Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Old Age New Beginnings

I recently turned 30 which has symbolic value probably based upon its roundness. Like most birthdays it's a time to reflect upon the past and make plans for the future. Most people ask if I feel older and I can't say the turning has made me feel older but over the past year I do feel a certain new maturity and I can say at one point in the last year I did truly feel elderly.
I was getting ready for work and I tried to pick something up, nothing terribly heavy but it may as well have been a small elephant for when I bent over and tried to lift (not with the legs but with the back which of course means trouble). I felt something pop in my lower back and crumpled to the floor like that awful woman from the "I've fallen and can't get up commercials" I struggled my way to bed and was incapacitated for the next 2 days. Hobbling around and relying on the kindness of friends to come and shop and cook for me. I had never felt so old than over the course of those two weeks crouching over and shuffling my feet trying to get to work.
More generally I feel a shift in terms of my adulthood, I think people go through life stages childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, and so on. I feel like I have passed from young adulthood those first years of true independence and the ability to fulfill our selfish desires and moved into a period where responsibility and empathy for others takes on a greater role.
As a birthday gift to myself and as a happy coincidence my visa in Saudi Arabia recently expired so I treated myself to a visa run to Istanbul for a few days while I wait for my employment situation to be resolved. I had been to Turkey two years ago and enjoyed my time immensely so I was more than happy to return. After a few months in Riyadh, Istanbul is a veritable oasis. I am struck by the immense differences of these two leading Muslim countries. Turkey is officially a secular country filled with Muslims  religion is a private matter for each individual to concern themselves with.  The city is littered with some of the most spectacular mosques in the world that have housed believers for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years and the call to prayer is called 5 times per day  but life does not stop for the religion those individuals who wish to pray can pray and the rest of us can continue to eat and shop and enjoy the sights of the city. This seems to strike the right balance to me as opposed to the Kingdom's strict enforcement of all things religious. I will be back in Saudi in a few days albeit in a new city which will hopefully lead to better results.

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