I was born in Saudi Arabia to a very large and conservative Muslim family consisting mostly of males. I was born second before last. Most of my brothers were aggressively controlling. When I think back, my coming to Canada was nothing short of a miracle. Because despite the collective opposition from the family members, I was able to come to Canada in 2007 and, thankfully, I am still here safe and happy. I have been studying science most of my life. I have a bachelor, a master and a PhD degrees and finished 3 years of post-doctoral training too. Education was my precious ticket to freedom which I am grateful I was able to obtain.
When I came to Canada, I didn’t feel that much of a cultural shock. More or less, I had an idea about life in the west from the American movies that I watched back in Saudi and at that time I was living inside one of these movies, except I was an observer not a participant. I was happy to be away from that family and that environment. I was still an adherent Muslim woman, wearing Hijab (head cover and wide clothes) and I was praying and fasting. I buried myself in my education and spent my time studying. I was happy with the little freedom I gained. To go to the grocery shop or the pharmacy anytime I want on my own without asking for permission and being escorted by a man!
In 2013, after a long debate with myself to try and get over my feelings of guilt, shame and fear. I decided to abandon anything that confines me into a specific social or religious brackets. That was when I became a participant in the movie of life and started my journey of discovery. That was when I understood what cultural shock means and how much effort it takes to adapt into life totally different than the one I had. I was always considered liberal thinker compared to the rest of the family, yet I was not aware that the effect of my conservative upbringing, even though I was fighting against it, runs deep down into my psychology.
It has been 5 years since I made that decision. Yet it feels like decades of life experiences and psychological growth. As if I was only 5 years old when I started living and now I am a grown up woman.
The leaping Koala is the best metaphor that represents my life reality. Koalas are known to sleep most of their lives. When they wake up they feed on plants that are low in nutrients, and are toxic to many other life forms if ingested in high quantities, which give them little to no energy to live beyond their basic needs (feeding and mating). My life back in Saudi was like that! The teachings of extremest “Muslims” that was fed to us “Saudi people” throughout our lives are so toxic to human psychology that it made us give up on living, especially women. We are constantly controlled by fear, shame and guilt to the point that we have no more energy to think, question or doubt. Very few people, if any, are aware that they are asleep and trapped inside a social and religious nightmare. Even when I first came to Canada, I was still in a trance state, not yet fully awake. But When I woke up, I knew I wanted to change that type of life and I wanted to change it quickly.
That was when I took my first leap and I will continue leaping forward….
The leaping koala 😀