Tomorrow marks one year since I posted on this blog. This month marks 10 years since I first moved to Saudi. Was it a coincidence that I felt the urge to write this evening, or was it my remembering how writing used to help me make sense of my inner world and to relieve certain amounts of stress and anxiety? Either way, I guess it’s time for an update.
So much has changed in my life over the past year. So much is changing here in Saudi, too! We are growing together, this place and I.
I’m a year older, nearly 35, and have learned that getting older means getting wiser and that wisdom is really just a code word to explain the phenomenon of having life figured out while simultaneously, internally, having no idea what you should be doing with it. I had this idea that by now, since I did some work on my inner self, life and I would be old pals, and it would be smooth sailing from here on out. Lol. Not only has life not gotten magically easier, I have acquired the new stresses of a biological clock that is quickly winding down and an acute fear of death being just around the corner.
I got engaged (seven hundred years ago, it feels like) and I am once again struggling through the maddening purgatory that is awaiting marriage permission. You would have thought that with all the years of preaching about this process to other potential wives of Saudis, I’d have been prepared–or, you know, that I wouldn’t have decided to marry a Saudi citizen again–but I like to keep things exciting. And by that, I mean I like to do things the hard way. And plus, love. Haven’t I always said you can’t reason with a woman in love? That also applies to me, as it turns out. Someday I’ll come back to write about the many ways in which I believed myself to be an expert on marriage and how re-marriage has proven me wrong. It’s been a humbling experience.
I have figured out that at my age I can deal with decidedly less bullshit than I used to deal with in my youth. The phrase “I’m too old for this shit” regularly escapes my lips. This phrase led me to resigning from not one, but two jobs within months of each other. I left my old job just before beginning my fourth year. I’d had enough of the monotony, the toxic coworkers, and the feeling of not being valued or treated fairly as an employee and accepted a job at a prestigious new school, only to find out that I could not, under any circumstances, work with the person I’d been assigned to work under. I made the terrifying decision to work for myself, and other than the fact that it is, as mentioned, scary as well as unstable, I’m happy about my choice.
In the past year, my daughter has blossomed from sweet little girl into a thoughtful, intelligent, complicated, emotional, inspiring young woman. She’ll be 13 in a couple months and I feel like she’s parenting me just as much as I’m parenting her these days. Can someone tell me when is the empty nest feeling supposed to set in? Because I feel it already. I feel like time has betrayed me and gone much faster than I was expecting. I’m still trying to remember to write in her baby journal with some sort of regularity and she’s talking about starting a petition at school because she believes that in her current grade level, grade 7, she and her peers should be officially taught about the reproductive system at school. I remain totally excited about being her mom.
Enough about me for now! As for Saudi Arabia, her recent growth includes the announcement that women, in the very near future, will be allowed to drive. Cars. With their vaginas. Without male permission or supervision. The news came when I was in the back of my friend’s truck on the way home from a girls night. I thought it was a joke at first, but as soon as the news was confirmed, I stared shaking and laughing. Then I blurted out the news to her driver, who tossed his hands in the air, presumably assuming that his job was about to be eliminated. I spent the next hour at home pacing, screaming, laughing, jumping up and down, and calling my mom and step mom back home. I haven’t gone anywhere since then without thinking “This time next year I can drive myself!”
We are also anxiously awaiting the completion of the metro system (scheduled to be completed in 2019, and most of us are just excited to see how traffic in the city will improve once construction is finally complete), witnessing a steady increase in the exodus of expat workers, bracing for taxes and the loss of government subsidies on fuel and utilities, and THE OPENING OF CINEMAS. I may never need to leave here again.
Things are just different here. Little tiny differences, unnoticeable to those not living here I assume. Most cafes and restaurants no longer have partitioned seating. Some establishments have family seating in front of naked glass windows. Some have all but done away with “singles” sections. Religious police are absent from public view. There was an actual street party to celebrate National Day this year, complete with dancing in said street, men and women together, live music playing, and the world didn’t even come to a sudden end. There are food trucks everywhere, most of which have enthusiastic young Saudi men and women working inside. There are events popping up everywhere. I can hardly keep up! If nothing else, at least it seems that Saudi Arabia is well on its way to becoming a place I’m happy to settle down in after all.
My life as of late has been a heap of stress, impatience, and instability, and, when I stop and notice, an abundance of blessings. But, if I’ve learned anything in this mosh pit called adulthood, it is that life is constantly pushing, pulling, and changing. I’ll be a different person a year from now, five years from now, TEN years from now, living a life that the me of today may not even recognize. The me of today could be living a life that future me will long for once again. So despite it all, I need to suck it up, focus on those blessings, and ride this bus of bozos while I’m still able. Wherever you are and whatever life has thrown your way, dear readers, I hope that you’re able to do the same.
“We are all half-baked experiments-mistake-prone beings, born without an instruction book into a complex world. None of us are models of perfect behavior: We have all betrayed and been betrayed; we’ve been known to be egotistical, unreliable, lethargic, and stingy; and each one of us has, at times, awakened in the middle of the night worrying about everything from money to kids to terrorism to wrinkled skin and receding hairlines. In other words, we’re all bozos on the bus.” –Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open