Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Dreams of an almost 20-year-old

Asmaa Tayeh | 08-03-2016

Paintings by Malak Mattar

In a couple of weeks, I'll turn 20 years old. I have spent my life so far ina prison called Gaza, which is in Palestine. I call it a prison because if you committed a crime and were sentenced to prison for 20 years, you would be unable to do of anything except eat, drink, sleep and maybe study--achieving nothing. And that's all that’s possible here.

I'm not going to talk about the reasons behind this situation, the crimes we Palestinians supposedly did (if we did), or mention the political conflicts between Palestine and the so-called "Israel," which keep us divided. I just want to tell the story of my short life, which I think reflects the story of the Palestinians and especially the Gazan people.

Like everyone else, I used to dream and imagine things I wanted to have or do. But you know what? I live in two worlds. The first one is the same as yours and the second one is mine. I do everything I want or dream about in my imagination; I close my eyes, talk to myself, reply and smile. Ok, yes, I'm crazy. But I don't care if people consider me so because I would rather be crazy and happy in my own world than be realistic and sad in the other; something is better than nothing.

I used to wonder, “Why do I live this life? What did I do to deserve the ability to dream but not to fulfill my dreams? Why must I accept the way things are? Why do other people get things I dream of but I never do? Why is Gaza a place that kills talents and dreams? Will I die tomorrow? Will I sleep tonight and never wake up? Will I die before I can make my dreams come true?”

I know I'm strong. At least, I used to be. Nothing scared me, even when Gaza was attacked by Israel. But honestly, now I'm afraid. I'm afraid of death, afraid of dying before achieving my goals and dreams, before making myself and my family –especially my parents—proud of me, before living the moments I always wanted to live, before feeling that my God is satisfied with my behavior or deeds. This fear of death might be a sickness, but I'm sure we are all sick here; no one feels secure.

When I was young, I used to dream of studying abroad and becoming a pilot. In another world, I could be a pilot and have my own plane, or I would have another job that allows me to travel to a different country every year and experience new people and cultures. I would travel to South Korea, try its street food and collect souvenirs, coins, pictures and jewelry from every place I visit. I would skydive. and camp, climb mountains and go skating. I would travel to the moon and take a selfie with the earth. Above all, I would live freely in my homeland (Palestine), like the majority of people (if not everybody) around the world.

Do those dreams sound impossible to you? How about if I just say I want to graduate from university and get a good job as a translator in an embassy or a company, travel to obtain my master’s degree and make my family proud? I want to have my own project, my own source of money –perhaps making and selling jewelry. I want to be a productive person, not just a burden. I want to buy a lot of books and have a library of my own. I want to design my own room, if not a house. I want to have a kitchen with the tools to make everything I like easily. I want to be a member of an organization that helps people and makes their lives better. I want to enjoy my rights as a human like everybody else, not feel like I'm living for nothing, achieving nothing. I want to be the person I really want to be, a person who has a great mind and a good personality, a person who people respect, appreciate and admire.

I'm not asking for a perfect life because I know a perfect life doesn't exist and that a life without obstacles is worth nothing. I just want to live a life with opportunity.

Learn more about the painter Malak Mattar here, and see more of her artwork here

Mentor: Pam Bailey
Posted March 8, 2016


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