by Lulua Al-Osaimi
From Ferguson Missouri to Syria, from Chicago to West Africa, continuous chaos seems to fill our daily newsfeeds from social networks to global news. If it hasn’t snapped you back into reality, it is just a matter of time before you find yourself reflecting and questioning, “What in the world is going on?” As for myself, a few direct and indirect, personal and not so personal events have occurred recently leaving me no choice but to reflect and question.
For the last month, I have found my body trying to fight off some serious colds, which has definitely affected me mentally and emotionally, because I pride myself in being a healthy mind and bodied individual. One thing being “under the weather” has forced me to do is reflect on my daily routine, goals, health, and overall where I am mentally, physically, and emotionally in the present moment. Also during this time, I have been especially attentive to the worries and concerns of the people around me. From my best friend finally being allowed to travel back to her beloved country after many years away, to a conversation with a friend about his mother’s passing, to my old student asking my advice about her future dreams…everyone seems to be looking to find or fulfill their purpose while navigating through all of the roadblocks that are inevitable in between.
As is true for myself, after moving back to Kuwait (my birthplace) last year after growing up in America, I can’t begin to explain how much of a rollercoaster it has been. I feel many times like a child, soaking up information, names, places, customs, traditions, memories, but at the same time I am thankfully at a mature age where I can decipher which information and habits I choose to acquire or leave. One of the largest comparisons I can make between my life here in Kuwait and my life in the U.S. is the luxury of some worries. Friends, family, and acquaintances from social networks have followed my life as a social justice art educator on the south side of Chicago. Even through social networks, they have had an inside look into a broad spectrum from my personal life, endeavors, triumphs, suffering, achievements, to my greatest passion as an artist and educator.
Before moving to Kuwait, I was a proud teacher at an alternative social justice high school serving youth ages 16-21 on Chicago’s south side. Attending this alternative high school was my students’ second chance at receiving a high school diploma and I was honored to help facilitate that dream as their art teacher. I remember on May 21, 2013 I had posted a video on my Instagram of me arm wrestling one of my students. After posting the video, receiving likes and comments, and going back to my apartment, I was told that my student had been killed by gun violence while walking home. Not only did it rock my world, but even my friends, family, and social network followers were in shock. To think this happened just two hours after I posted the video, and many people empathized with me because they felt they knew my students and classroom because of my daily posts. That following August I came to Kuwait to teach, explore, answer questions, and hopefully heal.
I think the number one question I receive from people is, “How has the transition been?” and quite frankly I am still trying to figure out how to answer that question. One fact that is for sure is that living here in Kuwait is a constant reminder to count my blessings and even all of the hardships that have allowed me to better appreciate these blessings. To be raised in a place where your name is just a name no one can pronounce, your personality and resume are your key to climbing the latter, and privilege is only given to a minority…who in all reality, is not the true minority. Without always trying to compare my life there and here, my work there and here, my purpose there and here, I more-so try to think about my privilege, and through understanding my privilege in this world, I become a more conscious and aware thinker and doer and most of all, I can recognize the responsibility in that privilege.
I want to make this very clear…everyone’s individual worries are valid because whatever life they were raised and now live in is all they know, but what happens when we step outside of our comfort zones. No matter what hardship I have been through in my life, I try my best to faithfully practice the art of reflection, and in that reflection try to unpack my troubles in comparison to what others are facing locally and globally. Whether your privilege is your skin color, gender, family name, age, access to education, transportation, having hot water, ability to travel, being able-bodied, how you will be tried in a court, or even the ability to use your voice to speak up against injustices, we must be aware of this so we can be more conscious and compassionate humans and productive contributors to society.
So the next time you’re in low spirits, or even when you’re in high spirits, remember to take a minute (or two) to just reflect, and never stop counting your blessings… daily. #staywoke