Over the past year life in Qatar required 4am starts for work, it was a time zone thing, me on one side of the world, headquarters on the other. While the children got ready for school I sat with the door closed in my office, headset on, praying that no-one needed to find their PE shirt at the wrong time. If a fight broke out outside my door I’d come out snapping my fingers like Frank Sinatra on speed. The accompanying death stare (acquired through mothering), you may recognise it yourself? It’s the “be quiet I’m on the phone” but I can’t scream out “be quiet I’m on the phone,” so I’m just going to sit here and manically click my fingers at you. Between that and the amount of goodbye kisses that were done while wearing a set of headphones and mouthing “I’m on the phone” – well, it’s been a crazy year. A year where I haven’t really been myself. “Unrecognisable” from one friend, “what was that about?” said another.
I was unsociable at the very least.
I didn’t lunch, I didn’t coffee, I avoided Thursday night drinks because, unlike the Middle East, Friday in Australia is a work day. And of course cancer came into play. While undergoing chemo I didn’t want to pick up any bugs or germs, and being bald and sweaty held me back from dress ups and parties. I know it sounds completely miserable, but it wasn’t. I learnt a lot last year, and I’m all the better for it. But I am so glad it’s over.
It’s time to get back out there.
I don’t mean for work. I have a new role starting in January, but I need to put myself back out there socially. I need to do what we expats do best. Expats need other expats to survive, they can’t hide away. Our networks are what keep us connected. Whether it’s school, sport, or the office we need each other for support. It’s corny I know, but the expat village is vital – trust me, I’ve been sick, I know how much it helps.
This month I’ve handed myself the challenge to say yes to everything. I’ve made myself move back into an organising role. I’ll get the tickets for Oktoberfest, I’ll make the calls. I’ll go to the drinks function on my own. I’ll walk in and make sure I meet at least five new people while desperately trying to hide my nerves and self consciousness. And at the end of the day when I really can’t be bothered going to the thing I said I would – I will. Bravado will be my friend (and possibly gin, maybe some champagne).
Tomorrow I’m heading to Abu Dhabi – I’m going on my own to get a passport renewed for a child. And I’m giving myself a kick up the butt along the way. I’ve booked a table at a cafe and I’ve arranged to meet some people I’ve been talking to online for years, and some others that I barely know. The thing is as nervous as I am, I know they’ll be feeling the same way. They’ll be a couple of women there who are brand new to Abu Dhabi who are in the same boat as me, quietly terrified, but equally as determined. Expat women, my tribe.
That’s what we do. That’s what makes us expats.
(btw, if you’re in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, come and say hi)