Calm seas never a skilled sailor did make. For the past several weeks, I have been caught in a squall of life the likes of which I had never prior had to brave. The slow and painful recovery from a severe motorbike crash in the wake of coming off one of the highest highs of my life has been onerous, testing and enlightening.
Throughout my time in Vietnam, and in a way my entire life, I have relied on others to help me get through my darkest hours. There is nothing wrong with leaning on family and friends during times of strife. Humans, as social creatures, seek the validation and comfort of others. However, in my never-ending quest for help, I worry that I haven’t developed across my life enough of an internal impetus to power through moments of adversity like the one I find myself in now on my own.
I have too lofty expectations. Rather than appreciating the momentary reprieve they ought to be, I too often anticipate FaceTimes with friends and family to be a one-stop fix for everything. Instead of preparing to fight my mental battles largely on my own, I try to delegate my problems to people halfway around the world, ask them for solutions and advice. Again, there is nothing wrong with doing this in moderation. It is when done in excess, and in the absence of any other substantive attempt to get my life back on track, that it becomes a problem.
There are simply times when I will not be strong enough to weather the storm alone. Directly after the motorbike crash, I was physically broken and emotionally shattered. I am so lucky to have an armada of friends back home, a full contingent of support which has saved me from sinking many times. The FaceTimes and messages of well-wishes I received in the immediate aftermath and following days from the crash were immeasurable in how much they meant to me and imperative in getting me through the worst of the pains.
But the dust settles. My shoulder heals to a bright pink, tender to the touch coat of new skin. My leg honestly doesn’t even hurt anymore. I finally can flip to my right side while sleeping. The bump of my ankle, reeling from localized third degree burn stubbornly but slowly gets better. My toes (continuously referred to as “fingers” by the doctors at the Vietnamese hospital) have improved to the point that I can again don my favorite pair of Rainbow Flip Flops. And yet I still feel some emotion which escapes my vocabulary in the aftermath of the shock of the crash, and I can’t explain it to others or myself and thus struggle mightily with it.
There is no doubt I am reeling still from the shock of the crash. Driving two and a half hours through the Vietnamese countryside, into a city and to a hospital with the entire right side of my body dripping blood was difficult, to say the least. Beyond the trauma of the crash, the gloom of laying in my bed, mind swirling with semi-lucid thoughts as body melted into hard mattress for the Vietnamese painkillers taking effect all too slowly, adrift in a mindless sea of Pixar movies and Ken Burns Vietnam Documentary for days on end threw me for a loop as well.
But here I go monologuing. Here I go spinning a “woe-is-me” tale of the hardships I face.
Calm seas never a skilled sailor did make. But neither did sailing headfirst into a storm and then feeling sorry for yourself and acting mopey while attempting to battle the twenty foot swells. It is high time for me to take an assertive grasp of the helm, tighten the mainsail, baton down the hatches and sail myself confidently through this squall.
Half Way Home
This past weekend I had a panic attack. Became short of breath, Felt nauseous. Briefly looked at flights home.
If all goes according to the plan I have made, I will be gone from the United States from January 8th to December 24th, 2018. 350 days. Day 175, the half way point falls on exactly tomorrow, July 4th. I thought it ironic, but a friend pointed out it’s just coincidental.
I look back at all I have done in the almost six months I’ve been abroad. Gotten a job teaching, made some friends, found somewhat a sense of home in an often abjectly foreign land. Those were the struggles. I think too of the great experiences I’ve had. Watching the sun rise over Ankor Wat. Exploring the mountainous far north with my parents. Sharing in the beauty of much of this country with a best friend.
The halfway point of any journey is a good time for some self reflection. I have been thinking much about whether or not I will have the strength to finish the journey. Sometimes, I am in doubt. But then, if you had told me of the struggles I was to face the past six months, and asked me in January before I left the USA if I thought I could make it this far, I would’ve answered with a resounding hell no. There have been points where I’ve had to muster the strength to continue on from something deep within me, something I had never tapped into (and never had to tap into) before this journey. I am going to rely on that more and look to learn more about whatever that source of strength within me is, as I continue on this yearlong adventure. This is the toughest thing I’ve ever done. How lucky am I that the toughest undertaking of my life is moving to and experiencing and learning from the magic of this beautiful nation halfway around the world from all I’ve ever known? What would it say if I quit half way through? As stated before, I need to learn to tap into my inner strength on my own and not just with the help of others.
So I endeavor to continue to endeavor. I need to take stock of and comfort in all that I’ve accomplished. I need to excite and delight in all there is left to accomplish. I need to develop and maintain a healthy balance of reaching for outside help when needed, and digging for the strength internally when possible.
And hey, I’m halfway home. Before I know it, I’ll be back stateside. I’ll rejoice in the presence of friends and family. I am particularly looking forward to Christmas with family and New Years Eve with friends. And I know that in what will feel like the blink of an eye, I’ll be departing from Bangkok on the evening of December 23rd, flying through Tokyo and landing at JFK early afternoon of December 24th to be picked up by my mom, hopefully greeted by a car full of dogs and Vavala’s Bacon Egg and Cheeses.
Between now and then, I’ll more opportunities to grow. I know there will be more lows, and there will be more highs. Growth will occur during both. All I can hope for now is the strength, internal strength, to make the second half of my journey as great as can be.