Sunday, August 11, 2013

Published on Minority Dreams: Being Asian in the Gulf Middle East

Originally published in 2009 in Minority Dreams

When I was 8 years old I watched my mom get pushed into a kitchen at an Arab wedding and ordered to serve drinks to the guests. The mother of the bride didn’t realize that my mom was a guest. She was, in fact, personally invited by the bride (a former student of my mom's), who wanted her favourite teacher to be there on her special day. The reason my mom's sequined scarf and make-up went ignored is because my mom is Malaysian.

This is a story of being Asian in the gulf Middle East.

The years my family spent in Kuwait are littered with uncomfortable incidents like the one described above. We moved to Kuwait about a year after the Iraqi invasion was over, and shaken from the war, Kuwait was hugely xenophobic in the early ‘90's. My parents were working in a village called Ugly Stones (Batu Buruk, Terengganu) on the east coast of Malaysia before they were offered better-paying jobs as instructors in the Middle East, and as Muslims with a romanticised idea of the region that gave the world the Prophet (PBUH) and the Quran, my parents were excited that their kids would grow up in such a privileged environment. They packed up their three girls (ages 1-5) and flew to Kuwait University, Shuwaikh.

My village Malay gave way to a gulf Arabic accent in school, and one of the first teases I got was for being “yabaneezy” (Japanese). When my mom came for PTA meetings the teachers would give surprised looks and tell my mom her English was good. My mom’s first couple of months as an instructor at the Sharia’ College for Girls was rocky with repeated explanations that she was the teacher. No she wasn’t the tea lady, no she wasn’t the cleaner; she was the teacher. “Mudarasah/ Teacher” my mom would say in Arabic and the students would continue to give her wary looks. Luckily my mom was a great teacher, because it would only take a couple of weeks for those same wary students to become enthralled by her classes and her zany humor. “Miss wallah I love you, you must meet my family!” On days when I visited the office with my sisters, a hail of black abaya robes would descend on us and leave lipstick streaks across our cheeks. “Ya Allah Ms. Jenifah you have many children and you are still so small mashallah!” They’d look at my almost-five-feet mother, mousy in her own baggy abaya and wonder how they started out with such different assumptions. It was unfortunate that not all Kuwaitis could be in my mom’s classes.

The same could not be said for my dad. At 6-feet-6-inches, blue eyes and as white bread as Iowa makes them, my dad was regarded as the big American hero who fought the Iraqis (which, as an instructor from Ugly Stones, he hadn’t). Kuwaitis didn’t trust any foreigners or other Arabs, but if you were American you were given rockstar treatment. Shop clerks would smile at you, people on the street would go up to you, and if you were an instructor at the University, the women would swoon.

And swoon they did. My dad would come back after teaching to his office and find that love letters had  been stuffed under the door and a few giggly girl in abayas waiting outside. My dad received offers for a second or third wife on a regular basis. At first my parents would laugh at these gestures, but the overwhelming attention bolstered my dad’s ego while the tactless prejudice bogged down my mom’s confidence and self esteem, setting what was once a stable marriage onto a rocky patch of misunderstanding and injured feelings.

Eventually the racial attitudes towards our family and the lack of affordable good schools drove my family to move back to Malaysia. After a couple of years of settling down, my parents received job offers from the Middle East again, but this time in the Emirates. My siblings and I refused to go back, but after being assured that we’d be going to international schools this time, we relented. We were happy to find that racial attitudes in the Emirates are much improved from the ones in Kuwait. For one thing the Emirates is more cosmopolitan, and the university my parents teach at is a hodge-podge mix of local and expatriate students. As American-Malaysians we found our niche among the other halfsies (3rd culture kids) of Emirati-Iranian, Polish-Greek, Egyptian-Philippina, and the Lebanese-Cypriot types. We were finally not weird: we were just like everyone else.

My mom still encounters a few awkward situations in the Emirates, but nowhere near the scale that she had in Kuwait. Recently with Obama’s election we can see the racial attitudes shifting in the US as they do in my mom’s classroom. Justice Sonia Sotomayor once said that “stereotyping is perhaps the most insidious of all problems in society today,” and we found that to be true, but it’s also true that this insidious problem can be eradicated—from the students in my mom’s classroom to the attendees of President Obama’s speeches. It’s not enough that anyone can be a good teacher or president in theory: Sometimes a country needs to see the black president at the White House leading, and sometimes people need to see the Malaysian woman in hijab standing at the white board teaching. And it’s not only about leading and teaching, it is also about leading and teaching with the heart.

My mom continues to teach in the Middle East, only this time she’s armed with experience, that same zany humor, and hundreds of students and friends that love, respect and admire her.


Published in the Malaysian Insider: Rest in Peace, Yasmin Ahmad


Originally published in 2009 in the Malaysian Insider


The first Yasmin Ahmad movie I watched was “Mukhsin,” curled up on my couch with my

friends in the Middle East. Seeing the old Malaysian school buildings and the green padi field

scenery made me homesick for the comfort of yellow gluttonous rice and chicken curry, the

smell of earth right before it rains, and the bustle of cousins and grandparents all around me.

Yasmin Ahmad pierced right through the new life I surrounded myself with abroad, away from

the warmth and humidity of Malaysia.

Mukhsin


One of the first things I did when I returned to Kuala Lumpur this summer was watch another

movie by Yasmin Ahmad. “Sepet” had me all choked up and contemplating the ethnic divides

and unity of Malaysians. With a Chinese grandmother and a Malay grandfather, I was partly

sepet myself, and wholly besotted with Yasmin Ahmad’s directing and heart-wrenching thematic

story lines. It became a new obsession with me, finding all her movies and exploring the themes

she addresses in them.

Sepet


“Gubra” was a more mature and darker movie with a closer look at relationships. Still capturing

the essence of what made “Mukhsin” and “Sepet” great hits, “Gubra” took the complexities of

marriage and human emotions and weaved them into a masterpiece that tightens the heart for the

people around you. By then, I was asking my friends and family to keep a look out for anything

Yasmin Ahmad, be it movies, commercials, or even a radio jingle. Soon, she became the topic of

any discussion I had, and before long people were suggesting me more movies, videos, and even

youtube clips.

Tan HOng Ming in Love



I think it was one of those moments where life imitates art when I heard about her stroke. I

reacted to the news of her stroke the way Sharifah Amani reacted to the news of her father

having a heart-attack in the movie “Gubra.” I was panicked and worried.  I followed the news of

her stroke avidly, hoping that she would make it. I felt like I had just found her, it’s completely

unfair that we should lose her when there are so many movies left to do, so many issues left to

address.


“KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 (Bernama) -- Renowned film and advertising director Yasmin Ahmad died

here at about 11.25 pm Saturday night.”


The words resounded in my head. Just like that, she slipped away. For the next week the papers

will be splashing her smiling image on their front pages, and the politicians whose policies

she poked fun at will express their deepest condolences for losing one of Malaysia’s top film

directors. I feel like her death is resonant of the somber tone of her movies, quite poetic in its

anticlimax. There was no rain or lightening on Saturday night near the Damansara Specialists

Hospital. She passed away quietly. They fold the hospital sheets in “Gubra.” Orkid climbs into

her father’s car to the airport. The leaves rustle in Mukhsin’s dream.



Rest in peace Yasmin Ahmad. You took the heart of what makes Malaysia unique and gave it

back to the world through your talented film directing and your unabashed way of tackling social

issues. You blazed the way for Malaysian filmmaking and left some big shoes to fill for the next

generation of Malaysian filmmakers. I think that I can speak for all the fans when I say that we

will miss you dearly.

Published on Yahoo Maktoob: My Ramadhan

Originally published on Yahoo Maktoob 
I peered into my empty wallet and imagined a small dusty moth fluttering out from the dark folds. I needed to get to an ATM before sunset, but with an hour left to go the roads were jammed with hungry cranky people making their way to iftar buffets in Dubai. I wouldn’t be able to get to my own iftar buffet commitment with my colleagues and friends unless I filled up my wallet first, but from my office window all I could see were gridlocks in the roads and parking lots. In moments like these I missed the simple iftars that I used to have with my family back in Sharjah.
I’ve been in the UAE for the last 11 years, but have spent Ramadan without my family only for the last couple of years. We moved to Sharjah in 2002 and in an effort to retain our Malaysian culture, my mom and I would cook traditional food for iftar and attendance was mandatory for the whole family. For most of those years I was a teenager, helping my mom chop tofu and vegetables while my siblings fought or watched TV in the living room. We used to leave Sharjah TV running in the last half hour before sunset to watch the police at Quran Roundabout fire a blank cannon, signifying the official moment of breakfast. Even though sometimes we could hear the local mosques give the call to Maghrib prayers, we still wouldn’t take our first sips until that cannon sounded.
We had started out with the usual rice with curries and fried noodles, but as the years passed we began to incorporate different types of food: fatayers, samosas, parathas, mixing in other culture’s cuisine into our Malaysian one. It was only when I moved out to work in Dubai did these family dinners stop, and the Dubai buffets began. By then Ramadan had shifted towards summer, and my family could travel back to Malaysia for summer vacation to fast with our cousins and uncles and grandparents. Meanwhile I started my career, and all the inflexible work commitments and hours that came with it.
Dubai in Ramadan is a sight to see, especially in your 20s with all your crazy friends. The countless number of deals and offers at exotic locations – the Atlantis! The Burj al Arab! The Burj Khalifa! – had me giddy with excitement. Imagine watching the sun set while you’re on a dhow cruise, sipping on some date juice! And while I couldn’t get out of work, the hours were shortened to end at 3pm, so after spending a few hours agonising over hunger, I could choose practically any cuisine to break my fast with (Turkish Iskandaria! Pad Thai noodles! Lobsters at Danny’s for AED 60 at Mazaya center!). The only thing that really suffers is your bank account, which doesn’t feel bad at first but destroying your budget is usually the topic of discussion following the end of Ramadan. 
About a year or so of these Dubai Ramadans, it became a little harder being away from family. One of my younger siblings Amani started working as well and we were both in Dubai while the rest of our family was breaking fast over chicken satay in Kuala Lumpur. One quiet afternoon Amani called me and asked if I could come back to our mother’s house in Sharjah and cook something traditional at home for iftar. I was surprised that the nostalgia got to her so fast, especially when her social calendar is usually packed with seven or eight groups of friends looking to try the next crazy iftar event. But I was happy to take her up on her offer.


I went shopping at the local Sharjah co-op and picked up some fresh chicken and curry spices, said hello to the butcher and dropped some money at one of the charity counters that lined the outside of the co-op. The old man working at the charity counter gave me a sweet, just like he had during all those Ramadans when I was a kid, and reminded me to have it for iftar.
At my mother’s empty house my sister was waiting for me, and she set about getting the table ready while I cooked the simple chicken curry. We sat down just as the cannon went off on TV and I was surprised to see that it wasn’t just the police anymore - the cannon had turned into a local event, and a huge crowd of families were standing around a fence waving at the cameras, holding their babies up above the police’s heads so that their kids get some airtime. The police handed out dates after the cannon went off and Amani and I laughed over how some eager fathers raced with their babies in the air to follow the camera’s movement.

That moment was perfect, and exactly what Ramadan should be.

The last of the native English speakers

Growing up with two English teachers as parents was an assault at every spoken and written word. I was a little verbally abused you could say, and every request was an argument in semantics. "I don't know, can you go to the bathroom? Why can't you? What's stopping you?" and I couldn't leave the dinner table until I asked if I may use the bathroom. My childish handwritten diaries were subject to a red pen, correcting "my mom maks me sad" to "makes me, and we already talked about this -- you can't wear your Eid dress to bed."

Despite all that I still can't tell my dangling modifiers from my participals and other grammar constructs (just like any other native speaker!), but I would gander that my grasp of English will just do for my parents (which means it may be above average). I know how to correctly use a colon and its slightly more confusing semi-colon significant other; I even know when to spell "its" without an apostrophe, imagine that.



Now, my parents tortured poor little me and teased my pronunciation of "silhouette" until I reached a level where I could catch them speaking unawares and tease them back. What we all didn't realize is that my parents were also turning me into a little English snob.

The only reason why my snobbery didn't run full-fledged out into the wild to pull the pigtails of second-language speakers is because English is a really hard language. When my Malaysian classmates ask me a question or say a sentence that makes perfect sense in Malay, I can't explain why it doesn't translate into English (and vice versa). Then I read Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (from Iowa, represent) and decided that English is truly awful and its evolutionary path makes no sense whatsoever.

When I find myself to be the only native speaker in a room, I allow minor (very teeny weeny) little errors (which aren't errors when you think about how English started) pass over my head peacefully, so that conversation may resume unhindered, and people are left unoffended (a word I just made up purely because its use was necessary).

Why yes I think I really could use a messes, I feel so tense.

But in the last couple of years I have found myself to be one of the few (if not the only) native speaker in entire departments and companies. While I learned and worked, made friends and laughed, sometimes I feel a little alone when I catch these glorious gems of almost English. Like that time someone claimed that another colleague didn't know jackpot about their task, or how someone insulted another colleague on their face.

One of my previous managers was the best. She would run through all her expressions and proverbs unfettered and only occasionally glanced at me for an imperceptible nod or shake of the head. Once she was giving a pep talk and told us to win our customers over "with your sweet teeth" with a decided nod and casual glance at me. At the slight shake she went on, "with your sweet mouth. Your sweet lips? Your sweet tongue." Finally I coughed "sweet talk" and she exclaimed "Precisely! You will win them with your sweet talk, that's what I've been saying this whole time!" and we would whoopah and get on with it.

At another job a British vendor made the mistake of accusing a colleague's diligent follow-up to be "harassment." The Brit reported it to our HR and regional managers. What he didn't realize is that this company is predominantly second-to-third language English speakers who mostly understood harassment in the context of sexual harassment and just filed that complaint away quietly and confusedly. When that same British vendor came after me the managers waved it off as a mad mans' ranting. "Don't worry, we know this guy, he's crazy. Last year he accused us of sexual molestation even though we only emailed him, he doesn't know what he is saying." I nodded in appreciation and kept my laughter stifled until I got home and cackled till the neighbors complained. Harassment! Hah!

Maybe all those years my parents teased me growing up was because they couldn't tease their students in the same way (and they sure as hell couldn't tease their colleagues or managers either). Maybe one day when I have my own bilingual kids and I'll language-bully them to death too.


The links aren't working


2009 was a good writing year for me. I co-wrote a series of articles about my summer internship in Malaysia with a friend, and I used that momentum to write about my mom's racist encounters in Kuwait and an obituary/homage about Yasmin Ahmed's sudden death.

My writing petered out, and I didn't keep track of these things. A few years later I get an email saying that those summer internship articles (and the one about my mom) disappeared when the online magazine they were featured on crashed. Then my Yasmin Ahmed article gets shuffled out of existence on that Malaysian news/blog website that it was featured on.

I'm sure if I devoted enough time I could dig out these articles from my inbox or call that friend who co-wrote some of those articles with me. But that's not the point. The point is that for some reason I have a finite amount of published writing even though it isn't considered to be a finite skill. Furthermore, it just plain old sucks when your work disappears like that and you have no backup!

I have learned my lesson, and now I think I will just re-publish my articles here on my blog and cite where it was originally published.

All this frustration is interfering with my creative mojo.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Remember myspace and Hi5? Anyone?

My own guide to managing my social media.

Facebook: Everything everything everything. Most people think "if you have Facebook then what's the point of other social media channels?" The point is that Facebook should be just your circle of friends, so you want to share albums or write essay-long Facebook status's where people can engage through comments and likes. I treat my Facebook like a place to catch up with my friends who live aboard, and I keep my friend's list low to exclude people I haven't met or aren't close to.

Twitter: When you're having a crazy article-sharing day where you're reading 10-20 amazing things and keep posting them one after another. On Facebook the posts get pushed down (even though they're so amazing!) but Twitter turns your articles into a neat list (with helpful hastags). It makes it great as a reference point as well when you want to go back to that article.

Or, you can use Twitter for brief outbursts of thoughts that you happen to have in 140 characters or less.

Instagram: Should be employed when you accept that yes, it's an overabused haven for hipsters, but get over yourself and go ahead and have fun. Very useful for travel or outings where everything suddenly looks magical (especially when enhanced with filters). So go ahead, re-enact those cliched sunsets and use cheesy Polaroid borders. It's just goofy fun and also has handy hashtags and keeps your pictures in neat squares (though this can be frustrating if you like landscapes and portrait photos).



That's about it. I don't have guides for other social media channels because I'm a little overextended with the 3 I have now.

Charades

Finally took advantage of the weather and went tanning this weekend with some friends. Despite wearing SPF 50 on some parts and limiting exposure on others in between jumping in and out of the pool, I do feel a little crispy around the edges.

It's been a lovely weekend. Hours of ridiculous charades followed into the night, some highlights were 'As long as you love me,' 'Titanic,' 'Big Bang Theory' and a friend doing a dance around an imaginary sombrero for "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."

I also realized that some people can communicate rather extreme emotions just through a look. There are some people I will not mess with after that night.

"Two words, sounds like your guts getting punched out if you don't guess this."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bizza menu will make to be death of me


Pizza menu terms & conditions

Today we spent about 10mins trying to decide on what pizza to order. This colleague of mine is reading this pizza menu that was badly translated from Urdu to Arabic (supposedly) and he's laughing his ass off, saying "this isn't Arabic, this is bullshit! Kill me but don't kill my language!" then he laughed and took out his phone to take a picture and said "this has will to be on twitter today!"

I'm just like slow-clapping from my English-speaking corner.

P.S. pizza turned out good!



*Background story: So I have colleagues who have less-than-stellar English (which is perfectly acceptable, as I have extremely less-than-stellar Arabic). They're all a lovely bunch of folks, but one of them sometimes gets under my skin. Despite his level of English (which I range between 400-450 on the TOEFL) he sometimes walks around with his chest out and makes statements like "English is a shallow language, expressions are too much limited, not rich like Arabic." I don't say anything, because yes Arabic is beautiful, but I don't tell him what I really think, which is that he isn't quite qualified enough in English to pass linguistic judgments like that.  I just sit and pay attention while he explains things in a stream of roughly put-together sentences and I mentally note that if it were me in Arabic, I couldn't do what he's doing in English.  But 3adi, let's all get along, if he says English is shallow and he thinks his English is good enough to say that, then fine. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Meltdown cooled (and other thoughts)


Today I drove between my old office and my new one in the 40'c heat (or 104'f for you imperial equivalents)   and got lost in business bay. It looks nice from Sheikh Zayed Road but it was no picnic navigating between the construction and incomplete roads. I better find a faster route to my new office before I start there (if I start there, if nothing goes wrong with the paper work inshallah).

Business Bay (with cool filters on)

In other news, the sudden summer isn't doing anyone any favors. I'm seeing frizzy hair, moisturizer slipping off of people's face, children crying. We need to adjust guys. Even I'm breaking out as a reaction to the sudden shift of ~30'c dry breezy days to 40'c stifling humid crazy oven heat.

Tonight I'm catching up with a friend! I can't wait. Usually I reserve my evenings for a combination of Game of Thrones/ Vikings/ Hannibal/ American Horror Story, so you know this friend is special if she can tear me away from TV. She just got back from her semester studying Arabic in mid-revolutionary Egypt. I can't wait to hear her stories (you can find her blogging about it here). I wonder how her Egypt experience will measure up to her UAE experience; Both good but in different ways?



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Freaking out


Having an implosive meltdown. Inside my head. Kinda.

yousef: hey
what's up
Khalisah: having a freak out
but i'm writing it out
ahhh
yousef: holy hell
shu sar? (what happened?)
shu fi? (what's going on?)
ya weily? (my poor dear?)
Khalisah: [my new company] stopped emailing meeeeeeeeee
which I thought was fine
take it as a sign from God to move on and find opportunities in Iowa
IOWA!
they have NOTHING TO DO WITH INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS OR DIVERSITY
all the vacancies are operations and call center
AAHHHH
then I started looking for work in chicago
HAH!
then I started looking at MA programs in Anthropology
SO COOL
then I started looking at MA in Humanitarian programs in Boston
ALSO COOL
then I realize my work experience up to now is stupid
STUPID
and now I'm like totally ready to collapse
yousef: okay
Khalisah: DAMMAR (fainting)
yousef: okay
calm down
calm down
hadi shway (chill a little)
Khalisah: .... NOBODY SPEAKS ARABIC IN IOWAAAAA
hazeeennn (sadness)
laaaaa (nooo)
ma biddi (I don't want this)
iowa kateer zahjaaan (Iowa is very boring)
wa ana kaman kateer majnoona (and I am very crazy/stupid)
yousef: ya hazena! (oh sad one!)
bas! (stop!)
Khalisah: tayeeb (okay)
yousef: okay
Khalisah: speak reason to my brain bleaze

Al alphabet Al Araby


Handing in my resignation on Sunday was the right thing to do, but now I'm freaking the hell out. What are the chances that I won't get the next job? What if that doesn't work out? What's my plan B?

We're having a slow day at work so I ran the gamut all over the internet. I was born in Iowa but I've never lived there, so I thought maybe it's time to go back home, hang out with grampa and gramma and uncle Scott for a few years. I did a quick job search and boy, is that a different market from Dubai! Predictably enough the majority of job vacancies pertained to logistics, operations, agriculture, administrative work and... call center services.

Thus the freak out begins. My whole life I grew up in big cities; big, multicultural, multi-ethnic, poly-lingual cities. Mainly Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. The problem is I'm not a citizen nor a stable long-term resident in either of these places. It only makes sense to go back to the fatherland, to the USA.

But... I don't feel Iowan! I don't look Iowan! My diet hardly includes good old-fashioned Midwestern cuisines, I haven't looked at a meatloaf in years. I cook curries, and I eat out at Lebanese restaurants with the occasional weekend sushi joint. But I do love my Iowan family, and I don't hide that I was born there (represent) though living there could be a whole other thing for me...

Can't argue though, Meatloaf is not only awesome but he's got some good songs too.

I like living in a city where people strut around in abayas and high heels, I like standing in an elevator and not being able to understand the people talking next to me, I like phrases like "sa7tain! 3la albik! Allah ya barik feeki!" I like telling people "Yallah" when I'm about to leave them, even though the word actually means "let's go."

Then I ran a separate gamut on MA programs that would be interesting, though probably pricey (I like the look of Tufts U)...

Minor panic attacks are often the most wonderfully confused things. Only then can I feel like I can't do anything or  I could do everything all at once.



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Light dawns




Earlier this week I handed in my resignation, and my manager gave me her full support. My colleagues and HR congratulated me on the new job offer but expressed their sadness that I was leaving, and promised to stay in touch. Had I found a more suitable job role within the company, I would have stayed for the people and the amazing work environment, but I had to take the risk and move on to grow professionally. 

The light mood of change and fresh starts I was experiencing was brought down today when the new company ran into a few issues with my labor card. My HR had reassured me that the issues were minor and conquerable, but the new company panicked that I could risk losing both my old and new job if my labor card gets rejected by the local authorities. 

In the middle of this turmoil, so many realizations crystallized for me. I had been working in this job for over a year, making huge strides and contributions until I hit a plateau of routine and repetitive tasks in the last couple of months. Because of this I made the effort to look for new opportunities in my adopted Arab gulf country of 10 years because I know it better than my native birth-town of Iowa, USA, or my Malaysian childhood motherland. I've been an expat for the most part of my life, but I had gotten by and met a man and made plans. We've been so careful, mindful of expenses and budgets, respectful of our duties and work commitments. And while at first we were happy about the new job offer, this minor bump in the road is another reminder that life, in her own amusing way, enjoys throwing you a curveball once in a while to keep you on your toes. 

So it boils down to this: I will know in a month whether I will have a new amazing job, or if I will be unemployed again (naturally). 

Unemployment used to be the bane of my existence. It's all too fresh still, the experience of being desperate and looking, waking up at 5pm and spending the whole evening applying and searching until I passed out exhausted at 6am just as the sun came up. The nerve-wracking interviews, the pleading voice in my head that hoped for when I can stop the weird odd-jobs and start a proper job in a proper office with a proper boss soon was around corner. I did a few conferences here and there; I did a short stint at the United Nations; I handed out promotional fliers for Pif-Paf in a T-shirt with a cockroach decal; I babysat 4 girls between 4years to 17years for a full week alone (and survived). I even fed and cleaned up after a pair of exotic parrots who made it a habit to go on the spot I've just cleaned. I did whatever it took to get by, so when my first full-time job came I took it gratefully and threw myself into it. I was lucky that my first "proper" job was with a start-up company that crafted its goals and values around employee satisfaction and development. 

Looking back at that struggling proletariat that I used to be (chopping frozen whole chicken and ripping out the spine), I know I took a lot out of that experience. I wouldn't be as grateful or cautious today if I hadn't had those trials. And now, with the possibility of returning to those dark days, I am ready. I guess I've been working my whole life to never end up like that, so even though I might possibly find myself unemployed again, I'll have a few safety nets I crafted to land on first. 

The biggest lesson that I've taken out of the company that I'm about to leave is that you learn the most when you struggle the hardest. When there are no structures around you, you learn to make them; when your new colleague at your desk is the most annoying and obstructive individual in the world, you learn to have the patience and tolerance of a Buddhist, and the negotiation skills of an FBI. You learn and you succeed and you move on to bigger challenges. 

I'm ready world. Come at me.