A Voyage Abroad
I was so dependent on my American life that I saw no possible way to survive in Qatar and still have my sanity intact, writes Mohammed D Fakhro in the second installment of his guest series.
I was a year into my time at Miami University of Ohio, sitting in my American Politics and Diversity elective and not jotting down a single note. Rather than the disinterest I had in my high school experience, I found myself so enamored with the subject and the discussions that took place that any minute jotting down notes was a minute I’d lose from learning. Before and after each of these classes, I would be in my professor’s office discussing the current US events I had read up on and deeply wanted to understand. I asked my professor questions to which she would respond with “What do you think?” or “I know you already know the answer to that.” I was challenged and respected, but most of all I was given a voice without being made to feel different. It was the escape from my own reality that I desperately wanted.
That theme was also present in my social life, and in that particular classroom I met a guy who welcomed me into what would become one of my closest groups of friends during college. Together we had endless amounts of good memories and experiences like dressing up as the Scooby Gang for Halloween or seeing Lady Gaga live. It would probably come as a surprise to most, including them, that my favorite memory was actually waking up on their couch on a Saturday and going to Wal-Mart.
Those days were perhaps the epitome of the mundane American life, but the best part is that I got to be a part of it. For the first time, I felt like I was finally one of the characters on my favorite American sitcoms rather than the daydreaming viewer I had always been. We shared the little things and the bigger ones, and we teased each other about them. Mostly, we laughed and laughed. Underneath all of that however, there was something brewing inside of me that I continued to deflect.
Every now and then something said or something done reminded me of who I am, and more importantly, who I am not: American.
“Why do you even care? This isn’t your country,” someone would say. My deflection came in the form of a joke made in response. I eventually placed my own Qatari, Arab and Brown identities in a joke pile that I kept pulling out of before anyone else could. Looking back at that period of my life I see those insecurities not so much with my identities as they were with my lack of identities.
“My American experience was filled with inner demons of deep depression and identity crisis…”
My formative years in Qatar were lived in a shell and plagued with self-doubt. My love for the English language, the one thing I remember being good at, had developed into an obsession with American culture after I felt rejected by everything else I attempted to be. It was as if the Qatari me was somehow not Qatari enough, and the US was the refuge in which I could just be me. It was only when I got there and away from a culture that I feared had already decided who I was and would be that I was able to begin figuring out my identity. And it was only after that journey that I figured out I had done so falsely.
My American experience was filled with inner demons of deep depression and identity crisis, but the heart of it was in the lasting friendships I had made along the way. It was through unfiltered conversations and experiences with my friends that I had built up the self-confidence to eventually fully realize my whole self. This journey with them was the life education I needed.
Time passed by quickly and my last semester of college was right around the corner. I thought about buying more time, of pursuing graduate school or quitting the job that I was unbelievably lucky to have waiting for me so I could stay a little bit longer. I was so dependent on my American life that I saw no possible way to survive in Qatar and still have my sanity intact. Anything sounded more appealing than coming back home permanently that I even flirted with the idea of running away.
The truth is that what I was running away from was not the country as it was my commitment to it and my own family, and facing that demon would be the greatest lesson yet.
Mohammed D. Fakhro is a Qatari storyteller. He has earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English at Miami University of Ohio and currently works at Hamad bin Khalifa University. Mohammed is working on his first novel. You can follow him on his blog (moefakhro.tumblr.com) or on Twitter (@moefakhro).
Next part: Mohammed re-adjusts to life in Doha and the routine of everyday life in “A Family Unit.”[Photo on homepage, courtesy: UN Climate Change via Flickr]