Is change on the horizon in Saudi Arabia?

Only recently did I realize that it’s a country I love to hate. I have a lot of baggage with Saudi Arabia and I so wanted to remain angry at it. But even as I got on my first flight back to the country in around 15 years, I found myself unable to quell the little bit of mounting excitement that I felt about going back.

I first went to Saudi Arabia in the 70s. I went to the 7th and 8th grades there. Before that we lived in the US. We returned afterwards to the States but went back to Saudi Arabia, where I spent my last year of schooling (11th grade) before I went off to university in Cairo, Egypt. My father remained for most of the rest of his life. He only left when his health no longer allowed him to continue teaching at university, many years after the typical retirement age.

My story with Saudi Arabia is complicated. I think I actually liked it as a young girl. During my younger years, I thrived on change. I’ve never been able to relate to children or their parents who worry about changing schools and leaving friends behind. My way of thinking was that my friends would remain my friends for life, no matter where I ended up in the world. Moving somewhere else only meant that I got to make even more friends.

Saudi Arabia was so different from anything I ever knew. But it was an adventure. (more…)

I Suffer from a Restlessness

I suffer from a restlessness. It is both a horrible thing and a wonderful thing at once. I require constant change to feel content. Change, for it to be change, needs to be varied and different. I need to go on great and long adventures. But then I need to settle down and relax. I need a job that constantly challenges and excites me. But then I also need to be able to break away from it every now and then. I like to hike. But then if that’s all I do I become bored with it. I want to learn new things but I don’t want that process to take over the other aspects of my life.

If it weren’t for this restlessness, I would not have climbed Kilimanjaro or learned diving or gone skydiving. If it weren’t for this restlessness, I would not have spent a significant portion of my career as a journalist volunteering my time to help develop the skills of other journalists. If it weren’t for this restlessness, I would not have seen so much in this world and learned from all the people I have met along the way. If it weren’t for this restlessness, I would not have studied for a master’s degree in journalism while taking care of four young children, taking on a full-time job, freelancing internationally, and founding a journalists’ NGO. It is this restlessness that causes me to need to do more, to do better, to do different.

But this restlessness also unsettles me. When I don’t have a plan for my next step, or when I do but there is too long of an interim, I feel empty and lost. It is not enough for me to know that in two months time I’ll be doing something great and exciting. What do I do NOW, is what I need to know. Sometimes I need to check out from the world and just relax. And that is fine. But when I’m done relaxing I need something else. And it can’t be just “normal”. I need to be stimulated. I need to be excited. I need to feel productive.

This morning I woke up with the following image of myself in my mind: I am covered in plastic wrap from head to toe. I cannot breathe. My arms are held tightly by the plastic wrap to my legs. I cannot raise them. I open my mouth and struggle to gasp for air. I contract every muscle of my body in attempt to free my arms enough to attempt to break free.

Whether I manage to break free or not remains to be seen. For now, I am suffocating in a cocoon of plastic wrap.

This will sound ridiculous to the many people who know me. I have managed to do so much with my life. I have great plans for the near future. I have an amazing family life. And this is why I suffer. I do have all that. But I need to do more.

Am I discontent? I don’t think so. I am happy and thankful for all that I have and for all that I have accomplished. But there is an energy inside me that tells me I can do so much more. I need to do so much more.

I suffer from a restlessness. It is a horrible thing and a great thing all at once.