I play this song every time I think about graduation. Third Eye Blind. You will be famous among hopeful students forever.
So Im back! Sorry for the prolonged absence, but I was finished up my final semester of school ever. Today was graduation, and even though Im not there to walk across that stage in those ugly blue robes, and get my fake piece of paper, it still feels pretty dang good. Im done. I never thought this day would come. And despite the fact that i dont have grades, and some of my classes may have kicked my butt, Im done. My 30th birthday is next month and Im done. Im sitting in the Middle East, where Ive been for the last 5 weeks, and Im done. Im watching the best of the crappy American movies and Im done. Did I mention that I was finally done with school?!
I dont even know what life will be like after this. Its just starting to sink in that I never have to go to another class. Never have to listen to another lecture, without someone paying me first. Lol. Best. Day. Ever.
Some people in the past have wondered if I will know how to function outside of the contained world of a campus. I dont know. Im assuming that there will definitely be bad days ahead. Waking up at weird hours and worrying if Ive turned something in. And adjusting to the timelines of a work environment will also require the perfectionist in me to sleep it off a bit. But Im no longer living for someday. No longer living for a day where Im not living on fumes and anxiety, and I perhaps learn how to have a life. I mean Im celebrating with sleep and Hancock – which is not one of Will Smith’s best movies. 🙂
So heres to a future. A future I never believed would come, and hopefully despite all the things that happen in the world everyday that make us want to stop believing, will still be one that matters.
So Im about to be 30 and the awesome thing is, Im pretty pleased about the whole thing. Im looking around at what Ive accomplished, where Im at and the opportunities that seem ahead and Im excited for the future. However, getting older is not viewed as a good thing when youre a female. If youre a guy, age is your friend – how much better does George Clooney, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio look now than they did when they were younger? Especially babyface Leo. But getting older as a female? All you read is depressing statistics on how any children after 35 are more likely to have down syndrome’s or autism or other disorders, or how getting caught in a terrorist attack is more likely than getting married if youre over some age. I mean even those who look fantastic, are still given an age qualifier. In the Middle East, Im watching lots of crappy old American movies, since I cant watch the other 300 Arabic channels (language deficient!) so Ive seen Charlie’s Angels 2 again. Remember what a big deal it was when Demi Moore came out of the ocean rocking her 40-year old body and restarting her career? Then she married Ashton Kutcher and it was the resurgence of the older woman-younger man! Too bad 10 years later they are divorced, people are talking about how all the cosmetic surgery can’t prevent her aging and all things are back to the way they’ve always been.
Its scary how much we let ourselves be defined by what others may think of us. I stayed home today from the things I could have done in the world today, because I was exhausted. I slept until 3, which was over 12 hours and then woke up and did nada. Ate some hummus and turned on the TV. And eventually a little voice started creeping in, whispering so low I couldnt actually make out the words, just recognize the feeling of unease and anxiety and eventually worthlessness rolling over me. Then it got a bit louder as it got purchase on me – how dare you stay inside all day? Shouldnt you be out – building your career? meeting people? exploring the country? walking and getting less fat? doing something of value? The voice, of course, gets meaner as it gets louder. And it becomes easier and easier to believe.
So many shoulds. Its maybe the biggest struggle I face, especially when faced with a lot of choices, and I choose what I want instead of the “right” choice. I tend to punish myself for doing what I want, especially when doing what I want seems to be being super lazy. The nice thing about being out of my normal environment is I cant blame the feelings on my life. Instead, I check myself much more quickly and say, “well something isnt right, because right now Im in a foreign country, living my own personal dreams and eating awesome food while surfing the internet and not doing work, so lets get some perspective here.” Eventually I realized I was feeling bad cause I was dehydrated, drank some water and got on with the lazing. Oh well, its a process. I did eventually take a shower, leave the house, eat some really good food, and watch a movie with a friend. So overall a salvaged day.
Im learning to like it here a lot. Ive created a routine that involves teaching English a few days a week, going into an office to help with HR work and am still creating other opportunities. Having a PhD is a big deal here, which I think is opening doors. Im sure there will be bad days, but Im still grateful for the chance Ive had to be here and widen my view a bit more.
Im also using the time to get back into contact with my Heavenly Father. My life is quieting down enough for me to hear the promptings I should have been following before – but at least Im doing them now. I came out here because I thought it was what He wanted me to do, so its nice to feel like He also brought me out here so we could get closer and talk more like we used to. Being in Provo the last few years made me want to dull things a bit, so I didnt make the same efforts I used to. Here, I see how well-placed I am, and I could use the guidance so I am able to take advantage of this experience. Plus Ive got a best friend, some cute kids and some other people relying on me being at my best, so Im ready to rise to the challenge.
The end of a decade. Its not so bad growing up. Plus, no one believes I am 30 anyway, so theres always that.
It may technically be cheating, since I already did a Beatles son, but its John Lennon by himself so Im counting it.
Today was my first day not hanging out with Americans. I agreed to teach English to the children of a professor and I was picked up for the two hour lesson. There were three children in the car in addition to the two adults, and the children were both fascinated by me and extremely shy. I was confused at first, I thought they were transporting me to the children I was tutoring. The father is a physics professor at one of the universities and his wife is an accountant for the government. I am tutoring the two oldest children, a girl and a boy. The girl is adorable and so so intelligent. The little boy is a bit young, and still scared of me, but we managed to exchange a few words before I put on the ABC song on youtube for him to watch over and over. They also fed me my first in-country mansaf – I posted what mansaf looks like on the last post. It is considered the only true Jordanian food, and I think its delicious. The wife had pre-prepared the mansaf because she worked during the week.
It was fascinating to be so far from home, and find the working arrangement that is so rare in the Mormon culture, and one that I probably hope to emulate. This woman, who is married to an exceptionally educated husband with three very smart kids, in this culture where most Americans assume there is no equality or opportunity for women, is very accomplished and making it work for her family. There are sacrifices to be made, of course, but people all around the world are doing it, even in Arabia, and something I wish others would consider, because I really feel there are benefits for our children. I grew up in a family where my mother worked, and although there were inconveniences, I learned many things about being fearless and supporting myself that I think has led to me to a point that I dream much bigger than I would have otherwise.
The wife drove me home after my lessons. I got the feeling she does not drive much, but on the way she said something that made an impact on me. She said she had a dream that someday her two oldest children, the ones I am tutoring, will speak English fluently. She told me the oldest child, the girl, wants to go to America someday. It made me think how lucky I am to have been born in a country, where I learned English growing up. How lucky I am to be an American – I never have to worry when I show up at a country’s borders, whether or not I will be allowed. There are so few places in the world, we are not allowed. The same will not be true for this little girl. Arabia is considered a place for terrorists, and the visas have been severely restricted for their travel to the states – unless you are very rich or have some other important value. Will this little girl ever have the opportunity to travel the world they way I have? I dont know. I hope so.
So this is my time in the Middle East so far. I am finding ways to interact with the culture in small ways, that mean a lot to me; so hopefully I wont leave here just having taken without giving back something.
Beatles Classic. Although I love the Jim Sturgess Across the Universe cover.
Another day and now Im in Jordan. Ill be here for a while, so it feels different my trip to Turkey. Especially cause my best friend is here. He loves this country. Today wasnt the first time I got to see it, but it was the first time that I got to see how that love changes him. My best friend, lets go with BF as a nickname, is a complicated guy masquerading as a simple person. He has this overlay of farting, eating and sleeping, but underneath that theres a lot of conflicting desires, identities and person working themselves out. Im not the first person to be his friend, and I doubt Im the last one to be this close to him – hes one of those people who polarizes people, you either love him and put up with the bullshit or you know right off the bat it wont work out for you. The nice thing about him is that he doesnt particularly care which side of the line you fall on, as long as it minimally affects his life. The one thing I am is the exception to the rule. I am definitely affecting his life.
Im the reason he decided to come out to the Middle East the first time, and since then (its his 4th or 5th trip out here) his involvement has ballooned and the positive impacts have been exponential. Now it is moving the lives of people on both continents in ways neither of us could have predicted 4 years ago, when it was just a last ditch effort to help him get into graduate school after a somewhat disastrous undergrad. I wonder what it feels like to travel 8000 miles and find your people and home. Because thats what he has here. I watched him today argue with a Jordanian about the political options of the country and the tribes that empower it, and saw a comfort and relaxation I dont see when hes hunched over work in his room in Utah. He always projects confidence, but this time it doesnt just sit on the surface, it becomes who he is. Its more than skin deep.
This is my crackpot hypothesis, but I think the reason this place works so well for him is how literal he is. In Jordan, things are right on the surface, if you learn what to look for. Obviously there is the religion – you hear and see the minarets and calls to prayer, as well as the women wearing hijab or niqab. There are ceremonies for greeting people, hospitality rituals that must be done, and time that must be spent in particular ways in order to get by here. And if you can learn them, then you can fit in. Even to me, Jordan doesnt feel like a foreign place, although the voice/feeling inside me is off its axis so I know that I am out of wack and have to get readjusted. Im driving BF a bit crazy, because he cannot understand why Im having this reaction.
There’s something about his reaction that is even more alientating than being in this country far from home. I would describe myself as a slow-to-warm up person. I feel crazy inside until I understand the rules and nuances of how a place works, and then I usually end up excelling within it. I had the same reaction when I started my various programs, but because I spend the time up front to understand the dynamics, I can do things that other people cant. Case in point – leaving early to go abroad. 🙂 Until then, things feel scary, Im highly sensitive to other people’s emotions and nonverbals, because Im trying to soak it all in, so I can learn the rules that are important and those that can be observed and then broken. That is how I think Ive managed to deal in a world where I cant find a easy social place to belong.
Maybe I should chose my best friends better. BF is not about drama, emotions or deep explanations. Thats probably the one thing he doesnt have in common with Jordanians, who seem to constantly be yelling, laughing and being highly expressive. Although, considering ALL of the dramatics he lets into his life, lets say that description may be a bit suspect. Myself included. Anyway, another part of traveling 101. People man, people. They are the reason I leave home and reason I ache to stay inside far away where its safe from all their shenanigans. But we will make it work, as we always do, because I love him and he loves me and family makes it through regardless. Plus who else is going to put up with us?
Otherwise, Ive found an apartment in the city, have a bathroom to scrub (somewhat scarring) and just dropped off my laundry for the first time. Life building begins anew. Oh and if it was unclear – I loved Turkey, in case that did not come across. It was just exactly what I described – new and things Im still struggling with – the constant staring. One of BF’s friends has already told him that he doesnt have to be scared walking around with me, cause everyone will be scared of me. Its not my favorite thing ever to be told, but I suppose its better than being a victim. So I will continue to try to find a way to see myself in this kaleidoscope of reflections.
Ive posted relevant articles – so you can understand a bit better why Jordan. Its this interesting country in the middle of all this crazy political upheaval. President Obama will actually be here tomorrow after his trip to Israel. Also there was a recent article posted in the Atlantic of an interview with King Abdullah II, that is having impact all over the place. Ill talk more about all of that in another post, but a small sampling below.
Take your pick – the Tom Petty original or John Mayer, which Im partial to.
Today is an obvious title, because after the last few days, thinking more than a little bit is off the agenda. I tried to switch my flight so I could take some meetings here in Turkey, but it turned into a disaster, including me having no flight back to the Middle East. It took 4+ days of calling and hours on Google voice (bless them) to finally get calmly booked on a flight for tomorrow. Now that its all settled there havene really been any downsides. I got to explore the Asian side of Istanbul, which is far more financial and residential than the European side. I got to experience traffic crossing the bridges multiple times during rush hour, and I got to spend all day doing nothing and ordering room service. Not a bad trip.
I think the best thing was the feeling of euphoria after I checked in for my flight tomorrow, which was the even that led to me knowing I didnt have a flight on Sunday. I am so outrageously happy. I have been happy this whole period of time, since it finally sunk in 2.5 weeks ago that I managed to escape Provo, school and any other weight of my former life. Traveling has allowed me to make a clean break with my former life and do all the prep work necessary for preparing for my new super-awesome life, apparently jetting around the globe, meeting really nice people, and most importantly feeling free. Free from worrying about what I look like, whens the last time I waxed my face, what do my clothes look like right now, how crazy is my hair. Free from worrying about what others think of my behavior, me staying home from church, or buying Taco Bell on a Sunday. Free from wondering what people are thinking about me. I basically know here – its shes really tall and foreign. And Im ok with that – cause I sooooo am. It wasnt the most comfortable feeling in the world, but at least its honest and transparent and obvious. Not all the insidious things I wonder if people are thinking about me in Provo.
Im not saying the box I was in was anyone’s fault but my own. I wanted to be one of them, and considered them to be my people – but I wasnt. I never fit in. The nice thing about being out here is that Im not one of them, so I dont try to fit in, which makes it so much easier to actually do so! Ive made friends on the traveling road, so much faster than Ive made friends at any point in my life. I already made a friend to meet in Paris on my way back to NYC, Ive made friends with a girl in my same company in Turkey. I feel at ease and confident with myself so I am open to the world. Im still working out how to say no to hawkers and aggressives, but regular people and I are friends. Its nice not to suspect the whole world of being against you, and here when I do think it, at least there is a rational why they might, rather than all the weird reasons I didnt fit in Provo.
I just want to learn to hold on to this feeling. I could conquer NYC, my new job, anything, including getting back in shape without all the bullshit that comes with whys, and shoulds. Im really so grateful for being free. Its why I left Southern California to go to the East Coast – so that I could be free and make mistakes on my own and learn from them, without being hemmed up by someone else’s ideas of what I should do, or at least my ideas of what I thought others thought I should do. Its basically the feeling I get every time I hit Vegas and start seeing minorities again, and the band around my chest loosens and I can breathe. You are just one of the crowd, so everything is ok again, rather than the squeaky nail that gets pounded down per the Japanese saying.
It may be extreme, but Im free for the first time in my life I feel freaking free! And man does it feel sooo much better than all the weight Ive been carrying around my whole life about being me, and big curly-haired, and Black, and Hispanic and female and Mormon, and smart and whatever else I identified as different from the norm. All the things that I let define me, but now there’s just me. One whole person, who has flaws but I can own my own feelings about it. No more guilt or shame. Just me figuring it out. Much easier to do without that backpack with all the rocks I put in. Good job George Clooney. You really did know what you were talking about.