I’ve grown a lot in the past couple years.
I talk about that a lot.
I preach about it, really.
Just last night, new friends of mine were commenting on my maturity for a twenty-two year old and I just said in reply, “Well, I grew up a lot in college.”
And I did. I did grow up a lot in college. I found my confidence and my independence and my strength and college and I am so thankful for that.
But today? Today I am feeling vulnerable.
Today, I am sitting my new apartment in my new town in Thailand. It’s the weekend after my first week of teaching English and I have no plans but to explore my city and get to know the area a little better. I have plans with friends next weekend, but this weekend I needed for myself.
I have done so much in the last few weeks–leaving Chiang Mai where my TESOL course was and moving to Nong Khai, traveling to Vientiane, Laos and then to Bangkok, accepting a new position at a different school, and moving from Bangkok to my new town in Nakhon Pathom Province just north of Bangkok. I started teaching the day after I got here and have been going, going, going since then…and I’ve had no time to process anything–new school, new town, new everything. I had no time to experience culture shock in Nong Khai because I was so absorbed in being certain that I didn’t want to be there. Now, I’m here and I’m processing and the culture shock is real and I’m exhausted. And scared.
I look in the mirror at my desk as I write this and I see a face filled with apprehension and uncertainty. This city that I have moved to–it’s going to be my home for 5+ months. And I’m realizing now how much that scares me. How discomforting setting down roots anywhere is for me. Not only that, but I look in the mirror and wonder what I did to deserve this town that I feel so comfortable in, this school and these students that fill me with such joy. I wonder if maybe I should have stayed in Nong Khai, if maybe I should have accepted my unhappiness there as a temporary space for more learning and growth within me.
I’m feeling vulnerable right now, remember?
Questions like this are what makes vulnerability so scary. But also, I think, so useful.
So much has happened in the last month. I’ve been so consistently over stimulated. So it’s about time that I draw inward and take some time for me. It’s about time that, in that process, my confidence wavers, if only for a moment.
At my core, I am am an introvert who is afraid of being alone. When I am at my best, I find my confidence and strength and feel so at peace alone. But, at moments when my confidence wavers–moments like this–that core battle that I’ve struggled with for most of my life–my need to be alone and fear of being along–it all comes back to me.
Right now, I am so afraid. But I’m also more alert and aware of myself than a Britta of a few years ago ever was. I know that no one else can get through this but me. This bout of vulnerability. This culture shock and this over stimulation and this desperate need to process everything that has happened in the last month.
Today, I am scared. Today, I am terrified. But if I don’t allow myself to embrace that fear and move forward, who will?
I wrote this on this past Saturday, November 7, during a period of intense anxiety and uncertainty. I’m sharing this with you now to exemplify that nothing about being an expat or a traveler in general is easy. I was talking with a friend the other day about how travel blogs generally only focus on the good and beautiful and exciting parts of traveling…but there is so much more than that. As exciting as traveling is, as exhilarating as being an expat is, it’s also unbelievably scary. I may be living an adventurous life these days, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake.