“Living authentically” is a catchphrase these days, but do you know what it means? I did not, until I pondered my friend’s comments regarding my “Return to Riyadh” dreams. She suggested that I had not been living authentically. What, exactly, did my years in Riyadh mean to me?
Did I miss having to swathe myself in black wraps? Did I miss having to keep an eye out for the mutaween? Did I miss not being able to drive? No, no, and no.
What I did miss, and still do, are the supportive friendships that nourished me there. I miss staying home to take care of my house and family, cooking lamb and camel with spices like mistika and dried lemon. I miss my daily chats on the phone, and reading the Qur’an in Arabic out loud, practicing tajweed, all by myself. I miss sunny days and quiet evenings. I miss the salmon colored sky of summer. I miss praying in mosques, especially during Ramadan. I miss hearing Arabic all around me, every day. I miss the international atmosphere that is superimposed, and sometimes in conflict with, the Islamic basis upon which the country was established.
Most of all, I miss the sense of autonomy I developed there. That’s right– autonomy. In Riyadh, I was free to indulge my passions for reading, writing, travel, cooking, studying languages, and taking care of my family properly, without having to carve up my energy and allocate most of it to a job that did not promote the development of my spirit.
Riyadh offered me a garden in which I blossomed.
My task now is to cultivate my own private garden, and keep it in bloom no matter where I live or what I do.