maybe you’d have married that rich guy. But no, you got fooled by all the Hollywood movies you watched, fooled by the bottled-water-drinking, backpack-carrying, shorts-wearing diaspora you saw walking down Bole road, you got fooled fooled fooled. Like someone once said, hiwoten felega hiwot helelebet ager meteh kuch alk!

Or maybe you didn’t get fooled. Maybe you knew what you were getting into, you had a clear plan – you’d leave home, get all the best things out of Auropa weynem American ager and move back and live the life – arif business kefteh (weynes ante bale seltan new yemtehonew? or a professor at AAU?) habtam honeh, arif sefer arif bet serteh…? But somewhere life turned out to be alright. You could actually get use to *this.* You forgot why you left home in the first place. You got use to the clean streets, the mall, the movies. You got use to your credit card, your nice car, your yearly vacations. Why had you planned on going back there again? You ask yourself – Who wants to be living on dirty streets with all the abuara, with all the poverty staring at you in the face. I mean, you only read yesterday, just yesterday, that millions are starving, young people don’t have jobs, there is no personal freedom, and the country is under strict dictatorship! Life is so expensive that the only ones surviving are the fancy-car-driving, macchiato-sipping, stiletto-wearing, Sheraton-clubbing and kitfo-munching upper class’ers! – you think to yourself – those selfish bastards! Yet somewhere inside of you, you’re not so sure…the old craving of home resurfaces at times. But leaving is too much of a gamble, you tell yourself – I’ve got a good life here- what if things don’t work out according plan?…. no no no… those bastards!

Yes, the immigrant will either romanticize or diminish where he came from. Neither thought will free him from his bondage. The one who romanticizes will one day be harshly awakened. He will realize that not all of his people are as friendly and the buna will somehow taste a bit too strong. The fresh air he imagined will seem a bit polluted… home is just different. He’s been away too long…he’s home…yet a stranger? And the one with diminished, horrible almost, thoughts of home will also face his own dilemma. He’ll live denying any good his country has achieved. He’ll convince himself that he’s lucky to be away from the misery that is Africa, yet goes to bed some nights knowing in his heart of hearts that he still doesn’t belong. This is still not home.

Yes, the immigrant, once having left his home will forever be stuck between two world. No matter where he is, he’ll forever wonder if the other place might have brought more happiness, more satisfaction, more success. And this, dear reader, is where my denial stems from. This is my fear. I am still not an immigrant, I’ve lived the past couple of years having completely and successfully convinced myself that I’m an Addisababian, just away temporarily, heading back soon. I know if I go back now it will be like I never left. But I feel I’m on the edge, on the tip of that line, to becoming an immigrant  – stuck between two worlds, unable to belong to either one.

The boy who cried ‘Wedding.’

A famous Ethiopian entertainer was once being interviewed on ETV when he was asked about his children, ahun yet dereja endederesu. The man, sitting up straight and proud, answered andu lige graduate adergo teru sera yizo eyesera new, lelagnaw demo Talian ager yedual. Eee, Talian ager….and?! Well, you see Talian ager mehed was a great accomplishment all on its own. No one asked what happened addisu ager ketegeba bewhala.

These days, after millions having left their country and having witnessed the harsh realities that can come with life as an immigrant, leaving is no longer viewed as an accomplishment, definitly a way to possible success, but not as success on its own. You know what seems to have replaced it, standing on its own as a great achievement without too much of handwork and labor? – Marriage! Yes, walking down the aisle, kulun tekula, mizew fezo, hayloga techefero…. the whole shir gud is given a rather superior status.

All this came to me a couple days ago when i got a call from a close friend telling me that he’ll be getting married in a couple weeks. I’ve received this call, from the same dear friend twice already, announcing the same news – the great wedding – the only thing different was the would be bride. The supportive friend that i am, I announced, once again, my excitement and joy to hear the news. Later that day, as i shared the news with others, i was reminded, by a witty friend, of the boy who cried wolf… in this case wedding.

This friend of mine is definitly not an exception, everyone these days seems to be getting engaged, married, planning on getting engaged or married, talking and obsessing about getting engaged or married! – that is according to Facebook and conversations i have with countless friends who are quite caught up with their relationship status. As a bit embarrassing as it is, relationships seem to dominate as the main topic of conversations… does this render us lifeless or has this been the norm for people in their 20s and 30s since decades ago?

When did marriage become a goal to achieve all on its own? Why has it become such an issue? Has this always been the case?People as young as 26 and 27 are actually worried about finding a husband/wife. I know i’m not the ideal person to discuss this issue given the fact that i am married. But, the irony is that when i did decide to get married, i thought of all my friends who were pursuing higher education or chasing after their dream jobs, while i chose to move to a state with less than ideal conditions for finding a job that i felt suited me, to be with the person i loved – i have to say, i felt a little less than. If i knew then what i know now, i would not have stressed so much about it.

Yes, being with the person you love is a beautiful thing, but it has to be because you want it, not because you feel like that’s what you’re suppose to want. Marriage is a freakishly difficult thing, being married is a lifelong road to travel through, not a destination to reach. Especially given the high rate of divorce that currently exists, please be dame certain that it’s what you want, that it’s he/she you want. Whatever the future holds, at least you’ll know it’s you and only you that made the choice . Hopefully however romantic your decision, you will have made a logical one also.

You see ‘the boy who cried wedding’ seems to be more intrigued about the idea of getting married rather than what’s to come after the marriage. He just wants to “settle down,” with whomever, however. I couldn’t blame him, since most of his friends where  getting engaged, married, planning on getting engaged or married, talking and obsessing about getting engaged or married!

If there’s one thing i’ll end with it would be – just be yourself, do what YOU want – you’re going to be stuck with yourself for quite a while.

Tena Yistelegn.

Decisions Decisions Decisions.

A cheese burger or a Salad, skinny jeans or regular, the rich guy or the funny guy, move to that city  or stay, it goes on and on, decisions decisions decisions. I wish we never had to make them. I wish we could automatically tell which will lead to doom and which to prosperity, to satisfaction. But sadly, we don’t. We use our logic, our belief, our hearts, to make from the most mundane of decisions to life changing ones, and keep our fingers crossed – Lord, let the salad keep me skinny, the jeans curvy, the rich guy satisfied, and the city on my toes.

One of the major factors which makes decision making so dame difficult for most of us, actually i’m pretty confident that it is THE major factor, is that we’re making it in the 21st century. The amount of choices we, the fortunate yet doomed, are provided with today have doubled and quadrupled. Not only do i have to decide between a cheese burger and a salad, but ones i’ve made the painful decision of having the salad, i have to know if i want romaine or spinach, Italian dressing or ranch, blu cheese or feta – whatever happened to ordering salad and just getting SALAD!

As frustrating as not getting a simple salad can be, most of us can live with it, it’s the world we’ve been born into, having countless choices is the norm. If given the choice, we’ll choose having choices. It becomes a problem when the decision we’re making is a life changing one, where on road will lead to prosperity and the other despair. The process at times puts our psychological well being at risk. I believe it to be even worse for the young, where the decisions we make now have the potential to shape the rest of our lives. Dare i say it suffocates young women today more so than men, more so than women of the previous generations?

You see women of our mothers generation more or less had a  general idea of what they wanted, they wanted to finish school ( high school was enough) wanted to marry – a man who had a job, from a good family, a family man himself, they wanted kids. Chances are, that’s how they lived there lives – they didn’t have the “luxury of choice.” I ( probably including most of my peers), on the hand, have never really been sure of what i want. Actually let me rephrase that, I know what I want, the problem is I want it all. Yes, i want a handsome and devoted husband, 3 kids, a phd and look fabulous while i’m at it. And when i turn on the TV everyday, it’s telling me yes, you can have it all, and of course everyday i fall into the illusion – deeper and deeper.

The reality, as harsh as it sounds, is we can’t have it all – we of course don’t realize this, so when we don’t get it all we feel like we’ve failed, that we’re less than, we witness our self worth slowly diminishing. The process of such thinking leads us to stress, depression at its worse.

Thankfully most problems have potential solutions. It was when i was going through such thinking – questioning my self worth – that i run into a book which i felt  answered some of my questions on reducing stress in decision making. The Paradox of Choice by professor Barry Schwartz gives a wonderful insight on how having choices isn’t always beneficial. You see, more choices doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness, in fact it seems the exact opposite is true. Having too many choices today has more of a debilitating effect than a liberating one.

This realization has had quite an effect on me – now when i go to the store, i pick up the same laundry detergent i started using years ago, after having randomly picked it – sick of going through all the brands. I don’t give myself a headache trying to decide whether i’ve picked the best one. I ask the women at the restaurant to pick whatever salad she feels is best. I’ve started understanding that i can’t have it all, at least, not all at the same time – i’ve learned to live with that and i believe i’m better off for it. Most importantly i’ve learned to realize that i need to make choices based on what I want and not be dictated by my surrounding.

Living in a capitalist world, our illusion of free choice will most likely continue. Most of us will keep being driven by what the current norm is when making decisions, we will keep putting our deep needs and desires on the side attempting to get it all. At the end of the day isn’t having a broad range of choices better than no choice at all? I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors – Fyodor Dostoyevsky ( Notes from the Underground)

“One’s own free unfettered choice, one’s own caprice, however wild it may be, one’s own fancy worked up at times to frenzy — is that very “most advantageous advantage” which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice.”

Tena Yistelegn.

Lessons Learnt.

It has been a little over a year since i last scribbled down my thoughts. I don’t know why i’ve failed to do so – Fear, lack of commitment to this blog ( which i, one time or another, thought was quite a decent idea, lack of time ( i doubt it)… i’m not sure. But a year down the road – here i am, attempting to connect with you – my dear readers, can i call you that? Thanks, i promise, i’m still working on the commitment part.

Oh what a year does! In a year’s time I’ve become a wife, a mother, a football fanatic ( Yes, not soccer), a Lakers fan ( go ahead judge me, i judge myself too), thin, and recently, an admirer of jewelry. Of course some things never change – I still sleep too much, love reading, sweets and coffee, never call my friends and family often enough and still crack up watching FRIENDS.

From all that has been my life this past year, from all that has been said and done, one thing has stood out, one lesson learned, appreciated, loved – Simplicity. I’ve somehow managed to  keep my life ‘relaxed,’ my thoughts less complicated, and embraced the randomness that is life – and somehow, someway, there seem to be more smiles to my day.

Let’s also hope i’ve learnt to incorporate consistency in my life, i wouldn’t want to  lose the few( yet priceless) readers i have for good. I’m of course assuming i haven’t lost you already – the optimism remains :).

Until next time, Tena Yistelegn.

A Letter from a friend: “My First Love.”

         I thought i’d share a wonderful letter a friend sent me a few years back on her “first love” i.e Addis Ababa, and her more recent love – Washington, DC. Enjoy.

        “I don’t need to tell you that it’s not what you’re thinking; obviously. The first love I’m talking about is Addis, my beloved city. I was coming back from work today and in the train, I finished reading Dinaw’s “The beautiful things that heaven bears”. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that book evoked in me. But more about that later. I was in the train and looking out of the metro windows, lost in my own world of nostalgia, sadness and just pure wonder at the ability of someone to express himself so well. Then suddenly it hit me that the moment perfectly coincided with my melancholic mood because it was twilight; and twilight used to be my favorite part of the day in Addis. You know that time of the day, the sun is just setting, smell of ‘tikus yekeseat dabo’ in the air, distant voices of weyalas screaming their head off and that oh so beautiful breeze that is unique to Addis. At a moments like this, I just bow my head and thank God for being alive.

 And today, today it was one of those days … the whole outside world resembled Addis and I said to myself, maybe DC will be my second love. For its easy to fall in love with it … the bustle, diversity, convenience, … life of it all. Like Addis there are things that break your heart. Take, for example, this African American guy who, when a friend was passing him by says hello to her and she, like we’re used to doing in Addis, ignores him and walks on, and he replies … “yeah you’re right, this is nobody.” Or when you see the general discrepancy amongst people of the city, immigrants vs natives, blacks vs whites, etc. And just like Addis, it has its slums and its version of ‘bole’. I could think of a thousand reasons to love it, from its coffee shops, to the malls to the clubs, little things that creep up on you until you wake up one day, and realize you have yet again fallen in love with another one. But Addis? Too many memories etched inside my head for me to ever let go. If you asked me what of the city I missed most now, it would definitely be … how do i describe it … ok let me try. You know that time of the morning around 5ish (kelelitu 11 seat) and everyone is sleeping, dawn is breaking, and for some reason or another tibanignalesh? You know you don’t need to get up but you can’t fall asleep right away either. So you snuggle in bed, happy that you have a few more hours of sleep. And then … you hear them. The weyalas … you remember how close our house was to the ‘taksi tera’? It was just the most beautiful sound. It is faint with none of the chaos of the day, almost like they were making music of their own. On rare occasions when I would accompany my mom to church, this sound I used as my incentive to pull myself out of bed. And yesterday in the train, I realized that was the only thing missing from DC, lol. You see, iza honen indeza indtaltesadebin … i’m telling you, we might as well drop the search for satisfaction … human beings are way too fickle for that.
Love you, “