I've decided to name my apartment ground zero.
I came here after a perfect storm of life things that huffed and puffed and blew me in this direction. Too many days, I arrive back from work and curl up into a ball and cry because of the stress, of the heartbreak, the confusion, the worry, the gaping demands of a life in a city that never stops devouring. And I’ve never been completely on my own in my life. I’m a thirty year old who is just learning the things a twenty-year old in the US, for example, is just beginning to experience when she leaves the family nest. That makes me ten years late by US Central Time.
My body is changing already. My tolerance for being on the go and for staying up all night is starting to dwindle. My heart is beaten up and bruised and I’m only just learning about interest rates on personal loans with the bank. Living and working in Dubai was not what I imagined it would be.
My apartment doesn’t have much furniture. Most of the time, there are too many dishes to wash as I don’t have a dishwasher. The floors are constantly telling me not to sit down on them because they’re too hard. The sofa I bought from Ikea does not have cushions to soften my fall when I just want to give in to distress. My bed is not accompanied with nightstands yet so my “by the bed” items are either on the floor or in bed with me. The doors don’t close properly and I only have one set of bed sheets.
I’m not complaining. The reason I’m writing all this down is because for a long time since I’ve been here, I’ve been looking at this place and constantly picturing what it should look like, all the things that are missing, until my head started to hurt. Until my body felt tired and rejected. Until I felt trapped in a place that just will not feel like home. I’ve also looked at my body, at my heart, at my days, at my work here and they did not feel like home either.
But I let go of that tangle today.
Today, something different happened. One of the presenters on our morning show, decided to shave his head on air, to express his solidarity with women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t realize that my sun was rising until I was watching him shaving his thick dark Aladdin hair on set. I felt inexplicable gratitude to be a part of it, to have been the person that facilitated this heart-felt gesture.
It’s these things that happen, sometimes through little or no contribution on your end, that come as a breathtaking reminder of who you are and where you are. I realized I have not appreciated myself. Or maybe I have been appreciating myself over and over in the past four months. I’ve been repeating it, writing it, looking myself in the mirror and affirming it but myself has not been listening. She was still busy moving boulders from the driveway.
I came home today, after a walk in the park, and looked around. I’m growing here. I was grateful to have been the person who facilitated the growth of me. Just like our presenter’s shaved head, I will grow back, probably in no time at all. And in Aladdin hair thickness.
Too often, your growth feels wrong, like you’re missing all the steps or mixing up all the words. Something is wrong. With you. Growth actually feels like wrenches are being thrown at your head and you’re not allowed to duck. You’re not allowed to do the “right” thing either. You constantly feel like there’s some cosmic manual out there and you’re failing at every instruction. I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life right now. I really don’t. I only know one constant: I am documenting it.
So, one way I’m making peace with the path I chose here in this city is this: Dubai is the land of construction. Buildings come up here so quickly, you have no time to admire the beams and the concrete before it’s some magnificent thing spiraling toward the sky. I’ve been nothing but beams and concrete in the past few months, so raw and rigid. Things have been pounding and hurting and hammering, making way for the design to rise from the ground - or from this very sterile white ceramic floor.
When I was a student in Boston, my apartment was the landmark of coziness and lovely hospitality. If you slept over, I would practically put you to bed. If you came to watch a movie, I would have had snacks and warm creamy things for you to drink. My apartment now might not have the coziest throws or blankets. The smell of cookies is not wafting from my kitchen (although I have been wolfing down Chips Ahoy cookies like there’s no tomorrow). I might not be the best hostess, right now. Because this is ground zero. We’re doing some serious growing here. And if you're living and working in Dubai, maybe we can meet and swap growth stories.
Note: You can share your growth stories on this blog. Just go to Your Story on the website menu. You can drop in and tell a story anytime :)