My one-year anniversary of living in Thailand is coming up at the end of July, and while reflecting on the past 12 months, I decided to write a series of posts on this most unexpected year in my life. When I flew to Thailand last July, I planned to stay two months. I wanted to heal from burn out, ease back some of my work commitments so I could take care of myself mentally and physically and work on creative projects I had set on the back burner for some time.
I knew I needed a break back then, but I didn't know how badly I needed it, or the extent to which some serious emotional healing needed to happen. I expected to return to Beijing by the end of September 2012 and more or less resume life as it had been when I left.
I ended up staying in Thailand for a number of reasons, all of which I will cover in forthcoming blog posts, but wanted to say a few words of introduction to this series of musings.
The past year has been one of the most beautiful, difficult, emotional, messy, exciting, maddening, and rich I have lived so far.
As I wrote in a post last summer, I initially left Beijing for a couple of months because I was burned out. I love Beijing, and fully intend to return at some point. But last summer, I just needed a break.
I was working to the point of exhaustion most of the time, often on things that didn't mean much to me. With the exception of a few projects, I didn't feel I was building a body of work that I could be proud of. I started to feel ashamed and unhappy, angry at myself for what I perceived to be a squandering of the opportunities and experiences I had had in the past.
My personal relationships were also in flux. Some relationships became strained, while others were strengthened. It took me a long time to realize how deeply those shifts affected me and contributed to my endless feelings of exhaustion.
There was a lot of good in my life at the time, but sometimes I just felt like I was drowning. I was often sad and angry, but more than anything else, I was just so damn tired. No matter how much sleep I got, I was always exhausted. Things that once seemed appealing now seemed either altogether uninteresting or simply too much effort to even conceive of doing.
I had been in Thailand earlier in the year and wanted to spend more time in Chiang Mai, so that seemed an obvious place to go for a change of scenery The city is small, and manages to be both lively and relaxed, which seemed a good mix for me under the circumstances. It's a place that attracts those who are trying to "find themselves" or are making big changes in their lives, and the idea that I'd be around other people trying to figure some things out appealed to me. The cost of living is generally significantly cheaper in Chiang Mai than in Beijing, so that also made it seem a good choice of place to stay while I wouldn't be working as much.
Despite an exercise in extreme travel frustration when it came time to leave Beijing, I arrived in Thailand at the end of July and knew immediately that I was right to have come. What the subsequent 12 months have brought me has been unexpected and wonderful, and I will treasure the time I have spent here for many years to come.
When I decided to write something about this upcoming anniversary, I quickly realized that a single post wouldn't do. So I decided to write this series, which is not only about Thailand, but about friendship, depression, doubt, self-care, travel and growing up.
The topics of these posts have been bouncing around in my mind for awhile, but I couldn't bring myself to write them until now. I'm so grateful for all I've had and experienced and shared this past year, and hope that by writing about it, I'll come to appreciate and learn from it all even more. And if anyone reading these posts relates to some of what I've felt and been through, so much the better.
To read the posts in the Unexpected Year in Thailand series, click here: