Not Living in the Past, But Moving Forward

It has been only six months since my arrival to Chicago, and this time has been sufficient enough to change my personality a great deal – and awaken aspects of me that had been dormant.  When I took my decision to study abroad, a lot of my friends told me “ you are going to change;” I myself was expecting that but frankly not to the degree that has emerged.

People often don’t understand the real meaning of their life – I certainly didn’t – until they travel away from their families and loved ones and the circumstances of their daily routine, and then measure and evaluate themselves in the context of their new life and they face and handle the consequences of their decisions.

When you travel, you have the chance to rearrange the priorities in one’s life, and manage your own “bucket list of goals and aspirations.”  I thought that would need years to be achieved, but as a matter of fact, a few months has been enough to accommodate and distinguish the milestones of the new life.  At times, everything is so different and challenging but each one of us will “find out his or her own secret” for moving forward, a foundation or core strength which will be the instrumentation to face the difficulties and challenges that emerge in this new era. And believe me there will a lot of those experiences.

People are different, and every individual has his or her own way to manage those challenges, which won’t be easy at all; I my self count on managing time (and setting clear and specific goals) as my instrument.  And these small acts of self-governance are something completely new for me. I am glad to have had this chance.

When you are unaware of your own person (or self), you are often speechless (or inarticulate) when asked to explain what gave you the chance to witness the light, and new connections for the very first time. The same thing happened to me. A lot of things were invisible and hidden from me.  And though I am more observant than before, I am equally aware that there are other “blind spots” of which I am unaware – and which I will need to discover.

Previously, I used to handle problems that had been assigned to me; as it turns out, these matters were only beginning to scratch the surface of what needed to be understood. Consider this Stage 1.  However, in order to achieve your dreams (and understand and support the dreams of others) you must check your ego and be willing to break from some of the traditional boundaries and “order of the world” which had defined your perspective. You must be willing to build new bridges and stages for self-discovery. Each stage will be the basis for the next one. If you are not building a tiered and layered approach to life, then you are not doing it right.

You make time. I used to hear it, but now I experience it. You should always ask for more, and you should never feel satisfied. In each new stage you pause for a moment to analyze your mistakes, and go on to make new ones in the next stage, be proud of your mistakes. Those who don’t work, never make mistakes.

Among the many lessons that I have learned is this: Being shy often puts you in a position to listen, observe and consider the ideas of those around you (and that’s a good thing); but you must also, in whatever way you choose, select the moments to raise your voice. Ask for help and support, advocated for something you believe in and that matters to you, your family, your peers, your country.  Choose the right time.  Be respectful. Polite. Determined. Seek out the right individuals.

A supportive environment is the water for your personality. If you want growth, plant it among supportive people. Find those individuals who feel happy for your achievement as if it is their own. Find those colleagues, peers and mentors who advise you in private, and congratulate your successes in public. Gather those individuals close to you who will adopt you as mentee, and who encourage you to do the same for others. Collaborate so that your efforts will raise really great ideas to new heights, and where our collective ability to lead the next younger generation will yield knowledge, understanding, compassion and peace; and equally, provide an opportunity for an older generation to reconsider and rekindle the spirit of their youth to see their world and our world anew.

I am still on the shores and sands of this new journey; months ago, I felt myself sinking into the water’s edge, and there are no words that can explain how excited I am about those new experiences that I am learning and practicing. The new semester has started, and I am ready for new challenges, new problems, and new stages.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Najla Drooby says:

    Good job Safouh! Keep up the positive attitude and the willingness to experiment. You will go far but there will be days when you will feel down and set back but these are OK too as they make you appreciate the good times even more, Allow yourself to feel the loss, it is OK; you do not have to be strong all the time as our culture demands. As you said so well, build a good support group and when you are feeling great, give back by helping others. These comments are for you and your colleagues, they are from someone that has been there but that took way too long to figure them out. May you all as a group continue to thrive in your new community and may your families find peace in their communities!

  2. Paul Slattery says:

    We are a tribal species, Safouh. What is different is that our tribes are no longer confined so much by geography and language. In addition to those tribes chosen for us by genetics and heritage, we can move outward and join others of our choosing. If we chose well, our lives can be rich experiences, allowing us opportunities to enrich the experiences of those who travel with us and others who will follow later. I wish you a safe journey.

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