“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” (Rumi)

I believed that what I had or have in common with people brings us together. We’ll automatically click. We’ll get along like peas and carrots go together. I always lived in the interstices between spaces, never fully belonging in any particular place, so naturally I assumed I’d manage. When we moved to Libya I had very high expectations. I wasn’t pollyannishly convinced that all would be great, but I thought I had made reasonable assumptions about what I’d find and I had thought of a variety of possible scenarios and responses to them that would help me cope and overcome.

I was raised in an individualistic culture by a very family-centered, old fashioned European dad and a Native American mom who, despite having an appreciation for the positive aspects brought about by Colonization, had a deep and abiding respect for her Native traditions and believed that they should be cherished. I spent my formative years an area of Europe that is renown for its efficiency and work ethic, operating effectively like a well oiled machine. But it is also famous for its natural beauty, which it jealously maintains and preserves. It is also a deeply conservative and patriarchal society, where adult female citizens had only gotten the vote a year or two before my birth. These are very unusual combinations that I thought particularly suited me to easy integration in just about any society. I was wrong.

Moving to a place you only know in theory, wherein you project all your unfulfilled hopes and aspirations is necessarily bound to disappoint. Someone I knew once confessed that the only way she was able not to get disappointed when moving to Canada, was by not having any expectations. “So far so good!” she admitted, although probably moving to a multicultural, open, and democratic society foreign to both her AND her husband probably had a lot to do with it.

Was my disappointment solely due to my shattered unrealistic expectations, or did it have something to do with my inability to let go of my privately held preconceived notions, and my own weaknesses? Was my childhood as a positively diversified individual partly to blame for my lack of experience with rejection? For my inability to stomach being considered an outsider? For not being able to “fit in” no matter how hard I tried to conform? Is it a byproduct of a latent inability to let go of what I believed was my place in the world and my method for operating in it? Realistically, it’s probably a combination of all of this, and possibly more. I must take some responsibility for the colossal failure of this experiment. Well, colossal failure is perhaps a bit of an overstatement…, after all, I did have many positive experiences, I forged many good, lasting friendships, and I did learn an awful lot that I never could have learned, just by reading and listening to people’s stories.

To this day, although rationally I tell myself that I will never move back, I occasionally entertain the possibility that maybe, under the right circumstances, with the right mindset, with a clear understanding of the reasons surrounding my discontent, and an ironclad determination to make it work, I might consider giving it a third chance. Have I been infected with a type of resilience that forces me to get uncomfortable? If I have, is that a bad thing?

I believe everything happens for a reason and that we are all ultimately tested in very specific ways, especially tailored to our own growth trajectory and needs for enlightenment. So I must dig deep and honestly explore what bothered me and why. Perhaps then, I will be able to better understand myself, what drives me, and what obstacles I need to overcome to become fully immersed in my life, warts and all.

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