Today is a day of clarity.
Let me tell you why.
These last few weeks have been…strange. Strange in a way that I haven’t really been able to put into words. I was very aware of feeling off, but I didn’t really know how to describe it to anyone–let alone, myself–so I didn’t. I wasn’t ignoring the feeling, per se. I was more confused than anything. Being in a new town, in a new job, in a completely different country–it is all so much, and processing everything has been really hard. Unable to describe my own feelings but yearning to write, I turned to fiction to soothe my nerves…yet, I was still on edge…because although nothing was seriously wrong, I still didn’t know how to describe all these feelings going on inside of me.
But…I think I can now. After a much needed weekend to myself (seriously, I’ve done next to nothing, and it’s been amazing), I feel like I have the space to distance myself from these emotions and really consider them.
Let me explain:
Being in Chiang Mai during my October TESOL course was easily one of the highest emotional periods of my life. The amount of joy and happiness I experienced during October 2015–for such a consecutive period of time–was simply unheard of for me before that. It’s not that I was unhappy before my TESOL course. It’s not that life was terrible before TESOL. In fact, it was the exact opposite. My last year of college was an amazing period of personal growth. My last semester of college, specifically, was easily my best semester of college. A period of my life that I will always cherish. This past summer, working as an espresso bar barista at a gas station, of all places, was also an incredible experience for me. I pushed myself in new ways by working in the food service industry, and I can safely say that some of my coworkers fundamentally shaped me into the person I am today (and that is looking back to three months ago). I loved my job as a barista and will always cherish the, albeit temporary, home I found there. So, no life wasn’t bad before TESOL…far from it, in fact. However, everything in TESOL was so extreme–being pushed into a new environment, a new country, with fifty new best friends (basically), doing all these amazing things like visiting famous temples and riding on the back of songthawes and kicking ass at Muoy Thai and just generally trying new things in every sense of the word–it was invigorating. There was so much goodness and I can safely say that I have never been happier. Truly.
Chiang Mai was also one of the most extroverted, if not the most extroverted period, of my life. In the last year, I’ve been going through really intense periods of introversion and extroversion. I think it’s all the transitions and last and firsts that I’ve been experiencing in the last year–last year of college, first year as a college graduate, last time living in the U.S.A. for who knows how long, first time living in a foreign country long term–you get the picture. Anywho, with all this change I’ve been experiencing within the last year, the different traits of my personality have been pushed to the extreme. I’m a natural introvert who loves being with people (to an extent). I thrive in 1:1 situations; though I enjoy large group gatherings to an extent, I’m usually much quieter in such settings. That said, I still enjoy those large group settings to an extent–just being with people and listening. I don’t always have to be talking. Still, at the end of the day, I need time to recharge by myself, I crave that time. But the last six months have been a bit different–my personality within the last six months has looked something like this: In my last semester of college, I was very aware that it was the end of it all. I craved social interactions and spent all my down time with friends, going out and really trying to live it up; during summer 2015, I was exhausted from constantly being on and I was also aware that I was making a big jump in moving across the world soon…so, I became a bit of a hermit. Went to work, came home, went to work, came home. Not much in between; October 2015 meant Thailand. TESOL. New people. New place. New country. I was almost always on and had to actively remind myself to take time for myself. And…now? Now, ALL I WANT TO DO IS HERMIT, BUT THERE’S NO TIME, SO MUCH TO DO! Or so I think…
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It’s been rough, recovering from Chiang Mai. From the constant high of being in a place where I feel so comfortable, with so many people who constantly fill me with joy and life. Also, I’ve been left exhausted. My inner hermit has come out and all I want to do is be myself. While I’ve had some incredible experiences since moving to Nakhon Chai Si, all of those experiences have been clouded by this feeling that, while I love it here, I don’t feel myself at all. Of late, I’ve felt really lethargic. Life has just felt off. I find myself wondering, should I have stayed in Nong Khai?, I like it here, but do I really belong here? I’m not necessarily sad or angry…just off. Just not me.
Today has been such such a good day. And not just because I found a spinach salad at the market in town (finding fresh vegetables here is easier said than done).
Here’s something important about me: I’m really bad at taking time for myself, which is really, quite funny, since I’m an introvert and I need that time. I always feel like I need to be doing something. Not doing makes me anxious. Yet, I get so easily exhausted and need my introvert time so badly, that the act of getting up and forcing myself to do something when I really should be taking time for me makes me even more anxious. So, it’s this constant battle between doing and not doing that adds so much extra stress to my life.
After weeks and weeks of constantly being on, of constantly feeling like I need to be on because I’m in a foreign country, dammit, and should be taking the time to explore at every chance I get, I finally allowed myself to do nothing yesterday. And if I’m being honest here, the only reason I allowed myself this is because I had a cold and felt like crap. I got up at 2:00 p.m. I lazed around my apartment, I did some blogging and some reading, some social media checking. I left my apartment for the first time at 7 pm–and that’s only because I had to get food. Otherwise, I could have easily stayed in all day.
It’s not just that I was doing nothing–I was allowing myself to do nothing. I wasn’t sitting there wondering what I could be doing, which is usually what happens when I take time for myself. No, I actually shut the world out and allowed myself to just be. I’m serious–I had a conversation with myself yesterday that went like this: “Britta. You are feeling anxious today. You should probably get up and do something.” “Buttt, I don’t want to. I’m sick. I want to sleep.” “But you must get up.” “No! No! No! I don’t! Why can’t I do nothing today? That’s what I need! I’m sick. I’m tired. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I’m going to allow myself to do nothing today.”
And that’s what I did.
This is major, guys. For me at least.
Allowing myself the space to just be was so necessary. I haven’t allowed myself to just be in so long. For the longest time–since before Thailand, since before college graduation, since before I left to intern in Washington D.C. two summer’s ago, since before I don’t know when–my life has been governed by what I haven’t done. The, “oh, why didn’t I get around to doing that while I was in D.C.?”, “Why did I wait until my last week of college to do that?”, “I told myself I was gonna do that this summer, but I didn’t”, and “I can’t believe I was in Chiang Mai for one whole month, but I didn’t take the time to see that.”
But why? Why? I wrote a long, long time ago in January that 2015 was supposed to be the year of balance. But has it been? How can I possibly be living a balanced life if I’m constantly worried about what I’m not doing.
The fact of the matter is, my body needs time to rest. I know the physical limits of my body. I have for a long time. But my mind has been refusing to listen to those physical needs. My mind wants to do so much. It wants to do everything and leave no time for down time. But physically, I just can’t do that. And I know that.
It only took a cold (of which I am still recovering) and my overall exhaustion from the past couple months for me to take some real, actual time for myself and realize all this.
But hey, life’s a process. And I aim to never stop learning…both from myself and others.
Today, after taking some much needed time for myself this weekend, I was walking through town after some lesson planning and coffee–my spinach salad and a bag of cut up and peeled pomelos in hand (also known as my lunch)–and I, for the first time, felt truly, unbelievably happy to be here. Not just “yay, I like this place better than Nong Khai,” or “yay, I feel comfortable(ish) here.” No, I actually felt truly happy. For the first time, I was absolutely positive that moving from Nong Khai to Nakhon Chaisi was the right choice, and I knew without question that there is absolutely no place in the world I’d rather be.
Life’s a process. Life is learning. Life sure as hell isn’t easy and uprooting oneself to a foreign country is damn hard. But it is moments like these that keep me moving forward.
I mean, really, if I put things into perspective–I’m living in Thailand. For a year, if not more. That fact is amazing in itself. What’s the rush to see and do everything? I have so much time to see not just this country, but neighboring countries, if I choose. I can allow myself the time to introvert while also looking forward to traveling…and if I don’t make it everywhere, that’s okay. I came to Thailand to live, to teach, to immerse myself in a new country and culture–and while I do love to travel, if I don’t get everywhere, it’s not the end of the world.
As I sit here writing this, I know that the road ahead won’t be easy…and I don’t expect it to be. But, as I continue to learn how to nurture the introvert inside of me and allow myself space to just be, I think the journey will become a lot more meaningful and a lot less stressful, too.
So Thailand (and all of Southeast Asia, for that matter). I’m coming for ya. Just don’t be surprised if I go hide for a while. Quite often, really–especially now, given that I’m still recovering from my extroverted month in Chiang Mai while simultaneously adjusting to my new town and my new job.
It’s not you. It’s me.
I just gotta recharge over here.