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Saudi is many things…

There aren’t many moments that I can look back on in life and say, “that was huge,” because most things build up over time. Sure I can map things out in a nice straight line – high school, my first job, college, my favorite classes, my first PR internship, the client that hated us (this actually needs its own blog post), converting to Islam, graduation – but the fact is that it wasn’t neat or linear. It was messy and chaotic and beautiful. 

Some moments, of course will stick out in mt mind no many how many years pass. Meeting my husband and falling in love – although it was pretty instantaneous – and building our life together was obviously one of the highs. The birth of my son was bittersweet, but let to something amazing, as did moving to Saudi. I can unequivocally say that making the choice to move to Saudi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There were a ton of things that went into it when I decided to come, but ultimately it was just about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance; I got on the bus.  Living here has allowed me to experience sunsets under the Bosphorus, sway along with flamenco dancers in Barcelona, and savor dim sum in Hong Kong. I’ve found love as a wife, fulfillment as a mom, chased my passion into birth work and breastfeeding support, and still manage to make some killer banana bread sometimes. Above all else, I’ve grown up; I’m not the same 23-year-old girl who left home in search of something bigger.

Saudi is many things, but for now, it’s home. There are things I would change, sure, and the list is probably almost as long as the one I have for my home country. I wish people respected personal space, I wish the concept of a line was a bit more common, I wish customer service existed, and I wish our attire (and lifestyle in general) was a bit more colorful and free. But, it’s here that I learned how to take care of myself. It’s here that I learned how a strong and supportive a community of friends could turn into family. It’s here I learned that life is challenging anywhere you go, and it really is just what you make of it. I learned that if you put yourself out there openly and unapologetically, the universe will respond in kind and the right people will find their way to you; your vibe will attract your tribe. And that tribe may come and go, but the lessons they shared, the love they showed, the insight into who you are they reflected, these things will be a part of you forever.

I look forward to many more milestones reached, for me and my family, for Saudi and its people, and to all those who call a home-away-from-home home (say that 5 times fast), take a second to appreciate the life you’ve made, the chances you’ve been offered, and the adventure that awaits you.

Life

Get on the bus.

 

I had a History teacher in high school who told the most amazing stories. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was so captivated by the words coming out of someone’s mouth (aside from when I met my husband, of course!) than when Mr. Welch told us stories. Marie Antoinette, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials; things that your average high schooler wouldn’t really care about, except we did. A lot. Because we had a teacher who brought those tales to life. One of my closest friends in high school can still recall the time I animatedly narrated the story of ill-fated Queen Mary I and her hysterical pregnancy that ended not in a prince being born, but rather in a large, foul wind and utter humiliation.

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Me (left) in high school

Mr. Welch had a story for everything, but the thing that really set him apart from other teachers was that he listened to our stories as well. As high schoolers, not many people took us seriously, but Mr. Welch did. Not many people thought the events in our lives mattered – the every day he said/she said was seen as just unimportant fodder that we wasted our time on. But Mr. Welch cared. He listened to us, asked us about our weekends, our future plans, our families. He shared details of his life, too, and made us feel like he was invested in us. To the overly-emotional teenager whose single mom was busy with work much of the time, whose closest sibling was 8 years younger, and whose dad lived 2,000 miles away, this meant a lot.

So when Mr. Welch told us the story of the bus, I listened.

The story goes something like this: each and every one of us will go through life, day by day, slaving away at whatever dream-of-the-month we’re dedicated to at the time. If we’re lucky, we love what we’re doing, if we’re not, well, we still get by. But at a certain point in everyone’s life, a bus is going to come. The bus will look different for all of us; for some it will be a covetable internship in a field we’d never dreamed of, for others it will be an invitation to a party with people we’d never get the chance to socialize with that will lead to a big career break. To get on the bus would seem like the craziest idea in the world. You may not have the money, it may not be logical, your parents would probably get upset. But some part of you, no matter how small or how quietly, will be screaming, “GET ON THE BUS!” And that’s when you have to make a choice. Will you risk getting on the bus, and maybe make the biggest mistake of your life, or will you stay, doing what you’re doing, and keep on keepin’ on? Mr. Welch’s advice? (and I quote…) “Get on the damn bus.”

So I did. When the chance to go to Saudi Arabia to teach English presented itself, I went. It was crazy. It didn’t make any sense; I was from Roseville, California and had never traveled by myself. I had no business going to a country where women couldn’t drive and where even in the most liberal of towns we were expected to don the abaya. My parents were scared and furious, and tried every play in the book to get me to stay. But I didn’t. And you know what? It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

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Me and my sister, Katlynn, the night before I left for Saudi Arabia

I’m not saying it has always been easy, or that I didn’t want to run home a billion times over the last 6 years. But the hard times built character, and the good times hold amazing memories. I met my husband, forged strong friendships with amazing people, and experienced unforgettable journeys all over the world, from Amsterdam to Hong Kong.

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Adam, hubby, me September 2016

And the adventure isn’t over yet. As I enter into motherhood, I realize that the world is still my doorstep, and as each challenge presents itself, I can’t help wonder what kind of storyteller I will be for my kids. Will I leave the same impression as Mr. Welch? Will my kids feel captivated by me or just humor me because I’m their mom then laugh about it later? Either way, I’m determined to make our life one with lots of stories to tell. I may not end up telling my kids the most exhilarating stories, but I’m determined to be right there next to them making the most amazing memories.