Life, Middle East, USA

Time for a change

Do you ever get an idea into your head, and once it’s planted, can only act as though it’s happening, even if you haven’t got a solid plan?

About six weeks ago, for the first time, it occurred to me that it might be time for a change from living in Jordan and from the kind of work I’m doing here. At the time, I was wrapping up a consultancy where I was archiving and editing a large amount of video footage from Syria. A lot of it was either gruesome or heartbreaking to look at day after day, but I think the part that wore me down was the repetition of it – the same stories happening year after year in this stupid war. Suddenly I couldn’t even face my own fieldwork here – often filming or photographing refugees in their interminable stay in Jordan – and I couldn’t face another year in Amman.

In early March, I asked Layth what he thought about me applying for jobs in the US – to see what kind of opportunities are out there and whether my skills and background were even marketable. He thought it was a good idea, and if I got something, it would take some of the pressure off our eventual move to the US, knowing he might be waiting for a work permit or be searching for jobs for a while. So I started applying for jobs, not focused on any geographical area, but only applying for jobs I’d be genuinely excited about and willing to move halfway across the world for. To my surprise, there have been a lot of interesting video opportunities out there, and I’ve even had a few good phone interviews so far. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, since it seems too good to be true that I could find such a great job this quickly.

So now I’m in a weird place where, if I get a job, I could be moving to the US in three weeks’ time. Or I could be looking for six more months. At least I am in the luxurious position of not being in any real hurry to leave – there’s no lease or job contract ending to worry about, and since I’m 100% freelance again, I can choose how much I really want to work, and what kind of projects I want to take on. Anything I can save for a move is obviously helpful, but honestly, about three days of video work per month is enough to cover my expenses here.

If nothing else, I’m pretty organized when it comes to packing. Compression sacks are your friend.

The way I see it, I have a few options: 1) I could stay in Jordan and keep freelancing until I get a job/am ready to move; 2) I could move back to the US if I can’t take Jordan anymore, stay with my mom and be based in Las Vegas while I look for work; 3) I could apply for a student visa to Germany and go live there while I finish my master’s degree – but this would put limitations on what I can do for work.

Moving to the US will basically mean me getting on a plane with three big suitcases, a carry-on suitcase with camera gear, and a backpack with my laptop. Luckily I did a lot of purging last year in the name of minimalism, and I don’t think packing up would be too hard, although I will have to leave behind a few big Tupperware containers of stuff I can’t take with me now – things like nice cooking pans and silverware that were wedding gifts to us. So far, I’ve basically packed up my big purple suitcase with clothes I’m not wearing now – sweaters, a coat, dresses (that I can’t wear in Jordan anyways) and office clothes. The rest of my clothes will probably take up another 1/2 of a suitcase, plus I want to take a few carpets with me, pillow covers, pictures to hang on the wall (including a poster I bought in Sri Lanka last week), my orange Le Creuset tea kettle, and SHOES (ack).

Yes, the contents of my suitcase will pretty much look like stock for a fair trade shop.

The big difference in moving to the US is I don’t need to carry with me all the stuff I’d have trouble finding in Jordan – like makeup or Sonicare toothbrush heads and face wash and bedsheets and things that end up taking up a lot of weight and space. Maybe I can do this move in two suitcases, who knows?

Honestly, it feels good knowing that I have a goal to work towards, and that the last three years have not set me back. Four years ago, when I was planning my move to Jordan, I had a clear picture in my head of the kind of work I wanted to do here. For a while, it was hard to imagine what could come next. I didn’t know if my work here would even look relevant or interesting to employers in the US, but I think far from being a setback, the projects I’ve done in the last few years and the skills I’ve developed have prepared me for jobs I wouldn’t have even applied for in the past.

I don’t know where I’ll land just yet, but I do know that change is coming, and it feels like a good thing.

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