The past couple of weeks have changed things for me here in Kuwait. The focus of this blog is more about my travels than it is about me and I don’t like to write about anything too personal, especially when it may affect others, but I’m going to come out with it and say that Jeremiah and I decided to break up. (I apologize for that run-on sentence). We had been together for a year and a half, which was an amazing feat since we were together in person for less than a third of that time! I don’t know any other guys who would have worked as hard as he did to maintain a relationship under those circumstances. We were friends for years before we started dating, he was my best friend when we were dating, and we’re still good friends. I’ve spoken with him a few times since the break-up, and it’s been wonderful to be able to be honest about how we’re dealing with it.
As much as we can both rationalize the split, it’s taken some getting used to. Since it’s not like we were hanging out in person, nothing has changed physically. Most of our relationship was emotional and communication-based, so when we ended things, it was a big shift in thinking more than anything else. I’d been thinking of Kuwait as more of a temporary living assignment than my home. All I had to do was be here for a year or two, make enough money to pay off my student loans, gain teaching experience, then I’d hop onto a plane and go “home,” back to him. I didn’t really dwell on thoughts of what I’d do if I didn’t have him to return to. I knew that if I let my mind drift toward the possibilities of long-term nomadic life, I would face the question of whether I’d rather stay with Jeremiah or continue experiencing other cultures, so I chose to ignore it.
Now that the choice has been made, however, it’s dawning on me that I could, quite possible, be a burgeoning expat. Not just someone who’s living abroad while she’s young, to “get it out of her system” before she settles down. No, someone who has chosen to spend their adult life in a country (or countries) not handed to them by fate.
Maybe I’ll pay off my loans in Kuwait, then get a job in South America and live there for a few years. Then, I could land a job in Europe and stay there for longer. Maybe then I’d head to China. I think you get it. These thoughts thrill me. Not saying that I’m sure I’d like a life like that, it’s just that the possibilities and the openness of what may happen in a year or two is very exciting.
Since the break-up, I’ve been making much more of an effort to be social. When I was dating Jeremiah, I felt secure in his love, like our twice a week spotty Skype conversations proved to me that I wasn’t a hermit. I called somebody at 5:30 in the morning, so my social life was covered. I’ve now come to see that by holding onto someone all the way in Kansas and expecting his friendship to cover for my social needs, I wasn’t allowing myself to experience Kuwait. While Kuwait has a reputation for being pretty boring, one thing that it has going for it is the large number of expatriates. Kuwaitis only make up about one third of the population of their country (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Kuwait) and while many of the foreign hires come from other Asian or North African countries, a noticeable amount come from Europe, Australia, and America. English is widely spoken. There are tons of people who, at one point, left their home countries, friends, and parents to cash in on Kuwait’s oil money and experience something different. Since there are so many of these types of people, they band together and form groups on everything you could imagine: salsa dancing, singing, crew, running, learning languages, eating out, partying, movie-going… This makes Kuwait a much more dynamic, interesting place! All of the foreigners coming together and creating community with one another; an actual melting pot.
I’ve created a couchsurfing profile, joined a couple of meet-up groups, and, the biggest social game-changer, purchased my first ever smartphone! (No, it’s not the ipone 5!) I’ve been on a couple of outings, with one of my favorite teachers from the school by my side.
As much as I may have made it sound in this post, breaking up and its aftermath has not been all smiles. I feel lonelier than I used to, and like I’m having to start over. Jeremiah and I knew each other so well; I wore no mask around him. Now, I’m here and there are so many people to meet. So many names to remember (and many of them are tough, since the people are from all over the world!) Once I know someone, I can talk up a storm, but until then, I can be quite reserved. Making deep connections with people, growing my own garden of Kuwait pals, will not be something that happens overnight.
All of this has been a good shift. I needed to feel more present here. Having to let go of the root I’d been gripping onto with all the fear and determination in the world hasn’t been easy, but it has caused me to look around and think of ways I could be putting down roots here in the eastern hemisphere. Ways in which I can make this little GCC country my home, not my hotel. Don’t get me wrong- the US will always be my home, where I came from, but I’m finding the idea of living an untethered, free-flying expat life… intriguing.