My biggest fear about moving to Yemen — a fear bigger that what I’d wear, eat, and whether I’d get blown up — was whether I’d be sacrificing a piece of myself. After all, it was Mr. YemenEm’s goal to work in Yemen, and I just came along for the ride.
One thing I knew I’d be giving up to move to Yemen is my job as a journalist, which was a fairly sizable, but not epic, part of how I defined myself. I’ve wanted to be a reporter since I was a kid and I interviewed several neighbors and wrote a hard-hitting piece on the benefits of dog ownership in a failed attempt to convince my parents to let me get a pooch. I’ve had a “real” reporting job ever since my junior year in college where I worked at the Kalamazoo Gazette, covering stories such as neighborhood cats being shot with bows and arrows, cranberry festivals, and belly dancing at the local library (in addition to a few slightly more serious matters). After moving to Washington I had a rather dull pseudo-journalism job at a consulting firm, then I learned all about Congress (also, rather dull, I must admit) while working at a Capital Hill publication. My most recently journalism job was a mostly fun — but also at times coma-inducingly dull — gig at a medical news website. What I’ve learned from these jobs: Yes, I really like reporting. And yes, I really love writing, but writing about boring things is like telling someone who really loves to dance that you’ll pay them to dance, but they have to do the Cupid Shuffle every day. Kind of feels like a waste, right? (Note: I am a terrible dancer. I look like one of those front yard inflatable things that blows around all crazy-like. So I really like scripted dances such as the Cupid Shuffle because I feel I’m less flailing and Gumby-like while doing them. This is likely not true).
Anyways, my girlfriends and I have this lovely tradition: When we go out for dinner to celebrate a birthday, the birthday girl says what she wants for herself in the coming year, and all of our friends then say what hope will happen for that person. “You leave your shitty job! You get blond highlights! You fall in love!” This year, my wish for myself was to follow my passions, or it may have been to find a job I was passionate about (the details are fuzzy after three amazing birthday cocktails at Rasika, my fave restaurant in DC). My friends, being the supportive creatures they all are, concurred. We all agreed I should do something that feels right for me, which could mean a job where I actually use what I feel are my talents. (Srsly, if you hear of a fashion coaching/cheese tasting/cocktail drinking/dinner party planning/apartment decorating/brunch chef job that also involves writing, let me know). At the very least, I wanted to do something that allows me to use my creativity more that writing about insurance co-pays, Medicare reports, and Congressional hearings on orthopedic devices.
So, naturally, I moved to Yemen. I realize this is not exactly following my passions. (Except I am very in love with Mr.YemenEm so you could that lad a passion of mine). But follow my drift here: Despite living in a creepy hotel, not being able to go outside much, and eating food that always has the lingering taste of bleach, my brain is always working. (Well not when I’m vegging and watching shitty TV. But every other time, pretty much). And since I’m experiencing so many new sights and sounds and smells, I’m thinking constantly about how these new experiences make me feel, so you could say I’m more tapped in to my emotions than I have been in the past. I have a book idea in my head from this experience (fiction) that I hope to start writing soon, I’m always jotting down new recipe ideas, and I have enough material that I could be writing a blog every day.
But…I do have this little lingering fear that I moved here for my husband’s job so what if I just keep following him around and in doing so sacrifice my own passions and mold into someone sort of unlike me?
I have a job that I like well enough here in Sana’a but it’s not something I’m passionate about. Last week during lunch, one of my co-worker/new friends asked if I’ll start looking for jobs at the embassy in Madrid (Mr. YemenEm’s next post). I said no, to which she replied “Ha, you’re just not going to work?” I could see her picturing me being a lady of leisure in Spain, sleeping until noon and hitting the streets in my high heels to buy new outfits and then reviewing my purchases at an outdoor café over sangria and Manchengo. Which sounds pretty damn nice, I’m not gonna lie, but that’s not quite how I picture it. I explained that I only took my current job in Yemen because I had to be working for the U.S. government in order to move to this country, but that I didn’t plan for my entire career to hinge upon what not terrible sounding job was open at whichever embassy we were at. (Note: Mr.YemenEm, being the dear that he is, is fully supportive of me doing what makes me happy, so I don’t mean to sound all “Ah! I got married and am losing myself!” here).
I really hope I follow this plan of mine: To do what I am passionate about. But I know how life plans and passionate pursuits have a way of slipping away from people as time goes on. So a passionate decree from 28-year-old YemenEm about staying passionate about those things which I am passionate: I want to write about what I see, eat, do, feel, and think. I want to write a novel, in which I’ll thinly disguise my thoughts and feelings and the people I know and call it “fiction.” I want to continue to create new vegetarian recipes, write a food blog and a cookbook , and to cook delicious things to feed to my friends and new friends and even strangers.
To feeding your passions,
Write the book, write the cookbook, do some reporting in Yemen, do some reporting in Madrid, eat great food, and of course, be passionate about all of it. No reason to constrain yourself.
The indian whiskey at (the relatively new) Rasika West is amazing. When you are in town next, The Yemen-em family should meet us for a cocktail and appetizers. The first round is on me. Keep up the good work.
I love this post, Em. You will never lose sight of who you are, and if you do – I will remind you! Gotta say, I really do miss having you (and your passion for life) (had to say passion one more time!) just around the corner.
PS – Is 2pac writing to you from the after-life?