About a year ago (maybe give or take a few days) I sat down to write a blog post attempting to articulate my feelings about having experienced the Northeast Regional Model Arab League. I was absolutely overwhelmed, back then, taken aback by the incredible people I had met and invigorated by the competitive nature of the conference. A year ago, my friendship with Josh came into fruition and one year on I consider him one of my closest friends – my Palestinian Affairs bud, my very first partner to a conference, has now become a source of comfort when I need it most. I capped off NERMAL 2013 with a hard-earned Honorable Mention that Josh and I were extremely proud of (despite having my name butchered on the actual certificate).
Needless to say, I have a good amount of emotional attachment to the Northeast Regional. When this year’s conference rolled around I had a year’s worth of experience under my belt, the tutelage of experienced delegates, and not only some expertise and talent in speaking and policy but a familiarity with the Model circuit, resolution writing, procedure and – so proud of this one – even chairing!
But at no point did I think to myself, coming into NERMAL, that I was an expert or some kind of veteran. I knew I had improved a lot, but being a solo delegation is hard work and that’s what I was. So I shrugged my shoulders, took a deep breath, walked into the room with a big smile on my face and my name tag on my blazer and starting playing the role of a world-class delegate (model sims are a great example of “faking it ’til you make it” for those of us with diplomatic aspirations).
Ya Allah, khair: it’s been a hard semester. The universe has tested me at every turn; it’s stretched me thin enough that the figurative perforations were inevitable, shoved me through the emotional wringer and threatened to reverse all the progress I’ve made over the past couple of years. Every time I expected to crash and crash hard, though, I managed to pull myself together, took a deep breath and trucked the fuck on. But I still harbored disappointment in and with myself – “Who the hell are you?” – and no where was that more painfully evident than every Wednesday with the International Relations Council. IRC – Northeastern’s Model UN, NATO and Arab League programs fall under this umbrella – is supposed to be my escape from the daily grind of university, and my funk was threatening to besmirch even this. It succeeded at times: there were days where I would have to leave committee over and over again to stare at myself in the bathroom mirror and convince myself to not have a panic attack. I remember a day where I disappeared for more than an hour to hide in the corner of a hallway. I couldn’t perform to even a fraction of my abilities, let alone the best of them. IRC was threatening to become more of a trigger than the highlight of my week, and that prospect did not help absolve me of my self-loathing.
NERMAL, I told myself, NERMAL will be different.
The most amount of sleep I’ve gotten this weekend has been 5 hours but I have never felt better. I took the role of Lebanese delegate to heart. I had to redeem myself to the rest of the IRC, of course, but most importantly I needed to prove to myself that I haven’t failed.
So I made the decision to enjoy myself.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I vowed to outdo myself each day and feigned the happiness and confidence I’ve been possessed of so painfully rarely this semester. After a while – an hour tops – I didn’t have to feign a thing. I was having fun, enjoying my company, enjoying the challenge and the stimulation and rising to it. When Ryan asked me how I thought I was doing in committee, I could grin up at him and say “I’m runnin’ shit” with all the conviction in the world.
You know you feel good about committee when you feel justified in typing up a 3-clause joke resolution and actually submitting it.
Closing ceremony (I watched my joke resolution get projected on the screen and covered my face in embarrassment and a little bit of mirth-induced pride): awards. I conferred with my head delegate quietly, trying not to think about anything. Social Affairs – my committee – got called and my chair (a friend) got behind the podium. I watched, listened as he listed off the names of first the honorable delegates and then the outstanding delegates. When the second outstanding delegate wasn’t me, I finally let myself smile blearily.
I think I’ve got this.
Final Outstanding Delegate: Northeastern University, representation of Lebanon.
While I was walking over, a really dumb smile on my face, I couldn’t help but think “Shit, I hope my blazer is straight.” I took the certificate, shook my chair’s hand, and then he hugged me. I hugged him back and tried not to cry. As I walked back to the rest of my delegation, Ryan beckoned me over and gave me a great big squish of a hug of his own and a cheek-kiss. By that point, the tears had dissipated and I reveled in the giddiness of having finally done my team and myself proud after two months of sheer underperformance and self-loathing. I barely registered people aw-ing at our little display of best friend love.
I only let myself look at my certificate once I had sat back down. Neiha Lasharie. They spelt it right. The next chair started handing out the awards for their own committee. I wondered if it was self-absorbed to not be paying attention to the chair at the podium.
I realized I would rather be a little self-absorbed than locked up in a bathroom stall trying to remember how to breathe.
So I celebrated with everyone, shared in the revelry of being part of a damn good university and a damn good cohort of delegates, clapped until my hands were raw for all my friends who had done so freakin’ well – some of them after their own year of growth – and felt, once again, proud to be part of the IRC.
If NERMAL 2013 was my emotional introduction to the Model Circuit, NERMAL 2014 was my formal induction: and I chose to accept it wholeheartedly.
Typing this out, I realize that I left my certificate with Ryan and that means I probably won’t get it back for a while but that’s okay. I don’t need it. I don’t really need the material affirmation – not anymore. For the first time in months I’m happy from the core of my belly. This may not fix everything – I know it won’t – but it’s a sign that the universe hasn’t given up on me yet.
Cool. I’m not going to give up on the universe either. I’ve got shit to run.