A Roller Coaster Called Life

By Mona Raithatha

They say “Life is a roller coaster”, and you gotta ride it. After graduation I received several job offers that I thought fit the description of my ideal dream job. I decided to work for Schlumberger as a field engineer, but soon after starting I realized that the company’s culture was not a good fit for me. I stayed in the hopes of finding balance, but after a year I had had enough. For the first time, I found myself struggling to motivate myself, and it was affecting my career goals, my personal relationships and even my health. Finally, without a backup plan, I decided to move on. It was a tough decision, but one I have never regretted.

I returned to Kuwait (a place I never thought I’d see again) to stay with my parents for a bit. I am extremely grateful for my wonderful parents who supported me through the thick and thin and who are a constant source of support and love.

One day during my sabbatical, I came across a blog which read something like, “while you are not working, do at least one thing you always wanted to do.” It suddenly struck me that there were so many skills I wanted to develop and many items still left on my “to-do list.” I decided to go to Rwanda.

I always wanted to do volunteer work abroad and found the Global Volunteer Network that helps orphans of the horrific genocide of 1994. It took quite of bit of negotiations to get my parents on board, but they came around and I found myself in Rwanda feeling blessed and deeply grateful for this amazing life! I spent a month at an orphanage, where I learned about the orphan’s culture, history, and daily lives. I taught math and english to the high school students, and just played with the kids. I organized and facilitated workshops for crafting resumes and set up mock interview trainings for over 20 orphans. I later learned that one orphan successfully secured a job.

I also made friends with some awesome volunteers (from Uruguay, New Zealand, South Africa, United States), who also quit their jobs to travel or to live their lives in their own unique ways. With them, I tried out various cuisines (Ethiopian, African, etc.), went on short weekend trips to nearby cities, and shared what was one of the most enriching and fulfilling journeys in my life so far. The utmost love, respect and affection shown by Rwandans is something I will cherish forever.

Mona with her students and fellow volunteers

After returning from Rwanda, I started searching for jobs again. Often times, when I didn’t hear back from recruiters, I felt miserable. I found myself doubting my decision to leave my job and constantly losing my self-esteem. To deal with this, I kept myself busy with various hobbies such as training to get my Advanced Scuba Diver Certification (on my to-do list forever). I challenged myself to learn Spanish. I also undertook a spiritual trip to India with my extended family, something I had never imaged doing. The feeling of finally being able to cross things off my “to-do list” is something so wonderful that it is difficult to express clearly in words. To top it off, on a random day I got an unexpected call from a recruiter for an interview, got hired and it’s been great so far!

In retrospect, taking time off of work to live my life helped me to feel empowered. At the end of all the twists and turns, I started appreciating the people in my life so much more and have evolved into a much stronger and more confident person. I have visited five continents and my goal is to visit all seven before I turn 30. I feel extremely proud and happy to have used my skills while volunteering in Rwanda. I can now understand and speak some Spanish, hold an Advanced Scuba Diving certificate, cook something other than ramen, and have learned the art of sewing from my mom, the expert. I discovered that I have learned much more from my failures than my successes.

This entire experience taught me how to deal with failure and how to come out of it. It taught me how to live life to the fullest.