Here we are seven weeks into our time in Doha. It’s been a relatively smooth transition for all of us, and if our shipment ever arrives I think we can declare ourselves off to a good start here.

And yet despite a good start, there are those little bumps in the road. The meltdown over Word documents, the frustration at buying laban (buttermilk) at the store instead of regular milk for cereal, and the constant negotiations about how to best allocate our two bags of candy of corn a friend smuggled in for us. Then there are the occasional bigger blips. The ones that shake you a bit and make you wonder why you ever thought moving was a good idea to begin with.

I had one of those core shaking moments this week. I messed up a bit work. Nothing major and nothing that affected my students, but I didn’t complete a task the way I was supposed to do it. I simply misunderstood the expectation. My principal gently, but frankly, corrected me and in that moment I had trouble holding it together. Professionally I understood, but personally the only message I could hear was, “You suck. You suck. You suck.”


I wanted to tell her that I usually enjoy meetings with my administrators. That I am routinely successful with my undertakings. I complete tasks on time and usually go above and beyond the expectation given. That I’ve led grade level teams and I am incredibly reliable. But in this situation, my boss had no idea that was my track record. Instead, I was the newbie that screwed up on my first real assignment.

For someone who’s always defined herself by who others say she is, this is a scary place to be. I’m not sure if that is truly the scary part, or it is more alarming that I am so reliant on others’ definitions of who I am.

Regardless, when you’re the new person you can’t float on who you’ve always been and what you’ve always done. No one knows that person. Instead you must be determined day in and day out to show others who you are with every action and each choice.

It’s can feel exhausting.


That’s the struggle your first year. Caught in a world of trying to prove yourself professionally and going home and hoping have others like you socially, the lack of a shared history is unsettling.

In short, courting your new colleagues, both professionally and socially, stinks.

But it’s what we do. Part of the game. I’d like to wear a shirt that declares my best qualities so that people would recognize me for what I’ve done and who I’ve been in the past (and conveniently forget my flaws), but instead I work as hard as I did my first year teaching, control my use of possibly offensive words in public situations, and  I say yes to every social invitation I can.

And then I make Paul promise we’re going to be living here for a long, long time because I can’t imagine finding the energy to do this all again any time soon.

*Pictures from one of my adult dates this weekend. It was a beautiful “wun” (more walk than run) along the Corniche that was blazing hot and caused me to question my sanity. And it was only 6:30 am.   IMG_0564


3 thoughts on “Misunderstood

  1. Even if I wasn’t your Dad, I’d be blown away by your insightful, generous sharing of some heartfelt feelings. I’ve been around the block and know many accomplished professionals. You are most conscientious and the consummate professional. They’ll learn that about you.

    It touches my heart each time to experience your writing. I love you infinity, AJ.


  2. Abby,
    This post hit me in the core. It is as though you crawled into my head and heart and exposed this inner struggle I am navigating at this very moment. It is 12:40 am and I have to get up in 6 hours to start the daily routine of getting my daughter off to school but instead of sleeping I am agonizing over work and personal ‘failures’ and thinking if only my colleagues, my neighbors, the people I so desperately want to be respected by and connected to, knew me. Thank you for this beautiful post. You gave me validation at a time when I really need it.
    Jen L.


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