A Hundred Days of Being...

In which I somehow end up surviving (in my gilded prison) for a hundred days and counting...

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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A calendar reminder brought to mind that somehow I had lasted a hundred days out here, not that a hundred twenty-four hour periods are any more significant than say a hundred and two, or ninety. It does feel like a sufficiently long amount of time, and distance, from which to look back at the early days here and reflect on what I have learned, and there have been a lot.

If I had to choose, I would go with learning to accept a slower pace of life as being one of the most important, because it is one of the ones which I have struggled with the most. Being the detailed, procedural person that I am, my life is organized around knowing what needs to be done, and setting out a plan to get there. Being out here has taught me that the best laid plans depend on people to come to fruition, and regardless of how detailed they are, the system trumps any individuals. As an older, wiser head told me recently, learning to accept that life moves in gear one out here rather than gear five would do me a lot of good.

Speaking of older, wiser heads learning to lean on them more has been one of the things I’ve learned since being out here. The beauty - or the downside - to slow, bureaucratic systems is that documented information is never a reliable indicator of how things will work for you. People who have been there and done that are thus critical, as they can speak from experience and potentially have contacts who can help smooth over bumps along the way. It makes for slow, inefficient systems - I once had to take a taxi ride lasting two hours and some each way to attend an appointment that lasted twenty minutes - but knowing that you’ll get there in the end does help deal with the angst of the present.

Perspective is also critical as I have found out several times when I have called up O to moan about something or the other, like having to hop forty-five minutes to the next town to get basic electronic supplies. For every gripe I have, someone else has it worse. Accepting that and moving on has been a key part of surviving my gilded cage.

In tandem with navigating the culture and location changes, there has been the challenge of navigating the credibility deficit of moving jobs from a city where my name had some recognition to one which, by nature of its insularity, places great stock in experience local to the region. Having moved jobs relatively infrequently, I have had to hark back to 2011 to find a comparable period in my life. Thankfully, my personal histories of that time include my thoughts on navigating that move and finally wrestling the sense of imposter syndrome down. If anything, having those notes to refer to underscores the importance to me of curating a personal history, something I am keen to become better at.

All told, there is a sense of slowly bedding in, becoming a cog in the system slowly churning out work and doing life. The upside of this is I have began to pick up a few words here and there. In keeping with one of the inspirations of starting this weekly letter, I’ll share a word now and again. This week it is habibi. It means beloved, I am told, but is more appropriate with really good friends rather than professional colleagues. Considering almost everyone who reads this is a close friend and/or family, it feels appropriate to begin with this.

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