This week was our semester break. It’s the week that celebrates the end of the long winter term and gives staff, faculty and students the needed rest to tackle the intense, compact spring term.
Last year we traveled to Bavaria to visit my sister and brother-in-law. While there, we breathed deeply of the clean, crisp air. We stared in amazement of the beauty of the buds on the trees (it had been 4 years since I’d seen a budding tree). We giddily wore close-toed shoes and jackets and went on long walks every day. We picked feldsalat and dandilion greens from the lawn to add to our smoothies. It was wonderful, just what my soul needed.
But I underestimated the difficulty I would encounter with returning to the desert. One of the things I love about this Middle Eatern landscape is the subtlety of the various shades of beige; I find great beauty in the ecru on off-white on sandy brown on creamy pearl. In the past, every time we would return to our adopted country during its crazy-hot summer season, it was after 6 weeks of Western summer. We had experienced the best of the season abroad, and were ready to return to our real lives, even if that meant hiding indoors until the 50-degree Centigrade days passed. The same cannot be said for 1 week of Western spring. It was a teaser only, and it felt a little cruel to be pulled away from the blossoming life of spring in Europe to the withering life of summer in the Gulf. In no way did I regret the trip, but I was not prepared for the re-entry shock.
This year we stayed put. Our family spent the week relaxing, but not necessarily by choice. For the past three weeks we’ve been passing back and forth a virus that has knocked us each out, one by one in turn. It was a very disappointing turn of events. I had plans to meet with friends, run errands, revisit some of our favourite spots in the country, and prepare for the aforementioned impending intense, compact spring term by preparing meals and generally organizing myself. Instead I took baths with Dead Sea salts, ate through all the various leftover soups in the freezer, and started reading a new book. Not what I had envisioned, but what I needed. I am grateful for the chance to let my body (and those of my handsomes) rest and heal.
One of the reasons I felt do disappointed with our vacation is that it is to be our last one in Qatar. For some time now, Big Handsome and I have been feeling the urge to switch gears, career-wise. We both trained and worked as EFL teachers, and have enjoyed many aspects of this job for a number of years. But as we’ve become more in tune with ourselves, and have intentionally sought to identify our passions, we both feel it’s time to put our talents to use in other fields: Big Handsome in entrepreneureal tech stuff and me in health coaching.
At the same time, we have also been feeling the weight of the distance between ourselves and “our people.” When we moved abroad, we did so knowing full well what we were giving up. The benefits for our our then-family-of-two outweighed the sacrifices. When we gave away everything and moved across the world, we embraced the adventure and truly loved it. I still love many things about this country and our lives here. But increasingly, I feel the urge to establish roots. I long to be part of a community that isn’t going to turn over every 3-5 years. There are people here whom I love and will miss intensely, and there are aspects of our current lives that will be difficult to give up. But in the end, while twenty-nine year old Larissa thrived overseas, thirty-four year old Larissa yearns for something different.
It’s a scary proposition for a family to have one of its breadwinners leave a secure job for a mid-life career change. So what kind of madness is it for BOTH breadwinners to do just that? I like to think of it as the kind of controlled madness (or risk) that leads to the greatest outcomes (or rewards). We are choosing to follow our passions, and to create the kind of lives that make us bounce out of bed in the morning. The kind of lives that set off regular involuntary expressions of gratitude. The kind of lives that we created, rather than those that we fell into.
Maybe it’s too big a dream. Maybe we wil fall flat on our faces and find ourselves reapplying for jobs like we’re giving up. That will be ok, too. It’s the journey – not the destination – that is the most important. What we will gain by the pursuit of our dreams will be greater than the end result, even if that end is indeed the realization of our dreams.
So, all that to say, I don’t have any exciting new recipes to share this week. But I am having fewer conversation-stopping coughing fits than I was three days ago, Big Hansdsome is not going through boxes of tissues anymore, and Little Handsome’s energy level is almost back to normal. I’d call that success! I also did get a chance to try out a couple of fermented chutney recipes but I’m still waiting on the lactic acid bacteria to do their thing. I’ll share the results shortly.
We’re not looking forward to the work involved in liquidating all our possessions (again!), but I’m hoping that doing so will bring the same sense of freedom we experienced last time. We’re nervous about how we’re going to pay our bills once we land in our new city and start having bills to pay, but we’re going to grow in our ability to decipher between wants and needs. We’re dreading saying farewell to the people who have become our family here, but we intend to take advantage of current and future technologies to continue to share our lives.
Fortunately, before any farewells, we still have an intense, compact spring semester to get through. And hopefully we’ve gotten all the viruses out of systems, so it will be a healthy one.