Full Boxes Empty Offices

Flights booked, shipping arranged, and visa cancelled. I’m free. I’m staring at customs paperwork for my shipment and thumbing through my passport pages. It’s seen my tears at the airport. It’s felt my tight grip signalling caution while getting onto subway trains and into taxi cabs. It’s been warmed some  winter nights as I smothered it with my pillow while we slept. It’s heard foreign languages and looked at me confused. I never thought so much of my identity was wrapped up in being American, but that resonates among the lesson books of experience written from my two years spent in Qatar. I always imagined leaving Qatar- and certainly leaving Schlumberger- I would be working to get back to my former self, a happier version I was in college or before the grind of rig life began to fragment my spirit. However, I’m sitting in my room, basking in the sunlight that comes through this window every morning. I’m looking past the suitcases and boxes in my room and staring into the empty office building across the street. I’ve stared at these vacant floors for years. I’m thinking I won’t be working towards “finding myself again” or trying to undo the years like they never happened. They happened, and I learned.

El-Ashmawy_Visacopy

Be kind to each other. Kindness goes farther than street smarts or book smarts or brute force. You never know who really needs it. Often times, smiling or saying thank you is the kindest gesture someone will receive that day- so simple, and so instrumental. Be kind to each other.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Express yourself and most importantly, express gratitude for those around you. I’m used to being the most expressive person in a room….or a 50 mile radius. When I’m excited, everyone knows. When I’m upset, everyone knows. People who care always respond. Help yourself by being expressive. Help others by caring for their expression.

Defend yourself. I refuse to play by rules that don’t make sense. This got me into trouble sometimes in Qatar, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friends can be like family. I spent countless nights singing and dancing around with friends, totally unguarded, like a child. We often slept over in each other’s beds, falling asleep watching TV series and eating. There was a night spent jumping on the bed. We supported each other, confided in each other, and advised each other. When your family isn’t there- your friends can be like family. For me, my friends were also my colleagues- talk about blurred lines.

However, no one is truly family like your family is family. I had the brilliant opportunity to get to know my actual family better, with an Aunt just across the border in the Kingdom of Bahrain. I would sneak away from work for 24 hours or so, have dinner, play with my nieces and nephew, and sit with my Aunt. This is a part of my family I’d only briefly interacted with, and always surrounded by dozens of other family members. These days, though few in number, were simply invaluable.

I

Book Three

RoadTrip

Gas prices are down, so I’m going to drive. I’m going to drive myself to all the places I love and some that I’ve never been. I’ll pack my RAV4 and get on the road. I’m coming home because two days ago, my world finally caught up to my level and turned itself upside down.

It’s no surprise. It’s no heartbreak. It’s only good. For the last year or more, I’ve been fantasizing and deliberating. I’ve been stewing in thought between bouts of vacations and adventures. I’ve thought things like, How many years of my life is this stress taking off? and I straight up don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve used my company computer to look up vacations and travels and graduate schools and even other jobs. I’ve used the ladies bathroom at work to take extended mid-day naps to compensate for staying out all night with my friends.

For those who don’t know me well, I’m indecisive. If you haven’t had the privilege of engaging me in a discussion regarding what we can do today, allow me to summarize: We can go to the zoo, or we can take a nap, or we can do anything else. Those are the ONLY options.

Nothing is more relieving for someone like me than for the decision to me made for you. Two days ago, I went to the office. I spent all day studying for my next promotion. At about 4 pm I was summoned upstairs by the Operations Manager. I was guided into a room with the Qatar Geomarket HR manager, the Operations Manager and an HR representative. The following conversation took place, more or less:

OM: Do you know why you’re here?
Me: I have a few ideas.
OM: There’s no easy way to say this, effective today….. your employment with Schlumberger is terminated. It’s nothing personal. I’m sure you know the company is downsizing and the oil and gas market is down, its happening world wide and its happening here. This letter details your benefits…..
Me: May I read it. *I take the letter*
HR Mngr: When the market picks back up, we do call people again, and Schlumberger thanks you for your work the last few years……

I don’t remember exactly what else was said. I left the room holding my letter. I was in shock. I was relieved. I was emotional, but I had no feelings. I called my parents. I sent some emails. I told some friends.

The response from friends and family was overwhelmingly positive. Those who know how I’ve been feeling- are elated. Those who are unsure, gauge the waters and ask if I’m okay and how I’m holding up.

Here’s why I’m sad—- At one point, this job meant the world to me. I’ve been disenchanted and lost a lot of passion. I really believe this is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. By that, I mean I did not enjoy living and working in the Middle East. No surprise 😉

Here’s why I’m happy—- For the first time, I really and truly, can do whatever I want. I have savings. I have compensation coming. I have support from my family. I have everything. I can go home and keep my vow to NEVER return to Doha again. It’s been 15 months since I last was in the USA. I am going to eat all the Chick Fil A and all the Barbecue. I am going to speak English without censoring good grammar and abandoning sentence structure. I am going to read books and eat vegetables. I’m going to spend some quality time with my family.

I appreciate suggestions for things to see on my upcoming adventures. Gas prices are down, and I just lost my oil and gas job. It’s perfect timing- I don’t have to wonder anymore what life is like on the other side.

What will happen to rigtales? I hope you all like to travel. If not, you can look forward to stories about living with my parents. In my opinion, the rigtales are about to get a hell of a lot more interesting.