“I am so busy doing nothing…”

“I am so busy doing nothing… that the idea of doing anything – which as you know, always leads to something – cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.” – Jerry Seinfeld

It’s not like I’ve been literally doing nothing; I just don’t enjoy anything I do. I’ve been stuck in a rut lately with my days starting and ending with “late”. I’m late to work, I eat a late lunch, it’s too late for dinner, I try to work out if it’s not too late, and I always get to bed really late. Rewind and repeat, day in and day out. If you are currently in my situation, squeezing more commitments (that you could not care less about) into your already crammed schedule then you know how exhausting it can get. I can’t think straight.

In between work and a multitude of social obligations, I find myself wondering if I ever really went to Costa Rica. When was the last time I watched a movie, picked up a book, wrote in my journal or even looked at this blog? I logged in now and had to familiarize myself with the WordPress layout because it’s been that long! And in trying to pinpoint the culprit of this infinite state of busyness, I always come to one answer: Kuwait.

Life in Kuwait is a gigantic tornado that sneaks up on you and holds you victim as it whirls and spins your world, while you stand shakily at its centre. It’s hard to escape. It’s destructive and violent. But once you break away from this tornado (and I can only do so by getting on a plane), you’ll be amazed at the tranquility of the world outside. The last time I adhered to a healthy routine was in Costa Rica: long walks, simpler food, fresh air, early nights and earlier mornings. Pura vida.

The difference between being in Kuwait and abroad, for myself and many others, is not just about taking public transportation or in escaping a third cousin’s wedding. Breaking away from the fast-paced life in Kuwait is certainly refreshing but it’s the sense of freedom that puts a genuine smile on my face. When we are away from Kuwait, many of us are able to shed several masks – no social duties, no euphemisms, no tongue-biting in fear of offending someone.

These false pretenses are perpetuated by each and every person in society regardless of their age or gender: parents, siblings, educators, professionals, locals and expats. Don’t shrug your shoulders, we’re all responsible. Even when one of us wants to break free, we’re silenced by the crowd and told to sit back down. I don’t know what it will take for people to change in Kuwait and stop sacrificing individuality for the sake of culture and tradition. I know there are Kuwaitis out there who have retaliated. They spoke up regardless of the social stigma but they are outnumbered. Most people were stifled into silence. Some Kuwaitis have simply left, seeking refuge in more forgiving societies where they can blend with the crowds in places where they won’t be judged for speaking their minds.

When I was in high school I entered a public speaking contest where I was given the following prompt: “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. I don’t know how I interpreted that saying when I was sixteen years old but I do comprehend those words now. I repeat them to myself when I’m alone, hoping the mantra works its way into my being and stays with me.

I want to whisper those words to everyone I meet in Kuwait who happens to be bending over backwards for the sake of society: losing weight, stuck in the wrong major, wearing something that makes them uncomfortable, or worse, unable to escape an abusive relationship or receive treatment for a taboo illness. Breaking away from society’s restrictions doesn’t have to result in blind rage and hatred. It doesn’t even have to be drastic. Change is a gradual process. Repeat after me: I cannot please all of the people all of the time; I will focus on myself instead and do something for me every single day.

Try it. It should not be this hard.

Martha's vineyard MA

August, 2011. Martha’s vineyard: watching a gull.

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