Years ago, a friend lamented that I had limited my life choices and career by moving to Armenia. I know now that his intentions came from a place of genuine concern and kindness but at the time I was incensed and immediately went on the defensive. Many years have passed since that exchange and yet for some reason people continue to offer up advice on what I should do, how I should write, what I should say. It’s probably because I give them license to do so. I have learned to manage my feelings and inform my responses with logic as opposed to emotional outbursts, not always successfully but I do try. Sometimes the unsolicited advice I receive, I choose to ignore and others make me take a step back and think.
I ascribe to the principle of freedom of thought and speech and the written word. I also understand that as a repatriate who writes and relays stories from the homeland and transmits it to the Armenian world beyond its borders comes with a level of responsibility. Those of us who do write are the eyes and ears of what transpires on a daily basis here on the ground.
The truth is very personal. My truth is informed by and draws from my personal narrative and expectations, distorted or otherwise. What I believe to be the truth may not be yours and I never expect it to be. And while in my own life I haven’t always been truthful, today I can only narrate the truth as I see and experience it. Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty but I believe that it needs to be told from a place of passion and compassion for our country and certainly never by squandering hopes and dreams. Hearing or reading the truth should not make us love this place less or throw our hands up in the air and call it an exercise in futility. After all, we do have a country to build, all of us. Those who do truly care and who are engaged, either here in Armenia or in the Diaspora should understand that facing the truth about us will help us search for and find solutions. If it is too difficult to hear, then I suspect it’s simply easier to walk away from a problem than face it.
When we write from the homeland, it is an attempt to share experiences and to paint a picture from our own personal palette of what life really is like in the homeland in the 21st century compacted into a small period of time and space, a mere blink, a fleeting amount of oxygen that we inhale.
This past summer in Yerevan and around the country, conditions were heated and not because of high temperatures. Patience has worn thin. Some are finally shedding the veil of fear and trepidation and demanding for the protection of their fundamental rights, while others are blazing the difficult path of resistance and pushing all boundaries.
There were numerous public outbursts and protests against proposed fare hikes for public transportation, a new parking system in Yerevan which promises to be lucrative not for the city administration but for a privately owned company whose owner has close connections with the ruling regime, illegal construction, distortion of historical buildings in Yerevan, villagers continually protesting the lack of government assistance.
While these events overlapped and activists ran from one incident to another as police cracked down, there were festivals in achingly beautiful and remote corners of the country trying to encourage development and tourism, cultural activities such as Sistema Armenia which assembled talented children to perform together in an orchestra and encounters with some of the most incredibly inspirational individuals…it is almost too difficult to bear the emotional ups and downs we experience.
There are people who are intimately aware of the problems we consider too big to solve yet who are invested in Armenia; they invest their time, knowledge and energy and are bringing new ideas and innovation to the country.
This past summer I met young entrepreneurs who aren’t waiting around for someone to believe in their idea but are thinking outside the box and realizing their dreams themselves, I met professional musicians who have brought a new brand and methodology of music to the country, women who work with mentally and physically disabled children despite the intolerable intolerance, an actress who brings the spirit and life of one of Armenia’s greatest actresses to the stage and topping it off a blind young man who rejects limits, borders and restrictions and keeps climbing higher and higher. Some have been locals, others Diasporans. They have taken advantage of programs and institutions that provide the ability for them to realize their dreams and potential and when and where those programs don’t exist, they create new platforms.
They have inspired me, even when I feel the world around me disintegrating into chaos and uncertainty.
So while we know and accept the many challenging problems we are surrounded with, we do see hope and determination and vision. If we can harness this kind of energy, then we have no excuses.
That is my truth.
BY MARIA TITIZIAN