Four years ago, if you had asked my friends what kind of person I was, they would have told you that I was a control freak, a workaholic, and someone who was extremely busy with life’s flow. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have a social life. I did. I made time for my family and friends. My days were filled with deadlines and my free evenings were full of social events.
One afternoon, on a flight home after a weekend away, it dawned on me that I had the opportunity to drop everything and take a year off. I had been through a tough year in every sense possible. I had been wanting to take a sabbatical to do some traveling and learning for a while but never had the courage to do so. It dawned on me, that I was 30 years old, I was done with any financial obligations I had had, and did not have anyone relying on me. When would I get an opportunity like this again? I thought it’s now or never.
By the time the plane had landed, I had reached my decision. I got home, submitted my resignation, packed my stuff, threw a farewell party and a month later hopped on a plane to Lebanon for Christmas break. Christmas break was magnificent. I was out every day with friends who were in town for the holidays as well as with friends who lived here – it was the holidays and it was a merry one especially with the freedom of knowing that I didn’t have a job to return to after the holidays, or any responsibilities to attend to.
The reality of what I had done sank in when I woke up on January 2nd. Everyone I knew in Lebanon had gone back to work and my other friends had flown back to their countries of work. I thought to myself, “what are you going to do today?” and I decided to spend it home relaxing… and that lasted a week. It was time to recover from all the holiday festivities, but truth be told it was more than that. I was drained from life.
I switched from reading philosophical books, to chick books that won’t let me think or feel (that’s exactly what I told the guy at the book store). I switched from the history channel to the E channel watching reality shows such as Keeping up with the Kardashians. I was numb, I was tired, and I wanted everything around me to be light. The control freak in me accepted this for a while.
I thought I’d travel when Spring came around. I’d make use of the year off to do and experience things I’d truly enjoy and would add value to me. I wanted to spend some time in a quiet town in Tuscany, visit the museums in Rome, walk down the streets of Prague, watch an Opera in Vienna, and trek the mountains of Romania. I could go to any of those places, meet new people and discover new things.
A month later, doubts started creeping in. What did I do? How can I not have a job? I started going through what I now call my freak out phase. I started worrying that I wouldn’t have enough money to last the year. What if I ran out of money? What would I do? What if I tried finding a job then and couldn’t find one? Until then I had never taken money from my parents, and there was no hell I would start that now! Looking back now, I understand that the reason I was freaking out because that was the first time since college that I had not had a job. I also felt like my job defined me, I didn’t know who I was without a job. There I was with unlimited free time and the freedom to do whatever I wanted, with no control over my future, and that freaked me out. At the time, I couldn’t process those thoughts and feelings so I ignored them. I was going to take things one step at a time and try to enjoy my freedom.
I should also mention that I was in a turbulent relationship with someone for over 3 years. It was on and off and on and off and on and off… and that too had emotionally drained me. It was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to head anywhere fruitful so I decided to end that as well. I couldn’t deal with more on my plate. I needed a clean break and a fresh start from everything.
During the second month of my sabbatical, I received a call for a job that excited me. I was surprised I started considering giving up the year off. Until then, anytime someone had called me about a job, I’d tell them I wasn’t interested. Instead of dreaming of quiet Tuscany afternoons, I found myself coming up with campaign ideas for a potential client. The workaholic in me woke up again.
I gave up the year off, packed my stuff and moved to Dubai. I lived there for a tempestuous 2 years. In retrospect, I was already drained when I moved there, I didn’t have the energy to socialize and meet new people, or fight the battles I needed to at work. I became a depressed, miserable and constantly sick person. I decided to call it quits again.
I went home, to Kuwait, for a year. From my first week back, I knew it wasn’t going to be a permanent move. I felt like I didn’t belong there anymore. It was as if I had outgrown it. It was a transitional phase to get my energy back, to be surrounded by my support system. I wanted to heal before I flew again so that I wouldn’t do the same mistakes I did in Dubai. I didn’t know where my next destination was going to be.
Truth be told, Lebanon was not one of the options I was considering. I constantly was flying here for short trips, and I found myself extending my trips every time I’d visit. I eventually was spending more time in Lebanon than I was in Kuwait. It felt like I was leading two lives. When I got an opportunity to move here, I thought to myself, hell, let me try it out for a year. Worse case scenario, I’ll pack and move again. Packing and moving had become so simple for me.
I’ve been here for almost a year. It really hasn’t been a sabbatical but it definitely has been a year of continuous self exploration and evolvement. I’m no longer stagnant and I no longer am drained. I have finally learnt to let go of the reigns.
Some would say I should have done this four years earlier but I refuse that thought. I’m proud of my scars and appreciate every lesson I received from them. As I have discovered on my journey, you can’t do anything until you are truly ready for them. I obviously was not ready to take the year off when I first decided to do so but I am so happy I finally got to where I am today,
I would like to thank Fatima for challenging me to take my guards down and to write more openly. She knows this has been a difficult task for me and it’s through her constant motivation that I’m gradually getting there.