Happy Labor Day to all the Americans! I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend, I know I am enjoying the 3 day holiday with a lazy weekend at home in Portland.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know somewhat of my background. I was born and raised in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia specifically and while I’ve talked about our life there, how it changed the course of my adult life and my passion to see the world, I’ve not talked much about my life actually there and the lessons I learned there early in my life that have shaped my present.
I recently ran into a couple that is loosely related to Nick’s side of the family that live in Saudi Arabia now, on one of the ARAMCO compounds about an hour away from where I lived as a child. After talking to them and getting to know them, come to find out they know a lot of the same people that I knew growing up, parents of my friends and names they’ve always heard of that were people close to me as a kid. It was refreshing to say the least, to be able to talk to them, to have them know exactly what I was talking about when I was shocked to hear of a new green grass golf course in Dhahran (when I was there, they were only oiled sand), to hear that two of the smaller compounds were totally full with residents and to hear their stories. To have someone know that part of me completely, without even really knowing anything about me personally, is a feeling I haven’t had in a long time. It is rare to speak to someone in my daily life (other than my parents) that knows in depth about that part of my life. It’s hard daily to not be able to show my husband that part of my life, a part that was such a huge reason why I am the way I am now. So when I can share it, when I can let others in just a little on what my childhood was like in the middle of the Middle East, it makes that burden a little easier.
When I look back on my childhood in Saudi Arabia, I remember feeling completely at home, always feeling safe, an idyllic way of life. But as I look back on it now, a full seventeen years this month since we moved back to the States, those memories are still what shape me today and the lessons I learned during my eleven years there are the lessons that I hold with me daily still. So in the midst of so many present uprisings and conflicts in the part of the world that I was born into, I think it’s worth remembering that that part of the world still has lots to teach us as well if we’ll let it.
I didn’t have the typical childhood in some ways, like the fact that we were a world away from our families or that I’ll forever have Dammam, Saudi Arabia as my place of birth in my passport. Like the fact that we went to camel markets on the weekends and I grew up eating schawarmas and drinking Orangina with a label written in Arabic, but my childhood was totally unique. It is something that took me a long time to come to grips with and to embrace, that I was different. That my life was different. That my experiences were different. Moving back to the States was challenging, to leave that unique life behind was really hard but all these years later I realize now that I never really wanted a normal life. I’ve always craved something different, to go against the grain, to choose the life I want and to make it as extraordinary as I can. I realize now that my unique childhood in Saudi Arabia was the start of my path, a unique journey that I’ll always have propelling me forward.