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With the taste of Cabarnet on my tongue, I see the half empty bottle of red wine on the end table. The cork rests aside the bottle, next to the wine glass. Half of my clothes are already packed snuggly in my suitcase. The others lie on the bed, awaiting some folding and rolling. At this very moment, Alan Roubik’s “Spirit” is playing in the background. It is 11:37pm. I sit in my chair and look around my room, seeing the bottle as half full, and the bag as half packed. I’m in such a good mood right now.

“It is August again!” I say to myself with a rousing feeling.

glass of wine

The month of August has a very special meaning in my life. I experience three major anniversaries in this month.

For starters, it was in August 20 years ago when I first arrived in America – when I was born into a new world. It was a rebirth and a fresh start to my life. This year I will turn 20 American Years old. August 21st, 1995 is my American birthday.

During my past 20 years in America, I have gone on amazing journey. Imagine that I am driving on a highway called life. Well, I have cruised, braked, swerved, curved, called roadside service, offered a helping hand to others stranded and in need of a tow. I have found myself taking many turns and exits, which have triggered some pivotal moments for me.

August 1st this year marks my 10 year anniversary of serving the U.S. Army mission in Iraq. On the night of August 1st, 2005, I was flying 3000 feet above Baghdad in a C-130 military aircraft preparing to land. It was dark and cold inside the aircraft. As the soldiers and I sat wedged together, I felt like I was in one of those Hollywood movie actions about to start a major operation. There was so much action which I won’t even go into the details about right now, but let’s just say this was no movie. This was the real deal. And I am proud to be able to view that as another pivotal moment in my life because I never knew what to expect from that experience, but it has certainly stuck with me and made me grow stronger and wiser as a person.

Ironically, August 1st also signifies another anniversary for me: the day I leave the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after almost four years. I just ended a long chapter in my life. The past years, the embassy has been a home for me. In fact, it is a home for those who left their own homes for a noble reason and have continued to work there for years. It was there, at the embassy, where every part of me was tested. It was there when I was driven to the extreme of every psychological, spiritual, physical, and mental edge. It was full of nights where I cannot lift my face off the pillow wondering how I can go on when I feel I might not have it in me. And that I could collapse in the heap of a car bomb.

I think those four years are perhaps the most significant for me because all of these stories and feelings that have kept me so alive and invigorated have finally found their way to pages upon pages in my very own blog that I can share with you. Just writing about all of these things has permitted me more time to reflect on enriching experiences that keep my mind turning like an awesome machine and keep my thoughts abundant, yet focused. In the past four years, I wrote stories in feverish bursts believing they would together form the novel of my life. It was moments like these that will live forever in my memory: 400,000 pages in Baghdad, Camaraderie of “Red Solo Cups” in the world of contractors!, June 16, 2014 will live in my memory…U.S. Embassy Baghdad, World Cup, Michael Schumacher, Argo, From club hopping to embassy hopping…partying next to ISIS…my crazy future, and Say happy work anniversary…Three years at the US Embassy in Baghdad… Artificial automatic courtesies

I like to think that I communicate a message to myself and to my readers about these experiences. And an underlying theme in all this which is courage, resilience, and risk taking. I find these every time I put on my headset, press play, and set foot on the treadmill, running…and running…and running…away from the frozen pattern of “the everyday” and into a world of thought, reflection, and liberation. I find comfort in the drench of sweat. I find progress towards new goals through the rapid palpations of my heart – those impulses of hope. I am a running, writing machine. Maybe my pen needs its own treadmill and then we will race…me and my pen.

Anniversaries are blessings. We owe it to ourselves. And the underlying theme is we all owe it to ourselves.


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