I was on this land when I felt that wanting turned into craving. I was on this land when I needed to stop for a moment, turn my shoulders, and look back, thinking that my country was somewhere behind me. The wistful longing I have for my country became part of my character. After having to live in a foreign country for a couple of years, I realized that my country is never behind me. It lives here within me.

No farmer will ever dig and shovel and dig again to create a space for a plant without its roots. It’s what I know. If I’m rootless, I will be puzzled and I won’t find a space for myself. My roots and my own history keep me grounded, no matter where I’m planted. Endeavoring to know more about my history will give me the chance to know what I’m made of. I need to be attached to my own history so I won’t end up falling apart into pieces, so I won’t lose a sense of myself.

I came out of the dark squealing with my eyes shut, not knowing what was out there in the world. I was a swaddled bundle. I was a little baby, but I had some knowledge. I had lived in my mother’s womb and I knew what darkness meant. Darkness is the absence of light. That’s how I began learning about light. “Light” is the meaning of my name. Nour is my name. My family agreed to name me Nour because they wanted me to be Nour, regardless of where I lived.

Light stimulates my sight. I feel the light emanating from Syria, the land in which I was born and where I was given the name Nour. I lived in Syria for fourteen years. I find no need to recall all those years because in my mind, they line up in order. On the last day of the last year in Syria, I squinted out the window as though I was seeing the streets for the last time. I was on my way to the airport. My mother’s tears brimmed in her eyes; she doubted the possibility of seeing her mother again. I knew that her doubt would slay her, but I remained silent.

San Francisco is never too cold or crispy. It’s always warm enough, even in the rain. It gives me solace me every time I shiver with heartaches, when I imagine my distant aunties and uncles waving their farewells. Back in Syria, all of us would meet once a week in my grandmother’s house. I don’t want to forget the sense of family togetherness I had. I don’t want to forget how my mother becomes relaxed after gossiping with her sisters for hours. Now, their absence is like an empty page in my life. I can’t fill it out unless I go back to Syria.

The school systems in Syria diminish my enthusiasm to go back there. The curricula there can cause severe pain in the stomach. I detested the way we were taught to accept and memorize whatever information we received without doubting or questioning. I never found out what I was interested in or what my true passion was because schools there have no programs for youth, clubs, or sports. I remember getting high grades because of the sense of duty I had. I don’t remember having any curiosity or love for learning, like I do now in the U.S.

I believe that my life resembles the soil. My parents knew that soil gets watered enough in North America — that’s why they had to uproot me and bring me over here. As a plant, light and hope will keep me from being withered. My roots will never be cut off.

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