I’d often seen how, in movies, people’s lives can change in brief periods, in a flash, or even in a single instant…
I’d often thought it illogical, absurd… I’d deemed it as a mere embellishment to a plot, perhaps in order to provide contrast between great lows and great highs.
But that year, my opinion changed, along with a ton of my ideals and principles.
The year 2012-2013 was initially met with a lot of enthusiasm on my part; I vowed that high school would be a turning point in my life, that stretch of time between conflict and resolution, that would make everything better at the end…
I had, in my mind, set a well-organized plan, a plan that was sure to bring me to the pinnacle of intellectual and social status, a plan that would finally bring me to my happy ending, being accepted at a top-notch university abroad, where I would be surrounded by people I could relate to, people I could genuinely call friends, people who were intellectually stimulating, the kind you can have endless talks about virtually anything with, who had an opinion on every single detail of the world around them and beyond them.
I also might add that I was particularly excited by the fact that all of my teachers would have PhD’s, which to me meant that they were interested in their subjects enough to have followed through such tiring education to attain this degree. That interest, I thought, was sure to be reflected in their work as teachers…
Though my goals were ambitious, my plan was simple: being class delegate, joining MUN, and actually taking studies seriously.
But instead of everything going straight and mellow as I’d planned, life seemed to have had other plans for me…
The truth is, I wasn’t allowed to run for delegate, because, though I had won all elections I had run for (perhaps more for competency than popularity, that and the strong reputation I had for my rebellious feel of justice in the academic institution), and despite having been deemed by many the perfect candidate, the school had a rule against students who had received demerit slips in the previous year to run for candidacy…
This was quite a shock especially noting that my demerit was received merely due to having drank in class without permission (that teacher must have been extremely enraged about something!)
Also, to my indescribable astonishment, I was not accepted into MUN. Here is what had happened during my interview: I entered the room filled to the rim with confidence, literally assuming my interview was a simple formality. I had surrounded myself with “motivations”, set my phone wallpaper to Nassau Hall in Princeton University, read political articles even more so than I did (it is necessary to note that my interest in MUN had actually begun in 8th Grade, along with my interest in government, and that my research on MUN had actually begun far back in the early summer of 2012, all adding to my excitement at joining this club that I considered the most amazing thing that could ever happen to me) But then at the first hint that my interview might not turn out as witty and perfect as planned, the entire illusion started to shatter before me, I panicked, lost concentration, yet still clinging to stay in that interview room as long as I could to prove myself to what I later called the self-consumed pig who ruined my life. Simply put, I panicked under unnecessary pressure I had forced on myself, and thus failed miserably.
After having been rejected from the positions I valued most, I no longer made any effort to study, I had accepted my fate as a worthless failure never to be discovered. In other words, I was ready to sink back into the depression I had been hopelessly immersed in for years already.
I still tried my luck though, and applied to the US Embassy Essay Writing Competition in November 2012.
Later in the year, interviews for joining Face to Faith were pending to start. I remembered a classmate that had discussed it with me. It had seemed to me as one of those really annoying tedious clubs where people sit around and discuss uninteresting topics like “What Is Love?”.
I was nevertheless, though reluctant, drawn to join the club, not because I found it interesting, but because I thought it good for me to be surrounded by such kind religious people as those who would care for such topics… Maybe it was also a plead from my seemingly dead ambitious self that just didn’t want to let the year pass by without having done a thing to mark it by.
I remember waiting in the halls for the interviews, along with another 30-40 students… People seemed nice, friendly, some even surprised me in that they were actually interested and wanted to join, how wrongly I had judged them!
Amazingly, people were asking me for advice on how to answer questions that may come up in the interview. I didn’t think they knew of my interest in philosophy… I didn’t think they knew I had opinions on almost all that could be asked… But apparently, an earlier presentation on George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ that I had given in my English class back in the first month of the year (which had earned me a full grade) had gone into the discussions of even those who had never heard of me, and had painted me as a thinker who went by strict principles and moral values, who criticized everything, and who had an opinion on everything. That image, was admittedly true, though incomplete.
I entered the interview room, and was received by the humble smiles of the former members and the trainer. I was asked questions, similar to many others, and answered them, as I would have judged, averagely. And between each question, I was told a little about what they did in Face to Faith, as in-between talk…
After exiting the interview room, I was convinced that I actually wanted to join the club, that I belonged there, all simply by the character of those inside that room.
Briefly, I entered hesitant, and went out with not only a will to enter, but what I felt was a need to enter.
A few weeks later, the Face to Faith team of 2013 was announced, I was there, on that list of 23 members.
I was told by insiders that my name, and that of 3 others, were selected afore the selection process, the news simply baffled me, what that man of God had seen within this man of resentment and defeat I did not know, but I was eager to discover it within myself.
Suddenly, my life was changed, I was a new-born. I believe the Holy Spirit was transmitted to me through these people, and for the first time, though we never hung out outside club meetings, I felt I had friends.
God works in many and miraculous ways.
Ever since I was introduced to this club, good things just started to happen, in different fields of my life, of which I will only discuss school.
I felt renewed appreciation from my teachers. Opportunities started jumping right at my face, people suddenly treated me better, and I had no clue why. Even on bad days, I was always happy, I was simply content with the fact that my God was present, alive, everywhere, and he was the power of Good, and he had saved me from the darkness of myself.
Later that year, selection procedures started for participation in the Loudoun International Youth Leadership Summit. I, again, decided to try my luck. We had to write an essay, an essay about Gibran Khalil Gibran, a world-renowned Lebanese-American poet/philosopher. Out of about 40-50 applicants to the summit, only 4 people apparently had sufficient knowledge of Gibran Khalil’s life and works in order to write a decent essay about the given topic. I was one among those four. (My essay received a 25/30, very high in the Lebanese grading system for writing)
After recognizing the failure of most students to write the first essay, the school decided to ask for a second essay, an essay about how to improve Lebanon.
I wrote an essay that discussed a plan I designed to educate the Lebanese of all ages especially the young in order to create a peaceful, economically, and socially stable country. (This essay wad graded over 20 and received a 17/20)
The 10 students with the best overall score in essay-writing were to be selected for interviewing, only 4 would later be chosen to participate in the summit.
I entered the interview room, confident with a feeling of renewed strength, I was met with the face of the same man who had previously denied me my position in the MUN team I had so longed to join. Unexpectedly, the interviewer made a relieving comment on my essays to start off my interview, saying briefly that he was impressed with the quality of my writing. My interview went well, and that was a load off. (It was given a score of 35/50)
I was selected the next day to enter the summit in Loudoun County, Virginia with the highest final score among all others (77/100).
During the buzz of summit preparations, one afternoon when I had just returned from school, I was holding ice cubes in my palm to place under my newly-budded rose plant, when at such an inconvenient timing, my phone rang. Cursing at the caller who had picked so bad a time to call, I resolved to answer my phone, ice cubes still in hand.
The voice on the phone was that of a man in his 30s, a professional of some field judging by his tone. The voice on the phone first verified that he was talking to Elio Azar of Saint Joseph School, then came the announcement of the year. “Mr. Elio Azar, I would like to congratulate you on winning the US Embassy Essay-Writing Competition”. The man continued to speak of the timing he would like me to arrive at the embassy to receive my certificate and closed the call off saying he would email me with further information.
You could imagine what trouble I had holding back that thrill while holding ice cubes that were about to freeze my palm solid, but I speedily distributed my ice cubes under the little promising rose bud and hurried off to inform my family of the good news.
That same interviewer that had denied me my dream school-life had now become to me a prime supporter, and perhaps even a friend, I consider him as such at least.
Then came the day where I had to pack my bags, say goodbye to sweet Lebanon for a while and say hello to the seat of the self-proclaimed leader-of-the-free-world, or technically, Loundoun County, which is just a half-hour away…
The summit is easily a milestone in my life. I can say without a doubt, that I made, during the summit, better friends than I had ever made in my entire life.
The summit exposed me to various faces of American society, and allowed me to hear the perspectives of people from all over the world on world issues.
Also, being immersed in such a group of fun and friendly individuals, I actually danced for the first time in my life, a lot of times, and actually enjoyed it…
The experience left me with a broadened perspective on the world, friends around the globe, and a more social character.
It was truly depressing to have to leave these people the last day probably never to see them again.
I came back to Lebanon. The weather, I believe, was a fine rainy spring. The jet lag was terrible; I cannot say I truly managed. To make matters worse, I had a math test during the week after my return on subjects explained during my absence, which I had come to grasp but not master, I did awfully.
A new project rose in that head of mine at year’s end: to start a school newspaper. I stayed up nights researching what works and what doesn’t in school newspapers, all in order to write my proposal, which turned out to be a quite-detailed 6-page document.
I delivered it to my school’s Student Affairs Office right after completion.
I had to wait 3 weeks for feedback, which mostly promised that the newspaper would start the very next year. I was thrilled.
The rest of my days at school were long, boring, as is the norm of course…
My final grades for this part of the year were bad in comparison, my final grades were not as expected, but I was in fact impressed that I was able to achieve as this with zero effort, and I really do mean zero effort AKA: not studying, daydreaming, etc.
But the period was also one of deep religious reflection on what had happened to me during the year. I knew that God had intervened in my life, made a change in me and those around me. I felt enlightened by this truth, and started tweeting all about God’s greatness.
Soon, I found that my tweets were actually helping others with their faith, encouraging them in life, helping them with their everyday interactions.
And thus I realized the work of God:
I, once a darkness to myself, had become a light to others.
The truth is that my failures before had been the results of me trying to mess with my own path, setting my own goals, driving the vehicle that was myself. But, after seeing myself an unworthy driver, I placed God in the driver’s seat, and my life has never been better.
Today, I know almost nothing of my future, before, that was my worry. Today, I do not mind it, because each day my path is revealed more and more, and I fail to understand why God has given me such a path of greatness, but I do not need to understand, only to follow in the path of light. For it is said:
Trust in the truth and the truth will reveal itself.