I am struggling to gauge when this story begins. Does it begin when my parents left Egypt in 2001 and moved to Qatar? Does it instead begin when I left my parents and moved to Canada in 2011? Does it perhaps begin when I got my Canadian passport in 2022? Or does it begin when I lost my job?
Furthermore, I am struggling to define whether this means an ending to my Canadian story or a beginning of a new chapter.
I lived in Egypt until I was 9 years old. After that, my family moved to Qatar for my dad’s work. Since then, I have essentially been a migrant, moving from place to place. I do not really know much about Egypt other than the summers I spent there as a teenager or my odd 3-week trips after I graduated from college. I do not know too many people my age there nor do I know much about the different scenes in Cairo.
I have always been a very ambitious and goal-oriented person. I always made rational and logical decisions, choosing a college major that involved the least risk and greatest reward. I was a business major. I did my research on the different industries and deduced that data analytics was going to be the future. I specialized and after graduation, I hustled hard to get my dream job. I hated it to be honest. I worked for the government in healthcare analytics and was disappointed by the pace and lack of innovation.
I made another rational and logical decision: I moved to the private sector and worked in the tech industry in people analytics. I stayed for 5 years and was disappointed by my lack of progress and the need to climb the corporate ladder. I also felt very empty inside.
A recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn asking me to lead a department at a small company. I felt like my prayers were answered and that was going to be the solution to all my problems.
Yet the emptiness only grew. I fell into depression. As a person who struggles with bipolar disorder, I did not cope with this depression well. I had everything I wanted, but much like a wish from a Genie, it was tainted. It made me feel helpless. How can I get everything I want and still feel so empty?
Depression started to affect different aspects of my life. Up to that point, I was a very high-functioning mentally ill person. But now, I could not really do the bare minimum to make myself successful. I also had no energy to navigate the complex political climate of a corporate office or a leadership role.
I was let go. I had defined so much of my identity as a successful career woman who juggled her creative pursuits, cherished relationships, and was an outstanding member of her community. Now I had no job, barely any savings (I spent most of it during a bipolar episode), strained relationships, and few community ties (due to me isolating and practically ghosting all the organizations I was involved with as a volunteer).
Who was I now? Well, I am an Egyptian. During the peak of my depression in April 2022, I booked a 1-month trip to Egypt. This trip was unlike any other trip I had taken. This time, my relationship with my family was the best it ever was. I also had no expectations from Egypt. My homeland gave me that dose of life I very much needed. That emptiness was very quickly getting filled with feelings of belonging, of home.
My life in Canada is limited and isolating. I do not get to experience the joy of seeing little children bursting with innocence or the wisdom that is so readily available from elders in my community.
After that trip, I knew I had to come back, but I just did not know how. I have a rented apartment and so much stuff here in Canada. What about my friends? Or better yet, my chosen family here. What about INCOME? All these “what abouts” brought me so much anxiety. This anxiety was only intensified by the loss of a job. What will I do?
Funnily enough, the day after I was let go, I received an email from the government with my citizenship letter. Wow! 11 years later and it is here: I am a Canadian citizen. That knowledge helped to alleviate many of these “what abouts”. Certainly, the security of having a Canadian passport meant that I could comfortably go to Egypt and back at my leisure.
Yet Some of my worries remained: What about my friends; we are so close I practically tell people we are all cousins. We are each other’s support systems. What if they move on after I leave? What if they need me and I am not available? I am leaving for 6 months. A lot can happen. What about the looming recession? What if I cannot find work when I come back?
I must live with these anxieties and trust that my intuition is a stronger guide. I know going back to my country is the right thing to do for me at this moment. I need to be a support system for my family now and be in their midst. I am also ready for this new adventure.
Do you know that feeling where you just know things are not working out as they are? I get those feelings every now and then. At this moment I know that I needed to make a drastic change in order to gain some drastic insights about my future direction. Going to Egypt and staying there despite the imminent culture shock is exactly the type of shock I need to my system. Sometimes I feel like I need to dive into the deep end in order to learn something new. This is exactly what I am doing right now.
I am hoping to learn more about my purpose. What better way to reorient and recalibrate than to do it around the people that knew me through every phase and point of my life. These people happen to be my family.
So does my Canadian story end here, or is this simply a new chapter? For now, I’d say, stay tuned.
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Nada is an Egyptian settler on the Unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam Nations. She is a community builder who is passionate about creating space for marginalized groups to connect, share their lived experience, and communicate their unique needs to the broader community.