On Gratitude

Last night, I dropped two of my friends off at Hamad International Airport. They had flown all the way from wintery Minnesota to attend a conference in Doha and spend some time with me. It was a short but satisfying visit. My apartment is large enough to easily accommodate them. Plus, there are quite a bit of things going on in Doha during December, so it was no effort to fill their time with a variety of activities—things that I enjoy doing with visitors (like visiting Souq Waqif) and things that I have never done before (like visiting the FIFA Sports Zone).  

This morning I spent the day cleaning my apartment and preparing for the trip to Vietnam. I will spend most of my winter break exploring the country of my mother. First, I will fly into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and meet a cousin that I have never met before. Next, I will fly to Da Nang and spend several days exploring the central region of Vietnam. Finally, I will fly into Hanoi in the north where I will spend the last several days of my trip before flying back to Doha. I will end 2019 and begin 2020 in Vietnam.

Around noon, in between loads of laundry, I received an email from Qatar University HR. They were notifying me that my contract had been renewed for another three years. Mashallah! This was good news. Now I would be able to stay and work in Qatar until the World Cup 2022 before moving on to my other professional goals, such as applying for the English Language Fellowship and teaching in two more countries. (Incidentally, if I finish my second contract, my employment at QU will be the longest amount of time I will have worked for one employer.)

Last weekend, during the conference, I attended a session on resilience in the ESL/EFL profession. The presenters were researching the resilience that secondary and tertiary English language instructors developed in the Qatar-educational context. One of the features that contributed to the resilience of some instructors was gratitude—which was strange to hear at first, but the more I thought about it, actually quite astute. Not many people in the ESL/EFL profession are compensated as generously as those of us teaching here in Qatar are. QU is a very good gig. My two friends are employed part time by their university and must work one to two part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. I have it very good in comparison.

Last month, I turned 43. I paid off my student loan debt. I wrote the first draft of a novel. I competed in 5k obstacle race. After my goals for the semester were completed, I felt a bit empty. What was I working towards? What did I have to look forward to now? But instead of rushing into a new set of goals, I decided I would wait for a little bit and reflect on my compulsion to be accomplishing things.

What I needed and need to do is to be grateful for what I have and have accomplished. I am very fortunate for the many blessings in my life and need to recognize that before rushing into a new set of short-term goals. While I like new challenges, eventually I complete each challenge. Then what? Challenge begets challenge, and the wheel of existence continues to spin.

So, before my friends land in the US, before I depart for Vietnam, before my next contract at QU starts, I just want to say that I am grateful that I got to spend time with my friends, that I finally get to visit my mother’s birthplace, and that I have job security for the next three years. 

Just saying that helps me feel more at peace with things. 

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.

Willie Nelson
Photo by Katherine McCormack on Unsplash

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