Buy a Rubber Ducky
I was surprised once to find out that a fellow Syrian rebel friend of mine owned stuffed animals in his (yes, his) home. It didn't seem to me to be the kind of thing a single guy in his almost-forties would want to advertise, but he responded to my evil smirk with a non-defiant, gentle: "If I see something that I like, I buy it."
"You don't care about what other people would think of you?" I asked, trying to picture the oversized stuffed bear he claimed to keep in his home office. "I'm not sure your wife would be proud of that..."
He thought about it, shrugged, and replied, "Of course I don't care what others think. Why should I care about what they think more than I care about what I think?" And that was that.
I learned so much about myself from this short conversation. As much as I believed that I could stand in the face of any opposition for what I hold true, I still remain very conscious of what other people see or think when they looked at me. As a matter of fact, I realized that day that I don't really know what I like or want, because I can become so preoccupied with how I am being perceived by others.
When I first moved to Riyadh, I decided to make a very personal change. While I certainly hate impulse buys, I remember standing in Bath & Body Works in the Kingdom Tower (an upscale mall in the center of the city), staring at this pile of fluorescent, light-up rubber duckies with a dumb smile on my face. Something about those rubber duckies in a bin made me a teenie bit happy inside. I remembered my childhood and how I used to watch Ernie & Bert with their rubber ducky in the bathtub. I remembered feeling deprived because I did not have one.
Although I felt undeniably silly, without a second thought I put the green (my favorite color) rubber ducky on the counter with my other purchases and paid.
I decided to use my friend's words to give me strength.
As I arrived home and placed my green, whimsical rubber ducky in his new home in my bathroom, I thought to myself: Why can't we do things that we enjoy just because we like to; why can't we buy things that we like just because we want to? For some reason, some of us grew up feeling like indulging for the sole purpose of our own enjoyment is selfish.
While I certainly believe in giving to others, I also believe that there is nothing wrong with giving gifts to ourselves every once in a while.
I kept the rubber ducky until the lights stopped working and his existence in the bathroom annoyed me. But I am still learning the lesson of the rubber ducky--to let go of what others think, and try to be authentic to oneself. I think the best thing we can do for ourselves, at times, is to forget about what anyone thinks and buy ourselves a rubber ducky.