# 347: Making It Somewhere

Abu-Jaber, Diana (1993). Arabian Jazz: A Novel, 330.

Story behind the Passage

You find me still preoccupied with thoughts about migration. It is not only because of Afghanistan and all the other crises that we are witnessing around the world which cause people to leave their homes and home countries. It is also because the topic of “making it” is a constant in many conversations with my clients. Of course, in business, people want to make it to the next management level or scale their company. Others just dream of getting a decent and stable job. There are so many ways of “making it” the way you define it. But we all seem to have this in our DNA — the wish to move forward, to somehow improve our lives with whatever it takes in order to feel happier.

Now, this connection between happiness and somehow making it can already be debated if you bring in some deeper spiritual dimension. But I am not going to do this today. I have done it before. And today, I actually want to question the spiritual teachings about “making it” as a somewhat irrelevant part of human life. This is also why I was reminded of the Arab American narratives in my book shelf. There is no doubt that besides the cultural affinity, what made me write my dissertation about these stories was the fact that Arabs had come to the New World and become extremely successful in the U.S. — financially and on the level of education.

The motivation behind thinking about this is also that I am catching myself pondering how especially the current generation could lose this seemingly human drive of moving forward. So many do not seem to have this urge anymore, to improve their lives significantly by working hard and climbing the ladder of success also in socio-economic terms, not just in “feel-good-related.” And I am afraid I have to admit that for some time, I also neglected it in many ways. The turning point came when I realized that “making it” is rewarding in and of itself. It is o.k. to have this goal and it endows life with a purpose. This also finally links the aspect of making it to location again because there is a reason why so many move to other places: They follow the dream that life somewhere else can be somewhat better.

For some people, this is directly related to escaping war and poverty. But for most people, it is simply related to some specific job. One might say: Hey, you can get a job anywhere, why move to the other end of the world? But that is not exactly true, as we know. Some jobs are not found everywhere and even if they are: they do not pay the same money and they do not afford the same lifestyle. And I am just slowly realizing how much personal growth in financial and intellectual terms is also connected to place. It does make a difference WHERE you make it. Moving somewhere to chase your dream will change you; no matter if you achieve exactly the goal you set for yourself. Over all, our world, our economy, would not be the same without people who long for moving forward and who pack their bags and give up something in order to gain something else somewhere else.

My Learnings

“I only know that I want to change my life.” In the narratives I chose for my work on Arab Americans, passages like these were nothing special. All these books are about the identity struggles Jordanians, Iraqis, Egyptians and many others have been through after and even before coming to the U.S. In most cases, the U.S. appear as a dreamlike idealized country until the hard reality of economic struggle and identity conflict kicks in. Still, if you take out the specificities of the U.S. and just focus on the longing described here, the longing to change one’s life, there is a powerful force moving people to travel a long distance. And sometimes, as this sentence also shows, he motivation is rather vague. It is not really a “going to” it is more like a “going away from” one’s old life.

All these narratives also show that, at least the ones I have read, those who decide to leave and start something actually get this “new” life. It might not always be pretty or successful but at least different or “new.” And if new is what you aspire, migration definitely makes sense. This naturally goes along with a tendency to live somewhat in the future mentally. You have to envision what is ahead in order to finally jump, get on the plane, leave behind your “old life.” So, this idea of living in the present moment without any wishes and without any instrumental intentions of changing the status quo will not take you anywhere unless you combine it with this more or less overarching future-orientation that seems to be inherently human in nature.

This relationship between change and place therefore also reveals why, counter to what the protagonist in the book is asking, “it does matter” whether you stay in Jordan or go to the U.S. It is one of the biggest moves one can make in a lifetime and I think, after thinking about this so much when still a child, I have come to underestimate and underappreciate the opportunities it offers. Yes, there are always identity struggles connected to it. And yes, you will be feeling homeless sometimes. But if my thesis is right and the forward-looking attitude, if rightly balanced, is something healthy in the life of people; it is one of the most promising gifts one can make to oneself.

How could I forget this after having experienced it so often already?

Reflection Questions

1) How important have certain locations been for “making it” on you career path?

2) Did you ever have a moment in your life when you knew you wanted change but you had no specific idea of how to change it?

3) Are there people from a particular foreign culture in your country who are particularly well-respected because of their achievements?



Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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