Chasing What I Never Could Have #1

I was sitting in a room full for people, staring. Today, I told myself, something was different.

As they kissed each other on the cheeks and shook hands, I felt as if I was in a glass box, observing and seeing the outside world as if through a window sealed shut, or like those of shop windows, never meant to crack.

At that moment I stared on and wondered “what strange behaviors”. I hated being touched as a child, I somewhat still do, and just couldn’t understand why we would have to greet each other by kissing, caressing or shaking hands.

Touch overwhelmed me.

I think that was the first time I felt different, or perhaps, the first time I was conscious of it.

I was 5, playing with dolls, staring at visitors walking to the female assigned guest room connected to our living room, as my mother greeted them for a dinner party.

I still recall asking my mom around it – why do we greet each other this way, who decided it?

I never got answers from her, only anger and shouting. I still wonder whether she was just annoyed, or if I hit her incompetence nerve as I call it, because she never liked looking stupid or sounding stupid. I stopped asking her for anything, I recall, at around 7. she was hardly involved in our rearing, and even when she was, it was to punish.

I always thought differently, and was a different kind of “smart”, and she never liked that. She liked anything which praised her, which made her feel “superior”

My father was the opposite, and I still think he added more to who I was in the 9 years of my life he was alive to see, than she did up to now.

My father was an intelligent man:

He completed 4 years of highs school in 1.5. I recall something about them (father and uncle) going by boat to Bahrain for classes too. He studied all over the world, from Norway or Finland, Japan, London, Hawaii, to the United States and more.He studied Telecom Engineering in Scandinavia, in either Finnish or Norwegian (my mother managed to burn all his books, so we couldn’t figure it out) and he didn’t know a word – he claimed mathematics is a universal language, and he didn’t need another language.He was our human calculator, we threw any numbers at him and he was able to solve them in seconds.

But most importantly, he was well read, and always allowed me to read his scientific journals and books – though I wish I didn’t read about Marie Curie at 6 because I developed nightmares about radioactive material – and gave me the freedom to ask any, and as many, questions I wanted.

He listened, answered or directed us to where we could find answers, and only wanted what’s best for us. I still hate God for taking him away.

With him, I felt the most normal. he accepted me for who I was, and that window felt thinner than if I was with someone else.

He also understood I was a different kind of smart, and pushed for my education hard.

My mother is vehemently against any sort of education, even today, and she hence wasn’t too excited about my dad registering me at a bilingual kindergarten.

She initially delayed my enrollment because she thought I was “stupid”, and my dad and sister disagreed.

There, I recall trying to play with others and not knowing how to, I also didn’t know how to communicate with them. I thought I was doing well, but the teachers told my mother I was:

“too much to handle”, “disobedient”, “destructive”, “inattentive” “hyperactive” and downright just didn’t abide by their instructions.

I was hence marked as “unfit” for pre-school class and shoved into a room with 3 year old shouting and eating candy. I guess I didn’t care since I was having fun.

All I recall is learning about money in the kindergarten, and my mind was blown. I needed “money” to get candy? how have I never noticed this before!?

My mother made the decision to approve this, and all I recall are a few fights between her and my father on the subject.

To her, it was one less thing to focus on, she did not want to think about my homework, that’ll take from her socializing time, or want to help me with it, since it made her feel “incompetent”.

I was enrolled in a public school a year later. she pushed hard to not put me in a private school too.

So, was I all that the previous teachers described me as?

Oh, hell yes. I was a destructive handful who had too much energy, didn’t sit still, got into fights with 6th graders and anyone who dared bully me.

But I was also a Straight A student. I scored in the top 5 Percentile at elementary school.

suck it, I guess.

Alas, my teachers were perplexed, and divided over how to deal with me. They didn’t want to punish me and discourage me from studying, plus I was intensely bullied and they weren’t sure how to manage it.

I somehow knew I was always going to get away with it too. I was chubby with pink cheeks, had brown curly hair with gold locks, and was considered too “white” in complexion to fit in, so I was bullied on my looks often, though that came in handy with teachers.

I was “cute” and had a lisp, so whenever I got into trouble, they would call me to the principle’s office, they’d ask me to say a sentence that was going to sound cute with my lisp, and I’d be let go, scot-free.

I continued to bully back the other girls, terrorizing them by swinging my shoulder strapped Barbie water thermos around in the air and once it garnished enough velocity, hit them with it. My water bottles were deservingly stolen from me multiple times due to that.

My mother never took my behavior well, she was losing face in public, but then praised for raising a “smart daughter” so of course, a beating at home was eminent, and was kept behind closed doors.

What is wrong with me?

You would assume I was having the best time of my life, but I really can’t explain the dichotomy which exists within me up to today.

I never understood this combined rejection of my being. In both Kindergarten and Elementary, I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to have those friends you see on TV, and even more so, I wanted those real friendships I saw in class, during recess, between teachers – am I such a bad person?

Heck, I was the only kid not invited to this girl’s birthday.

How did I know? she announced it in class.

I recall being punished during class for disrupting the class and enjoying it. I was assigned tot his sticky desk on the side of the class, away from everyone. Is this punishment? isolation? you already do that, so your punishments suck, really.

Reject that which rejected you

The dichotomy was, then, this desire to belong, to have friends, to be normal, clashing with the desire to be left alone, to rebel against those who reject me and taunted me.

That desire to belong I blame for so much misery in my life, and so much pain.

The child in me couldn’t deal with the constant rejection, and the adult in me still tries to find her place in the world with a hot track record of failure.

the glass box I am in becomes thicker, murkier, and my desire to leave it hard to find.

What they did not know, was that they were setting me for success elsewhere.

Lessons From My Travels: Fulfillment and the drive within

There’s something marvelous about the world that just drove me to explore it. That something was a feeling from within, and I never really understood where it came from or where it wanted me to go, but I grew to trust it. After all, I was just a little girl from a small town in the even smaller country of Qatar who never planned to leave, but was always pushed out somehow:

  • I wanted to Study at a local University and was rejected, though the United States happily took me in. I had an opportunity to stay back and look for work, I inevitably chose to go home.
  • I was offered a short term assignment in the Netherlands and had a visa which allowed me to stay, I chose to go back home and study Law, which my family nor my employer approved of.
  • Finally, the universe decided to give me one last push: either stay behind forever, or explore the world now. I chose to leave.

I always went back home because I wanted to see things change, grow, and wanted to be part of it all. I wanted the home that rejected me to still be my home, and I wanted others like me to feel at home, too.

I am now faced with the reality that I’ve been carrying my home with me my whole life (as cheesy as it sounds).

And I’ve noticed that for many others as well: Not only have they been carrying their homes with them, travelling the world and exploring, but they too, are driven by a desire they don’t necessarily understand.

The more we discover about the world the more we understand that there are people who are happy, just, to be.

They’re beyond agile.

We keep forgetting that beyond agility there’s drive, grit, and the ability to dust off and move forward. There are emotions that are beyond our current mental framing which shape us, give us energy, challenge us and do more for us than conventional society had.

Sometimes we call it destiny, sometimes we call it the universe, often we call it Purpose; whatever we may call it, there is something inside of us that feels beyond us.

It is a source of change, and desire to be part of something bigger.

It is also unconventional.

What I hope to do with this series, “lessons from my travels” is record the lessons I learned in the last 5 or so years not only from personal experience, but the beautiful and often unconventional stories of others.

Because if these lessons helped me become a more fulfilled human being, they’re bound to influence you, too, if you let them.

So subscribe, check in often, and hope you enjoy my writing.