After two weeks of fun blogs recounting amazing voyages, a self-reflective blog was inevitable. I apologize in advanced for my incoherent ramblings…
Last week, for the first time since before Jack Barry got here, I was able to talk with both my parents at length on the phone. It was great – I caught them up on the best month of my life and they caught me up on all the boring stuff everyone else has been up to (just kidding, kind of (they’re not doing overwhelmingly boring stuff but my stories are objectively better)). At the end of the conversation, they told me our cat, Sox, had begun to lose his appetite and they were going to take him to the vet. I didn’t think much of it.
Two days ago I received a text saying Sox had been put down. Once I got over the initial sadness, a more melancholic feeling set in. We got Sox in the spring of 2004 when he was a kitten – I hardly remember a time before he was part of the Gleason family. Losing childhood pets is always tough, this one felt especially so for being way over here. It really drove home a realization I’ve flirted with but haven’t faced head on, as my time in Vietnam draws frighteningly close to an end and home draws terrifyingly, excitingly ever closer: everything has changed.
When I arrive home, I will arrive to a different place than the one I left. Everyone will be a year older and a year wiser. Everyone will have changed and grown. I have done what I believe is a good job at keeping in touch with most people, but I still know all my friends and family will not have been stagnant at all during my time abroad. These are exciting times in life. My friends are young and hungry. Some will be making moves in their careers. Others will have changed paths entirely. From the sounds of it, others still are setting out on journeys similar to mine. America as a whole is changing, hopefully we can get more of that “hopey-changey” stuff by the time I get back, but that’s neither here nor there. Everyone will have a year of changing and a year of experiences that I will have to catch up on.
And I have changed too. I can already feel it, feel myself a different person than the one who arrived in Vietnam almost nine months ago. Will the Thatcher who arrives at JFK on December 24th be the same one who left on January 8th? Like the Ship of Theseus, will I become someone new? Will old Thatcher get lost along the way? As I change parts of myself, am I just becoming more well traveled with an expanded palette, or am I becoming a new person entirely? Will the person I have become out here last long in the States, or will I fall back into my old ways?
Sometimes in Vietnam, I’ve wanted to pause a moment and exist in that moment, unchanging. I felt that way when Cailin was out here, and then again when Squad showed up and also when Margot stuck around. Ephemeral moments of perfection during which I’m on a grand adventure doing incredible things surrounded by people I love. But that’s why it’s called a “moment”. If you could hold onto something forever, would it be worth holding onto at all? Is it not the immediate and infinite fleeting which makes the moment itself so valuable?
I look at the things which I’ve learned out here. I’ve come to know my internal strength to get through the most hopeless of situations, scenarios which would’ve left American Thatch crippled on the side of the highway with no way home. I’ve learned of the external push I can get from a bevy of amazing friends and family who will support me from half way around the world, support which American Thatch might not have reached out for. I’ve discovered how delicious bun cha is, how much I love mango smoothies, that not all new food is gonna taste bad. I’ve learned of the loneliness which comes with being so removed from my entire life previous to Vietnam for months at a time. I’ve come to know joy and gratitude unimaginable for visitors, best friends and family who’ve made the trek to see me in this part of the world.
They say the only constant in life is change. I have changed so much since I got out here, and so much at home has changed as well. Some changes are tough, like growing further apart, seeing people less often, or losing beloved childhood pets. Sometimes things change for the better, new people join your life and life is richer for it or you change through a new experience and become better for it.
I am not the same Thatcher who was fucking around goofing off in High School, that Thatcher would’ve never had the maturity to insist on taking a fifth year at a Boarding School. I am not the same Thatcher who came into his own at Loomis, that Thatcher would’ve never had the confidence or social ability to go to Tulane and meet some of the best people in the world and be lucky enough to call those people his friends. I am not the same Thatcher who graduated Tulane, he was still obsessed with New Orleans and could never have moved halfway across the world. I am not the same Thatcher who moved out here in January, that Thatcher would’ve never had the strength to live out here for so long, the confidence to find new friends or the ability to make the most foreign lands he’s ever been to feel somewhat a home. But Vietnamese Thatch found strength for these things, somewhere deep down. I’ve changed, learned and grown and become richer for it.
So while it is tough to say goodbye to Sox, as it is tough to say goodbye to the past and tough to deal with some changes, change is a part of life. At the end of the day, I know some things won’t change: I will always love steak and bun cha, I will always love couches and flavor blasted Goldfish. I will always love my family and my friends. I hope to always be changing for the better, though I know that will not always be the case. Times change, people change, life changes. Through all it’s ups and downs, life is about learning to deal with, accept, grow and enjoy this never ending changing process.
“Yay, more John Mayer” – Everyone