Heaven Can Kuwait

I’m moving to Kuwait.

I typed that while flying there. It’s a simple flight, like going almost anywhere else. Dulles to Dubai, Dubai to Kuwait. If we weren’t stopping in Dubai for a night, we’d be there in a little over half a day.

The flight is quick and simple. Saying goodbye isn’t. That took 18 months, making sure my kids were OK with it, making sure my boss was OK with it, making sure I was OK with it. Eighteen months of “it’ll never happens,” which turned into “it could happens” and then waiting and background checks and security clearances and a hundred rounds “are you sures.”

The last goodbyes will linger. I’ll be back, but there’s a permanence to any move. I’ll be living in the Middle East for two years. Flights won’t be hopped, they’ll be arranged. And let’s face it, Kuwait isn’t on the typical vacation list.

I’m 54. My kids are adults. They each gave their support. Toward the end I sensed the misgivings, even if they weren’t said aloud. I can’t blame them; I sensed my own a thousand times a day. I could hear the doubt in the voice of friends whose words of encouragement (“that sounds exciting”) sometimes felt more like a question.

Someone whose thoughts I admire once wrote: “If you’re serious about change, you have to go through uncomfortable situations. Stop trying to dodge the process. It’s the only way to grow.”

If you’re serious about change, you have to go through uncomfortable situations. Stop trying to dodge the process. It’s the only way to grow.

If I were 22, finishing college, heading off to Nepal to study with monks or to Kenya to save the elephants or to Europe to backpack for a year or to ride across Mongolia on wild horses, nobody would blink. That’s what you do. You get some life experiences, you have your eyes opened. At 22, I was already married and raising a child, sucking up jobs I didn’t love. That’s what you did.

I wouldn’t change any of that. But I wonder if this can work the other way, if raising a family can serve as the life experience, the eye opening before learning how to speak Arabic or making plans to travel on long weekends to Jordan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Morocco and Greece.

With half a lifetime of broken-down cars and mortgages, so many visits to the hospital that entire wings are nicknamed after one of my children, movie nights and kids parties and hide-and-seeks and visits to the principal’s office, college campus tours, triumphs in sports and the arts mixed with heartache and heartbreak, I have treasure chests that overflow with the million little moments that still nourish me. It’s time to ride a camel.

It’s time to learn to cook new foods and learn new traditions. It’s time to ride a board on sand instead of snow. Should I ski or toboggan on snow inside a ridiculous mall in Dubai? Undoubtedly.

Perhaps I will learn a martial art and how to meditate, which may come in handy for bargaining skirmishes in the local spice markets I long to frequent. I will visit a hammam bath, and I will wear a tunic and a keffiyeh, with an agal to keep it in place.

Because that’s what you do.