I am scared about this move. Can you blame me?
Not the doom-omg-I’m-going-to-die scared, but the excited, nervous, edge-of-my-seat thriller movie scared. The kind of scared I get right before giving a big speech before an audience. The same feeling of inevitability, of great things about to happen, of adventure, and of possible failure. There is the desire to impress, the desire to make myself understood, the desire to illuminate the audience, and the desire to make a name for myself. And numerous things could happen: I could go out there and wow them with my intelligence and eloquence, or I could fall flat on my face walking to the podium.
Its stage fright. Gut-wrenching, throat-closing, butterfly-inducing, light-headed, nauseating stage fright. I am afraid of the unknown- I’m stepping off a cliff and hoping to God that I know how to fly. This isn’t like my move to Arizona which was frightening in and of itself. This is a completely different beast of a different name. It’s probably a good 3,000 (if not more) miles farther away than Arizona and sure as hell as lot harder to come home from.
Its the fear of forgetting something, although it would be simple enough for my mom to ship it to me if needed badly enough; its the fear of a murky future, although I have a deep and enduring faith that I am following the will of God by going to Egypt; it is the multitude of different customs, foods, lifestyles, expectations, language, and opportunities; and it is the sharp pang of loss I will feel when I tearfully say “see you soon but not soon enough” to my mom at the airport, or my best friends before I leave. The possibility that what I leave behind me here will not be there when I come back.
Of course I could leave home tomorrow just to run and get some milk and what I have will not be there when I return, God forbid. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon.
But I do not fear for my safety or my well-being. For as frightened as I am it is just the unfounded, excited fear of making a distinct and final change in my life. This is a new chapter, a new me, a new adventure, and new roads to explore and exploit. At risk of being accused yet again of romanticizing the Middle East I must adjoin that I do not expect to be made a better Muslim for being in Egypt, but possibly I may become a better person. Isn’t travel a form of enlightenment? Isn’t knowing, learning, accepting, and incorporating another culture and way of thinking an existentialist’s dream? And I, if anything, am a shameless existentialist.
I will be different when I return than the person I am now as I get ready to leave. I will add a new adjective to my many descriptions: expat; I will possibly add another language to my repetoir: Arabic; and I will certainly redefine who I am as a person in response to my surroundings. I am trading one minority-class for another: here I am American like most everyone else but Muslim as only a few are and there I will be Muslim as most everyone else will be but American like only a few others.
Going about my business I am suddenly and virulently seized by nervousness, I can’t breathe, can’t think, can only focus on my wildly-beating heart. I am scared, and rightly so. But its only stage fright for the next act.