16 Jan My Story
My name is Hebah and I am a Palestinian, Jordanian, American.
It was never easy for me making friends growing up. I was different. Some might call me weird, but I was just different. I never truly fit in anywhere.
My childhood experience of being weird went like this: I lived in Jordan but I practiced old Palestinian traditions. I visited family in Palestine but I was the modern city girl. I was born in New York – and lived there for a year – but I was fresh off the boat. I experienced discrimination constantly and to protect myself I had to admit to one nationality, based on where I was and who I was talking to.
Jordan is one of the safest countries to live in in the Middle East. Growing up in a kingdom that fostered refugees and had relations with many countries from around the world, I was surrounded by diversity. I expected acceptance from people, until I learned to expect nothing. How could I ask others to accept me for who I was when I didn’t accept them first. I took a step back, I started asking questions, listening more and talking less. I fell in love with the people I met. I ended up making some amazing friends and we bonded over being culturally diverse and speaking English fluently. By the age of 18 I had made friends who were half Russian, Dutch, Greek, Romanian, Filipino, Lebanese and Turkish… just to mention a few. Being surrounded by diversity strengthened my appreciation for other cultures, but not my own.
When I moved back to the U.S I was advised to protect my cultural identity, and I did so to blend in and to avoid discrimination.
It’s only been recently that I’ve felt safe enough to start opening up and talk about my culture and traditions. I still disconnected myself from it all and I talked about it as if it wasn’t a part of me. In the last few years I met some amazing people in the design community. My friends listened positively and in turn I felt empowered to share my truth. Once I experienced acceptance and positivity from the people around me I learned to truly embrace myself and my culture. I realized that no one has experienced my life except me, and by not embracing my weird I have allowed people to judge me based on other peoples actions. I took back control by telling my stories and sharing my experiences.
It took me 3 decades to learn to embrace myself, and I did it by positively listening and embracing the people around me first.
The BY DESIGN project is a product of the genuine love I have for people. The main goal behind this project is to increase awareness of cultural diversity and teach people to embrace each other by allowing them to embrace themselves, through the process of genuinely listening and learning from each other’s stories.
Everyone is weird to someone who doesn’t understand them. But your weird is what makes you special, so embrace it and spread to others the love and acceptance you want to gain.