Dear Diary

April 23, 2014

Happy birthday, Naomi. ♥


Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis.

I feel like I am lost in the middle of a rough sea. I don’t know where these crushing waves might take me—to a safe place, or to forgetfulness and loss?

I am very concerned about my education. It’s my greatest priority. I grew up in a family that valued education; their goal was that I arm myself with a degree that would protect me from misfortune. They enrolled me in an expensive kindergarten, where I excelled enough to skip the next grade. My parents and grandparents were proud of me, and that reinforced my self-confidence. Middle school was fantastic, too. School, for me, was like a playground or a picnic that I enjoyed with my friends.

Then high school took me from childhood to the beginning of maturity and awareness. As the years went by, my fondness for my friends and my teachers had grown. I would see my friends during vacations and share all my secrets with them. My friend Rahaf was the closest to me. After she lost her mother, I watched her way of thinking change. She became like a mother to her little siblings.

Then a couple of years ago, about a year into the Syrian revolution, the conditions in my city worsened, and the missiles intensified. My father decided that we should move to a safer place. His only concern was to protect his family. We moved to a completely new area and I enrolled in the local school. I formed some superficial friendships, but I no longer enjoyed my classes. My whole first semester there, I don’t think I cracked a single book. I thought constantly about my old friends and teachers, but I knew I could never return to them.

Then the fighting intensified in our new town, so my parents decided to move us back to where we used to live. My sister and I were very happy that we were going home. But when we returned to our city, we were shocked by how much it had changed. The schools were all destroyed; in the new structures we had our classes in the basement, where we would be protected from the missiles. These new schools were dark and smelly and had very poor ventilation. They felt like cesspools.

Now I am trying to prepare for Syria’s standardized high school tests, but even if I pass, I don’t know whether my score will be officially recognized. Will I take the tests in my city or somewhere else? Will my mom agree to let me go? So many questions stop me from focusing on my studies.

Can you believe that my mom, the one who always stressed the importance of education, now doesn’t want me to go to another neighborhood to take the tests that would lead to my getting a diploma? Her excuse comes down to one sentence: “I worry for you.” She fears checkpoints and the risks that a young lady like me might face. I’ve come to hate the fact that I am a girl.

I will never understand that fear or accept what she says. My dream had been to enroll in university, choose a major I like, and then start my career. Can I still do that? I don’t know.

I want to study. I want to live. I desire what’s beautiful. I miss my teachers and my friends. They have all left the city. I miss seeing the handsome boys gathering in front of my school. When I was little I liked dreaming big, but now my dreams are fading away. My dreams are limited by the checkpoints.

Everyone is busy with the war, and it seems like no one cares what happens to me. We don’t know how this will end or how it will affect us. I want life, but not this troubled and confusing life that I live now. I want to complete my studies. I don’t want to be a neglected note on the margin. I do not want to lose my dreams. ♦

Translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.


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  • thebrownette April 23rd, 2014 8:06 PM

    Welcome to the wonderful world of moshpits, Britney. Keep your shoes tied tight and your spirits high.

  • emseely April 23rd, 2014 8:16 PM

    Naomi!!! I love your diary and have been reading it as I grew up alongside you. thank you for sharing, and I’m hoping you’ll be writing other stuff for Rookie soon? Please?

  • die_mad April 23rd, 2014 8:25 PM

    Naomi, thank you for sharing your life with us! Your diary gave me hope that one day i’ll find my niche in the world like you’re doing. You are so brave and strong, and I feel lucky to ‘know’ you a little through these diaries.
    Please don’t leave Rookie! much love.

  • Floraposte April 23rd, 2014 8:55 PM

    Thank you, Marah, for giving me a healthy dose of perspective.

    • tasmia April 23rd, 2014 9:40 PM

      seconded. you’re in my thoughts, Marah!

  • ColoredSoft April 23rd, 2014 10:02 PM

    Happy birthday, Naomi~
    Stay strong, Marah!!!!

  • honorarygilmoregal April 23rd, 2014 11:37 PM

    Naomi, I will miss your diary entries!

  • alxwx April 23rd, 2014 11:37 PM

    Thank you so much Naomi, because your diary has given me so much hope. I’ve always been able to relate to what you’re saying because I’ve had some of the same issues, and it’s been really inspiring to see how you’ve overcome them. It gives me optimism for the future and I’ll really miss your weekly entries.

  • 3LL3NH April 24th, 2014 3:18 AM

    Marah: Hope you get there. I admire your spirit. And I love hearing about you, even though so many things are hard, because you don’t often hear about those who are swept along in revolutions, but your story matters a lot.

    Britney: I loved that quote and I loved your words, and the way you put them together. Punk has a lot of life to it, the good kind.

    Naomi: You have been beautiful. Your entries have given me hope more than anything, that something other than loneliness and being all caught up inside my own head is possible. I like your light.

    Caitlin: Socks are underrated and brilliant <3

    I didn't realize Rookie had been here that long, adding to my life. It feels like it's always been here. I'm grateful.

  • owl be there for you April 24th, 2014 8:46 AM

    Totally get the anxiety stuff (have it pretty bad myself) and so true about wanting to help others but knowing that they can only help themselves. I love this entry a lot.

  • signette April 24th, 2014 9:10 AM

    Naomi, I remember reading your first diary all the way back when Rookie was just at its very beginnings. You’re only a few months older than me, and every wednesday, on and off over time, I would read your diaries and occasionally cry with relief at how much your experiences could relate to my own. I still keep my own diaries from when I was 8 years old and unable to leave the house from anxiety, when I was 13 and racked with self-hatred, when I was 17 and discovered just how much one person could hurt another, and how lying to my therapist got me nowhere. I keep these to remind me where I came from. Last year I travelled overseas (I’m from australia) entirely alone, and this year I moved to a new city to start university alone. I am so glad life is more fun for you now too. You have seriously said so much. It is more than enough.

  • iwentfaraway April 24th, 2014 9:58 AM

    Marah, stay strong. Life takes lots of turns, and I can assure you that the things that you’re going through now are shaping you to become an even more wonderful person! Hugs from a girl in Venezuela.

  • WitchesRave April 24th, 2014 2:05 PM


    I used to sneak onto Rookie during school to read the dairy entries on Thursdays in computer class, mastering how to switch from ECDL to Rookie in .7 seconds when my teacher walked by! Anyway, I was 15 and struggling with depression and anxiety, and I have to say honestly, your writing really helped me feel normal, like I had someone my age who understood what it felt like.

    Now I’m 18, and in a month I’ll have graduated secondary school, and I can wholeheartedly say I am happy and nearly anxiety-free. I too have grown so much from that girl in the computer room.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thank you and good luck for the future!

  • EmilyJn April 24th, 2014 2:22 PM

    <3 <3 <3 Love u Nome from your Erica <3 <3

  • rhymeswithorange April 24th, 2014 6:06 PM

    Naomi, I have loved reading your writing, thank you for always being so honest!

  • Viaperson April 24th, 2014 7:58 PM

    Naomi – HAPPY birthday and thank you for all the beautiful writing!!! Though I know it must be ridiculous to hear, you’ve been an inspiration, and I hope we get to keep reading your writing on Rookie.

  • Viaperson April 24th, 2014 8:01 PM

    Oh Marah, I hurt you. Your spirit is so strong and beautiful — keep your dreams in your heart and know that you are strong enough to reach them. Sending you a LOT of love from the US — you deserve all the beauty and success and joy this world has to offer <3

    • Viaperson April 24th, 2014 8:01 PM

      OOPS – i meant “I hurt for you”! Hahaha sorry all.

  • Tavi April 25th, 2014 12:18 PM

    Oh Naomi, this has me in tears. It’s so weird to remember your first email and so wondrous to think about everything that’s happened since then…dragging this into my “faith in life + love” folder BTW. Love you.

  • amanda April 27th, 2014 2:50 AM

    I’m really gonna miss Naomi’s diaries! I related to her a lot. Hope she keeps writing for Rookie :)