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.

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