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No One Place is More Special than any Other

January 11, 2011

The summer before 8th grade I have these clear memories of my brother or my parents driving me home from basketball practice.  I’m in the back seat icing my knees.  Yes, I’m 13, and I’m icing my knees.  Short of it is that I inherited a condition called Osgood Schlatter (which, interestingly enough is the same name as my alter-ego), causing my knees to swell from over-exertion…hence, the ice after b-ball practice.

That summer I clearly remember toiling with the idea of playing football in the fall…it seems mundane, I know.  But during a couple of those rides home with bags of crushed ice melting on my knee caps, I clearly remember telling myself, “Deciding whether or not to play football is THE most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my entire life!”  In a way, I welcomed this tension in my head, because to me it felt like I was getting older; I could actually had a choice in something!  The only thing holding me back were my not-so-good-Osgood Schlatter-knees.  I decided to take a chance.  I played football that year and never once regretted the experience.    I even won what I thought of as kind of dubious athletic award at the end of that school year.

The winter of 2011, believe it or not, has posed more difficult decisions than deciding between junior high athletics or afternoon Saved by the Bell episodes over ham and cheese Hot Pockets.

Bah! – Okay, here’s the deal…having a job as an international school teacher puts you at this kind of nexus…where all these people around you (some of them close to you, some of them mere acquaintances) are making life-changing decisions.  I’m listening to these changes, my eyes-widening in amazement and tinges of jealousy to sounds of my colleagues discussing their future lives in Japan, Thailand, Germany, or Malaysia (all which have happened).  I’m listening to friends talk about moving back home to the states or to Canada, and my eyes narrow in contemplation of my own future…my mind drifting in nostalgia.

Here’s where I lose my shit!  I’m a real good observer of people, and whatever qualities I lack in originality, I may consciously or sub-consciously pick up from a much-admired friend or colleague, learning from his or her examples, and such.  This puts me in a potentially bad situation because I’m susceptible to not trusting myself with big decisions.  So, what do people when they don’t trust themselves?  They let others make the choice for them.  They might “copy” the people they really admire and trust.  Because they figure, That person did it, I should be able to do it too.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my original decision to stay for a 3rd year here in The Kingdom of Kuwait was not really well thought out.  I just kept saying what I felt was expected of me.  I had plans to do what colleagues of mine have done in the past.  I’d look at these other teachers that have been abroad for several years, teaching at different countries and think, “Man, there go some people that got it all figured out!  They know what they’re doing!”  I thought that maybe if I kind of follow in their footsteps, then I too, would have it all “figured out”.  Well…Crumple that idea into a McDonald’s bag and toss it out the car window on King Abdul-Aziz Bin Abdul Rhaman Al Saud Expressway!

I could go on and on, but I’ve got an early bedtime, and I know you’re only reading this because you don’t want to feel bad when I ask you later, “Did you read my blog?”  And then I’ll realize how much of a tool I sound like asking that question, but then quickly get over it because…I’m slowly learning to trust myself and my decisions.

Lesson learned?  Staying abroad doesn’t make you any better, or any worse, than someone that goes home.  We’re all different.  We all got our own stories and baggage.  I’m beginning to believe that no one place is more special than any other.  There are a lot of good people that leave Kuwait after two years, or even less.  These people are not worse off; they are not weaker than anyone else.  There are a number of uncontrollable factors that play into our contentedness with a particular place.  Okay, now I’m really just rambling.

One last point.

In the discussing of my own possible departure from Kuwait, I’ve heard this soft tone of disappointment from a couple people when they hear I might be going back home.    As if to say, “Oh, really?  That’s too bad.”  As if going home is exclusively a bad thing! (please don’t have this reaction if I tell you I’m leaving Kuwait).  As if I couldn’t “hack it” abroad and now I have to come home.  As if I’ve denounced myself from a secret club, and now they won’t tell me the new secret handshake!  Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but it can feel like that sometimes.

This popular comedian says in one of his bits about relationships, “Divorce is always a good news.  I know it sounds strange, but it happens because of a BAD marriage.  No good marriage has ever ended in divorce!  That would be really horrible if a good marriage ended in divorce!  THAT would be a tragedy!”

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