Confessions of a Saudi Diva: FAQ’s about being Saudi and Arab Culture (Part Thirteen)

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How I escaped my confining culture and lifestyle

 

It’s exactly 1:00 am, I’m still listening to Sade’s greatest hits while writing this. But this time, I’m sitting at my balcony and the weather is just perfect.

I had to skip attending my spinning class today in order to write and to retain what’s left of my sanity. With Dubai being named as the world’s fastest city, I’m sure most of you can relate with how all we do all day and night is run around to get things done. We never get any rest. Even our fun outings and weekends are rushed. It’s like we’re in an endless marathon to survive or something.

You might ask: But you’re not working, so what are you running after? Basically, my day includes tons of house chores to do, errands to run, e-mails to check, groceries to buy and occasionally I even cook! Today I made myself a nice healthy North African egg dish for lunch, and an avocado and tomato salad with some Hommos on wholewheat bagel for dinner. It was the best thing ever. Healthy, fresh, and super nutritious.

Apart from the house chores, admin stuff and errands, there are job searching sessions, networking and media events, and things to catch up on. Ever since I started this journey to change careers into the creative industry, I’ve always aimed to be ahead of the game. I make it an obligation to complete all the items on my daily to-do list, even if they were small things like connecting with someone on LinkedIn. Because I believe that doing all the small stuff will add up to accomplishing a major goal.

Talking about big ambitions and targets, today’s topic is a continuation to yesterday’s recurring question: “How did you escape?”

I just wanted to clarify a few points to the lovely readers. First, about the course that I took with London College of Fashion and why I didn’t complete it. It was a foundation course – the one that students take straight after finishing high school. It’s supposed to give you an insight into different subjects to help you decide which major you want to choose for your college degree. So the course was equivalent to the UK A-Levels, and it was a two-year course crammed into one. No, there was no option of taking it over two years – you had to take all subjects and finish it within one year. Now the subjects that we took were very interesting. They ranged from photography, to fashion history, to cultural studies, to drawing/illustration and my favorite subject: journalism.

The course that I took was titled: Access to Fashion Media and Communication. I don’t think they offer it at the college anymore. It was a diploma. By the end of the course, we were supposed to create a magazine or at least a dummy of a magazine. I have no idea how that turned out with my friends from the College, since I chose to withdraw from the course after completing one semester. When I enrolled to the course, it did state in the description: a one-year intensive course. But since I was aware that high school students were taking it, and I was a University graduate back then – with around four years of work experience under my belt – I thought to myself: “How intense or difficult could this be?” and I decided to go in wholeheartedly only to realize that the word “intense” doesn’t even begin to describe how extensive the course and the subjects were!

We had a total of 10 different subjects in the first semester. As I said, they ranged from theory ones – like the cultural studies class – to very practical ones – like fashion illustration or drawing.

Each subject had so many written assignments (essays), in-class exercises and tests, and big projects to complete. Despite the diversity and highly engaging material of the subjects, the amount of work was just tremendous. We would spend a full day at the University attending classes. I did nothing in those days but attend classes, do some research in the University library and get work done at home. The course requirements and the way the classes were carried out was pretty much like high school. I felt like I had gone back to high school again – except that I was no longer 15 or 16. In fact, I was 29! Of course most of the students were quite young, so for them to go back to this kind of studying and course work was not an issue. It was an issue for me because:

  • I was 29 years old at the time.
  • I had already graduated from University many years back.
  • I had completed around four years of work experience in the IT support industry.
  • For me, the idea of going back to school and studying was already too much to handle. Let alone taking a course that’s equivalent to the UK A-Levels.
  • I had moved to London to escape a confining lifestyle, culture and society. I needed to breathe, to destress and to live! Not be pressured into another thing that I didn’t want to do! Kill me now – that’s how that course felt like.

Luckily, I managed to successfully complete one semester of that course. I even got good grades. But when the classes resumed the next term, and I found out that we would be repeating the same subjects in the next semester, I almost died. That’s when I decided to leave the course. Because I had to push myself so hard to get the course work done during the first term. So the thought of having to force myself into the same scenario was extremely daunting. There was no way I was going to do it all over again.

Once I made the decision to leave the course and the University, I spent my time trying to get a job by applying online. Of course, since I was trying to change careers and I had no experience in the new field that I was interesting in shifting to, this was a tough call. Add to that the fact that I had a Saudi passport, and the worst economic recession in the UK at that time. It was impossible for me to stay in the country and get a work visa. The only way I could stay was if I chose to continue the course or take another one. But I was not in the frame of mind to take any other course. I wanted out of education and academia at that time. I couldn’t stand the idea of having to take another course or enroll at a different University.


I soon found out that once I withdraw from the course, my current student visa would be cancelled and I would have to leave the country within 30 days. Which is exactly what I did. I didn’t inform the University straight away. I wanted to try my luck with job applications first. I also wanted to explore London before I left. I’m telling you, the course was so intense that all I saw while studying was my area (West Hampstead) and the college campus area (Shepard’s Bush)! That’s why, my last months in London were spent sightseeing and visiting the different areas. They were great times.


In the next post, I will write about how I managed to move to Dubai and what happened when I first moved here. I’m still answering the question of how I managed to escape from the confining culture and society.


In order to have time to write daily, and still have a normal life, I need to eliminate a few things from my daily schedule. I’m not the type of person who likes to watch TV or YouTube videos or any of that. But like I explained earlier, it’s the daily mundane tasks that take up most of my time. They are things that must be done though. So they can’t be eliminated. Things like doing the laundry, washing dishes, and getting groceries.


There are a couple of things that I can think of at the top of my head. These include attending events to support other business in return for nothing. Or attending business networking events that lead to nothing valuable. I think many bloggers in this region would agree that it’s time for businesses to consider paying bloggers for attending events. Being a true foodie, I personally like to attend restaurant openings. These events give me an opportunity to sample new cuisines, experience a fresh food concept and network with other bloggers or media professionals.


So while I don’t mind attending a new restaurant opening event, or the launch of a new menu, I doubt that I will accept invites that give no reward in return. I could use that time to write, and improve my blog and strategy.


Another thing is what’s app. Why is there an urgency to reply to friends’ messages? I believe that this can be the second item to eliminate. I will only check my what’s app messages when I have some extra time left in my day – which never happens b.t.w.


Skipping my spinning class hasn’t been such a bad decision after all. Instead of that class, I got to go for brisk walks in the neighborhood – twice. One was in the afternoon to get some groceries and the other was in the evening to get some fresh air and peace of mind.


I also managed to write this post from my balcony –  a very significant item on my to-do list. And most importantly, I managed to save a little bit of what’s left from my sanity by taking my time in getting things done. Instead of rushing to the gym and back. Then taking a shower and making/eating dinner.


Tomorrow brings with it some running around though. I plan to head to the mall to get a few things done.

Saudi Diva signing off XXX

Note:
If you have sent me a message on what’s app and I haven’t checked it or answered, read the above post!

XXX

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Saudi Diva talks Arab culture

 

 

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