It’s an incredibly good feeling, knowing that you did the right thing for yourself regardless of how hard it was or how difficult it was to get there.
As I watched the plane I was on for the first length of my journey back to the States take off from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok a handful of days ago, I was overcome with a burst of emotion and I started to cry. They were brief tears. They didn’t last long. But they were tears none-the-less.
It’s really hard to explain my feelings toward Thailand. How, at times, while I was living there, I hated it. How unhappy I was while I was living there. How I couldn’t wait to leave when I was preparing for my two week trip to Europe in mid-March.
While in Europe, the friend I was visiting with gave me some really good advice. At that point, I was still feeling a lot of animosity towards Thailand for the hardships I experienced while living there; I was more than happy to be spending time on European soil. I was telling her how much I’d rather just go directly back to the States instead of the two more weeks that I had back in Thailand.
“Maybe the two weeks you have in Thailand will the right kind of closure that you need right now, Britta,” she said in reply. “You’ve had time away from it in Europe and maybe you can go back refreshed and ready to enjoy the time little time you have left there. Maybe you need those two weeks to come to terms with all you experienced there and to regain the appreciation you had for it at the start.”
Wise words from an old friend can do wonders for the soul.
She was right; the two additional weeks in my temporarily adopted country were lovely and just what I needed.
I don’t hate Thailand. Part of me wishes my time there would have been more enjoyable, that day-to-day life would have been more pleasant. At the same time, I know that all the hardships I experienced there allowed me to push myself in new ways, allowed me to understand myself a lot more, and allowed me to grow up in more ways than one.
No, I don’t hate Thailand. The last two weeks there traveling by myself and with my parents reminded me of how much I love about Thailand. I think that, when a place impacts you as much a Thailand impacted me, you can’t help but feel something for it. Life there was hard for me. Living there wasn’t right for me–at least not at this point in my life. Still, my time in Thailand shaped me in so many ways that I’m still taking time to understand. My time in Thailand is a time I will be forever grateful for, despite the hardships I experienced.
I miss the people and I miss the landscape and I miss the sense of adventure that I felt while traveling around the country. I see pictures and videos of my TESOL friends who are still there–either in Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia–and I feel a sense of yearning for the times I had with them and the adventures we had together in these amazing, wonderful, beautiful places. At the same time, I know deep down that leaving was the right choice for me. That I feel more content in this home I left seven months ago than I ever have and that I’m looking forward to the future with more excitement than I ever did when I was back in Thailand, expecting to stay another semester teaching there.
While I was still abroad, I heard it said that coming home is really hard because you’ve changed–but everyone and everything you left to come abroad is the same. That’s very much true…to an extent. For me, I’m finding that my friends have changed because I left the country during a very critical post-college transition period for all of us. My friends, like myself, are no longer college students. They no longer have the free time they used to have. Most of them now have steady 9-5 jobs. They have lives and responsibilities and mindsets that mirror those responsibilities. Their lives are different because they have moved into the working world and my life is different because I lived abroad. I have this very real understanding that no matter how much time I spent with my college friends, it will never be the same as it used to be because of how much I’ve changed abroad–how much we’ve all changed in different ways. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different and it’s an adjustment.
Coming home is weird and it’s hard it’s exciting. The future is wide open and that’s exciting. I’m finding more than ever that I want to create a life for myself that will be fulfilling to me…a life that isn’t caught up in the 9-5 grind…a life that will really allow me to live. As a younger twenty-something with not a lot of money, that’s going to be hard to do…but this is my challenge. I see it as my biggest challenge yet. Moving to Thailand was almost too easy in comparison to this.
So, we’ll see. We’ll see where the future takes me.
I have this memory of a distinct moment from back in late December. I had come to Bangkok to spend the weekend after Christmas with my TESOL friends and was unbelievably excited, especially since I hadn’t seen many of them since we had parted ways in Chiang Mai at the end of our TESOL course.
This memory, this moment was so small. A mere snippet in the vast expanse of all that that weekend encompassed, yet it is one of the clearest memories that I have of that weekend.
I had woken up early on Saturday morning–December 26, the day after Christmas–to Skype my family. Because of the thirteen hour time difference, it was still Christmas back home. I had gone out onto my friend Mo’s Bangkok balcony so as to not disturb my friends who were still sleeping inside. Given my fear of heights and that Mo lived on one of the very top floors of an expansive skyscraper, I sat down with my back to the door, as far away from the edge on the small balcony as was possible and took in the industrial beauty of the metropolis around me. I was filled with a sense of excitement and joy. As I looked out into the bustling expanse that is Bangkok, I had a feeling that everything was right in the world, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be; at the same time, that elated sense of belonging was mirrored by another very real feeling that I couldn’t precisely place at that moment–that all of it was temporary.
In that moment, I couldn’t see any of it. I couldn’t see the pain or the unhappiness or the need to move on that would overtake me in the early part of 2016. How could I? I couldn’t recognize that feeling for what it was because I was so caught up in the happiness of the moment. And, perhaps, I wasn’t supposed to see it then…because coming to that realization was part of my Thailand journey.
I know I’ve made the right choice for me in coming home. Now it’s time to create. Create that life that I want for myself. Create a life I can be happy with. I’m not quite sure what that life even is yet and it will probably be pretty damn hard getting there…but, in the end, it will be worth it.