Six months ago, I stepped into the unknown and was issued a residence visa for living in a foreign country. I’d like to say that it’s been smooth sailing and I haven’t looked back, but the truth is way more interesting. I mentioned to an Uptown friend in conversation last night that I want to move back to New York, and he said, “Yeah, we know that already. You never wanted to leave, apparently.” And so, there it is. I am ever mindful of the Gertrude Stein quote, “America is my country, and Paris is my home town.” America is country, and L.A. will certainly always be where I am from, west side born and bred. But New York… oh, beloved N.Y.C. is home now, and I have a love affair with Brooklyn that may never be trumped. (Really, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 🙂 Nevertheless, here I sit, six months into my Middle Eastern chapter, and it has been quite the undertaking thus far.
It’s still a trip that a year ago today I had no inkling that my life would have unfolded in this way right now. I talked about WANTING to move abroad like it was an unattainable fantasy, like it was okay if I never really did it but would be cool if I did. And then, BOOM, I saw an opportunity, cast my name in the hat amidst a bunch of other candidates, and it got pulled. Being single and childless, it was a no-brainer to take the gamble. All of my friends and family have watched this adventure unravel and have rolled with me and the punches in real time. So, it’s not a secret how homesick I am. It has me completely surprised though. It never occurred to me that I would -not- fall in love with this current chapter of my life as much as my last. But the truth is that I’m not in love with it. I don’t hate it. I don’t wish that I hadn’t embarked on it. I’m just underwhelmed with physically being here some days, and simultaneously overwhelmed with the day to day of living abroad — six months in. Suffice it to say, I appreciate the life altering experiences I’m gaining by being here in the big Middle, and am enamored by the whimsical moments that I surprise even myself with by creating and acting on every so often.
But the challenging days, and the bad days, they make me crave the familiar… even in volunteering to come here. Yeah, I signed the contract. I took the ticket and the bonus and got on the plane, showing up to a place in the world I knew about only minimally except for what media and misconceptions had to share with me. So I familiarized myself as much as I could by long conversations with friends already living here, and scouring the internet for articles and blogs on living in this country. I knew it would be a challenge. I knew everything there was to know short of showing up, but in that, there was -no way- to know the brevity and weight of it ALL. Some days, it’s really heavy living here, especially when I loved the life that I left behind; all things considered, life in the City was really good to me.
But, because I got on the plane and have made it to month six, I owe it to myself to stay here for as long as it makes sense (key phrase being “makes sense”). Again, this is all voluntary, so when it stops making sense altogether, there will be reason to pack it up and pack it in. But it still makes sense to be here. It’s been incredibly taxing and stressful though. The ability to become malleable and adjust in high pressure situations has clearly been tested since arriving and continues to be. I’ve battled physical injury that has me contemplating cosmetic surgery (or just keeping the scars) every single day, I sit with lonesomeness from time to time even in meeting cool new people and going out every week/end, and the daily stressors on top of being a complete ’emo’ chick are all, in my mind, valid reasons to price one way tickets home. A good portion of the stress I’ve encountered occurred between September and December. Thank God I took up my friend’s invitation and went to South Africa for two weeks at the close of the year and start of this new year. That trip showed me a slice of life I missed in New York, but in an even more fabulous way, as if there is such a thing! 🙂 It showed me what I want life to be like, extravagantly so, and showed me that it’s pretty accessible. It reminded me of how much I love feeling like I’m on top of the world and what I had been missing this fall while busy ADJUSTING to this new mental and living space in my life.
I came back with every fiber in my mind and body ready to give life here a chance to be much better to me. On the flight from Jozie, I was resolved that I was coming back to the most positive environment I could find myself in. And in January, the storm swelled, the plot thickened, and I was crushed and humbled to a pulp. I called my father in tears in the second week, and he said that they (my parents) were behind me if I decided to come home to the States. January was my toughest month to date. But the situation I was faced with showed me how to stand up and fight for myself, and fight in ways I have never had to, nor did I anticipate needing to right now.
January led to February, and to God be the glory, it’s turning out to be my least stressful and challenging month in this country so far. I’ve fostered older friendships and gained a couple of new companions who I feel will remain with me no matter where I’m living. It has, though, been a month of contemplating the next chapter and reaching out to my peers while analyzing and weighing how long this current chapter should last.
But even a baby gestates for nine months.
And when born prematurely, the evidence of not staying in their designated environment for the full time is often glaring and detrimental. So I’ve been telling myself that maybe six months is too soon to know what this whole experience has to offer. *shrug* Maybe. I know that no one can tell me or decide the best option for me right now. And while I seek encouragement, advice and comparable experiences from a select few in my circle, I realize this path that I’m on is completely distinct. So, I’ll have to take each moment, the good, the bad, the ugly, the painful, the inspirational, and the BS. And I have to believe that the positives actually do outweigh the negatives.
And now for a few of the positives! …… *ahem* 🙂
I’ve actually started going to the gym every few days. This is monumental in my mind as I have characteristically been opposed to gyms and exercise for years. I even bought a treadmill with my brother a couple of years ago for our apartment in BK, and I can count on one hand the number of times I got on it. Yet, a couple of months ago, after my parents’ visit, I decided to start going to do cardio and lift weights. I’m amazed that I’m *choosing* to go to the gym every other day as well, and am actually interested in my work there without the encouragement of a trainer. I flat out told the trainer that I did not want to sign up with her, and that I don’t own a scale. My goals aren’t to lose weight, though it would be nice to tone up and be REALLY killing the fitness game by the time I turn 35 in spring 2014! I’m more grateful that I’m developing a new healthy habit though, and I’d like to hope that it continues for the duration of my life. (Especially since I love sweets, bread, pasta and wine!)
Another positive is that I’m starting to understand a bit of Arabic without even trying. I keep meaning to sign up for language classes, but until then, I love picking up Arabic words and phrases on the fly. My favorite things to say are “Masha’allah” which means “God has allowed it to happen”, “Alhumdulliah” which means “Praise God” and is the standard reply to the greeting “How are you?”, and “Ana farhan askufik eliom” (rough spelling) which means “I’m happy to see you today!” If I’m saying any of those three things, I really mean it. I love saying Arabic greetings and calling people by their diminutive names (like, the equivalent of calling John, Johnny or Mike, Mikey; I can call a Faisal, Fah-sool, or a Hassan, Hah-sool, or a Majed, Mah-yood, or a Hamad, Ha-mood, if I’m more familiar with them as an individual). I can understand some numbers and a handful of other words, without even trying! That is a total trip to me! So imagine when/if I get around to actually studying…
One particular positive that is coming out of the negative is that I feel like I’m not only getting physically stronger by working out, but I’m multiplying my inner and mental strength that I never had to unleash prior to this experience by way of living and working in a male dominant environment. I be on some “I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR!” type biz sometimes! I hate that I’m always on guard, but feel like if necessary I can pull my sword and yell EN GARDE! ….while looking for the nearest male that will help a sista out! 😀 Not that I’m in danger AT ALL or trying to be combatant, but there are just moments when I realize I have to protect my well-being and best interest(s) in instances where no one else will. And the way I assert myself has proven to yield the ultimate respect in a lot of ways from young men and older men alike. I actually may be developing some muscles to lend this strength and voice to a worthy cause where it’ll have a real and relevant impact, at some point. But, that remains to be seen. I’d like to hope that similar to the photos of great and powerful women I post every day on my Facebook wall, I will one day be counted among them.
All, in all, I’m proud of myself though. I said I wanted to do something and I did it. I realized that this is HARD and have thought of quitting, and I’m still standing. And whenever I move back to America, at that point, I’ll speak about this period in the past tense and say, I DID IT! You know what I mean. My personal history has been altered by this move. So I’m really proud of myself. The things I never share on Facebook (yeah, I know I share A LOT, but some things don’t make it to my timeline!), or even tell my parents, my brother or close friends about, I’m getting through them. I get overwhelmed, but I’m keeping it moving forward. Like EVERYONE else in my life I admire right now. And the reward is magnified with every encouraging comment or inbox message I get. (Insert EXTREME gratitude for the people I have reached out to once and they replied, or those I reach out to every other week and they reply, or those I reach out to just about EVERYDAY and they keep conversations going with me that make me smile! You guys are all precious gems in the jewelry box of my heart. 🙂
The last positive I’ll mention has to do with the earning potential of living in a country like this, and the luxuries I can take advantage of at any given point including traveling the world whenever I choose. I don’t want to lose access to these things, even though living abroad has shown me how much I’d rather live in NYC and have an international career that takes me around the world via JFK. But while I have an international life, I will take the blessings I have now and multiply them. Then try to leave here, whenever I go, with more assets and less liabilities. Think about reaching some more goals. And that only comes with time. As my dad once said, Time is the main ingredient. It wasn’t in reference to living abroad, but regarding mending a broken heart. You can’t rush these things, he said. So, yeah… You know. House Hunters International would have never come calling to produce an episode about my move had I stayed in New York!
I’m about to pour a glass of wine, and toast my very major milestone. A friend once told me, it’s great to inspire other people but can you inspire yourself [to keep going]? (Then he told me a story about Michael Jordan’s greatest victory, LOL!) Yeah. I’m a little tired, completely missing my loved ones, soul food and a good slice of pizza, but … I’m inspired.
Here’s to MORE! Where ever ‘more’ may be.
—i’m still here! ♥