‘If you don’t change, you don’t grow. If we don’t grow we aren’t really living.’ said Gail Sheehy. It is just one of the millions of quotes that advocate CHANGE. However, many people prefer to keep the familiar grounds and avoid change as much as possible. Change threatens our comfort zones, change disturbs the routine: depending on the scale of it, it may even affect one’s identity.
Recently, I made a huge change in my life. Surely, what is ‘huge’ is debatable but it has been a HUGE one for myself. I left my job, my established career and workplace, my fantastically woven network of friends and colleagues, and my hometown of 40+ years. In short, my settled life was left behind back in Istanbul, Turkey. I found a job in a prestigious university in the UAE and started to live in Dubai. It has been just over two months, and I must say it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done even though I have been in a privileged status and looked after well.
Last week we had a long break of nine days, which gave me a chance to reflect on what I have done and what I have been doing. Here are some of my gains..
Discovering my unbeknown weaknesses and strengths
As all the reflective people, I have always thought about my weaknesses and strengths but all of these were to do with my familiar environment. I have been discovering new kinds of weaknesses and some strengths. For example, I have never had to get things done with people who spoke English in 100 different ways. Especially one the phone, the accents and the limited level of language have still been frustrating me. One thing I need to work on in the long run, for sure. On a positive note, I managed to adapt to my new role and responsibilities quickly. However, I still could not adapt to my office and my house. It does not feel mine yet. Another thing to get used to.
Appreciating the value of true friendship and the love ones
In an established lifestyle, keeping friends, family relationships and friendships may not seem too difficult. However, being away and feeling detached from the loved ones and their daily lives urges one to show extra efforts to be updated. Thank God there is Facebook. I read my friends’ posts, comment on them and get their comments when I post something. I find this experience invaluable.
New dynamics in my personal life
My new life naturally required new adaptations. First of all, I used to be a perfect pedestrian so well as my husband. We did not need to own a car in Istanbul. My home was in a cozy neighbourhood with everything within a 15- minute walk distance. Even though I live in a flat which is close to many kinds of restaurants, café’s and groceries, in Dubai, there seem to be different places to go for different things. For example, when I went out I used to be able to meet a friend and have a cup of coffee, get my shoes repaired and, on the way back, buy as many veggies as I needed within the 15 minute walk neighbourhood.
More importantly, I used to take a taxi to work in the mornings and it would take 15 minutes max to get to work even in Istanbul traffic . Now, however, it takes 30 minutes from my house to my workplace on a pretty empty motorway (no other public transportation and taxis cost about $50 a day when a rental car is $25 a day). This has required my husband to drive me to work by our rental car (as we did not have the right to buy our own until we have received our residence permits) even though he does not have to get up early. (I have not been confident enough to drive as I had been out of practice for the last 15 years). In the end, just a few days ago I drove first time after so many years and felt overjoyed. It may seem so silly to feel so happy about a skill such us driving but I felt good to feel freer.
We had to set up a house from scratch when we came here. This meant to go to furniture stores in all of our free times and arrange time for delivery. It seems incredibly exciting to be given this chance of creating a brand new house, doesn’t it. However, it was not easy to agree on the time to look for the furniture or a certain piece of furniture. As we had not gone through these stages when we first got married (as my husband moved into my apartment) we certainly discovered many different sides of each other. And let me tell you, they were not the most pleasant ones :).
New role, new identity
I used to have an administrative role in my previous post. That role made me experience a lonelier kind of position in my workplace. That is, I did not have enough time to chat or relax with the people around me. Now I am back to teaching and I have a lot more time to chat with everyone and I know more about the gossip as well :). This certainly gives me way way different perspectives in more than one dimensions.
It is the first time I am an expat –if I exclude my one-year Fulbright experience in the States, and in an amazing city in an Arabic country where people from all parts of the world truly blend together. Everyday I am fascinated to discover something new. One sees/meets many people form countries such as India, Thailand, Philippines, Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, and Sri Lanka who share incredible stories that one could never imagine to hear. The jobs in the beauty saloons are taken by the Filipinos, taxies are driven by Indians or Pakistanis, etc. One day, I heard that the lady who was doing my manicure has not seen her five year old daughter for 2 years. She cannot afford to visit home more often than every two years and if she does not work here she knows her daughter will never have a future. As in her story, people make rather difficult choices.
I was supposed to talk about my identity but ended up talking about others’. However, what is identity anyway. This hilarious video link made me rethink about identity.
I will keep writing, changing, adapting and growing.