This post has been sitting in my draft box for a long time… and I think it’s about time I shared it.

All my life I’ve generally had very clearly defined goals and dreams and hopes… I’ve always known what I wanted to do next in my life. Until I spent a year in Saudi Arabia, and then returned home for a few months… and then had to decide what I was going to do next. And then I realized that for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a clear plan or real goals on what I wanted to do next in life.

I didn’t feel like I’d finished the last chapter in my life… but I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue that chapter anyways?!

The first time I planned to leave Canada… my family… my home… and go to Saudi Arabia, I was desperately in need of a change, a getaway, an adventure. It was my first time living away from home and family… and I was so excited to see what the opportunity would bring me!! Leaving them the first time was difficult, but I had so much to look forward to that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.

When I came back home on leave last February, I was just so happy to see them all… and I loved every minute of being home. With the exception of the times I cried just thinking of leaving them all again. It was much harder leaving that second time. Knowing exactly what I was going back to… not filled with quite as much excitement knowing some of the difficulties I’d have to deal with back in Saudi. And knowing exactly what I was leaving behind.

Well now, I’m home again. I’ve been home for a good month. And I’ve just been clinging onto my family for dear life. My niece has grown up to a vivacious little 2 year old who lights up my life with her laughter and chatter… I hug her and think of how I don’t know if I can even imagine being separated from her again. I snuggle my new niece and she’s such a tiny precious little bundle… and I think of how she’ll be a whole year old by the time I’d return again to Canada, and how I’ll miss the entire baby phase of her life and it devastating!

My sister and I were so close the year, and especially the summer before I moved to Saudi for the first time. But now… having been gone a year… she’s busy with her home and kids and life in general… and I feel things have changed. With all my family actually. And especially with my friends. Their lives all carry on and move on while I’m gone… nothing stays the same. They’ve changed. I’ve changed. Or maybe they’ve not changed that much it’s just me that’s changed so much??  Some things are exactly the same but so much is different… or my perspective on it is different.

And that makes staying harder. I just feel lost a lot of days… not sure where I fit in, or what my role is, or what I’m even going to do anymore.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who felt that way on returning home! One of my colleagues from home who moved to Saudi Arabia for a year also, and returned only a few weeks after me, was feeling very much the same way when she returned. There’s something about travel and having a completely incomparable, indescribable experience like living in Saudi Arabia that changes you in ways that other people will never understand… that makes assimilating back into life in North America, in our home communities, with the people we love more than anything… very difficult!

People ask about our experiences and want to know what life is like there, but it’s so completely foreign that they start to fade and glaze over before you’ve gotten more than a minute or two into the “general speech” you give everyone who asks. The have no way to relate to it at all. They can’t even begin to imagine why we even lived there in the first place or why I’d want to go back to it. I talk about my frustrations but they seem so simple, but yet they’re so complex. I talk about the fun and the parties, but again it’s completely foreign to them.

So now, there’s this entire year of my life that is so important to me, that’s changed me so much as a person, that no one at home understands. And that’s a difficult thing. So how do I fit back into normal life now?!!

Do I want to fit back into normal life or do I want to return to my Saudi life?

I think of my friends in Saudi and all the amazing experiences I had in that first year. Unique experiences. Incredibly positive experiences… and incredibly negative experiences… and a whole lot of crazy in between. With people who understand what it’s like. And I think of all the things I’d planned to do yet… and I feel that I’m not done. I’ll always feel like I left something unfinished there. I didn’t even say goodbye to everyone. Not like I meant it anyways. It was just a goodbye see you in month or two sort of thing!!!

But then I think of how much more I love my family and hate to leave them. And I’m so conflicted. I just really really don’t know what to do.

Travel? Adventure? Carry on crazy awesome life experience? Advance my career? Expand my incredible international community of friends and connections?


Family? Home? Mountains? Rivers? Oceans? Green lush gorgeousness? Active outdoorsy beautiful natural life? Freedom? A glass of wine every evening? Surround myself with the people I care most about in the whole world? The things in life that really matter at the end of the day?

It could be said that I’m having a lot of that in Saudi as well… and that some of those things could keep til I return to Canada… but we never know when our time is up or whether we will get a chance to return right? Nothing in life is certain or forever…

What to do now??

October 21, 2015

I made my decision. In a moment of weakness on a nightshift, my new contract offer had come in days before and had just been sitting in my inbox while I attempted to make a decision… and while I was tired and my defences were down, I made the leap and signed the papers. So on October 21st, 2015 I left home and headed back to the sandbox. Crazy fact is that I signed for 2 years instead of just one this time around. Don’t know exactly what I was thinking… but we’ll see how this scenario plays out.

My family didn’t think I’d actually make it on the plane to head back to Saudi… I didn’t think I would either. So I got the hospital to include a 24hr stop in Minneapolis so I could visit my best friend. That way I’d actually manage to get on the plane!

But… I strongly felt that Saudi was calling me to come back. At the time I didn’t know what it was yet… but something was calling me. There was a reason I needed to return to Saudi Arabia. A reason greater than travel and life experience and my international community of friends.

And as I write this bit… I now know what that reason was… and it’s amazing and I can’t wait to share it so I’m mad updating the blog! Stay tuuuuunnned!!!


6 thoughts on “ Conflicted

  1. RH says:

    Hi, this is completely random and you don’t know me, but I just wanted to say I really appreciate this blog. I first came across it when googling the Diplomatic Quarter because I recently moved to Riyadh to join the U.S. Embassy and I had no idea what to expect before I got here. Your blog helped convince me that Riyadh wouldn’t be as bad as everyone warned, and as a result I kept an open mind and have had a great time so far. I’m glad to read you enjoyed your experience so much that you returned. If you ever want to attend events at Uncle Sam’s or parties on the DQ, you’ve always got a thankful fan to sponsor you!

    • annemariekathleen says:

      Hi RH. I’m so glad my blog helped you with your decision/helped you find a little peace of mind on your decision to come to riyadh! Don’t hold me responsible if your perspective changes over time! 🙈😜 but I’m glad you’re enjoying Riyadh so far!! And Thankyou so much for your kind offer as well! I’ll definitely look you up if I’m keen for a night at Uncle Sam’s 😄

  2. nada says:

    Hi Annemarie, Happy late new year,wish this year be a year filled with happiness, achievements and to know what do you want? & the person who you really are.
    we all experience those feelings at certain stage of our life, at point when we think that we figured out what we want & planned everything but then something stopped us to ask ourself is this really what I want to be? Is this what I dreamed of?
    Hopefully that you answered those questions & cleared your mind from all of these thoughts that would stressed you out,
    You are a beautiful person from inside out, seeing you how passionate you are about your patients, & ready to learn more things about chemo,
    Glad that you made your decision & come here refreshed & ready to roll in,
    We love you & excited to work with you for the next 2 years 🙂
    Everyday write the things that you are grateful for, this will help you to breath out all the work stress,

    Ps. don’t get scared I’m nada the intern student with Ms.Sara -Health educator- found your blog while browsing the internet – what a small world, it’s really happy unexpected moment 🙂

    Good luck,

    • annemariekathleen says:

      Shukran habibti!! You’re a darling for saying all that!! Really appreciate it!!! Inshallah your internship continues to go well… We really enjoy having you around to help! You do a really great job educating our patients and I really love how helpful you are to us nurses when we’re fumbling our way through a poor attempt to educate in “Arablish”! Take care!!!

  3. Hi! To echo the comment above from RH, just want to say that your blog is great! My wife and I will be moving to Riyadh with our 2 kids next summer (she is a diplomat) and I must admit that I was a little panicked when i learned where we were going. You hear so many things, mostly bad, about KSA over here… Your blog was one of the first to pop up in Google and it was such a relief! I binged read it a few times i must admit. Your positivity and enthusiasm are contagious! I’m looking forward to reading about your next adventures and just wanted to say that your blog has made a very positive difference for us. Thanks!

    • annemariekathleen says:

      Thankyou so much for your kind comments!! I wish you and your wife and children the best of luck with your move! I really hope your experience here is a really positive one. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that many of your preconceptions, guided often by negative media, are so very inaccurate! As far as the expat life goes, Saudi Arabia is actually a pretty great place to spend time living away from home! So enjoy your experience!!!

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