I am a 29 years old of mixed race. Both of my parents come from humble backgrounds. Half American Palestinian growing up in Kuwait was complicated. I will never forget when my family and I were stuck in Kuwait when the desert storm war was taking place. The road trip to safety was long and dangerous. I recall being stopped at an Iraqi checkpoint and being told “no one is leaving Kuwait tonight, turn around or we will fire at your vehicle”. My mother instructed us to put our heads down and cover. We had no intentions of going back to Kuwait that night. Shots were fired at us throughout the dark night but luckily we finally reached the U.S embassy in Saudi Arabia. Up to this day nothing ever felt so moving than the feeling of safety and reuniting with my Family. We later found out that the brave young Kuwaiti who drove us was executed trying to help other families out.
After the war we moved back to Kuwait. Coming from an unpretentious background fitting in the material world never made sense, but the odd one out had to adjust. My question is, does the odd one out always have to be the one to adjust? Or was the odd one out simply misplaced? Finding my place in the world to become the person I was born to be was my mission. At a young age, I began to think that there had to be more to life. I started to play sports, soccer and baseball at school and throughout my university career. I learned sportsmanship, teamwork & harmony yet I still felt the need to fit in rather than focused on where I already did fit in. On the field, I always felt like a winner. My problem is I never felt like I fit in off the field.
My dad’s Family saw me as the American, my Moms Family viewed me as the Arab, the outcome of discussing my political views to either side of the family lead me to feeling misplaced and misunderstood. Failing to make a point as I was the one who saw both worlds. My world was never one-sided so how could I have made a point to someone whose was?
What do I sound like? Do I sound right? Am I being judged? Should I have said that? Becoming my biggest critic and my own worst enemy as I saw myself in other people’s eyes. I began to focus on the words of others and I started to doubt my own thoughts, which lead to a developing anxiety. I had to leave, I felt it was too materialistic. People cared more about my clothes rather than hearing what I had to say. I started to become like them; discriminating, judgmental and only cared about the material, which to me had no value. I decided I needed to leave, so I left.
I worked in the states for a while. I had friends who liked me for who I was and a job that was paying my bills and my entertainment. Yet, something was missing. I wanted answers. What is happiness? Can I buy it? Is it status? A new job? New city? I started looking for them in books. All that mattered at that moment was missing my parents, my soccer and the baseball kids who I used to coach. In that moment of reminiscing I didn’t think about the negative sides of the material world I left behind nor did I think about how I was judged, discriminated against or how I was being sucked into it. I only remembered what made me truly happy. Being surrounded by my parents, playing sports and teaching those younger than me brought true joy. The rest didn’t really matter to me anymore as I completely abandoned it.
I moved back to Kuwait this time with a goal in mind. I always had a tendency to attract and inspire those younger than me. I was also an individual who spoke his mind, encouraged others to improve and motivated younger generations to believe in themselves and in their abilities. Being cool didn’t come from my clothes or what I drove. It came from fair play, honesty, team work, respect for myself and others. Those are the things I carry with me as values which I live by and teach. Joseph Joubert said it best “To teach is to learn twice”. I am most happy when I can help make a positive impact on someone’s life especially if what they get out of the experience helps them rediscover their potential and achieve their dreams. “If you want to get somewhere fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is an African proverb. Supporting another’s dreams won’t ever dampen yours. Don’t let the pressures of today and tomorrow affect the support, care and development of the individuals that make up our communities.