by Mariam Makatsaria
It is a very common tendency to start with ‘My name is…’ upon introducing ourselves as individuals. It’s so common that it’s almost boring, and the last thing I want to do is elicit yawns and eye-rolls. We’ve been programmed to present our names before anything else. Our names came first at birth – long before our personalities developed. I, on the other hand, believe that our personalities are far more important than our names. You can never tell what a book holds just by reading its title. That is why; I decided not to start off this essay with my name, but rather a description of who I am.
I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia yet spent my entire life in Cairo, Egypt. As much as I tried to flush away the intense feeling of homesickness upon leaving my home country; it still hurt my entire being. The abrupt transition and the sudden change in scenery pierced my soul. Who were these strange people? What were these strange places?
Slowly, I began to assimilate into the alien culture. I embraced their language, norms and traditions. I started to fall in love with the strange people and the strange places until they were strange no more. So now, I consider myself the point of intersection between two utterly distinct countries. My accumulated experiences with diverse cultures fueled the development of my personal identity. The hardships that I’ve been through changed me into the strong person that I am now. I have seen what many teenagers my age don’t get to see every day – I’ve witnessed both of my home countries suffer through adversity.
A few years ago, I was looking forward to a peaceful summer vacation back in my birth country, Georgia. I couldn't help it if I didn't know what was to come. The whistling of falling bombs at five A.M. pierced the silence of my serenity, and the blood running down my hometown streets utterly broke my heart. Chaos tripped into my life. I felt such pain, such grief the likes of which I have never experienced until this very day. Before I knew it, our valiant young soldiers were puffing their chests out and heading off to the battle on the eighth of August, the year 2008, bidding goodbye to their families and fighting gallantly to the last. I watched the smoke pouring from the charred windows of familiar houses on television. I could only powerlessly stare at the vineyards, the green rolling hills and the expansive fields ablaze with flame.
War is never auspicious, but in this case it was a strong unifying force that molded the people together. It was the fuel that evoked this new sense of patriotism in me that prevailed over the feeling of severance from my country. I know that war is hardly an inspiration to ‘develop’ one’s goals, but to me it was. I am no soldier; I couldn’t fight nor break the shackles of despair that held me back from relieving the pain and distress that my country went through, but I realized that there are so many other ways to pledge allegiance to my land, and to the world for that matter. It is not blood that invigorates the nation, but knowledge. It is not ashes that build the world, but hard work and perseverance. That is why with the knowledge that I seek to attain, with my hard work and perseverance, I want to be able to make a difference.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said; “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I’ve found both strength and comfort in that quote.
So I hushed my memories and dried my tears. Instead, I always tried to think of the lessons I’ve taken in, the sanctity of human life and freedom – something we don’t get to appreciate until it is taken away. I have learned to always foster peace and universal welfare because these values are the essence of human progress. It is not sufficient to care about our personal future only; what job we’re going to get after college or what vehicle we’re going to drive. After experiencing this tragedy, I have learned to place these principles above material possessions, and base my aspirations upon these foundations.
No, however, I am no beauty queen either; I don’t pledge ‘world peace,’ merely because I think it is unattainable. There will always be people who construct homes, and others who tear them down. I for one want nothing more than to demonstrate my ongoing commitment to serving my country and the community that I am yet to be a part of. I believe that with my hard work and perseverance, I will be able to represent both of my home countries with equal excellence.
Even though I believe that no one or nothing is faultless, I still work very hard in pursuit for perfection by achieving the epitome of any task that I accomplish. I set high standards for myself and work my way up there. That way, I always have something to chase. After all, I’ve already been subjected to change, challenge, and choices countless times during my migration cycle. I’ve learned how to assimilate into new environments, juggle both worlds and find my sense of self and place between the contrasting cultures. My name is Mariam Makatsaria and I am an independent individual who is driven by the notion of tackling all sorts of challenges.