Finding Home Through Poetry | Najwa Zebian | TEDxCoventGardenWomen


Translator: Nivin Burhan
Reviewer: Hélène Vernet For me, being here
is the definition of vulnerability, and I could have a speech that’s scripted
and rehearsed a million times, but you’re going to see
a different side of me than the side that I know
and the side that you know, if you already know me. I am going to begin
with a poem that I wrote. “I had no home,
and with that I was content, because I never knew
what it felt like to feel like home. So you built a home for me, and all of my scattered pieces
suddenly came together. Somewhere, I put my heart to sleep
as you cradled my worries away. I woke up one day cold, abandoned, without a roof on top,
without windows or walls, without you. And you wonder why
I’m so unable to let you go. Before you, I never knew
what a home was. You gave me a taste of heaven,
and with your hands, you took it away. Once you enter heaven, you can never live again the same way.” This poem is me. This poem is probably most of you. When we think of the word “home,” most of us live for so many years
not knowing what it means. We long for a place where our hearts feel at peace,
and our souls feel loved. And the first instance
that we get that feeling, we get so attached to it. That’s the story of my life. You see, I’ve spent most of my years
building homes in other people and defining my self-worth based on
how much those homes welcomed me, and how much those homes loved me. I truly believe that there is
a big power in stories. So I’m going to tell you my story. Would you like to hear it ?
(Audience) Yes. Years ago, decades ago actually, my parents met
and got married in Canada. They had five children and decided
that they wanted to go to Lebanon so that their children could learn Arabic. And many, many years later, I was born, making me the youngest
by many years in the family. I had five older siblings
and they were all so much older than me. Maturity came to me at a young age, because I was constantly
surrounded by people who were from a different generation,
that’s how it seemed to me. So I struggled a lot. I was bullied in school, not physically but emotionally. I was bullied for being too sensitive,
for being too vulnerable, and even my teachers took part in this. So I always felt like
I was a shadow of a person. I actually believed that I wasn’t
worthy of being loved. I actually believed that something
was wrong with me, for feeling the way that I was feeling and for wanting to express
certain things within me, but feeling like I couldn’t. So I was silent for most of my life, and I was just quietly
observing everyone around me. I’d go to school, I’d come home. But here’s the thing, there wasn’t just
one place that I went to after school because from the age of eight, my parents and my siblings
were in constant motion between Lebanon and Canada. So I lived at different points
with different uncles and aunts and my sister and many
people took care of me. So I didn’t have a constant home
that I could go to everyday, a safe place where I could speak
about what I was going through. And if my parents were around
and I knew how much they loved me, I didn’t want to talk about
what I was going through because I felt that
there was such a distance, and again, I felt like it was wrong
for me to feel the way I was feeling. So when I turned 13, a friend of mine
gave me a journal for my birthday, and I remember the first time
I wrote in it, I felt weird, because it wasn’t something
that I normally did. But day after day, I found myself
coming back to the journal and just writing, writing and writing, even if it was just about
what I did that day. And day after day,
that journal became my home because it was a place of no judgment, no one telling me, ”No,
you’re not allowed to feel that way,” no one telling me,
”You’re too sensitive,” no one telling me,
”I don’t want to listen to you.” So that home welcomed me,
and I kept coming back to it. Fast forward three years, when I came to Canada
just for the summer to visit my family, and the war broke out that summer
in Lebanon, so I couldn’t go back. I remember, when I finally decided
that this is where I was going to stay, I felt so stuck and I felt I was angry,
I had this anger on the inside, because yes, maybe back home
I didn’t feel like home, but I knew the streets,
I knew people. People spoke to me in my first language. I spoke in my first language
and it was a language I loved. I knew the mountains and the trees. I was familiar with everything there
and now I’m in a new place where I’m supposed to find a home,
but I don’t even feel welcome. So all of those dreams
that I wrote about in my journal, I felt like they, like everyone and everything else
in my life betrayed me, because I was writing about reaching
a place where I felt like home and if anything,
I was further away from it. So I ripped up my journal, and I said, “I’m never going
to write again,” because writing meant feeling,
and feeling meant that I was fully aware
of what I was going through and how wrong it was, but it also reminded me that there
was nothing I could do about it. So for seven straight years,
I never wrote. I did grade 12, first year university, second year, third year, fourth year, teachers college, my master’s, and during that time, I felt colorless. I felt invisible and I was okay with that. I didn’t fit in and it bothered me, but it was easier for me to stay
on the sidelines and not express myself than express myself and get hurt
because I was expressing myself. So, at the end of those seven years,
I started teaching. My very first teaching assignment was with eight Libyan students
who had just arrived form Libya, which was also torn by war. And I remember looking at them and seeing them going through exactly
the same struggles that I went through. So I started writing for them
to motivate them. And as long as I was writing
for someone else, that was okay. But with writing,
something magical happens. Sometimes you think
that you’re leading your writing, but at a certain point,
it starts leading you. So little by little, I started
writing for myself and about myself and feelings
that I went through. And this is how “Mind Platter”,
my very first book came about. It is just a compilation
of reflections on my experiences. Those were addressed to me, and they were addressed
to those students, and they were addressed to anybody
out there who goes through feelings, thinking that it’s wrong
to feel them or express them. So this was my very first shout
into the world to say, ”You know what? I have a voice,
and it’s going to be out there. And if this book makes one person
feel heard or understood or takes that feeling
of judgement away from them, that’s enough for me.” And I put it out there
and I’m very proud of it. I’m very proud of how many people
reached out and said, “I feel exactly the same way, and I’m no longer embarrassed
to say that I feel this way.” During the process of compiling
everything in Mind Platter, I met the first person
who I actually felt loved me, who I actually felt cared about me, who I actually felt home with. He never touched my body
but deeply touched my soul, and I felt at peace
and it was an amazing feeling. One day, he, like everyone else, walked away although he promised he wouldn’t. And slowly colors started
fading again from my life, and I started going back
to that same 16-year-old who decided to rip up her journal. I was weak. I was still functioning fully, but I was so miserable on the inside, I was suffering on the inside. One night, before my dad
took off to Lebanon, he sat with me
and he reminded me of this. This was the picture
that I shared for Father’s day. He said to me, “Do you remember that picture
that you shared?” He said, “When I was holding
your hand in that picture, I looked at you and I said,
‘This girl is going places’ because of the look
that you had in your eyes.” and that look is gone. I remember that night
looking in the mirror at a person that I had
no idea who she was. My face didn’t resemble me. My features actually looked distorted. I felt like I was looking at a sky, when it was just choking on grayness, no sun, no clouds, no rain, nothing, just choking. And tears started
streaming down my face, but they were a different kind of tears. I realized how far
I’ve come from myself, looking at this stranger. And I also realized that I needed
to come back to myself. So this time, my pen didn’t go dry, and I didn’t rip up my journal. I wrote about my pain
as painful as it was, and the deeper I dug into that pain, the higher I rose in confidence, and in feeling like I was heard. If I could describe that day
and that moment, this is what it was: “These mountains that you are carrying,
you were only supposed to climb.” I realized that the mountains
of rejection, fear, and feeling neglected, all of those things,
I had been carrying them with me when really what I should
have been doing was climbing them, reaching their tops and saying,
“Look how far I’ve come.” So I take this with me wherever I go. I always remind myself that just because I have things
on my shoulders, it doesn’t mean that I have
to keep dragging them. I could be doing something else
with them and empowering myself. So on this journey, “The Nectar of Pain”
came about, but I want to tell you what realizations I had to make
while I was writing, and these weren’t writings
written for a certain audience. These writings were from me
and they were about me. I realized that the biggest
mistake that we make is that we build homes in other people. We build those homes, and we decorate them
with the love, and care, and respect that we want to come home to
at the end of the day. We invest in homes in other people. And we evaluate our self-worth based on
how much those homes welcome us. When those people walk away, those homes walk away with them, and all of a sudden, we feel empty, because everything we had within us,
we put in those homes, and we trusted someone else
with pieces of us. So that emptiness that we feel doesn’t
mean that we had nothing to give or that we have nothing within us. It’s just that we built
our home in the wrong place. We built our home
that should be within us and we should come home to
at the end of the day, in someone else and, all of a sudden,
it’s not our own anymore. So, I’ll leave you with this: I truly believe that it’s time for us to embrace the homes
that are already within us. And instead of expecting
the world to bring things to us, we should start cultivating
our own strength, and we should start
building homes within us. And I’m going to leave you with this poem: “My dear self, forgive me
for building a home for the broken pieces of my soul
within someone else. My dear self, forgive me
for only loving you, if that home loved you,
welcomed you and welcomed me. I will not pretend to be the victim
and say that they abandoned me. You see, in my stories,
I’m always the hero. So from today, I promise you
to start building a home for you, for me, within me.” Thank you. (Applause)

100 Replies to “Finding Home Through Poetry | Najwa Zebian | TEDxCoventGardenWomen

  1. I feel the same way. I haven't home. "my real home" I grew up to my grandmother, aunties and my sisters. I felt the same way they don't even understand me. to the point I chose to sit in the corner feels the pains alone. I don't know how to express myself because I feels like there is something walls between us and how do I started to talk with. I been inspired to your words Ms. Najwa Zebian. Thank you so much. I will do the best as I can. so from today I promise to start building a home for myself. within me.. Thank you so much!

  2. I tore apart towards the end. Thank you so much for sharing ur life with us. It means a lot. I see pieces of me in you. Thank you thank you thank you for writing for urself. Thank you for writing such amazingly and I do understand what u hv shared very well. Thank you for coming out and sharing ur life with me. Thank you for boosting me to build a home for myself within me. "Happiness lies within " these phrases which poets made a long time back on history even in the culture of India 🇮🇳 are just not uslelessly made. These quotes hav a deeper meaning within these 3 words. Thank you . God bless u. May we all hav peace and happiness. Inshallah

  3. im currently 16 years old and its safe to say that i am the 16 years old u in ur past , i've never felt so connected with someone's words as much as i am with yours. 'ur too sensitive' those 3 words , man i've reached to the point where i truly hate myself because i think its my fault that i am this weak and sensitive and emotional and i say sorry to my friends all the time for being 'dramatic' when they say 'ur too sensitive ' i cant help it and im vulnerable. But now , i am really trying to build home within me and to get to know and love myself , i really want to read ur books , it is quite pricey in my country for me to afford well u know being a teenager 😂 but im saving up for it!! 😅

  4. Ur words always touch my soul 💕 I, without any doubt, can say that ur msg in this talk is a driving force for me to escape from my problems. It has reached me on a perfect time through a perfect source!

  5. Najwa I absolutely love your work and your transparency. I can relate to many of your works and you've inspired me to also share my story. Much love! 💖

  6. i just came across ur writing on fb and immediately linked up on youtube to hear u out. It takes immense courage to pour your pain and inspire people with it. I hear you, everything you said and which didn't. More power to you Najwa. Love from Dubai. 🙂

  7. Thank you for giving expression to what so many of us feel but cannot adequately put into words. God bless you.

  8. your last words, that poem, it made me cry because i see the truth in those words. and I look at myself and I see that I to build all my homes in other people. and I to feel empty. and I don't have to feel that way. not anymore I now can build a home within myself.
    thank you Najwa for this realisation.

  9. in some ways I feel related and your words, your story really give me new courage to pass each days and I do feel a lot stronger, realizing that I am not alone to feel that way. Realizing that to love my self and to be the way I am is no wrong. Thank you for inspiring me Najwa Zebian. May Allah subhan wata'ala bless you.

  10. I watched the video and throughout the whole video, I was feeling pain as deep as yours, like darkest as yours. Even so, at the same time, I'm feeling blessed that I saw this video because today I realised that I'm not alone in this world. Thank you so much Najwa for inspiring me and billions of people out there.

  11. I feel this whole pride as you speak, and in a way that makes me proud too . I've got huge respect for your courage and deep love for yur poems. awesome talk 🌹

  12. How should I believe that you were bullied and treated the way you explained, the way you carry yourself, your pleasant personality, it's hard for me to believe, but if this did happen, I am so sorry that you went through this. I have very close friend of mine, she looks like you, talks like you and people do take advantage of her because she is so nice and loving. Anyways thanks for love and great work.

  13. I am in awe of someone expressing the struggle so painfully real as it is that I am going through synonomously .. Thank you .. I have started writing too .

  14. Greetings from Nigeria and bless your soul for having the courage & vulnerability to share your story and touching many lives

  15. Beautiful … thank you for sharing your courage and pain that is universal in all of us.! it is the greatest gift to come back to ourselves, our own strength.

  16. your words and poetry touch me at such a deep level. I cry. The pain is so tangible – I read the same lines again and again because I can relate so much to them and I'm like , WOW!!!!! You are a true inspiration

  17. I'm working and listening to you in the background, I just broke down and cried for I never felt that I fitted in this world, I believed that there were certain things I was not capable of doing in this world. Thank you, you have no idea of how you revived the inner me. Bless you.

  18. What a wonderful beautiful soul you are , love following you on Instagram. I wear my heart on my sleeve and love everything you say xxx

  19. Great speach but, based on my own experiences, I think it is utopian! How can we build home in ourselves? I used to believe we could be completely happy without someone, but it seems wrong each day more.

  20. I have watched this video several times and every time I watched it I cried, because that is what I going through, you have lift me up higher, I'm still hurt and I hope we all will be alright one step at the the time.. Thank You again

  21. rarely when we find speaker that talks with so much passion and such an accurate words that are not only find on internet or written by couple of books . your speech was so beautiful that it reached my soul .<33

  22. I just have to say, dearest sister , its a piece of all of us.. We were carrying the mountains which we were only supposed to climb while stop building homes in someone else. I dont want to be a victim again I promise myself I will only build my home in me and loving me and myself💖

  23. I built home in people and now I'm paying the price. All I have now is this emptiness in me,the moment they walked away. And this talk is really touching. It makes me realise how I should put myself first and build a home in me 💔.

  24. Your words have always amazed me.. given me peace and strength.. all that i needed to put myself together.. the clarity and the accurateness of your speech does the magic.. God bless !!

  25. Such a beautiful soul mashaAllah . I'm so proud of Najwa. She bravely took the pain and turned it into a masterpiece. ❤️❤️❤️ You have my heart and respect 😘. And you are a woman that a real man dreams to marry. 😊

  26. You Are Amazing… Najwa…may u get what u want… and ur pain Vanishes through the entrance of brightness and light…Keep Writing…

  27. What a beuty in her voice …i bought his book from amazon …and it changes my way of life ..😌😌😌😌😌😫😫😫

  28. Amazing speech ! and indeed that IS exactly how i feel, and me too i left writing 5 years ago or more exactly bcz i felt that each time i write i'll have to feel and to deal with these feelings and THat was exhausting , to go through that pain all over again, but i forgot one thing , it was so releaving to write about my feelings and not letting them grow inside, i might even consider writing again . . Best of luck Najwa ❤

  29. A very inspirational talk. I felt as if someone is talking exactly the me😓😓…building home in others.. and being the victim of others🤕🤕.. Thanks a lot for this motivation😊

  30. Thank you for sharing. The most important part is the realisation. But I would also advise you to take support from God the almighty. I still see too much pain in you. Do not look back at it with regret..let go. I think you are still there. You have space inside you that need to be filled in with laughter. Laugh at the pain so that you don't define it as pain anymore.

  31. She is an Embarrassment to all woman , she pretends to have pain just to have followers , to get her name out there , she steals poets from Arabic poetry’s and she called it hers,. she’s a stalker and a liar and she’s well-known in our community for her Lies and lack of respect for herself she’s going after a married man because she can’t have him

  32. I feel like I’m living your life. I can relate to everything Najwa. I love you so much. Thankyou for everything.!

  33. Wooow its like she is speaking of my life
    This is so so sad for me but for sure 'm no longer there now but this is kind of taking me back

  34. tremendous wisdom. Can still hear the pain in your voice. Please continue to carry on and help others with your message

  35. I have always felt different from others, like no one could possibly understand me, no one could look at me and really understand me. Watching your video has felt like a turning point in my life. I hope to climb the mountains of my own pain and rise above all the hurt I've been running away from. Thank you for your kind, inspirational words.

  36. Love you Najwa Zebian, you are beautiful inside and out! I resonate so much with your story because I had such similar experience to yours, and my God, you speak of your feelings as if you were speaking of mine, but with so much stronger voice and so much more powerful words. God bless you young, courageous and talented woman, your life will have such a beautiful impact on human race.

  37. I don't have words to Thank You Najwa.. When I watched your videos, tears find their way out of my eyes and i feel so relaxed. Ua story is matching mine. I actually can relate to that. I always supress my soul, stopped myself to say what I actually want to say. Throughout my life I made home in others heart and they dismantled it in pieces before my eyes and move away. Thanks for such healing words. I wish u all the luck and bless..
    Fee-aman-lilah!

  38. SubhanaAllah, thats exactly what I needed right now. We wanna move, and somehow its confusing, scaring, worriyng me a lot. بارك الله فيك، حبيبتي

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