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Opinion | L’un de ces foyers universitaires étatiques

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Tout a commencé par une demi journée d’attente avec mes lourdes valises dans la cour du foyer.  » Le monsieur qui détient les clefs n’est pas encore là « , m’ont-ils dit. Vers 19h, on me fournit enfin les clefs. Je monte et j’ouvre la chambre : 3m x 3m de superficie environ, deux lits, deux petites tables, deux placards et deux étagères accrochées aux murs, le tout entouré par des murs exhalant fort l’humidité, et aménagés d’une façon ridiculement ingénieuse pour que ces 3m x 3m puissent contenir tous ces meubles et deux personnes en plus. D’ailleurs, il ne nous restait qu’un espace d’environ 200cm x 50cm de libre où on pouvait poser les pieds sur le sol puisque mon bureau était collé à mon lit qui lui même était collé de sa largeur au lit de ma binôme de chambre, et aux murs sur les deux autres cotés.

Comprendre le règne du foyer m’a assommée d’un malaise insurmontable; commençons par l’eau chaude des douches disponible 3 fois par semaine seulement. Et puis, et même quand tu acceptes de te doucher à l’eau froide, l’électricité des douches ne te laisse pas faire. Elle n’est disponible que pendant les jours consacrés à cet événement devenu tant attendu. Mais tant pis, tu dois apprendre à vivre avec ta sueur deux ou trois jours même en plein été.  Bien-sûr, les toilettes sont collectives ainsi que les éviers de chaque étage qui, quoique généralement bouchés, servent à se laver les visages le matin,et les assiettes graisseuses de leurs sauces rouges, souvent tenaces sur ses parois blanches, le soir.

Chaque jour, le foyer ferme ses portes à 20h et tu dois programmer ta mort sociale et culturelle selon l’horaire de ce grand et morose portail de prison. Et si par mégarde tu te présentes devant ce dernier après 20h, il faudra que tu commences à chercher où passer la nuit sinon, bon courage pour éveiller la pitié des portiers qui eux seuls peuvent te laisser entrer. Et oui, je me suis déjà retrouvée dans la rue la nuit parce que je me suis aventurée à la découverte de la vie nocturne de Tunis jusqu’à 22h. J’ai fini par passer la nuit effondrée sur la table d’une cafétéria à l’aéroport, ouverte 24h/ 24, pratique et très répandue chez les étudiants qui se retrouvent sans toit. Le lendemain, dès les premiers signes du petit matin, je me suis présentée devant le portail du foyer ,c’était un dimanche à 6:30, il était encore fermé .. 7h, ils dorment encore… 8h, exaspérée, j’ai frappé à la porte, le concierge m’a ouvert avec la mauvaise humeur de quelqu’un à qui on a arraché un profond sommeil. Et malgré mon état lamentable et ma simple revendication d’un lit chaud, j’ai eu droit à un questionnaire hostile et inquisiteur avant de pouvoir rentrer:  je lui ai dit que j’ai passé la nuit chez ma tante pour m’en sortir.

Dans les foyers étatiques, des règles interdissent d’utiliser tout appareil électronique susceptible de consommer beaucoup d’électricité , ne nous laissant le droit qu’aux chargeurs des téléphones et des ordinateurs portables. Bien sûr, personne ne respectait cette règle. Une fois les portes de nos minuscules cellules fermées, tout le monde profitait. Presque chacun avait chez lui au moins un sèche cheveux et une plaque chauffante (ou une résistance, comme on l’appelle aussi). Je pouvais accepter toutes les concessions à faire vis-à-vis de mon confort, mais pas celle de me passer de la plaque chauffante parce que, figurez-vous, madame ou monsieur dressant ces règles, qu’on n’est pas des rongeurs à poils denses, et que la nuit, collées sur nos chaises de bureau pour réviser, on a vraiment froid. Cette sacrée plaque chauffante ne servait pas qu’à ça; elle nous servait aussi de cuisinière. En effet, sur environ 7 blocs à 5 étages chacun, il n’y a qu’une seule cuisine très éloignée où on trouve que des cuisinières. Pouvez-vous vous imaginer voyager chaque nuit avec vos casseroles et votre nourriture jusqu’à la cuisine pour préparer votre dîner? Les étudiantes avaient du mal à appliquer ça donc la cuisine était toujours tellement inutile et déserte qu’elle me servait de paisible salle de révision.

Vous ne respectez pas les règles invivables de ce foyer ? On ne respecte pas votre intimité, c’est aussi simple que ça dans leurs têtes. De temps en temps, les dimanches très tôt alors que les étudiantes dorment encore, une surveillante tape un ou deux coups assourdissants sur la porte, tourne une clé dans la serrure, entre en toute furie , les assomme de cris et leur confisque tout appareil électronique non permis : C’est leur façon de souhaiter une bonne journée.

Les derniers jours au foyer m’étaient encore plus insupportables que les premiers jours d’adaptation; Vu qu’il n’y avait pas beaucoup d’espace libre dans la chambre, je partageais mon lit avec ma valise qui était allongée plus confortablement que moi sur le bord du lit. Alors que moi, la nuit, je dormais les pieds suspendus sur elle. J’ai fini par avoir des maux de dos et de cuisses insupportables et j’ai dû quitter le foyer sans me retourner en arrière.

Avant, quand j’ai quitté ma famille pour poursuivre mes études à Tunis, je vivais naïvement chaque mésaventure comme un événement inévitable et totalement naturel justifié par ma curieuse découverte de ma nouvelle vie dans la capitale. Aujourd’hui, avec un peu de recul, je plains les autorités de nous avoir fourré dans des trous à rats, je plains le concierge qui m’a crié dessus en me menaçant de ne pas me laisser entrer par ce que je suis allé à l’épicerie d’à coté, et qu’à mon retour il était déjà 20.05 minutes. Je plains le personnel fronçant toujours les sourcils et qui n’est jamais à l’écoute d’une jeunesse fraîchement éloignées de leurs familles. Je plains ceux qui on fait le choix de l’heure de fermeture de ce foyer , très tôt à mon goût , alors que pour les garçons les portes ferment à 21h. Je les plains aussi parce qu’ils n’offrent aucune alternative pour nos problèmes; pas de cuisine équipée? Pas de restaurant non plus. Tu as faim un peu tard la nuit?  Il te faut de la chance pour ne pas trouver tes boites de conserve toutes moisies parce qu’en fait, on ne te fourni même pas de réfrigérateur. Pas de chauffage central ? Crève de froid. Je plains ma vie du premier jour au foyer jusqu’au dernier parce que j’étais triste et inconsolable, et en même temps je suis en totale admiration pour toutes celles qui ont pu surmonter tout ça et ont réussi leur années de préparatoire malgré ces conditions.

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How to Build an Authentic Life

Alaa Jerbi

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Warning: This is an 11-minute read article. So grab a coffee, tea, or whatever you fancy and sit down 😉 If you don’t have time, you can bookmark it for later. With that aside, let’s begin!

Four years ago, I was stuck.

I was living like shit. Eating, sleeping, studying, and repeating. I barely had a life outside of high school.

I was lazy, unhealthy, and a little overweight. I had Moobs (short for man boobs — add that to your dictionary) and felt anxious in my body.

I was also very lonely. Despite knowing a lot of people thanks to my extroverted nature, I barely had any real friends.

I would go out sometimes but with people I didn’t really like nor trust, hating every moment of it because I knew I deserved better. I blamed luck for not bringing me the perfect friends with whom I could share my highs and lows.

Being a person who enjoys social interactions, I never had problems making friends. However, I didn’t know how to build real connections with the “friends” that I made. And that left me surrounded by people yet alone.

I also suffered from a poor self-image. I envied those who achieved great things in their lives and wished if I can be like them.

I knew there was something wrong. I knew I needed to do something because loneliness was eating me alive and my weight was decreasing my lifespan.

Saying goodbye to my old people and entering a whole new world called college was not helping me in any way too.

Someday while browsing the net, I came across Mark Manson’s blog (before he became a best-selling author). That was when everything changed.

Mark empathizes that the way to live an authentic life and build meaningful relationships is through this special quality called “vulnerability”.

He defines vulnerability as the act of expressing oneself with its imperfection openly and unapologetically. It’s the state of being your true self and living according to what is right to you, without shame or fear of being judged.

That’s when I became interested in this vulnerability thing. I decided that I need to give it a try. I had nothing to lose anyway.

Fast forward to today, I can confidently say that vulnerability has completely changed my life:

  • My confidence has increased tremendously. I’m no longer afraid to be myself and stand for what I believe in.
  • I’m no longer in a rush to prove myself to others. I’m taking my time achieving my own goals at my own pace.
  • I’m more active than ever. I lost weight, built some muscle and feel much more confident in my body.
  • I have made some cool friends who believe in me, keep me company, and constantly push me outside my comfort zone.
  • I can openly express myself without feeling ashamed of anything (the fact that I’m writing this article is proof). I no longer hide from my emotions and weaknesses. I learned to embrace them and accept them as a part of being a human.
  • I learned to go after what I want boldly and unapologetically.
  • I’m actively experimenting with myself and trying everything that sparks my interest.

In a nutshell, I’m living an honest and authentic life that is according to what I think is right. Not to other people’s definition of what is right.

A lot of things have happened in the last 3 years. There was a lot of struggles and painful periods, but I pushed through them and grew stronger as a result.

But enough talking about me, there is something more important we need to discuss.

The Life We Didn’t Choose

Most of us go through our lives taking the road of safety and convention. Doing exactly as what we are told by figures we consider to be superior like parents, teachers, society…etc.

We play the safe game and never question whether we really like it or not.

If I give you a ball and tell you to shoot it as far as you can. Then pick it up, go back to the starting position and shoot it again. You’ll do it a few times, maybe you’ll spend an hour on it if you’re persistent (and have no life). Eventually, you’ll grow bored and go home.

If, however, I give you a ball and ask you to come up with a game on your own. You create the rules. Go ahead and be creative and make your own ball game. Then invite your friends for a match.

I bet all my savings that even if your friends disliked this game, you will never grow bored of it because it’s a game you created with your own rules. Your own authentic creation.

That’s exactly the same thing with life. If we live a life that was handed to us by others and which we didn’t choose, we will never feel fulfilled and we’ll start hating ourselves for it.

We’ll start to think we’re failures because we don’t win at the game we were given. We’ll try hard to succeed, only to realize that we don’t even want to.

For instance, I used to think that success is all about achieving academic excellence. Being brought up by parents who finished their education and worked hard to bring food to our table has influenced their thinking about success and mine as a consequence.

It was until I finally decided to question my old life that I really did see the fault in this thinking. I respect everyone’s view and I believe that education is important for the development of a well-balanced individual. But I dare say that after high school, it becomes merely a way to get a job and doesn’t offer much growth.

Anyways, the point is if we still measure ourselves to a life we didn’t choose, we’ll never feel like we can be successful. And even if we do succeed, it will be a short-lived dopamine high before we start questioning if that was even worth it in the first place.

It’s time we turn the tables on the game we were handed and decide to create our own game rules instead.

And that is only possible through vulnerability.

On Being Vulnerable

Photo by Josiah Gardner on Unsplash

According to Google, vulnerability is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Since we no longer live in caves, we are interested in the “being exposed to emotional attack” part here.

You see, questioning the safe way and deciding to create your own is hard. It’s so hard actually that you’ll suffer a lot from criticism, rejection, judgment and even self-doubt.

Being vulnerable means that you understand this and are willing to pay the price to get to where you want.

Let me repeat that again, vulnerability is being okay with getting rejected, ridiculed, judged, and in some cases, accused of madness.

Anything in life that is worth doing involves being exposed to emotional pain.

Standing up for yourself leaves you exposed to ridicule and judgment.

Asking your crush out leaves you exposed to rejection and heartbreak.

Sharing your secrets and feelings with your friends leaves you exposed to envy and disloyalty.

All those are painful emotions. But the acts are worth it.

If you don’t stand up for what you believe, you’ll be a doormat and will never get the respect you want.

If you don’t ask your crush out, you’ll waste a lot of time fantasizing about someone who may or may not reciprocate your feelings.

If you don’t share yourself with your friends, they’ll never trust you enough to become your real buddies (a secret I learned the hard way).

All those are vulnerable acts because you are ‘exposed’ to emotional pain every time you do them.

The more worthwhile the act is, the more vulnerable it will leave you, thus the greater the exposed pain and potential for growth.

More worthwhile = More vulnerable = Greater pain = Greater growth

So, how can vulnerability help you create an authentic life?

Any authentic life involves around doing activities that are authentic to the person involved. By their nature, authentic acts are vulnerable acts because they require that you risk embarrassing yourself and looking stupid to others every time you do them.

To put it in a simple framework, an authentic life consists of 3 main areas:

Authentic Lifestyle

Authentic Action

Authentic Communication

Let’s go through each one of them in more details.

Authentic Lifestyle

It’s literally anything that makes you unique and differentiates you from the masses.

Your hobbies, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, your music taste, whether you watch Game of Thrones or Chernobyl, your favorite sport, your job/study field, your ambitions and dreams, your opinions about the world, your philosophy, the friends you hang out with, the books you read, your volunteering experience, …etc.

If you have little to no care for the above things (apart from the GOT or Chernobyl thing which you don’t need to care about — I don’t), then you really got some work to do.

What are your hobbies? Photography? Guitar? Maybe rock climbing? How about camping? Take your time to explore various activities. The possibilities are endless.

If you think there is some area that needs improvement in your lifestyle, start searching for ways to improve it. Use the internet to your advantage (Quick fact: do you know that you can use the internet to browse websites other than FB/Instagram/Youtube? Trust me, a lot of people don’t know that).

Remember that those things are vulnerable because you’re challenging yourself to grow and learn more about the world around you. You’re cultivating new opinions, challenging your own limiting beliefs and replacing them with healthy alternatives.

Authentic Action

This is where you’ll actually build your vulnerability muscle (aka courage).

This area includes activities that get you out of your comfort zone and expose you to great emotional pain.

It may include:

  • Asking your crush out (and accepting her/his response graciously and moving on rather than wasting time in fantasy).
  • Cutting off bad relationships and toxic people
  • Forcing yourself to socialize more and meet new people
  • Joining a gym and embarrassing your way out of the badly-designed machines (currently happening to me)
  • Taking leadership roles within your club/organization/job…etc
  • Exploring a new career/study field
  • Starting a business (if that’s what you’re into)
  • Talking in front of a group of people

Basically, it’s about going boldly after what you want.

Remember that your vulnerability/courage muscle is just like a real muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. So start small and keep gradually challenging yourself and exploring your limits.

I promise you, by regularly training your courage muscle, things that once felt impossible to do will slowly start to become less and less intimidating.

Authentic Communication

Here comes the hardest part of all the three.

What do I mean by Authentic Communication?

Have you ever felt so self-conscious when talking to someone that you start to stutter or in an attempt to not embarrass yourself by saying something stupid, you don’t say anything at all?

It sucks. We all have experienced that. Especially when talking to a person we admire or secretly crush on, it can intensify and become real torture! You start to question where has your personality been when you needed it the most or why are you such a failure you can’t talk properly to the person in front of you?

On the other hand, have you ever experienced having a spontaneous conversation with someone that words just flew out naturally without you caring about a thing? You know, when you felt completely present and your head was minding its own business and not nagging at you in the background? You joked, teased, played, and expressed yourself authentically when you were in this state.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? It’s how you think about the situation.

In the first scenario, you were putting the other person on a pedestal and you worried if you can’t impress him/her. You started to see the conversation in a logical way using your brain to tell you what’s the next best thing to say/do in order to come closer to your goal of making a good impression and avoid getting rejected.

In the second scenario, you let your creative side take care of everything. You didn’t worry about “conquering the conversation” or “scoring points” because you didn’t see it in a logical way. You didn’t worry about getting rejected or saying something weird. You were just being yourself, saying what’s on your mind even if it may expose you to getting rejected (again, being vulnerable).

Ironically, this would actually make you leave a far better impression than you would if you take it logically.

You see, human relationships are based on emotions. How you make people feel is far more important than ‘what you bring to the table’. There is a reason why a comedian has more followers and fans than, say, a scientist.

Emotions aren’t logical. They are to be felt and not to be processed. Thus it doesn’t make any sense to try to build real life-long relationships through braining your way to people’s hearts.

The only way to attract new relationships and nurture existing ones is through emotions.

You elicit emotions in other people by truly expressing yourself, openly, unashamedly.

By becoming spontaneous and uninhibited, you open doors to amazing conversations that would never occur if you tried to plan your words.

Showing who you are, exposed, uninhibited, is the only way to truly change your relationships and life in general.

By becoming good at expressing your emotions, you learn how to elicit emotions in the people of your life and strengthen your relationships as a result. That’s Authentic Communication.

Now, how do you express yourself authentically?

Again, by accepting that rejection, ridicule, and judgment are inevitable.

You know the classic truth “Not everyone will like you”. I’d like to take it further and add “And that’s okay!” to it.

Transitioning from a people-pleaser who is always agreeable to someone who is unpretentious and says what’s on his mind is hard at first. Because you’ve got to give up on the need to be liked by everyone. No one, apart from little cute babies, is adored by everyone. You got to shove this fact into your damn skull and learn to live with it.

But it’s not bad, really. When you express yourself fully and without inhibitions, you indirectly say to the world “I’m an amazing person, as unique as a unicorn. Take me or leave me, I’m fine anyways.” This will result in one of these two scenarios:

  1. Some people will dislike you (inevitable)
  2. A lot of people will love you so damn much

Instead of being a people pleaser and end up on a third scenario where “no one loves you nor dislikes you”, you’re setting yourself to meet your own people, those who are proud to be with you and enjoy your company to the fullest.

I am glad I made the effort to find my people. I made some enemies along the way but again, the result is worth the price.

So be a unique guy/girl, say weird things, ask stupid questions, ask deep questions, tease and be playful with others. You’ll filter those who are so boring to appreciate your uniqueness and keep those who will love you until the end.

Final thoughts

If you’re reading this, that means that you made it through this long text, Thank you very much!!

As we’ve seen, the path towards building an authentic life is through putting yourself into situations that leave you vulnerable to emotional pain.

Living an authentic life requires that you work on the three major areas: Authentic Lifestyle, Authentic Action, and Authentic Communications.

Keep in mind that the point here is not to to be perfect in all the three, but to strike a balance between them.

In the end, choosing to go against the current and design your own game rules is difficult. Not everybody is ready for it.

Nevertheless, I hope I encouraged you to take a deeper look at your current life and see if it lacks your personal touch. If that’s the case, boy, you got some work to do!

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