• Abdulrahman Alkhamees

How I Learned Not To Take Anything For Granted And How That’s Shaping My Future.


Photo by Abe Alkhamees

We are all walking down the same road, the road to happiness, but have you ever stopped

for a second and thought that happiness is a mindset and not a destination?

Happiness is our common denominator, and it's our north star that guides us through life. But, unfortunately, some of us never stop chasing that star, not realizing that they are back where they started, still wandering & wondering "when will I get there, if ever?" circling the globe in hopes of finding the missing key. The last piece to complete that journey that they've been on for decades, and perhaps their whole lifetime.

Living abroad for close to a decade taught me a lot about myself. I learned how to adapt to any and all situations, refined my communication & intercultural skills, and sharpened my critical thinking & problem-solving skills. However, none of those compare to the biggest lesson I learned.

Not taking anything for granted.

"How did you get there?" you might ask.

Well, long story short, I had a dream as a 10-year-old to find a way to move to the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon, to be exact.

Growing up in Kuwait, a barren desert, I turned to reading Nat Geo magazines and watching tons of documentaries about wildlife, nature, and the planet. Every Friday morning, my dad and I would sit down and watch a documentary over breakfast.

One of those mornings, the documentary about the "Eruption of St. Helens" was airing.

I was blown away (pun intended) by what I saw, volcanos, lush green forests, rain, waterfalls, to name a few. Where do I even start?! It was safe to say that the grass was actually greener on the other side...

Ten years past that point, I got the news that I was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the United States. To say that I was over the moon is an understatement. Portland, here I come!

Once I made it there, I realized that it wasn't as I imagined; it was much better.

"Now that I'm here, I have to live it up, All. The. Time"

That was the mindset I brought with me to Portland. I treated my time there as finite, and it was. However, I faced a major problem within the first few months. I started to freak out about running out of time. The clock was ticking, and the hours were flying by.

That affected me and my relationship with others.

So, naturally, as any other human being would do, I started playing the numbers game. Do as much as I can of the following:

  • Hike.

  • Visit all the "must-see" destinations across the PNW

  • Buy all the things that I thought I needed.

  • Eat my way through the region.

  • Always be doing something.

Without any doubt, that wore me out quickly. I wasn't happy; it felt gluttonous.

I started to resent myself and others for not "doing enough." I wouldn't say I liked the fact that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. But, the clock was ticking, and it wasn't going to slow down anytime soon.

That sent me into a world of anxiety, helplessness, and despair.

Something felt terribly wrong. I had a gut feeling that this is not how I would want to remember my time in the PNW.

I decided to take a break from it all.

Winter is THE time to catch the sunrise in Portland, and no better spot for that other than Pittock Mansion.

I was up at the viewpoint just before the sunrise. It was windless with freezing temperatures, and the sun was slowly rising behind Mt. Hood, sky ablaze in shades of red and orange.


Photograph by Abe Alkhamees

I thought I knew how to breathe. I was wrong.

It truly felt like I learned how to breathe for the first time that morning. I realized that breathing wasn't just a basic physical action. It is laced with so many other things beyond what I could've imagined.

“I need to slow down.”

Recognizing that the destination I thought I needed to get to was nothing more than a mirage woke me up. I was never going to get there anyway; the world slowed down that morning, I somehow felt liberated and in control.

Taking a step back and looking at what I already had, helped me realize that my life was not about me or for me, and it wasn't supposed to be that way to begin with!

I recognized that I had an amazing group of friends that made my life vibrant, saturated, and fulfilling. I thought I appreciated my relationships; however, I was blinded by the fallacy of reaching that "happy place," not realizing that I was already here.

By appreciating what I already had, I worried less about what I didn’t.

I started living after that epiphany.

So, naturally, as any other human being would do after such a life-changing realization, I played the numbers game again. Do as much as I can of the following:

  • Appreciate the people in my life.

  • Breathe.

  • Worry less about what you don't have.

  • Slowdown.

Lastly and most importantly, tell the people that make your life vibrant and fulfilling that you appreciate them.

Because there won't always be a "next time."