Growing Pains

*Meant to post this last week (October 12), thought I did.  Oops.  New Blog coming tomorrow or Sunday about the adventures previewed in this more somber post*

Mixed emotions don’t make for great blog posts.  Muddled thoughts, conflicting mentalities, confused souls, all of the above contribute to what might be a disconnected rant.  Apologies.

I’ve never been good at times of transition, I don’t think anyone is great at them.  I like to find my comfort zone and stick there.  Ever since I came to Vietnam, I have been on a yearlong search for a comfort zone in a distinctly uncomfortable setting.  I have found it in fleeting moments, mainly when visitors are here but several times I’ve captured it on my own or with friends whom I met in Vietnam. 

As my time in Hanoi winds down, a pervasive melancholic feeling has chased me around these past couple of weeks.  Events have been no remedy, as within the past week I have almost had two terrifying motorbike crashes and a wrist injury has ended my yoga practices for the rest of my time in Vietnam.  Luckily I am safe, did not crash in any significant way, and my wrist will heal but it feels in a way as though I’m limping to the finish line in Hanoi.

Thus are the feelings that capture me as I again spend days without much to do, unable to go to the gym and longing for friends from home.  On Monday, a great friend Zach “Farm” Jaffe will arrive for a four day visit and some countryside adventures.  We will be joined by two more people we knew from college and two of Farm’s friends from home, so once again I will have a deep squad rolling around Northern Vietnam.  I am very much looking forward to that.  I am also looking to getting out of Hanoi.  As much as I enjoy the city, the bun cha, the mango smoothies, I’ve noticed a distinct thing which happens as I spend months at a time in Hanoi: I get cabin fever.  I haven’t been out of the city since I returned from Singapore on September 17, so I can feel myself getting claustrophobic.  Certainly contributing to the “low”.

Part of this melancholic feeling might just be from a fatigued heart.  I have been gone from home for over nine months now.  I feel as though part of me, my being, is just extremely tired and ready to return home.  This part will have to trudge through remainder of my time abroad, and I will have to endeavor to not let this longing to be home sour any of the remaining adventure.

Part of this melancholic feeling no doubt comes from uncertainty about returning home.  Will I get a job?  How quickly?  How will I readjust to America?  Will the lessons I learned here be applicable in any major way?  Will this whole year abroad have improved me as a person, or did I just take an extended vacation?  Such questions have begun to keep me up as my days in Hanoi wind down.

A friend recently told me that changing and growing is painful but “if you don’t change that means you’re not going anywhere so you have to remember change is a reflection of growth and embrace it, as painful as it can be”.  Wise and helpful words from an unexpected source.  Hanoi no doubt changed me, and I felt the growing pains throughout my time here, especially in the early months and the month following my the motorbike accident in June.  One thing I never want to be is stagnant.  I feel as though at the moment I have stagnated in Hanoi, ready to move on but not yet at the date in the calendar to move on.  Stagnation is a melancholic comfort.  The transition period I will enter upon the completion of my contract in just two and a half weeks will also be painful, as I say goodbye to this city which I have come to be very fond of and say goodbye to the great people I’ve met here whom are still around. 

I will be lucky to have one last great adventure around Asia, comprised of five(ish) smaller adventure portions.  It’ll be a transitory period, but a fun one, a true adventurous vacation, with more emphasis on the vacation than at any other point during this journey.  And I will work to enjoy every second of it, and hope to learn from my travels as I have learned from living in Hanoi.  But I know what awaits at home, after Christmas and New Years, after everyone has been said hello to and glorious reunitings have taken place in abundance, the dust will settle and I will enter another transitory period of rapid change when I will be forced to grow: the beginning of adulthood, but for real this time.  I’ve learned so much in Vietnam but will It apply to the “real world”?  Will I be better off wherever I end up for having come out here?  These are questions I have not had to face in a long time, which have reared their ugly head these past couple weeks.

Perhaps the melancholic feeling is from thinking too much.  Whenever I overthink, I get into trouble.  My mind too often creates worst case explanations for how I got to where I am and envisions worst case scenarios for the future.  I didn’t really think when I came to Vietnam, I just did it.  Had I thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  Maybe such is the approach I ought to take with my return to America, though it is hard not to think about something so monumental and exciting and soon.  While I know many of my fears are misplaced or baseless, reasoning away emotions with logic has never been a skill of mine.

I still don’t think I’ve said what I want to say in the way I wanted to say it in this blog.  I don’t want to paint a doom and gloom picture of a hermit Thatch locked away counting down the seconds til I depart Hanoi.  Though I am in large part ready to leave Hanoi, I know I will be sad on the actual day of departure, for this city and country have come to hold a special place in my heart and as part of who I am.  There are people I’ve met – friends I’ve made here whom I have no doubt I will remain in contact with, faces to visit on travels later in life.  I am excited beyond measure to return to the States, which is tough to reconcile with the fear I have for what will happen once I get there.  With each passing day, as all friends from home get closer and closer, I miss them more and more.  I thought the distance would get easier as time went on, and for a while it did (mostly because such a big squad of them came out here for a time), but nine months is far longer than I’ve ever been away and this is far further away than I’ve ever been.  It feels further and longer every day.

If this were last January Thatcher, he’d spend another couple paragraphs droning on about how much he misses home and how moving to Vietnam was (here’s a shocker) very difficult.  But October Thatcher will do no such thing.

I will not limp across the finish line.  I will not be defeated by a melancholic daze.  In these last weeks, I will hold my head high.  I will use all Hanoi has taught me to make the most of my remaining time here.  I will enjoy the company of those friends I have who are still here, I will cherish the company of friends coming to visit from faraway.  I’ll continue writing and making t-shirts and eating bun cha. I will do now what I can to get the pieces in place for a smooth (ha as if it’ll be smooth) transition to the real world, and then once I do that I will endeavor to not let any thoughts of dates past the first of January into my mind until the second of January begins. I will walk out of Hanoi triumphantly.  I will then enjoy every second of the fantastic journey which is set to serve as the culmination of this incredible adventure.  I will give this story, my story of my year abroad, an ending befitting the story of the adventure of a lifetime.

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