First, a bit of silliness:
Some friends and I watched the Superbowl last night. In and of itself not crazy. But when you factor in a) we’re in Cairo and b) the time difference means the game started at 1:30am. I have never hated a power outage so much in my life. Regardless, the game was really good, even if my Niners lost (WHAT THE EFF HAPPENED NINERS). Although we didn’t get any of the commercials, just lots of golf commercials. But this all means I didn’t get home until 7am this morning. Thank goodness I have the week off.
Now on to the real news:
In June (or maybe early July), I’m leaving Cairo. When my contract for this teaching job ends, I’ll be heading back to the US.
This decision was not easily reached. And, to be honest, it feels like I have been lit on fire and burned to a crisp. It is painful to say that my time here will end sooner than I believed. But it also feels like I’m breaking off this old layer of skin, and despite it being raw, it is a good feeling. It is a relief to actually have made the decision.
For so long, what amounts to a quarter of my life really, I have always been driven by the goal of pursuing a career in the Middle East, or involving the Middle East. The Middle East would be central in whatever life I created for myself.
Over the past few months, and it may be that it started before I even came to Cairo, my priorities have changed. The Middle East is still a deep part of who I am and I will always be interested, intrigued, and an advocate for the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
But now? Now I feel that it is not 1. Middle East 2. International Development (and the various fields within that), but 1. International Development (2. Middle East). That means that if my life does not lead me back to the Middle East anytime soon, in terms of career, or whatever, I am okay with that. I do not exactly know where I want to go in the ‘international development’ field, but I know what I am interested in. And I keep seeing jobs that I’m qualified for and I want to apply for. And most of them don’t have anything to do with the Middle East.
Why did I come to this conclusion? Why the change? I’m not sure. What seems to make sense to me right now is that I kept looking at my future from a ‘Middle East’ perspective. Everything in my brain focused around the idea of, “How will this help me achieve a career I want in the Middle East?” And now that has become such a narrow focus for me. I am interested and intrigued and passionate about so many things (international development, sustainable development, social media, cultural diplomacy, citizen diplomacy, international education…), the fact that I was restricting myself by thinking only in terms of whether it would help my Middle East dreams or not seems…not foolish, because I think it is a valid dream, even if it isn’t one I want anymore, but perhaps unsuited to who I want to become.
I do not regret coming to Cairo. And I am excited for the 5 months I have left here. And I plan to use it to the best of my abilities. I plan to see what I can of Egypt, push myself with Arabic, and have experiences that I will remember forever. But, more than anything, I am so excited for the opportunities open to me on returning to the US. Who knows where I’ll live, who knows what job I’ll get, but I feel like that path is where my happiness lies.
As I have discussed with some of my friends, my choosing to go back (and I don’t think I do it or myself justice by saying ‘going back’…I’m moving forward) feels a bit like a failure on my part. A failure in the eyes of others. I had planned to stay in Cairo (or the Middle East) for at least a few years, perhaps longer. Become fluent in Arabic. Get a job in development related to the Middle East. I won’t be doing any of those things. At least not right now. And I need to convince myself, and only myself (because hey, if you think I failed or wimped out or whatever, I have some choice Arabic phrases for you to hear), that it is okay that I am not accomplishing those goals. It truly is. Because life is a constantly changing thing. And I am not a failure. Holy smoke, I picked up and moved to Cairo, Egypt on my own (at the age of 22) during a time when the country doesn’t know which way is up. The game has changed and the old objectives don’t apply anymore. It would be foolhardy to stay here when I have more opportunities somewhere else. It would be stupid to play the game the same way when it isn’t the same board. My strategy has changed. And Cairo was a big part of making me realize it.
So I am thankful to Cairo. I am thankful for the wonderful moments and the awful moments that have happened and have yet to come here. It is all a part of my new dreams. And even though Cairo doesn’t factor as the primary location for my future, it is definitely leaving an unforgettable mark in the here and now.
I am so excited for what a few months from now hold for me. Even if I have no idea what that may be. Or where it may be.
(P.S. People. I will be moving back to the US. Start sniffing out jobs for me. I am willing to move to anywhere in the US, really. New adventures in new towns.)