Marie (63)

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'Every time I fall, I get up again’  

‘My name is Marie, I am the owner of a clothing shop and design studio. I came to Beirut after my graduation from secondary school. Soon after that, I got married. I didn’t have time to build friendships, I was too busy building a career as a manager in the design industry. My travels around the world have enriched my life and have changed my perspective on many aspects of life. The world is immensely big and there is so much to discover and to enjoy. 

My life may have looked glamorous, but believe me, I met many obstacles. I was juggling my duties as a mother with the responsibilities that came with my career. There were also some financial problems, which pushed me to work harder so that I could make sure that my family lives comfortably.  

Every time I fall, I get up again. Each time with more determination. Ever since adolescence, I had a rebellious streak and I believed in gender equality. I used to ask: ‘Why are boys always right? Why do they get more freedom?’ I did not accept the status quo. 

It was by no means easy. At the time my husband was working in Saudi Arabia, which meant I was taking care of our newborn baby all by myself. I was very clear to my husband: ‘I will never step back, I want to get ahead. Either we do this together or you let me find my own path.’ That is how I discovered my passion for sewing.  

I started designing for El Lady Madonna, a famous Lebanese performing artist and fashion icon. Technically I wasn’t ready yet, but my sewing skills improved with every creation. You know, trial and error. I usually had a part-time job, so I could work from home and have a flexible schedule. I made sure I spent enough time with my children and I could cater to their needs.  

When my son was 18 years old, he was involved in a serious accident while practicing extreme sports. I will always remember how I was informed. I still can’t believe how alert and calm I felt. I insisted that action had to be taken immediately. We were faced with a life or death dilemma and it drained us physically, emotionally and financially. I fought like a lioness to make sure that our son received the proper medical care. He was constantly in pain, which lasted for a whole year. We had to adapt our house, so he could stay with us. Looking back at this chapter of our story, I thank God for answering my prayers - my son miraculously survived. Anyone who went through hardships like ours will understand what it was like. 

But this was not all I had to go through. My daughter fell in love with a man who was unfit for her. However, she was very stubborn and she decided to marry him without our permission. Several years later, she had his son. We were not aware at the time, but her husband was mistreating her. After she told me, I supported her throughout the entire process of the divorce. In our society, many people are against divorce and the legal process was a nightmare. Thankfully, my daughter got over this toxic relationship. She has been able to rebuild a family with a man who is good for her and who truly deserves her.  

Even during the most difficult times, I stayed focused on my goals. I decided to open my own clothing shop and design studio. But before I did that, I created the wedding gown for my nephew’s bride in Australia. I also designed many dresses for my daughter’s weddings. It was so emotional to create these gowns, for these special girls, on their special day. Seeing them, looking all radiant and feminine was epic.  

My mother and my mother-in-law are my pillars. My mother never complained about anything. She had her principles and lived her life according to these principles. I am a feminist and was lucky enough to have these strong and powerful women around me.  

Many Lebanese mothers have to endure growing older far away from their children. My son lives in the United Arab Emirates and my daughter in Canada. I would like to live closer to them, but I cannot leave Lebanon. Even during the current circumstances, I will not leave. This too shall pass. We are resilient. I have started giving moulding workshops as a volunteer at local NGO’s. I am also working together with my daughter and her husband. We are planting, producing and selling organic and sustainable products.  

My ultimate wish is that I can stay productive and will never become a burden. To the younger generations, I say: ‘Watch out for fake friends and always look at the bigger picture.’  

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