A New Heart
My new identity is here.
I hold the crimson passport and double-check, triple check, all the details. No matter how many times I read my Syrian full name, it still doesn’t make sense to be shown in this book.
This must be a mistake. I can’t really be free. It can’t be possible now that I can hop on almost any plane and be anywhere.
No visa? Are you sure now that if a family member dies, I can attend their funeral?
If I have a new niece or nephew, I can actually be there and hold them and not have to wait five years?
What if my mother misses me? I can just fly and hug her and have some of her delicious dishes?
And if I am invited to speak at an event or am offered an opportunity to attend an important conference, I can simply be there even if it’s last-minute? There is no need for two months’ notice in advance and tons of paperwork to prove I am trustworthy and mountains of stress only to be rejected or, in best cases, obtain a single entry visa?
Defined by Collins English Dictionary, Eleutherophobia is the fear of freedom
I unfold the scratch world map my friend gifted to me along with a notebook to document my anticipated world travel after I applied for Irish citizenship. Of course, no one knew back then that this would take 900 days of waiting, nervously checking an empty mailbox for my freedom ticket.
I read the world countries like I just discovered the world. I now allow myself to memorise this info after years of blocking it; before, I didn’t want to think about all the places I can’t be. It brought darkness to my mind every time I thought about it.
I read each country and think of a friend or a family member that resides there. Sweden, Cyprus, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Middle East, America, I move my eyes between land borders and water. I can cross them all now? I can even take that one-hour trip to London that seemed so close yet impossible.
But why am I scared?
A prison cell is now open after years and years of waiting. I dreamed a lot of the world outside, the moment I would feel my mother’s embrace, the moment I reunited with my friends and talked and joked like there was never war before, but now that it happened, I stand back from the open door and feel my stomach sick as I imagine the endless possibilities.
Is this what freedom feels like?
My body is still adjusting to this new identity transplant. The vaccine portal asks me when I register about my nationality, and without thinking, I jump to Syria. But then I freeze for a second after.
Wait, what am I now? The website doesn’t accept dual citizenship; it doesn’t care, really. But I do. I keep Syria in that little box and decide to postpone thinking about this.
There should be a warning in that new passport, somewhere in small print:
* Identity crisis is a serious inevitable side effect after new citizenship. You might lose sense of self, have trouble breathing and may experience some nightmares from your previous life. If symptoms persist or worsen after a year, consult your heart.
I look at my new identity as a life-saving opportunity, and I hold to it tight. I am human now. and I just need some time to adjust to this fact.