Since our return home from Saudi Arabia, (A place I once feared and had zero desire to move to.) I have been facilitating a series of workshops for students – sharing what day-to-day life was like while emphasizing critical life, leadership and people skills that they will need throughout their lives.
In each workshop students are given a visual of a natural process that will happen the rest of their lives – as they decide if they have the courage to leave their comfort zones or the grit to survive when life hands them circumstances they can’t control.
Some of the questions I’ve been asked about Saudi are worth sharing:
What was the best part?
- Living in an International Compound: Sharing life, friendship, and food with people from more than 50 nations and learning from them.
- Riding motorcycle with men and women from all over the world and getting to experience parts of Saudi that many expats don’t get to enjoy. (Yes – My motorcycle jacket had ½ of an abaya attached to it and could be rolled up when I was on the bike and rolled down when I was off the bike. Allowing me to be respectful and safe while enjoying time on the bike with my husband.)
- Vacationing in 11 countries besides Saudi and Bahrain in the 4 years we were there.
What was the hardest thing for you?
We’re in the midst of waiting. Months and months of waiting…
- In September – We knew we were moving back across the ocean to the land we call home
- In October – The move was stopped and from morning to night and from day to day, what we were doing and when we were doing it changed, as things changed within the company
- In early November – we were moving again and it looked impossible not to be home for Christmas
- Then week after week and weekend after weekend – through Thanksgiving, and Christmas, our Anniversary and New Years we would do what we could do and then wait – on the company, the movers, the government and Harley Davidson
- 11 days ago – all of our household things were loaded into a container for overseas shipment
- 7 days ago – our motorcycle was crated and taken to our container
- It’s almost mid-January and we’re still waiting – for paperwork to clear so we can leave
The emotional roller coaster has been intense:
I’ve been working with a group of pre and early teens and we’ve been talking about perceptions and reality. In our last meeting, I asked if they have ever greeted someone and not been greeted in return. Emphatically – yes!
So I broke them up into small groups and asked them to come up with a list of at least 15 reasons why someone they greeted would not respond.
At first they listed things like this:
- They hate me
- They are mean
- They are rude
- They are a bully
- They are racist
It took awhile for them to start coming up with reasons like this:
Have you got a list of values that you hold so dearly, that they actually define who you are?
And I used to really struggle with those that didn’t share those values.
As a child, I would passionately argue my convictions and not listen to those that did not share my opinions. (Because they were simply wrong!)
As a young professional, I thought it was horribly rude for people to roll their eyes in disagreement – but the shaking of my head as others spoke – screamed how wrong they were. (And how unwilling I was to listen.)
Hi! My name is Chery, and I am a recovering opinionista! (…Emphasis on recovering.) Somewhere along the way, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw.
So I began to listen more and talk less. (Not because I didn’t have opinions, but because I didn’t know how to share them and really listen.)
Along the way I heard personal stories from people who had opposing views about some of the values that I hold most dear. And I began to really consider what it was like to walk in their shoes and even wonder if I’d experienced what they had, if I would hold those same views.
In most cases, my convictions did not change, but my understanding, compassion and creativity increased:
I published an article a month ago, about how our international move altered the path I thought I was on to my big dream. In that post I shared how much I trust in this altered path, even though it doesn’t make complete sense yet.
About the time I published that article I heard this quote,
Two weeks ago my husband and I took a vacation to Africa. On the plane I read Nelson Mandela’s book The Long Walk to Freedom, deeply considering how a wide variety of good and bad experiences changed his perspective, caused him to seek truth, ponder deeply, and shaped the man he would become. At several places in his story I thought of different struggles that others have faced that have taken them to their knees and challenged their perspectives and then changed their futures. In the midst of those reflections I wrote these words…
Would you say yes, if you knew:
- That great risk would lead to a greater reward?
- That a job loss would lead to a new career in a new industry?
- That a heartbreaking betrayal would make you softer and stronger and wiser?
- That learning to forgive would help you experience uncommon peace?
- That years of unwanted change and confusion would lead to growth?
- That an uncommon sacrifice would create the change you’ve dreamed of?
- That an ending would create a better beginning?